It’s Rain’s TENTH birthday today! She’s a decade old!
The day promises to be a good one, which is good since we’ve been counting down for the last few weeks now. The weather is beautiful and Rain will get to enjoy hanging outside with one of her people for most of the day. Tonight Rain will get a special pupcake and maybe even some human food with dinner to celebrate.
Rain’s favorite team is the Portland Pickles, a neighborhood favorite. Each year they have at least one Bark in the Park event where doggos are allowed to come watch a game with their people! Rain knows that she can bark the longest and loudest, so she’d win the game. [Ed. Note: This might be why she hasn’t been to one of these yet!]
Rain’s favorite major league team is the Houston Astros, who also host a Dog Day each season. She doubts she’ll ever make it to Houston to show them how she can fill Minute Maid Park with her Texas-sized barks.
In an effort to give Rain some fun each week, to keep her nose smelling new odors and her eyes seeing new sights, over the last five weeks I’ve been getting up early on Sunday mornings and taking Rain out for a long walk before most of the world is up and at ’em. We’ve headed out from our house in a new direction each week. Here are some photos from our outings!
A few days after our last buzzy buster, the world started screeching to a very weird halt. Our nosework class was cancelled as panic started ensuing about the novel coronavirus hitting Washington state, and by the end of the week I was showing signs of illness. Instead of heading out on a buzzy buster with Rain, I was on the phone seeking medical advice.
It turned out I just had a cold, which I suspect I got from someone at nosework class. There was one day I had low energy and decided to just lie in bed watching movies most of the day, but that decision had at least as much to do with hiding from the world as much as feeling ill.
As I recovered from my cold, Oregon’s governor officially announced social distancing measures in our state. After crowds flocked to the Oregon coast, national forests, state parks, and other natural areas during spring break, the authorities officially closed access to those places as well. That’s when shit got real for me—how do you expect an Aussie who needs daily physical and mental work, to fare in conditions like this?
Fortunately we’re doing okay. What routines we haven’t been able to keep we’ve adapted a bit, and we’ve got some new business in the works.
Clackamas County closed their parks, including but not limited to dog parks, but we’ve still been able to visit the park by our house each weekday morning, which is just on the other side of the line with the City of Portland. I’ve been trying to avoid the play structure, but otherwise doing my best to work Rain each day. Since we typically visit early in the morning, my thinking went, any lingering virus would have a chance to die off overnight. I’ve got procedures for putting things away and washing my hands well when we get home.
Oregon State Parks closed the system back in March, so Rain and I clearly haven’t been on any buzzy busters to state parks since Champoeg. We had generally covered most of the roomy state parks within a reasonable drive though, if the parks hadn’t closed we might have found ourselves traveling to the coast just to keep Rain’s brain smelling novel things. (What dog isn’t enchanted by the smell of dead fish?)
Nosework classes have been cancelled, although Kristina was offering some remote options. Nosework trials I had been signed up to volunteer at even got cancelled months ahead of time! Plus of course we had already been suffering through the loss of agility late last year.
Strangely enough, Rain has been taking things pretty well. It even seems like she has suddenly taken another step toward maturity! At the park each morning she has been less excited about running and playing ball ad nauseum, and more satisfied by sniffing around in the grass. One recent morning we pressured a group of geese to leave (on leash) so we could play ball, then after one throw Rain seemed completely happy to sniff around in the grass and eat goose poop for the rest of our visit. When she does get excited, she seems to recover relatively quickly.
It’s not all good news, though. Rain got a bit of an ear infection and at times has been appearing to baby her front right shoulder. I can tell that Rain is jumbling things up a little bit at times too, like when I’ve signaled an agility move from further distance from an object and she does something different than what I’ve asked for. Last month I started teaching her a new trick and it seemed to take her a bit before her brain started thinking about what I wanted.
Rain and I have started a new weekly outing in place of the buzzy buster. On Sunday mornings we’ve been getting up early and going for a long walk from our house, exploring a new way each week. It’s an attempt to avoid people but still get some better exercise each week. Rain usually arrives home happy and relaxed for the rest of the day. In the next couple of days, look for some short reports with photos.
In an effort to work Rain in some novel ways that we can do at home, I also signed up last week for Home School the Dog, a program put together by online trainer Susan Garrett. Molly suggested signing up for one of her programs during our agility summer break last year and I did, but I was so overwhelmed by the information that I never really progressed. This time I’m putting in the effort to work through the roadblocks from before, and we’ll see how it goes.
Other than that, Rain, Roy and I have been spending The Inside Times about like everyone else:
If I didn’t note right at the top that I am catching up, people might be concerned that we were visiting a state park in the midst of our societal shutdown. Do not fret! I’m just catching up a bit.
Rain and I were on a roll, having visited three state parks for three weeks in a row, enjoying a beautiful sunny day while doing it. Well, if there’s anything one should know about sunny days in Oregon in early March, it’s that they’re an exception, not a rule. And thus, our next outing was wet from start to finish.
Champoeg State Heritage Area sits roughly 25 miles south of Portland down the Willamette Valley, where the conditions create fertile farmland. The town of Champoeg grew by the banks of the Willamette River inside the state park but a series of floods eventually wiped the town out completely by the early 1900s. Before those floods, a group of settlers made the decision in 1843 to form a provisional government, effectively creating the Oregon Territory. A marker commemorating that site was erected in 1901. Today, Champoeg’s large park encompasses a visitor center, pioneer barn and orchard, river access, archeological sites, a long multi-modal path to neighboring town Butteville, campgrounds, and plenty more.
Fun Fact: Back in 2004, I was part of a team that developed proper exhibits for the visitor center at Champoeg. They’re a hit with staff, volunteers, and visitors to this day!
Navigating through the park to the off-leash area, two cars were already present in the small gravel parking area. We pulled up and two dogs were close enough to our car that Rain got extra barky. The human and her two Labs were heading out, and after they did Rain was very excited to get out after our ride.
It was difficult to tell by the park map just how far the exercise area stretched, but evidence (and the behavior of the other person visiting) suggested that it was positively enormous.
Rain thoroughly explored the place, from mud puddles to drainage ditches.
After we had walked around the ginormous field next to the gravel parking area, we saw a break in the edge which had mud caked with both canine and human footprints. It lead to another enormous field, almost completely ensconced from park roads.
Rain didn’t want to play ball as much here, she was content to just follow me around the field, sniffing and making wide herding circles around me.
Rain and I spent a solid hour just walking around this area collectively. When we were done, I sat in the car and ate the lunch I brought, offering a couple of carrots to Rain. After all, there was still plenty of park to visit on leash!
What a funny thing it was, then, when I noticed another huge off-leash area just on the other side of the road!
Rain seemed just as happy to get out and explore the new area as well. It had better boundary markers, but was generally unremarkable save for an oak tree and a dry drainage ditch, which we hopped across a few times. A red-tailed hawk perched on some nearby trees to make sure we weren’t attacked by rodents or a snake.
Once Rain had thoroughly explored the new off-leash area, I decided to pop over to the provisional government marker to get a photo. A crew was clearly setting up for an event—there were several vehicles parked nearby, with people coming and going from the nearby cabin, and several pop-up tents set up outside. We got our photo, and continued walking down the roadway to start exploring on leash.
Eventually we came to the edge of the field with the Champoeg town site. After a quick photo Rain and I continued on the paved multi-use path. Each summer a student archaeology team from Oregon State University digs somewhere in the town site, unearthing bottle fragments, nails, bits of china, and other remains from the town. Some of them are on display at the visitor center!
Eventually we made it to the other side of the park where the disc golf course, day use areas, and campgrounds lie. Since it was a rainy weekday in early March we didn’t see a lot of visitors, which is exactly how we (I) like it.
Since the campground area might have people and dogs, we cut through the disc golf course toward the river and headed down to the dock.
We were starting to get pretty wet by this time, but we were still having plenty of fun exploring by ourselves. In order to head back to the car and close the large loop around the town site, we took a small hiking trail at the edge of the riverbank.
This trail was a nice change of pace from the wide, paved, open-air paths we had mostly been on thus far. At one point while Rain was sniffing some critter odor, I spotted a small group of trillium flowers in bloom!
Once we continued past the end of the dirt trail and back on pavement, we started passing signs that were clearly meant for runners, which lead me to believe the event set-up was for a run which would probably be happening the next morning, Saturday.
It was perfect timing—I wanted to leave the park by a certain time to avoid heavy traffic, and it was nearing that time. We cut across the second off leash area to get back to the car where we spent some time shaking off and wringing out all the water we had absorbed during our three hours roaming around at the park. We were thoroughly soaked, but had a great time—Rain’s buzzies were successfully busted yet again!
As we wound our way out of the park, our red-tailed hawk buddy perched on a low tree to offer us a nice photo at the very end of our visit.
If I didn’t note right at the top that I am catching up, people might be concerned that we were having nosework class in the midst of our societal shutdown. Do not fret! I’m just catching up a bit.
Rain and I were back to the gun club for nosework class this week. We had a pretty full house with eight dogs and five humans, but class was fairly uneventful otherwise. Maybe it was me—I had done a decent amount of physical labor earlier and was feeling pretty beat by the end of the day. Plus it was Super Tuesday and I was rooting for someone who wasn’t doing as well as expected.
Kristina had finally beat down the last of a cold she had been struggling with a while, but a human classmate had picked it up and talked during class about how long it was hanging on. Dear reader, I am fairly certain I caught that cold that very night, as I was feeling fairly miserable by the end of the following week.
Well okay, technically it IS a coronavirus, but not the one you’re probably thinking of. And don’t worry, I’m 99.99999% better now!
Our first search took place in the kitchen and dining area. It turns out that whoever filmed our first search made a classic blunder with my video device, so this video is a bit difficult to see. I fixed it as much as I was able.
Our second search was in the side room. Rain did pretty well! I’ve been feeling lately like we haven’t been doing our searches very well, but this is apparently video evidence to the contrary. Or maybe, as usual, it’s just me.
When all eight dogs had finished up for the evening, I was pretty excited to head home and go to sleep. It had been a day where everything seemed all over the place, and I was ready to rest up. Fortunately for me, Rain tends to have most of her energy in the morning, so I didn’t hear any arguments on the way home.
Our weekly buzzy-busting adventures continued this week with a jaunt that was a bit further afield than our prior outings. After some vacillation about which state park we should visit next, I undecidedly decided on heading to the far opposite end of the Portland metro area and L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park, outside of Banks, Oregon.
Our trip took about an hour each way from home, but it was well worth it. I’ve never explored the park much beyond the hiker/biker camp, nestled in the woods closer to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, when camping at the park in the past. The Oregon State Parks “Pets in Parks” brochure stated there was an off-leash area and plenty of trails to explore, but I was somewhat skeptical. The random appearance of people and other dogs on trails has been challenging for us in the past, after all.
We started our visit with the off-leash area, which is completely fenced in—I presume for the protection of any woodland wildlife that may appear nearby. The off-leash area was sufficiently large and gave a picturesque view of the Coast Range beyond. However, it also had been placed on a relatively steep hillside which still had some thorn bushes growing up out of the ground at certain points. Rain and I played ball but as soon as she dropped the ball for a moment it would roll away. She got tired of going after it, then I got tired of walking down to the bottom again and again to fetch it. I mean, doesn’t the social contract of “fetch” place the fetching duty to the dog?
Starting to feel unexcited by the off-leash area, we wandered around the day use area, making sure to keep Rain a safe distance from some horses and their people who were staging a photo shoot. We crossed the road and used a deer path to enter the woods, where Rain used her nose to lead us both around part of the disc golf course. We never crossed paths with any disc golfers but knew a small group had recently played.
Rain was sniffing wildly, leading us through the forest and around the course, but eventually she peeled off onto another trail, and that’s where the real adventure began. I suppose my first mistake was letting Rain lead us, thinking we’d be on a modest loop sticking pretty close to the disc golf course.
At certain points I could tell we were on trails that were shared with equestrians. We came by signs pointing us to park features, and using the downloadable park map on my phone, I really couldn’t pinpoint which trail intersection we were at. Surely we’d wander to something next to the road at some point, at which point Rain and I could just walk downhill back to where we began. SURELY!
After skirting the horse camp, Rain found a couple of opportunities to roll in what I presume was horse poop on the trail. I carefully went around small portions of trail thick with mud or water, sometimes spotting horseshoe prints. Fortunately for everyone, there didn’t seem to be any horses on the trails on this day.
When we crossed a trail sign for a viewpoint in 1/4 mile, I made the executive decision that we’d head that way. We started heading uphill more sharply and came across the only other hiker we encountered that day. Rain got fussy when she spotted the stranger and her three dogs(!) from afar. When I asked (from afar) if Rain could go meet them, the stranger (sadly, but understandably) said no. So we climbed off the trail about 20 feet and waited for them to pass. Once they were out of sight again, Rain focused once again on getting to our uphill destination.
We reached the viewpoint, which featured a sign informing us we were at 1,528 feet—a fairly typical Coast Range summit elevation. After taking a couple of photos, we started heading downhill before I got curious where the continuing trail lead. We doubled back to find out, but about 500 feet later we discovered an access gate with a road on the other side. Fairly certain we were off the park map, and nowhere near the Banks-Vernonia trail as I had hoped, we aborted our mission and headed back to return via the original path.
Instead of retracing our steps though—how could we, when I wasn’t even sure where we had been?—at a certain point we came across a wider access road and decided to follow it. I recalled seeing a similarly wide path when we were at the disc golf course, so I thought it possible that this one could take us back.
We rounded a bend and discovered the entrance to an area of the park that was for mountain bikes only! A large sign stood beside the entrance, with plankways and other signs inside making it clear who the area was intended for. Not far past that Rain perked up when she heard two voices in conversation. We paused our walk and eventually spotted two mountain bikers on a trail adjacent to us, presumably heading for the mountain bike area. I am certain they didn’t even know we were there as they passed through.
As I suspected though, eventually we started seeing disc golf holes once again, at which point we peeled off the service road (or whatever it was) and went back to navigating back using the disc golf course. Eventually we emerged from the trees into the afternoon sun. After giving Rain some water we visited the off-leash area one last time. Rain was much more interested in sniffing around the day use area so once she seemed satisfied with that, we loaded up and headed home again, after about a three hour visit.
We couldn’t have had a better day, although at the outset we didn’t know what it would entail. I suspect Stub Stewart wouldn’t have been so devoid of visitors on a weekend day, or another time of year—but we lucked out with weather and had another hugely successful buzzy buster. And after Rain ate her dinner a few hours later, I got to enjoy the quiet for the rest of the evening.
Rain and I signed up for a different nosework class this week because Kristina was going to be out of town through our usual class day. Aiming to explore the other options, I opted for another Beaverton class that would be held along Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway at Portland Fencing Center. Fencing—I was looking forward to seeing the space! Then a day before class, I received an email reminding us that we were instead going to be meeting at a big box home improvement store that was in an area less familiar to me.
Fortunately it was a beautiful day and I didn’t have too much trouble finding the location nor the precise location in the parking lot the classes would be meeting. I unintentionally situated my car in a place that turned out to be nearly perfect for shielding Rain’s vision from most of the action , which was good because I very stupidly forgot to grab our visual blind on the way out of the house. I got to say hi to Jackie for the first time in a few weeks, and we were again ships passing—she had signed up for the earlier class, and I for the late one.
Once the prior class had departed, Kristina pointed us toward a long line of rental trailers and said we had four hides to find. Rain freaked Kristina out when she was doing her very Rain-like thing of trying to hop up on top of a trailer that had no surface for her to land on! Everything was fine.
Walking across the way to a row of rental box trucks, Kristina discussed some of the finer points of the next search. Not only was it a vehicle search (which can be tricky), but the odor would behave differently depending on whether it was in the sun or shade.
Since there could be a 10-15 degree difference between them (and we could see the hard lines on the pavement to help guide us), we might see our dog’s behavior change between the shady and sunny parts of the search area.
Rain did pretty well though!
During class one of our classmates had been talking about another class she had been in at a school where a neighbor had called the cops because they thought the activity was suspicious, like they were planting bombs or something. While Kristina was setting up our third search, I spotted a police vehicle that was stopped behind the building, then noticed a store employee who looked curious about what Kristina was up to near their rental trailers. I stood and watched from a distance, until Kristina came back from placing odor and told us that the guy was super enthusiastic once she told him what we were doing, even asking questions.
Our third search then was another short walk across the way—a pair of car-towing trailers. I had been feeling a little off but this search really got me feeling like I had never handled my own dog before. I didn’t know where the hides were and I was trying to avoid getting too close but yet still didn’t manage to encourage her to search deeper into the trailers.
It was me. It’s always me. It had to be. After everyone was done, Kristina and I revisited the trailer sans dog and I got a reminder about how to walk it to support Rain’s search the right way.
When we were done, Rain and I spent a little more time enjoying the sun and walking around to admire the cherry blossoms before loading up for the long trip home. Originally I intended to stop at a specific dog park before or after class, but I totally forgot with the class location change! It was alright though, our buzzy busters were doing a pretty good job of keeping her from bouncing off the walls…
Rain hopes you’re having a nice St. Patrick’s Day, although we suspect yours might be about the same as ours—a surreal emotional roller coaster spent sequestered at home. Rain has been nursing a human with a cold the last few days (don’t worry, it’s not—that), but she used a few minutes of her day to dig out her holiday bandana and pose for a photo for everyone. Lucky you!
What’s better than keeping your love of place alive by continually discovering new places that are in your backyard? Rain’s Uncle Atticus and I did some of that several years back when we started working our way through a particular hiking guide. As Rain has needed some extra stimulation to make up for not having agility class, I recently thought we might use our family’s Oregon State Parks yearly pass to explore some new places—wearing out Rain’s brain and body in the process, with any luck.
It was my intent to check out Molalla River State Park the week prior, but I didn’t have adequate intelligence about the place until I spoke with the park hosts at McIver about it the previous week. The woman seemed really enthusiastic about it, so that’s where we aimed the compass this week.
Turns out our park host friend was spot on! Once we managed to find the place—a little more difficult than it might seem—we pulled in and saw plenty of grass, trees, and wide open space. We saw plenty of other visitors. Rain barked excitedly when we arrived, but once she leapt out of the car was pretty quiet the rest of the trip.
Molalla River State Park has a truly enormous “pet exercise area,” with clearly marked boundaries. It’s effectively an enormous field, with a light hill on the side closest to the car parking area. Several dogs could be walking in the off leash area at one time and come nowhere near each other, the area is so enormous. Rain wanted to play ball but it wasn’t long before her desire to sniff the grass started winning out.
Once we had walked around the off-leash area a couple times, Rain wanted to see the parts beyond. A nearby pond drew her interest.
We walked the trails around the pond area, and Rain was often distracted by dogs or noises she heard across the water. A mother with a toddler loose in the off leash area beckoned Rain, but not so strongly that she got too close. (I’m glad. I try to keep Rain away from small children, just for everyone’s safety and happiness.) Soon she spotted something near the trail, and before I knew it she was curiously watching a danger noodle (skawy snek!) slither quickly across the trail, into the leaf litter around the pond. (Don’t worry, Oregon’s sole venomous snake species—the western rattlesnake—is only found on the other side of the state.)
Our walk around the ponds also lead us past a park host’s residence and their barky dogs. We ended up in a wooded and grassy picnic area, before winding back down to the start of the car parking area. After a visit to the restroom building, we wound down toward the boat ramp on the Willamette River. The banks around there were steep and thick with mud, so instead we started walking the trail that lead toward the back of the park, where the Molalla River meets the Willamette.
We were paralleling the Willamette River until the path swung left and skirted a wooded area. A more narrow trail dipped down into the woods, and we went exploring in an attempt to find the Molalla River. There were braids of paths, and it was clear that at points the water had been knee-deep in some of the areas we walked through, as we found grasses and thorn bushes that were muddy below a certain mark.
After a couple of false starts we made our way to a bank on the Willamette River where it was clear was a doggy swimming area. Rain wasted no time hopping in. Then she got out, shook off, danced around a little bit, and got in again. And a few more times for good measure.
Eventually she was tired of it, and we pressed on a little further until we came to a steep ditch with water flowing through into the Willamette on our right. Prior visitors had made a rough bridge. I stood at the top of the ditch and assessed the situation, while Rain went down to splash in the water. When she came back up to join me, the water running off of her was enough to cause my feet to start sliding down the steep drop. I grabbed a branch and said “nope, we’re going back.” So we never made it to the Molalla River. We heard from another visitor that the bank where it meets the Willamette had gotten wiped out over the winter anyhow. I just didn’t feel like being covered in silty mud on this beautiful afternoon.
We headed back and continued on the main trail, which looped around and followed an off-season agricultural field. Tractor tracks in the thick mud were almost deep enough to hide Rain at times! As we got closer to the dog run area, we spotted horses and sheep grazing on the hillside, along with some ancient vehicles.
When we got back to the dog area Rain still didn’t seem tired, so we spent a little more time playing ball.
It had been nearly three hours, and Rain was just starting to act like a reasonable dog. I figured that was about as good as I was going to get, and soon loaded her up to head home. Our ride home was quiet until the end, which was really nice.
Unlike our trip to Milo McIver last time, Rain wasn’t hobbling around the house at all after this visit. Otherwise she settled down for the night almost right after dinner, and slept like a log. The next morning when my alarm went off though, she seemed fully recovered, springing up and standing next to my face to prod me to get up and moving.
It was nice while it lasted! And since it was such a beautiful day I didn’t mind the outing at all. My hope is to continue exploring new spaces and busting Rain’s buzzies about once a week as our weather starts climbing out of its winter doldrums. A tired dog is, after all, a happy owner.