Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year and happy blue moon! Cory, the kitties (Tyler is pictured above since he did not cooperate for his Christmas pictures) and I are looking forward to our second long weekend in a row. Last weekend, of course, was spent doing family things and enjoying a visit with my sister who lives in Taipai. This weekend is mine, all mine, and we are entered in an agility trial starting as soon as we get out of here at noon today and every day through the weekend. Plus we'll probably enjoy dinner with friends to celebrate the New Year tonight, although we'll all be in bed early so we can be back at the show at the crack of dawn tomorrow! I figure it IS a blue moon, so maybe Cory will do well!

This blog is now officially a year old and I must apologize for my lack of postings of late, and my laziness when staying on topic. I promise to do better and do more veterinary and training related posts this year. I am working on a couple coming up but am trying to wait to get some video to go along with them. My New Year's resolution is to do better!

So on to a new year and a new decade; Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An exercise in futility....

Two cats, one dog, three Santa hats, three jingle bell collars and a camera, plus a little fresh turkey for treats...seems like that SHOULD be all you need to get good Christmas pictures. The truth is that I needed at least half a dozen helpers and a staple gun to have had any hope of success!

Here's the best we could do; I'm not thrilled with any of them but maybe we'll try again later. Pictured are Cory and Toby; Tyler declined to be photographed.

Why didn't we take the pictures in front of the tree, you ask? Given that I have two 8 month old kittens this year who climb the door frames and the posts in the basement, I thought this might be a good year to skip a tree...we made due with outdoor lights and half a dozen poinsettias instead and left the rest of the Christmas decorations boxed up in the garage this time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

When Pigs Flu.....

You can't turn on the news these days without hearing about "flu" of one sort or another. Swine flu, avian flu, dog makes the head swim! Here is a brief synopsis of the significance of influenza to your pet. I have no flu pictures, so I decided to belatedly post some halloween pictures instead!

This is my very favorite Halloween costume ever- our beloved "Grouch" who passed away last December dressed as him namesake, Oscar the Grouch. You have to admit there is a distinct resemblance! (note: green Kool Aid does NOT come out of the fur. For a very long time).

Back to the flu. Type A influenza viruses can affect many different species. In GENERAL, influenza virus is species specific- that is, dog flu affects only dogs, not humans. However, type A influenza viruses are known to mutate and cross species, which is why a while back we had a big concern about avian (bird) flu and this year's hot topic is swine flu. In the case of canine influenza (H3N8), it is thought to have mutated from the equine flu virus. Canine flu first showed up about five years ago in groups of racing greyhounds. It is common practice to feed these dogs raw horsemeat and it is thought that that may have been a factor in the virus jumping species (just one of many reasons we do NOT recommend feeding raw meat). The outbreaks at greyhound tracks have occurred in clusters and seem to have a higher incidence of severe disease than the cases we see in the general canine population. The largest number of cases have occurred in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, but cases have been reported in more than 30 states including Ohio and Kentucky.

Here is Cory's costume for this year- Peter Pan, which seemed appropriate! Unfortunately I forgot my camera and had to make due with my cellphone, so the quality is not the best!

Because canine influenza is a relatively new virus, very few dogs will have any natural immunity and the morbidity (rate of infection) may approach 100%. Approximately 20% of dogs affected will show no clinical signs, but will be contagious to other dogs. The vast majority of dogs will show mild symptoms similar to "kennel cough" syndrome- initially sneezing and nasal discharge followed by a cough which is characteristically a softer cough than the "goose honk" we hear with kennel cough. Fever may be present (rarely seen with kennel cough). A small percentage of dogs may develop the severe form of the disease which presents as rapid progression to severe, often hemorrhagic pneumonia. Racing greyhounds seem to be much more likely to develop the severe form. Less than 1% of dogs who are exposed will die of the disease. Dogs may be contagious BEFORE developing symptoms, which can make controlling spread of disease difficult.

Stevie, our clinic cat, dressed as "The Little Mermaid" this year. His costume is a little difficult to appreciate (sadly the bikini top and tail are hard to see!) but the expression on his face says it all!

Last spring a vaccine for canine influenza was given conditional approval. At this time we are not recommending its use for our patients. In general, we try to avoid using new products such as this the first year it is available, particularly when it does not have full approval as is the case with this vaccine. Locally canine influenza does not appear to yet be presenting a significant threat. In addition, it is important to know that this vaccine does NOT prevent your dog from developing symptoms; it decreases the severity of the symptoms and lessens the length of time the vaccinated dog is contagious to other dogs.

At this time, canine influenza does not appear to pose a significant health threat to our patients as the overall incidence in our area is low, and the vast majority of dogs who do become sick will have relatively mild symptoms. It is important to keep in mind however that some dogs do develop more serious symptoms; our recommendations for vaccination may change if the disease becomes more prevalent. It is likely that dogs who are most at risk would be dogs who attend dog shows and training classes, stay at boarding kennels, or go to the groomer or dog park. If more cases of canine influenza begin appearing, our recommendations for these dogs may change.

This is Boris Wedig, one of our patients who sends us pictures of his Halloween finery each year. Boris and Stevie seem to share a similar opinion of dressing up...they think it is more trick than treat!

Canine flu has not been reported in people and is not considered a health risk to humans. However, in the news last week it was reported that a cat had been diagnosed with swine flu (H1N1) which it appeared to have contracted from its human owners. This appears to have been another case of a type A influenza virus jumping species. Also within the past few weeks there have been a handful of cases of H1N1 reported in pet ferrets. Ferrets in general are more susceptible to the influenza viruses than dogs and cats, and so it is not totally surprising that this could occur. At this time, it is not believed that cats or ferrets (or other household pets) will harbor the swine flu virus and serve as a source of infection to humans- it actually appears that the opposite was true and the humans transmitted the disease to the animals.

Based on our knowledge of influenza viruses, it is wise that if you are experiencing symptoms of flu that you avoid close contact not only with human family members but with your pets as well (no sleeping on the bed!) and wash your hands frequently. The same holds true if your pets are the ones with symptoms. The risk of transferring infections is very, very low, but not nonexistent. Also, it is more important now than ever that if your dog develops respiratory symptoms such as sneezing or coughing that you see your veterinarian to ensure that any evidence of severe disease is caught as early as possible. Our diagnostic lab is now offering a panel which tests for the eight most common causes of canine upper respiratory disease. This panel is not inexpensive and is not something we would necessarily recommend for every dog with symptoms, but for dogs with more serious evidence of disease or who may serve as a source of infection for large numbers of other dogs it may be a valuable source of information.

Natasha Wedig, Boris' "sister" in her Minnie Mouse outfit. She doesn't look any happier than Boris and Stevie!

So follow the common sense advice above, be vigilant and observe your pets closely for respiratory symptoms, and stay tuned for new developments. We hope both you and your pets stay healthy and happy this flu season!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Deja vu all over again...

Cory and I went to Zanesville OH this weekend for the Parkersburg Obedience Training Club's agility trials. It was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL weekend to drive and the leaves were much more changed there than here. We had a great time although Cory was in "butthead" mode most of the weekend. We had no Qs, but he did try very hard for me on the standard course. We were 100% in all three classes for startline stays, contacts, and no knocked bars, so we are getting there...

The first video is of Cory's standard run this weekend and the second one is of his dad Andy almost 10 years ago when he was still a young green dog. It is amazing how little has changed! (including my hairstyle and my handling; you would have thought I'd have learned something in that time frame. And I think I still have that shirt in my closet). I HAVE apparently done a better job of training contacts as Cory doesn't creep down the contact like his dad (although I have no complaints because Andy was pretty reliable on his contacts, though he would push if I let him). When I watch video of them running though they are SO alike in so many ways. Not all of them good!

Sorry about the quality in Andy's video; I stopped taping our runs because I was tired of seeing my big butt and now I regret hardly having any video of him!

I am so lucky to have had two dogs with such drive and enthusiasm. They truly are a joy to train and live with. Even if I do gripe about Cory all the time :-). That's half the fun!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Off to the Smokies Part 2- agility trial!

My pictures finally came so I can finish telling you about our North Carolina trip! To pick up where I left off, we drove down to our cabins on a Tuesday night and spent Wednesday and Thursday relaxing with the dogs and doing just a little sightseeing. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were entered in the Blue Ridge Agility Club's trials. Prior to this, Cory has been entered in standard only 3 or 4 times primarily to practice his startline stays and contacts. The last time I ran him was last December at our club's trial in the FAST class, where he did come close to Qing. In fact, that was the last trial I had been to and the last time I ran Andy. I knew Cory still wasn't ready, but time was catching up with us and I had to get motivated to start really training again. Since we were there, and this club had absolutely the BEST entry fee package, I figured what the heck and gave it a shot. I didn't really expect to qualify but thought we could sort of see where we were and evaluate. I was a little worried about running him in jumpers as stringing together long jump sequences is where we start having problems (he is way too handler focused and doesn't send well yet, especially to jumps), but we needed to see how bad the issue would be on a full course with a full head of steam.

My roomates Kathy and Sharon did not have to be to the trial until later, so I was first up and on the road from my cabin. You guessed, it, more rain. Luckily this trial was held at a really nice, outdoor covered horse arena with near perfect footing for me. Driving through the mountains that morning was really beautiful, and I was zooming along in quite a good mood when suddenly it occurred to me that this was the first agility trial I had been to since Andy died. Not only that, but other than Levi's very first agility trial at the sheltie national way back in 1997, it was the first agility trial I had EVER gone to without Andy- he came along just a couple of months after Levi got that first leg and went with me to every trial from then until he died. I admit I got a little teary; I still miss my boy every single day and one of the reasons that I haven't really worked Cory in agility much is that I just get a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach running without Andy. As I was driving and sniffling a little bit, I noticed the song on the radio- it was an old country song by Ricky Van Shelton called "Wild Man". That was what I would always call my Andy at the agility trials- when we headed over to line up for our turn in the ring I would always tell him "Come on, wild man" and he knew that it was his turn to run. The words of the song kept repeating "I'm a wild man, that's what I am"...almost like Andy was letting me know a little piece of him would be with me at every trial for the rest of my life. I'm not really one to believe in "signs" so much....but I don't believe much in coincidence either and what are the odds that that particular seventeen year old song would be playing on the radio?

I miss you, my little wild man. I'm glad I have a piece of you in your son, but it still will never be the same.

But on to Cory! I have to say that, despite the LONG days this club's trial was very nice, the facility was great, the setting was beautiful (when we could see it through the pouring rain!), the food was EXCELLENT and the courses were without exception flowing and fun. Plus we had real indoor bathrooms! I wish I had pictures of the mountains surrounding all four sides of the arena to show you, but sadly the weather was just too icky to get any. We definitely could appreciate WHY they're called the Smokies, though! At times it was like something out of a Tolkien novel.

I was SO proud of Cory- all weekend, through 8 classes, he had intense focus and energy; he NEVER lost it and ran amuck, and he tried very hard 100% of the time to play by my rules. His startline stays were solid (well, ok, he blew one but it WAS partly my fault), his contacts were great, and he even hit both weave pole entries the first day on the first try! The rest of the weekend we had almost all right sided poles and I think he got them all on at least the second try. It took his dad a LONG time for me to be able to say that! He does need to learn to drop his head and drive through a little more- he still has a lot of wasted motion, but that will come with experience.

I was especially pleased with his jumpers runs. We have definite issues with stringing together more than 2 or 3 jumps- he gets very revved up and starts to spin back and bark at me. He is VERY sensitive to my body language which is not at all precise, and way too handler focused. He sends to the weaves or contacts much better than to jumps. The course the first day was really a good one for us with "bowtie" loops so I didn't have to run too hard to keep up and he did much better than I expected. Day two we had to sit on the startline for about an eon while some course adjustments were made; the course was not so good for me and I needed to do a long lead out pivot which he is not really solid on to keep myself in position. He held the startline stay for a lead out long enough that we didn't both fit in the frame of the video camera even zoomed out all the way, but missed the pivot and got stuck in a spin cycle we never recovered from. Day three he broke his only startline stay of the weekend; I broke my cardinal rule of NEVER allowing my dogs to continue (I can honestly say I don't think I have ever failed to carry my dogs off if they broke their stay). I hesitated long enough to pull him off his weave pole entry, but ultimately decided we needed practice running full courses more than startline stays. I think in this case it was a good decision- we worked the stays separately afterwards, he held both of them later in the day, and he actually had a MUCH better run than I expected with only two places we got sticky- one due to needing more training and one due to me just being too slow. The improvement from Saturday to Sunday was immense, and I was so pleased.

I was really happy with our standard runs; I think he will Q in standard soon. We came very close on Sunday. He had great runs on Friday and Sunday; on Sunday I forgot which dog I was running and didn't support his contact sends well enough and he ran by each one- very unusual for him. BUT we didn't have a single spin until we got to the very last jump- a tough for us sequence of tunnel-jump-chute- jump and out, so you can imagine how far behind I was when we got to the last jump. His contact performances were very solid. On Saturday I pushed it just a little too far; we had a dogwalk-tunnel-aframe sequence and when he came out of the tunnel he wanted to "buzz" by me once before hitting the aframe; I held him on the frame contact a LONG time thinking I would settle him down (and also to let me cross in front and get into position) and after a LONG time he did pop off before I released him and I carried him off. I really regretted that after I thought about it though, as he probably waited 10-15 seconds- an ETERNITY in agility time- on that contact while I strolled into position- that's a lot to ask of a green dog! I shouldn't have pushed it.

But the best part of the weekend was Cory actually Q'd and placed second in FAST on Friday! FAST is a "games" class; you have 30 seconds to accumulate points. Each obstacle is worth a certain point value. To qualify you have to accumulate a certain number of points AND successfully complete the "send", which is a sequence of obstacles where you "send" your dog across a line and handle the sequence from a distance without crossing the line. Once the 30 second whistle blows, you lose one point for every second it takes you to jump the "out" jump and stop the timers. It is great fun and nice for novice dogs as you can reattempt obstacles if you need to, or avoid obstacles your dog isn't ready for (as long as they aren't in the send).

He SHOULD have qualified in FAST on Saturday as well, if his dumb handler had paid more attention when she walked the course. FAST and standard ran in the same ring, and in standard both days before running fast the course started with jump-dogwalk. I set him up for the opening in FAST on Saturday with jump- teeter- not even thinking that he was pattern trained to expect the dogwalk, and being a greed dog, would have difficulty telling the teeter and dogwalk apart when approached straight on. You guessed it, he flew off the teeter quite spectacularly- I don't think it dropped at all and he ran right off the end; "yelled" at me by barking with teeth showing that it was all my fault but did a great job when we reattempted it; I think this may have been the reason we had the contact run bys the next day too- he wanted to get a good look at them. Sadly he knocked the bar on the double in the send or we would have had Q number two. Oh well, c'est la vie. I learned an important lesson about looking at things from my dog's perspective and in the context of the whole weekend.

Running Cory was like deja vu in many cases- he is SO like his father in so many ways, especially when Andy was young and first starting out. I guess that means I haven' t learned anything and have made the same training mistakes! He does care a lot more about playing by my rules and he tries REALLY hard to do things right though- Andy played by my rules only because I'd carry him off if he didn't, he always thought he had a new and improved way to do things! This weekend was a great bonding experience for Cory and I- we had just started to come together as a team when Andy died, and left alone together we kind of had to redefine our relationship. I think Cory had the best time of his life all week with the agility trial being the cherry on top of the sundae.

Since getting my new laptop moving pictures and video around in blogger is a pain- not sure why, same software and OS but that's Vista for you- so I'm not going to post any video here, but maybe I'll post one of Cory running and one of Andy when he first started for comparison later. Now I have the bug again, we are entered in Zanesville next weekend and at our club's trial next month and are back in class again. I have set up the longest send I can manage in my basement (about 50 feet- he bounces most of the jumps) and as of last night Cory can now send over 5 jumps to the table OR call off after 4 to the tunnel on the left, all while I am sitting on the couch in front of the TV. We haven't quite managed to direct him off to the side to the baby dog walk after the table without me getting up though. Maybe by next week!

Our fun was not dampened in the least by the weather nor the fact that I-75 was closed on the way home and it took the better part of an hour to detour around it (a few members of our group were stuck sitting there for FIVE OR SIX HOURS! YIKES!) . Nor by the amount of red dirt ground into Cory's white furnishings; we actually borrowed a hose at a gas station on the way home and blasted the worst of it off of him! We also really tried to take his picture in front of "Flealand" which has billboards all over down in southern KY, but their directions weren't very good and I couldn't find it! I really wanted that shot!
Thanks to VW Perry and Furry Fotography for the great pictures!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Premium Edge by Diamond Cat food recall

Diamond foods has announced a recall of their Premium Edge cat foods. Several cases were posted in the past 1-2 weeks on our veterinary computer network, and thanks to some astute detective work and a little bit of luck, a rash of cats with severe neurologic symptoms was tracked down to food that was deficient in thiamin, most likely due to poor quality control during processing.

My personal opinion in this case...Diamond is involved WAY too often in recalls with fairly serious implications. This is something I worry about with many of the specialty "boutique" type foods, typically sold only through pet stores, generally at the high end of the price range, but often from smaller companies who just don't have the resources to maintain the safety and quality control of some of the larger companies. Often they are rated quite high on lists produced by companies such as the Whole Dog Journal; but their ratings seem to be based only on label comparisons which tell only a small part of the story. As a matter of fact, WDJ's top rated food was involved in a huge recall several years ago in which a number of dogs died; the actual source of the problem was never identified to my knowledge but a number of problems and deficiencies with the diet were identified in trying to track down the source of the problem.

I think also you have to be aware of and differentiate between industry wide issues, such as the big melamine problem a couple of years ago; recalls for minor issues to be on the safe side, and recalls in which serious illness or death occurred due to quality control and processing issues. The latter issue is one that I look at when evaluating food quality. Buyer beware!

Diamond Pet Foods has withdrawn from distribution the following date codes of Premium Edge Finicky Adult Cat and Premium Edge Hairball cat: RAF0501A22X 18lb., RAF0501A2X 6 lb., RAH0501A22X 18 lb., RAH0501A2X 6lb. The calls from pet owners or veterinarians regarding this issue have been centered in the Rochester, NY area. All retail outlets shipped the above lots were contacted, asking them to pull the product from the store shelves. The retailers were also asked to contact their customers via email or telephone requesting them to check the date code of the food. However, if you or anyone you know has these date codes of Premium Edge cat food, please return them to your retailer. Symptoms displayed by an affected cat will be neurological in nature. Any cats fed these date codes that display these symptoms should be immediately taken to a veterinarian.Product testing proved no contaminants were discovered in the cat food; however the cat foods were deficient in thiamine. Diamond tracked the vitamin premix lot number that was utilized in these particular cat foods and have performed testing on another lot of Premium Edge cat food that used the same vitamin premix, and it was not deficient in thiamine. No other neurological signs have been reported on any other product manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How Tyler ruined my laundry room floor....

I kept coming in and finding huge amounts of water on the laundry room floor, and thought that the waterer I had bought the cats must be leaking. After only a day, my linoleum started to warp and bubble; turns out there was a small cut in it under the dryer (presumably from the dryer feet) and the water got under it there. So now I may have to have my linoleum and subfloor replaced....all because of the @#$%*! kittens- because it turns out there WAS no leak, there was just mischief afoot. Remind me again why I wanted kittens?


WHHOOOOOODEEEEEEYYYY!!!!! A big whoodey to my Bengals for beating the Steelers at home yesterday. It's been a LONG time coming! The satisfaction I got from the looks on the Steelers faces is indescribable.

Here's a picture of one of my patients, Darla Sparks, that her owners brought me on Saturday. Darla is trying out for "linebarker" for the Bengals! Isn't she cute?

And here's Cory after the game with his Bengals bandana on . You can't see it with all the fur, but it says "Whodey" too. He is not allowed to wear it until AFTER the game because every time I put Bengals gear on my dogs it jinxes them. Cory has decided he is NOT a football fan; I do a lot of yelling and he's just not sure I might not be mad at HIM, so he spends most of the game in the bedroom. The bandana is not his personal favorite either.

Part two of our Smokies trip is on hold waiting for the pix from the agility photographer, so I thought we'd take time out for this little bit of gloating.

Now on to Cleveland!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Off to the Smokies part I

Last summer some of my "doggy friends" planned a fall vacation in the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. Several of them went last year and had a great time; they rented several cabins, took the dogs, and had a great week of hiking and sightseeing. My friends Kathy and Sharon had rented a three bedroom cabin and were encouraging me to come along; initially I didn't think I could get away. However, after thinking about it a while I decided that I hadn't had a vacation in several years; even the three and four day show weekends that I used to go to once or twice a year I had skipped lately as Andy got older. So I decided we deserved it and called and told Sharon that, barring any disasters, I would come along. It was about 15 minutes later that my work computer started making a siren noise, and that was the beginning of the great computer crash of 2009; but despite THAT disaster I decided to go anyway and we got the system up and running again in time.

The rest of the crew left on Sunday morning; I planned to work Monday and Tuesday and drive down Tuesday night. We only are open a couple of hours on Wednesday anyway so that left me with only two full days of work that we were closed (we usually close one Saturday a month on average anyway) and I could have five days of vacation (well, driving back the afternoon of the fifth day). I actually got away about 10 minutes early and was on the road with an ETA in Bryson City NC of 11 PM. I made great time and got through the mountains north of Knoxville before dark. Around 9 PM I got off I-40 at the Sevierville exit to get dinner; my original plan had been to take 40 all the way down to 74 and then go back west to Bryson City; it was longer than going through Gatlinburg but I had been told the traffic on the more direct route would be terrible. It sure LOOKED shorter on the map though, so I went back inside Wendy's and asked the cashier. She told me there was construction along the route, but at that time of night it should be fine. So I headed down 441 and got my first glimpse of Pigeon Forge and Gatlingburg. Interesting. Pirate ships, castles, and upside down building that looked kind of like the Parthenon....I definitely wasn't bored. I didn't hit a red light all the way through Gatlinburg and was making great time when suddenly the road narrowed, the trees closed in, and I was, apparently, in the Smokey Mountain National Park. What the girl at Wendy's had failed to tell me was that the end of the route turned into a narrow, windy road that went right up and over the mountains at their highest point. A narrow and windy enough road that, at one point, I passed gates that said "road closed for winter"- open, of course, at that point. Yikes. It was pitch black and I couldn't see more than six feet off the side of the road...not that there WAS anything six feet off the side of the road because, near as I could tell, it was a sheer drop off. No cars ahead of or behind me, only the occasional car passing, and no cell phone service. But it WAS more interesting than highway driving and we had no particular schedule to keep, so what the heck. I kept driving, it kept getting blacker and blacker, and the road kept getting steeper. Eventually I was going in and out of either mist, or clouds, and my average speed was probably 30 mph at best. I passed Clingman's Dome which I learned later was the highest point in the park; and let me tell you, though I couldn't see, I KNEW it was high because my ears were popping the whole time. As I started the descent on the opposite side, I felt like I was landing a plane- we went in and out of the clouds, ears popping, and I could hear that same cushiony silence outside the car that you hear when a plane lands. Weird. I was a happy to exit the park and find myself in Cherokee, a mere stone's throw from Bryson City AND my cell phone worked again. We arrived at the cabins just outside of Bryson City, down another steep, windy road at 11:30 with only one wrong turn.

HOWEVER, as I was unloading the car I kept noticing a burnt smell and eventually I noticed that my passenger side rear tire was nearly flat. Great. I think when I had missed that turn and pulled into a graveled area to turn around I must have picked up a nail. Someone was watching out for me though because I made it all the way to my destination before it went flat- if it had happened in the park I would have been in serious trouble.

The next morning I got up early to check out the status of my tire. Cory was ecstatic to see his buddy Baylin, Sharon's welsh springer, and Kathy's three poodles. We headed out to the parking area in front of the cabins and the dogs ran and ran to their hearts content. It's good to be free! However, the news on the tire was not so good. It was now totally flat. Ooops. (did I mention I was driving my dad's car, as I didn't trust the van to make it through the mountains?).

We walked down the road a little ways and Cory's day kept getting better. There was a small clearing; it normally was inhabited by the old fire engine above (I'm not sure why; bet you thought it was my car with the flat tire, didn't you?!) and a little log cabin that actually was originally someone's home years ago. However, it now also included weave poles, jumps, a tunnel, and a contact trainer. Waahoo! We played a little agility for a few minutes; it wasn't hot but the HUMIDITY was incredible. Then we headed a little further down the road and over a bridge to the two cabins where the rest of our friends were staying. At that point, Cory REALLY couldn't believe it- this was like Disneyland! All told we had eight people and 15 dogs (5 shelties, 3 border collies, 3 poodles, 2 GSD, a Brittany, and a Welsh Springer) in three cabins. Quite a crew!.

After meeting up with the rest of the group, I headed back to our cabin to wait for AAA to change my tire (and to unload all the junk in the trunk so we could GET to the tire). The plan had been to go rafting that day; I was a little leery of how I would manage with my bad knees (especially getting in and out) so when AAA still hadn't arrived and it was time to go, I sent the rest of the group on and elected to relax at the cabin with Cory for the day.

Here's our cabin with a nice front porch along the front. And below is the creek that runs right in front- you could actually sit on the porch and fish, probably, if you wanted to. There is a fire pit between them and a little deck with a hot tub. The pictures aren't the best because our entire trip was very overcast alternating with pouring rain; because we were both down in a valley AND had trees totally blocking out most of the sky, the lighting was not very good for photos. And sadly, I didn't see a single bird the whole trip, though I did hear a pileated woodpecker several times. I would have thought the place would be teeming with birds. I'm sure if I'd left my binoculars at home it would have been.

Here's our porch which worked perfectly for a "buffer zone" before the house when the dogs were wet and muddy. Unfortunately, before the group left for the rafting trip we found out the gate did NOT latch securely. How did we find this? When we came back to the cabin Cory was a bit muddy and I left him on the porch to dry while I went in to put a sheet over the bedspread and get a book; I planned to sit on the porch with him and wait for AAA. When I came out less than 5 minutes Cory. I wasn't TOO worried as I figured he had just headed straight back up the road either to the agility field or to see who would play with him at the other cabins....but when I retraced our steps, everyone had gone inside and Cory was nowhere to be seen. I was getting a little panicky but I figured he MUST have followed me back in and gotten shut in the bedroom- he wasn't one to go running off in the woods, he would go looking for people. So back to the cabin for a quick search and still, no Cory. Ok, NOW I was panicked. He was dragging a six foot lead on a choke collar and if he had gone into the woods he was sure to get tangled and stuck. I started back down the road calling and calling and then, thank God, I heard him bark. A few minutes later I could see him coming down the road with Sharon. He had indeed, apparently, headed up to the other cabins but when no one was outside to play with him he just kept going up the road where, surely, someone ELSE he knew would be just around the corner- that seemed to be how things worked around here! He went back a private drive (frighteningly close to the main road and WAY farther from our cabin that I ever thought he would have gone) where he found the owner, a permanent resident, on his porch. The man told me later Cory gave him quite a start as he had owned three shelties and when he first looked up he thought it was his first dog who had been dead for years. He called him and Cory being Cory (he is NOT one of those shelties who would have to be caught with a live trap!) he launched himself straight at him wiggling and kissing. I think we were lucky he was willing to give him back! Trust Cory to find a sheltie person! We found a bungee cord to secure the gate for the rest of the week and headed back with a BIG sigh of relief!

"Gosh mom, I was just trying to be neighborly"!
On Thursday six of our group took a train ride on the Smokey Mountain Railroad. It was a good time; you could ride in the "indoor" cars or in the open cars, which we opted for as they had a much better view. The train went through the mountains, around Fontana Lake (which apparently is a manmade lake which was created when a dam was built; a number of people were apparently forced off their land and the land was flooded- remember the scene in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou"?). We ended up parallelling the river where the rafting expedition had occurred the day before- the Tuckaseegee I think (although I couldn't quite understand the train conductor and in my head I kept calling it the Suckapeepee!). When we got to the end of the line, we dropped off a group who were rafting that day, then the train made a stop at the outfitters store where there was a restaurant. Most people got off to eat there, but we decided to be different (as well as lazy and safe, as it kept raining off and on and it was quite a walk down the tracks to the store). We ate in the train's dining car. I was quite disappointed when I wanted to reinact the scene from "White Christmas" and NO ONE else had seen it- for crying out loud, I'm the youngest one there! It was interesting although the food was pretty mediocre.

Our group- Sharon, Maryann S, Kathy, Maryann C, and Erica.

This looks like a shot the Brady Bunch would have done!

This cabin was built in 1866 by five brothers who all served in the civil war; only one came home. (although in thinking about it, the timing seems suspect to me- didn't the civil war start in 1863? If they were all serving who had time to build a house? At any rate, it made a good story).

Views of Fontana Lake. I was really disappointed in my photo ops this trip; the lighting was terrible generally and my technical abilities to capture the mist and cloud formations were nonexistant. I need to take a photography class!

This is why they call them the Smokies!

Rafters on the Tuckaseegee. Or Suckapeepee. Or whatever.

Sharon made a new friend at the model train mueseum after the trip. I'm not sure his intentions are honorable, though
Stay tuned for part two, our last half of the trip spent at the Blue Ridge Agility Club trials. And keep Erica's sister Chris in your thoughts and prayers. She was to have gone on the trip with us, but has gotten some tough health news that kept her home.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pony Penning...realizing a childhood dream Part 2

So...we arrived on Chincoteague in the early morning and found the tiny island absolutely packed with cars and tourists. We had arranged to park at the local high school and take a bus to the site of the pony swim. So, armed with bugspray and cool drinks we arrived at Memorial Park just across the channel from Assateague. We had considered the possibility of watching the swim from a boat, but the boats involved were mostly small fishing type boats, the wait could be half a day long, and our bladders were not up to the we opted to watch from the shore.

After what seemed like hours (and actually WAS several hours) finally a cry went up and we could see the pony herd in the distance approaching the channel.

If you look closely, you can see tiny figures in the pictures that are horses. These shots were taken with a 300 mm zoom lens. Your view here is actually MUCH better than our view from the had to use your imagination quite a bit.

See, those are ponies heads in the water swimming the channel. Somehow I had pictured a more intimate experience....

Once the ponies emerged on the Chincoteague side of the channel, they were driven through town to the fairgrounds where they were corralled to wait for the auction of the colts the following day. The first foal out of the water was raffled off; I of course bought a ticket and then found myself wondering what in the world I would do if I won. Wouldn't the ultimate irony just be to win a pony FINALLY, then have to think like an adult and realize I had nowhere to keep a pony, no time to spend with one, and was way to big to ride one! Thankfully I didn't win and wasn't faced with any tough decisions.

Here are some of the foals in the paddock; it actually started to rain around the time that they reached the fairgrounds and the whole area was generally hot, steaming and muddy. We didn't spend a ton of time at the fairgrounds as it seemed kind of anticlimactic.

All in all, the pony penning and swim was the least interesting part of the trip but I'm really glad I went. It definitely brought me back to my childhood and was something I'm so glad I got to do. I spent so many hours dreaming about going as a kid, I just couldn't pass the opportunity by! Next time, I would stay at the Maryland end of the island and spend more time there and get in some birdwatching (although I would like to see the Misty Museum, although I don't think the stuffed Misty is still there-not sure I need to see that!).

So mark one thing off of my list of "things I want to do before I die"!