Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gone Shopping

January 26, 2009
Athens, GA
Wuxtry Records

We walked to downtown Athens today since Tessa wanted to go record-shopping. After sadly noticing that "Freebird" had flown off and The Byrds were sold out, she started looking for "The Raven" in the Alan Parsons Project section.

Tessa is quite fond of the comic book store as well and likes to visit with Devlin, who knows just what to do to protect his merchandise from my wild child.

December 26, 2008
Athens, GA
Bizarro Wuxtry

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life With A GSP [2]

January 17, 2009
[getting comfy]

Like any dog, Tessa loves the bed, but there are rules. At first, I intended to play it as I did with my previous dog: not allowed in the bed, but on the bed, upon invitation only. Well, we had a few very cold nights and I don't leave the heat on so to help us both out, I allowed her in the bed and she is quite the cuddle bug so we got into this controversial habit. Some people say it may make hunting dogs more dependable on their human in the field; others say it can create dominance issues; still others find it objectionable in general; most people I know are more than happy to share their beds with their canine friends. I am still undecided. Either way, I will always make sure she understands that the bed is upon special permission only.

"Tessa, off!"

Arctic Blast Weekend [2]

January 18, 2009
Sandy Creek Park, GA

Back in our old hunting grounds, the fields and woods of Sandy Creek Park. As we came to the lake, Tessa simply went in. The Arctic Blast was actually short-lived, and we had a very pleasant afternoon, but the water surely must have been on the chilly side. Tessa thought so - pulling up her paws in disgust - but she kept on wading. I think she would have gone in had I thrown a stick out there but I didn't want to push our luck with the water temperature.

Upon our return to the main field we pointed and chased a huge flock of little birds.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Arctic Blast Weekend [1]

January 17, 2009Hard Labor Creek State Park, GA

The Arctic blast has arrived but didn't keep us from going on a little trip. Actually, it was much warmer than I expected, with temperatures rising out of the teens into the 30s and 40s. Our first pit stop was Hard Labor Creek State Park - its lake was partially covered with a thin layer of ice, so most definitely no wading.

From here we headed to the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in nearby Jasper County and walked the blue trail to the granite outcrop. The trail is not very well maintained and hard to locate with all the leaves on the ground, and I was pleased to see that Tessa sniffed it out with ease to and from. There were a few signs of life, in the form of feral hog damage to the trail, of which Tessa was especially fond - she tried to continued their work. Fortunately, the hogs had left, and all we saw were a few deer.

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center
[Blue Trail][Granite Outcrop]


Friday, January 16, 2009

You Talkin' To Me?

January 15, 2009
Sandy Creek Park, GA

As I happened to be off today, I took Tessa out to Sandy Creek Park for a long afternoon outing which included running over the fields, off-leash runs, play and training on the fenced baseball field, a walk through the woods (run for her) and a romp on the beach. This was the first day where she was not keen to get in the lake - she dipped her paw in the water and decided that it was entirely too cold even for her taste (the outside temperatures were in the 30s). Instead, she simply went nuts on the beach and displayed a lot of...Attitude, the kind with a capital A. Tessa is going to be seven months in a week, and I think the dreadful adolescence is starting to rear its ugly head. Overall, she is coming together nicely, slowly leaving puppyhood behind, learning how to restrain herself a little, starting to make a lot of "right choices" in regards to what to chew on and how to play nice. But there are moments when she is neither the cute little pup I once knew nor the good girl I know she is, but a prelude of what is to come. Soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009


January 12, 2009
[at home]

Tessa was in a lovely mood tonight. As we walked by a bus stop, she put on a spectacular dance show for everyone to watch. It started with very graceful side flips in front of this one girl: as I try to put Tessa in a sit on my left side, she gets up on her two hind legs, then bends her upper body sideways until her hind legs follow; after a brief moment suspended with all four in the air, she lands facing the girl, and starts over again.

I let her have at it, and she performed the move about 15 times or so while our audience grew. When it was time to move on, Tessa walked away on two legs, every few steps taking a little skip followed by a little shake of her hips hula-hoop style, and that's when everyone at the bus stop including myself bent over laughing so hard. It was too funny. [I shall add that I don't encourage Tessa's dancing because a) it's not exactly proper leash manners and b) I can't imagine it is good for her hips.]

At home she danced some more, in front of the book shelves too, so rather than correcting her, which I should have, I took some photos. The whole experiment ended a few moments later with some of the books being knocked down along with the gargoyle bookend which broke off one of his wings. Off to fetch Dr. Bond we go.

Dr. Bond is great. He can fix everything in seconds. EVERYthing. This stuff is not thick, its very much like water, and as I squirted it onto the gargoyle's shoulder wound somehow a lot more got out and ended up on both of my hands, and just like the warning label says, it DOES bond to skin seconds. That is because it contains cyanoacrylate, so vicious an adhesive that the FDA refused to approve it for the longest time. It can actually cause burns, and I had a substantial spillage of it on both hands. I tried everything to get it off to no avail. In my vivid imagination I envisioned myself with skin peeling off my fingers acid-burn-style so I called the poison control center (I did!) They were really nice but didn't really understand how I was able to call them on the phone, thinking my hands were stuck together. Because that's what usually happens...people glued to their dogs...lips stuck together...eyes glued shut....lucky me, it was just forming this film over my fingers. In the end, soaking my hands in soapy water and vegetable oil for about an hour and then scraping the glue off with a dull knife and a nail file and on the concrete patio outside did the trick. Thank God neither I nor Tessa swallowed any of it. That is supposed to be very unpleasant.

Lesson learned: no more dancing near fragile objects.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Best In Show

January 3, 2009
Garrison Arena, Pendleton, SC

Tessa and I drove to Pendleton, SC today to support Tessa's half-brother Porter, seen here on the left, who was shown for the first time. Porter is 7 months old and pretty dignified compared to my wild child. Tessa did her best to loosen him up some and eventually succeeded.

We also met Tessa's sister Tink (seen on the left with Jon), who will be introduced to the show ring in Atlanta in a few weeks. Tessa, Tink and Porter all came from Jubilee in Columbus, GA; they share the same sire, Fieldfine Jubilee Goldn Opportunity (Chance). My plans for Tessa were mainly to work her in different venues including field trials but we had fun at the dog show and who knows, we may join in one day - once she has acquired the necessary manners. In the meantime, we will visit with and support the Jubilee and Fieldfine GSPs, and get some exposure in the process.

Porter came home with a few ribbons but no points because there was basically no competition. No Best In Show either, of course, for our pups, but to me, they were the best ones of the show. Hands down.

Tessa is getting some secret advice from Jon.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2009
Calhoun Falls State Park, SC

On the road again on this first day of the new year. We left at sunrise, heading east on GA 72 towards South Carolina, where we stopped in Calhoun Falls for a little R&R. The last time I was here was in 2002 with my then 12-year old American Bulldog Yogi, who walked the same shoreline, albeit at a much slower pace than young Tessa who is really easy to exercise; always carrying the 30-ft check cord and her quail-scented tennis ball, we can stop anywhere and...well...have a ball...or two. Lakes are especially rewarding, as they offer everything a bird dog appreciates: water, birds, and grass.

From Calhoun Falls we headed to and through Abbeville, SC, and from there due north to Due West, and other small town such as Donalds, Honea Path and Belton. On our way back we passed this very neat gate along SC 412 in Anderson County - I would have loved to have Tessa pose here but she was not in the mood - difficult model sometimes - so all we have to show for is the cast iron silhouette of someone else's bird dog.

We crossed over to Georgia shortly thereafter and stopped at Lake Hartwell to walk the dam again, as we did on Thanksgiving Day. There was a large number of ducks down on the lake, but Tessa did not notice them, as much as I tried to point them out. Often, she is oblivious to the obvious, but in tune with a lot of other things I can't see. I can't remember what she was focusing on - probably some people approaching.

January 1, 2009
Hartwell Dam, GA

On The Road

December 30, 2008
Senoia, GA

After days of drizzle and rain, the sun finally showed itself and we went for a road trip that took us through Griffin, Barnesville, The Rock, Dog Crossing (yes, there is such a place, and I had to let my dog cross it), Thomaston, Senoia, Starr's Mill and Atlanta.

On the left, Tessa poses at Starr's Mill, with a heron in the background that she just would not notice. She did find a huge fat worm though and was trying to eat it, which was pretty disgusting. She had no interest in the historic significance of this place, the historic marker of which reads as follows: "The property that became Starr's Mill was owned by Hananiah Gilcoat who built the first mill here before his death in 1825. This site, on Whitewater Creek, was less than a mile from the boundary between Creek Indian lands and the State of Georgia. Hilliard Starr, who owned the mill from 1866 until 1879, gave the site its current name. After the first two log structures burned, William T Glower built the current building in 1907. This mill operated until 1959, using a water-powered turbine, instead of a wheel, to grind corn and operate a sawmill. The Starr's Mill site also included a cotton gin and a dynamo that produced electricity for nearby Senoia."

Dog Crossing is located in Upson County near The Rock. There actually is a book by Ed Grisamore called "Smack Dab in Dog Crossing". This is the one.

On our way back, we came through the big city. It was Tessa's first trip to Atlanta, and I don't think we need to bother again - what a place! How can people stand it? But I thought Tessa should get a glimpse of it. The photo below was taken through the windshield and shows Atlantic Station, a fairly new and still growing area in downtown Atlanta, the motto of which is "Life Happens Here" and "Work Live Play". I can see where they work and live, but where do they play? I'd rather work, live and play in Dog Crossing.

December 30, 2008
Atlanta, GA

Upon our return to Athens, we headed straight to Lake Herrick for a little detox. Here, she is in a solid "whoa" but without EVER taking her eyes off the Orbee.

December 30, 2008
Lake Herrick, Athens, GA

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2008

Christmas Eve started at 3:30 pm when the UGA Provost decided to let us go home early. Whereas many co-workers rushed home to get festive, I grabbed the dog and drove 6 miles to Sandy Creek Park to run her on this gloomy day before they close at 6 pm but alas! they had the same idea and were gone. We drove back to town and straight to the intramural fields which incidentally are walking distance from where we live...

15 minutes into our training and play session it started raining. Put the camera in the car and took Tessa back to the field on the check-cord to lunge her much like a horse - Tessa loves to run wide circles at the end of the 30-ft cord, and in a bind, it will do.

December 24, 2008
Lake Herrick, Athens, GA

For Christmas Day, we have been invited to join my friends' and adoptive family annual Coastal Christmas Extravaganza in Savannah, GA. We tried...we failed...Tessa's education has not progressed enough to make her eligible for the visit.

Tessa is still simply impossible around other people and whenever there is lots of interesting stuff to be found around the house - any house. We're working on it. But Christmas didn't wait for us to be done and I didn't see a way to pull off a Christmas party with 30 people which would include a pregnant woman, two toddlers, several elderly over 80, two of which had broken their hips before, another dog or two, a Christmas tree, presents, children's toys, decorations (orchids!) and food everywhere and all in easy reach. She would have DESTROYED that place. So it's just the two of us...not a bad thing, really. I'd rather have it this way, than not have her in my life at all. Because this is only one day, and my life is everyday.

December 25, 2008
Lake Herrick, Athens, GA

Christmas Day started just as gloomy as Christmas Eve ended, but in the afternoon, the sun came out for an hour and we headed to the intramural fields for a walk through the woods. It was a warm day - no jacket required, much less gloves or hat. In the photo below, Tessa jumps in pursuit of happiness in the shape of her Orbee ball. Many people commenting on this photo thought she looks like a golfer making an approach shot to the green.

December 25, 2008
Lake Herrick, Athens, GA

Let's Get Serious

December 21, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

"Whoa", along with "come" and "heel", is the most important command a bird dog needs to know. Of course, even if we never go hunting, any of these commands could come in handy in many situations. "Whoa" basically means "stop and don't move until I release you". I started teaching this at home by making her hold a "whoa" before each meal, then utilized and practiced this command when taking photos. We have now progressed to working with distractions and temptations; here, I tossed her Orbee ball, but she did not break the whoa. I even had plenty of time to take a few photos of her, until I released her by telling her to "fetch".It may look impressive but we are still a looooong way from where we need to be. Ultimately, she will need to come to a dead stop and stand still like that in the field, even if in pursuit of prey, with 100% reliabilty and no matter how far out she is, and that requires much more complex training setups.

The sit-stay on the other hand is easy to teach. First off, Tessa needs to sit before she gets what she wants: a meal, a treat, permission to come up on the bed, etc. It is also our counter-command (no pun intended) when she counter-surfs - she knows the meaning of "off" and I use it, but I found it more effective to replace the action of jumping with the action of sitting politely, especially while I am preparing her meal, probably because once a dog sits, it requires one extra step (getting up from a sit to a stand) to jump. It is especially effective if she is asked to sit just as she is about to jump. An unfortunate side-effect is that too much sit-stay takes away from the "whoa", so I make sure that doesn't get put on the back burner.

Now that she is approaching 6 months old, it is time to increase the pressure during training, by increasing duration and distance and introducing temptations and distractions. In the photo below, she sits in the far distance while I walk around the field.

Of course, there are plenty of rewards for a job well done.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Winter Storm

December 20, 2008
Southeast Clarke Park

My Tessaroo making a mad dash through the field in search of her "quail ball". It was a rushed outing. A few minutes later, the clouds dumped a load of rain on us - we got a good soaking but thankfully, the Nikon was unharmed.

That was yesterday. We returned today on our way back from a photo trip, and oh my God was it cold! Within 24 hours, temperatures dropped from the upper 60s to the 40s with a wind chill in the 20s - ouch!

"There it comes!"

The Last Of The Canines

December 19, 2008
It fell out!

These two razor-sharp canines have caused me much grief over the past two months and destroyed many a garment. The one on the left fell out about three weeks ago, but the one on the right hung on with all its little might. All adult (permanent) teeth are in, but that last little booger just would not leave, much to my dismay, as I really don't need a puppy with two sets of fangs. But today, finally, there it was, on the floor, looking pretty...dead.

Thankfully, Tessa recognizes the importance of dental hygiene. Gotta make 'em last!

Straightjacket Fits

December 13, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

Per vet's suggestion, we had to order new gear - a harness. I am not fond of harnesses as they encourage pulling and hinder training, but Tessa had some unexplained pain last week and was diagnosed with possible whiplash or muscle strain in her neck caused by her incredible exuberance when out and about. The vet was unable to reproduce the pain during a very thorough exam and seeing that it took four people to hold her down just to get her temperature, while she was trying to spread her love among all of us, the diagnosis of muscle or neck sprain was made, in absence of other symptoms and findings.

The recommended course of action was 5-7 days of rest and no walks unless I can put her in a harness so as to not further strain the neck. Probably a good idea for her to wear one past the 7 days until she is able to control her love for the world. After some research I decided on the Ruffwear Web Master, and I am very impressed with its construction and functionality - it's simply incredible. These harnesses are marketed for hiking dogs, but also used in Search & Rescue where dogs need to be lifted in and out of boats and helicopters (yes, it has a handle, and it is fully padded). I think it will come in handy in many ways. Thankfully, she does not pull much more when in it and is easier to maneuver when over-excited around people.

"I can see Beijing!"

The Ruffwear harness allows free range of motion, and in no way hinders the Big Dig underway at the beach.

Life With A GSP [1]

October 26, 2008
[washing dishes]
November 5, 2008
[post-election hangover]
December 12, 2008
[watching "Cold Mountain"]
"Uh-oh, they're cutting up the cow!"
December 12, 2008