Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy 5th Gotcha Day

Five years ago today, a lovely family picked me to give Holly a new home. It was both a happy and heartbreaking day. I will never forget the 10 year old boy who had to say goodbye to his buddy that day. Thank you Kartel family for trusting in me...Holly is one in a million :)

To celebrate today, we hiked...

...she got a bath (because the stinker ignored me and went into the mud hole I told her to stay out of during our hike)...

...and she had a frozen kong for dinner outside.

I love ya girlie :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

There is a Life "Inside" the Ring?

Today is a Dog Agility Bloggers Event and our topic of conversation is called "Outside the Ring". 

I lamented quite a bit about what to write on this, because for the better part of the last 3 years I haven't even had a life inside the agility ring; for multiple reasons, we've only attended 4 agility trials in the last 2 years (feel free to read some older posts of mine to find out why). 

I play agility, or some other game with my dogs, at least 4-5 times a's only at home or maybe at a friends house. My whole life revolves around life far, far outside the agility ring...and far away from the Dog World. I have a full time job with irregular hours, my work is busiest in the spring, summer and fall, and I live in a small town where doing something with your dog means you toss it in the back of your pickup, find the nearest dirt road on public land, let it out and drive while it chases your truck for exercise. Um, yeah. Needless to say canine sports are the furthest thing from peoples minds around here, so I'm on my own for training, equipment and pretty much everything else dog-wise.

While agility is the only canine sport I choose to compete in, it is not the only sport we play. I am a dabbler...treibball, tricks, agility, retrieving, musical freestyle, nosework, etc. The result is that Holly is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. This is important to me. The bond we create with each other through playing these games together is more important than anything we can accomplish inside the ring. But I won't lie, I like ribbons and I like that feeling of accomplishing something tangible with our bond, training and's validating. So I chose to compete, when I can, in agility. I also like being able to immerse myself in the Dog World once in a while and enjoy the fun social atmosphere I find at agility trials.

Holly and I have a bond that has taken time to grow and build, just like any relationship. I love that she likes to learn new things as fast as I can figure out how to teach them to her. 

I love that she's a fabulous hiking partner. 

It's important to me that with all that we do together, she gets to just be a dog as often as possible...and all our training allows her to just be a dog, off leash, in lot of places. To be able to run free in a field or forest, off leash, sniff millions of things, pee on millions of things is important in a dogs's priceless.

Our relationship was built outside the agility ring, and that relationship helps us succeed whenever we enter the ring. I hope that no matter how competitive you are, no matter how much or how little your life revolves around the Dog World, that you give quality time to building your relationship with your dog outside the ring too. 99.9% of our lives are spent outside the agility ring...make it count.

To read other dog bloggers views on what Outside the Ring means to them, please visit the great list of dog blogs here.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Our National Forest system has some real gems hidden inside our forests. Within the National Forest that surrounds my life are historic fire lookout towers. These towers were created so that wildfires could more easily be spotted from high mountain peaks and ridges. They were originally built back in the 1920's and 30's in response to the catastrophic 1910 wildfires. Most were decommissioned in the 1970's and 80's, and today anyone can rent them. Staying a night, or even climbing up many of them, is not for the faint for heart. Most of the towers are 45 feet above the ground, on top of a bare mountain peak or ridge. As a result, the views from all the lookouts are absolutely amazing.

Since I found out about the tower rental program 5 years ago I have wanted to rent one. I finally did it. I was fortunate to rent one of the towers that allows dogs, and it was only one of three in the Forest that was built very close to the ground. Good thing...I hate heights.

So earlier this week, despite the 95+ temperatures, I packed up the dogs and myself and made the long drive up, up, up to the lookout.

The building sits atop a mountain peak at 5,400 feet. It is spare, with no electricity or water, and is an open 14x14 foot room with 2 twin beds, a cook table, a small sitting table, and a wood stove. The walls are windows and the porch wraps all the way around.

I was concerned with the dogs being overly excited while camping, so I brought a large baby gate to place at the stairway so that I could relax and not have to manage their behavior 100% of the time, not have to keep them tied up while not paying close attention.

The baby gate ended up being the single-most best item I brought with me...because the entire ridge was covered in ground squirrel holes, and Danee got wide-eyed and wild at each peep she heard. I've never been able to effectively turn off this terrier hunting instinct, so thankfully I didn't have to deal with it once the baby gate was in place.

Sadly for me, I ended up renting the lookout during one of our major heat waves...which is still going on.
By the time I got up there, the temperature was already in the mid 90's. And given that the walls are windows, and only 4 of those windows open, it was in the 90's inside the building too. I was bummed, and the dogs and I were hot. There is very little shade on top of a mountain peak. But after unpacking, and  relaxing for an hour on the shady side of the porch, we went exploring in the woods, on the lower road and a few side trails, for a couple of hours before dark. I was delighted to discover the entire ridge line was covered in ripening huckleberries! I picked, the dogs picked, and we ate lots.

The heat required lots of rest, which we were happy to do...

We spent the night practically under the stars, with an amazing sunset and an equally gorgeous sunrise. In the morning I made each of us fresh huckleberry pancakes. Yes, the dogs got their own pancakes...hey, they were having fun camping too, so why not?

We hiked around a bit on the drive back down the mountain and hit the river to cool off before heading home.

And then like that, our trip was over. I could only stay one night, but it was enough. I will happily rent another fire lookout tower next year...however, maybe next time I will try to rent it earlier or later in the season so it won't be so hellishly hot.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ending Our Hiatus

Well, hello there. Obviously I haven't been blogging much. Okay, okay, okay. Obviously, I haven't been blogging at all. We have been busy since I last blogged in March, but I just haven't sat down to the computer to say anything about it...until now. So, thus ends my blogging hiatus.

So, what's been up you ask? Here are a few highlights...

While we had a few warm days here and there...

...the snow refused to melt quickly and spring insisted on being late again this year.
Throughout the winter I spent a lot of time at our local shelter working with a special dog, Maverick.

Maverick was terrified and fear aggressive after being surrendered by his owner. I spent 4 months training him and worked hard to find him an appropriate home. A great family specifically looking for a Plott Hound adopted him in April...I hear he is doing awesome :)

Then I fostered this handsome pup...Patrick...

 I loved this little guy and very nearly added him to my family. He was everything that I would look for in my next dog. But timing was all wrong, so I reluctantly sent him off to a new family that loves him as much as I did.

In April spring finally decided it would sneek a peek at the world and melted much of our snow. The girls and I did a lot of hiking and having fun...

Then Holly went and injured herself, again. She spent 3 weeks solidly lame in her left front leg. I thought she re-tore her shoulder again, so off to the vet and the canine PT we went. Fortunately, her injury turned out to be some sort of muscle knot that refused to release. After PT, Chiropractic and Acupuncture work, she was sound again in just 5 days and has remained perfect ever since. I have no idea what she did or when she did it, but that's par for the course with Holly.

In May, Danee attended her second and third agility trials. NADAC added a Intro class to their lineup, which is basically a very easy pre-novice style class. The courses are very short easy sequences with no weave poles, so I entered Danee in several classes at each trial. My goals were for her to stay focused, to drive to each obstacle and to have fun with me. Success! Little Dog had a great time and she earned a few Intro Q's to boot :)
Photo by Joe Fisher

Holly got to play agility too and I was reminded of how much I miss doing agility with her. We had a great time at both trials and both girls earned many Q's and a few new titles. My job doesn't really allow me to do agility trials in the summer, so we won't hit our next agility trial until September or October this year. Hopefully by then I will have finished Danee's weave pole training.

Dog owners in my little town have only two options for getting help with training their dogs...take a short class on force based training with a local guy through the community college, or drive over 2 hours to another town for training that doesn't involve prong or shock collars. So I decided to offer some free help to those interested in learning how to be their dogs own trainer doing force-free training. The response was overwhelming! I am not a certified trainer, but I discovered that there were many people desperate for help in figuring out how to learn on their I did.  So once a week folks come up to my house and they learn how I chose to teach my dogs all that they know, and they learn a little bit of pre-beginner agility on the side. We are having a lot of fun with it and I am amazed at the transformation in the minds of some of these dogs has gone from forcing his dog to stop wiggling in excitement by physically laying across her on the ground, to having taught a default sit and a go-to-mat settle!

June arrived, work was busy, and my sister visited with her two dogs to help me celebrate my birthday...the big 40.

My family bought me a Treat and Train (aka Manners Minder) and it's the most freaking awesomely fun toy ever! I'm having lots of fun using it to train Danees weave poles and to counter condition Holly to not freak out over the neighbors horses.

I find it mind boggling that July is almost over already. This month has been very hot and very busy at work. We've spent most of my free time walking and hiking in the shady woods and visiting creeks, alpine lakes and the river for hot sun swimming.

I promise to become a regular blogger again...because who know what fun adventures August will bring :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Best Snow Day Ever!

Winter sure is sticking around...I'm knee deep in snow in the fenced yard and it's getting deeper as I type. While I was shoveling paths in the yard for Little Dog and digging out my car, Holly had the best morning ever with her best friend Ruby...

Wrestling the Abominable Snow Dog


Red dog photo bomb

Holly's Great Pyrenees impression


Sucker punch

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Her First Gotcha Day

Happy 1st Gotcha Day Danee!

She has come a long way in the last year. From a scared little thing, afraid that every new person she saw was going to make a grab for Little Miss Bold, who's pretty sure she owns everything in sight and greets new people with confidence.

She's had a great first year...making friends, hiking, playing and learning.

She's also turned into quite the excellent office dog...keeping me and Holly company on quiet, winter office days.

And she's even learned a few tricks...I taught her to jump into my arms to help her with her dislike of being held. Now being up in my arms is both fun and rewarding...


It's been a fun year and I hope we have many, many more together.


Sunday, January 12, 2014


Dogs with thin hair and no fat definitely need clothes in the winter. But I think if she could actually comprehend my color choices, she'd protest a lot more than she currently does. She's definitely not matchy-matchy.

And no matter how you try, neon orange definitely does not match with neon yellow. I can see her from a mile away though, which, while hiking, is the point.

She is cute...Little Dog has certainly wormed her way into my heart :)

One of these days I'll get around to filming all the new tricks she knows and share them. Since we aren't doing any agility training this winter (to flippin' icy), she's got some new tricks up her sleeve instead.