Back at the Gun Club: Nosework Report

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.

Baron Enters Kitchen Search

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.

It's NOT Coronavirus!

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.

Buzzy Busting at Stub Stewart State Park

Rain Sits by Old Stump

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.

Off Leash Area at Stub Stewart State Park
Rain at Stub Stewart Off Leash Area

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?

Stub Stewart Disc Golf Course

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.

Rain Walks on Tree-covered Hillside in Stub Stewart

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.

Stub Stewart State Park Viewpoint

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.

Rain Poses on Forest Road Inside Stub Stewart State Park

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.

Rain Looks Into Mountain Bike Area at Stub Stewart

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.

Sniffing Out the Big Orange Box Store: Nosework Report

Rain Sits in Front of Orange Big Box Store

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.

Searching the Rental Trailers

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.

Rental Box Trucks

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.

Ajax Searches Box Trucks
Poodle and Handler Search Box Trucks

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.

Consulting About Trailers
Car Trailer Search

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…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Rain in the Forecast!

Rain Wearing Shamrock Bandana

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!

Buzzy Busting at Molalla River State Park

Ferns on a Tree

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.

Molalla River State Park Sign

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 Dog Area

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.

Rain Wades in Pond

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.)

Rain and Small Trees

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.

Rain Walks Gravel Trail

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.

Rain on a Muddy Bank

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.

Rain and Sheep Farm

When we got back to the dog area Rain still didn’t seem tired, so we spent a little more time playing ball.

Rain Waiting for 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.

More Sniffing, Less Looking: Nosework Report

Rain Perched on Comfy Chair

Rain had been a little extra energetic lately—in general, but also at nosework class. It had me feeling a bit frustrated, so I started trying to tackle things by starting our buzzy buster visits. When I saw her perched on the back of my chair before nosework class this week, just waiting for a skwerl to appear outside so she could bark at it, I decided to take her to a short visit to North Clackamas Park—nearby, but not a park we visit on a regular basis. Our visit could be short but she could tire her brain by sniffing all the other critter odors around the park, and we could duck into the off-leash area for a quick game of ball if needed.

Rain at North Clackamas Park

We ended up spending over an hour at the park, which was a bit more busy than I had anticipated. (Sunny days in early spring usually bring out a lot of people in the Pacific northwest, as it’s been so long since we’ve seen the sun.)

Febe Searches Side Room

The extra trip was worth it though—Rain was acting much more like herself when we got to class that evening! We had a few new dogs in class but overall the class was fairly uneventful.

Our first search involved finding five hides in the side room area. Kristina commented to Rain from behind the camera that she should do more sniffing, less looking—and I wholeheartedly agree. During our first search Rain was convinced there was a hide attached to a garbage can when in fact it was several feet away!

Rain did better than prior weeks at searching, but I’ve been secretly wondering whether her tendency to look at me is related to other things I’ve been encouraging when we’re not doing nosework. If it is, this poses some problems, because I want Rain to be searching and not watching me like an escaped sheep when we’re doing nosework!

Our second round was done in the great room.

Finley Searches the Great Room
Febe Searches Great Room
Wyatt Searches Great Room

Unfortunately I was running low on Rain’s special nosework rewards, but we managed to make it through without too much drama! At the time I didn’t hear Kristina’s remarks on the subject during our search, but it provided some amusing commentary to listen to on the video.

At the end of class I was really glad that our relatively short outing (and prior buzzy-busting work) seemed to be paying off—Rain wasn’t bouncing off the walls as much as she had been the prior few weeks. When class was over we loaded up and headed home, ready as usual to wrap the day up in a warm bed.

A Buzzy Buster at McIver State Park

Rain on Dog Creek Bridge

Our buzzy blaster last week was a positive experience for everyone, so I decided to take Rain somewhere else this week where she would work off as much energy as possible. Originally I thought we’d go to Thousand Acres/Sandy River Delta, but logistical concerns rerouted us to Milo McIver State Park outside of Estacada, Oregon. The park has a designated off-leash area and while I hadn’t seen it, I figured it’d be a good place to start our park visit.

It wasn’t long after setting out when I realized a crucial error: I had forgotten to grab a ball to play with! My brain started pondering the situation, realizing the dog shops along the way may not quite be open yet, and I wasn’t sure if the farm supply store outside Estacada would actually have an appropriate ball. About two minutes before 9 AM I had a realization—we’d be passing right by Clackamas County Dog Services, where I had seen a bin of free tennis balls by the door in the past! We rolled up a few minutes later and within a minute I had two very clean second-hand tennis balls to take with us. They truly saved the morning.

McIver Off Leash Area, Dramatic

When we arrived at McIver we headed straight for the official off leash area. It wasn’t terribly long before another car arrived, carrying three dogs and two loud people. Rain and I kept walking around the perimeter of the space and every so often one or two of the dogs would come over to say hello. The two people seemed displeased about their dogs being dogs, shouting their frustration with the dogs and each other. At a certain point it became clear the man was operating a drone, which I later confirmed was a big no-no. Rain and I felt more at ease when they left, a moment after some more people showed up for a visit with their three dogs.

Rain on Bottom of Oak Tree at McIver
Rain the Rebel

A moment later some park hosts came by on a motorized cart, and I asked them for advice on the nearest restroom. We ended up chatting a while, until I really needed to speed to that bathroom. I ended up crossing paths with them four more times during our visit, exchanging a friendly wave each time.

After racing down to the disc golf course for the bathroom, Rain and I returned to the off-leash area for a bit. We discovered that the off-leash area extended a bit beyond what we originally thought, and it wasn’t too long before Rain discovered a big puddle she wanted to explore. It was down a steep bank, so I let her go by herself. She eventually played around in this pool three times throughout our visit.

Rain in McIver Puddle

Eventually Rain was getting tired of playing ball and sniffing around, so we headed to a different area of the park to explore. Winding downhill to the Clackamas River, I spotted three black-tailed deer. Rain, of course, barked before I could get a photo of them, as she often takes a car slowdown as a sign we’re arriving at our destination and gets very excited.

Once we were next to the river, Rain and I poked around the boat ramp. I was glad to see a sign pointing out that the Clackamas River is a source for tap water! In fact, it’s OUR source for tap water. It’s nice to see some effort being made to keep it decently clean.

Clackamas River Water Sign

Next Rain discovered a permanent device intended for river rescues, and beyond that a footpath that paralleled the river. She wanted to check out the water—seeing some rapids nearby I kept it short because I didn’t want to need one of those river rescues.

Rain Wets Her Paws in the Clackamas River
Rain Shakes Off on the Banks of the Clackamas River

Next, Rain sniffed out the equestrian trail, where we walked for a good 1/4 mile or so. She managed to rub in some horse poop. We turned back before a steep hill because I didn’t really want to run into a horse on the trail—I was fairly sure Rain would scare the horse which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Rain Sits on Forest Log
Clackamas Fish Hatchery from Dog Creek Trail

We walked down toward an area of the parking lot where there was a cluster of trucks and vehicles. Two uniformed cops—state police? on duty? I have no idea—wandered out before getting in a pickup and leaving. At the end we discovered a trail sign for Dog Creek Trail. Dog? Trail? It was fate! We took it.

The trail was a short loop, but Rain got to hop into Dog Creek. We encountered some people along the way, and given the cluster of vehicles I suspect that there were a bunch of fishermen hanging out along the river past where the trail looped back. We spotted the back of the Clackamas Fish Hatchery through the trees and the trail seemed to dump us at the back of the spawning ponds.

Rain seemed determined to get her paws wet in all kinds of water, and I’m sure these ponds smelled of salmon. As we walked through the hatchery, trying to find our way back, Rain pulled toward the water as much as she could. I could tell there were fish below the surface, as I’d see a ring ripple out on the surface with some regularity—a fish bobbing up to the surface for a piece of feed or an insect.

Once we had made our way out of the fish hatchery and back into the car, I figured we should start heading back. But first, one last stop at the off-leash area!

Rain and Her Ball in the Grass

We had spent over three hours exploring Milo McIver State Park…would it be worth it? When we got home Rain seemed content, but I started seeing some clearer changes as the afternoon turned into evening. Rain started hobbling a little around the house, her head low and her front right leg seemingly sore. After dinner, when she would normally have a burst of playful energy, she settled down and just snoozed. If she woke up at all, it was only to stare at me as a subtle hint to move operations to the bed, where she could really settle in for the night. Eventually I did so, and afterward Rain barely moved. When I turned in myself, Rain didn’t move to come lie right next to me like normal—she was out cold.

When I woke up in the morning, it continued—the sky was getting light and there was no dog standing next to my face, prodding me to get up! When I finally stirred though, the whining kicked in and things more or less returned to normal. We had busted some buzzies, but only temporarily.

So we’re planning to continue doing these outings. After all, a tired dog is a happy owner!