31 December 2006

Catching up

We've let an embarrassing amount of time pass since we last blogged, but, then again, not that much has happened in the last several months. Actually, that's not really true, but we don't think anyone would be interested in the minutiae of post-sabbatical blues. As it's New Year's Eve, though, we're feeling sentimental and wanting to look back--it hasn't been all that bad. The human's coming around (we think), though he still complains about his job a lot. We're actually hoping the new year brings him something special: he is quite smitten with someone at the moment, and it's been years since that's happened (way long before any of us)! Also, we're kinda sad for him that he's alone tonight. We love him and all, but he needs another human, too. (He probably won't like us writing that... did not mean it to sound like Sleepless in Seattle) Anyway, the next few little posts summarize some of our fall highlights... We'll try to be better in 2007!

Human talent, too

Okay, so it's not that special, but we're proud of our human for contributing to the Canine Partners for Life benefit auction. And he made a painting of us no less! :)

Doing what comes naturally

Why does Narra get to do all the fun stuff? Like chase sheep! Buko and Jacks watched from the van... Not fair. We packed up the van and went up to Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm in Bangor, PA to try herding with shepherd Carolyn Wilki. The first step was a herding instinct test that Narra passed with flying colors! Carolyn's written assessment of Narra commented on her beautiful tending trot, ability to read sheep, and her attentiveness to her human. Narra and human then did a seminar with Carolyn where they spent a day learning some formal herding stuff. Again, Narra did great. In fact, she impressed everyone when she could be called off the sheep so reliably and consistently. We were told that's unusual for a fist-time herder! Of course, one other dog was able to do the same thing--another GSD bitch, of course! :) What now? Bangor is a little far from home, but we like Carolyn and her farm, so, hopefully, more lessons are in store.

Far Above Cayuga's Waters

With sabbatical over, the human has been pretty insufferable; in fact, we hear a lot of people refer to him as being unusually bitchy. While we don't normally subscribe to the use of the word "bitch" as negative, we understand what they're saying. Even as months have passed, his moodiness continues (beyond normal, that is). Thankfully, he has taken time for some little roadtrips. Usually, we go somewhere where Narra is entered in an agility trial. Back at the end of September, we ventured back up to the Finger Lakes for a weekend of dog shows known as the Wine Country Cluster. Pretty nice. It was up in Romulus, NY at Sampson State Park. Ironically, Buko ended up doing obedience, and Narra sat out the agility trial. Bad weather made for horrible agility courses: way too muddy for delicate competitors such as ourselves. The obedience ring, on the other hand, was just wet grass, so Buko gave it a go. Valorous attempt, but he's feeling too old for this stuff. He didn't really want to do the retrieve over the high jump, but he did try his best. He's what you call "retired" now--apparently, our human would like to be retired, too.

After the trials, we went to Ithaca, a place that is super sentimental to our person. We walked around the Arts quad and looked out over West Campus from the top of Libe slope. We even got to watch the sun set on Cayuga lake. School was still in session, so students stopped to visit with us. They say we're beautiful. :) Although one girl did tell Jackson he stinks. Ha, stinky is as stinky does. Another girl laughed at us while we took this picture. Ah, those were the days--at least, that's what we're told.

BTW, in October, Narra and Buko competed in rally obedience at the advanced level for the first time. Rally's not as demanding as conventional obedience, and jumps are only 16" so Buko's happy with this event. Also, humans actually get to talk to us, like in agility, so it's much more fun all the way around. Oh, almost forgot to mention, both Narra and Buko earned qualifying scores! That means they each have one leg toward their Advanced Rally titles (RA). Better yet, Buko got a third place! Yes, he beat Narra even. Well, long story short: Narra went first, and her human made all kinds of mistakes which he was then able to correct when it was Buko's turn.

19 July 2006

An "Excellent" Adventure!

It's official: Narra is now a "Companion Dog Excellent"! She finished her CDX title at a big show up in Burlington, VT (thank you, Woodstock Dog Club!), with no less than a 192.5 out of 200. Not enough for a placement, but when fourth place went to a 196, you know competition was tough. We'll take it!

Although we were entered through the entire weekend, the super performance on Friday liberated us. Rather than kicking it with the dog show crowd, we decided to escape for the mountains. Unfortunately, having just come from Montana, we weren't terribly excited by the Green Mountains. We went to the White Mountains, too, but they also fell short. So, what else to do but make the pilgrimage to Katahdin? Not quite Montana's Crazies, but the solitude and open expanses of Maine were welcome.

The only problem: what's with Baxter State Park not allowing dogs?!?! We drove all the way up to the north entrance of the park only to be turned away. Being the law abiding, respectful pack that we are, we did not force the issue. Afterall, we figure access to the park was lost because of irresponsible behavior. We don't want people in the parks thinking dogs don't belong there--because we know they do!

Regardless, Buko was just happy not having to compete. Luckily, though, he will have plenty more chances! And all the while, Jacks was home making sure the air conditioning would be operating well for us when we got back. (Our pictures here.)

18 June 2006

Gone and back again

Well, we're clearly not motivated to write/blog. Have just returned from an amazing trip to Montana (via Colorado and Wyoming, returning through South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). Over the course of travel, we realize that we are much more visual beings than verbal ones. Took tons of pictures but didn't really write (or paint, for that matter). BUT big skies, open land, and solitude do wonders for clearing the mind, and--dare we say--spirit. We could also comment on beauty, but I'm not prepared to concede that argument just yet (despite what we experienced as unquestionable evidence of it). In any case, all our pictures are linked on Narra's webpage.

Speaking of which, this trek was strictly two for the road: just Narra and her human. The boys were given a reprieve from climbing elevations and fallen trees. While they may have felt left out, we think they eventually appreciated the comfort of couches.

27 April 2006

Converted, conflicted

We've been home for a couple weeks now. Everyday distractions seem to hinder blogging, huh? Not that that there's anything interesting to report from here anyhow. Yeah, yeah, greener pastures, we know. Better silence than whining about work, no?

Anyway, northern Minnesota feels like a dream now--what happened to all that beautiful snow? Where's our cabin on the frozen lake? On the other hand, as best I recall, our trip didn't end without some adventure. We left the Gunflint Trail with an icy tear and reluctant van. Not as much reluctant as stuck really. Yes, really--stuck. At least it was a nice opportunity to play around the South Brule river. But when we tired of that, it was only by the grace of Bud's towing that we got back on the road (thank you, Bud!). Special thanks to the two women in a minivan who bothered to stop for a frantic motorist (whose van wasn't even visible from the road) and send help from town.

So, back on asphalt, we left the Gunflint Trail and Grand Marais and headed west to Ely. We just wanted to check out another part of the Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters, and the International Wolf Center. We spent most of our time along the Echo Trail and decided that we should actually take a hike. We hadn't done any real hiking up to this point because of Jacks's foot, but he was starting to feel better and doing pretty well with the booties. Of course, we wanted to take it easy and thought a snow-packed access road, Moose River portage, would be just what the doctor ordered. The one-and-a-half-mile road ended up being a lot more work than we expected (we were forewarned that what looked innocently snow packed was in fact bottomless and waiting to swallow us up). Narra couldn't have cared less, Buko endured, and Jacks was just happy to be along, wet booties and all. We persevered with hopes of actually standing on the banks of the Moose River. The access road ended at a trail that claimed to be only another three quarters of a mile to the river, so we went for it. As if the access road wasn't bad enough, that little trail was a real challenge. Aside from snow-camouflaged streams--we couldn't see the walking planks--a number of trees had fallen across the trail. Again, Narra couldn't have cared less as she bounded happily over wayward birches. Buko will always try, and Jacks does what he can. To make a long story short(er), the boys reached their limit just shy of the river. We could hear Moose River in the distance, but it wasn't in sight. So close, but unfortunately, Buko got hung up on a tree; literally, he tried so hard to make it over but just couldn't. And Jacks looked on, stupefied and not without fear. Buko's eyes pleaded for his couch, and so, well, here we are.

Looking back on it, we miss winter. We love snow, icy trails, and the blazing whiteness of sun on fresh powder. A far cry from a history of beachcombing and tropical breezes. I'm not sure if we're actually converted, but snowshoes (and skijoring) are definitely in our future. At this moment, though, it's impossible not to be inspired by the freshness of spring. We'll definitely go back to the Boundary Waters and, next time, we want to actually see the water, even be on it.

BTW, speaking of spring, the picture above is from the Buchanan State Forest. Our ride home brought us through local roads--couldn't stand turnpikes anymore--and through forests and parks closer by. We forget some time that it's not so bad around here either.

29 March 2006

Booty Call

28 March 2006:
First, let me say that we really like it here. Not just the north country, but Gunflint Lodge, too. That said, the lodge is a lot like the Catskills resort (which I believe wasn't actually in the Catskills) in Dirty Dancing. Kids, group activities, all the "family" stuff--but it's all rather endearing. If only we had a talent show! But it's much cooler here than in the Catskills (no pun intended). There's even a kind of hip, young staff. I imagine they go snowboarding on days off. Overheard them at breakfast talking about last night's activities. Those were the days... Nuff said.

On to the drama... (Which may or may not be as interesting as Dirty Dancing...) Unfortunately, our star is Jackson and his awful, recurring, gotta-be-painful sebaceous cysts. Looks like another one burst in his right, front paw (between toes), and it is very raw. Poor guy started limping last night and wasn't any better today. Suffice it to say he couldn't do any hiking. But a guy's gotta go, right? He's been having trouble in general with the crunchy snow (melts during the day, freezes at night), and it must be hard to pee or poop in comfort (and we all want that, don't we?). Long story short, drove into Grand Marais looking for booties. Got a set of black, XL fleecy ones with a rugged-ish sole. He adjusted to them pretty quickly and was soon all dapper on the frozen lakes. Tomorrow, however, the boy will rest.

In the meantime, the girl will work. Perhaps watching the sled dog team will inspire her. Even so, she dragged her human up a rather steep (and icy) trail today at Honeymoon Bluffs. Buko and Jacks watched the van. Who's got a better deal? More of a workout tomorrow!

Here's a preview of our Gunflint adventures.

Cabin Fever

27 March 2006:
Well, our agility trial came and went without incident. After the initial shock of being in a completely new place without one familiar face, we got down to it. Unfortunately, as my German buddy Bernard would say, we came up "dinks." In other words, double NQ. Been a while since that happened. But Narra garnered new fans as she's prone to do, and, as usual, she looked pretty amazing. Hey, you might as well look good, right?

Another new experience for us was that this trial had only one ring--so the day went very long. Lucky novice folks, we got to close the place down. The venue was pretty cool, though: Camp Bandy. Agility and obedience both indoors and out, plus herding. Wouldn't it be nice to own a place like that some day (in Wisconsin even!). Of course, it would just be for us--no sharing (even for money).

Anyway, despite the length of the day, we decided to drive on, to at least cut down some of the long drive to Grand Marais. There's never a good hotel when you need one, then lo and behold, you've driven six hours and made it north of Duluth to Two Harbors. Totally cut down the remaining drive north.

To make a long (uneventful) story short, we're here in our great little cabin at the Gunflint Lodge about an hour northwest of Grand Marais. Since we arrived in town fairly early, we had most of the day to explore the Gunflint Trail. Our weather karma has returned, it seems, as the day was amazingly beautiful. We had a great time in the cold--not too cold--and snow. Don't know what it is, but the Northwoods definitely owns a part of us. We walk out our door onto frozen Gunflint Lake, and the night sky has more stars than we've ever seen. We hear howling, too; the romantic wants to believe they're wolves, but it's probably just the sled dogs. How sad not to be able to tell the difference! Anyway, it's not so "rustic" a cabin, but it's a good place to think and make art. And, when all is said and done, isn't the wilderness much more fun with a sauna and whirlpool tub anyway? (Not to mention that Buko and Narra have appropriated the king bed.) At least we built a fire.:)

On the road again...

25 March 2006:
It looked like some kind of George W. Bush, post-apocalyptic wasteland... it was, in fact, Indiana. (We were driving around Roush lake in a cold, annoying spittle; our soundtrack: Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.) Who would've ever thought we'd visit this state so much? We're talking four trips in four months. Crazy. Not so crazy: the van's done! (For the time being anyway.) Sportsmobile installed a house battery yesterday, complete with isolator and wiring for the ceiling fan and lights. We've got a little power now, can run 12-volt stuff without a problem. Really, we were just looking forward to the lights staying on, plus, more importantly, being able to run the ceiling fan without running the van.

Speaking of running, we're in Amherst, Wisconsin tonight because Narra is entered in the Wisconsin Rapids Kennel Club agility trial tomorrow. We're staying at the poetically named (but somewhat Bates-esque) Tomorrow River Motel, a small, family-run outfit looks like. They have a "supper club," too. Weather wasn't so bad today, temps in the low 40s. We probably could've camped tonight, but we opted for tv instead--so we could watch the Sweet Sixteen. Duly inspired by hoops heroics, Buko has decided his new nickname is now "Big Baby," to match his personality. But while we have sincere affection for the Bayou Bengals, true academic ties bind: GO BRUINS!

15 March 2006

Savannah Smiles

The new ride took us back to the south: Savannah and Jekyll Island. Van was full with dogs, parents, and gear, but it all fit just fine.We finally got to visit friends Scott, Natasha (left), and Annalycia (right). We like snow, but warm, sunny beaches aren't bad either.

(Thanks for the picture, Scott!)

28 February 2006

Rock and Roll!

It might not be the ultimate adventure mobile, but our tricked out ride is ready to roll! Good thing because we're going nuts stuck in the house. Illness, work commitments (misguided as they are), and other distractions have us trapped in suburbia. Our maiden voyage awaits, however--this weekend, in fact. Had to cancel an earlier planned trip to Savannah--sucked, we had to miss an agility trial--but we're going to try again. Nothing fancy, but the pack and parents (!) will load up the new ride and test it out. No adventure, we suspect, but at least we'll see if all the gear fits!

On a related note, just because we have a monster 4x4 doesn't mean we want to tear up national parks--and we don't want anyone else to either. W's "America" has always been a frightening place, and now he even wants to eliminate places we can go to hide (why stop at civil liberties?). Proposed changes to the National Park Service Management Policies seriously endanger the future of our natural lands and resources. If W gets his way, our national parks will become more about recreation than preservation (even more so than they already are). When did we stop protecting our resources and start consuming them? Uh, duh, where do we live?

12 January 2006

Together again

Seems like it's been a while... Home for the holidays is always good. The pack is together again but not quite acclimated to being "home." That is, we're ready to hit the road! Unfortunately, work does call--as does the studio (very loudly). Looks like we're staying put for a little while at least. So, we had to make the best of a 60-degree, sunny day and find a trail somewhere.

About an hour from us in Lancaster County is the Kelly's Run-Pinnacle Trail System, along Lake Aldred and the Susequehanna River. We've never been there before, so today was a good time to explore it. A number of trails cross at Pinnacle Overlook, so we parked there to check some out. We hiked a section of the Pine Tree Trail, came around to the Conestoga Trail, then swung back on the Fire Line Trail. A lot of decent elevations--we could've really pushed ourselves aerobically, but we're still hauling holiday pot bellies, so why be fanatical about it? Actually, if it were just the young one, we would've done the more challenging stuff. Incidentally, in the picture above, Jackson has a new harness! Just like Buko's and Narra's. He's not really physically able to hike as much as the other two, but he deserves his own gear at least. Also, a previous post described the dogs' bungee lines as mushing lines--technically, they are skijoring lines. If we ever get any snow, it's an activity we'd like to try.