Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Dog Doogity" PSA for Scoop Poop.Org

The music video that Ranger worked on has been released.

To learn more about the campaign & watch a video of outtakes please visit

Now, you too can have the song stuck in your head for days.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brother & Sister

Happily running through the field, Bea is poised to strike...

"Don't even think about it!" Brynn snarls

Uh oh...looks like Bea's puppy license has finally expired. 

She is oblivious, as usual. 

It must be genetic.  Briggs has done the same thing to Brill for a while.  When opportunity presents itself, Briggs hangs off Brill's neck. 

Like Brynn, Brill has had enough. 

Tell 'em Brill. 

Let him have it...

Hey look Camera Face...Look I am a bunny! 

Being weird must be genetic too. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ewesful Acres Day II & III

First I have to say THANK YOU to everyone who has written to me.  I am overwhelmed with your compassion and thoughtful emails.  I cannot verbalize how much it means to me. 

This Saturday & Sunday we ran at the Ewesful Acres Trial run by George and Sue MacDonald, Longbranch, WA.  We were scheduled to run Friday too.  I had signed Brynn up for PN and Beth for Ranch.  But a fever and yucky headache caused me to scratch. 

My lesson for the day on Saturday.  Listen to my dog & my gut. 

Brynn told me which way she wanted to go before we even walked to the post - by where she positioned herself at my feet and where she stayed on our walk to the post - she chose Away.  When I closed my eyes and visualized the run before we went out on the field...I saw Brynn going away. 

Then, why Heavens name did I try and make her go come bye? 

Was I beaten by a stupid crook?  Seriously?  WTF? 

The post was a corner of the Maltese cross.  That confused me.  When standing there, I was only able visualize  sending Brynn come bye. 

Obviously I was wrong - she crossed.  Not once, but three times.  Each time I called her back.  Then turned to the judge and he said "let her go away" and I did. Whoosh, she went on a beautiful outrun.

  Picture shot by Diane Pagel on Saturday, using my camera (Thanks Diane!)

I am happy though.  My goal for the day was to get her to slow down and acknowledge me on the fetch.  She did, she brought me the sheep albeit reeeeeeally fast, but they slowed down and went around the maltese cross nicely and we started our first leg of the drive - then she hooked them and I retired.  

Sunday dawned bright and clear.  We made our way back to MacDonalds.  Nursery ran first and I was second with Brynn. 

At the handlers meeting the judge, from England (coincidentally the same area my brother lives with his family, Derbyshire) patted me on the back and said "let her go right this time."  I laughed and agreed. 

Picture shot by Diane Pagel on Saturday, using my camera (Thanks Diane!)

Brynn left my feet beautifully on her outrun.  At about 2 o'clock she stopped & eyed up the sheep.  I gave her a quick short correction "Ah" and she moved a bit, got stuck again, so I yelled "Get Back!" which she took and disappeared from sight.  The next thing I saw were the sheep, coming VERY FAST and off line.  I whistled, talked, hawked up a loogie or two (ah ah ah).  She slowed down but we missed the fetch panels.

Picture shot by Diane Pagel on Saturday, using my camera (Thanks Diane!)

Then I did my second brain dead thing for the weekend.  The handlers post was the pen.  The sheep were supposed to circle around the pen for a left hand drive away. 

  Picture shot by Diane Pagel on Saturday, using my camera (Thanks Diane!)

So in my infinite novice wisdom I moved to the wrong side of the pen, then the sheep circled around the wrong way.  Yeah me! 

I turned and asked the judge, "do I unwind" and he said 'yep' which we did.  It actually proved to be a good thing - because it helped her to take a bit of time and listen.

  Picture shot by Diane Pagel on Saturday, using my camera (Thanks Diane!)

We started on our drive away.  The panels were in a ditch and partially blind.  I have no idea how we did it...but we got them!  The pace was faster than I wanted, but Brynn was taking my flanks and kept her head on & I managed not to project a bunch of anxiety to her through my voice.   Since I couldn't see the sheep or her I had to guess where she was and flanked her for the cross drive.  I flanked her a bit much and it wobbled, went offline enough to put them through the fetch panels then back online where we just missed the cross drive panels.  Then she brought them down to the pen - again too fast. 

  Picture shot by Diane Pagel on Saturday, using my camera (Thanks Diane!)

I left my stick leaning up against the pen and could have used it to prevent the sheep from trying to run over the top of me a couple of times.  But Brynn was too close and moving too fast.  The sheep circled twice & it was a bit haywire.  I got her backed off & slowed down a bit let things settle and tried again and we got our pen! 

We finally finished a nursery course!  I wish you could have seen the look on Brynn's face.  She was very proud of herself.  I was proud of both of us.  I was able to keep my anxiety under control, I felt very positive and kept telling myself that we could do this.  And we did. 

It is nice to know someone will qualify because we provide an additional number to make the class and we certainly shore up the bottom.  Dianne Pagel called it 'subsidizing'.  I had to chuckle at that... Someone's gotta do it.  I am happy to help out any way I can.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Living with PTSD

Thank you to everyone who has written to me with support and questions.  I cannot thank you enough.  My purpose behind writing the post below was beneficial for me in many ways - mostly in that I refuse to live my life in hiding, or shame.    I have to admit when I hit publish and walked away I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach and a moment of "What have I done?" 

Then I asked myself, why should I feel shame?  Does a person feel shame when they break their leg?  Does a person hide behind closed doors when they have cancer?  MS?  Why does our society have such a stigma attached to people with mental illness?

"All people with PTSD have lived through a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain that may result in PTSD." - Dept of Veterans Affairs - National Center for PTSD

Why should you feel ashamed over something you could not control? 

I am not dying.  I am fully capable of being happy, and functioning on most days.  Other days, depending on the stress or stimuli I may experience what they call 'flooding' a flood of emotions, anxiety, panic, turmoil.  Those days are not my best. Only my family have witnessed those days because I do not leave the house.  I have not been out in public for several years alone.  If I am not with a dog, I am with a friend, child or my husband. 

A debilitating thing about PTSD is that you cannot control your reactions.  I have certain 'triggers' that will bring on a PTSD 'moment'.  For example:  yelling (or what I perceive as yelling), loud noises, being overwhelmed, sudden startle, being touched unexpectedly, someone behind me, fast unexpected movements in my peripheral vision, certain smells or locations.  I am learning how to control my reactions and anxiety level.

Many times though I am overcome by a feeling of being out of control, and I respond with anger or yell myself, but lately it has manifested in tears.  I simply cannot stop crying.  Believe it or not the crying is a good thing - finally the emotions are coming to the surface and over time I will begin to process them.  

I been learning how to control some of those reactions by identifying both the internal and external triggers.  It took a long time to even identify what was happening -  for years I did not have a clue about what was happening.  I felt intense shame, which only exacerbated the stress.   

Medication can help with the 'flooding'.  Therapy helps with the rest. When things get too much, I choose to walk away, to protect is the only thing I have left to do.

The best way to cope with a trigger is avoidance.  However, this is almost impossible to do. Why? Well, you cannot really avoid your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Much of these are out of our control. In regard to external triggers, we can take some steps to manage our environment (for example, not going to certain places that we know will trigger us), but we cannot control everything that happens to us.
- Matthew Tull, PhD.

The best thing for a person struggling with PTSD is understanding, and acceptance, not judgement. 

I have PTSD.  I am not weak.  Shame is a barrier to healing. Shame isolates.  I am not ashamed and neither should any one else out there struggling with any type of emotional trauma or illness.  You are not alone.

To learn more about PTSD please visit:

Department of Veterans Affairs - What is PTSD

Out of the Bag...

A while back I mentioned on this blog that I might someday have the gumption to tell you why Brynn is my service dog.  So, here it is.  I have complex PSTD.  Among other things I experience debilitating social anxiety and a wicked case of agoraphobia.  Fear is my best friend & my cruel enemy. Many days go by that I am unable to leave the house. 

Brynn in her vest at the Emergency Room

PTSD is is 'flight or fight' in overdrive. I feel like an unlatched storm door being slammed open and shut by the wind, over and over again. I feel like a fox that is being relentlessly hunted, always wondering when the hounds will get me.  Sometimes it feels like an imaginary enemy is living my life and I am merely a spectator. 

To give you an idea of what it is like..

Have you ever had someone sneak up behind you, or hide behind something then scare the living crap out of you?  You are suddenly overwhelmed with fear - a momentary lapse of breath, every muscle in your body tightens, your heart skips a few beats, explosions of light behind your eyes, then your brain registers  TERROR!

Maybe you scream, lash out, or run.  After you realize you are not going to be hurt, the feeling subsides, you might giggle a bit....although the feeling usually lingers.

For me, I get that sensation hundreds of times a day.  If I allow it to rule my life I would be in huddled mess in the closet.  But I don't.  I refuse to allow it to control me anymore.   

I have been working through it with the help of an amazing therapist & a service dog.  The dogs have been the biggest help for me, more than any medication or therapy to this date.

 Brynn in her service vest in the ER watching my son get his nose set.

With my dogs I feel safe.  I can relax. It is not a matter of feeling like the dog will protect me, because I will never put them in that position - instead they allow me to step outside of my anxiety. 

"Dogs are very sensitive to escalations of mood. They can tell if a person's mood is starting to escalate to a panic attack," said Joan Esnayra, president and founder of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society.
"They can tell their handlers this well in advance, before the handler has lost their composure and lost their ability to think clearly."
Dogs also help people with mental illnesses devote attention to the needs of the dog instead of solely on themselves.
"Dogs give them an alternate focus," said Esnayra. "Going out of the house, for example, is for the dog. That displacement frees up the brain a little bit and reduces anxiety."
~ ABC News Health - Four Legged Relief for PTSD

The process of training my dogs on sheep has been a very personal journey.  I have learned a tremendous amount about myself and how I can begin to manage my anxiety and it provides me with an activity that gets me out of the house.

Along with the chronic anxiety comes a constant stream of self doubt and as you have read here, self deprecation. 

It is time for me to reverse some of the negative thoughts I have going through my head on the trial field.

  • I can do this
  • I have a good grasp on this and know what I am doing (in most cases)
  • We deserve to be on the trial field
  • We have worked hard and are ready
  • I love the sheep & the dogs
  • I love the people I have met along the way
  • I love working with my dog in a partnership
  • I love to see how happy they are, a fulfillment of their purpose

Believe it or not, I do enjoy trialing.  What frightens me is how I will handle my anxiety.

I know what is happening on the trial field with Brynn.  Brynn is trained to respond my anxiety level.  On the field, my anxiety threshold goes through the roof.  She responds in the only way she knows how....I believe she takes charge and tries to get us off the field as fast as possible.

My challenge - separate emotion from the work.  The biggest obstacle I face in training is : ME.  My own feelings, anxiety, anger, irritation, desire to appease the ego, frustration are all that stand in the way of my goal.    I diligently strive to identify why my anxiety is raising (perceived lack of control) and replace it with knowledge that I am in control.

It is, what it it.  Nothing more, nothing less and let the rest of the shit go by the wayside

For everything else, there is ice cream....and my best friend Atavan.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Self-Assification & Other Nonsense

Not much in life is impossible.  

It may seem insurmountable and treacherous...

But what seemed impossible just moments before is easily achieved with a little help from our friends.  


Blah blah blah, nothing is impossible - yeah right.  Bite me.  

 I can tell you one thing that is absofukkinlutely IMPOSSIBLE....

It is impossible to work  your dog effectively when you are an emotional wreck. 
Yes, really.  It is impossible. 

Some days it is better to just turn and walk off the field, than to stand there 
and cry.  

Or yell...

Or just make a general ass out of yourself.  

"You visit Assland enough, you should buy the tee-shirt."  

Trust me, I am adept at Self-Assification.  Menopause & acute anxiety disorder seems to amplify this particular trait. 

I have been getting discouraged.  Feeling defeated.  Feeling inadequate & stupid.  Feeling like I should just quit. (insert whine and self piteous wailing here)

Yes, I know, negative thoughts will destroy me. 

I need to rise to the challenge, lift myself up by my bootstraps, 
get on with it, chin up...blah blah blah. 

I can do all that.  But I keep asking myself...WHY?  Why am I doing this?  Why am I busting my ass to work my dogs and trial?  

"I just wanna have fun..."

This is supposed to be fun, right?  Where did the fun go?  

I want the fun back.  It left, has anyone seen my fun lately?  
Please help me find it again.  I miss it.  

Being an ass is not fun, it is depressing. 

"That's okay, Camera Face, we love your fat ass anyway."

Some days, I want to watch my dog and not the sheep.  

I want to lose myself in her joy, her purpose, her passion.  

I want the awe back.  I want that thrill I feel every time she leaves my feet and runs hundreds of yards away and brings me sheep.  I don't want to constantly look at her with a critical eye, pick apart the outrun, lift, fetch, every single damn step she takes.  Stress out every time she is in contact with the sheep.  Panic when she is getting to close, moving to fast, slicing a flank.  

Really? Is it going to matter at the end of my life if we were just okay? 
What will matter, is the joy I found on the journey. 

 Joy in the journey.  Not trials and tribulations.  

Hopefully an good nights sleep will help me gain some perspective.  
Because this just ain't fun.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

City Boy, Country Girls

We arrived at Kerry Park ahead of the film crew.  It was the perfect opportunity to shoot a few pictures of the dogs against the Seattle skyline.  

Ranger is comfortable anywhere.   In the city, country, or the couch.  

Does his head look like it is getting larger?  I forgot to mention in the post about the video shoot that Ranger relieved himself on my leg.  
Yes, he lifted his leg and peed on my pant leg and foot. 
I am worried.  Big responsibility comes with stardom.  With it great opportunity to choose the wrong path.  Ranger already has a history of being a Pot Head.  Next thing you know he will be back on pot and I will be fielding calls from Charlie Sheen. 

"I'm too sexy for my fur."

Brynn was not amused by Ranger's star treatment.  

The following picture is a perfect example of the Border Collie Stink Eye.  

It is often seen when you blow the wrong whistle causing your dog to loose the sheep.  When you serve them something hideous to eat, or when ask them to do something they find offensive.  
Brynn found the entire day offensive. 

Where are the sheep?  
You always bring me to sheep.  
I hate you.  

I cannot bear to look at you any longer. 

Bea's reaction was quite intense.  

"I just wanna go home....please?" 

"Don't make me go back.  City's suck." 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Boys & Girls

Bea's first season is complete.  It was not as bad as I imagined. I watched her like a hawk.  She was not out of my sight for a minute. For a few days there, little Missy Hot Pants had me shaking my head...she was shameless, utterly shameless. I was embarrassed for her and the sofa - which much to her consternation did not return her wonton affections. 

While Bea is no longer in season, she must have left a few scents behind. Brynn may have rolled in something or picked up a scent in the yard that she brought along with her to Cindy's on Friday - which left sudden male confusion and yearning in her wake.  That is all I can think of to explain the sudden lascivious behavior of a few of the male dogs (Briggs, Finn & Brill) and Brynn's uncharacteristic response. 

Note:  Brynn was spayed when she was 6 months old.  

Poor unsuspecting Brynn, relaxing in the yard after a nice work session.

Life is good.  Little does she know Briggs is sneaking up behind...with lecherous intentions.

Brynn:  "Why are you looking at me like that?"

Brynn: "Get out of my face..."

Brynn: "I mean it, GET OUT OF MY FACE!"

Oh no, the Tongue of Wrath is making an appearance.

Brynn: "Ahh, finally he got the message.  A little dense that one is..."

Brynn:  "He is slower than snot on a door knob!  You are in my bubble!"

Brynn:  "Dumber than a paste sandwich!"

Brynn, that may be your ugly face, but something tells me he is not interested in your face. 

Brynn:  "You take one more step toward my ass, I am gonna rip a piece of you off and feed it to the ants."

Brynn:  "What is not clear?  Does this face look remotely romantic?"

Brynn:  "What part of NO don't you understand?"

Brynn:  "THAT IS IT!  I understand Briggs, since his boy parts are intact, but YOU?  Brill you are denuttered!  Seriously!"

Brill: "Sorry, don't know what I was thinking..."

Briggs, on the other hand, has completely lost his marbles...

Briggs:  "This is my sexy face.  You want me too, I can tell."

Briggs:  "Come on Baby, lets grab a patch of grass and get it on..." 

~Insert Barry White Music Here~

Brynn:  "You. Are. A. Dumb. Ass."

Briggs:  "Oh yeah Babe, I will take that long as you are offering! "

Brynn:  "Time for a lesson in R.E.S.P.E.C.T." 

That is much better, finally a girl can relax. 

Stupid Boys.