Tuesday, June 21, 2011

holding pattern

First of all, I may need to come up with a new collective name for the congregation of dogs formerly known as Team Vizsla -- Bronx Chapter so I have a good shorthand moniker for Momo, Jozsi, Jake, and the fourth member of our road crew, Capo. And maybe, especially because I've been reliving my appreciation for Motörhead, The Road Crew may in fact need to be it.

We left New York and headed south for the Conestoga Vizsla Club Fun Day -- where I judged several dogs for the Field portion of their Versatility Certificates, and where Momo got to see his brother, Tavish, for the first time since they were littermates. As you can see, they share more than a little resemblance to each other.

I had then planned to long-haul it directly from VA to west TX in one giant 23hr leg. The reasons for considering this were that, with four dogs in tow, any fewer nights I could spend smuggling dogs into hotels would be a good thing. (Even pet-friendly hotels rarely accept more than two -- and for good reason.) And while I am sure the dogs would have adapted just fine, having two dogs in crates on my back seats, and two more dogs in wire crates in the bed, plus all the stuff I need for three months away from home, I wanted to minimize the possibility of any negative associations with road-tripping -- although arguably Jake has more road miles under his belt than most other dogs his age. The primary reason for making Woodson, TX, our destination was also two-fold: Woodson is the home for Jones Trailer Company where we were picking up our new dog trailer, and fairly close to Alvord, TX, home of Christie Saddlery. I've spoken to Lary Cox pretty regularly since I first started getting involved with trial dogs -- and, in person, too, he is one of the true gentlemen in this sport and a real master craftsman. He was kind enough to let me and The Road Crew recuperate for a day before we made our next jump to Magdalena, NM.

In the meantime, we'd already started to hear the news and get the phone calls from Bill that there was a serious fire in the White Mountains. As of writing right now, the Wallow Fire has become the largest fire in Arizona's history and while 51% contained, there is still a lot of dry fuel on the ground, unpredictable winds, and no start in sight to the summer monsoon season.

Even though it was no longer en route, we dropped down to Magdalena to see Libby and Steve again, to enjoy a home-cooked gourmet meal, drop off some more ammunition for the Sidley that I'd since found in the garage, and catch up on gun and dog gossip. When I got there, I knew that that US60 to Springerville was already closed and there was a solid pall of smoke off to the west. After a fabulous dinner of mushroom risotto, the examination of firearms new and old (Steve's new Ithaca, my Holloway &
Naughton), spirited conversation, and a breakfast at the Magdalena Cafe, I headed east and north back up to Albuquerque to skirt around to Phoenix via Flagstaff. The wind had clearly changed direction and the soot and smell of the Wallow Fire were clearly discernible some 170miles away.

It was nice to come through Flagstaff and spend an extra day with
Denise and Steve -- and for them to also finally meet our dogs. Having a fenced-in yard, a dog trailer, and access to public land to run the dogs was a real blessing. I hauled the dogs over to Marshall Lake to give them all room to really stretch and was really pleased to see both little Jake and Capo really get their legs under them and handle for me. This picture is of Momo and Capo watching a random pair of ducks hidden in one of the few damp, marshy spots -- and I love her intensity and style. She's taken to life on the road and to training like a real treat.

For now, at least, then we're based down in Phoenix and getting up at 3am so's we can get to our training grounds to start at 5am. For now, at least, Momo and Jozsi are making do with kennel life and getting run twice a week; Capo is part of the regular training string and coming along really, really nicely; and Jake gets to beat up on two of Bill's puppies every night. We did take Jake, Tina, and Fey out on Sunday to let them all stretch their legs and get used to handling and going with us. Tina and Fey are from a repeat breeding of Hytest Skyhawk and Tekoa Mountain Phoenix ('Remi') that produced Bill's two, nice Derbies, Jack and Jill. They are roughly a week younger than Jake who turned 4mos old the day we were out. I love this picture of Fey thinking she's about to ambush Jake who's in full tilt. (She failed.)

All of The Road Crew have been getting used to the various prickers, stickers, lizards,
jackrabbits, mourning doves, and decomposed granite underfoot and in front of them. Figuring out how to extract a cactus spine from a pointer puppy's tongue was an interesting, novel challenge -- I imagine he'll think twice about trying to lick spines out of his foot pads. Nevertheless, he has been showing both really nice initiative and an attentiveness to me that is reassuring in lots of ways. This picture came out really nicely with the arm of McDowell Peak in the background and the simple colors of the sky, path, mountain and dog.