Monday, September 14, 2009


Where to start?! It feels like I am ending a rather hectic stretch and the break will be nice. I went to Utah over Labor Day weekend and did an agility trial while also trying to visit the Dear Husband and assorted friends and family, and give a talk about grief with Kim at the Sheriff's Office. My new cell phone -- perhaps channeling how I was feeling -- went completely dark and was inaccessible, necessitating a trip to the Verizon store on a morning I was already booked solid. I missed seeing Cali -- sorry Cali!!!! :(

So that was a rather busy four days, and because the talk was not done until 4 pm on Tuesday, I did not get back to Montana until the wee hours of Wednesday -- just in time to sleep for a few hours before being at a faculty meeting bright and early at 9 a.m.

So Wednesday and Thursday were quite busy, with no time to do much catching up from being gone and soon it was Friday and time to leave yet again! I taught all afternoon and then left for Graham, Washington with Cadi, Asia and Maize to do a two day draft test.

I stayed at a nice Bed and Breakfast with two other people who were there for the draft test -- I called it the draft test dorm :) I had stayed there seven years ago when I went up for Abra to be bred to Zaltana, which produced Halo -- who produced Asia who was with me -- did you follow all that??

Anyway, it is a nice place with this view of Mt. Rainier:

I took that picture at dawn and wish it had been lighter but I was never actually there during daylight! I arrived after midnight and was at the draft test site on Saturday morning before 7 a.m. to assemble my two carts and get ready for the long day. I really love draft tests -- they are very low key and friendly, and there is lots of time to just visit with people.

My goal was an NDD on Asia but since I was driving 7.5 hours I decided to make the most of it and I also entered Cadi in the Open Draft test and Cadi/Maize in Novice Brace.

I actually had not practiced much with Cadi by herself and she had to pull 80 pounds, which I confess to not having done in over a year. I figured that all the recent brace work with Maize would have to be practice/conditioning enough; my time was limited and I was focused on Asia. Anyway, Cadi was wonderful and although she made me work, she passed that open draft test on Saturday morning.

My next team was the Cadi/Maize brace -- Maize already has all the titles so we were working on that title for Cadi. Unfortunately the dogs passed but I flunked. The dogs do a group stay for three minutes and when another dog got up and walked over -- with his cart -- to say hello to the girls I yelled across the ring, "stay!" -- oops :(

A draft test is pass/fail and so one little mistake and that is all she wrote -- oh well. I was annoyed at myself but got over it quickly -- I am, after all, only human! And what right did I have to be upset?! My nine year old berner was there doing the draft test with her daughter and I was not unaware of that blessing.

Okay, with the temperature at 90 and more humidity than I am used to, it was finally time to change once again (I matched my shirt/socks to the dogs' harnesses) and get ready to rock and roll with Asia. Asia's color is maroon, which is the main color for the University of Montana so I was all set with a University of Montana shirt and very stylish striped University of Montana socks. Asia was fully decked out in her matching collar, leash and harness -- you know what Joan says: "look good, feel good, do good!"

Asia was amazing -- 100% on her game. If I had buttons on my maroon University of Montana shirt -- well, it was Kim's shirt (sorry Kim but I was desperate!) -- but if Kim's shirt would have had buttons they would have popped off with pride :) What a good girl she was -- Asia passed the test easily and earned her NDD (Novice Draft Dog), which made her a Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America's Versatility Dog -- that is a Big Deal -- and she is just 25 months! Since a dog cannot even earn the award before 24 months, this is quite an accomplishment.

Here are a couple of pictures of Asia right after we finished the test -- note the very cool accessories in the cart:

Doesn't the cart look great? I have had it for YEARS and when I moved I lost the shafts so Cassie's grandpa (remember that Cassie is my daughter-in-law), who just happens to live near me, made the new shafts and my daughter/son-in-law helped me paint the cart when I was in Utah.

So, what colors were the others girls, you ask? Well, Cadi is hot pink so has a lovely hot pink harness and I wore my pink shirt/socks. I used Cadi/Maize's parade harnesses and wore a green/yellow shirt to match and I put their bows on, which had never been seen before in a draft test and was quite the hit.

The test finally ended on Saturday and the hot, sweaty, tired crowd all went to dinner, which was fun. And then we got up early on Sunday and did it again -- sort of... I only ran the brace team since Asia and Cadi had earned their desired titles the day before. Maize and Cadi appreciated that I did not screw up and we all managed to pass the test, but we did lose one bow, which wound up in the hair of one of the judges!

So, I came home from Utah for less than three days (days in which I taught my classes, worked for hospice and etc.) and was off to Washington where we had fun and earned three new draft titles and made our baby Asia a Versatility Dog -- pretty nice weekend I would say :)

I enjoy earning titles with the dogs. Having goals and training towards them is fun and ensures that the dogs have an interesting life -- they truly LOVE their "work". And I like goals and accomplishing things, and so the titles represent good things for all of us. Yes, it all takes time but most people have something that they are passionate about and it often makes no sense to others.

On Sunday, the draft test shared the park with a car show -- that was quite interesting. Clearly some people are passionate about old cars and loud music from the 50's and 60's -- really loud music! While it might seem as if there is nothing similar between a crowd of enthused dog lovers and a crowd of equally enthused car lovers, if you think about it one can see that it is really the same -- the two groups are just one crowd of people who are really passionate about something. Yes, the "something" is different but the feelings are similar and I tried to remember that as I was humming along with that funny Little Nash Rambler song that was blaring throughout the park and wondering what could be so exciting about an old car that was not even big enough to fit a dog crate?! ;)

So yes, I do spend a lot of time, energy and money on my dogs -- but in doing so I both gain a sense of competence and recharge, which allows me to do my work, including staying present in my research, which is all about the deaths of children and how parents cope. And maybe that bright red old car that is cleaner than my house has ever been and is way too small for a crate allows one of those older men to save the lives of children so that I never encounter their parents...

When you think about it too hard, life is quite interesting...

Sometimes it is best to take a break from all that thinking and just enjoy some cute dogs -- here is Sydney being a snake...

Zoey and Sydney

Cute Syd again

In this picture Karnage is no doubt bragging to Halo about a recent kill...

The new versatility Dog, Asia

We are home for the rest of September so maybe I can catch up on things now -- like all the emails I owe people! But we will also be training and getting ready for some new adventures :)

I hope your life has passion and adventure but if not -- get busy!!


  1. I was about to go into withdrawal without a dose of Berner photos and some Mary-Ann philosophy. Thanks,

  2. WOW!!!! Congratulations on all the draft titles and Asia's new versatility title.