Sunday, October 28, 2012


Some stories don't have a clear beginning,
middle and end.  Life is about not knowing, 
having to change, taking the moment and
making the best of it, without knowing what's
going to happen next.  Delicious ambiguity.
-Gilda Radner

He has drawn back, only in order to have enough 
room for his leap. -Friedrich Nietzsche

Whatever you do or dream you can do - begin it.
Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

The secret to a rich life is to have more
beginnings than endings.
-Dave Weinbaum

The way to get started is to quit talking and 
begin doing. - Walt Disney

Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about 
creating yourself. - George Bernard Shaw

Monday, October 22, 2012



Mom - Howard - Donna

  How do you even start to write a tribute to such a soul?  Uncle Howard.  My inspiration.  My friend.  My cement.  My binoculars. My scale/balance. 

     We love our animals unconditionally, as they love us.  Pure to form.  Howard loved his animals more than some would think healthy.  They loved him back even more.  He was not a fan of humanity.  He made the humans in his life toe the line.  He lived in a world of black and white, where rarely we find others can survive.  It is clean place to live.  Righteous and pure.  Lonely.  

    He was a "whistle-blower".  When he found gross injustices and lies in the world he would go down representing and protecting what was right. From issues on falsified documents claiming safety on welds in nuclear power plants, to tiles on space shuttles, all the way to protecting the wilderness from rogue outfitters.  He could not be bought.  He could not be silenced.  Even in Washington D.C..  Much to the chagrin of his supervisors and the politicians.....  He was a rare gift.

He was a large Italian force to be reckoned with.  Or he was a big soft gentle giant with quick wit and a deep hardy laugh.  The infectious kind that resonates through the entire room or echos along the mountain side

      He influenced me with his actions more than with his words.  Sometimes his lack of words had more impact than anything he would say.  He was my companion. We understood.  It was an understanding without saying.

       I am sad for my loss.  I am sad for those who could have known him, but missed out!  I celebrate the gain I have had in my life for running across this 'bird of a feather'.   He enriched my life greatly.  I was one of his pack and was shown the rare unconditional love that truly does exist.  We rarely walked side by side in life. Our best times were on long pack trips 10-14 days out in the wilderness, sometimes riding together, sometimes riding apart.  I had no doubt on my journey, however, that if I ever needed him, he would be there ten-fold!!  So much of who I am today, is because of his influence.  Uncle your spirit will travel with me.

     Happy Trails Uncle Howard.  Keep one saddled for me on the other side.  I'll meet ya there one day and help set up camp.


Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Loss and Gain

"Loss and Gain"

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,
Little room do I find for pride.

I am aware
How many days have been idly 
How like an arrow the good
Has fallen short or been turned

But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this 

Defeat may be victory in 
The lowest ebb is the turn of the

     This one is not for someone else.  This is a hurdle in my life journey that I have refused to engage.  I never did care for 'the hurdles'.  I much preferred an outright sprint.  Those nasty things that got in the way of the finish line.  They sure looked like knee bruisers and toe catchers to me!!!  I never entered that race.


     Black and White.  Yin and Yang.  Credit and Debit.  Good and Evil.  Always seeking the 'balance'. I know when training the sheepdog, initially we want them to naturally come to balance.  It feels good and right.  Then they can work from there bringing the flock directly to you.  It feels comfortable.  A little further on, you have to have them feel comfortable out of balance.  They must trust that there is a reason for this and that it will be good and all work out the way it should in the end.  Maybe that is the way gain and loss is too.

     I have been bitch-slapped with this issue.  I just want to ignore it.  My driven nature and hard work ethics has allowed me to reach many of my personal goals.  I have had favorable luck to fall into some of the good fortune bestowed upon me.

     Maybe life is like a game of Tetris where life is throwing you blocks, but you only have the time and energy to place them where you can.  It is not so easy teetering half-way up the structure, to go back and silly putty in the voids that you also inadvertently lose along the way. At the end of the day, you re-evaluate and there are some big areas of emptiness that you will have to be brave and skillful to fill in.  You must fill those in.  If not you lead a life out of balance....all the time.

     One doesn't want to waste too much time looking at those around them, wondering, what the hell went wrong there?  Or on the flip side, WOW isn't she or he just an amazing evolved human?  You know darn well that they had crossroads to make right or left turns at.  You also know that these wise well adjusted individuals have had to deal with loss and gain too.  Point being that you are not the only one on the planet to feel this way.  It has to be universal.  "The genius is knowing that what is true for you in your heart is what is true for all mankind" -RWE.

     The simple question we must answer, is why lump loss/gain together?  Easy kindergarden answer: is that if you do not gain anything more, you will never lose it.  And how desperate do we become not to process and mourn our losses???  Well, watch that TV show 'the Hoarders'.  Something has gone terribly wrong there.  I am almost positive that is some form of mal-adjusted loss/gain issue.  Desperate to not lose anymore.... what ever.  Desperate to fill in the missing Tetris Blocks.  Scared to let anything more go.  Where is the breaking point?  Where does a soul become so hollow that there is nothing left? Now that is crazy deep stuff.  My issues are merely scratches in a teflon pan in comparison.  However, I sometimes feel that my fried eggs are ready to slip off the pan...

    I have tried the "living in the moment" mode.  I don't think it works entirely well for me.  I am a visionary.  You kill the visionary if you take away the vision.  It's my mode of transportation through life.  Yes, I will take it, and I know that I may never be fully satisfied in  the moment.  I think I can take that too.

     "Show me a thoroughly satisfied man, and I will show you a failure" - Ben Franklin

     Maybe I am just a sheepdog that is more comfortable a little out of balance.  Maybe that is why I like my dog Tic, when others don't.  We are both a "little on the muscle", and covering a draw that only we can feel. 

     Early this summer I found out that an old wilderness horsepacking buddy of mine, Penny (only a few years older than me), had passed away unexpectedly in the hospital from an unknown malady. I mourned her all summer.  She was a full of life, grab it by the seat of the pants, wild-west woman!!!  Not sure how many times my uncle bailed her out of jail, but I think a few! I liked her! A lot!  His retirement party she pulled up on a Harley dressed in leathers and changed into her LBD for the event.  How friggin' kewl is that?

     Well here's a spin on my agonizing (loss/gain) struggle.  Yesterday, I found out that she is ALIVE!!!

"The rumors of my demise have been
greatly exaggerated!"
-Mark Twain

       So happy!!! So relieved.  I will make a bigger effort to be a better friend.  We will have a celebration of life ceremony with someone who is still ACTUALLY alive.

      Reflecting deeply on my 'make it happen vs let it happen' saga, I am not a very good victim of life. I can not see myself sitting in some rocking chair lamenting about how life was not good to me.  However, in my semi-vast readings, there is  a common  theme woven throughout, and that is living fully in the moment.  Hmmmm.  Maybe this is in two different planes.  Maybe you can have the make it happen and let it happen at the same time.  The Yin and the Yang.  The Gain and the Loss.


Loss and Gain

Not mutually exclusive,
rather mutually inclusive
            Complementary forces that interact
        to form a greater whole in a complex world
        To engage fully you can't get 
        away with partial experiences


Monday, July 2, 2012

"A Working Dog"


I've seen the Rocky Mountains
And the Gulf of Mexico,
The California surfers
And palm trees by the row.

I've read the works of Shakespeare
And seen Picasso's paint,
The sounds of concert pianists
And heard the bagpipes quaint.

And all of these have thrilled me,
but not one could compare
With watching herding dogs a-working,
A single or a pair.

There's magic in each movement
Than Mozart never had,
And beauty in each turn
That makes my heart feel glad.

There's feeling in the handling
That only poets know,
Or wo/men that work with stock dogs
And feel the teamwork grow.

Wherever life may take you
In sunshine or in fog,
You'll never quite forget it
When once you've worked a dog.

          -Author Unknown

Tuesday, May 29, 2012



     So as a kid, I loved basketball.  I carried one everywhere with me.  I dribbled it on the rocky ranch roads.  My brothers finally put a little hoop up for me when I was about 6 so I would stay out of their way on the big court.  Living on a ranch, I pretty much had to entertain myself.  So basketball was one of my main obsessions.   At the time my town was pretty rural and there was very little organized sports and virtually none for pre-Jr High.  My sister's roommate in college played for UNR's women's basketball team.  By a strange turn of events after watching several of her games they asked me to be the "ballgirl".  Bless my Mom and Dad's heart they let me.  For about 3 years they drove me an hour or so in and an hour or so home to every home game UNR womens team played.   I  warmed up with the ladies, and sat on the bench, gave out much needed water, and swept the floors at half time.

     My Dad was on the local school board for like a hundred years.  I think that having a big family and living in a rural community, being involved is like a requisite.  All my sibs were shipped to another county to go to high school, and it was one of his goals to build a high school in our hometown before his last kid (me) graduated.

     I was so proud to have a brand new high school as a ninth grader to go to.  Actually I was so excited, it would be MY gym.  My teams would break it in. We would be the pioneers for all records that would eventually have to be broken.  We had brand new uniforms.  And I had brand new sparkling white Converse All-Stars and matching sweatbands..... it was a dream come true.  Varsity starting point guard as a freshman!!!

     I will never forget our first away game.  We played Austin High School.  Being a rural Nevada school the bonus(not) is you get to drive many many hours to play teams of your own size.  I can't paint this picture clear enough!!!  The gym was so small we had to stand to watch the boys varsity play.  When it was our turn, we stepped out onto the court against a very seasoned scrappy tough team made up of ranch kids and native american kids that were meaning MEAN business.  We lost that game horrifically.  The score was something like 75-15.  They had a tremendous native american player named Arlenne Hooper, who claimed she was going to play for UCLA (don't think that came to fruition).  I had to guard her.  My 5th foul was somehow with my face.  It was my first broken nose.  I watched my team get annihilated standing at the end of the bench with blood gushing from both nostrils.  I never cried!!!  However I couldn't choke down a morsel of the spaghetti the booster club made for us afterwards.... rather I just slunk back onto the bus and found my seat for the long and silent ride home.  Wow, that's what humble pie tastes like.  My first bite was BIG and it hurt going down.

     The several hours that I had to reflect on that ride home were amazing.  This is where I had to decide if my lifelong dream was really a  nightmare and I was just delusional. Maybe I should quit!!!  I really was good at so many other things.  After all, I just barely weighted 100 lbs and I wasn't very tall at all.  I did have tears, but only in the dark.  And my pristine shoes were all blotched up with blood.  Everything that could have gone wrong, did!!!!  Somewhere in the darkness, with the dank smell of sweat, semi soaked in blood and tears I developed a sense of resolve.  I WOULD NOT quit and I would not let my team quit either!!!!  I would lead them and protect them!!!  And that is what I did.

Dry Lake SDT 2012

Outrun 625 yards

     Maybe this is why I am so drawn to this new sport of sheepdogging.   I think the magic of the handler and amazingly talented sheepdog on the huge unconquerable fields is just one blade away from being impossible.  Yet somehow they do it!!!

Zamora SDT 2012
pic by Kelsey Nichols
trial field behind- huge outrun

     Maybe I am innately masochistic, and I just enjoy pressing myself through failure over and over.  Maybe I will just dwell in failure here for the rest of my life, happily.  The journey.  Oh the journey. I think the draw is doing what is deemed to the normal eye impossible.  It would be like me having to conquer the rubix cube, and then having to acheive the best time on it (6 minutes was my best).  HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE.  Well, I am here to tell you it is not easy.  But even if you've just got your nose bloodied and you're on the long bus ride home,  I already know that it will be so worth it in the end.  I've walked that path many many times already.  In the gym the misnomer is mattering to the crowd and the fans.  In the field the sililoquy is mattering to yourself.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Of Men and Mice

The best laid schemes o' mice and men
often go awry

     Being a visionary IS important.  
Even if the best laid plans can change in life. 
 We also must hone our skills of flexibility. 

"All my pictures seem to fade to black and white"

       So what should we do when we plan and envision a pathway that does not occur.  'Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.'  Enjoy the journey.  Have faith that things are as they should be.  And your pathway is leading you in the right direction.  

      I love this expedition.  One has only so much control over the outcome.  Peace is not loneliness. That has been a big epiphany for me this week.  Peace is not loneliness.  And I really like peace.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Let life happen vs. make life happen

Ok here's the question.  Just let life happen vs make life happen.  From a religious view, is it the Calvinistic approach that when you are born your pathway has already been predestined, so just hold on an enjoy the ride.  Or rather God helps those who help themselves?  If you're not overtly religious,  maybe the PS analogy of going through life/training as an artist is more for you.  Your style can be either paint by numbers, impressionist, or all the way to the abstract.  Your style in how you approach life, is also the same style that you will train and relate to your dogs.... or approach your work/career.....or your home life.

This, indeed, was the question of the weekend.  My answer.....  I think the way that one approaches life has a lot to do with their personality and their background.  Without getting totally psycho-analytical on the topic, it is a key answer to people's style/approach to training, goals for training, and their need for "team"/success.

When I do interviews to fill a position in my business, I look for good people.  I let them do most of the interview.  They tell me about themselves.  Most people are very honest if you listen.  I like emotional intelligence and honesty, amongst many other intangibles.  I always ask - "have you played a team sport?" The answer usually dictates if they will have long term success in my business.  My point that I am trying to make is that people who are from more of a team back ground tend to be more goal oriented, with give and take built in.  Not always.  But if you set a goal, work hard as a team, use intelligent strategy, most often times you will find success.  Let me clarify for the peanut gallery, success comes in many forms it does not always have to be via winning.

So let life happen vs make life happen???  I am definitely more of a visionary make life happen kind of person.  I do believe that on the journey of life you have to also compromise and be flexible, as not to break when things do not go your way.  But that does not sway me one bit from envisioning the pathway that I walk down.  I can not say if I am right or if I am wrong, I believe that we are all different in our styles and in what we deem important in our lives.  It is right for me at this time.  I tend to like all art.  A perfect paint by numbers...I can appreciate.  But I like a piece that speaks to your soul and draws you into it.  A piece that has a deeper meaning, that a passerby would most likely not "get".

I have large distain for those who do nothing and blame others for their misery.  It is very difficult for me to feel compassion for an individual who has a "victims mentality" in life.  You see that more so with people who cling to the just let life happen approach.  They never take responsibility for the consequences that tend to come their way.  It's not their fault.

I feel sadness for those who have no vision.  I think a life without evaluation or direction is just wandering lost in a wilderness.  Yes, good things still happen and one might be able to enjoy that in the moment.  But it is more like color crayons than a great masterpiece.

In closing, I feel that you can still live in the moment, actualizing the good/bad and still have vision for the future.  It must be a balance.  If your eyes are always forward or backward...then you miss the beautiful day.

Spin.  How does this relate to training and relating to your dogs.  I think it is very much style related.  I think that you have vision for you individual dog.  You plot your pathway accordingly.  When you spend timeless hours communicating and working toward that goal you will hit obstacles.   When you reach an obstacle this is where emotional intelligence comes into play.  You can't force things to happen.  This is when you have to let things happen.  When the window is open for learning, it must be recognized and the appropriate style should ensue to bridge that gap.  Yes, with all of this said, still keeping your eye on the goal.  Not every individual (dog, handler, or said team) will reach that goal.  Their destiny may be different.  That is the ride.  It is up to us to do our best on that day for our dog and ourselves.  It may not be the dog who is failing the team.  And the flip side is that you as a handler may be a success to just reach that level.  Keep being aware.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's a jungle out there

     So I tend to do some of my best thinking and reflecting in the shower.  I feel that after my morning coffee and hot shower.... it's all downhill from there.  Not really.  But I love my morning routine.  Innately in my younger years I would sleep until 10am and stay awake until 2-3am.  I never had the luxury of living my diurnal-nocturnal lifestyle.  Now my early mornings are treasured as the peaceful "my time" of the day.

     Reflecting this morning I thought about how I seemed to always relate to the chameleon.  Throughout my life I stayed very diverse and flexible.  In college my focus, unfortunately, was to play collegiate basketball.  Oh yah, and get an education.  In that order.  It boiled down to my choice of a full ride academic scholarship to UNLV with a major in Hotel Management and red shirt my first year on a Division I team  OR  a full ride athletic/academic to a private college CBU and  be back up point guard right away, on a potential championship team.  Well that was a no brainer.  And being the Chameleon that I was, I could blend and excel at either place I was certain.

     I believe it wasn't a case of arrested development, but more so a case of a shiny mirror.  What you see, is what you want to see.  If I was out dancing at a night club, I fit in.  If I was sitting in a church pew, I fit in.  If I was leading a fast break in a playoff game, I fit in.  If I was a park ranger at Lake Tahoe, I fit in.  If  I was at a fundraising benefit dinner wearing a sequin dress, I fit in.  If I was horsepacking in the Teton Wilderness, I fit in.  If I was playing beer pong, I fit in.  If I was doing a rectal exam on a cow...... well let's not go there.

     I am happy that I am at a point in my own evolution that I am not so worried about blending in or what other people think so much anymore.  With a few wrinkles and a few grey hairs (we are sticking with only a few) I am more concerned about living fully and truly.  Not that I ever  REALLY worried too much about what others thought, but maybe more on the perception of my character.  Carrying the heavy anvil of my "perfection" goal, became insanely heavy to my soul in my overworked/overwrought middle years. Mortality issues trumped perception issues, and it just didn't matter anymore.  I think one day, I just hung up my Chameleon jacket and started sporting my inner colors.  I like the analogy of choosing Carnelian over Chameleon.

The pursuit of truth and beauty is 
a sphere of activity
in which we are permitted to remain
children all of our lives.
-Albert Einstein

The truth is incontrovertible.
Malice may attack it,
ignorance may deride it,
but in the end,
there it is.
-Winston Churchill

This above all:
To thine own self be true, 
and it must follow, 
as the night the day.
Thou canst not then
be false to any man.
-Hamlet, Shakespeare 

Our life is what our thoughts 
make it.
-Marcus Aurelius
(Notice, no Dr. Theodor Seuss quotes)