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Another Weekend Up North

Satterfield Family Photo at Baptism Two weekends ago we all headed back up to Mom & Dad's for Charlotte's baptism. My brother-in-law's mother and brother made the trip from Maryland, so with all of us "kids" - and 3 dogs - it was a full house.

Mom of course fed us lots of good food, and we got in some quality time with Sophia and Charlotte.

Satterfield Christmas Photo 2008Amy and I also took care of our Christmas card photos. We'd been waiting for a typical snowy Minnesota scene, and we got it.

They had this idea of them all laying on their backs, looking up at me. This posed somewhat of a problem, as it's hard to get up high enough to do that without having ladder legs or something else in the photo. Fortunately, since Mom and Dad leave the dock sections in the back yard, all I had to do was climb up on one of the benches and lean over a bit.

Clint & Sarah's Christmas Photo 2008Since I'm egotistical about my photography, I wouldn't let anyone else even press the button for our Xmas photos. Not even if I'd already set everything up. So, even though Mom was there to make Zada look at the camera, I had the SLR on timer mode :)

Amy & CharlotteI also got some cute "on the side" shots of Amy and Charlotte - who was the epitome of a little Eskimo baby. Pretty darn cute, if I may say so myself (and I do).

Of course, no photo shoot is complete without me taking random pictures of my dad asked me at one point, "how many pictures of your dog do you NEED?" I dunno...and nobody complains about a mother taking a bajillion pictures of her kid :) That's all it is!

German Shepherd Lying in SnowThing is, this dog loves being outside so much that the picture wasn't posed. I happened to look out and saw her lying contentedly in the snow and snapped this through the window.

In addition to all this, I decided to get the engagement shot out of the way. I originally wasn't going to do this, but Mom wants to run an announcement in the Brainerd paper (sigh) so I obliged. Didn't spend too much time on it, but we're pleased with the results :)

Engagement Photo Once again, I didn't want anyone else "taking" the image so I got a little creative with my tripod (thank goodness for pistol grips!) and the timer. Keep in mind he was very open to doing this, even though there was a football game going on downstairs! What a guy...

So, it was definitely a weekend full of posing and image capturing, but fun nonetheless.

The next time we head up - New Year's - I can say won't be nearly as photography-focused, which I'm sure will bring a sigh of relief from everyone :)

Clint & Zada in the Snow

Thanksgiving Festivus

Loving Grandparents with their Grandkids Once again we headed up to Mom & Dad's for an extended Thanksgiving celebration. I pretty much love ANY holiday which allows me 4 full days up at the Bernier Spa & Ranch, but Thanksgiving rocks because it's all about FOOD.

(Making it hard to maintain the weight loss I started in Italy...sigh.)

Clint and I arrived up there on Wednesday evening, and the rest of the gang (sister + her brood, and 3 aunts/uncles + dog) came on Thanksgiving Day. There was quite a lot going on up there this time...
Smiley 6-month-old

Sophia and Charlotte were in fine form - both with their quick mouths. The former was entertaining us with her retorts and the latter was keeping us on our toes with her regurgitation skills. I don't think Mom & Dad figured they'd have to worry about stains on their brand-new carpet...but, such as things are, little Charlotte has QUITE the "reflux" capacitator!

Charlotte & I Bonding But, you just learn (or, sometimes, have to be violently reminded) to put down a big baby blanket and have PLENTY of burp rags on hand :) She's so darn perfect of a baby there has to be SOMETHING 'normal' about her!

Dad & Clint Checking the Honda for Oil in the RadiatorDad & Clint bonded by acting as mechanics to my car...trying to figure out why on earth there would be oil getting into my radiator. My poor little Honda Accord has passed its 10-year mark (in fact, we're marching towards 11!) and things have been slowly declining.

A Toddler-Sized Christmas Tree Mom wanted help with getting their Christmas tree, so she, Sophia and I bundled up and headed out to a cut-your-own lot in search of "the perfect Christmas tree." Sophia's words, not mine. Of course, it's a lot with very pretty trees, but they're also small - some of them QUITE diminuitive, as Sophia found out! I always say you can't take home the first one that catches your eye...but wouldn't you know, after marking it and moving on to look at everything else, we ended up getting it after all.

The Perfect Christmas Tree (The size was a little more appropriate for the house. And, I know it's sprayed...but, once you get it away from all the others, you can't tell :)

The dogs got plenty of exercise, too...they went from hyper-activity on Wednesday night to needing a quick cat-nap (or, dog-nap, as it were) during the afternoon to keep going through 'til bedtime. The old cliché still rings true - A tired dog is a good dog! Of course, having a couple of "new" dogs in the mix certainly helped. My aunt & uncle brought their extremely bouncy/hyper/energetic German short-haired pointer up, plus the neighbors' dog - a 9-month-old black lab - decided to visit a few times and give Zada a run for her money.

A Tired Dog is a Good Dog

We had some good hikes out in the backwoods...lots of snuffling of scents, chasing of sticks, and tongues lolling. Oh, and the dogs had fun, too :) We only had one near-incident where the 2 "nose" dogs (Tesa & Zada) flushed a couple of deer and gave chase for a few bounds before I - thankfully - recalled them. Thank goodness for dog obedience classes!

Tired Dogs Laying on our Feet Of course, it wasn't until the last day that Zada finally realized the lake was frozen, thus offered a whole new avenue of adventure...we'll see if she remembers right away when we head back up the next 2 weekends.

My German Shepherd Intently Watching her Daddy Speaking of Zada, I had quite the hard time relinquishing my spot as "First Master" this weekend. For some reason or other, Zada was entirely focused on Clint. On our walks, she was still well aware of where I was, but if he left the house (we stayed at the neighbors'), she was VERY intent on where he was. In fact, she even missed breakfast one morning because he left for the gym and she wouldn't stop staring out the screen door. So much for shepherds being one-person dogs!!

I feel so betrayed :)

And, last but certainly not least - Clint bought got a "new" vehicle! Evidently my sister was in the market for a new (2008) half-ton Ford pick-em-up truck, so instead of trading in her Durango (2003, purchased new in 2004) she sold it to Clint for a good price. Now at least between the 2 of us we have one rock solid car. It's pretty sweet - tow package, hitch (you know, for all the stuff we haul around), remote start, 4WD, power seats, nice's a winner!

Our 'New' 2003 Dodge Durango Long story short, it was a GREAT Thanksgiving weekend :)

Wedding Plans Update

Sarah's Wedding DressFor those of you who are curious about the behind-the-scenes goings-on in planning a Mexican destination wedding, here are the latest updates:

I bought a dress - haven't picked it up yet, but it's paid in full. It's a light, taffeta (any Young Frankenstein fans out there???) dress that needs a few modifications to be perfect, but the price was right - $200!!! Can't argue with that.

My shoes are ordered and will be arriving (at David's Bridal, ick, the ONLY thing I will buy there, and only 'cause they were dyeable) at the end of December. The alterations appointment is scheduled for the first week of January.

Clint's Palladium Wedding BandClint picked his ring - a very cool, textured palladium band. It's being held at Thomas Joseph & Sons where I know it'll be safe 'til the week before the wedding. I'm getting a "band," too, but not to wear along with my 'real' ring. The new one will merely be a placeholder for when I'm horseback riding, swimming in the ocean, or doing any other type of activity which scares me while wearing this rock.

For Clint's attire we're thinking silk pants with a short-sleeved, silk shirt. Originally we wanted a Tommy Bahama shirt, but they don't make white silk, only natural. So, we're re-thinking. I want silk because it's so swingy but still durable. Linen's just too wrinkly.

Low Bun Wedding Updo I'm also going through the process of choosing a hairstyle...I already had a "trial" done, but the styles I'd chosen just didn't look right with the texture and AMOUNT of hair I have. So, I'm thinking something along the lines of a low, messy chignon or some type of bun.Bridal Updo Idea..thing.

Since we're starting over, I have another "trial" appointment with my hairdresser in January. Why have a trial run with a hair stylist HERE, you might ask...well, because she's going, too! Crazy, and random...but most of all, lucky!

Other than hashing out ceremony details (via email) with the person in charge at Le Kliff, I think that's about it for now. Oh, and here's the image I shot from the boat to Yelapa this past spring when Clint and I saw it for the first time...okay, I probably saw it sometime in passing since I was 11, but this is the first time I NOTICED it :)

Le Kliff Restaurant

Halloween '08

Sophia the Mermaid I sort of can't believe I blogged about my dog (and her new toy) before I made mention of my nieces and their '08 Halloween endeavors.

While it's Sophia's 3rd Halloween - so of course she has the drill down pat - it's merely Charlotte's it was considered a success that she stayed awake for most of it.

Charlotte the Flower Sophia got to be a mermaid this year - albeit a "cold weather mermaid". See, 3-year-olds are so smart and they have brains like sponges, remembering EVERYTHING. When my sister got home with the mermaid costume one night and presented it to her daughter, Sophia's first reaction - after approximately 4 seconds of looking at it - was, "Mom. Mermaids don't have sleeves!"Sophia Trick-or-Treating as a Mermaid

She has a sister had to think on her feet and replied, "Well, Sophia, you're going to be a Northern Mermaid - because it's cold, you have sleeves. Mermaids who live in warm weather, like Ariel, don't have sleeves."

"OK" was the reply. Whew. Crisis averted.Amy with Charlotte the Flower Baby

Charlotte, on the other hand, was quite content to hang out in the baby carrier and watch the festivities with eyes bigger than the new moon.
She made it 'til about 7:30 before becoming a wilted baby flower and nodding off.

Oh, and Clint even dressed up...he was Creepy White Collar Guy lurking in the shadows. Goober.Look at My Striped Shirt!

However, I do have to admit the coolest part of the evening was heading over to my sister's neighbors' house, where they'd decorated the ENTIRE yard with ~36 blow-up statues. Not sure of the technical term, but it was a veritable Halloween Paradise!

Halloween ParadiseThey received about 180 trick-or-treaters that night...evidently the word is out on the street that Robbinsdale has a pretty cool place to go!

Halloween Paradise Entrance It got even better after dark...

Unfortunately, my camera's not too good at taking the low-light I didn't get any of kids actually going through the tunnels.
Halloween Paradise Jack-o-Lantern

Halloween Paradise Ghost But, I DID happen to catch the ghost of a creepy guy in business casual attire...

Ghostly Picture

Zada's New (Old) Toy

Zada with Knotted Rope ToyThe last time I was with Dani, she had a neat toy for Tucker, and I asked her where she got it. She told me the dollar bin at Target - of course, not everything is $1, but close enough. Although I can't remember for the life of me what that toy was, I made sure to browse that section while in Target today, and instead stumbled upon an old family favorite: The Mop.

It's not a 'mop', but we always called it that name with my family's previous shepherd, Ivan. Not sure why. Speaking of that mop, we still have it. Yup, Ivan stumbled into my life right before I turned 15; we put him down right before I turned 24. Aaaand we still have one of his favorite toys.

Zada Ripping off Loose Strings on Rope ToyI guess that's not as bad as my mother still having the dog bed from FOUR dogs ago. Yes, 4. That dog - Gitta - we got when I was 5. Same dog bed they have today. Did I mention Mom had Gitta's name stitched on it??? It's survived Gitta, Ivan, Maggie, and now Tesa. Heaven forbid Mom gets a bed that a) has the current dog's name on it or b) gets a non-specific bed. as soon as I got Zada, I purchased a knotted rope to have as her very own 'mop'. Thing was, she had such a sensitive stomach I was afraid of what would happen when she started to - inevitably - pull off and eat the loose ends.

Turns out this was the Godsend I'd been waiting for, as soon after she started having solid...doo doo. So, I let her keep eating it. Plus, there was the added bonus of her flossing every time she tried to rip off the strings. She puts a paw on either side, and with the strings in her mouth, starts at the bottom, where they're attached, and RRRRIIIIIIIPPPS upwards 'til she gets a mouthful to disconnect. It's rather comical when she tries and tries but can't get the pieces out of her teeth.

Zada Loves her Knotted Rope Toy Unfortunately, that didn't happen tonight, when I gave her the one I brought home. She hasn't had one in a long time - not sure why - so it was a picture-worthy event to see her reunited with an old friend.

She didn't make it very long before she petered out...not sure if it's because it's Sunday (meaning she's more laid-back because she's been out all day) or just the excitement of a new toy. Either way, I have a feeling she'll be pooing solidly for the next few days while she rips away all the loose strings.

Zada's Spent After Chewing on her Knotted Rope

And, just to clarify: I'm NOT in the habit of buying her GIRLY just so happens that a) the rope toy only came in pink or Christmas colors, and b) the purple bone also featured in the photos only came in purple. Don't judge me.

PS: Yup, I did it. I just blogged about my dog's new toy.

Just a Quick Question:

Why, OH WHY, does every single bridal web site feel the need to play music? And, hardly any of them have an "off" button. What the h3ll? I don't want to listen to stupid, mushy music, I just want to see if you have simple wedding dresses from which to choose.

Honestly, any web site playing music (that's SO 2002) is one I instantly scratch off the list. Sorry. I just don't want to deal with it.

Turn off the volume on your computer, you say? Well, no thanks. I'm a music lover, and my newest affair is with Pandora, so my speakers are always playing good music.

'Til I hit a dorky wedding site, that is.

Horseback Riding in Toscana

For 2 weeks in September, Mom and I headed to Italy. Toscana (Tuscania) mainly, for horseback riding, but we also did the touristy sites in Pisa and Rome.

It was a blast - Mom had never been, and the only time I was in Italy was during my 3-week backpacking trek in college. Let's be honest, 2 days whipping through a city (partially hungover from the night before) isn't really a way to experience another country.
Horseback Riding in Tuscany

Ok, it's just a DIFFERENT way to experience it :)

Anyway, for our horse portion of the trip, we stayed at the Rifugio Prategiano Hotel near Montieri, in the Maremma area of southern Toscana ("Tuscany"). We were there a week, with 5 full days of riding around the area.

Trail Riding in Tuscan Woods The first day, Sunday, we just did a half-day ride to get used to the horses and, frankly, to break ourselves in gently to riding for 5-6 hours per day!

Maremman Horse: TangoThe next day we rode out from the hotel and from then on out, where we ended up in the afternoon was where the horses would "camp" (they'd bus us back and forth) 'til we got there the next morning. We ended up riding a huge, somewhat lopsided loop around the hotel area, never ending up more than a 40-minute car ride back to the comfort of our rooms each afternoon.

The first night the horses stayed at a villa called Ancqua. We ended up meeting a Maremman cowboy (a butero) - Gino - who was our guide for a morning.

Gino the Butero

Labor Day Weekend

Amy, Sophia & Charlotte This past Labor Day weekend my whole family headed up to Mom & Dad's for a nice, relaxing holiday. Dani even came, so there were 7 adults, 2 kids and 4 dogs (Dani brought Tucker, too!).

On Saturday, my mom's friend, her mother-in-law, her daughter AND their dog came over for a while, and on Sunday my sister's friend, 2 kids and a horse came over! (We went horseback riding while Mom watched the younger kids.)

Grandmother & Granddaughter Other than horseback riding, we went for walks (Dani's training for the Breast Cancer 3-Day), rode around on the Gator, played with the dogs, shot some bocce ball, and ate very well!

Oh, we also celebrated my birthday a week early...nothing exciting; it was a good day (except for another Zada incident), nice weather, and good food! Clint cooked us steaks on the grill with his "secret marinade" and they were delicious!

Toddler Eating a PeachSpeaking of delicious, Sophia sure did enjoy the fresh peaches Mom had :)

The dogs were in heaven all weekend - romping in the yard, the lake, and going out for walks. The bugs aren't bad anymore, and it wasn't humid - though it was warm each day - so they got in a LOT of running and playing!

Golden Retriever Dock JumpingTesa displayed her launching-off-the-dock skills, while Hogan stuck to his acrobatics. Tucker and Zada were, as ever, focused on destroying sticks and spending as much time in the water as possible.

Speaking of sticks, I think all of us must've thrown at least one sometime during the weekend...those dogs are NUTS for playing fetch, and we definitely obliged.

Sable GSD Laying Down with Stick
Blue Heeler Jumping for Stick

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos from the horseback riding we did...but, we had good rides, just a minor moment when one of the horses decided he wanted grass more than he wanted to remain on all fours, so he ended up on knees and hocks. It was actually comical since he got back up after ~30 seconds of looking dazed and confused.

Toddler Swingin on Horse Tire Swing It's always hard coming back to "the cities" and real life after a weekend up North...especially since it's the end of summer and it was, in a way, the Last Huzzah of the season. But, we'll be heading back up often enough in the fall and winter, and even though we can't horseback ride (as much) or play bocce ball in winter (or, can we??) it'll be the season for snowshoeing, hiking, and building snowmen.

Farewell, summer!

Dog Training Techniques

I know I said I wasn't going to waste any more time talking about Kozies Shepherds, but I feel I should clarify a few things.

In researching obedience classes after I got Zada, I wanted to be sure I found someone who was somewhat "Cesar-ish" - meaning a calm, firm leader. I ended up finding a friend in my dog obedience trainer, Linda, but also someone who taught me the wonderful results I could achieve using positive reinforcement and behavior modification.

It was a learning curve for me, as I'd never used these methods before - but they really work! Marking the behavior - at the INSTANT it occurs - lets the dog know exactly what they did right (or wrong). You never use any other mode of positive punishment ("adding an offensive or adverse stimulus"), i.e., striking the dog, or using a shock collar.

Why? Because the very BASIS of behavior modification strives to teach the dog what they're doing correctly, and in telling them they're displaying the behavior you want - and subsequently rewarding it - teaches the dog to try more often and harder to recreate the behavior, because it's a pleasing experience.

You might wonder why positive punishment wouldn't do the same thing - if the dog's being bad, and you strike it, that'll tell that darn dog not do do THAT again. BUT, you didn't tell the dog what he SHOULD be doing; you're worrying about what he should NOT be doing. Since dogs are always doing something, and we want them to be confident, we can't expect them to head out and try new things, since they won't know when the next fist is going to strike them or when the next shock will come.

The reason I'm outlining all of this is for those people who keep finding my blog when they're searching for Kozies Shepherds and find it necessary to tell me I don't know what I'm doing with my own dog. Recently I received a comment from one of them stating, "Mark Kozitza is very knowledgable in raising dogs and you probably should have taken his advice about how to handle it."*

Since I'm being called out on this, I'll tell everyone, I DID call Mark after Zada stalked, pounced upon and bit that girl last September. I called him after I got done crying for about 3 hours, not knowing if I was going to have to put her down for aggression. I asked him how to handle this situation, stating it had started - and I'd been working on it at dog parks - with other dogs. Keep in mind, this is a very dominant dog (I've seen her lift a leg like a male when she's marking), and it's a constant struggle with other dogs, but of course I had NO idea she was capable of transmitting this behavior to kids.

Mark's solution? Put a pinch collar on her, with a long rope, and give it a "quick jerk" when she reaches the other dog. OR, he also said to put a shock collar on her if that didn't work. Okay. Let me tell you what's wrong with THAT: even the most novice of dog trainers will tell you a dog won't learn not to stalk, rush, and pounce on things if you punish it for the instant it's already leaping.

The behavior starts long before the actual leap - with Zada, I can tell: her eyes get focused, her ears prick, the tail goes up, and then she charges. The INSTANT she "hones in" on another dog is the time to correct the behavior; not when she's already honed in, rushed, and started barking.

What I do is catch her the INSTANT I see her perk up - I distract her, and she gets rewarded (her extreme ball drive helps here) for paying attention to me and not the other dog. Does it always work? No, because MY timing isn't always consistent - it's hard to constantly watch her at the dog park, or when we're camping...she's caused some squabbles because I've looked away or didn't see the signs (again, my fault) and she's charged another dog who's willing to stand their ground to her.

She's had a fear/dominance issue with new dogs since the day I brought her home. I've often wondered, why??? The only explanation I can come up with is Kozitza had her segregated from all the other dogs (she was 4 months old) and when new dogs would come in for training, he'd let them rush her pen and he said she'd "started barking at strange dogs" and I witnessed it - at 4 months of age, she was displaying fear aggression with new dogs. He did nothing to correct this at the onset, and I've been dealing with it ever since. That's a lesson to me - never get an older puppy who wasn't properly socialized its entire life (not just the first 8 weeks of life).

It's a constant struggle on my part nowadays - I'm ALWAYS watching her, because I just don't quite trust her...neither does anyone who knows about her "incident" last fall. I'm entitled to my opinion, and I'll never purchase from Kozies Shepherds or recommend them.

* PS: For those of you who have an issue with me and like to name-call, I don't post comments from people I don't know. I find it sad that you feel the need to conduct yourself in an inappropriate manner.

A Weekend of Trail Riding

Dog, Horse & Silhouette of RiderThis past weekend I trekked up North (once again) to Pillsbury State Forest for a weekend of horseback riding. As it turned out, it ended up being just a bunch of girls - although a couple dads showed up for dinner on Friday, mine included - and it turned out to be a FABULOUSLY fun time! (Self Portrait with Ole & Z )
Skinny Trail Riding
Most of the trails we traversed were "skinny trails" - i.e., skinny enough that a horse just fits through. Keep in mind, I was on the biggest horse there (Olephant) so sometimes we had a bit more trouble squeezing through than others :)
( Mom & Ben on a skinny trail)

There were a few times I had to get off and clear the way of broken branches, trees and the like...being in front carries with it the responsibility of making sure there IS a trail.
Horseback Trail Riders with Dust & Sun
Sadly, I ended up ripping my new boot cut riding tights, but with all the brush I was crawling around in, it was inevitable. They're very comfortable, though, and as long as I wear half-chaps to keep the burrs to a minimum, I think they're my new favorite riding pants. Pretty sure in Italy we won't have to worry about clearing a path on which to ride, anyway :)

We ended up riding around 12-13 hours in two days, which was good for me - I need to get in shape for Tuscany. The weather was gorgeous, and we had a great time not only trail riding but also having our "bareback" time back in camp after dinner (hence, no pictures - it was dark).A Schipperke Relaxes on Her Owner's Lap
Zada with The Perfect Stick

Speaking of camp, we had quite the crew:
  • 4 camping rigs (motorhomes, trucks, trailers)
  • 3 moms
  • 6 "kids" (I was one :)
  • 9 horses
  • 5 dogs (2 Schipperkes, 1 Mini Aussie, 1 Jack Russell & 1 German shepherd)

We only had 2 dogs that came with on all of our trail rides - Zada, of course, and Mya, one of the Schipperkes. All of 20 pounds, she kept up and was a little trooper. Of course, she'd definitely take advantage of her owner's lap and relax after a ride! Ms. Z, not so much, as evidenced by the "here's-my-stick-now-will-someone-please-throw-it-for-me" picture.

All in all, it was a weekend of "Happy Trails" and "Happy Tails"!