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.

Today in May, 2022

At the beginning of May, I was on my way back from Minnesota, and I had such a big adventure I am still working on writing about that.

The United States passed a million documented Covid deaths this month, and if that fact was officially recognized, I did not hear it. Everyone seems to have completely lost interest in Covid, as if the pandemic is over. It isn’t.

And then, our beloved old dog Captain went to bed one night and didn’t wake up the next day.

I make room within myself to accept the arrival of more bad news, like it is normal, and expected. Captain’s cremated remains wait for me at the emergency vet, where my son and I took him on that bad Saturday. Maybe I will go on a day where the U.S. Supreme Court leaks yet another opinion that I am not a person worthy of bodily autonomy, or a day where a guy with a car full of military-style weapons goes to a supermarket or school to shoot up and kill young children or elderly shoppers. You know, just another Thursday in America.

Today in April, 2022

The light changes in April, and the skunk cabbage comes poking up out of the mud in the swampy woods, and the grass in Bedhead Hills becomes vivid green. Daffodils do their daffo-thing. It’s nature’s sleight of hand. One day it’s late winter, and the next, the birds are screaming, my eyelids feel like sandpaper, and I’m running Covid tests because I forgot about spring and I forgot about allergies.

All those years ago when my mother did us the disservice of dying in April, she should have picked a more dismal month, like February or November to ruin. Better still, she could have refrained from dying at all, and stuck around for the death-fest that is Life in the Time of Coronavirus, when hundreds and thousands die every day and no one cares. Then, we’d have spent every day of the last two years worried for her safety.

If, in the past, I felt peaceful making these, I have lost that feeling now. It might come back. I’ve saved it a seat. Meanwhile, I am still doing it automatically, without asking myself to do it. It is a daily practice. A chore, even. An obligation. To what? To the horror? To something I started and don’t know how to finish?

The totals go up. The daily deaths and cases got pretty low, but they didn’t go away. And then the cases started going back up again, despite the fact that no one seems to be counting anymore. A new variant is just around the corner.

In the spirit of “Everything is Fine,” I spent the last six months getting ready to go to the Vizsla National Specialty Show in Shakopee, Minnesota, and on the 23rd of April, I loaded the car with a lot of stuff and two dogs and hit the road.

I did not miss a day.

More about my trip next time.

Today in March, 2022

Almost no one seems to be paying any attention to the pandemic right now, which must be very frustrating for the people whose job it is to save people from it.

Around the first of the year, I dreamed I made a neatly striped painting, and I finished it January 18. When I went to varnish it, I used the wrong kind, and watched as some of the ink lettering dissolved. It felt like I had done the violence to my own work. I removed all of the ink (a wildly, intensely, inkily messy process), repainted many of the stripes, and let it sit until I was less upset about it. Then, I gave it a fat grackle, and got happy about it again. With the bird, it is not the painting from the dream; but, is anything working out as planned for anyone anymore?

And then the total number of global Covid deaths passed six million, and did anyone even shrug?

I am finding myself so conspicuously the only person with a mask on in public places I feel pressured to remove it. I have been asked why I (still) wear one when I don’t have to. I have responded with a polite, upbeat, serious answer. It is astonishing what near strangers will ask in the time of covid.

Another milestone I passed this month is 500 of these works.

Yesterday was exhausting; I pack my Wednesdays so that enduring the worst day of the week is a mild frenzy of (mostly) dog activities. The reward is Thursday: the best day of every week. Thursday has good posture. Thursday always sings on key. Thursday knows all the words. Thursday can spare an extra dog-doo bag. Thursday remembered to take out the trash and paid the electric bill on time. Thursday waves at the guy who brings the mail. Thursday heard it might rain but went for a walk anyway. Thursday might get wet, but Thursday doesn’t care, because Thursday always wears a raincoat.

Soon, it will be time to start cutting the grass again.

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.

February 2, 2022

On this day, Wednesday, the 2nd of February, in the last month of the 2nd Year of Our Pandemic, 2022, I recorded the data published by the New York Times on four boxes that fit together.

The outermost box is covered in obituaries with painted skulls. Inside surfaces are painted paper collage.

Total worldwide cases as of this date, 381, 675, 145. 5,686,747 total worldwide deaths attributed to Covid-19.

3,262,391 new cases per day, worldwide average. 10,234 new deaths from covid, in all its variants, each and every day.

10,101,836,424 vaccine doses administered worldwide so far.

On this day, 295,3374 new U.S. cases were found, and 3,579 dead were reported.

805,00 vaccine doses are going into Americans each day.

128,284 Americans currently hospitalized with Covid.

(Only) 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated.

75,285,898 total U.S. Covid cases have been counted so far.

889,522 total Americans have died of Covid as of February 2, 2022. In the week since, the U.S. has passed 900,000 dead.

On this day, 214 new New York deaths counted. 6,267 New Yorkers hospitalized with Covid.

6,468 new New York cases just detected.

4,796,000 total official New York cases of Covid-19 as of this date.

64,461 total New York deaths from Covid.

In Westchester County, New York, where I live, 6 new covid deaths reported on this day, and 257 new cases. 242,283 total Covid cases so far, and 2,622 total deaths.

The finished larger box also has room for all the boxes I made in earlier months.

Today Again in January

People are saying it’s now the third year of the pandemic, but for me, it started March 14, 2019, so we are still in the second year, and closing in on the end of the second year.

92 skulls this month. No pandas.

I remembered to do a tea box again for the first time in many months. Big numbers, little box. Eggi was very helpful in the demo.

I used both sides of 5 cereal boxes this month, something that wasn’t necessary, but it was possible. As it is, you have to flatten a cereal box to put it in the recycling, so there you are, cardboard in hand, deciding if you could re-use it.

Grackle was a regular pest in January.

People on Twitter had things to say about the stripes. Here’s what I can tell you: I dreamed I did it.

Idaho should not feel singled out; I found a box of maps. If you have an old map of a state you’d like me to feature, maybe we could work out a trade.

The 20th, below, became the 25th, and then became the 26th. Shit happens.

Those paintings are still there; you just have to see them with your mind.

I feel I have a new relationship with the color yellow now.

Because I write these numbers down every day, when we passed ten billion vaccine doses administered worldwide on Friday, January 28, it was cause for exclamation. I yelled, like, “holy fuck,” or something. That’s a lot of shots. There are still plenty of Americans yet to get theirs, and if you know some, I’m sorry.

Pretty soon I’m going to have to buy some more paper. I’m thinking about making these smaller for a while; I’m not sure how that will work.

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.

Today Again in November

Yes, I am still making them.

Did I think, last November, that I was starting this at the beginning, middle, or end of the coronavirus pandemic? Did I imagine the pages would get bigger and bigger? That I would use yard signs and cereal boxes? That there would continue to be inconsistent messages to Americans about wearing masks? That so many people would forgo being vaccinated in favor of just being demonstrably stupid?

Add to this the fact that our least democratically chosen and highest court in the land is now hearing another challenge to Roe v Wade and it looks like the decision will be in favor of the special religious interests and against the poorest women in America, who apparently do not deserve bodily autonomy.

I went to bed angry last night. And I woke up angry.

Don’t you dare tell me to vote. I voted.

An abortion is a medical procedure. A religious fringe group has decided that procedure offends them, and they’ve spent 40 years working to change laws in your state to limit your ability to have that procedure. The Supreme Court has been packed with justices hand-picked to make this decision in favor of the religious fringe, and, if the vast majority of Americans doesn’t like it, well, too fucking bad.

We were taught that ours is a system with checks and balances, and is a democracy, with liberty and justice for all. All.

No matter what I try to think about today, it is drowned out by the screaming fact that American women are not yet considered people. There is no liberty without bodily autonomy.

I will end with the cat. He likes to step on the work.

A Day or so after Thanksgiving

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I want jalapeños. I regret wanting jalapeños as I pull into the full parking lot. The carts are in chaos. The vibe inside the grocery store is hurried, the aisles crowded. In produce, there’s the woman in front of the apples who’s pulling down her mask to answer her phone. The bananas are unreachable. I can’t find the honey, and have to ask, and there’s an old guy standing like the guard of jams and he’s got no mask at all. I skip the aisle with pet food and TP because there’s too dang many people. I ask the fish counter guy about clams for chowder and he’s all, I just minced these, so I get a pint container of minced clams and just enough whole clams to make it Instagrammable. I pay the grumpy checker, who is nicer now that plague death doesn’t seem so imminent, and I zip my wallet into the chest pocket of my parka, drive home, hang the jacket on an actual hanger in the front hall closet like a tidy adult, and get to work cleaning house. The sun goes down and I make clam chowder and it’s delicious. 

The next day I make chili using some beans we grew in the backyard; it’s what I make the night before Thanksgiving since I have to make stuffing with some stale cornbread. I make a pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and dry brine the bird.

Then it’s Thanksgivng, the second since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. I go back and look at the coronavirus data from a year ago; so many cases a day. So many people yet to die. I don’t have flowers so I gather some grass and twigs from the yard and shove them in a vase.

We have the same, small group for dinner.  Grackle’s never seen the dining room table with a tablecloth and dishes on it. Everyone makes something. Everything is delicious. We have a fire in the fireplace.

After dinner we go for a walk in the dark in the woods with flashlights and dogs. Then we come back inside and have pie. Grackle discovers the flowers on the table. Two days later, he is still barfing. 

Friday we sleep a little bit late, and go ride our horses. The capricious owners of the old barn threw out all the paying clients on short notice this summer. We have moved to a decent place, but the drive is twice as long. As we pull into the barn parking lot, I realize I don’t have my wallet, and I don’t know where it is. I envision it in the chest pocket of my plaid vest, and try to make a mental note to find it later. Did making a mental note use to work, in pre-pandemic times? It doesn’t work for me. The next day I remember, but not in time to look for it anyplace beyond the pocket of the vest, where it isn’t. Later, when I do find it, it is after I completely recreate Tuesday, down to what I wore, when, and it is this that gets me to remember the coat, hung in the closet with the wallet zipped in its pocket. Like the tidy adult that I was, for a bit, on Tuesday.

Now, I am not sure what day it is. Ok, no, it’s Sunday.

I am suddenly thinking about Xmas gifts. What do you want? One of my children gave me a short, detailed list. I think about my mother a lot during December, both because she loved Xmas and because her birthday is mid-month.  If she were alive, I would be sending her a copy of Louise Erdrich’s new book, The Sentence, which came out last week. I read it immediately, and loved it.

It has been windy and a cold front arrived.

We wake up to a dusting of snow today. There is news of another coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, known as Omicron. I can’t even care about your nit-wit sister who won’t get vaccinated anymore because we are just screwed. We put jackets on all the dogs. The leaves are off the trees and thick and crisp on the ground. The path I call the short loop is buried in leaves, but I know the way. We run into the trails maintenance guy, putting up signs, and he asks us if we saw many riders. We say we used to see a couple of people, maybe once a week, but come to think of it we haven’t seen any riders in a while.