Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blogging Break

Time to spend more time outside! 

We're going on a bit of a blogging break....even though we'll miss you very much.  Please feel free to email anytime!  (We have a Facebook account, but have been spending less time there, too...)

Best of luck to you - every day, in every way.  LOVE LOVE LOVE!   ♥♥♥♥♥

Sunday, April 15, 2012


We went to a Drawing Rally (fundraiser/benefit) at the ArtStart Gallery on Friday the 13th.  What fun! 
ArtStart (sponsored by the City of Santa Rosa) says it best in their own statement:

"Our vision is to create a healthy community that takes pride in inspiring and supporting our young artists; a community where the diversity of talent and perspectives are encouraged and celebrated; a community that finds inspiration in the joy of the creative process. The humanity of art influences, enriches, transforms and teaches all of us the spiritual expression of being human."

To that end, Art Start has created over 150 painted park benches, and bus-stop benches, 34 large murals, and several installations around the city.  They are beautiful works of art...I'm sure you've seen a few.  One of my friends thought ArtStart was just for little kids...but no!  Their program helps student artists of all ages and stripes.  

For the Rally, Art Start invited forty artists who had been involved with their program in the past to donate their talent and time and help raise money.  They built a square of tables under a tent behind the gallery, and each of three groups of artists had 40 minutes during which to create works of art (on 8x10 pieces of paper) for a silent auction. 

Potential buyers wandered around the square, watching the artists at work.  Chefs tossed dough into the air and churned out yummy pizzas, baked in a stone wood-burning oven, while the ArtStart admin folk manned a beer-and-wine bar, with music provided by local DJ's. 

Jeff and I hung around for an hour or so - long enough to see the first set of pictures go through both their creation and silent auction.  (Yep, we bought one!)  We left when the place got crowded...although I was sorely tempted to watch the next two groups draw.  One of my sons was there, and I ran into a couple of ex-theatre students, too - all donating their time as artists.  Great to see them!  Everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time - artists and buyers alike.

Kudos to ArtStart!!   Our day was topped off by a fabulous sunset...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

pro. cras. tin. a. ti. on.



It could be called a "phase," except that it isn't.  Not in my least not so far. 

Procrastination: n. the act of putting off or delaying or defering an action to a later time.

So it's about doing the chores later, yes?  Or the income tax returns.  Very understandable.

Procrastinate:  v. intr. To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.

Procrastinate: v. tr. To postpone or delay needlessly.

Hmmmm.   Those last two definitions aren't nearly as friendly as the first. 

Perhaps we can think of procrastinating as - not getting caught up in the "would've, should've, could'ves."  It's about living in the moment!!  (Isn't that everyone's goal, these days?)  Yeah!  Actors LOVE that phrase! 
And real-life people do, too.  We need to enjoy where we are, when we're there.

Okay, so.  Today I should take Riff out to sheep again.  K said we could get out there "any time, between showers"....and that the more Riff sees sheep, the better off he'll be.  K is being really nice, and she obviously knows what she'd talking about. 

But I'm letting the instability of the sky talk me out of it.  Sure, the sun is peeking out in a beautiful way.  The sky is turning a deep blue, here and there.  The dogs and I had a nice walk around the neighborhood this morning.'m sure that - after all the rain last night - the sheep pasture will be mucky, if not downright boggy. 

And some gnarly clouds are still hanging onto the fringes of the sky. 

Not wild about working in slippery muck, or in a possible drizzle.  It's not like I'm a "princess" or anything.  (Excuse me, while I adjust my tiara...)   But really.  I spent years in muck, back in the horse-barn / stall-cleaning / moving-cattle-around days.  Yuck.

Soooooo, I tell myself that Riff is very likely to pick up on my "yucky" mood (and my fear of slipping and falling down on my ass), which would not be good.  The Rifflet needs a positive joyful attitude (and good weather?) on his quest to turn into a sheepdog.  We might have only a few "testing for sheepdogginess" outings left, before K turns to me and says...."Well, I'm sorry, but this dog just doesn't have it...." 

Am I procrastinating?  Putting off the inevitable?  Being a chicken? 

Part of me really really wants Riff to be a sheepdog, because - boy oh boy does that look like fun! 

But does HE want to be a sheepdog?  Honestly, I'm still not sure.   

And - let's face it - there's a part of me that doesn't want to let go of agility.  Of course I like to think we can afford to do both, and that we're talented enough to do'm not entirely certain...

At any rate, (shaking it off), I do have a bit of an announcement:

We entered the SMART USDAA agility trial, April 28-29!  We entered at the last possible moment.  We weren't even thinking about going to a trial, but a wonderful travel opportunity came up, so here we go...! 

Riff will be in all Starters classes.  We actually need just one more Starters Standard Q to be eligible to move up to Advanced.  But it's been a year since we've shown in USDAA...and we've run in only one trial class in the entire last year (that abortively wild AKC effort) we'll ease back into it via the Starters ring.  He is on the "older" side, for a Starters dog, but he's definitely still green. 

Of course we absolutely should practice a few times, between now and then....



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Jury is Still Out

Riff and Dickens enjoyed playing, before going out to the sheep.

Is Riff going to be a sheepdog, or not? 

He circled the flock yesterday, without dashing into it.  He worked for 10 minutes or more.  Circled, and circled, and circled.  (With a little "lie down" rest break.)  He went primarily clockwise.  (Exactly once, for half a circle, anti-clockwise.)  K said dogs usually start out with a favorite side.  She said at this point we just want him to be comfortable playing with sheep.  He didn't stop easily, or lie down instantly, but he eventually got it done. 

His attention left the flock several times, when he tried to grab a bite of sheep poop.  A couple of times he even went over to the pasture fence, acting like he was looking for someone wa-ay out on the other side of the property. 

He seemed fascinated while watching K's sheepdogs work.  (Was he interested in the dogs, the sheep, or the Big Picture?)

A couple of times, while Riff was circling the sheep, he tried to get Dickens to play.  She was working hard to keep the flock in one general area of the large pasture, so she ignored him.  (Was he circling the sheep because Dickens was there, because he knew we wanted him to, because his instinct told him to, or because he thought it was fun?) 

He was definitely looking at the sheep more than he ever has before.  And he was better, when we moved to the smaller round pen, than he had been in the small pen at M's place.  Even though a couple of the sheep got really noisy (calling for lambs, I think) and he'd never heard that kind of noise before, he tried to work.  He continued to circle the flock clockwise, and he seemed to enjoy it, even though he was tired.  (And yes, Dickens was helping.)

He seemed scared, at first, in the round pen.  He looked as though he wanted OUT.  At one point, he was so busy looking outside the fence he didn't notice the flock coming toward him (pushed by Dickens) until they were virtually on top of him. 

But he did improve...

He's an older dog (3 years is a bit old to start with sheep).  He's been trained to run fast on an agility course, with a handler telling him what to do pretty much every step of the way.  Now he's being asked to tap into his genetic instincts and work sheep, smoothly and quietly, without much guidance.  He's confused and he's just running fast and he gets easily stressed out.  But he's trying!  He seems to be trying really hard to figure it out, in spite of his characteristic nervousness and distractability.  I should give him every chance...

K's dog Kit has been 'on sheep' the same number of times Riff has.  Five.  Kit (at 1 year old) crouches, stalks, stops, stands, and changes direction.  Sure, there were some big bobbles here and there, and Kit did look away at times, etc.  But Kit looks like a sheepdog.  I found the difference between Kit and Riff to be striking.  And a bit depressing.

Riff never even thought about grabbing any of those cute little lambs for lunch.  Thank god. 

I said to K - please, you need to tell me if we should quit trying.  She said "No! No!  Don't quit!  Kit has lived all her life at a sheep ranch.  Riff just doesn't know what's going on yet."

So we'll go back.  Hopefully this week, although it's supposed to RAIN for the rest of the week. 

We went into the big pasture with the "dogged" flock, plus lambs.
The medium pasture had a flock of "real" sheep in it.
"Much too much for Riff..."

Riff ran circles around the sheep...

....and ran and ran and ran....

....until he finally decided to trot.

Dickens (who helped hold the flock) and Riff - on a rest break.

Kit trails a lead-line, at first, while working her sheep.

Kit, a young sheepdog at work.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Johnson Ranch, in Yorkville.
Everything I knew about Yorkville, other than that RESDA was going to have a sheep dog trial at the Johnson ranch there, could be summed up in one statement.  

"If you reach Boonville, you've gone too far." 

And Boonville is just a spot on the map, a quaint little blip of a town-ling that you drive through on your way to Fort Bragg or Mendocino.  Luckily, we saw the ranch in time.  It's a beautiful place, smack dab in the middle of a bigger beautiful place that looks a lot like the next beautiful place... 

Bringing in the sheep...
Jeff and I lingered over our morning coffee so long that we missed the Open Dogs (darn!), but we got there in time for the barbeque (luck!), raffle (no luck) and the Pro-Novice class.  I introduced myself, my husband and my dog to a few folks, and asked how the trial was going. 

Right away, I heard about the sheep:  "gnarly," "real," "wild," "scary," and "straight off the range."   The sheep looked like they could handle just about anything, any time.  In the photo below, a Novice dog is seriously challenged by a (pregnant?) ewe. 

The winner of the Open class was delighted to receive her check (sheep dog people win money!), blue ribbon, and a special "perpetual trophy" painting.  The painting was done by an artist who later dropped dead while penning sheep during a contest.  I kid you not!  Wish I knew the artist's name, I'd love to look that story up on-line.  I heard more than one handler say that it was "the perfect way to go."  The painting looked like it was done back in the twenties or thirties. 

The same handler later took her young dog off the field without completing her Pro-Novice run (she didn't even get the sheep around the pen), because that one ewe really did want to run over her dog.  As she wisely said on her way out, "He doesn't need that kind of action."

We used to get cattle like that once in a while, during cutting horse contests.  Sometimes a winning run depends way too much on the luck of the draw. 

My husband and I enjoyed being around livestock people today.  I heard people bartering for lambs at the lunch table, and talking sheep/sheep/sheep/dog/dog/dog...    My husband said it felt like "the good old days in Utah" when he used to go camping with his uncles and cousins.  He loved the big fire pit, the creek bed, the family feel, and the relaxed atmosphere.  There were no canopies.  People showed out of their trucks and vans (most were beautifully outfitted for it), and only one dog occasionally barked.  It was amazingly quiet, and peaceful. Jeff was quick to point out, on the way home, that he didn't see a single handler running.  "They all just sort of strolled along - or, in some cases, limped.  Perfect for you!"  (I'm not too sure how I feel about that.) He had plenty of men to talk to, too.  Although he's quick to say he enjoys being around women, I noticed he was hanging out with the guys.  He especially appreciated George, who told him how a sheepdog trial is run and scored. 

Riff was a very good boy at the trial.  He couldn't take his eyes off the sheep!  He stayed "glued to the action" all afternoon, but was willing to lay down or sit or walk around nicely, whenever I asked him to.  He got a little snarky twice, though, when other dogs got close enough to sniff his nose.  Where did he learn that?  "Eh eh!"  I sure hope he gets over it.

Here are just a few of the many fine photos Jeff took today:

Dog brings sheep to the panel.

Sheep wonder if they really have to go through that stupid little opening.

Dog says, "Yep!"

So they go.

Riff was very attentive today.  I like to think he learned a lot, just watching.  I know I did!

Friday, April 6, 2012

This and That (plus ZING! video)

It feels weird to have a few completely unscheduled days in a row.  Weird, but also kind of cool. 
We can do "whatever we like!"

We didn't get to sheep Wednesday.  :-( 
My fault, actually...I was a bit under the weather and did not call the sheep lady to schedule a lesson.  I have a call in to her now, so hopefully we'll get out there this coming week, weather permitting. 

We did make it to the agility practice field that is NEAR the sheep, earlier this week.  So Riff got to stare through the fence at a few ewes.  Must admit that sheep, to me, are just "sheep."  But lambs...oh, my....aren't they adorable?  

First lamb of the season (iPhone pic).
Second lamb (ML's photo).  What a sweet face!
Do you think ML names the new lambs?  I would be hard-pressed not to....they are too cute.  These lambs almost make me feel Easter-y. 

Riff and I practiced discriminations at the agility field.  Our verbal commands, which I thought we had, have evaporated.  In Riff's defense, I was much further behind him than I had been previously, and I suspect we never actually had any verbal commands for discriminations.  I suspect all we had was an introductory foundation to physical cues.  When he couldn't see me, he made his own choice...and it didn't matter what I said. 

Yesterday, at the LeapDog practice field, we went back to practicing discriminations, trying to link them to verbals.  We made some progress...I think.  I know Riff got pretty tired. 

It's hard work, figuring out if I want the tunnel or the A-frame - especially if you end out taking the A-frame more often than you should (oops).  I obviously need to clean up my cues.  I need to remember to bring my video camera, study my body language, and make SURE Riff has a clear way of seeing what I want in time for him to make adjustments. And then, I need to make sure he connects those actions to verbal cues. This pupster wants to be quick, he needs plenty of warning for what to do next, and he reacts to the slightest shift in body language.  All good things...if only I could learn faster!  Ah, well.  We'll get there.  Perhaps I'll go into the backyard with the jump stanchions, slow everything way down, and see if that helps...

Before we played agility yesterday, we went out for a hike.  Spendid day. 

Riff was pretty sure we were walking way too slowly.

Riff didn't want to swim in the new little pond
on the washed-out section of the trail,but Keeper was willing.
This section was just completed a few months ago!  I wonder if they'll try to rebuild.

After last weekend's rain, the typically blue lake was "Big Muddy."

We took a hike this morning, too...but not into the "wilderness."  Today we stayed in town.  After strolling over to the "rich people's neighborhood" to check out how their gardens are doing, we stopped at the bakery and enjoyed a mocha.  Yum.    Of course after a "hike" like that (yawn), the dogs love having a good game of "find the toy" in our backyard.

The biggest and richest of the houses we walked by this morning.
(I'd be thrilled to have just the porch...)

This afternoon I've been determined to get the front yard ready for composting/mulching.  Got all the raking done (what a chore! jeez, those oak trees dump a lot of leaves), and the pruning is almost complete.  Must go to the garden supply store for dirt.  (Wonderful, rich dirt.)  Then we'll have to haul it and spread it....then fix all the drip irrigation we wreck doing all that...THEN the front yard will be ready for the summer. 

THEN I'll be able to start seriously planting some flowers in the backyard.  Um...after I do a bit of weeding.

Oh, dear.  I get tired just thinking about it.

Here...this will wake you up!  A video of the agility runs in Reno, for Gabrielle and ZING....2012 AKC National Champions!! FAST dog, terrific handler.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

USDAA in Dixon? Not this year...

Oh, man, I wish we were going to the USDAA trial in Dixon this weekend.  It will be so much fun! 
(Wishing all of my friends FUN FUN FUN!!!)

I did not enter...but I'm okay with staying home.  Mostly.  Really!  (I think....)

My classmates at LeapDog have been asking when we're going to enter another trial - perhaps because Riff is running pretty well.  (Yay!)  We did have fun during our 4:00 lesson yesterday.  (Even though we ran in intermittent rain...)  My current goal during class has been to get through an entire course without stopping for a re-do.  We haven't quite reached our goal, but we're definitely getting closer.  And we've been having FUN!!!  Riff is energetic and happy.  (Thank you, agility gods...!)

But I'm still running low on Handler Motivation re: trialing.  I can't quite bring myself to fill out an entry form. 

What gives???

I don't know.

Maybe we've been fooling around with sheep too much?  Do I want to shift over to sheep???

Maybe I'm a little too worried about finances...
or.  Something.

Whatever the case....we're missing the big 4-day trial Dixon this weekend. 


Sunday, April 1, 2012

AKC Nationals (A Photo Journal)

Friday morning....backing out of K's driveway.  Woohoo!  Road trip!
Highway 50 runs alongside the American River (south fork).
Bridal Veil Falls on Hwy 50....a drive-by grab-shot!

Our first glimpse of Lake Tahoe

The house we stayed at in South Lake Tahoe.

In the backyard, Charter played tug with a tree while Spree watched.
D's dog Mick, and K's Charter and Spree, on the beach at Lake Tahoe.
Wonderful place.

Mick is 2 years old, and a little shy about swimming.
He sure was proud after he went into the water and got this stick!

Perhaps we should've been cooking dinner, but 
D took me on a "driving tour" first.  We went up to Emerald Bay, since
I'd never seen it before.  This photo does not do it justice.
In the Bay is an island,
complete with the ruins of a "tea house," built many years ago
by the eccentric owner if a nearby "castle."

Lake Tahoe is still and quiet in the evening.
Saturday we got up at 6:am so we could get into Reno nice and early.
The place was buzzing!
A couple of times I heard folks yelling my name and
looked up into the stands to see people smiling and waving. 
Very fun!  Loved connecting with friends. 
AT and her Aussie Sydney run clean in JWW.  Yay!

Sydney, 11 years young, still has stars in his eyes at agility trials.

CF and LP (and Apollo!) talk strategy for the Standard course...
LP and SR watch folks walk the course.

A lot of happy dogs were at the Nationals.
We ran into near white-out conditions on our way back to
South Lake Tahoe late Saturday afternoon.
About 15 inches of new snow!
The skiers were thrilled.
This bicyclist - not so much.

We walked to a cafe for dinner Saturday evening.  It was great!
Mick enjoyed the snow.
By late Sunday morning the sun was out,
and K and I were headed back to Santa Rosa.

Beautiful drive.

Wow....I took more photos of snow than of dogs. 

Dazzled by the snowstorm. 

Many friends had FABULOUS runs at the Nationals.  For instance:  LP and Wit placed in the top ten in two of their runs (out of more than - 100? - 16" dogs)...and CF and her dogs Apollo (20" Preferred), Icon (26") and Cassidy (20") were all in the finals (out of close to 900 dogs)!  Along with NG and'll need to visit the AKC Dog Agility Nationals homepage to see the complete list of winners and actual totals. 

We knew plenty of folks who had beautiful clean runs...and we're proud of every single one of them.

It was thrilling to see old friends at the Nationals, and exciting to meet new friends.   

[Sure missed my dogs and husband though.  Happy to be back home with them! xoxoxo]

All in all:  A beautiful trip.  (...with many thanks to K, D and M!)

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