At the park this morning, Sophie Sunshine spotted a dog from a distance that was a dead ringer for Copper, one of the Australian Shepherds owned by Jen, who hosted Sophie, Bear and Riley at Woof Camp when Suzanne and I went to Oaxaca in September. Sophie was so excited that she immediately dropped her ball and took off running. By the time she reached the Copper-lookalike, she was so happy that her tail was spinning in circles. I have never noticed her do that before. Truly, circles, like a motorboat blade. It was so cute!

Sadly for her, the dog was not Copper. Happily for her, the dog was friendly, enthusiastic and a big puppy, so they romped together for a little bit and then Sophie found her ball and went back to playing ball, while the Copper-lookalike (Percy) played with a beagle puppy who was also happy to romp. We wound up staying at the park longer than I intended, because there was so much happy energy that it was hard to resist.

Can you guess what made the energy so happy? Well, dogs, obviously. But also, SUNSHINE! Unexpected sunshine, which is the best. Although, actually, all sunshine is good by me, and I’m perfectly happy with predicted sunshine, as well as surprise sunshine. Still, surprise sunshine makes for a nice Monday morning.

I know I’m writing about weather a lot — not the most interesting of topics! — but… well, the newspapers have been writing about the Californian weather a lot, too. There’s a certain level of weather that becomes newsworthy, and while Arcata itself isn’t entirely at that level, it’s not so far off. It is conceivable (albeit still unlikely) that all the roads in and out of town could wind up closed because of the weather. It gives us a little bit of that flavor of the early days of the pandemic, when people were stockpiling crazy stuff because of the uncertainty. The endless days of rain make it seem all too plausible, while the sunshine makes it seem like nonsense. Of course, it’s all going to be fine. Yay, sunshine!

This weekend, Sophie and I went on two long walks. On Saturday, we walked about a mile and met up with the Redwood Pals Rescue pack walk. We then walked about two miles, I think, with a group of about 9 other dogs. For our first solo mile, Sophie was entirely off-leash, including a stretch along a fairly busy road. She was so good! She gets ahead of me a bit, then falls behind me when there’s an interesting smell, then gets ahead again, but she stops at every street corner and waits for me to say go. Many treats are still involved, but she’s very attentive. Then on Sunday, we did the same loop, about four miles or so, off-leash (with a brief exception of a time when she went on-leash to get by another dog). Suzanne’s pet-sitter, Rachaelle, joined us on that walk, so she and I were chatting away, but even though I was distracted, Sophie was still 98% perfect.

I never actually expected to have a true off-leash dog. Off-leash in enclosed, safe, specific areas, yes, i.e. I would have been sad if I couldn’t let her run free in dog parks and on beaches. But I didn’t imagine even wanting to train her to be off-leash on city streets and in places with traffic. I would have thought I’d be just way too anxious to ever be comfortable in those situations. But Sophie is so responsive and so happy to be trusted. She very much wants that freedom and she is delighted to have it. I think she understands that sometimes a leash is inevitable, but she’s sad about it when I put it on her. She doesn’t quite view it as a punishment, but it’s something like that.

After the pack walk, I tried teaching her that when I drop the leash, she should stop moving. That was fun. I don’t think she’d do it if I didn’t have a plentiful supply of treats in my pocket, but she definitely figured out pretty quickly what I was aiming for. I’m hoping later this year to do some dog training at a local place. She has not mastered — at all! — the concept of “you stay put while I move away” and I haven’t figured out how I can teach her that in a house so small that there is really no way for me to move away from her. But it would be a useful skill for her to have, I think. Hmm, maybe I should start working on it in the park. Well, something to think about!

In other news, I went to the dentist last week for the first time since the pandemic began. Ugh. My new dentist thinks I need $10,000 worth of stuff. Four crowns on old fillings, root planing to treat my gums, a night guard to protect my implants. She’s very high-tech and I don’t think she’s wrong — she showed me the cracks radiating out from the old fillings — but most of it is still not happening anytime soon. The root planing is, but for the rest, I’m looking into dental tourism. If I’m going to spend thousands of dollars, I’d rather have it include a cool vacation. Maybe this fall. Maybe next winter!

As for today, I should be thinking about email. My sole goal for the day — apart from the obvious DRP activities (Sleep, Walk, Eat Vegetables) — is to get my email under control. Somewhere, buried under the hundreds of emails that are flooding my inboxes every single day, is an email from a college friend that’s about 10 days old now. I know it’s in there underneath the vast amounts of spam I’m getting, and I’d really like to answer it, but it’s currently lost. There might be plenty of other interesting things in there, too, but I honestly just cannot keep up with my email anymore. I don’t think it’s just me, I think the spammers have figured out ways to defeat the spam filters, but my email situation is just crazy right now. If it didn’t seem completely unfeasible, I’d just delete all my email addresses and set up a new secret one that I only gave out to actual human beings. But that does seem unrealistic. Anyway, the goal for the day: clean out the email. And write a blog post. And enjoy the sunshine! I sort of suspect that two out of three will happen, because that sunshine is calling my name.


I felt like the cows had been playing King of the Mountain and were just waiting for us to go by to get back to their game.