Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Dibee-licious Interlude

Just a short post to commemorate a fun little interlude, in which we dog sat for our former foster Dibee!
Who is now named Zilla, and lives with two people who adore her.

Who is still full of intense, full-bodied, rough, facial-scrub-quality kisses,

 who is a bit of a nut job but who gets along well with Fozzie

who likes to help out in the yard and demonstrate her zeal for weeding 
and who enjoyed going with us on a hike to the Patapsco State Park where she got to put her entire nosie under the water, splash around and be a wacko

 and who loves car rides. 

A perfect little interlude to get back in the swing of fostering. Yep, that's right...stay tuned!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Re-Connecting with the Swiss Goaties

I want to thank everyone for your kind thoughts about my beloved Lamar. If there's anything more wrenching than making that decision about a beloved companion, I'm not sure what it might be. But remembering how many of my friends have been through it was a comfort. 

And as we all know, the agony of making that decision is followed by the emptiness of of no longer hearing that familiar bark, no longer seeing that circle wag. And in this case, that confusing state was immediately followed by our trip to Switzerland.

A stressor for someone who's not a fan of air travel, though fortunately, Switzerland is beautiful. As always, we traveled within Switzerland and France and got to see some truly amazing places.

Like Annecy, France, which is built around the Thiou River and on the edge of Lake Annecy. 

Aunt Nancy, my cousin Courtenay, and her daughter Kayleigh had joined us in Geneva, and we all went to Annecy together. 

What a lovely place to spend the day with family and friends. 

Some gorgeous dogs there too, including one that I think was an Anatolian shepherd. I always used to tell people Lamar was an Anatolian shepherd, when they asked, and they would laugh. 

But don't you see the resemblance? 

Another of my favorite places to visit is Yvoire, a beautiful little town filled with old stone buildings and flowers.  

As it is on the shore of Lake Geneva, my aunt and cousins were able to meet us there by boat

and then we had a lovely time walking around the cobbled streets 

and admiring the French knack for decorating with windowboxes.

Not too many dogs there; had to go back to Florian's parents house for a good dose of animal therapy. 
The goats are still there, right down the road, and I'd swear that the super-friendly ones

The ones I've been scratching and massaging and making out with since I first went to Switzerland in 2008, remember me and are happy to see me again.

It's a good thing they are so friendly; being anywhere without contact with animals more than a few days is enough to make me go a bit batty. But these goats are really, incredibly friendly. Whenever we went to see them, a couple of them would run up, then just stand by the fence for as long as I would scratch them. Then the eyes would glaze over as I hit all those good spots. It's enough to make you want to kidnap one.

I could happily have stayed by the goats for the whole two weeks, but there were more sights to see. Off to Chamonix, in France, for a trip to the Mer de Glace. 

A glacier that's receded rapidly with global warming. We took the trail down the side of the gorge that houses the glacier, and at various points there are plaques indicating the glacier's location at points in the past. 

The melting that has occurred over just a few years was astounding.

Our destination was the ice cave, which has been carved into the glacier and decorated with colorful lights. 

An incredible experience, and one I'm glad I got to have before the glacier disappears entirely.
Enough scenic views, get me back to my goaties!

Florian and I still had enough time to go on a sweet walk through Geneva, 

in which we hiked across the confluence of the Rhone and Arve Rivers in Geneva and visited a small zoo, where we saw another horned creature, more magnificent but less endearing than our little friends.

And we got one last swim in Lake Geneva, which was warm and delightful.

So many beautiful sights and experiences! And still there's no place like home, when home is where the dog is.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lamar Latrell, 2000-July 24, 2014

I finally let go of my handsome Frito bear, my little bitty man, my Lamar Latrell. 

I wanted to let him pass on his own, as I don't think he was in pain from the hemangiosarcoma. But he was uncomfortable enough that he stopped eating, and he wasn't interested in most things, and I just knew it would only get worse. Still, there's nothing easy about doing that to your dear friend. 

Have to remember the good times, almost 14 years of them. 

Lamar Latrell came into my life in 2000. I was working at WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, and my co-worker's wife worked at the shelter. We stopped by to see if she wanted to join us for lunch, and just for fun I went back to see the dogs. Out of all the dogs there, somehow I was drawn to Toby, a beautiful long-legged tan dog with a black mask over his muzzle, who kept presenting his paw at me in greeting. 

I told the front desk staff that if Toby ran out of time, I would foster him. 

Sure enough, a few days later I got the call that Toby needed rescuing. I had to go to Albuquerque for a hearing on a lawsuit for work that day, but I told the shelter to please hold him for me. 

That evening, I rushed back to the Santa Fe shelter and got Toby. He drove back to my studio with me, sitting in the front seat of my Geo Metro and looking out the window with a big smile and a look of dazed wonder.

I had no idea how he would get along with my Tashi, but when I got him home he lay down on the floor at my feet and Tashi came over, playfully dipping her head a bit, put one paw on his shoulder and stood on him! It was a 100% Tashi way of saying that she liked him, and Lamar responded in kind. 

Funny because Tashi was always a grumpy girl and didn't like most dogs, but something about Lamar must have lit a little flame in her grumpy heart. 

For a couple of days, I thought about how I would find a home for Toby. Then I let go of that silly thought.

I had to find him a good name. I thought I would give him a spiritual name because I thought when it's a dog's time to move on from this life, if the last word on his mind is something spiritual it will help him gain an auspicious rebirth. But then I thought of Lamar Latrell from Revenge of the Nerds, and I thought, maybe laughter will get him to a good place as fast as anything.
And there was no shortage of laughter and fun in Lamar's life. Lamar was with me when I bought my house in Santa Fe, and he and Tashi came on a road trip to California for the Zimbabwean Music Festival that first summer together. 

Lamar got his first taste of the ocean on that trip, and he also learned about the joys of sleeping outdoors with nothing but a sleeping bag, his mom, and his friend Tashi. 

Lamar was a good traveler, relaxing quietly in the back of the car and staying close when we got out of the car. Exploring, but checking in often. 

 Sleeping right at my feet.

A perfect companion to his mom, who did a lot of those cross-country road trips in those free-spirited years.

Lamar loved the ocean so much. A bit too much; he never really got out of the habit of drinking ocean water even thought it never failed to come right out the other end.  

He loved chasing seagulls, running full throttle and barking joyously. Playing with Tashi in the sand, 

or just relaxing.

On one of those early trips, Lamar learned to swim. Tentatively putting those long legs into a stream in Yellowstone National Park, looking doubtful, then taking the plunge as Tashi swam in laps in front of him. Those skinny front paws flapping desperately up and down. But it worked! 

Once he figured that out, you couldn't keep him out of the water.
What fun to be a road trip dog in the Western U.S., 

to travel across so many wild landscapes, camping out. 

Meeting new friends in Portland when we moved there, sleeping in the van on our friend's orchard in Hood River, 

or just communing with the wildness of the Southwest or the desert of eastern Oregon. 

Of course, once Mom got out of her 20's and decided to do something serious like go to grad school, life wasn't too bad for Lamar either. 

Coming east, staying with family, then meeting Florian, still plenty of opportunities for Lamar to enjoy the outdoors.

Lamar was only 7 when we moved to Maryland, and was still an incredible frisbee dog, jumping up and catching them in midair. Those frisbees must have looked like seagulls. 

Funny how shelters characterize a seven-year-old dog as a senior, because both Tashi and Lamar were still so youthful at that age. 

I guess we were lucky in that both had a ton of vitality right up until the last year or two of life. 

Now that I think of it, it wasn't so long ago that they both climbed a 14,000 foot peak in Colorado, when Florian and I decided to pretend we were 20-somethings again and took a road trip out there with the pups. 

Some incredible hikes in the gorgeous desert, and Tashi was 12 years old! Lamar was 9. 

and like a bunch of irresponsible kids, we had nothing for them to drink on one hike but Gatorade. Lamar didn't mind. 

That was in 2009. In January!   

Even when we weren't going on an epic journey with them, we have certainly gotten out and about with Tashi and Lamar, then Lamar and Fozzie and whatever foster dogs we've had. 

So many hikes on the Potomac. So many chances to get nice and wet, wade, chase sticks, and swim. 

It is really a wonderful thing to have had such a companion. A creature who encourages you to be outdoors, explore every beautiful place, get wet, get tired, move, hike, and roam, and loves every minute of it. Florian and I have a pretty good life and we owe so much of our well-being to Lamar and Tashi and Fozzie and the foster dogs.

Just like Tashi with Lamar, Lamar's always seemed to like Fozzie. 

Ever since Lamar got to be middle aged he hasn't been crazy about other dogs, but since the beginning somehow he's liked his big mastiff buddy.

Of course, he's enjoyed the chances I tried to give him to just be with me sometimes too, since he was my oldest child once Tashi passed on. 

During his last few weeks, we walked down to the creek whenever he had the energy to go and he just stood in the water, enjoying the coolness and taking big shlurps. I gave him the very best days I could, and in the end I was with him, praying that he go to a Buddha-land, holding his head and kissing him as he passed from this world.

I miss my velvety Lamar Latrell and his joyful bark, his exuberant, long, gangly paws, his love of being scratched and his habit of turning around so you could scratch his butt in just the right place. 

Til we meet again, Lamar! Give a big kiss to Tashi, Mom, and Uncle Bob for me.