Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winnie at Rose River Farm

Thanks to my friend Douglas, I had the opportunity to bring Winnie down to Rose River Farm in Madison County, Virginia for a couple days. The purpose of the trip was a Friday meeting of the Project Healing Waters board of trustees, but I went down Wednesday night to get in some dog time and a little trout fishing. It rained much of the time, but we had lots of fun and I continue to be amazed at how this dog handles every new experience I throw at her.

When we arrived, it was just getting dark. Douglas brought his Spinone, Enzo, out to meet Winnie. I've spent some time with Enzo before, but hadn't seen him in a while. He is way bigger than I remembered, probably because I'm so used to Winnie's size. And Winnie was clearly intimidated by him at times - after all, she's used to being the biggest dog in the yard. But Enzo wouldn't hurt a fly, and they got along fine. I kept her on the check cord at first, having never let her off leash out in the open before. But soon it became clear that, at her age and in such a new place, she wasn't going to range very far from me.

We left the dogs in crates, Winnie's right next to Enzo's, and went out to dinner. She was completely fine when we returned. Douglas broke out the Gator/mule/utility vehicle/whatever you call it, to give Enzo a run. I was very curious (okay, anxious) about how Winnie might react to that. I said she'd be afraid of the noise, that she isn't used to being around vehicles, that it's dark out and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, Winnie was saying, "cool! let's GO!" We drove down to the river and back, maybe a mile and a half, Enzo leading the way and Winnie happily running behind! What great exercise! I was very proud of her. And when Enzo ranged too far, Winnie circled back and checked in with me.

Back at the cabin, the tired dogs hung out together as we piled wood in the stone fireplace and drank beer and bourbon. Predictably, she slept like a rock through the night.

Morning brought steady light rain, but we were up early so we walked down to the river. I think I brought a leash but I'm not certain. I did bring the whistle and she really jumps when I blow that thing! At one point, her farthest from me yet, she spotted a big leaf blowing in the wind and took off after it, finally settling about sixty yards out. I blew the whistle and she ran to me at full speed!

The rain picked up and the temperature dropped. So we're smart enough to know what that means: leave the dogs in the cabin and go fishing!

I was very well dressed for the conditions, and found it very comfortable fishing despite temps in the mid 40s and steady rain. The trout were cooperative, and it was good to feel life at the end of the line again. I had not fished at all since early spring!

People started arriving Thursday night for the Friday meeting, and more bourbon flowed. Winnie, no doubt tired from all the free range running, was very well behaved. A cold front also arrived, and Friday morning was cold and extremely windy. I wanted to exercise her a bit before the meeting, so we went back down to the river. She ran into some brush and popped out about a second later, covered in burs. In the photo below you can see a bunch on her chest, in the longer fur that's perfect for such things. But this picture was taken the previous day. On this morning, she popped out of that brush with about sixty of them. Ears, lips, chest, legs, between the pads of her feet, and one perfectly aligned on the top of her head. Douglas told me he had a brush that worked well for them, so my plan was to get back to the cabin, take a picture of the pathetic and comical display of plant life adorning my dog, and remove them.

Winnie had a different plan. She was not budging. She sat in the grass and insisted I remove the burs before she would take a step. So there we sat, in the cold, howling wind, removing burs. She'd work on one leg while I worked on the other. We finally got them all out and headed back.

A great couple of days with good friends and good dogs. And my first trip away with Winnie taught me a lot about her, not the least of which is that I genuinely enjoy her company. She is a wonderful travel companion.

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