Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All sorts of musings, including why Tess doesn't do agility

It doesn't stay green here in the part of California very long where I live, and so I viewed the recent rains and slick trails as an opportunity for a relaxed run and beautiful photoshoot, rather then bemoaning the slow pace such trails demanded.

 Tess is the most entertaining running partner - watching her bound her way through/over/across terrain and brush is just incredible.
 Beyond the sheer beauty of watching such athleticism, it's the sheer JOY that radiates from her that keeps me heading out the door day after day.
 Really, who can resist this face?
 She spends our runs in constant motion.
 It's not easy to catch a white dog careening through the trails.
 Today, knowing I would be faced with slick mud and beautiful scenery opted to take the "real" camera out and try to grab photos that captured Tess at her best - running the trails.
That green thing around her neck is a leash. I decided that she could carry her leash today instead of balling it up in my hand, since I brought a camera. 
 I've been doing my annual sort and archive and photos and realized...I take a LOT of pictures of Tess.
 In fact, it's a close race to see whether Farley or Tess wins that contest.
 Tess is more photogenic.  Farley attempts to ruin the shot but chewing with her mouth open, closing her eyes, or by showing off her "assets" to her advantage - making her head look bigger than it is even in real life and her butt smaller.  *sigh*
 Tess on the other hand has learned that sometimes I take pictures. And the longer she stands there ignoring me and not being too naughty, the faster she gets released to run again.
When Minx, my first horse died, I learned that no matter how many pictures you think you took (and there were far far far more pictures of Minx taken than I would admit to family and friends!) there's never enough once they leave us.
Tess is only 3 years old, but who knows what the next year, week, or day might bring? She's perfect right now.  Reliable off leash. Happy about life. Happy about what she perceives as her job.
 Much like I would love to freeze Farley in time right now as a 15 year old for the rest of her life, Tess is freezable right now as a 3 year old.
 Old enough to know better, young enough to still be able to DO.
We aren't doing agility because she doesn't want that to be her job.  It's not that she isn't athletic enough (she is). It's not that she's not smart enough (she is). It isn't that we didn't put the time in to learn handling, obstacles etc (we did).  And it's not that she wasn't obedient enough (she mechanically did what was asked).
Here's the problem: She finds no joy on the agility course. It's like taking a person who is meant to be outdoors in the sunshine and giving them an accounting job and locking them in a basement with no windows. They may love numbers, love the pay, and even appreciate the controlled temperature and free coffee provided. But sometimes that isn't enough.
It's different on the trail. When I look at these pictures, I don't see a dog who feels constrained by the rules that are placed on her when we are on the trail.  She embraces them and adopts them wholeheartedly as her own.
 She does figure 8's in front of me. She keeps an eye on me. She checks in often both visually and physically.  When she sees a person or dog in the distance she automatically comes to a heel at my side and holds it until we are past it. She's free to run, sniff, jump, and leap as she wishes - the more freedom I give her, the more she chooses to look to me for direction.
 Gone is the dog that spent our training time together stress sneezing/blinking/yawning/panting/bolting. We still learn tricks, but now I can use rewards that really motivate her - even if they are not "approved" for agility.  She doesn't want to work for her toys - she wants to work for food and for freedom and I respect that. 
I've learned some of my best lessons about Joy, Stress, and not asking someone or something to give beyond what they can offer, from Tess.
And then we are back at the car.  Tess is cold and shivery and done with the wet weather for now - and I'm done with the heavy thinking and am ready for bed :).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Tess is my little shadow.

Don't believe me, take a look at my HORSE blog and see how many pictures she manages to cram herself into.

Still not convinced? 

Trying to showing off my vaccuming skillz?

Tess is there.

 She's not the only culprit. Showing off my new pack, Harley decided to show off her bombing skillz.

 It's not like Tess is in danger of lacking for pictures.

Sometimes we take more pictures in "the tree".

 We take bad selfies
And good selfies

We still take group pictures
(and nope - still haven't gotten that perfect picture where me, the horse, the dog, AND the camera are behaving themselves)

And yes, she still goes running and riding with me and plays in the river.

And sometimes I still have to embarass her and make her do something like wear Christmas bells.

We are coming up on Tess's 3 year birthday, which according to this chart makes her the same age I am.

And since I still feel young and curious and active, it's no mystery to me why Tess feels the same. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Lately Tess has been VERY excited when she sees kitty cats.

It makes me wonder whether she misses having a kitty, since Mickie passed away.

It's interesting how in the last year or so she's grown very opinionated about things she LOVES.

The first couple of years were defined by her telling me what she HATED (grooming, leashes, nails, being cuddly, teeth brushing).

But now, she's much more likely to communicate what she WANTS.  Kitty cats have joined the ranks of going on horse rides, runs, bikes, car rides, and bird watching.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A ten mile run.....Or was it 12?

This morning, braving 26 degree temperatures (yes, that's F), I went for a 10 mile run. 

Tess of course came along.  She's the best little trail dog you can imagine.  I imagine her limit in cold weather is somewhere in the 20-25 mile range - this 10 miles didn't phase her in the LEAST. 

Or rather......her 12 mile run that she did concurrently with my ten mile run. 

Both when I'm running and riding, Tess's style is to do giant circles or figure 8's (FAST, at top speed) if we are on a wide jeep road.  It's a lot of fun to watch her BOUND and JUMP through the brush and rough terrain on either side of the road.  

My run today was almost soley dirt wide roads, so out of curiousity I stuck my phone on GPS mode inside her backpack.  (inside a ziplock in case she dunked in the river without me noticing). 

Turns out for every 5 miles I do, she does an entire extra MILE.  The program I use doesn't take GPS readings very frequently, so as I look at the track, it didn't "get" all the crazy geometric shapes she does, so it is likely even more. 

Here's some pics from our walk on Friday - the day before we got a rare snow in the CA central valley. No pics today - too busy trying to make forward movement this morning and I'm not sure I had motor function in frozen fingers for taking pics....

 Too much to see - she would pose for the camera but not actually look at me.

 A gloomy yet still beatiful afternoon.

 This is how she moves across trail - bounding with full extension and coil.  It's the funniest thing.

 Tess's preferred speed down the trail is TOP speed which leaves plenty of time to stop and sniff at interesting things before I catch up.  When I pass her she takes off again to the next interesting thing.

Here she is waiting for me to catch up. If there's nothing interesting to sniff to pass the time, she'll stop and just look at something until I get there.  Her check in is automatic now and she decides whether she races back to me to check in, or whether she just wants to stop and wait for me.

It's incredibly motivating to have a dog that loves the trail as much as you do, and can do speed and distance that matches or exceeds what's usually the plan for either a run or a trail ride.

After some careful thought, I have decided I have some tongue in cheek advice for those New Year's Resolutions: 

Want to eat more vegetables? get a bird.

Want to exercise more? get a dog. 


And.....since updates on Tess can be far and few between, another example of how #lifewithsmartdog regularly goes down in my life.

- I leave Tess in my car at the vetmed barn while doing a large animal palpation lab.  We had gone on a long walk and I let her swim in the creek. 
- I come back to this:
- It's hard to see by the glare in this pic off the window, but you should note how "high" she is off my backseat. She has taken my car blanket from the front seat, pulled it into the back seat, stuffed it in a milk crate that contains some laundry, and created a nest for herself.
- Clever, but dog nests are NOT what I have in mind for my favorite car blanket. So evict her and throw the blanket out of the milk crate.
- The next morning during my commute Tess is doing SOMETHING in the back seat.  I finally turn around to find this:

- Not quite as effective as the first time, but apparently she deemed it "good enough" and used my backpack to support her bottom half. 

Silly dog. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A post office suprise

I went to the post office this afternoon and my sister had sent along my birthday present (frogg toggs) and had included a little something for Tess too!

To her credit, she did not immediately rip it off or go into immediate depression.

Remember last year? Was there ever a more depressed puppy?

In preperation to becoming the green witch of the Wizard of Oz!

So....if you were ever curious what a "stressed" dog looked like.....here's an example!  Obedient....Yes.  About to explode her mind from puppy stress?  Probably.  

 BTW - this is EXACTLY the dog I had when I tried to do agility with her, which is why we stopped. More on that later. 

Sensing a chance to please the human and perhaps earn a cookie AND facilitate the removal of costume, Tess gives her best shot of "is this a cute enough pose that we can stop now?"

 I removed my horns....can you please undo the rest of it?

Thank you Loreleigh for the birthday surprise and some afternoon entertainment :).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dear Tess

Dear Tess,

Although I appreciate you did not actually snarf my glorious waffle fries from Chick-fil-a that I placed at a "snarf-able" level, I would like to remind you that licking my fries is not acceptable. Neither is drooling on them as you look at me with begging eyes.

Dear human-who-does-not-feed-me-enough,

Although *I* appreciated the dog cookie provided by the nice folks at the drive in window, your strips, fries, and iced tea seemed like an awful lot for one person to eat. Especially compared to my one paltry dry cookie.  I would snarf less gophers and you would lose weight if you fed me more.  Seems like a win win situation to me!