Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brockle Grows Up.

I was given a surprise hour of freedom yesterday.

There wasn't enough time to run errands, besides, the dogs were with me and it was too hot for them to wait in the car.

Instead, I took my unplanned gift and stopped at a city park, thick with shade trees and quiet. I leashed up Charlie and Brockle, grabbed my bag and headed for the trail along Fountain Creek. It's narrow and rutted, and weaves in and out of the thick willows and gnarled cotton woods that hold the creek.  The trail is not officially part of the park, it's a highway for urban wildlife, an efficient cross-city path for those who prefer to travel on foot and out of the cities eye, and a great unofficial off-leash area.

We settled on a sunny bank dotted with boulders. I gathered a small pile of sticks, found a comfortable perch and pulled my Kindle out of my bag. I was lost in my latest read, throwing sticks out into the current for Brockle, keeping half an eye on Charlie as he hunted through the rocks, and still just about wiggling in the delight of the day. Talk about your multi-tasking.

The dogs were in high spirits. Brockle would abandon his stick to the current and jump on Charlie, teasing him into a rage. Charlie would snarl, go for his throat and within seconds, they were rolling around in the shallow water, putting on a dog reenactment of a battle to the death.

Charlie tried to stay properly outraged, but once they broke apart and stood panting in the cool water, he couldn't hide his grin.

The dogs and I looked north at the exact same moment. Two men were approaching. They had the unsteady gait of the drunk or high, and the wind-burned, dusty look of our local homeless. I called the dogs and leashed them, then calculated the steep embankment between me and the jogging path above me. I figured a surge of adrenalin would could me get up there if needed and relaxed.

They picked up their pace as they drew close. There was no communication between them  that I could see, but they moved with a sudden fluidity and purpose. There is a look that men on the hunt share, a certain stillness, a mutual gleam of mischief and excitement.

They had zeroed in on my bag. I knew better. Normally, I never bring it with me when I'm out walking. But I had needed my phone, my Kindle, my water bottle and treats for the dogs. I had set aside my own rule of never carrying something worth stealing when I was out on the trail and here we were.  Son of a bitch.

I stood and got ready to run.

Before I had slung the offending bag over my shoulder Brockle stepped in front of me. I barely had time to get my feet planted before he hit the end of the leash. He barked once at the men and when they kept coming he strained against the leash and cut loose with a volley of deep, cadenced barks. There was no yelping, no high pitched yaps, just a booming bass of serious warning while he lunged across the arc created by my restraint.

Charlie joined in, all twenty pounds of him ready to take those bastards on.

"Good dog, Brockle, good dog."

I could feel his tension through the leash and see strings of slobber slinging from his jaws. I would have loved to see his face, it must have been awesome, because the men turned in unison and bolted back the way they came.

 Brockle watched  until they were a hundred yards away, then snorted, peed and kicked up a small dust storm  with his hind feet.

I settled him with a few obedience reps and then threw a stick in the water. He ran to it, picked it up and faced the direction the men had gone. His eyes were sharp and I could hear him growling. The stick fell into the water and escaped downstream.

On the way back to the car Brockle stayed close, his shoulder at my thigh, and touched my hand with his nose every few feet.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dog in Trouble

Great female German Shepherd in a bad spot! Family dog, personal protection training. 8 years old, Czech bred, exquisite bloodlines, no health issues. Good with kids, male dogs. Free to an experienced home. She's located in Colorado Springs. 
Email me at for contact info.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Writing, Grammar, Spelling or I Can't Believe You Wore Those Pants

Just have to clear this one up. Then, I can just refer readers to this post as needed.

When I started Mugwump Chronicles I wanted to share some stories, think through training issues, and gripe.

I hoped for an audience, because I wanted to know if I wrote well enough to earn one.

Being the needy soul I can be, I hoped for affirmation that my secret desire to write was more than a pipe dream.

I got those things and thank you for that.

For me, the blog became a place to go and just...write.

After a while it became a place to share with others. Ideas, stories, thought, dreams, and I just loved it. I received emails with great stories and started posting some. More often than not, the writer would say, "Please clean this up for me," or, "I know this isn't very good, but..."

It made me nuts. Some of the best stories I read were written by people with vast experience, amazing tales and often, little to no education. Their voice, clear and beautiful, still came through the errors, often the "mistakes" gave their writing a tender awkwardness, a local flavor, a taste of a different world. They wouldn't let me share them because of their fear of ridicule.

Then, I fell into writing the Fugly Blog and some of the nastiest bitches the trolls. 
We'll skip the bits trashing my daughter, my choice of riding discipline, and my love of a breed that is notoriously built down hill.They went crazy on my awkward sentences, spelling errors, structure, you name it. It soon became clear, there is a world out there that equates getting A's in 8th grade Composition with knowledge about horses.

I quit writing the blog because I hated those people. They made me feel insecure and sad. They weren't worth my time.

I worked on my writing constantly. I had journalism technique shoved down my throat at a fast and furious pace by my extremely patient editor at the paper. I studied, went to workshops, talked to journalists, columnists and so forth. 

I met other writers, some good, some bad, some boring. I learned that writers can be mean, jealous, petty and crazy stalkers. They can also be lovely, funny, and generous when sharing their knowledge.

I threw myself on the mercy of teachers to help me learn the pieces I had daydreamed through in school. I read blogs, books, teachers reference books and books about writing. I kept my personal education off this blog, because it's about dogs and horses.

I found out the best writers to come out of the school system are children who are allowed to write, to express themselves and tell their stories without correction on spelling or grammar. When those very important parts of writing are treated as a separate education, creativity flows and the writer learns, with time, to blend them together.

I read blogs and other social media where people go to ridiculous lengths to ridicule writing mistakes. There are web sites, FB pages, blogs and who knows what else, dedicated to mocking people trying to communicate.  

My automatic response is, WTH is wrong with you? Shut up and let me listen, read, write, share, explain. 

I made Mugwump Chronicles a safe place to visit. Tell me your story, your idea, your experiences and don't be afraid of being criticized for your ability to write. 

To me, this is the same as mocking a stutterer, or a heavy accent, or grownup with a second grade education. I hope if your Grandma heard you behaving that way she would slap the shit out of you. 

Currently, I still work hard on improving my writing. I think I'm getting better, but my education comes from outside this blog, from people, events and places I've researched and am comfortable with. Places about learning the art of writing. This blog is where I think and talk.

When I write here, or post other writers, I'm always excited to check the comments and see where they go. When a comment starts with an edit for grammar, spelling or structure it makes me feel exactly like the nerdy who kid finally got invited to the cool kids party. The kid who spent hours trying to dress just so, then walked into the party, shaking, terrified but still filled with hope, and is immediately laughed at for the hay in her hair an the horse manure stench emanating from her shoes.
I think there are many others who feel the same.

Read the blog, read each other, disagree, agree and share. Or don't. It's up to you. But let this be a safe haven to write in. I already told you guys to call me out when I need to go throw rocks. Now I'm going to insist on this one. Let the stories flow and leave the grammar alone. 

It's just a blog for goodness sake.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bred for the Job

My first cowhorse was ranch bred Sonita.

She was big, red, freckled, had lots of chrome and attitude.

Those who know me, know her.

She was a life lesson and then some.

My second cowhorse, Loki, was a Foundation bred mare from a Buckskin breeding program. I had bought her as a project for my daughter and I, with no thought of cowhorse in my head.

 I had some success with her and my daughter did too. She was fast, anxious, sweet, and could slide thirty feet on a good day, 20 to 25 without a thought. She couldn't spin worth a damn. She wasn't very bendy. Riding her was kind of like riding a Grayhound bus in a 7/11, but she dug deep again and again.

 I bought Madonna as a long yearling. She was bred to rein and work cattle. She was and is amazing. I have said more than once, and will probably say again, until I trained Madonna, I had no idea I'd been trying to turn chihuahua's into huskies. She was my first sled dog.

Buying a horse bred to do the sport I was obsessed with was a real eye opener. The hours, months and years I spent riding and training horses the better trainers passed on had opened my mind to the potential in horses, no matter what they were bred for. I developed an interest in unlocking a horse's mind so it wanted to work for me, was willing to try, even if the bones were too heavy, the back was too long or the brains too scrambled. It also had me convinced horse training was hard, hard, hard and so was reined cow horse.

Then, I bought Madonna. She slid, spun and was naturally leaded. I'm not kidding, if I set her up right she just did it. The rest was refinement. The first time she tracked a cow she was so happy she started to buck.

"Don't you touch her!" K warned before I could get all clutchy. She smoothed out the second she saw the cow escaping because of her nonsense and she stopped. That was it. Madonna has been all about the cow ever since.

She wasn't particularly fast, she was quick and agile. I realized when you're on a horse that's on her cow, then you don't need a fast one, because you're never playing catchup.

We went to work with a cutting trainer while K was out of town (oops, busted!). I was worried because she carried her head so high while she worked. The trainer watched for a while and said, "She's naturally so underneath herself she's balancing herself with her head. Stay out of her way, off her mouth and wait, she'll sort it out."

He was right. I worked hard on staying out of her way and she sorted herself out. Breeding makes a difference.

In an interesting twist of fate, I have shown Madonna the least of any of my horses. Economics and illness sidelined me. Except for one miserable failing in Nebraska, she has been in the money just about every time we've walked in the pen. She's lovely.

She's also spooky and bitchy. Dead solid on cattle, in the pen or on a gather, she's so focused you'd think she was a rock.

Take her on the trail, or around the yard at the barn and she's a bug-eyed freak. She's bred to physically respond to movement and boy howdy, does she ever.

During the peak of my years hauling to shows, I was mounted on $900 dollar horses. Once I finally got my sled dog, life bit me in the butt. Madonna hasn't been wasted, not as far as I'm concerned. I was able to study the art of building a bridle horse and given the luxury of taking as long as it took. She's sound, sane (ish) and ready to go if the road to showing opens up again.

I guess, what it comes down to is, as far as life and learning goes, I have always ended up with the horses I needed, at the time I needed them, whether I agreed or not.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brockle and Charlie Go to the Vet

"Bite a Chihuahua! I'm glad to get back in the car. That was awful. Looks like you're next Brockle. Hahahahahaha!!!!"

"Whatever. Can you see me sniffing this bush through the windshield? Yep. Oooh, couple of short dogs peed here, you definitely could have peed higher on the bush than they did. Oh, wait, you missed this one didn't you? So sad, see me sniffing here Charlie? Whoa baby, what is this? A girl dog? Is it true?? She's in heat! Wow Charlie, too bad you missed this, it smells better than a baby eating pudding."

"Let me out! Let me out! Son of a Meter Reader, this is NOT FAIR!!!

"What's that Charlie? Can't hear you locked up in the car like can watch me pee all over this bush though. Ahhhhhh."

15 minutes later:

"Dude, are you OK?"

"Well, yeah, why wouldn't I be? Charlie, I swear, you're turning into such a mailman."

"Weren't you afraid of the blindfold?"

"Um, what blindfold? They petted me and told me I was beautiful."

"Wait, are you telling me nobody stuck their finger up your butt?"

"Nope. Guess they were too busy kissing me and giving me cookies."


Monday, September 1, 2014

Conversations About Dogs with Dog Folk

   Annie Wilkes was closer to sixty than fifty. Quiet in a crowd, even with her own group. She had wary eyes, and the prairie wind constantly blew her tousled, unkempt hair into her eyes. Her shaky health made her unsure, the betrayal of her body made her restless and sad.
    "I had no idea what I was getting into. He wasn't even the dog I went to see.  He's the smartest dog I've ever had in my life. Also the most arrogant, mischievous and neediest, all wrapped up in a fluffy OCD package," she said.

   Mad Maxine was intelligent, sleek, beautiful and fit. She wore black, it highlighted her thick strawberry blond ponytail, pale skin and shiny black dog. A military career made her confident and gave her very good posture. She moved with power and grace, and was completely intimidating. Her dog was as lean and fit as she.
   "Your dog should be working on a ranch, people don't think before they get a dog, they get one because it's pretty, then everybody pays. If a person needs a pet than they should get a lap dog with medium intelligence at best," she said.

"Adult rescue dogs are notoriously unsuited for farm and ranch work. They have enough to overcome to become a decent pet, much less become a working dog,"

"The reason they're so screwed up is because people get dogs they have no business having," Mad Maxine said.

"Exactly my point. My dog was a three time return to the pound when I adopted him. He was never, ever going to see a ranch. Now that he's with me, he's been exposed to horses, cattle, goats, barn fowl...funny thing is, he has absolutely no interest in any of them. His primary focus is to keep me safe. He's the one bright light in a very difficult time of my life."

A long, uneasy silence ensued. Annie Wilkes raked her hair back with her fingers.

The young woman squared her shoulders and put a hands on each knee . It was clear she wasn't the type to fiddle with her hair. "When I picked my dog I knew exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a hiking companion. The bitch was a purebred shepherd and the stud cleared an eight-foot fence."

"I guess you knew they'd be athletic."

 "The pups were structurally correct with good temperaments. I visited the litter several times, sat with them and watched them. I didn't want the biggest or the smallest. I rejected the ones that crawled all over me and the ones that were shy."

"That was certainly pragmatic of you."

"There were four that were right in the middle. One was happy and playful when I messed with her, but when I ignored her, she walked off a few feet, sat down and studied me while I played with the other pups. I knew she was the one and she's been perfect."

"That's exactly how my Dad picked his hunting dogs when I was growing up. He could pick outstanding dogs. I tend to go with my gut."

"You mean you are completely emotional instead of realistic."

"I think it's more of an instinctive feel that I trust instead of following a guide from a how-to-pick-a-puppy article off the 'net. I was one of those kids that stray dogs followed home and I got along with all of them. I like dogs and they like me. I had specifics in mind when we chose each other too. I wanted a big dog, I like herding breeds, I knew I would eventually need a service dog, so I wanted brains. I need to walk an hour every day. He definitely met my criteria."

"Everybody likes dogs. I just think it's unfair to them if they live in a world they don't fit in. There's so much risk when you adopt a stray. You don't know what's been done with them or if they're structurally sound. I'd like to hunt my next dog. I'll probably go to Europe and get a couple of good ones, I'll raise them to be proper hunting dogs, I won't have to deal with unexpected problems, like shyness, aggression, or separation anxiety-- I'll know they're worth my investment." Mad Maxine stretched and crossed her legs at the ankles.

"I completely understand, "Annie Wilkes said. "If I was going to pursue this," she waved her hand towards the field where they worked their dogs, "I would invest in a sport specific breed. The thing is, I would never have learned this discipline, or met this group of people, if my dog hadn't brought me here.We came to resolve the training issues that he came with, found some talent, and now I'm learning something brand new."

"I'm only here because I ran out of things to teach my dog," Mad Maxine said." She has obstacles down pat, obedience was a walk in the park, Frisbee is a given, I have to keep her occupied." She reached out and stroked her dog's sleek, black coat.

Lenny Small was close to the older woman's  age, battered by life, gentle and a little tired. He followed the conversation with interest. His dog was a lovely shepherd, gentle like her owner. He leaned forward and looked earnestly at the young woman.
"Have you seen Annie's dog work? He's got the best obedience in the group and his protection work is coming on like a train. He's a nice dog."

"Thanks Lenny," Annie Wilkes smiled and leaned back in her chair. "You've missed a lot while you were waiting for your dog to heal from her surgery. My dog has come a long way. The guys seem to enjoy figuring out his off the wall mind-set. Your dog tore an ACL?"

"Both hind legs." The young woman grimaced.

"Wow, that's awful. How old is she?"

"Almost three."

"That's terrible. I'm so sorry. I hadn't even heard of an ACL surgery before I came here. Thank goodness our trainer, Clyde Beatty  taught me how important it is to work young dogs low until they're two. It never would have occurred to me to wait to let my dog jump for his ball or over obstacles if it wasn't for him."

"It doesn't matter, I got her to hike with, so my goal is to get her to where she can hike again and be happy with that. I'll make sure my next dog has the breeding to stay sound."

"So you think it's poor breeding that made her tendons snap instead of a training decision, or, like it could have been if I hadn't listened to Clyde, a lack of knowledge?"

The pause grew until Lenny Small broke in.
"Breeding doesn't always run true. Look at my girl here. She's Czech bred, from a long line of competitive and working dogs, but she has no bite, none at all. Her brother, on the other hand, is a maniac."

Clyde Beatty entered the conversation.
"There's more to the story than that. Our "maniac" was a middle-of--the-litter puppy. He was loaded with prey drive, but had a decent temperament. He was almost two before he turned on, and then we got more than we needed. He's a great dog, but we still don't trust him with the public. Sometimes you can have genetics and training in place and still not get what you were looking for."

"This comes back to the draw for adoption or rescue," Annie said."I was able to assess my dog's temperament and conformation before I committed, because he was older. I'm not an expert, but once a dog is a year or so I can spot things like bad hips and shoulders or erratic behavior."

"Except you said yourself, you came here because he was much more dog than you expected and you've talked about his anxiety and separation problems," the young woman said.

"That's true, I think where you're missing my point when you assume I care about those things. I like dogs. I like learning new things. I'm as interested in learning how to help his separation anxiety as I am teaching him to stop an intruder.When I get a dog, I can't wait to see where they take me. In my lifetime I learned to aim a few inches below a ducks feet in order to make my shot. No matter how I try, I jump when I pull the trigger. If I hadn't been hunting over a couple of good field labs I never would have known that. I learned when a good pair of vermin dogs is on the hunt, one is the runner and the other lies in wait. I've watched them strategise in order to hunt prairie dogs, pigeons, rabbit and mice. I learned a good basset hound can follow a three day old track and will never learn to quit getting high centered on a fallen tree. Now I'm learning how to train my own service dog and if you decide to try to hurt me, well, my dog will eat your ass." She smiled down at her dog. "This dog is a new adventure every day."

"I guess I want more control of my outcome," Mad Maxine said.

"You told me you ran out of things to do with your dog, which brought you here."

"Except I wanted an intelligent dog, I chose her on purpose."

"You certainly succeeded, just look at the adventures she has brought you."

Lenny Small looked over at Annie Wilkes and fondled the ears of his adored dog, who defied her breeding with her gentle soul. Annie smiled back, took the ball from her wound up, hairy beast and drew back to throw it out onto the field, taking care to keep her big galoot from stomping the sore hind legs of the beautiful black shepherd mix.

The conversation drifted to whether a Beuceron was better suited for guard or protection work as the sun rose high over the training field.