Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For Seven Days........

I'll be here..,+NC&sll=37.020098,-78.222656&sspn=64.160835,112.5&ie=UTF8&ll=35.299435,-75.60791&spn=2.107049,3.515625&t=h&z=8

I have been busting my tail this week so that I can leave my job and my house with a clear conscience, and I am happy to report that on Wednesday morning, I should be in great shape to do just that.

I am more excited about this trip than anyone has a right to be. I'm going with my snowboarding buddies, and their families, dogs too. I will likely be the first to arrive, my drive is only about 5 hours, the girls are traveling 8 and 11 hours. I've planned the cocktail menu - and I'm trying to think of something I can make when I get there, so there's something to eat when everyone else arrives., you know something besides peach sangria and beer.

I have no idea what to make. Suggestions are welcome.

There is talk of kayaking trips and hang gliding, Staci will not rest until we are all bruised and (preferably) bleeding. That's just how she rolls.

Although I' m not leaving until Saturday, I am not sure there will be a post before this trip. There will be posts after.. and maybe pictures, too - Staci is an incredible photographer (visit her web page on my sidebar for proof).

I hope you all have a fabulous week.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A lot of dogs and one less Wallflower

The friend I got my dog from has a big party every year at her farm in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For three days people roll in from all over the country with their families and Eichenluft puppies (or just E-pups, as we call them) in tow.

Some stay in local hotels, some at RV camps some camp out at Molly's house. Wherever we go at night, during the hours of 7am and 10pm we are at her place, doing every dog related activity you can imagine. Herding instinct tests, Agility, Canine Good Citizen Testing, Therapy Dog Testing, Search and Rescue demonstrations, Advanced AKC Obedience Demonstrations, and of course my sport, Schutzhund. Molly opens her pool, and we take frequent swim breaks, dogs and people. Yes, in the same pool. Get over it.
A couple of the husbands man the grill for one giant meal a day - hot dogs, burgers, brats, bbq chicken, bbq pork, you name it. We supply the side dishes, water, soda, beer, champagne (yay!) and the obligatory GIANT cake.

It's three days of the best kind of dog party I've ever attended.

Last year, I let my inner hermit talk me out of going. As extroverted as I am with people who know me, drop me into a crowd of people I don't know, and I become the stereotypical wallflower. I won't do much, eat much or even just talk much. I usually am miserable and leave miserable wondering why I went in the first place. I've been that way as long as I can remember.

This year, I almost talked myself out of going because of the ever tightening grip gas prices has on my wallet, and I was sad. I actually wanted to go. I wanted Molly to see this dog she's trusted me with, but the pile of stuff that was going all pear-shaped in my life was getting bigger and the stuff that was going right, was rapidly shrinking. I wanted a get away. Well, really, I wanted to runaway, but thought "a getaway" would do.

At the last minute, a generous friend made it impossible to say no, and so Friday morning, I packed up and headed north. Traveling through Northern Virginia was strange, the area I grew up in and spent most of my life in, has now become simply a place I have to drive through to get where I want to be. Weird. Very Weird.

I got there mid-afternoon, just in time for a lunch I turned down. The wallflower was on display.

She stuck around right until Saturday morning. When I got there on Saturday morning the kitchen was humming, coffee, bacon, eggs, and just the few people that stay at Molly's were around. Molly mentioned needing to get to work - I offered to help - and she offered to let me muck stalls. This may not sound great to you - I understand that, but I am good at plain physical labor - it's easy, and I get to be near the horses, and people, I'm good at being with animals. So I mucked and I brought the horses in and fed them. I got to rub them and touch the foals soft little nose before he ran away and hid behind his mom. Payment received.
When I finished, the sheep herding guy had arrived, and I watched while he brought dog after dog out and 'showed them the ropes' it was fun watching how dogs reacted to the sheep and the sheep to the different dogs. I got a turn and Mojo did well, he was a little insecure, as you can see in the picture below, he took the challenge that wether offered him, but his hackles are up, he wasn't all that confident. He hung in there though, and I know if we do it again, he'll be much stronger.
The day was so full of events, and activities that the pool was looking very good to me, and I knew it had to be to Mojo. So we climbed the hill and I started trying to get him to swim. The dog will do just about anything for a ball, so in the pool the balls went. He circled and whined and carried on, and then I got in, fully clothed and then HE got in., and the fun began. People were outside the pool taking pictures, talking to me, laughing at Mojo and I. I took a break on the steps, waist deep in water, sunglasses perched on the top of my head. I was happy there, watching my dog swim in circles, chasing the ball, discovering the water jets. I was happy and the wallflower was fading, and then out of the blue........SHOVE... and into the water I went, arse over teakettle, sunglasses in the deep end. The 17 year old son of one of the party attendees thought I needed to go ALLLL the way in, so in I went. For just a second, just as long as I was under water, the wallflower was embarassed, horrified even, wondering what people were going to think. Then I surfaced. And just like that, I got the hell over it. In those minutes laughing with those that saw what happened, trying to find my sunglasses in the pool, I let it all go. I wasn't worried about what my hair would look like, or if I had make up running down my face, or if people were still going to like me.
They DID like me.
So did I.
Why has it taken me almost 40 years to get here? Why has it taken me this long to realize that in order to have fun, you have to take part in the fun?
I would have been more frustrated by this and analyzed it to death, but it just would have taken up too much of the precious time left I had at the party.
The wallflower, she is dead.
I had a great time the rest of the weekend and was sorry to see it end. I helped pick up water bottles and fold chairs and put away canopies just to hang out with those people a little longer.
I can't wait til next year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What have I been doing? Let me show you....

Wanna guess who won this little show down?
Heh. That's MY Boy!
More to come.... did we have some fun..ohyeswedid

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The gift horse

I have been horseback riding almost every morning this week.

The farm is quiet at 7 am. Sometimes, I can hear the new horse in the far pasture scrapping with the mustang gelding who is none too happy that he has competition for the sweet chestnut mare he used to have all to himself. The mustang may be tiny next to the new thoroughbred but he is proving what anyone who ever saw The Outsiders learned from Ralph Macchio. "Mustangs, they're tough" (for the uninitiated).

I can always hear the guinea hens, raising their guinea racket. Often it seems they lie in wait for the right opportunity to jump out of a tree line and startle the herd as they wander around the pasture. Those little hens can start a mighty stampede.

Every once in awhile I can hear a dog in the distance, or John, the caretaker on his John Deere. Mornings like this, I can never tell where John is, the tractor sounds like it’s everywhere all at once. When I catch a glimpse of John through the trees, one-hand steering his way around the farm, I think of my brother on his lawn mower. Mark had stickers on the hood of his and once, he wrote a poem about it, the poem was so popular that he was photographed standing next to it for a possible book cover. There’s no similarity between John and my brother other than the mowers, but I like the reminder, the feeling that if I close my eyes, I can tell myself it’s Mark.

I let myself into the creaky, dusty tack room, pull out my equipment, brushes, fly spray, and treats, and then head for the pasture. Most days I have to stop myself from running, so happy I am to be there. I undo the chain that holds the gate closed, and just twenty feet inside the pasture there is a large patch of buttercups. I stop in the middle, think about twirling, with my head back and my arms out, reconsider, and instead put my hands up to my mouth and yell “HEY BOYS!!!!!!!!” “HEY BOYS!!!!!!” Usually just two times and I’ll see them, Taz in front, moving at a trot, coming right at me. Once I spot them, I usually turn my back, drop my head and wait. It’s hard not to peek, to check and see if they are still coming but patience pays off, and soon, I’ll hear their hoof beats, them blowing through their noses. The rhythm slows, and it will get quiet. Then I’ll feel it. Taz will approach alone, his nose at the level of my shoulder, he’ll rub on my cheek, and I’ll turn. There’s a spot on his neck, up high by his ears that he loves to be rubbed, but just for a minute, and then he starts looking for my right pocket. I never disappoint him. After a treat or two, he’ll lower his head for me, I’ll slip on the halter and we’ll head for the barn. Sometimes I’ll run and he’ll run by my side, in serpentines, straight lines, circles, and then I’ll stop, suddenly, and he’ll stop right with me. Already in sync.

Grooming Taz tells me what he’s been up to since I last saw him. I’ll find tender spots from kicks, bite marks, and fly bites. I’ll know if he rolled around in the pasture. Today there was yellow pollen all over his lower limbs, looks like Taz likes the buttercups too.

Groomed and shiny, saddle on, we head for the mounting block. I mount, and start a warm up. The saddle creaks when we pick up the pace. He stumbles a bit, we go over a small jump or two, and I ask him to pay attention to those feet. We push to the rail, out to the center, increase our pace and slow down. Each exercise is designed to ask him to pay attention to me, to all my cues. The requests are subtle. Pressure from both legs, or just one, then the other, more weight in one stirrup, me rising from the saddle or sitting firmly down. He’s a slow starter, so we take our time.
By the end of two hours, we’ve moved out to the pasture, gone over a few more jumps, turned our pace up; our circles have become figure eights. We’ve crossed water and walked the perimeter of the largest pasture at least three times. I hear the crunch of gravel under tires, horses nickering, it is breakfast time at the farm.

In two hours, I have not thought about money, boyfriends, lawns that need cutting, work deadlines, car repairs, unpainted walls, eating right, working out, or bad family relationships. I have been completely mindful only of myself and him as he gathers under me, fully aware of his strength and power, it's in every twitch, every stride. I know where every uneven spot is in the pasture, because he has shown me. I have not examined much beyond the greenery just past the tip of his ears. I have talked only to the horse this morning, and that is perfectly fine with me.
I always hose him down after a ride. He arches his back when the cold water hits it, moves into the spray. We walk down the road back to his field; it's shadier there then going across the pasture. We share an apple and I thank him again for the ride. He answers only by asking for another bite of the apple. We are not perfect together, but he keeps working as long as I keep asking.

When I return him to his field, his friends are often well out of sight. He’ll spend several minutes with me at the gate. We share a few more words and one more quick rub of the spot up high by his ears, and he’ll turn, listening for his herd, and when he’s heard what he needs to, he heads off, head and tail high, at a trot. Watching that, gives me goose bumps every time.
I don't know if there was something I should have done with my apparent affinity for animals - something I missed. I hope I have not wasted a gift. I am a better listener and a better communicator when it is an animal on the other end of the conversation. I have joked about this for many years. I am not complaining.
I am grateful.