2022 Vizsla National Specialty Show, Part 3: Obedience and Rally

After wrapping up at the agility venue, we packed up and drove across town and checked into our hotel for the rest of our stay in Minnesota. We even had enough time before it got dark to find our way to the convention center where the competition would be held starting the next day.

I finally took all of my suitcases into the hotel room, and hung up all the show clothes. I set up the travel crates for the dogs, leaving a set of wire crates in the car that I would be setting up at the show in the morning.

The dogs think hotel bathrooms are great and the lid is always up.

Now, one thing that those of us who travel with our show dogs and stay in hotels are asked not to do is bathe our dogs in the hotels that still allow us to stay there. I’m sure that it would be a drain catastrophe. So, if I post pictures of my dogs being bathed here, know that I carefully wiped out the tub afterwards and left a generous tip for housekeeping.

The next morning, I had crates to set up at the show, and then four classes: Beginner Novice Obedience with Fellow, Novice Obedience with Eggi, and then Novice Rally with each of them. This is the day I really could have used a hand moving stuff, holding dogs, making sure I got lunch, and most of all, getting pictures.

Most shows organize the obedience classes starting with the most advanced and working their way to the most basic. So, Eggi’s Novice class was before Fellow’s Beginner Novice. Eggi and I did a good enough job for a qualifying score, so we were asked to come back for the long sit and down, which is held in a group with the whole class. Finally, we had a qualifying leg.

I feared that I would have a conflict with the Rally ring, so on my way to train Eggi for Fellow, I told the steward there about it, and she cheerfully said it wouldn’t be a problem. So, I traded dogs, Took Fellow out to pee, brought him in to do his Beginner Novice Obedience round, where he was exuberant if not wholly obedient. At the time, I did not realize we had a qualifying score, and someone would come and find me with our green qualifying leg ribbon later, asking, “Aren’t you the woman from New York?”

I barely managed to make the course walk for Novice Rally, and dashed back to get my dog, and when I arrived with him I was told I had missed my slot and I would have to go last. I looked at the steward and said, “But I had a conflict.”

She replied, “You should have told me in advance.”

I said, “But I did tell you.”

She stared at me blankly. Now the judge, and everyone else waiting to go, all turned glaring in irritation at the public disagreement in their midst.

“Fine! Fine! Just go next!” said the judge, throwing up her hands.

The steward asked the woman who had thought she was next if it was ok. And she said it was.

So.

This is why I have nothing to say about the Novice Rally I did with Fellow, with tears drying on my face, except that I did it as quickly as I possibly could, thanking the judge and walking directly out of the room to put this dog away and get the other one, line up, and do it again.

Both dogs had qualifying legs in Rally.

Postscript: about a month later, their Novice Rally titles arrived in the mail from the AKC.

2022 Vizsla National Specialty: Part 1, Getting There

It was going to be a three day drive: 1,200 miles, and Eggi, Fellow, and me, the only driver, because you know what? Dogs don’t drive. Without them, I could picture maybe, like, I dunno, doing it myself in two days, but, ok, the dogs were the point of the trip. So, a three day drive, with regular stops to smell the grass.

There is also the issue of wanting to be two states away the first night, because you aren’t making progress across this enormous country of wackos if you can’t get two states away from home the first day (sorry, Western/Midwestern America), so I simply had to get through all of Pennsylvania the first day. I don’t make these rules, they just are.

Something I brought plenty of: dog kibble.

Something I should have brought more of: familiar-tasting water from home.

Packing for the dogs: grooming stuff; two crates for riding in the car, two portable crates for sleeping in hotels, two wire crates and crate pads for the show; leashes and collars for walks, slip leashes for agility, show leashes; treats, poop bags, toys.

Packing for me: overnight bag for travel days with sneakers and clothes to compete in agility; two choices of outfits for obedience ring, plus shoes; three choices for conformation ring, plus boots; dress for banquet, plus other boots; raincoat, down vest, sweater, parka. Food, colored pencils, pens.

There used to be things to say about road trips across America. Regional sodas. Billboards for miles exhorting us to See Rock City. Now, we drive thousands of forgettable stretches of highway, following the blue line on the navigation app of the thousand dollar Chinese-made mobile device, hooked up to the car with the special white cord that always frays in the same place, jammed mindlessly on cruise-control between enormous trucks full of toilet paper and game consoles, great long reaches of endless pavement interrupted by exits for towns still named for native tribes long ago chased off the land by whites, but today a couple of streets, some potholes, a few sad but familiar fast food chains, and a drab purveyor of fuel and plastic-wrapped snacks as unmemorable as any other town on the way.

My traveling companions need to visit the rest areas to do their business, and we gain efficiency at every stop. Sometimes other people at the rest areas want to tell me things (my shirt matches my dogs), or ask me things (are they hunting dogs? is he a stud dog?). I walk them one at a time to control the chaos. But I wish I had found time to practice walking them together more, and I wish Fellow wouldn’t try to pee on his own legs or on Eggi. I say things to them about it. You could aim that, I say. Remind me I need to scrub those legs, I say. No one wants you to go there. Ok, good job, thank you for that, let’s go.

They get good at jumping in and out of the back of the big Ford, at waiting to pee until I encourage them to, at pooping every day at around 11 a.m.

The gas in Ohio is a dollar cheaper per gallon than everywhere else.

The dogs are good in the hotels and I didn’t do such a bad job of picking places the first two nights.

On the second day we arrive early enough to look for a park in Beloit, Wisconsin and actually go for a walk. The dogs are wild and hard to keep up with.

Anyplace I wear a mask, I am the only person in a mask. I am relieved to find that people are less likely to talk to me if I am wearing it.

The first day of showing will be agility. I have each dog signed up for three classes, two which count towards their point totals in the Iron Dog, novice standard and novice jumpers with weave (poles), and a third, which is called FAST, an acronym that means something like Fifteen and Send, where you do obstacles for points and have to send to a required element. The FAST event will be held first, and I intend to use it to familiarize the dogs with the venue and the equipment.

Fellow and I went to the Vizsla National Specialty last year, and he and I took an agility class at a big, new, unfamiliar place with strange (endlessly barking) dogs, a different instructor, and regulation mats and equipment for a few weeks in preparation. So, I am pretty confident he will get around the courses ok. He is game. Eggi is a year older, but is more sensitive, and has not had the experience of classes outside the supportive, familiar backyard place where we have been going since she was a puppy. I wanted to take her to the same class as Fellow, but I hadn’t been able to get it organized.

But, anyway, I make it all the way to Minnesota, and it’s still cold and windy at the end of April, and I marvel that I’ve signed myself up for this, and come all this way by myself.

Four Legs

Because of the Covid pandemic (which continues unabated), last year’s Vizsla National was postponed from April to October, so while it was held only a few months ago, it’s already time for this year’s, in Minnesota. And I hear it’s way out west next year, so I’ve been pretending oh, sure I’ll go again this time. Why not? I don’t have anything better going on. Who does?

Besides, Eggi and Fellow and I have been working pretty hard at obedience and agility, going to twice-weekly classes with our trainer who teaches in her backyard when the weather allows and in a classroom above her garage when it doesn’t.  My dogs love the classes, indoors or out, and whether I wear a mask or don’t, they’re used to both by now.

I thought it would be good to do some practice shows locally to get ready for our big trip. I did a couple of conformation days handling my own dogs in the breed ring, and while they know what to do, I understand it like a child playing dress-up, wobbling around in high heels and a party dress that doesn’t fit, miming doing cheers with an imaginary glass of champagne. Eggi was so surprised I was in the breed ring with her she watched the handler next to me. Fellow had the grumpiest judge I’ve ever seen, and I strangely enjoyed watching her find fault with him. No ribbons. Who cares?  They’re both grand champions, and I’m not chasing more breed titles with them.

Now, in the obedience ring, this is where we might stand out. Novice obedience is easy for Eggi, so I felt Eggi and my trips around the ring would be confidence boosters; she and I already have a beginner novice title that we completed last summer in Vermont.  Fellow is younger, less experienced, goofier, and easily excited, so I was hoping I would be able to use my time with Eggi in the ring reinforcing the calm, positive efficient way I need to work with Fellow. I signed up for the two dogs to do two different classes each of the days, Saturday and Sunday, one of obedience and one of rally. I had four numbers to manage between the two dogs, three judges, and three rings over two days. It was for practice. 

We arrived early as one must. The drive had been unremarkable. I had brought a pair of travel crates and a chair which I took inside and set up. I also had to check on and change the classes I entered with Eggi, so I had to find the superintendent to do that first thing. There are A sections and B sections for novice levels; A is for the Novice handlers with no previous titles and B is for Novice handlers with any previous titles but if you read the rules carefully you might come to the conclusion (as I had) that being a beginner and working on your first titles might be reason to put you in the A group, but any title at all puts you in the B group. Anyway, I managed to get myself switched into the correct class, by trying to be polite and apologetic, or maybe they’re used to nitwits like me, begging for mercy. In any event, by doing so, Eggi and I would show in the B group, and we would have to be last to go. 

Walking into the Better Living Center at the Big E, I could tell something was wrong. Like, if you showed up at a high school party, the music was loud and unfamiliar, and you could smell something burning, a couple of kids looked like they were already puking, and all before you even made it inside. The Better Living Center was crowded (13 rings), and it was loud. And it wasn’t fun and happy loud; it was tense loud. Eggi stopped to smell every pillar like it had just been peed on. Fellow turned to me and just barked in my face.

It was too crowded. It was too loud loud. There was a puddle of pee by the obedience and rally rings that I watched dry slowly over two days, turning from a wet puddle to a sheet of thin, faintly yellow crystallized urine. No one came and cleaned it up. The first dog to go in Eggi’s novice obedience class stepped 15 feet into the ring, stopped, squatted, and took a dump. His handler picked it up, the ring steward rushed over and dabbed at the spot with a couple of squirts of hand sanitizer (yes, hand sanitizer), and the judge moved the cones for the figure 8 away from the place where it had happened. This pair was disqualified for pooping in the ring. 

When Eggi and I entered the ring, the judge commented that mine was the third vizsla in the class. I replied that one of them was Eggi’s grandmother. The judge may or may not have said anything else. In retrospect, I think she may have tried to say something nice to set me at ease, which was hard to do, and became increasingly more difficult as we moved through the ring, because from that moment onward I’m pretty sure I misunderstood most of what she said, at least at first.

Eggi had her good moments, and a few, unexpected moments of sightseeing. Her automatic sit while heeling was absent. She came when called but finished herself and never presented herself in front of me. It was a bit like showing a dog that already had a novice title but I did not know how to handle. Nevertheless, we got a qualifying score, and were called back for the group long sit and down.

And that might have gone ok had the judge not lined us up so that one dog had to sit in the spot where the disqualified dog had pooped earlier. And of course, one dog was instructed to sit there, and it was mine. The sitting actually went ok. But for the down stay, which lasts a minute, Eggi started by hinted to me that there might be a problem when she lay down diagonally away from me rather than straight. And after about 35 seconds I could see that she was thinking about doing something with one hip. Was she going to roll onto one side? That would be ok. But, no. At 45 seconds she popped up into a beautiful square sit, with a satisfied smirk on her face. She surveyed the other, obedient dogs, all good, lying down dogs for the full minute, Eggi clearly thinking, “All y’all are doing down stay on the dog dooky floor mat like a bunch dog dooky chumps.”

So we were disqualified. With 15 seconds to go. No score. No qualifying leg towards her title. Not the confidence booster I was sure it would be.

Fellow’s turn was pretty typical for him. He was boisterous, bumping into me on the heel work and popping up whenever I returned to him, costing us a qualifying score as well. 

Then we took a couple trips around the rally ring, which is the miniature golf of obedience. It was reasonably fun, as I believe it is intended to be. You go in the ring and follow the signs. Both dogs had qualifying legs.   And then we went home, ran around the yard and ate ramen

The next day, all the obedience judges traded places. Fellow’s ring worked very efficiently that morning, so I showed him first. He kept himself together better, and bumped into me less. The judge told me twice how beautiful he was and asked about his breeding. He had a qualifying score, and that was his second beginner novice leg so when he shows at the Vizsla National he could possibly finish his title.

Eggi and I had practiced everything she’d had trouble with the day before, so I went in feeling confident it would go ok. Alas, the sightseeing during off-leash heeling was even worse on Sunday. The overall noise level was less, but a work crew arrived during our turn and started dismantling the ring next to us. When I left Eggi to do the recall (where the dog sits and stays and the handler crosses to the other side of the ring and calls the dog on the signal of the judge), there was a tremendous crashing noise behind her. Eggi did not get up, but she did turn her head to look, and she did not turn back to look at me. The judge signaled. I was in a situation I had never practiced: my dog was not even looking at me. Normally, I say, “come!” brightly and clearly. Some people say their dog’s name and then “come.” I decided, given that she was looking out of the ring, that I would say, “Eggi! Come!” as loudly (and brightly and clearly) as I could manage. So I did.

Slowly, she turned her head towards me. She sat, still stuck to the spot where I had told her to stay. She had stayed through a loud crashing noise. She had been extremely good, hadn’t she. Had I just said her name? What were we doing? Still she sat. 

I called again: “Come.”

She came. But we did not have a qualifying score. Again.

Did I sit in my chair and cry while I watched the work crew who ruined my obedience competition roll up the mats and take the ring away? Yes.

Wasn’t this supposed to be practice? Wasn’t Eggi actually very good, under very hard circumstances? Isn’t this just a dog show? Yes, yes, and yes.

Did I go and learn the miniature golf rally course and stick around and do that with both dogs? Also, yes.

Fellow was first of my two goes in rally. I like to get those rally courses over with, so we marched through it very efficiently, and on our way out the judge said Thank you, which is kind of weird because usually they tell you if you qualified or not. But I thought we nailed it. Whatever. It’s only practice.

So I put Fellow in his box and grabbed Eggi out of hers and got her walking around warming up and I saw someone getting ready to go in the ring ahead of us who was practicing a specific sign, the 5th one, which was down your dog, walk around them, and proceed, and I’m thinking….wait….I didn’t dooooo that

But what did I just do? because I did the whole thing so fast I didn’t even remember… 

I grabbed my map just to make sure, and oh boy, howdy, I just skipped it? Or made something up? Or had him sit instead of down? I still don’t know.

Anyway, Eggi did do that sign correctly, but Fellow never did. So Eggi had a qualifying rally leg that day, but Fellow didn’t. Which means that she, too, could perhaps finish a novice rally title at the Vizsla National. 

But the goal of going is to enjoy it. We leave in the morning.

Sick as a Dog

It felt like Tuesday (it was Thursday), and I saw my shadow, so I thought I should sit outside (it rained and snowed) and enjoy the (brief moments of) sunshine but the dog came in and just opened his trap and puked as if only to remind me that though he was sicker before and now he was a bit better (so much better, really). But really, he could take another turn for the worse. At any minute.

When we hit the middle of February, our Captain reached the age of 14 1/2, and celebrated with some dog tummy trouble. I made the old guy a batch of dog stew (sweet potato and beef), and when he wasn’t better by the time we’d used up the first batch, I took him to the vet.

The vet pulled some blood, gave him some fluids, gave me a pep talk, and sent us home.

Captain rejected the second batch of the same stew. I made a third batch–heroically cancelling Zoom pilates, and rushing to the store as soon as they opened–out of grated white potato and gently simmered chicken breast; he rolled a tiny nugget of chicken over his teeth and pushed it out again, and vomited in my lap.

We made another trip to the vet. A bowl of dog stew fell out of the fridge on me and I wore the splashed pants all day. We added sub-cutaneous fluids, and several medications, one for the sour stomach, one for the nausea, another to coat his esophagus.

More times than I can count, I sat alone in a quiet corner of the house where I could hear none of my husband’s work meetings and cried. I despaired that he seemed to be on his way out.

Eggi and Fellow took turns sleeping next to him, and not because it had been especially cold.

My internet friends like to tell me that Captain is their favorite, and they noticed the absence of Your Daily Captain photos. I posted that he was “not eating,” and had to reply “pancreatitis,” two or ten times, which was as much as I knew. Veterinary medicine makes it possible to do an ultrasound and discover what horrible thing is causing the funky blood levels and vomiting. Or we can guess (that it’s cancer), keep him as comfortable for as long as we can, and when it’s time to let him go, let him go.

There was a day when I could get no food into him and no pills. I settled into the familiar, bitter feeling of how completely shitty the past couple of years have been for me and for everyone, of the losses on top of losses, and of course this was what was going down. I set up Captain’s fluids out of a resigned obligation to him, even though he wouldn’t eat. I accidentally stabbed myself with a used needle and laughed because it hurt like hell, bled everywhere, and I felt like I deserved it.

About an hour later I offered him a bite of chicken and he actually ate it. I fed him a bit more, and even tricked him into taking his meds. The next day, I got more food into him, more meds, and picked up more fluids. He wagged his tail at known visitors. He wanted me to feed him, one bite at a time, so I did.

He rallied. He had a few more good days and a couple of rough nights lately. He sleeps most of the time. Fellow still tries to get a game going.

Today he is still here. I can hear his light snores as he naps on the heating pad. We bought that heating pad for Cherry, who lived to be 15.

Cherry was a fantastic dog who guessed what I wanted, and who, in the way of good bitches, really never put a foot wrong. Sure, she disliked the vet and barked at little girls she was suspicious of. Her passing opened the door for new dogs and new friends and learning new things like agility and obedience. Cherry is always right behind me when I go snowshoeing, perfectly careful not to step on the back of my snowshoes, unless she needs me to see something, or slow down, or think of her.

Today in February, 2022

This year, February was like I dunno about four days long.

On the first day there was a football game. The exciting games had already happened and we didn’t see them.

Then, on the second day, with the Winter Olympics and its quadrennial doping scandals over, and football finished, the infinitely short American attention span glanced briefly at some famously ignorant guy with a podcast who got a lucrative contract from an online streaming service despite building his career on stupid ramblings, racist remarks, and inviting onto his platform windbags, charlatans, anti-vaxxers. know-nothings, and snake-oil salesmen to promote the important work that the coronavirus is doing killing and disabling people both here in America and all over the world. So some of the few remaining musicians with actual control over their recordings quit the platform in disgust, while others just had to say, yeah, we would if we could.

On the third day, I was cleaning up my art materials because the cat gets into my shit and I didn’t want him to cut himself and when I went to slide the safety cover over the blade of the circle cutter I cut myself pretty well.

Next, on the fourth and last day of February, the Russians, who had waited patiently until after the Olympics, started a war on Ukraine. We have all forgotten entirely about international games of peace (which they were not officially allowed to compete in), dopes, doping, masks, and vaccines.

Almost everyone everywhere is horrified, heaping sanctions large and small upon Russia. And people are moved by the desperation of the Ukrainians, some of who are staying to fight, while others are fleeing the military invasion. We, as Americans, spend almost all of our tax dollars on our military, so we probably could step in. But we don’t, because that would be World War III.

The Turkey

[NOTE: Yucky photos of a turkey carcass, but no guts or anything. Just dirty meat.]

Somehow, last Thursday I forgot it was Thursday and I didn’t write anything.

I have been staying busy doing nothing, trying not to get the Omicron variant as the entirety of America seems to be working on getting it. No one outside of my paranoid household and any given hospital ICU seems bothered by this, though. Half of America still won’t get vaccinated. The other half of America might definitely sometimes wear a mask, mostly covering part of their face, at the doctor, when they go to the movies (ok, until it’s like dark anyway), and when they walk into restaurants (but obviously not when they’re eating). They’re uncomplainingly sending their kids to in-person school, taught by whatever random substitute is replacing their usual teacher (because she’s out with COVID), and they’re just so psyched for when this whole thing is like over and we can like just go back to like normal.

Last Friday I passed some garbage on the side of the road near my house, which is, in and of itself, a remarkable thing. I live in a community with both paved and unpaved roads, all lovingly maintained by our taxes to preserve the rural flavor. The local Department of Thoroughfares is quite responsive if alerted to a downed limb or illegal dumping, and typically the roads stay clear. Those of us who walk our dogs around here pick up errant trash when we see it and this corner of Bedhead Hills stays picture perfect.

So when I ran out again to mail a letter, and it was still there. I slowed and rolled down my window.

The turkey, out of its wrapper

It was a turkey.

Not like a wild kind of turkey that lives in a flock in the woods around here. It was a naked, plucked, legless, headless, ready-to-be-salted-and-peppered-and-roasted kind of bird. It was raw, and not frozen. It had slid out from its butcher paper wrapper, and bounced, out of whatever vehicle it was being delivered by. I imagine it was in the way of something else that had to be delivered, and it got moved, and then it slipped out. It was abandoned in the gravel at the side of the road, and easily a 20 pounder.

Now, whoever dropped this turkey obviously messed up. Big time. Maybe the turkey escaped without notice. Maybe the turkey exited the vehicle with a dramatic flourish. Either way, someone around here did not get their 20+ pound fresh turkey delivered Friday. It was a turkey they were waiting for, that they had special ordered, that they weren’t expecting to need to defrost; this wasn’t an easy to replace item. This was dinner for 12, plus a weekend’s worth of leftovers.

All I really wanted to see happen next was the sad turkey accident going to a good re-purpose. Sure, it wouldn’t be feeding the neighbor’s weekend houseguests, but maybe the crows would find it. Or the coyotes I sometimes hear yip-yipping in the woods. We’ve heard stories of the bears down the hill, and I’ve even seen their poo around here. Would a bear eat that? Might they come up this far? And when the deer died in our wetland, we had a great congregation of vultures gather. Would there be vultures?

Friday night we had a big wind storm, so I drove down to check the carcass late and didn’t get out of my car. Saturday morning it was very cold, so I put Eggi in her jacket and she and I walked down together first thing. She noticed the crow in the tree before she saw the turkey, and they exchanged insults. The crow was still shouting at us as we retreated homeward through our woods.

That day was very, very cold. I assumed that whatever was scraping away at the turkey wasn’t going to be able to move it, since everything was frozen solid.

Sunday afternoon, I took Eggi for another walk to see if it was still there.

It was.

By Monday afternoon, the snow was very soggy, and the turkey was turned over, but it was still there. The Bacon Provider ran out to mail something and said he saw buzzards in the road, but didn’t get a picture.

Tuesday, I took Eggi to obedience class, and the turkey was lying on its back again in the middle of the road.

Ew

A few hours later it was out of the middle of the road but not quite to the shoulder.

Had something attempted to carry it, and failed?

Yesterday afternoon, before we got more snow, the carcass was to be found over on the shoulder, and was looking pretty stringy and dirty.

At 11:45 this morning, Eggi and I saw that it was in similar condition, under fresh snow.

Today at about 5 pm, I drove down to try to see if I could find it before I lost the light.

All that is left are the two big thigh bones, the spine, and the pelvis. And, of course, the plastic hock lock, because plastic is forever.

The Shortest Eight Weeks

From the day your litter of puppies is born, to the day the puppies go home to their new, forever families, it might be only eight weeks.

Very young puppies sleep a great deal. In the case of a singleton puppy, mother is all: food, playmate, cuddle companion. Our job was to handle him in appropriate, stimulating ways, exposing him to feelings and sounds, textures and toys, smells and tastes.

Our puppy was excited to learn new things, eager to explore, but somewhat ambivalent about food. He’d taste it, but he preferred what he got from his mother. So, we waited.

New toys, new challenges, new adventures were in order. Enough to help him build skills like climbing stairs, but remaining sensitive to anything too hard, dangerous, or scary.

Daily weigh-ins ended. Grackle the kitten went from playing with the toys he could reach from the outside of the puppy pen to jumping into the pen.

While I was away at the Vizsla National, the Bacon Provider discovered the right food to get the puppy interested. Suddenly, he found Eggi was done nursing. There were a couple of long nights. But soon, the puppy was eating more, playing harder, and sleeping longer at night. Eggi was relieved to sleep alone in her crate as she had before the puppy.

The Bacon Provider started the house training in earnest. By the time I was home from Virginia, the puppy was ready to have some temperament testing, and some conformation assessment; the consensus of my professionals was that he was both wonderful and ready to go.

We felt that we’d done our job, and even that we’d done it well.

Our puppy’s new family has given him a name that means little fire. They have other dogs for him to play with, elementary school-aged children who adore him, and farm animals. He goes to work with his new owner, and by all reports they are delighted with him.

I am so happy for him. And I miss him.

Participant

October 14, 2021: We go on a long car ride to Virginia where I get to stay in a hotel. Maggie says it is the Vizsla National Specialty Show. Elevators are mysterious, but new toilet water is always worth trying.

October 15, 2021: Agility today. I get measured, officially. I am 22 3/4” so I will get to jump in the 24” novice division. I get loose during my warmup so I can say hi to some new vizslas. When it is our turn to go, Maggie is too slow after fence two and doesn’t tell me about the tunnel, and mis-cues me so I jump the fence before the weave poles backwards, and she needs two tries to get me into the weave poles the right way. Then I don’t want to hold still on the pause table. I run past the A-frame which is huge so I have to come back and climb it from a stand-still instead of running up. Everyone gasps. The teeter lands with a boom and I spring for the last fence. 60 faults, 75 seconds, no qualifying score, no ribbon. I win a fancy towel. Had a great time.

October 16, 2021: New hotel. Hundreds of vizslas here. Obedience and Rally today. Maggie seems tense. I try to be my best good boy. I have some trouble doing a sit in the right spot, but we have qualifying scores in both beginner novice obedience and novice rally, so we even get some ribbons. Had a great time. Watch several hours of HGTV in the hotel room because Maggie won’t let me watch anything with shouting or shooting.

October 17, 2021: Went for a long walk on the eerily empty college campus next to the hotel. Had a great time. Spent several hours selling raffle tickets, which made me whiny. My mother Lucy won best veteran in the sweepstakes class. We ran into Eli and his owner in the dark when I was supposed to pee. I felt like he smelled familiar and Maggie said he is the father of Eggi’s puppy. 

October 18, 2021: Another day selling raffle tickets. Also watching home remodeling shows on TV. Saw some ducks. Had a great time.

October 19, 2021: Got a bath. Went in the show ring with a handler I didn’t know. Got to show with my mother and sister. She got second place for brood bitch. The wait for getting our picture taken was long. Still, had a great time.

October 20, 2021: Today we competed for the breed. We had to line up in catalog order, which Maggie said was numerical order even though the steward corrected her and said it was catalog order. There was such a long line of vizslas that it actually did go on forever. We go in the ring, they check our numbers and we go out again. Then we wait. I go in the ring with the new handler from yesterday and make the first cut. Then there is more waiting. I go in again with a different new handler and make the second cut. Then we wait some more. I go in for the third cut, and do not make it. Don’t care. Had a great time.

Maggie let me go to bed early. She went back to the show and watched Eli win the whole thing, even though he is 12 1/2. She says Eli looked like he was in it to win it. My sister Lolli went best of opposite, which is pretty impressive for being my boring sister. 

They pin the Iron Dog competitors, who did two agility courses, rally, obedience and conformation and had their scores totaled. Maggie did not enter me in two agility classes, only one, so I have a zero in one column and I come in second to last. But I get a participant ribbon.

October 21, 2021: Today is the last day. There is a different judge, and more new handlers and I get cut in the second round. Maggie comes and gets me, thanks the handler and takes me straight outside to pee, and then we go to the car to drive home. I am so very happy to get into the car and I am so tired I sleep on top of the crate pad and not under the crate pad like I sometimes do.

Today in October

I have been doing a poor job of keeping up with this: the BLOG. I am going to come right out and say it: writing is hard and I am quickly bored with whatever words I put down.

I have been doing a good job of making these things, though, so there’s that, and, ok, yeah, sure I missed a day this month, but oh, well, it happens.

This month marks the end of an entire year of making these. These things. Sometimes I use paint and I guess they are paintings. Those sometimes I think I could call them data paintings. But other days I use glue and paper and ink, but a brush. Ok. Maybe that’s a painting. And then there are the pencil drawings. Those aren’t paintings. Since it’s a daily practice, lets call it that. The Daily Practice. That, or an anti-NFT.

Mid-month, I went to Virginia with Fellow for the Vizsla National. I just got the pictures downloaded, so that story will be next week.

While we were gone, the Bacon Provider got the puppy Dibs weaned and started getting him housebroken.

When we got back, we had about ten days and then it was time for Dibs to go to his forever home.

More Terrible News

My children have always known the Bacon Provider’s mother as Nagymama–literally, Big Mama– which is Hungarian for Grandma. She always lived far away, in the remote land of Floridaba, which is how my husband’s family says it in Hungarian. On birthdays and Easter and Mikulás Nap, Nagymama sent gifts and enormous chocolate bars and fancy dress up clothes, always with handwritten notes in her Old World cursive. She treated my niece like one of her own grandchildren, and sent gifts for her as well; they maintained a regular correspondence: after my niece dutifully sent thank you notes, Nagymama would write back, and the exchange continued past the polite replies.

Once when Nagymama visited, and they were young enough for picture books, my children piled into her lap, demanding that she read them an entire stack. When the came to an old, yellowed, falling-apart copy of the Scholastic book Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, she read on. Nagymama’s accent, with slow careful diction and rolling all the R’s made this simple story of friends dealing with their feelings about a scary rock, an absolute laugh riot. When she finished, my kids asked for it again. and, of course, she never said no.

On a visit to Florida more recently, my eldest son found himself sitting next to Nagymama during a meal and had the opportunity to ask her about her life in Hungary before, during, and after the Second World War, and he had the presence of mind to record some of the conversation on his mobile phone. Again, she spoke slowly, with carefully pronounced words, a few, “Well, you know…,” about her mother trying to find enough food for her and her siblings, and about being so cold they picked up discarded paper from the street to line their shoes.

As my mother in law, I accept that I may not be good enough for her favorite son. Who ever could be? She always had a lot of praise for my skills as a mother. This I always have taken as a true compliment. Nagymama magnificently stubborn: if you gave her reason to have a bad opinion of you, she would no longer speak your name. Nagymama famous for her almost infinite capacity for saying yes to children: yes, I will read the silly book again; yes, you can have my pen; yes, we can light the fancy candles; yes, tell me about your dream.

There were years when we were in graduate school when a note in our mail from her on the fancy stationery would probably have cash–several bills, and not twenties. She had not had an easy life, and she understood how lovely it was not to have to have the cheapest things.

For many years, she spoke of wanting a dog, but she hesitated to get one. She felt it would be too hard to outlive a beloved pet. Eventually, she got for herself a pumi, a small, quirky, Hungarian shepherd, with a curly coat like a poodle. The dog was very devoted to her. To forestall the grief of ever losing her, she got another. It was this dog, the second pumi, who was there for the decline.

Sometime in the past few years, she began to re-read her many books, and they were suddenly beautiful and completely new to her. She was delighted. To family it was an ominous sign.

More recently, she began to be diminished by the ravages of dementia, yet absent other serious heath issues. The lucky little dog followed her everywhere, and got breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, late lunch, tea, and dinner, and any other meal she could imagine. The dog grew dangerously stout. Then, Nagymama started to forget the dog. The dog at her heels became a trip hazard, and a new home had to be found for her. Just one of the many, small emergencies in her decline. My husband’s youngest sister took complete responsibility for her care, an enormous, difficult, heartbreaking, time-consuming job.

When we saw Nagymama in July, on a lark, she seemed frail but not doomed. She was bedridden after a fall. But she smiled. Surely we would be able to see her in a few months. and next year.

But, no.

Last Saturday, we were out walking the dogs, waiting for Eggi’s labor to start, heading around the corner from our house. My husband had the easy-to-walk Captain and I had the other two dogs.

As we walked and talked, my husband seemed distracted, but he has been working on an app, and has a lot on his plate work-wise, and he’d heard from his sister that his mother was near the end, so he had a lot on his mind. A group of cyclists came down the hill towards us, and from my side of the road I could see there were quite a few of them, so I said bring Captain over here– to my side of the road–and I guess he was lost in thought and didn’t hear me, and the lead cyclist had to shout, and Captain had to be yanked, and nothing happened, but it was a close call.

As we headed into the woods, we spoke of the close call, and I thought about how hard it is to focus on any one thing in these pandemic times. It was Saturday. I had been counting the days until Eggi’s whelp date. How was this weekend going to play out? I wasn’t paying attention when my husband stopped and took his phone out of his pocket to answer it. So I was many steps ahead when I realized he wasn’t with me. Turning, I knew by his words, his posture, his face, that it was his sister calling. That it was the news. That it was not unexpected, and not welcome. That it was the news that Nagymama had died.

She’d gone peacefully, at home, in the care of devoted daughter and the hospice nurse. The sister who had always taken care of her mother, who had refused all babysitters as a child, who had returned to her home town after medical school and training, who led a life not altogether separate from her mother’s, she saw the thing through, and now her mother was gone. A nightmare.

We finished the dog walk. The dogs were good. I tried to convince Eggi to spend that night in her whelping box. I slept on the floor next to the whelping box, and of course she preferred sleeping next to me.