Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WCRL Trial 10/25, TU Post on OTCh-ery

This past Saturday, Pongu had his one and only Rally trial for October.

It was mostly not spectacular. We hadn't been to a trial in over a month, and we've been working almost exclusively on agility stuff rather than Rally exercises this fall, so we were both a little rusty. Plus I was getting over a cold, and Pongu was a little squeaky and worried (not nearly the worst he's ever been, but not the best, either), so we weren't on our A-game going in.

The Oakes trials are some of the biggest ones all year and draw a tough crowd of competitors, and this year's fall trial was no exception. Huge class entries (with lots of new teams, always good to see!), some of the top teams around, very tough competition (but in a good, fun way -- it's always awesome to see your friends do well, and there's never any nastiness in WCRL!).

Accordingly Pongu did not place in the ribbons once during his first five runs. He did poorly a couple of times and kinda-sorta okay-ish a couple of times, but "okay" doesn't get you very far in that crowd. Which is fine; I thought the judging was very fair and we got the scores that we deserved.

And then somehow Pongu calmed down and got his head in the game and just destroyed the last Level 3 run, which was a fairly challenging course (including the Stand With Distraction bonus exercise, historically his worst and weakest one). Perfect score of 210, first place on time (against Edith!! Edith the Ultra-Awesome Border Collie!! That is a rare and precious victory to savor), one of the best runs Pongu's ever done. I sorely wish I'd gotten that one on tape.

Of course if someone had been taping it, he would have totally bombed out, but still.

So that was it for us in WCRL this month. We have a couple of trials in November, in which Pongu might or might not finish his MX2, and a couple in December, and then we're probably finished with Rally until Pongu can start competing in Veterans and/or we fail out of agility so spectacularly that I go crying back to our old familiar stomping grounds.

Also I had another post go up on Team Unruly recently on The Problem of the Force-Free OTCh, which is a piece that I am proud of because our Revered Instructors said they liked it, and yay! sparkles and rainbows!, it is pretty spiffy when people that you admire say that you got something right.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Farewell to the Island

Sconset Farm:

On our last walk around the Sconset Farm loop, which was already a pretty tight fit time-wise because we had just a little over two hours to do the trail (which is 6.2 miles all the way around, according to the trail markers) or else we'd miss the ferry, we ended up having an Unexpected Misadventure.

For whatever reason, Sconset Farm was a super busy and popular walk this trip. It's by far the most heavily used trail anyway -- there are always other joggers, dog walkers, and cyclists around Sconset Farm; it is definitely not a walk for antisocial dogs! -- but in October it was busier than it was in July, even as the once-crowded beaches were completely deserted and the Middle Moors were nearly empty.

At the beginning of our last walk around the loop, Crooky flushed a bunny and darted off the trail. He does that a lot and always comes back, so I didn't think anything of it.

However, shortly after he ran off, we passed a guy with a very big stick (maybe like 8 feet long?). This guy, who I think was just profoundly clueless and not actually mentally handicapped, brandished his stick menacingly at any dog he passed, not because he was afraid of dogs and trying to fend them off, but because he thought the dog might somehow want to play fetch or Tug with him if he did that. Naturally, none of them took up his invitation (although I do kind of wonder what would have happened if he'd crossed paths with a bitesport dog and done that to one of those guys...) and most dogs, including Pongu, were visibly apprehensive about this guy's weird behavior.

Crooky wasn't in sight when I walked past Stick Guy, but I would bet a significant sack of dollars that he came across the guy later and the stick-brandishing scared him off the trail, because Crooky did not come back after he flushed that rabbit. We waited maybe 10-15 minutes and there was no sign of Crooky.

So eventually I walked the half-mile back to the gate area, and there was Crooky, being held on a spare leash by a very nice lady who'd spotted him wandering around the parking lot and clipped her own dog's leash on him to keep the big goofus safe.

I'm moderately impressed that Crooky had the sense to go back to the car once he realized he'd lost us. That parking lot backs up onto a busy, high-speed road, though, so I'm really glad that a fellow dog owner took the initiative to protect the Crookydog from himself. He probably would have seen a bunny and gotten himself pasted, otherwise.

Anyway, I grabbed Crooky and we finished our walk (albeit with a forced march on the last half so we could get back to the parking lot in time) and then we got on the ferry and bade farewell to Nantucket for this year.

We'll be back next summer. Till then, two last pictures: a scenic overlook on a pond near Madaket

and one last sunset on the Middle Moors. This is one of my favorite pictures from that whole trip.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sesachacha Pond, Quidnet Beach, Tom Nevers

We're back from Nantucket but I still have an excess of pictures to post, so let's blow through a few of those right now!

Sesachacha Pond:

Beach rose hips growing on the dunes near the pond. Not quite as large as the ones on Sconset (which were out of season this late in the fall), they were nevertheless big enough to be picked and eaten like tiny, tart apples. One of these days, when I hit the island at the right time, I hope to collect enough beach rose hips to make jelly. There were only a tiny handful left on this trip, though, so I just ate the ones I found.

Quidnet Beach:

A Special Crunchy Treat that I found washed up on the shore and gave to Crooky. I still have no idea what this unfortunate creature might have been. I'm presuming some kind of baby eel? It was dried and had a light crust of salt and Crooky thought it was magically delicious, whatever it might have been.

Tom Nevers Beach:

This was a weird, stormy, almost postapocalyptic walk. The surf was deafeningly loud, the waves were high and violent, and the wind was merciless (if you look hard, you can see Pongu's ears flipping in the wind in that picture, and that's also why Crooky's tail is bent so sharply).

It was all very atmospheric, though. We saw a bunch of seals floating along the shore, apparently bodysurfing the enormous waves, and they all turned to watch us curiously. One even followed alongside us for half an hour or so, almost as if he were wondering why on earth our eccentric little party was out there on the beach that day. No one else was; we never saw another dog or person the entire time. Only tracks.

Peter wanted to head east and go exploring on a far stretch of the beach that we'd never reached before. It seemed like a fun adventure so I agreed.

Alas, we badly misjudged how far we'd gone from the car and how fast our sunlight was going to run out.

We ended up about 75 minutes away from the parking lot after dark. So, for an hour and some change, we just walked back along the beach, following the curve of the sand. It was a cloudy night and I couldn't see the dogs unless they were standing on the white sand, which mostly they weren't, because there were deer coming out to graze on the beach grass after dark. I heard Pongu and Crooky chase after the deer a few times.

They always came back, though, and they reached the car side-by-side with me and hopped happily inside when I opened the door. No leashes, no treats, no cajoling.

It was a test of our relationship that the dogs stayed with us in the dark, and of course they came through. Of course they did. To them it was no different than any other hike.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Foraging Adventures!

I spoke too soon on my previous post: it turns out that wild grape season is not, in fact, over on Nantucket. The vines on the Middle Moors are out of season, but the ones around Sanford Farm are still laden with fruit.

Not only that, but there is a much greater variety of grapes growing on that walk than I'd previously realized.

There are the "regular" dark purple wild grapes, which are much like Concord grapes except slightly tarter and with thicker skins:

There are coppery-red grapes (which, sadly, look much better than they taste; these had an unappetizingly grainy, pulpy interior and not much flavor to recommend them):

And there are scuppernongs: large yellowish-green grapes with bronze blushes and brown speckling. Although scuppernongs are well known and beloved in the Southeast, I hadn't realized they grew this far north, and I certainly never expected to find them flourishing around a clearing in Nantucket. As far as I can tell, scuppernongs only grow around that one clearing. The vines are impossible for me to distinguish from those of the dark purple grapes, which is why I didn't realize there were any scuppernongs on Nantucket until we visited at a time that the fruits were ripe on the vines.

But there they were, waiting to be picked.

And, of course, the dogs got to have lots of fun on their dog version of the hike.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

On Vacation Again

We are back in Nantucket for a week in early October.

Originally we booked this trip back when I thought Crooky was about to die of spondylosis. He had fallen down the stairs for no reason and was showing difficulty manuevering his hind limbs, so I thought his disease had suddenly progressed to a very late stage and we might not have much more time with him. As it turned out, though, his lameness was not caused by the spondy but because he'd been infected with anaplasmosis, a tick-borne bacterial disease.

30 days of antibiotics later, Crooky was basically fine again, and the vacation we'd originally penciled in as Crookydog's Last Hurrah was just a random week off in October because hey why not.

And so we're back on the island.

This late in the season, there's not a lot of stuff available for foraging on our hikes. So far I've mostly only found small wild rose hips (not as big or sweet as the giant rugosa beach roses)

and cranberries. Lots and lots of cranberries.

There are so many cranberries that Crooky can find entire hillsides carpeted in cranberry plants like giant springy dog mattresses.

Alas, that's the only berry around for me this time. We missed the wild grapes (CURSES) and the blackberry, huckleberry, and blueberry bushes have been reduced to decorative foliage in striking shades of red and gold.

We discovered a new bench hidden on a hillside in the Middle Moors, where I made the dogs pose so I could take pictures from both sides:

and I got Pongu to stand on Altar Rock (very difficult as the top of the rock is cracked and uneven).

Mostly, though, they just run and run and run.