Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Canine Camp

Many of you helped Roo and I go to Canine Camp by "liking" this picture on facebook and helping us win part of our camp entry fees, so I thought I should tell you all about it.

Thanks for voting for me!!
The Canine Center for Training and Behavior holds Canine Camp every year (this was year 7 I think) at Lazy Hills Retreat & Conference Center outside Ingram. Lazy Hills is 750+ acres and TCCTB brings all their stuff for every single class they normally teach at the center. You can do basic skills training, manners, tricks, Canine Good Citizen training, Lure, Air Scenting, Confidence Building, Agility, Tracking, Rally, Ttouch, Yoga with your dog, Nosework, Fieldwork, Dog Powered Sports, Swimming & kayaking, seminars on first aid, nutrition, toy making, etc. The possibilities are endless. When they sent the schedule of classes the week before camp, I spent hours deciding what to do and when! This was going to be Big Fun!!

The night before we left, I told Jeff, "I really hope I'm not setting myself up for disappointment, I have pretty high expectations for this being a ton of fun, I feel like it'll be hard for it to be as good as I expect"...

I took Thursday afternoon (and Friday) off from work and Roo and I headed west at about 1:30, so traffic wasn't too bad leaving Austin. I don't love driving long distances (some might say 2 hours isn't that long, but it's pretty long for me!) so I planned a few fun stops along the way.
Heading to Camp!
First stop Wildseed Farms. If you know me, you know I love this place.
pictures in the big red flowers

more pictures with the flowers with my mom
I realized my phone was almost dead despite being plugged in the entire drive, so next stop was the AT&T store in Fredericksburg for a new phone charger.
helping my mom get a new phone charger
Then on to Jack & Adam's to say hi to owner Josh and meet his new dog Remy. But Remy was away at boarding school and Josh was on his way to Galveston for the half Ironman over the weekend.
I didn't get to meet Remy at J&A
On to Kerrville and dinner at Grape Juice, where Roo got a lot of attention.
Can I please have some?
We spent Thursday night at By the River RV park & Campground, I had never been there, and it's a beautiful place! There was a waterfall right by our campsite!
Our campsite, Turtle Falls

Turtle Falls
Friday morning we explored at the campground a little then headed out to Lazy Hills for Canine Camp! I had 2 goals for Canine Camp. Roo has been afraid to swim and nervous about kayaking with me. So I really wanted him to learn to enjoy swimming and kayaking during camp. I was really disappointed at check in/sign up when the first swimming & kayaking class was already full. I hadn't planned an alternate class for that time, since swimming & kayaking was our main objective. I asked trainer Shari what we might like to do instead. She suggested Hunting Instinct Testing. So that's what we signed up for instead. We got checked in to our room and unpacked, then it was time for lunch, so Roo hung out in his crate in the room and I went to lunch. I'm not sure what I had expected, but for whatever reason, I assumed the food for the weekend would be just ok, but I was very pleasantly surprised! The food all weekend, was really good! I brought lots of snacks and I don't think I ate any of them.

Our first class after lunch was Nosework. That's where the dog finds a hidden scent. Roo seemed to like it and was pretty good at it. A couple of times trainer Julie set up a course with lots of boxes and the scent in one, I'd walk into the area and think she would tell me to let Roo start searching, but Roo had already found the right box!
Nosework is fun!

Our next class was the Hunting Instinct with trainer Jane (also the owner of TCCTB). Each dog would follow Jane's German shorthaired pointer hunting dog on a ranging run and she'd see if the new dogs showed any interest in finding game. Roo did flush out a bird at one point, but we agreed he had no idea he'd done it. He had a ton of fun bounding through the tall grass and brush with Jane's dog. Toward the end I asked Jane what she thought, she asked what our goals were. I said "I don't hunt, I just wanted to see if this was something Roo might enjoy". She replied "he clearly enjoys running around out there" Haha! Jane is definitely a "tell it like it is" person. Since we were first to go, Jane said we could watch the other dogs or go do something else. So we took off to go see what else we could do. I noticed that some of the kayaks were not being used, so we raced up the hill to the room, I grabbed swimming stuff and we ran over to the swimming lake. Pam was in charge of swimming & kayaking so she was happy to see us and helped us get in a kayak right away. Roo got in without any trouble, but he was scared while I paddled around. Not as scared as the first time I took him in Austin, but still not enjoying it. So we got out to try some swimming. This was really my biggest goal for camp. Roo loves playing at the edge of the water, but he'd been very afraid to get deeper than he can touch. So we put a life jacket on Roo, I knew he could swim without one, but I thought it would help him be less afraid.
I like this life jacket!
Then Pam, Shari and I got in the water along with Shari's dog Madame Curie and told Roo how much fun it is to swim! I wish there was video, we were being silly, offering treats, and encouraging like crazy, and at first Roo was having NONE of it! Shari was giving Curie treats and saying "dogs who swim get treats!"in a sing-songy super happy voice. Roo was super jealous! Finally he got in and swam out to us, then swam right back where he could touch, but that was really all it took!! He did that a few more times, with all of us praising him and telling him how awesome he was. Then he found a big stick so I threw that in the water and he went out to get it, I threw it further and further until he was swimming out pretty far! Then I took the life jacket off to see if he would swim without it- No problem at all! I was SO HAPPY!!!  That's really all I had wanted from camp was to get Roo to enjoy swimming. I must have said a million times "Roo, you're making me so happy!!" and "Roo you're the best dog in the whole world!" It was awesome!!

Canine Camp is on a schedule so we had to get out of the water so I could go to a Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture seminar. On the way up the hill, I ran into Jane I told her "Roo and I don't have hunting goals, but we do have swimming goals, and Roo can swim now! I'm so happy!!!" She probably thought I was crazy getting so excited that my Labrador can swim :)  Roo took a nap while I learned about Chinese medicine and acupuncture. It was really interesting. I really like this kind of stuff especially after our experiences with Katie and her cancer. Dr. Carolyn Love taught the class, and I definitely know who to go to if we ever need that type of help for Roo!

Next we had another opportunity for swimming & kayaking, yay! This time Roo got right onto the kayak and acted like he loved it!! Again, I was SO HAPPY!!! Seriously, I had 2 goals for Canine Camp and we accomplished them both before dinner on day 1!! Then Pam put Roo in a life jacket again so we could practice the "if your dog jumps in the water from the kayak, this is how you get him back in". That didn't work so well, when Roo jumped in, he swam straight to shore, so we'll have to work on that.
I'm the captain!

By dinner time, I was STARVING!  And the food was so good! spaghetti (with zucchini noodles as an option), turkey meatballs, salad, and brandied apples with ice cream for dessert- YUM! Of course I was telling everyone how happy I was that Roo had become a swimmer and kayaker and those were my main missions for camp!  After dinner the trainers sat around the pool and answered questions and told stories, it was really interesting and fun, but I couldn't stay too long, I was super tired from such a fun day!

Saturday morning started with a breakfast of frittata, hash browns, bacon and fruit. Roo & I had an active morning planned so I was not skimpy with my portions! First was Dog Powered Sports with trainers Shari and Pam. At first I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to do this with Roo, but it ended up being great! The idea is you can teach your dog to pull you while running/hiking or on a bike or scooter. At first Roo wasn't so into it. He runs with me a lot and he knows he's supposed to run BESIDE me NOT out in front of me. Shari explained to me that he'll get the idea that when he's wearing a towing harness, he's ALLOWED to pull, and when he's wearing his walking harness he is NOT allowed to pull. Shari decided that since Roo likes to be beside me, it was best to have me run out in front of him at first and let him tow someone else. This was a ton of fun and I think Roo and I both got pretty tired out! Pam took this video:

An interesting note about TCCTB- they really specialize in reactive, aggressive, fearful dogs that people have a tough time training. Jack (the other dog in the video) couldn't get within 20 feet of another dog without freaking out. Jack and his owner are working hard on being calm and confident, and also on getting some energy out (hence dog powered sports) to make being calm easier. Roo doesn't realize that not every dog is friendly. But Roo came running to me after the video stopped, so there was no incident with the dogs.

Next up was a hike including some big hills, Shari was the lead trainer on this too, so Roo & I got to practice our canicross skills (dog out in front helping to "tow" you along). The hike was beautiful and I was really happy to learn about and practice canicross. Jeff and I like to backcountry hike and we plan to take Roo with us. Most backcountry trails are very narrow, so having Roo beside me isn't ideal. But canicross is perfect, and Roo seems to really enjoy it and understand the commands, so we'll definitely be doing more canicross!
great view from the top of the hill!

I decided we needed something a little less athletic after lunch, so we went to Ttouch with Kathy Cascade. Ttouch is really interesting and I knew nothing about it before camp. (I can't really explain Ttouch well, so if you want to learn about it, check out the links). It can help with almost any issue with your dog (fear, aggression, barking, pain, etc). I was hoping to get some methods to help with recovery for athletic dogs. She definitely gave me some touches and methods for that. But there were quite a few nervous dogs in my class so Kathy really focused on how to help dogs gain confidence. She used Roo as an example a couple of times and it was fun to watch how he moved around the confidence course. It was pretty amazing to see some of the very fearful dogs walking around the course with other dogs without freaking out.

Next up was a "break" for about an hour. I decided to take Roo kayaking again. They also had the zip line open and it goes right over the pond, so Roo watched the zip liners intently :) After a little while he actually laid down and fell asleep in the kayak. I wish I had pictures of that, but I do not. Then we went to Intro to Agility class. Roo has been doing agility at the Zoom Room for awhile, and I've been wanting to take him somewhere else to see how he would do in a different environment. Turns out he did really well!
waiting my turn at agility
waiting patiently to jump through the tire
To end Saturday's classes we went to Canine First Aid and CPR. I figured this is stuff I should know, especially for hiking in the backcountry. I now know Roo's normal pulse and respiration rates and other vitals, so I'll know when something is NOT normal. Trainer Shari showed us her dog first aid kit and gave us info on how to tell when something is an absolute emergency versus when you can wait to get to a vet or treat an issue at home. I also learned how to do CPR on a dog...I mean there wasn't a dog mannequin to practice on or anything, but Shari did demonstrate on a big stuffed dog.

Dinner Saturday was outside at the pavilion and it was a lot of fun. The chefs had been smoking meat all day, there was chicken, pork, sausage, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, beans, cornbread, etc and it was all delicious! I heard a lot of people stayed out late "partying" at the pavilion...I was too tired for that!

I woke up about 5am on Sunday to a huge storm, I checked the radar on my phone and saw this and a tornado warning!

I thought, well at least we had tons of fun Friday and Saturday and learned and did everything we wanted and more. Roo and I sat on the porch and watched the lightening for awhile. I walked down to the dining hall for breakfast to find the power was out! They still managed to have cereal, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, sausage, fruit, and muffins for breakfast, pretty good for no power and we ate by candle and fireplace light!
watching the storm
By the time we finished breakfast the rain had mostly stopped, but it was cold and windy! Roo and I didn't let that stop us. We went to Agility Course Run class (more advanced agility than intro). Roo did much better than I expected! And trainer Julie took a ton of pictures for me :)
coming out of the tunnel!
dog walk!
coming out of the tunnel FAST!
 Then Roo swam again :) I really love watching him swim out after a stick and swim back with it!
I love swimming!!

 I decided we should kayak one more time too. Pam took these pictures from a bridge over the water.
I love kayaking too!
Hi Pam!
We still had a little more time and Shari was doing another Dog Powered Sports class, so I grabbed canicross equipment and asked if we could go hiking on our own to see how Roo would do on the trails without another dog to follow. He did great and we were having so much fun that I was late getting back for lunch!

Sunday lunch was essentially the end of Canine Camp. I had no idea there would be a little closing ceremony with awards! So I was really surprised when Jackie (TCCTB manager) gave Roo and I the "More Fun Than Dirt" award! It's for the most fun/enthusiastic camper/dog team, so cool!!!

We definitely had More Fun Than Dirt!!
Jeff asked this awhile ago and I'm sure others wonder so here's the story behind "more fun than dirt". Lee Mannix was the dog trainer who originally opened TCCTB, he was pretty famous for being an amazing dog trainer especially with aggressive, fearful dogs. From what I understand he was a typical Texas country boy and very much a "tell it like it is" person. Jane told me over the weekend, "Lee Mannix always said (with a very thick accent!) 'if you can't be more fun fer yer dog than sniffin' the dirt, then I just can't help ya'" And we all know, sniffing the dirt can be a whole lot of fun for dogs! Hence, TCCTB's mission is to help dog owners be "more fun than dirt" for their dogs. Roo and I certainly had More Fun Than Dirt at Canine Camp! My concern that my expectations might be too high was completely unfounded, Canine Camp was actually even better than I expected!

Thank you to everyone at TCCTB and Lazy Hills for hosting an amazing Canine Camp! And thank you again to everyone who voted for Roo in the facebook contest!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Quintana Roo's Turkey Trot Report

Hi, Q. Roo here, I sneaked into the office while my mom & dad are cooking food for Thanksgiving. After my Rescue Run, my mom said if I could train up to 5 miles, I could do the Turkey Trot. Well, I've already done 8, so 5 was no big deal. And I was super excited to chase the turkeys!!

We had to go to Georgetown because Austin said they didn't want dogs to run, seems silly to me, but I like riding in the car so I didn't mind. Plus my mom's friend Debbi decided to come run with us! I love Debbi! My mom has a lot of cool friends, but I think Debbi is my favorite! She brings me treats sometimes and she always talks to me and loves on me.
Before the race, me giving Debbi a kiss
and this is our silly faces picture

We got there and it was so exciting! Lots of people, and lots of other dogs waiting to run. I'm not very good at waiting, I just get so excited! But I tried really hard to be good, I know my mom doesn't like it when I go over to other dogs or jump on people, so I tried hard to sit by her and wait for the run. I got to meet my mom's friends Gayla and Peylin, and lots of other people petted me while we waited.
This poor dog was dressed like a turkey, I'm glad my mom didn't dress me up like a turkey!
Gayla and my mom and me
Finally we got to start running! My mom and Debbi ran kinda slow, so I tried to pull them along. We ran by lots of parks and I looked for squirrels in all of them. Then we ran over a really pretty river. Right after that, I heard some birds! They sounded like turkeys, so I turned and tried to go toward them. My mom said "No Roo, come on" so I tried to tell her, the turkeys are this way, and it's the TURKEY TROT, so we're SUPPOSED to chase the TURKEYS!!! But she didn't understand and I missed my opportunity to chase the turkeys. oh well, maybe next year.

The rest of the run was fun, and after we finished the nice lady giving out food said "would your dog like a bagel?" so my mom gave me a bagel with peanut butter! Yum!! I had a lot of fun and I hope I get to do the Turkey Trot again next year. I just hope my mom figures out that it's a TURKEY TROT and we're SUPPOSED to CHASE THE TURKEYS!!!
Debbi and my mom and me after the run

Wild Hare Trail Run

I won an entry into the Tejas Trails race of my choice a few months ago, Wild Hare was the only one that fit my schedule, but it worked out perfectly.

The race was at Bluff Creek Ranch just outside of Warda. So we decided to camp Friday and Saturday nights, this was also Roo's first camping trip. He did great and had a lot of fun.

He didn't get to race with me because the course was mostly on single track trail and I didn't want him to be in the way.

Trail running in general has a very chill, fun vibe and that was certainly true of this race. I chose the 10K distance and it started at 7:15am, after the 50 miler, the 50K, and the 25K. It was a great course and a beautiful (if a bit cold) day for running. Everyone on the course was really nice and encouraging, the course was pretty, and not too rough. When I finished, I told Jeff I wish I had signed up for the 25K instead of the 10K.

We hung out all day and lots of people petted Roo and commented on how beautiful and well behaved he was.
Roo was tired Saturday night, he actually begged to go into the tent about 7:30, we finally just let him go in there and go to sleep.

I was hanging out at the finish line to watch the final 50 mile finishers come in and Chris (the owner of Tejas Trails) pretty much talked me into running the 25K at Bandera in January! It's one of the toughest trails in the country! Crazy!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Plant a Victory Garden

This election is too big to ignore. I really want to DO something to help this country. Yes, I’ve emailed the Travis County Democratic Party, I’m meeting with a few neighbors to organize voters in our precinct for future elections, I’ll do what I can politically. I know it won’t be enough. And unfortunately, I know it’s too little too late now.

I also need to do something to make myself feel better, and for me that always comes back to plants. I’ve loved plants since before I can remember. My first “big word” was photosynthesis, and by the time I was 6 years old I could identify every species of tree on our 140 acre property in Illinois. But what on Earth can plants do to help us now?

During WWI and WWII people all over the world planted “Victory Gardens” to reduce pressure on the public food supply and as a civic morale booster, in that gardeners felt empowered by their effort and rewarded by the produce grown. I hope everyone will set aside a little (or a lot) space in their yard or on their balcony for a Victory Garden. I hope these gardens will give all of us a tiny glimmer of hope for the future.

They weren't called Victory Gardens because we had won, we hadn't yet, they were called Victory Gardens for the Hope of and Belief in winning. The same is true today.

Victory Gardens in the traditional sense are vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private home or in public areas like schools and libraries. I’d like to include native plants and flowers in a new definition of a Victory Garden, because habitat for native plants and the animals that need them is dwindling quickly and with the new political regime, that will almost certainly become an even bigger problem.

Home gardens obviously produce food. I hope we’re never in a situation where food is in short supply, unsafe to eat, or prohibitively expensive. But it’s certainly a possibility, and having a home garden can help us make sure we all have enough to eat. That sounds silly based on how abundant food is today (and I hope that always sounds silly), but there are other ways Victory Gardens have an impact. By producing even just a little of our own food, we’re cutting down on waste like food packaging and food transportation. We can also choose how our food is grown and what goes into it. We can choose to garden organically and cut down on herbicides and pesticides washing into our local streams and rivers. Our own small gardens may soon be our only hope to keep some species like monarch butterflies from going extinct. So maybe plants really can make a difference! If enough of us plant a Victory Garden, we can actually have a very big impact!
Queen butterfly on Texas native Gregg's mistflower
Monarch butterfly on basil
But it’s November, it’s not exactly gardening season! We’re lucky enough to live in Austin, so there are actually a few vegetables we can plant right now. This is the perfect time to plant lettuces, spinach, garlic and radishes. Kale, chard, beets and carrots will also likely do well if planted now, especially since we’ve had a warm fall so far. Many herbs prefer the cooler weather, so now is a great time to plant cilantro, dill, fennel and parsley. 
Winter harvested lettuce
Winter harvested beet and carrots
 I plan to go over to Shoal Creek Nursery on Saturday and buy seeds (they have a nice selection of non-GMO and organic seeds at Shoal Creek Nursery, the same cannot be said for most of the big box stores). If you’re in South Austin, the Natural Gardener also has a good selection of organic and non-GMO seeds. Seed Savers Exchange is my favorite seed company.

Fall is also the time to plant bluebonnet and many other native flower seeds. November is a bit on the late side, but we’ve had pretty warm weather so far and most of these seeds will do well if you get them in the ground soon, even better if you’re able to protect them from frosts this winter.
This is also the best time to clear ground for planting in the early spring. Start digging out the weeds or fertilizer & water hogging grass, get some compost worked into the soil, so when March comes, you’re ready to plant.
Lyre-leaf sage is a great Texas native wildflower to plant from seed now
If you’re ready to plant a Victory Garden, let me know! I have many native wildflower seeds that I’m willing to share and I have a few varieties of vegetable seeds as well. I’m also happy to answer questions and give advice to help you have a successful Victory Garden. I really hope this will do more than just make me feel better. If enough of us plant a Victory Garden, we can actually have a very big impact on our food supply and on our environment.
 If nothing else, shoveling some dirt can help us take out our frustrations in a peaceful manner.