Sunday, June 24, 2012

"We Shall Not Cease From Exploration"

Over the last hundred years some wonderful people have given or sold land bequests back to their local towns to keep as open spaces for all of us to enjoy. Towns come together to share responsibility for stewarding these places, and they partner with state and federal agencies to manage them. The Goss family aggregated some 583 acres in Guilford along the East River, and after years of allowing public recreation, they sold it to the town in 2009.

Jeremy told me about it, and a few days ago, we found the entrance and took a quick loop around the first big meadow. However, it was one of the hottest, haziest days of the year, so we didn't stay long, and I didn't take any pictures.

However, I went back there today with the dogs, including our new friend Riley, and struck a bit deeper into the preserve.

The East River is quiet, windy, and tidal at this point, so I was able to dip the dogs into it after a few minutes of running in the meadow. While it was quite a bit cooler today, I still wanted to get the dogs wet before they did too much sprinting about.

This is my route. The trail systems are still in development as the town plans and clears more trails. There's a very old blue-blazes here and there, and much of new trails are clearly based on some old, informal trails. So it's a bit confusing. I also only explored a fraction of the 583 official acres of the preserve, despite the fact that I was out there for 6.72 km (4.18 mi).

The best pictures came from the meadows. They're old farm fields that are maintained as open areas. The paths are mown around the edges, close to the line of the woods. That's clearly done very regularly, and the meadow itself is short and uniform enough that I'd guess it's hayed at least a couple of times a summer. Riley really enjoyed bounding through the grass.

Jax gave Riley a lesson in racing back on command. Riley's still working on developing a reliable recall, so I took lots and lots of opportunities to encourage him to come back and to reward him strongly for doing so. I've crouched down here with the camera for a better angle on the running dogs, but crouching can also encourage a dog to come all the way to you.

It was quite a trick to get a good shot, slip the camera back into the bag, and to have my hands free in time to reward the pups, but I did OK.

Even though the dogs didn't run into the heart of the meadow, since we always want to avoid disturbing birds and other creatures that nest on the ground in such places, our presence on and near the mown path was enough to spook a few birds up into the trees at the verge. Some are really easy to ID, like Red-winged Blackbirds and Barn Swallows, but this guy was a bit more difficult. After a bit of review and research, though, I'm fairly certain he's a juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird.

I'm looking forward to coming back again and again to find what else this space has to offer. Apparently, there's some old-growth forest hidden somewhere in the uplands, and while there's no trail map I can find of this place, I'm perfectly willing to turn on my GPS and go looking.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

When to Wear a Light Dog

I've borrowed another Golden for the week. Riley is boarding with us and learning how to respond to his name despite distractions, how to come back reliably when called, and how to greet strangers politely. He's also getting schooled in deep water stick wrestling.

He got plenty muddy in today's trip to the salt marsh. Mud shows a lot more on a lighter dog. Just something to consider when you're thinking about what shade of Golden Retriever suits your wardrobe.

Then off to home for a bath, towel dry, brush, and a quiet evening.

I do enjoy our dark gold boys' color, but there are certainly some occasions that merit a lighter shade.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


This is a petunia hybrid I bought a few weeks ago for our deck basket. Its original pot was about 4" across with three or so 9" flowering stems. Now it's a lovely, sprawling mess of streaked purple flowers. I also put four impatiens in to fill out the basket, but they're hardly necessary.

The hybrid's actually called a supertunia. I didn't just make up a silly pun (this time).

Monday, June 11, 2012

There's at least one C in Team

Comet is now four-and-a-half years old, and calling him a faithful companion doesn't do justice to the absolute loyalty and cooperativeness of this dog. I took him to be my demo and distraction dog at a private lesson this afternoon, and he made me look like a genius trainer. He snapped to attention at every command, pranced through every exercise with pizzaz, charmed the client with his manners, and played with the other dog like a gentleman. He even held his stays while the client and I were making silly noises and throwing treats at the other dog twenty feet away.

I'm a good dog trainer. I'm not the best or the most experienced or the most versatile trainer, not by a long shot, but I do OK. My communication is sometimes garbled, my consistency is mediocre, and my timing is only decent, but I'm patient, kind to my dog, and creative in finding ways to motivate him. Comet has made me a better trainer by showing a loyalty and a willingness to work that far, far outstrip my abilities as a handler. He inspires me to be a better human, even if I'll only ever be half as good a person or a trainer as he deserves.

Good dog.