redroanchronicles: Trudeau is Innocent. Really. (trudeau-innocence)
Don't be fooled by this face.

Look, I understand: he's difficult to resist. I know he looks all innocent and angelic. He's using those eyebrows on you and he's totally working it and all you can think is, "Aw, what a handsome fellow! He's so well-behaved and charming!"

That's what he wants you to think. He wants you to be impressed by his easy-going and affectionate nature. He's trying to draw you in, and when you make the mistake of thinking that "adorable" is the same thing as "trustworthy"... well, then he's got you.

Then when you least expect it, he's gone.

It's not that he's a bad dog, it's just that sometimes the urge to wring his massive neck is overwhelming. )
redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
Autumn is by far my favorite season; the combination of the bright fall color on the trees, the sharp bite in the air, the smell of burning woodstoves, the crunch of walking through fallen leaves, the bare branches of the trees, fogging breath and steam rising off the hot springs... there's no end to the natural wonders of autumn. It's got the best holidays (Thanksgiving: it is all about eating!), and the shops start stocking in the best of all possible foodstuffs, like baked goods with pumpkin in them and chocolate oranges and peppermint cocoa. The photo opportunities are endless and pretty much golden. The only thing that would make autumn better was if it was longer; here in the mountains, it seems to be finished practically in the blink of an eye, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to wake up one day soon and there will be a few feet of snow on the ground.

On the other hand, the fleeting nature of the season is pretty good for prompting me to get out of the house and take some photos, before all the spectacular color vanishes until next year. I've been wanting for years to visit one of those pumpkin patches that also has a horse-drawn cart (I don't really care about pumpkins, if I'm honest, aside from caring about how delicious they are), and when I saw one advertised in the newspaper recently, I just had to go. I made a little time on the last weekend of the Chimney Rock Farm pumpkin patch, and drove out to photograph some harness horses, which as a bonus, turned out to be Suffolks, a breed I'm not I've ever actually seen in person before, and definitely haven't photographed.

Beneath the cut: More draft horse photos, fall scenery, and a trip to Piedra Falls )
redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
Over the weekend, my dog Trudeau and I explored a few local trails. Our first attempt, Fourmile Stock Trail, was disappointing: it was neither particularly scenic, nor was it comfortable to walk (lots of loose rock everywhere, and plenty of noise when the ATVs came out to play). It did spill us out onto a nice gravel road and beyond that, the continuation of a much more comfortable walking trail (it wasn't signposted, so I don't know what it's called)... but of course by then it was time to turn around and go back.

So I was pretty delighted when our next attempt turned out much better. We drove out of Pagosa into the San Juans, looking for the Piedra River Trail. The directions I'd found online were fairly accurate (see below for my own directions, which will lead you to the actual trailhead, unlike the directions I had used) and we found the spot without a problem. The trail forks to both an upper and lower trail; the lower trail is the one you see in my photos, and I'm told the upper trail is pretty awesome, too, and there are ice caves if you know where to look. Which I... don't.

More photos, info and awesome beneath the cut )
How to get there: From Pagosa Springs, take Hwy 160 to Piedra Road. Proceed north on Piedra Road for about 17 miles. When you reach the Piedra River bridge, drive just a bit further up the road and take the next available left, into a parking lot which will lead you directly to the well-marked trailhead. You can also park in the turn-offs just on either side of the bridge, but your access to the trail from there is a fairly steep ascent up a rock face; going up that way worked fine for me, but I'd hate to try to get back down that route after a little rain. Horseback riding, hiking and fishing are all allowed, but no motorized vehicles, and the trail seems both popular enough and narrow enough that I didn't picture it as the most fun ever for horseback riding, either.

Area access: The majority of the drive on Piedra is on a well-maintained gravel road. In good weather, a 2-wheel-drive vehicle will get you there without a problem. A bike would probably make for an even better trip. Winter is likely another story. The drive itself is gorgeous, especially with the fall color coming out.

Difficulty: The Piedra River Trail is mostly an easy hike, with the difficulty increasing to moderate as you go further. If you're not quite up for the exertion, or you're just stopping through the area on your way to somewhere else, stop in at the Piedra River picnic area across the road (signage on the road will point the way); it's a lovely spot with picnic tables, restrooms, and a very nice view.
redroanchronicles: Trudeau's Mighty Brow (trudeau-brow)
It could fairly be said that I am a control enthusiast. This is merely one of my excuses for why I don't normally let my dog Trudeau run and frolic off-leash, even though many people in my life seem to think that this is some form of hideous cruelty. (Trudeau is on the "hideous cruelty" side of the argument, too.) But I have a very vivid imagination and what I like to think is a keen understanding of Trudeau's psyche -- inside his mind is a bleak world of perceived starvation and inadequate snuggles -- which is why I can see very clearly how things would go if I were to become one of Humboldt County's ubiquitous leash-less dog owners. And I am telling you, it would all end in tears. And possibly blood. And on my part, there could be a heart attack. Even at the pound, they let him run around off-leash, and apparently they didn't have any problems with him running off, and it's not as if he's normally able to be more than five feet away from me in the daily course of our lives, so I probably shouldn't be quite so paranoid, but I am. Sure, he likes me now, but the moment another dog appears, all bets are off.

A few friends suggested that I take him to a beach. A remote beach. Where could he run? they said. The ocean will get in the way, they said. But beaches usually only have ocean in one direction, and plenty of havoc-wreaking possibilities in all the other directions, so I was determined to be a little more choosy. I would be needing a lot more ocean.

Luckily, with Humboldt Bay right here, we have some convenient jetties that have ocean on three sides, and some pretty deserted beaches. So I took Trudeau out there on a long training line, and worked on endless recalls, and then I got really brave and let him off the leash entirely.

It could be accurately said that Trudeau approves of this development.

He also approves of the ocean, birds, sand, foam, crabs, seaweed, and things that smell mysterious.

I enjoy these outings almost as much as Trudeau does, mostly because by the time we get home he's completely knackered. It has been a great confidence-builder for me, though, knowing that I can let him off-leash, and when I call him he'll come back. Mostly. Except when he's found something interesting. Or when there's a bird.

Elsewhere in my travels around town, I came across another face that I thought you'd want to see:

I met this adorable little face in Halvorsen Park, and her owner was clearly accustomed to fielding the admiration of this dog's adoring public. She's an "American Indian Dog," which I had never heard of (is that sort of like yet another American Horses With Spots And Things registry, or is it legit?); gorgeous little puppy, kind of shy, but she's certainly going to make one hell of a beautiful dog. And meeting her was a nice change from the way I usually encounter dogs; typically I meet them when they're running loose in the streets, in the dark, and they launch themselves at Trudeau like they're all members of a canine fight club.

Oh, shit. I wasn't supposed to mention that. It's the first rule. Forget you heard anything.
redroanchronicles: Trudeau's Mighty Brow (trudeau-brow)
My dog Trudeau is a mystery. He is a mystery wrapped in an enigma that sort of walks in a circle around a riddle. He bays like a bloodhound, and his color is a little shepherd-y, and his white paws are rather dapper-looking but not particularly helpful in identifying his breed. Taking a walk with him is like taking a game show on the road: random passersby engage in self-styled trivia quizzes to try to discover his heritage. Simply being in Trudeau's presence turns everyone in the world into a dog expert, and they will not only guess what breeds compose his background, but they will tell you, quite emphatically.

[personal profile] malnpudl, drunk with the power of modern science, dropped by my vet's office awhile back and pre-paid for me to have the mutt genetically tested. Yes, that's right. You can DNA test your dog to find out WTF sort of genetic material spawned the mutant beast, and if you're anything like me, you can even have a roommate crazy enough to pony up the cash for it.

Unfortunately, if your dog's heritage is too heavy on mixed breeds -- mutts for generations back -- there isn't much a DNA test will tell you. And even then it's not 100% reliable. My vet had warned me, before we did the test, that the results she'd seen from it to date weren't terribly enlightening. But it wasn't my dime, and apparently Mal had a burning need to know, so I went ahead with the test regardless, and after waiting and waiting very patiently for results that, as it turned out, were mailed directly to my vet and not to me, today I managed to access the company's online system to review Trudeau's test results.

Prepare to have your minds blown, my friends.

Trudeau's lineage is muttly enough that there are no breeds listed as "significant," which means that neither of his parents were purebreds. There are also none listed as "minor" genetic contributors, which would be breeds that had contributed at least 12.5% of the beast's genetic material.

However. There are two breeds listed as "intermediate" breeds, meaning that at least 25% of Trudeau's genetic makeup comes from these breeds, "so you may see some physical and behavioral traits represented in your dog." So what, you may wonder, are his "intermediate" breeds? My bet was on bloodhound and some kind of shepherd dog. My vet was sure it was bloodhound and Anatolian shepherd. The shelter had him listed as a Great Dane cross. But actually, the only two breeds that appear at all in his genetic profile are:

Alaskan Malamute


Basset hound.

Thank you, science. You've just completely blown my mind. I might need to go curl up in a fetal position while all of my ideas about the universe rearrange themselves in my brain.
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
Last night was, at long last, the first night of basic dog obedience for me and the floppy-eared monstrosity that I call my dog. (Oh, Trudeau. Your ears are so floppy. It's awesome.) I have to admit to being more than a little apprehensive, especially when I saw the size of the room that we'd be working in -- a conference room at the local rec center -- which didn't exactly leave a lot of room for... well, let's just put it out there. It didn't allow a lot of room for me to keep my dog from getting all up in the other dog's faces. As he does. I probably should've called the instructor first and told her that he had a dog aggression issue -- she looked a bit concerned when I said he occasionally likes to make other dogs cry -- but I'd talked to so many dog obedience teachers by then and had all of them hand-wave my concern away, so I guess by the time I got around to the class I actually signed up for, it didn't occur to me that it might be a problem.

And it actually wasn't, much. He started off the evening a little... well, over-enthusiastic might be the word, and I've always suspected with him that a large part of his dog aggression is just that he's the very big kid who never learned how to play nice. He desperately needs to socialize and play with other dogs, but he can't because he's a bastard, and therein lies the problem. (It's doubly unfortunate because there are plenty of off-leash beaches and other doggy paradises in my neighborhood, and I do trust him to come when called, except that if there's another dog and he gets into a fight, all bets are off. I like to think one day he'll be able to do these normal dog things. It's why we've gone to the professional, to get professional help with our issues.)

In any event, we didn't have any sort of unfortunate mishaps, and thanks to the teacher's magic weapon -- an apparently-delicious cocktail of cheese, kibble and hot dog bits -- Trudeau pretty much spent the hour in the throes of ecstacy. Though initially his focus was all over the place, he soon learned that lavishing me with his attention would earn him delicious delights, and he wasn't as hard as I expected to keep under control... though for much of the class we did stay behind a small chair-barrier that the teacher built for us, to give us a little extra separation from the other dogs.

The class has turned out to be perfect; I really like the instructor (Mette Bryan, for any readers who are actually in Humboldt County, and she's teaching the classes through the Adorni Center and Eureka Muni), and the other three dogs in the class are more or less in the same place as Tru -- pretty good on obedience basics like sit, down and stay, but not so much with the focus in new environments. So we should all be able to advance at the same pace and think up new and interesting things to do that aren't necessarily as basic as your standard beginning obedience class.

The highlight of the evening for me was working on our dogs' recall/"come" in the room. Mette worked with the other three dogs first, and I thought for sure she was going to just skip us for the moment, since even I could imagine the carnage that would ensue if I called Trudeau and instead he decided to surge like a bowling ball into the group of other dogs. And anyway, Trudeau and I work on his "come" endlessly; in fact, I've turned it into a wacky after-hours game in the office. My office is laid out as sort of a square of hallways with rooms opening off of it, and I'll often put Trudeau in a stay, go sprint off somewhere else in the building, and then tell him "come" (if I'm in an obvious location where he'll be able to see me) or "search" if he needs to go looking for me. He'll go tearing around the place trying to work out where I am, and he gets lavishly rewarded with food and love when he manages.

Still, I thought for sure he was going to embarrass us both by harassing the swell golden retriever puppy instead of actually coming to me. Mette put a long training lead on him, so she'd at least have some control over him and could try to catch him in time if he veered off, but no; I showed him the delicious treats that awaited, ran across the room and called him, and he came. Boy, did he ever come. You wouldn't have thought there was another dog, person, or possible source of treats in the world. I've never been prouder. And it was nice getting home and discovering that the excitement and mental strain had knocked him out so thoroughly that he went straight to sleep like an exhausted toddler.

I complain sometimes about Trudeau and his dog-hating, cat-chasing, collar-leaning bad behavior, but the fact is that I lucked out to a ridiculous degree. Adopting from a shelter, as much as I support doing so, can be such a game of roulette. I could've ended up with an animal that was completely unsuitable for my life in every way, and even though I trust my instincts when it comes to choosing a companion animal, listening to the gut and the heart don't always help us make rational decisions. Still, I wound up with a dog who is the perfect amount of lazy, the perfect amount of energetic, (definitely the perfect degree of housetrained!) and the one thing I've always been missing in the dogs I've had before: he is absolutely and utterly devoted. He is my dog right down to his bones, and I'm his human right down to my bones, and if we're maybe a little co-dependent, I think I can live with that for the wonder that is this animal bounding toward me, ignoring all other distractions and attractions for the chance to place himself in my hands.

And if my hands happen to be where the hot dogs are, well, that's just a happy coincidence.
redroanchronicles: Trudeau's Mighty Brow (trudeau-brow)
This is my dog Trudeau.

He is very regal. Very dignified. Sometimes he says that with great power comes great responsibility, and I can only assume that he knows this from experience.

Or else maybe he's talking about my power to give him dog cookies, and my responsibility to do so without delay.

There are more photos of Trudeau under this cut. )
redroanchronicles: Trudeau - Om Nom Nom (trudeau-noms)
My dog Trudeau is easily one of the best dogs in the history of time. Sure, he's over a hundred pounds and approximately the size of a shetland pony, but he wouldn't hurt a fly.

Unless the fly is dog-shaped. Then he will cut a bitch.

It's possible that Trudeau has a little bit of a dog aggression problem. Okay, he definitely has kind of a big dog aggression problem. He doesn't seem to want to, say, draw blood or destroy his enemies. He just wants to, you know... push the other dogs into the ground and make them cry uncle and maybe pee themselves. He's like a schoolyard bully on a sugar-high. We're getting professional help, and by that I mean obedience training, not a dog psychiatrist. (I already know that he has abandonment issues and probably unresolved feelings about his parents.) I have confidence that it is very fixable, and in the meantime, we're managing the issue.

I keep Trudeau leashed and under control (though in order to do this I have to make frequent use of my Look of Disapproval and my incredible biceps), and generally this wouldn't be a big problem, except that I'm apparently the only person in the county who believes in leashes. And though everybody's off-leash dogs are perfectly friendly, they don't quite seem to understand that my dog is not. Not too long ago while walking in Sequoia Park, Trudeau and I came upon a man who was crossing our path and who, I did not notice until we were almost upon him, had a tiny and adorable little shepherd puppy stumbling along at his heels. Off-leash.

The puppy happily trotted up to us, blissfully unaware of the nature of his impending demise. I held back my instantly over-excited bloodhound/silverback-gorilla-cross monster, who was either determined to lick the puppy to death or determined to devour it in a single gulp, and who either way was very likely to kill it by accident with one of his huge clumsy platter-sized paws.

The puppy's owner, unconcerned, didn't seem to notice me struggling with Trudeau (who was doing his very best Kraken or possibly Cthulhu* impression, complete with "GIVE ME NOMS OR I WILL DESTROY UR TOKYOS"), glanced over and, apparently utterly misinterpreting the nature of my concern, said, "Oh, don't worry. He's friendly!"

As you can imagine, I was very relieved that the puppy -- who seemed barely old enough to be weaned, and certainly not old enough to have joined Fight Club -- wasn't going to attack the slobbing gorgon. I don't think said gorgon realized how much danger he might've been in. From the puppy.

Loose dogs are a problem in my neighborhood in general, and particularly since I walk my dog after dark, I've ended up with a bit of a case of the nerves about the whole thing. There's Maxi-the-fleabitten-mongrel down the street, who actually vaults right over the fence so that she can bark ferociously at us, and the Akita on the other side street who stalks us creepily from the shadows, and the pit bull on the school road who is only held back -- and only occasionally -- by a gate that seems to have been made from an old wooden shipping palette. The latest addition to the giving-me-a-freaking-heart-attack brigade are a pair of massively-muscled pitbulls, who after running amok in the neighborhood for a few days seem to have taken up residence in the cemetery, which they clearly chose for its theatrical properties. A pair of snarling pitbulls charging at you isn't quite enough; with the whole cemetery thing they were going for more of an H.P. Lovecraft-style effect, in which dogs in addition to having sharp teeth and bad attitudes are also demonic and will eat not only your face but also YOUR VERY SOUL.

I probably wouldn't have much of a problem with these animals if it weren't for Trudeau, who attracts trouble like he's a gravity well, and who certainly doesn't help these situations by baying back what I can only assume are lewd remarks about the pitbulls' mothers. Honestly, I cannot take him anywhere, and I hope he realizes he has only himself to blame.

* When I typed "Cthulhu," my blog insisted that it was a misspelling and suggested instead "Cuchulain." Thanks, blog. Now I have The Pogues running through my head, and that's not a bad state of affairs if you ask me.


redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)

August 2011

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