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'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!

Monday, June 10, 2013

TWO is the magic number

I tell you what....TWO really is the magic number when it comes to dogs. 

My walks with Tess just get better and better and better.

Today we walked around campus, sticking mostly to the undeveloped areas that are full of brush and rabbits and birds.

I'm sure I'll come back in 10 years and these empty lots will have buildings on them, but for now, they are Tess's playground.

I try to do our walks in silence, letting her have the responsibility to keep an eye on me and notice when I've strayed from our normal route.  I practice a recall ("check!")when I think she's getting focused on something that is headed towards the road, or sometimes I recall her just because so it isn't always associated with leaving something fun. 

Most of the time she's sent right back out to play ("break!") after she does a nose touch in my hand, but sometimes I have her heel a couple of yards. 

Her heels this early in the walk are always a bit strained.  She isn't really sure that she's going to be sent back out to have what she really covets - freedom.  Which is why it's so important that I do a couple recalls and heels early in our walk - to continue to reassure her that these commands that she is choosing to follow WILL be rewarded in a way that she values.

For those of you familiar with the concept, I'm "premacking" my heel and recall commands on these walks :).

Later in the walk, we move into more developed areas.

We play hide and go seek (and get laughed at by passing professors.....I don't mind because Tess is getting noticed for exhibiting GOOD behavior instead of naughty behavior, even if I look silly in the process), pose for pictures and review our toxic plants.
At this stage Tess is equally amendable to being at my side in a heel, or going exploring.  Sometimes she even comes to the heel position on her own and walks with me. 

Nowadays when I duck behind a tree, Tess notices quickly that I'm not behind her and pauses, looking around.  When she doesn't see me, she retraces her steps at top speed, knowing from experience I have to be somewhere back along the route. 

When she was a puppy I had treats for her when she found me, but now at 2 years old and being able to reward her with freedom instead of food, I rarely carry treats on me.  Instead when she finds me (she's very proud) I clap my hands and exclaim in a loud voice how good she is and then we play a bit and then off we go. 

They say that riding 100 miles on a horse forges a relationship between you and your mount that is hard to duplicate any other way.  I think backpacking with Tess has forged a similar bond.  It seems to me that the act of moving along the trail, whether on or off leash, all day and then sharing a tent at night for several days in a row makes the dog look at its human differently. 

My walks with Tess nowadays are (finally!) less about training and obedience, and more about maintaining relationship and trust.  We loiter in areas with good scents, play games when the time is right, and give each other our space for those few precious minutes that make up my lunch time and I can be out in the sunshine.

Two years old really is the magic number.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Highlights of the trinity alps trip...with Tess

Last weekend we all went up to Caribou lakes in the Trinity alps.

I'm sure my Mother will give a full report, so this will more about Tess on the trip.

This was going to be a nice, entertaining post from Tess's perspective.  But I'm not in the mood, so instead you get to read some little details about the trip and look at pretty pictures.

This is Tess near the beginning of the trip.  See that pack?  It's an REI brand pack that I think I may have mentioned before.  It's a FABULOUS pack - gets 5 stars from me, especially after seeing it's performance on this trip.  It's a rather simple pack with 2 pockets, one on each side of the dog with no fancy hooks, loops, or accessory pockets.  It's sized correctly for the dog - at first you may be frusterating with the lack of space, but if you weigh out what you are putting on the dog's back, you will realize that filling up the pouches already puts you at a max % of what you should be loading a dog of that size with.  

 Tess went over and through almost any obstacle you can name, and bounded up and down hills with this pack on for 3 days.  No rubbing, no damage, no rips or tears. Tess has worn the pack before on trips, but this was the first trip that she spent a substantial time off leash, and this was NOT gentle terrain!

 Tess was a good girl - In addition to taking her off leash when there were no other people around and the trail was good (ie no sheer drop offs in granite....) I would also take her off leash when I needed to navigate a trail obstacle, or help my hiking partners too.  I always keep her in line of sight......however when going around this particularly nasty burned out tree on soft ground I sort of forgot about Tess.

After "helping" (being bossy.....) my mom and sister around, I look down the trail and here comes Tess!  Even when I was distracted and not reminding her to stick around where I could see her, she was checking back in - that was very reassuring that she wasn't just going to bound off to the middle of nowhere in pursuit of a happier existance.....

 At one point I slid down a rather treacherous bank of snow, off the trail.  There was a steep cliff drop off, and as I was sliding on my back towards the abyss, I aimed my feet at a tree and managed to stop myself.  Tess was above me on the bank and I asked her to come down with me, so that we could make our way back up to the trail together.  She did an excellent job of staying out of my way and being super obedient.  There were a couple of dicey places on the trail and I found myself really really really happy that she was such a small, athletic dog.  At 35 pounds she isn't big enough to make my life difficult and I can lift and manhandle her as necessary, but at the same time, she's big enough to make her own way around trail obstacles.

 I really tried during this trip to remain in a "happy state" at all times.  At any point if I wasn't enjoying the trip I asked myself what I could do.  Put Tess on leash?  Take her off leash?  Stop and get a drink?  Pee? Eat something?  Admire the view? 
 Tess is very very very food motivated.  I always bring extra rations with me on hiking and backpacking trips because she does so much extra work, running up and down hills.  In her mind it's never enough, and especially on this trip since *I* was carrying her food.  It was bear country and I decided that I did not want her to go off spreading the smell of dog food in our vincinity of the trail, so *I* carried her food, and thus declared she would get along on 1 1/2 rations. 
 Tess was pretty sure she was going to starve the first night, even though I promised that I had brought too much food for myself on days 2 and 3 and she could share.

She was pretty sure that as a fully fledged member of the trip she should get a portion of the wine. 
 Every pic I have of her from this evening is of Tess pleading with her eyes for more calories.

 This is what Melinda looks like when she brought an alcohol stove instead of a canister stove because she *thought* it was going to be summer conditions instead of winter conditions. 
 Note that Tess is keeping her distance. Grumpy Melinda before coffee. 
 Still waiting for the water to boil for coffee.
 Tess was immensely bored by the whole "take pictures of the runamocs" moment.

 Our day hiking up by the lakes was limited by the snow covering the trail.

 Don't even look at me like that!  You finished off my breakfast AND Loreleigh's breakfast. 
 Tess was pretty sure she could do the old caribou trail, even if someone had added the commentary "if you are a goat" to the sign.

But, because of the unknown snow conditions, we decided to go back the way we came, on the new trail.
 Tess perfects the art of begging for lunch. 
 Tess and I preemptively go around the snowpack that the previous day I had fallen off of. 

 We camped the second night at Brown's meadow and Tess ran around the meadow depositing doggy scent in an effort to keep the bears at bay.
 It didn't quite work because we saw three bears that evening.  I saw out on a rock and read, and let my hiking partners know when I spotted them, while encouraging Tess to bark.  Which was a fail.  She did bark at a deer.  And a chipmunk.  And a bird.  The humans barked at the bear.  And hung our bear bags higher.  And insisted that the bear canister go further away from camp.
 It had rained the first night, but cleared up in the morning.  On the second night it rained and did NOT clear up.

I cooked breakfast while Tess watched.

 I occasionally *may have* glared at her.  I had yet to have even my coffee and she had had BREAKFAST already. Make this "gumpy melinda before coffee" day 2.....

 Tess is much happier on the trail than in camp.

Camp was a bit wet and cold that third morning. 

No bears in the morning, just the evening before.  Did I mention we tried to get Tess to bark at the bears?  She volunteered to bark at chipmunks in the morning but sorely disapointed that it did not result in more breakfast. 
Finally, coffee.

All in all we did about 25 miles over 3 days.  Tess probably did double that mileage, and aside from breaking a down stay in the first day to say hello to another dog, was very good!  Truly I cannot think of a more perfect dog for my adventures.