Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dances with WOOFS....or the WCFO 2011 National Competition

I love dancing with my Collies.  I love dancing with ALL dogs, even YOURS, if you will allow me.  I truly believe that all dogs love to dance and express themselves thru movement. Dogs were born to run and twist and twirl. Their tails (or the remnants thereof) were made to wag, and their bodies were designed for very specific movements in order to fulfill their designated jobs. 

In this day and age, when everyone wants a Border Collie or a Jack Russell Terrier,  or some breed of working, moving canine, there should be a Disclaimer  that comes along with the potty and crate training: 

If you do not give your dog a job, he will become self-employed. read that right.  A job.  SOMEthing to do besides just dig up the back yard and terrorize the cats.  Agility is a wonderful outlet.  The rush that one gets when completing  a clean run is better than any drug or fine wine....Competition Obedience is also a wonderful goal to achieve. There is a precision there that must be met, and a fine line you must tread in order to meet the requirements for a title. There's flyball and frisbee and tracking and herding, lure coursing, and dock diving---the list goes on and ON with all the activities and titles you can stack up in your repritoire.   Then, of course, there is Therapy work and certainly daily walks and runs thru the woods. 

A fella just neeeeeeds to have a Job!  A tired puppy is a Good Puppy.....

And, addition to all those other fun activities, We Dance.....

See this?  Recognize the arch on the left?  Yup....St. Louis....And I'm driving my van towards the Big River, enroute to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin....That's where the 2011 World Canine Freestyle Organization's National competition was held this October. We are headed North to dance our liddle hearts out--a big "outoftheComfortZone" endeavor for this Southern girl., yeh, I'm snapping pictures as I drive...The boyz just were not interested in photography, so SOMEbody hada do it....

And, so we turned northward, driving thru the prairies of Illinois, stopping at Springfield to stay the night. Thursday saw us on the road again, stopping at a few thrift stores along the way.  I found some treasure, including a schnauzer glass container and also a pair of fancy size 11 shoes for my friend Kaity....

We arrived at the host hotel on Thursday afternoon.  I'd come in a day early just so the boyz could become familiar with the surroundings (esp the liddle wolf cubbie who Loves to put his nose down and sniff up all the air in the room), and so that I would not be so dog-tired the next day.  Thank you, Bikeman, for encouraging me to spend this extra cash....

My friend Cyndi came over that evening, bringing snacks of Wisconsin cheese and crackers and some nice wine.  We sat in our room and remembered years gone by, laughed at the Collies, and toured the downstairs ballroom, familiarizing the boyz with the area. 

It all looked so calm and pristine before the Chaos hit on Friday evening! 

Next morning, we made our "nest" in the crating/changing room, along with 40 or so other dogs from all over. The host club was sponsoring a Fun Match (come and go) on Friday night, then a meet and greet the judges in the Hospitality Room.

Here's Prop and me at the Fun Match....I didn't dance his competition routine, just got out there and let Stevie Wonder sing one of his beautiful songs while we played around. 

And here's Cubbie marking our new territory.....
We went for a walk with a New Friend I'd met in the crating room.  Her name is Princess Laughing Water...or, as I like to call her, "The Princess Pat".....Do you know the words to the song?  Well, we sang a very loud duet to the campsong....."The Princess Pat lived in a tree (the Princess Pat lived in a tree)  She sailed across the 7 seas (She sailed across the 7 seas) She sailed across (she sailed across) the channel too (the channel too) And she took with her ....a rick a bamboo.....A rick a bamboo.....Now what is that?.....It's something the Princess Pat....."  (call me if you want to know more...).
My friend, Princess Pat and our dogs trekked up the ski slope for a bit of exercise after all the sitting in the car we'd done...The view from up top was glorious! 

 And, of course....the Cubbie making SHURE everything was properly marked.....sigh.....

This weekend was James' 9th birthday.  WHERE did the Time go???  Seems like just yesterday, he was a ball of annoying, destructive fluff....Now, HE leads ME around. 

Anyway, the host club found out that it was Jamie's birthday, and so they made a WONDERFUL birthday cake for all the doggies to share....  I've GOT to get the recipe.  I'm telling you, I used it as treats the next 2 days, and it was like Doggie Cocaine...They would do ANYthing for a bite of that yummy stuff!!  (sorta like me and frozen Snickers...sigh)

AND, even More than the yummy cake, James enjoyed the humans' fawning and purring all over him.  THIS is what James does Best----enjoy his "celebrity." 

Back to the room for a Good Night's sleep, rising early in the morning to delicious coffee and bagels. 

The wait that morning was very, Very long.  We did not dance until after noon. Nice, because it gave me a lot of time to watch the other routines, but notsonice because, well, Waiting is a difficult thing to do....The boyz did very well, but did not qualify that day.  The judges' scores were all over the place, so...I dunno....

The final number wasn't until 6:30 pm, and we were all very exhausted. However, the Banquet started at 7, so we hoofed it back to our room, changed into something pretty, fed the dogs, and headed back upstairs for something good to eat. 

Now...Usually I never complain about food.  I'll eat ANYthing!  However, I'm thinkin that these folks up North just have a whole different kind of cuisine than our basic roast beef and mashed taters.....But I'm always willing to taste just about anything. just did not "do" anything for me.  And I don't think it was just me, either...almost everyone left their chocolate mousse untouched....Coffee was good, tho...And I learned what potato pancakes are (I thought they coulda used some molasses on 'em, quite frankly...).

After we ate, the awards were given out. I had made leashes for each of the Beginner "A" competitors.  They loved them, and some even bought more later the next day! 
I'd also mosaic'd 2 toilet tank lids for prizes, but those didn't go over too well up there....Ah, well...I'll just keep 'em down South where they belong, I suppose! 

A good night's sleep refreshes even the most daunted of spirits, as does the promise of returning home very soon. Sunday morning found us bright-eyed and ready to REALLY perform....The boyz and I took a short walk in the woods, I fluffed and puffed them, donned my costume, and we were Ready to take over the ring!  Today, we danced Early, like SECOND in line!  Nice to finish before we had to wait so long.  Here's the videos from Sunday.  These guys were Stellar!

There was a Wonderful photographer who took everyones pictures for no charge!  Here's a few "portraits" : 

The ending "counts"?  James qualified in our Heel to Music routine.  Our only "q" of the wkend. However, I was well pleased with how nicely the Collies performed, and they literally had a Wonderful time, prancing and dancing and cking out the audience. Outside the ring, they smoozed and charmed everyone they met.  Seems that most everyone has a "Collie" story from when they were growing up....And it all spills over onto my boyz---they get lots of hugs, tearful kisses, and backside massages. 

This day's competition lasted until after 8 pm, including the awards presentation.  Phew!!!  Now That's a LONG day~!!!

Linda Blanchard donated a trophy for "High Scoring Collie."  It is Beautiful, and, of course OURS!!  What a wonderful surprise!

James and I received ribbons for Heel to Music High in Trial scores!  I was pretty tired and weary when the pictures were taken....Sick humor....Maybe a new costume in the making?

We packed up, said our goodbyes, and Cyndi and I drove 30 miles to her darling "farmette" house in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  There we feasted on delicous cheese sandwiches and soup and laughed at both our Collies getting to know each other. Prosper even tried to make friends with the cat...Cat didn't think it was a very good idea....

A good night's sleep under eiderdown and delicious cotton sheets, and I was well-rested, ready for early departure next morning. Heartfelt goodbyes with promises to see each other sooner next time, and I drove with the sun rising to my left.  It was a delightful visit to a most beautiful state for a most wonderful reason.

The boys have been sleeping (when they are not barking) for days now.  Home is the best place to be.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lessons from Starlings....

This spring, from the middle of May, to the middle of June, I was away from home.  I've already written a lot about my voyage north and the wonderful happenings and eye-opening growth that happened to me, but now, I want to tell you a little bit about what I left at home. In Oklahoma. With Bikeman.

I am sure that you remember the devastating news about the horrible destructive storms that blew thru Joplin, Missouri mid-May. The worst tornado in the history of the US.  That same night, around the tri-state area, storms also damaged trees and property, certainly not the extent of the Joplin area, but nonetheless tree limbs down and roof shingles blown away.

The next morning, I was relieved to hear that our town of Tahlequah was unscathed, and that Dear Husband Bikeman had slept thru most of the sturm und drang.

I did get an early morning call from him, however. It seems that, when he opened the back door, there on the deck was a very bedraggled tiny black baby bird. Bikeman immediately started in with, "WHAT do I DO with this BIRD??  Just because I've seen YOU do this for the past 40 years doesn't mean I've been paying attention."

"Call Denise," I told him. She has a cage and everything."

"WHAT do I FEED him? I don't want this baby bird!" He was getting kind of frantic.

"Call Denise.  She will be more than Glad to take him off your hands. This will not be a problem for her."

"Do I dig for worms? Where is that box that you keep these babies in?"

"If you can't get ahold of Denise, call Susan. She and her daughter will LOVE caring for him. Here's the number right here."

"I can DO this. If you'll just TELL me how to do this. Now where is that box and what do I feed him?"

And so, I instructed him on how to moisten some dry cat food, and where to find some tweezers. Box is in the storage barn.  Newspapers in recycle bin to line the box.  

He called me daily with updates. He named him Pub.  And he dug for worms out on the east side of the house. I later learned that he washed the worms before he fed them to Pub.

Once the worms ran out on the east side of the house, Bikeman went to WalMart and bought worms for Pub.  He called with daily, sometimes hourly reports.  He learned that, soon as Pub ate, well, something came out the "other" end. Have I mentioned that I married a man who is very much like the tv character Monk?  Um, yeh.  Bikeman does not get dirty. Nor does he like anything dirty in his presence. Bird poo certainly qualifies as dirty, and I am sure that he went thru several cases of paper towels as Pub ate and, uh,   grew.....                                                                                                                     

As the baby bird lost some of his downy feathers and grew in some of his big boy feathers, I reminded Bikeman that he needed to give him some "flying lessons." So he carefully held onto the bird's feet, and swooped him up into the air a bit, forcing those little wings to spring out and flap in pseudo flight. When he did this, Bikeman noted that "one wing isn't working like the other."                                                                                                 

Hmmmm....That didn't sound very good.  But I encouraged him to keep up with the physical therapy, and daily they would sit outside, Bikeman checking his email on his phone, Pub walking about the yard, pecking and exercising and doing "bird activities."

The expenses rose considerably as more worms were consumed, necessitating more paper towels.  Then, of course, there was the "time" element. Couldn't get too far away for too long a time.  Birds need to eat about every 2 hours.  So bicycle treks were limited to "doing the Loop" or other short routes that did not require endless hours away from home.

Pub spent his days in the big cage that Denise brought over. And, of course, roaming the backyard during their PT sessions.  But Bikeman still insisted that the bird come inside at night, sleeping in the smaller box in the bedroom. "Just in case he stirs at night, I can hear him."   He was Bikeman's constant companion for over 2 weeks, and  Bikeman protested quite a bit that he did not want a bird, and asked me countless times when this bird would be "old enough to fly away."

My friends and I giggled that he was going to teach Pub to hold onto his bicycle handlebars, and, well....we would have ourselves a permanent resident added to our menagerie.

After about 2 1/2 weeks, I received an early morning call from Bikeman. You know how, after 40 years of marriage, your soulmate can walk into the house and you immediately know if he's had a happy day or a lousy day....Nothing needs to be said, the very air around him can be accurately interpreted when you've been best friends that long.
I knew when the phone rang, that Something was Wrong.

His voice came in short gasps. He was overcome with grief and sorrow. He was struggling to breathe and grasping desperately for my consolation and my very presence. I was twelve hundred miles away, and helpless to wrap my arms around him and tell him peace, alliswell, be still, our God is in control.

Bikeman had opened Pub's cage that morning, and the baby bird was still and cold in his man-made nest. He'd eaten just fine the night before, everything was as it had been all along. But his work here on this planet was finished, and it was time for him to move on.

For two and a half weeks, Pub brought to Bikeman gifts that he had never even thought to open. And he opened these gifts daily, several times a day.  Gifts of being able to serve one so small, to see the wonder in tiny feathers, to sit outside and enjoy the sun and just "be," to plunge his fingers into the Earth for worms and grubs, to recognize the songs of adult starlings, to marvel at the flight of birds, to hold the diminutive feet clinched around his fingers.

And then, just as quickly as he appeared, Pub was gone. He is buried on the east side of the house. Near HanktheCowdog and the Sunnybank rosebush. His spirit remains in the heart of Bikeman, I believe. And his heart has grown bigger and kinder and more understanding since the entry of this little, baby Starling gift.

I received this email later in the day:

Subject: hello

Well, it's 9:15 pm your time. Hope you are in safe someplace and resting. I know you have a bunch of dogs to bed down for the night. Busy.

I'm doing well. Thanks for your support this morning; it meant alot to me. We possess anger, fear, sadness, greed, hatred, all the bad things, we spend alot of our time keeping them suppressed. It only takes a little Starling to bring out our deep-felt, storehouse of carefully guarded feelings.

Somewhat embarrassing for a man. Men are not supposed to like cats, little birds, Mozart, etc., however, Pub was a great teacher. He reminded me about patience, love, hope, caring; a privilege to see the world through the eyes of a starling. A small life with great power to make you laugh or cry. I will like Starlings.

All that said, thanks for listening.

I love you, me

Saturday, July 23, 2011

4th of July in Oklahoma City

Sooooo....What did we do over the 4th of July weekend?  Why, a dawgshow, of course!  One of the biggest in the state!  Ah, but...There were only 2 Collies entered (I guess it's just toooo hot for those rough coats AND perhaps the pro handlers wanna spend some time with their families or at least take the day off for this midsummer holiday.
Well, Cubbie was the only "class" dog (which means he was the only dog in the "unfinished Champion class), so, of course, we took Winners Dog. THEN we went in with the "special" who is the litter sister to this beautiful bitch

Here we are getting ready to go into the big room with the show ring.

Waiting is a major part of any dog show....Prosper needs to be able to DO something......

He did quite well in the Breed Ring...however, there's not many judges who will put up a Class Dog over a Special (a Finished Champion), especially when there's only TWO in the competition....But it was good Ring Experience.

The MAIN reason we were in OKCity was because our local Freestyle club the Canine Twisters was asked to come dance some Freestyle demos between the Group judging.  The theme was "Sailing Away," so we all chose those themes for our music.  I got out my South Pacific tunes last month, and decided on "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy" for James and "Honey Bun" for Prosper.  No videos of those one-minute performances, but suffice it to say, they were ON!  Really ON! These guys Love to dance, and are so comfortable with an audience. 

Now, if you remember the South Pacific production, you will recall that "Honey Bun" is danced w/the girl dressed as a sailor, the sailor dressed as a "girl" w/hula skirt and coconut...uh...okay...coconut boobs...Prosper had NO Problem wearing that costume, tho one could barely see the want to volunteer to come with me and shoot away?!!!

On Saturday, our times to dance were longer,because ESPN was there to film it. The request came about for James and me to dance to our "Why Did I Choose You?" routine.   He was just wonderful!  And, as you can see from the video, he entered the ring like he OWNed it. 

The video was taken by a person that I had Just Met!  I just gave her my camera and asked to to "shoot away!" 

 The following still shots were taken by my friend Linda Earley 
( here's her facebook site:!/profile.php?id=725994843  ).
She lives in Edmond, OK, and follows us Freestylers whenever we are in her "neighborhood."  

Dunno if I put them in "order," but you kinda get the feeling of the joy and the bond here....The song, by Barbara Streisand, starts out, "Why did I choose you?  What could you offer me? I saw the heart you hide so well. I saw a Quiet man (James woofs!), who had a Gentle way (he pops up on back of me), a way that caught me in its glowing spell...."  Well, you kinda get the picture.  And while we are dancing, all the wonderful memories of our life together come cascading down upon me, and it only made it better....

ALL the "ifs" in our lives....What IF I had not chosen this puppy out of This litter....How very Very sad I was a year later that I HAD chosen him, because his eye checks were horrible....What a rollercoaster ride of dominance and strong wills and stubborn hearts....And what a magnificent creature to be able to house within my walls....Ah, well, I could write until dark about this Collie, but I will spare you the sap and goo....Here's the pictures....

Oh, yes.....If I had to choose again....Yes, I would still, Always, FOREVER....choose James...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Tour, The Workshop, The Piece of Heaven!

Wow....2 posts in 2 days.  It MUST be hot out, and there's not much else to do except read and maybe write....So, here I go, with more "catchup" posts from the past few months.

FIRST of all, do you know what Time of Year this is? is the Tour de France season....and I should be thankful that it is only 3 weeks out of the year instead of those poor football widows who endure months and Months of crowds screaming on the tv...

Actually, I kinda Like watching the Tour...even tho it is not as exciting w/out Lance.  It is a Dream of ours to someday go over to Europe during the Tour, park our van, and camp out, waiting for the bicycles to speed past. Then drive on to the next stage....SOMEday....

ANYway.....After the Exciting THREE POINT MAJOR!!! Brenda and I headed north towards Vermont and Dog Camp.  We went up a couple of days early to attend an Animal Communication Workshop with Barbara Janelle. 

This is the 3rd year for this group of people to meet and learn as Much as they can from Barbara (you can link to her webpage by looking beside this post). Each year, I see such incredible Growth and insight in me during these workshops, so I have made it a priority to attend.

THIS year, Barbara told me that it was time to "hang out my shingle".....meaning that I am "getting it"....Wow, thatsa very huge step forward for me, and I must admit, I have been turning it over and Over in my heart for the past month.....So...if you have any animal that you want me to connect with, lemme know....I could use the practice.... 

On Saturday night we always meet for supper at a pub nearby in Putney, VT. Laughter is the main course. The founder of Camp, Honey Loring (now retired), lives right across the road from the pub, and she always joins us.  Here's Honey and Barbara together!  I just love these two women!

 I think Barbara was choking here....She got so tickled at some of our stories....

Back at the workshop, here's a picture of Lisa and her puppy. Did I mention that this was a pretty relaxing weekend?!

Here's a few pictures from Dog Camp.  This was my 7th year, and, well, I didn't take very many pictures.  Mostly I just "did" instead of trying to document.  Sad, I know.  But there Were some folks there w/some very nice cameras, and I bought a few pictures from them.
We only took ONE van this year!  Yeh, that's right....SIX Collies and all our gear, plus stuff to give to the Silent Auction.  This is probably the Last year we can do this, as we add to our packs in the future....especially Brenda....Needless to say, the ride up was really fun, because we got to talk the whole time! The dogs all ride quite well, stuffed in like furry sausages, and friend Maureen took up some of the slack on hauling our gear and Brenda's little girl Collie, Khylie.

                                                                DANCE CLASS

Here's some pictures of our room. We will Never receive the "clean camper" award....(no such anyway!), but we lived like Queens in our dorm, and slept like very tired puppies.

Can you guess which one is MY bed?  Leash-making bag? Rocket Dog shoes? Pink duvet?!

I was very deliberate in making sure the boyz were well hydrated....And no, they did Not touch the metal spout.  Don't want them to get germs....

My friend Nan did not bring her Collie Robbie to Camp this year...He was getting quite fragile, and she thought that keeping him at home might be the best decision. As it was, Robbie passed on not too long after Camp was over....

Here's pictures of Nan and her yellow Labrador, Sally.  Sally is only 9 years old, but was battling cancer. By Tuesday of Camp, Nan knew that Sally's time had come. She took her in to a trusted vet nearby, and helped her pass over, coming back to her dorm to an empty crate and dogfood that would not be needed....

Nan remained at Camp for the rest of the week. I mean, after all, what Better Place to be than surrounded by loving friends who understand Completely what she was going thru....

After a couple of days, she took Brenda up on her offer to take Duncan (Brenda's tricolor Collie who is a workaholic), and they set off for Dance Class.  It was beautiful to see them together....Beautiful and heart-wrenching....Duncan working his magic as only a Collie can do, dancing and heeling and giving her his rapt attention. On Friday night, Nan and Duncan even demo'd a bit of Freestyle with the rest of us.

Of Course we always take walks in the Vermont woods.  This year, I felt comfortable enough with their good recalls to allow both boys off lead. Rocks are very good stopping points for Mom to snap a picture or two.

This big golden boy is Fiero
This big golden boy is Fiero.  Brenda's new Collie puppy. He's about 6 mos old, and Camp has offered him Lots of chances to experience new things.  In this picture, she is treating Fee as he is looking and listening to some Very Scary construction going on around the campus. What a great opportunity for him to get positive strokes when things don't seem so normal and everyday.

Do you see the futility in this picture?!  Do I have this dog's attention?  Is he even in the same Time Zone as I am in?  What you are viewing is a brief moment in time where this blue boy was actually Quiet whilst watching the other dogs have their turn herding the sheep. Prosper couldn't wait. He Couln't.  He Could NOT Wait!  And he pitched a whining, barking, tap-dancing FIT.....The Super-embarrassed dog trainer was attempting to turn him around to Good Behavior, but, as you can see, he wasn't listening. At. All.

So, the First thing a dog must do before he gets to chase the sheep is "Down!"  Got that one just fine.

And then, he's off!  Dude looks like he Knows what to do....My sister gets a bit maudlin and speaks about his "ancestors harkening to his spirit" and telling him what hundreds of generations before him were bred to do......

 I DO believe that he thinks he can go Faster than this....
 And he can turn on a dime, give you 9 cents change....
And, well, if they Don't get in line, he Can get Serious.....Can you Believe this is my liddle wolf cubbie baring those teeth?!

The last day of camp, as we were packing up, it rained.  We'd packed up our rain gear, so we found alternative "coats" to wear.....

Drying off in the dining hall.....Nothing seems to dampen our spirits at Camp.....except maybe leaving....Until next year, my friends...When, once again, for a Magical Week, a small liberal arts college campus turns into Heaven on Earth....My deposit is paid....My savings account has begun once again.....But, now, it is time to head South towards this beautiful face: