Titled Deed

So, like, back in June when I didn’t know when Eggi was coming into season or anything, I figured that if we were waiting to see if she was pregnant in July, we might enjoy the distraction of a dog show. The thing is, I’ve been doing obedience classes with Eggi once a week since she finished puppy kindergarten, so we were as ready as we were going to ever be. When the entries opened for the Vermont Scenic Circuit, I entered her in the first level of obedience, beginner novice. 

Also who can pass up an excuse to go to Vermont? Not me.

Obedience used to be a popular event to compete in, but there are a lot of different things to do with your dog now (like Rally, Agility, Nose Work, Barn Hunt,  and Dock Diving, just to name a few). 

The dog shows in Tunbridge, Vermont are held in mid-July, and a popular event for the professional handlers, who all camp on the show grounds in their RVs.

There aren’t any hotels nearby, so I went with a dog-friendly Air BnB that was about 25 miles away. 

The drive to Vermont was uneventful, and I would like to nominate the rest stop on I-91 just as you cross into Vermont as the Prettiest Rest Stop on the East Coast.

It was not quite dark when I arrived, and thought I’d eat at a promising restaurant recommended by the Air BnB owner, but my timing was poor and I pulled up just in time to see the last spot appropriate for a large vehicle taken by a car with a bunch of kayaks on a trailer. So I went back to the Air BnB and ate sandwiches and went to bed early.

Thursday we woke up early, ate a quick breakfast, and hit the road. I knew there was no mobile coverage between where we were staying and the dog show, so I had to pick my route and stick with it. The fairgrounds in Tunbridge don’t really seem to have an address; I used the town as my destination and was counting on the dog show judging program for more details; it said that RVs needed to follow the signs due to a low overpass. The navigon offered three routes, and I gave little thought to which I picked, other than it was supposed to be the fastest.

As soon as we turned onto Route 113, I regretted it. There was construction for the next 15 miles, with flaggers, many large construction vehicles, and long stretches of road where they are repaving and have taken the surface down to corrugated pavement or dirt. 

We stopped many times.  I wasn’t in a hurry . We made it eventually.

Once at the dog show, I could see the big breed show tent and row upon row of RVs, but I had no idea where my handler was parked. There is a Parking Authority Person who decides where you park if you’re in an RV, and I guessed she’d know where my handler was, but she was nowhere to be seen. So I drove past her station hoping I’d get lucky on my own. After discovering several dead ends, I threaded my back and waited for the Parking Authority Person. She knew just where my handler was, and as it turned out there was enough room for me to park the White Whale and even stay out of everyone’s way.

Thursday was hot. Fellow’s entry got messed up and so when someone went to his ring to get his number there was no number for him. Annoying. As a result, Fellow did not show and had a very boring weekend.

Eggi and I walked to the obedience ring and watched for a while and got our number. I counted entries and tried to estimate when we would be going. We were the second to last entry in the very last class in the obedience ring, and the judge was methodical. We talked dogs with various people, hung out, walked around, and eventually had our turn. I stopped and talked to the guys setting up the beer garden. They offered me a beer; I said I would wait until after I competed. They took our picture. I promised I’d come back when we were done.

Finally, it was our turn. I was nervous, and Eggi was inquisitive and excited. Every time the judge asked if we were ready, which is the judge’s cue for letting an exhibitor know that they are now about to be judged for the next element, Eggi jumped to her feet. She was ready. Really ready.

So we did not start from sitting in heel position on the heeling pattern, but by the time we halted at the end of the pattern, she sat promptly and looked eagerly at me and I knew that she knew what we were there to do.

We muddled through, with about 15 points of deductions, but ended with a score good enough to qualify for one leg towards our beginner novice obedience title. Not too bad for our first time in the obedience ring at a show, ever.

Celebratory Beer

For dinner we stayed and had hamburgers and brats with the neighbors. I left the dog show and drove back the exact way that I had come, because in the excitement of the long day I had forgotten to look for another route. In reverse, with all the contstruction paused until the next morning, it wasn’t so bad, maybe just a little rumbly for the extra length of dirt road.

Friday, I got up, made myself a sandwich for lunch, and fed the dogs in the car. I forced the navigon to take me a different way. It was easy to pick since there was obviously construction on the other two routes.

Of course, a few short miles into this route revealed construction, and once again the pavement ended and I drove a number of miles on a dirt road. But, there was a covered bridge, and several cute, tiny towns.

At the show, they had saved me a parking spot, and I parked. We had another hot, humid day, with a similar schedule and a lot of waiting to go in the ring. The judge was more efficient, and very kind. I was a bit discombobulated by being cued by someone who wasn’t my normal trainer, so I had to have a couple of do-overs, but Eggi was spot on and this time we won the class. Two legs done in two days.

Saturday, the hot, humid  weather finally broke and we had drizzle, the threat of rain, or rain all day. Bliss! As I told the guy at the smoothie truck, while he made my $6 Mocha Madness, with whipped cream, our water cycle is part of the miracle that sustains life on our planet. He wanted to know what kind of a vehicle a water cycle is. Earth science is cool, kids; you won’t catch me being unhappy about the rain.

Fellow at this point was terribly bored and neglected having spent most of the last three days sitting in his box. I took him for a walk across the fairgrounds to check the progress of my ring, and came to a blocked off road with a piece of yellow caution tape strung across it. As I stepped over I told him to jump it. Now, Fellow knows ‘jump.’ We do agility. He loves to jump. But right at this moment he was not thinking agility, and decided to go under the tape, and I had committed to stepping over, so I fell in the mud in front of a couple hundred dog show spectators. If any of them saw me, I bet they laughed.

At the start of each of the different obedience levels, the judge had a walk-through for competitors (without dogs). Most people parked their cars at that end of the fairgrounds, so they left their dog in a nearby crate and got their instructions from the judge. I handed Eggi’s leash to a different handy stranger each day, and she was relaxed and calm about it. There were many so called pandemic puppies at the show, looking overwhelmed and out of sorts about the change in routine, and all the people, all the dogs, and all the noise. Of course, the pandemic puppies will be fine, in the end, with patience and persistence, but had they the chance to see and do more as puppies, they wouldn’t need to spend so much time on it now, and could move on to more interesting challenges.

Our third time in the show ring, Eggi was flawless. She heeled consistently, sat crisply, and came when called. I made a handler error, telling her to stay one more time than necessary or allowed, and had a four point deduction. We won that class and so have a new title.

The drive home I did not even stop for gas. 

Just One More Errand

Early in the evening between the first breeding and the second, I was sitting in the hotel restaurant eating half of a Kansas City strip steak that I intended to share with the dogs and I jokingly pointed out via text to the Bacon Provider that I could just drive down and see his mom in a quick trip of about 7 hours.

Shortly, we put together a real plan. He would fly down, I could meet him at the airport, and we could drive back together.

I was the big winner, because after driving 900 miles straight through by myself, a second driver made the drive sound easy. Ok, maybe not easy. Easier. So, Friday I did a little shopping (I had left Bedhead Hills without my toiletry bag), packed up my stuff and my sleepy bitch, and checked out. The Bacon Provider’s flight was expected at 9 p.m. in Tampa. 

The question of the trip down to Tampa was Where will We Pee, and the answer was Not Here.

I hit the same trio of delays: traffic, construction, and storms. The storms delayed the Bacon Provider’s flight as well, so in the end, he was an hour and a half late, and I pulled up in front of the airport just as he stepped outside.

From Tampa we hopped down to Sarasota, closer to his mom’s.   We stayed at the Westin, which is next to the Four Seasons, pretends to be almost as nice, and half the price. Currently, the Westin’s rooftop bar is a popular spot, and a sheriff was on the premises, riding the elevator,  both evenings we were there. As Eggi and I looked for something like grass for her to pee on, we witnessed a bar patron berating a parking valet (who barely looked old enough to drive, rattling about in his hotel polo shirt and khaki shorts) for not being willing or able to sell him drugs.

I have been going to Florida irregularly and/or regularly since I was in high school, and some of the nicer parts have been prettied up, so they no longer really look like Florida. The crummy, run-down bits are fewer and probably worse, but the jay-walking guy with no shoes and no belt, holding up his pants with one hand, hopping over some fire ants and disappearing into the bushes by the vacant bait and tackle shop isn’t as sorry a sight as the gently swaying guy in the elevator, cradling a big bag of take-out Red Lobster who smells so strongly of Kahlua you wonder if he’s been bathing in it. 

Despite the catastrophic collapse of a Miami condo, Florida is, at this moment, enjoying a frenzied real estate boom; they’re unmasked, unvaccinated, sunburned, and don’t wanna hear none of your nonsense about climate change, rising seas, ocean acidification, or worsening storms. They want all-cash deals, 20% over asking, and where’s that bartender I need another mojito. It’s ok, though, because it will all be under water by 2061.

It was good to see the Bacon Provider’s mother, anyway. She is dwindling, to be sure, and did not know me, but she said my husband’s name, and laughed some. It seems particularly unfair that someone whose life has been filled with trials, is, at the end, an enormous responsibility to her youngest daughter, who shares the job with a rotating team of carers. We can hope to see her again before the true end. The Bacon Provider hasn’t been able to visit since the pandemic began, and I guess this is another thing returning to normal, if visiting your ailing mother before she goes is ever normal.

For her part, Eggi was pleasant with the nurse, quiet indoors, and discovered lizards in the backyard, and so had a fine experience. To life, Eggi! To life!

We left the next morning hoping to outrun Tropical Storm Elsa, that was swirling into the Gulf of Mexico and preparing to make landfall on our heels.

The day we left Florida was, in fact, the Fourth of July, which is a holiday celebrated by Americans out of doors, with parades, sunburns, barbecues, and fireworks. Any excessive displays of the American flag these days should probably be met with suspicion, and this holiday doubles down with American public drunkenness.

We wanted to stay someplace interesting and break up the next leg before our stop in Virginia, and settled on Charleston, South Carolina, which wasn’t much out of the way. Charleston turns out to be difficult with dogs (there is essentially no grass anywhere in the old, interesting part of town where you might stay). But we had a nice long walk and eventually Eggi peed on a slim handful of weeds growing in an empty gravel church parking lot. 

At dinner a large we were told the hotel restaurant wouldn’t have a table for us at such late notice but in fact we were able to eat early and see a large group of partiers emerge from the elevator where they had been stuck for a good twenty minutes. When the shrieking was over, half left and the other half stayed to get real drunk. 

We soaked our feet and went to bed quite early and did not hear the fireworks at all.

In the morning we hit the road early Eggi even peed in the street like a proper urbanite. As the trip continued, Eggi became more expert with elevators, and could even use the “ding” and the light to predict which doors would open in a bank of elevators. Only once in a week did she try to defend the space from other people getting on.

We hit afternoon traffic coming into DC even though it was a holiday for most people. I guess it was everyone else coming back from the holiday weekend. And, so, another several hour stretch of bumper to bumper stop and go highway miles, and once again it fell during my driving shift. After so many days of this kind of driving, I had a cramp on my right leg. 

Living in Bedhead Hills, which is served by a commuter train to New York City, I can imagine a scenic and relaxing high-speed rail system, with stops in New York City, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Tampa. It could even be based on green technology, and on the 4th of July we could toast to our Independence from fossil fuels.

An Errand

Ok, ok, but, like, ok, so, the first person who said anything about puppies was the vet, who, holding Eggi at her first exam, and having exclaimed the she was perfect (which she certainly was) went on to ask if we thought we would ever breed her. She was a baby at that point, and the thought had not crossed my mind, but we’d only had her for a few days at that point. Sure, I’d owned vizslas since the early nineties, and now found myself in possession of my first show dog, but it had always seemed to me that there are plenty of dogs in the world (uh, I guess, you know, there are probably more than enough people, too), and I’d never had a bitch I intended to keep intact indefinitely. Anyway, we went on to show Eggi in the conformation ring, and she finished her championship and her grand championship in a timely and orderly progression. As a matter of doing what one does when one is told to do so (whatever that is), we had her eyes checked and then her elbows and hips and thyroid and heart and at the end of all those tests you send the results to a foundation that gives your dog a number and then you have official approval to breed your dog.

Another vizsla person put it this way: the decision to breed a dog really comes down to whether the dog has something the gene pool needs. There are plenty of other considerations that go into the decision, of course, and I am very grateful to have other breeders and trainers in my life. I have plenty of questions, and I’d rather take in the opinions of people I know and trust over random shit I read on the internet. Even when those opinions differ.

Dogs come into season twice a year, and when you own an intact male that you don’t want to breed to, life gets complicated for a few weeks, keeping them separated. My dogs are related through Eggi’s grandmother, who is Fellow’s mother, and this would be a tight line breeding, which is something people do, to maintain the qualities of their line, but for me, the right approach seemed to be maybe breed Eggi to a stud dog out of the line, and if that was successful, maybe breed one of those puppies back to Fellow. But wait, suddenly the possibility of breeding one dog, one time, now also includes breeding another imaginary future bitch another time?

Anyway, dogs go into season twice a year, somewhat but not entirely predictably, and if you are planning to breed to a stud dog that’s far away (or dead), you really need to track not just progesterone, but you need to look for the LH surge.

So the recommended veterinary reproduction specialist (who I chose after attempting to talk to two different ones, but one was so busy I was left on hold too long, and I got bored and hung up) gave me written instructions for bloodwork, every day for about a week. My usual vet could do it during the week, and I was counting on the local vet emergency hospital to fill in on the weekend. The emergency vet is actually the first vet I saw after we moved to New York, in the fall of 2011, when Captain scratched his eye. We have seen them over the years for various other memorable and forgettable things. I tried and failed to speak to someone there on Friday to try to arrange a visit Saturday that maybe worked with everyone’s schedule, rather than being a true emergency, but the first time I called about it the person on the phone said, yeah, sure let me check with someone and call you back, and never did, so when I checked back, I was told that they couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Anyway, the next day I called and spoke to new staff who could and would fit us in, but, in the end, after lecturing me about how we might have to wait if there was an actual emergency, they failed to follow the written instructions past step #4 and they charged me $300 and gave me an incorrectly handled vial of dog blood. Sunday, I saved myself the frustration of throwing more money at ineptitude. But by the time we did bloodwork on Monday, the LH surge was imminent, and I didn’t know until Tuesday, and then I was told to send all the blood via Fedex to the reproductive specialist who would see them first thing Wednesday morning. 

Wednesday I got up and did pilates with the cat and my phone rang as I got out of the shower. The message was, best days to breed were yesterday and today and I needed to get Eggi to the stud dog by the end of the day.

Of course, because if I’m gonna do this, I want the very best stud dog for Eggi that I can find, the one that is just as perfect as she is, but in his own way, maybe has something she doesn’t have so that the puppies might just be even more perfect than perfect, right? And since she’s a maiden bitch, don’t we want a live breeding? And, of course, there are so many good vizslas, but the stud dog I want is in Georgia.

So when the vet’s assistant on the phone said to do a breeding by the end of the day, I had to get to Georgia, with my dog, as fast as I could.

Oh, it felt a bit like Smoky and the Bandit. My bags were packed; the car had a full tank of gas. I had been anticipating the go signal. I just hoped that it would come Friday, when it was convenient.

Eggi and I hit the road, hoping to make it to Georgia in the middle of the night.

The Bacon Provider had Things Going On that he couldn’t miss, both Wednesday and Thursday, so I was really on my own.

I made a navigation error straight off the bat (never, ever take the George Washington Bridge if you can avoid it), so we spent the first two hours of our drive sitting in stop and go, New York traffic. Then we drove through New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and made it to Georgia by the crack of dawn the next day. We stopped for gas and potty breaks, hit multiple hours long traffic slow downs, many construction projects, and a number of heavy rain storms. We checked into our hotel and slept for about 2 hours. 

The stud dog’s owner brought him by our hotel on the way to work. The dog knew just what he was there to do. Eggi was like, hey, ok, but, actually, no, maybe she could rip his face off.

Thanks to an experienced stud dog and stud dog owner, a breeding was accomplished, in the hotel room, with some help. Eggi napped all day and we did it again after dinner. When I checked out the next day, I left a very, very nice tip for housekeeping.

So is she pregnant? We won’t know until 28 days past the LH surge, when we can do an ultrasound. If she isn’t, we can try again in January. If she is, puppies are due 65 days after the LH surge, in the beginning of September.

The Best Dog at Westminster

During the pandemic, many dog shows were cancelled, but show organizers, working with the AKC, quickly regrouped, figuring out what it would take to keep people safe. Soon, shows were rescheduled, sometimes moving to outdoor venues, but everywhere requiring masks, having more rings or bigger rings, limiting entries, omitting spectators, and adding the concept of show and go. So the dog shows resumed. In the capable hands of our professional show handler, T, Fellow was able to complete his grand championship in 2020, and even qualified to show at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Show.

Some conformation show dogs stay with their handlers and live mostly on the road, touring from show to show. Our handler, T, typically comes home between shows, and lives near enough to us that we can send Fellow with her to a show about once a month. T takes excellent care of him, sends me pictures of him hanging out with his fancy show business dog friends, and tells us how he loves riding in a golf cart, and if he hears T up in the night in the hotel room, he thumps his tail happily in his kennel. Fellow thinks T is awesome. We agree.

Sometimes Fellow comes home from a show with no ribbons at all. He doesn’t care. When he gets home, there’s a lot of excited barking, some Eggi-chasing and Captain-wrestling: all normal goofball Vizsla stuff. Vizslas need to do quite a bit more than just lie around the house and go for an occasional romp in the yard. Our usual routine includes agility classes, once a week for Fellow. He is famous there for his occasionally extravagant leaps over the fences, for how he sometimes climbs backwards onto the pause table, and, yes, sorry, he still sometimes runs off course to say hello to the other dogs in the class because he is only 2 1/2, and a Fellow has priorities. Fellow thinks agility is awesome.

Fellow also goes to an obedience class once a week, and when he isn’t forging or lagging or bumping into me, we are making progress with heeling. He sits. He stays. He downs. He’s gotten the idea of fetching dumbbells, and needs to work on waiting to be sent. I have to remember to move across the ground faster with him than with Eggi. He’s a little less food-motivated than she is, too, so with him it’s more “good job!” and less cheese. Fellow thinks it’s awesome being told he’s a good boy.

Speaking of cheese, Fellow is happy to pose for pictures, and quite willing to balance things on his nose or head. He also likes to sit in a chair. Fellow thinks climbing on top of things is awesome.

Fellow was born in the car on the way to the veterinary hospital; he was the biggest and boldest in his litter and when we met him at three weeks he climbed over his siblings to get to my husband and demanded to be picked up. At the time, I was not sure that getting a second puppy just a year after getting Eggi was a good idea, but that didn’t stop me from visiting him several more times. We brought him home right after Xmas.

Fellow has been a lively addition to our household. He is ready for anything, at all times, and never, ever wants to miss out.

We feel very fortunate to have found our breeder, and Fellow, and to work with T, Fellow’s show handler. Qualifying for the Westminster Kennel Club Show this extraordinary year is a tremendous privilege.

Vizslas may not require much in the way of grooming to be ready for the show ring, but there are a lot of nice vizslas out there showing. A number of astute judges had to pick our Fellow out of the crowd of lovely, lively, Hungarian russet pointer-retrievers. Miles and miles of travel and hours of packing and unpacking dominate the lives of professional show handlers, punctuated by many, many trips around the ring with a dog on lead. Every dog showing at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Show got there because of effort, organization, perseverance, good luck and some real expense.

The show is being held outdoors, this weekend, without spectators. Owners and handlers in attendance have to be vaccinated or provide proof of a passing a recent covid-19 test. The venue this year happens to be a short drive from our home in Bedhead Hills. Vizslas are in the sporting group, and are showing Sunday at 9 a.m. in ring 3. There will be 36 vizslas competing for best in breed, and Fellow’s handler will be wearing armband number 21. Watching vizslas trot around the ring can be dizzying; all are pretty much the same shade of red-brown. If you can’t see armbands, you might look for the wagging tail. Fellow thinks showing is awesome.

Is it obvious that we think Fellow (GCH CH Suzu & Shannon’s Charming Fellow) is the best dog going to the Westminster Kennel Club Show this weekend? Of course we do. Is he going to win? He’s going to have a great time, trotting in a circle. I asked the Bacon Provider what his favorite thing is about his dog, and he said Fellow’s enthusiasm.

Dog Doo

Vizsla in the kitchen, seen through the chairs

The house is quiet and the dogs are put away for the night. Fellow woofs gently and whines, twitching and paddling in his sleep, gently rattling the bars of his kennel, and then is quiet again. I am finished deleting emails, ignoring spam phone calls, and looking at TikToks until my phone runs out of juice.

It snowed again last Friday, and some more on Saturday, and so by Sunday when I was putting on my snowshoes to walk the dogs in the woods, it was somehow a little bit fresh and exciting again. Even the Bacon Provider set aside the barometer/altimeter iPhone app he works on on weekends to come with us.

His snow boots were with mine in the back hall. His snowshoes were on a shelf in the garage. He found a hat he could use in the closet, but where were his gloves? Didn’t he use them to dig out his car on Saturday? He grabbed a pair of insulated work gloves instead.

And we jollied Captain into coming along.

The original layer of deep snow is now several weeks old, and I am glad I checked the backyard for poo before it fell. I have done my best to dig up the dog shit in the yard as it has been produced, but there are three of them, and they eat two meals a day, and hot poo sinks in snow and the snow re-freezes overnight, and then you have to chip it out again. It’s nasty. It’s necessary. It’s part of owning dogs.

If you are thinking of getting yourself a pandemic puppy, go forth with the knowledge that your dog may bring unconditional love to your life, should get you to go outside more often, and comes with drool, barking, and probably more poo than you bargained for. A dog trainer I knew many years ago used to say, “Barking is one of the functions of a dog;” it is something I think about almost every day. Pooping is another of the functions of a dog. Also, you will regularly examine your dog’s poo, and find out how they’re doing, and also that they’ve been eating cat turds, or toilet paper rolls, or sticks.

As we dug out the snow by the gate so we could leave the yard, I told the Bacon Provider that going into the woods with two dogs off leash was harder than going into the woods with three dogs off leash, because three is a pack, and the old one will stay with you, and the other ones will keep checking in; but when there are just two dogs, they go off together and make bad choices (barking at the neighbors, chasing deer). Of course, I was full of shit.

All three of my dogs return on recall (which is why it is ok to take them out of the fenced yard and into our woods). But, they are not perfect and neither am I. So I headed into the woods, and right away I had to redirect Fellow who was headed in the wrong direction, and by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, Eggi and Fellow had run past me and the Bacon Provider pointed out that Captain was not with us. Almost without stopping or turning around (you have to make a small circle in snowshoes! If you try to turn on the spot you will almost certainly fall over), I declared with all the wisdom of the dog expert of the house that the dog would follow if the Bacon Provider would stop looking back to see if he was coming. And again, though this is usually true, it was, in this case, not true.

With continued encouragement, Captain did eventually catch up to us, and we did manage a couple of laps of the snowshoeing trail I’ve been maintaining. We did a bit of exploring of the part of the woods that is normally the wettest and thus the least explorable. Under the snow the ice had melted, so we were walking over frozen mud and open water. This is the part of the woods where the skunk cabbage grows; last year it came up in March.

When we got back up the hill to the gate, we found the reason Captain had gone back to the yard: he needed to poop, and had wanted to get back into the yard to do his business.

Now in the past I would have finished by saying something along the lines that we can all relate to Captain’s predicament, because who doesn’t prefer pooping at home? But these days, who goes anywhere?

So, instead I will end with include pictures I took when I was brushing their teeth.

Tuesdays with Eggi

Everything my person puts on her face I also want on my face.

I am Eggi. I am three years old. 

Every day I wake up and very first thing I have to jump on the bed and see if anyone is still sleeping. Then I run to the back door because a girl has to go pee as soon as she can, every day. I run out the door and go around the yard as fast as I can in case there was a squirrel or a bird. 

Then I go pee and then I need to come back inside immediately to find out what is taking so long with breakfast.

Eggi loves breakfast

I like to wait for my breakfast in my kennel in case they forget to give me mine. I always eat all of my breakfast, including all three vitamin pills (one to make me shiny, one to make me run fast, and one that I don’t know what it’s for). I clean my bowl. I would eat twice as much breakfast as they give me.

Then I have to have a nap in my kennel because that is the rule in this house.

When they open the door to my kennel I have to go check the cat’s bowl first. The cat’s food is even better than mine.

Then we run outside some more. You have to check behind the bushes because there might be something there.

We’re coming’!

On Tuesdays I skip the morning nap and I go to obedience class. I get a cookie just for getting in the car. I rest in the car but I do not nap because I have to be extremely ready for what’s next. 

When we are almost there I stand up and do a little bit of squealing and howling; I am quite excited to arrive. 

I have to wear a leash to go from the car to the classroom, up a flight of stairs above a big garage. Before I go up the stairs I do a pee so everyone knows that I, Eggi, was here. 

Obedience class is with my good friend, Hamilton, and this other dog, Walker. Hamilton’s person brings me chicken so I always run over to say hello to her. Hamilton himself is a gray standard poodle and if you don’t know what that is, it’s like a vizsla, but the wrong color, and with fluffy soft curls. Hamilton is fun to chase or play boxing with. Sometimes when Hamilton jumps he goes extra high and I find it a little embarrassing but don’t tell him I said so because I wouldn’t want him to be self-conscious about it. If I were to be another kind of dog maybe I would be a poodle.

Smart vizsla (me) with dumbbell

I am good at heeling and getting the dumbbell, but I do like to toss it back onto my molars to give it a good hard chomp even though I am not supposed to. I get special things like cheese and pieces of pork chop at obedience class. I like all dog treats even the sad, dry ones that other dogs don’t like. I check the spots on the floor every week, just in case there are crumbs.

Mostly, I am a very good girl at obedience class until I get tired; my teacher says sometimes dogs get headaches. Then I have trouble knowing when I should be sitting and when I should be lying down. 

After class I have another pee and get one more cookie just for jumping back into the car.

I have a rest in the car almost all the way home but when we turn onto our road I leap to my feet and squeal because I know we are almost there.

Captain and Fellow are happy and excited that I am home and we all run out to check the bird feeder for birds and then the back fence for people. Usually Fellow wants to play chase and while he is fast, I am clever and I am quick, so I always win.

If the UPS truck comes I bark a lot because that’s what dogs are supposed to do; I don’t make the rules.

Sometimes the bed is big enough for only one of us and sometimes the bed is big enough for all of us.

If Fellow gets a squeaky toy I have to take it away from him and even though we have plenty of toys he will bother me until I give it back.

In the afternoon when we go for a walk, sometimes we stick to the road and sometimes we go in the woods. I like to pee on the corner by the stop sign so everyone knows this is my house. Me, Eggi. I live here.  If there are any big rocks on the way we stop and my person says, “Table,” which means get up on it so I stand on the rock and my person takes a picture. If I see deer I stand up on my hind legs and yell my head off. Deer make me mad as heck. Usually I have to poop, and I spend a long time finding the perfect place to poop because I have my standards. When we get home from a walk we run around the yard as fast as we can just to show the people how slow they are.

I have several jackets to wear when it is cold outside but this is certainly my most stylish.

Then we have a rest to wait for dinner, and sometimes it is a very long time to wait.

Nevertheless, it is important to wait in the kitchen when the people are cooking because you can get pieces of carrot or potato just for being in the right place at the right time. And sometimes food gets dropped on the floor and cleaning it up is a dog’s job.

Wanter

At dinner time I always eat all of my dinner. I would eat twice as much dinner as they give me.

Then I have to have a nap in my kennel because that is another rule in this house.

After the people are done with their dinner, they open the door to my kennel, and I have to go check the cat’s bowl again. 

Then we run outside some more.

Running around in the dark is very exciting.

I like getting my teeth brushed

When we are done running around, we press ourselves against the French doors so the people can see that we need to come in immediately. My person makes us sit on a rug before we track mud everywhere.

We usually take another nap until it’s time to watch TV. We like TV and I always sit with my person.

I like TV shows with space ships in them. Fellow likes movies about dogs.

When it’s time for bed we get to go run around outside one last time and my person yells “No toads!” at me and “No jumping out!” at Fellow. She doesn’t yell at Captain because Captain’s too old to jump out and too slow for toads. When we come inside, everyone gets their teeth brushed, even the cat. Then we get one last treat for going in our kennels and go to sleep. Sometimes Fellow digs for a while in his kennel. I might have to turn around three times, and sigh. 

I hope tomorrow is Tuesday again, but if it isn’t, that’s ok, because I will probably get breakfast anyway.

A Conversation I Overheard

Captain: “What are you wearing?”

Eggi: “Dunno what it’s called. I’ve got the girl flu.”

Captain: “The what?”

Eggi: “The curse.”

Captain: “That sounds bad.”

Eggi: “You know, Aunt Flo.”

Captain: “…um…”

Eggi: “Come on, Red tide.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “Shark week.”

Captain: “…um…”

Eggi: “Code red.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “On the rag.”

Captain: “…er…”

Eggi: “Ladies’ week.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “Red army.”

Captain: “Red army?!”

Eggi: “Time of the month.”

Captain: “…uh?”

Eggi: “La semaine ketchup.”

Captain: “Ketchup? I like ketchup.”

Eggi: “Surfing the crimson wave?”

Captain: “Are we going swimming? I love swimming!”

Eggi: “No, no…like a visit from my relative from Rotenburg.”

Captain: “Is it someone I know?”

Eggi: “Le petit clown qui saigne du nez?”

Captain: “Ooh, ooh! Clowns! I love clowns!”

Eggi: “Oh come on. Checking into the Red Roof Inn?”

Captain: “…”

Eggi: “Oh, look, a squirrel!”

 

 

Little E at the Big E

When Cherry died in late November, we were still in the middle of remodeling our house. Captain was pretty lonely, but my plan was to get a puppy the following summer, after we would be you know airquotes-finished. But kitchens and bathrooms take frickin forever, and in March when a third person told me I had to go see S about a vizsla puppy, I did. 

I didn’t say yes, definitely on that day; I waited for the Bacon Provider to have the same experience lifting a perfect ten week old out of the puppy pen and snugging the little squirmulator because why waste words telling him about it? The litter was born between Xmas and New Years, and they were all named for toasts, so we named ours Egészségedre (Hungarian for Cheers!), and we call her Eggi.

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We’ve owned vizslas since 1992, but never shown one. Eggi looks exactly as I think a vizsla should, and is happy and eager and clever as clever and somehow because of these things it seemed reasonable and not ridiculous to show her. In addition to puppy class, Eggi and I did a few weeks of practicing dog show skills with a trainer (stopping and standing instead of sitting, trotting, being stacked, letting a person peel back her lips to show her teeth). Eggi thought it was fine, if a little boring compared to agility. I tripped over my own feet.

We went up to Massachusetts on a Thursday night on account of the early start at her first dog show on the next day. Eggi is a bit awkward about getting into the car, but once she’s in her kennel, she is a good traveller. Through the creepy intensity of dark Connecticut and late-night Massachusetts, we listened to Jack London’s White Fang. At the hotel, the hallway smelled of bleach. A solitary woman in the gym next to our room walked quietly on the treadmill until the midnight closing time. I gave Eggi a bath in the hotel tub.

Staying in a hotel with a young, reactive dog, you sneak in and out, peering into the hall and checking both ways before you leave your room.  It’s not because the dog isn’t allowed but because you don’t know what weirdness you’re going to run into. It could be another dog. It could be the housekeeping cart. It could be people with a lot of luggage. All of these things are frightening and/or exciting to an almost-8-month-old dog. The worst encounter we had was in the hall outside our room as we were coming in; someone’s tall, beefy nephew had the airquotes-hilarious idea of pretending to be very, very afraid of my dog. He shrieked and waved his hands in agitation above his head. Someone’s uncle needs to explain to this guy why he shouldn’t do this, to any dog, ever again. Not me, though. I gotta get up early.

West Springfield, Massachusetts has a giant fairgrounds surrounded by chainlink and barbed wire, called like the Great Enormous Northern American States Super Exposition Center or some-such-something, but anyway folks call it the Big E. You pay five dollars to go in, and then you drive all over the acres of pavement around many huge barns, past the midway, over on the other side of the apparently actual New England town this thing grew up around, and then circumnavigate seven huge buildings, each bigger than the last, looking for the Country Life Pavilion, or the Better Living Complex, or some such building. It was flanked by a several rows of RVs.

I looked for dogs, and Door Number 7.

I was instructed to arrive at 7:15, and I made it, despite my circuitous route inside the Big E. I parked and walked Eggi around for about 15 minutes, begging her to pee.  She would prefer not to.

Inside, it’s as big an indoor space as they make and had eight show rings surrounded by row upon row of dog crates and grooming tables.  It had the noisy quality of something big happening a block away, but you couldn’t hear anyone until they were right next to you.

Our handler T was easy enough to find (she saw me and waved wildly). I was told to go sit by the ring and wait. I got myself a large coffee and found a bench.

At 8 am, they played the national anthem. Folks turned and faced the American flag painted on the wall above the snack bar. I held my coffee in my hand. I watched one guy with his hand on his heart try to make eye-contact with another man so he’d see his take-off-your-hat-you-disrespectful-goon gesture. 

I wanted to yell play ball afterwards but I didn’t. I sat back down.

Tell folks you’re going to a dog show and they’ll say how much they loved that movie. You know the one. Yeah, yeah, the busy bee. The only people who don’t wanna tell you all about their favorite scene are the people who actually go to dog shows; I’ve never heard them talk about that movie.

Right away the handlers started bringing the vizslas that had gathered into the ring, and doing the trotting, and the stacking, and the bite-revealing thing I had tried to learn. In other rings there were other people with other kinds of dogs like beagles and French bulldogs, and spaniels and boxers and mastiffs. All the flavors of dogs. The people consisted of the judges and handlers all dressed in business attire, and a few straggling owners, some of whom looked like they just rolled out of their Winnebago in the sweats they slept in.

Each little group of competing dogs was in and out quickly, and the winners chosen rapidly. I kept my opinions about which vizslas I liked to myself. Some of the handlers were fun to watch because they moved well. The dogs lined up, the dogs trotting alone. The judge running her hands over a dog. The dogs trotting in a group. The judge pointing at one dog, and then another. You could look away and miss it. They go out, and the winning dogs come back in to compete with other winners.

Just like that movie.

Anyway, after some dogs there was Eggi’s group.

She is still a puppy and she was pretty wiggly but T made her look elegant and spirited instead of goofy and wild and of course I beamed at her and clapped when she won. Because of course she won!

Then T had to rush to another ring to go show some other kind of dog and she handed Eggi off to another handler who showed her in the next group and I guess she won again and then T came back and showed her a third time and I really don’t know what happened other than we came out with three ribbons and a lot of people being very excited.

“Do you know what she won?” T asked.

“Not really,” I admitted.

“Best of Winners for a major.” 

Dog shows are pretty stinking fun when you win. The handler even gets to take a picture with the dog and the judge. It’s validation that your dog, who is the best dog in the entire world, is known and admired for being the best.

EggisFirstShow

After that you go back to the hotel and have a nap.

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Dog shows are weird and boring when you don’t win. Some other dog who is not nearly as adorable or good as your own dog gets the blue ribbon from the judge the next day, and you go home feeling like you drove two hours to the casino and lost everything on a bad bet in the first five minutes. Fortunately, on the days that Eggi didn’t win, her sister did extremely well, so we can keep hoping about next time. 

Red Dog, Red Dog, Red Dog

Writing every day doesn’t get easier, and to be honest I don’t get around to it when I’m busy, or upset, or tired, or frustrated, or traveling, or distracted, or busy. Some days I try to write and wind up making lists of the things I can hear that are distracting me, and these lists include mowers and trucks and robins and crows and titmice. I had a bad case of writer’s block for about thirty years, so my default is not writing.   
Giving myself a weekly deadline means I have a deadline, so I feel bad when Wednesday slips by and I haven’t posted to this blog. The past few weeks my solution has been to go digging in the archives, and I’ve found a couple of old things I wrote, revised them, and been pleased with the result.
This is a long way of saying I came up dry this week.
Errands in the city meant I had to stay an extra day, too, so instead of having Tuesday to moan and squint and thumb through old writing, I hung out in the city, counted my blisters, ordered take-out, creeped on people on LinkedIn, watched TV, and spent too much time on Twitter. When I got back to the farm, there was no food, so I had to run to the store before riding, and then there was riding, and after that the dogs needed to be walked, and it was looking, as we headed out, like I’d be putting off the moaning and squinting until nightfall, when there was supposed to be a good showing of Perseids.
As I let the dogs out the door to go circumnavigate the property, Schwartz made his usual dash for freedom. Our shorthand for this is to call, “Black dog!” Our red dogs come one, two, red dog, red dog, and then, sometimes, the black cat jogging along, right after. He’s not an outside cat, but he likes to have an adventure. I got the door closed just in time.
Out on the walk it was business as usual: Captain running ahead, and Cherry not taking any more steps than necessary. I take “Your DailyCaptain” pictures and stick them on Instagram fairly often; all I have to do is crouch down with my phone ready and Captain will usually come running for me. Yesterday, Cherry came right away, but Captain was looking at something in the bushes and I had to call him. He came, eventually, and as I snapped away, in the non-optimal light, it seemed something was coming with him.
Cherry (right) is a photo-bomber
It was a buck, with thin, velvety antlers. He really seemed to want to keep chasing Captain.
 

Third Red Dog

I missed young, wild turkeys flying over my head this spring, not because I didn’t have my phone in my hand, but because I stood agog and amazed, watching their fluffy, unfeathered bodies flapping just above my head.  I guess those pictures would have been blurry, too, as most of these turned out to be.  
Changes his mind about joining us

 

Captain: “Come Back!”


“Nope.”

A Turtle in the Road

 A few weeks ago, I tested the brakes of my car when I saw a small turtle in the road; my car has excellent brakes. My middle son, Art School, was with me, and I instructedhim to lift the turtle out of the road, keep it facing the same way, and put it down in the grass. He was surprised that the turtle scratched his hands with its desperately waving paddles, but he was more surprised than harmed. We drove to dinner with the excitement of having done a good deed, and though we were late picking up the Bacon Provider at the train station, and Art School had to wash the wild turtle germs off his hands, we were glad we did it.
Gregor, Soup Turtle
Back at the farmhouse we have rented in Dutchess County for the season, we are playing host to a pet turtle named Gregor for the second summer in a row. Gregor is a third year student at Bard College, having been enrolled after being purchased by other Bard students from a Chinatown street purveyor of “soup turtles.” Now he is an overfed beast, a red-eared slider, the kind of cheap pet that finds itself living in the green ponds at Central Parkonce it exceeds the normal dimensions of an apartment-sized aquarium. Somewhere in Gregor’s future there is no doubt a real pond and an old age spent basking in real sunshine instead of a propping him/herself on a small pile of rocks under a light bulb, and eating real insects and pond weeds instead of Rep-to-Sticks and wilted lettuce. But for now, he is our houseguest at the farmhouse.
Last summer Gregor’s aquarium sat on a shelf out of view or reach from our permanent pets, but this year he was placed by his exhausted owner on a little trunk in the mud-room, just inside the door. And there the aquarium has remained.
Just the other day I was feeding Gregor, and Cherry (who is a dog interested in all things small and squeaky, and has recently caught herself two baby rabbits) suddenly noticed the soup turtle for the first time, and now she actively wants to smell, watch and taste the aquarium of said small animal. I don’t want to find out if turtles squeak like baby rabbits.
Yesterday morning, because there was a train to catch, the dogs were roused when we got up. Even though the dogs should be exhausted from oh-so-much running around, wasp-catching, bunny-chasing and sun-bathing, they will leap to attention from a sound sleep if we make a gesture towards the door. So out they were sent, and they galloped about, did their morning business on the grass, and Cherry, being the senior and more obedient dog despite her predilection for hunting, presented herself promptly while Captain went off for an early morning adventure.
There was no time for an early morning adventure yesterday.
Once again I had made an incorrect calculation; I was wrong about what time we needed to leave the house to have the Bacon Provider to the train on time, and so we had lots of yelling anxiety in the car on the way there. The problem had started when I wasn’t ready to go at 7 am, got a bit worse when I was found at 7:08 stripping the sheets off the bed, and got worse still when Captain didn’t come back in. Captain finally took an out-of-the-way route via the open garage, and was shooed into the house. As I fired up the engine of my car at 7:12, the Bacon Provider leapt out again, because in my haste I had put Captain in the closed mud-room with Gregor, the turtle.
The yelling anxiety got more intense at the long stoplight in Rhinebeck, where all directions of traffic go red for a pedestrian, and then it always begins with green for the direction you don’t need. We should have left at 7 a.m. and it was my fault that we didn’t.  Good thing I’m a multi-tasker; I can simultaneously offer an apology, articulate a bland re-assurance that the clock in my car is fast, and drive like a bat out of hell slightly exceed the posted speed limit without crashing into anything. We made the train, just in time.
On the way back from the train station delivery, I met a large snapping turtle in the road, about 1½ miles from the farm. It was bigger than the last one we encountered.
Last year, we were still in North Dreadful, where we had a swimming pool and some scenery but were still surrounded by people who didn’t want to know us, I witnessed a woman in a large white SUV purposely driving over a large snapping turtle. It made a loud popping noise, turtle guts were strewn all over the narrow pavement, and I let out a shriek of horror. What kind of person goes out of her way to run over a snapping turtle? Oh, yeah. North Dreadful.
Angry snapping turtle, still ready to bite me
Yesterday’s snapping turtle was actually on the other side of the road, and almost all the way across already. I stopped my car and put on my hazards. I opened my window and tried to make a frightening noise. The turtle didn’t move. I opened the door and clapped my hands at it. The turtle didn’t move. I touched the back of the turtle’s shell with the toe of my shoe. The turtle spun around, snapped at me with its enormous mouth and scared me. I jumped left, hoping to get around it again. It hunkered in. I tapped it again, thinking that now I had its attention I could herd it off the road. The turtle spun and snapped again. Now it was pointed 180° from its original destination. I tapped the turtle once more, hoping to get a course correction. Now it was pointed towards the road’s shoulder, and looked ready to move.
I got back in my car and sat with my hazards on, waiting to watch the turtle make it to safety. A car came up from the other direction, and the turtle was directly in its path. I waved them down. I told them about the turtle. They thanked me. I told them about the turtle rescued by Art School. They told me they saw a man throw a jacket over “one of the big, aggressive ones” to be able to move it safely. I told them this was one of the big, aggressive ones.

The approach of their car inspired the turtle to rise to its greatest height, stretch out its neck and start booking it, turtle-style, up the road. I said it looked like it had an appointment in Rhinebeck. The other drivers laughed and said they could give it a lift since that was where they were headed. Another car arrived, and I pulled forward to tell the second driver about the delay. He was as good-natured about letting the turtle make its way safely across the road as the people ahead of him were.

Today I am back in New York City. I saw a green leaf on the sidewalk this morning and mistook it for a frog.