Thursday, December 12, 2013

Date Saturday at Basye and Bryce Resort

This semester Florian is teaching 18 classes a week, I'm working two jobs and grooming dogs right and left, and we both have been spending lots of time with my dad. Of course Florian still has his alternate weekends with his son, during which they do fun things like play with remote control cars, shoot bows and arrows, and blow things up.

So finally I said, where's my special fun time with my old man? Thus began our new tradition of Date Night. 

Date Night's good for me because it means I get to spend quality time with Swiss dude, and it's good for Florian because it means I end up taking him out for all kinds of cool stuff. Take our most recent date, which was really an all-day affair, during which we went to Basye, Virginia for a walk around Bryce Resort. 

This is one of those places that brings up warm feelings for us both, as Florian has gone skiing there and we've spent several nice days walking around. 

The day was gorgeous and sunny, but there were few people around so pretty quickly we felt comfortable letting the dogs off leash. 

Even nutty Fozzie, who makes the most of off-leash time by bounding around like a madman 

and, of course, swimming. 

Somewhat surprisingly, he does come when called the vast majority of the time when we are on trail hikes and is generally a pretty good trail companion, at least as long as we don't encounter too many fellow trail dogs. 

On this day, the worst thing he did was to vomit, copiously, seemingly his entire, undigested and barely chewed breakfast, at precisely the only moment on the trail when we did pass other hikers. 

Way to endear yourself, Fozzie!

The best place for a long walk is around Lake Laura, which is great for the dogs and great for its scenic views. 

The lake has a trail running all the way around it, which affords a view of the lake and some of the stunning vacation rentals and year-round homes we fantasized about living in. 

We walked all the way around the lake, encountering no one else after that one group of unfortunate witnesses to Fozzie's vomit-tastic display, then headed back to the car with a couple of tired pups.

And then began Florian's favorite part of Date Saturday, when we went to our favorite hippie store and I bought Florian a nifty Himalayan salt lamp, which are known for their positive ions and healing properties. 
And then we went into the town of New Market and I got Florian some world-famous peanut stew at the Southern Kitchen, the only diner I know that makes this tasty veggie favorite. 

A perfect day for me and the dogs, and the Swiss dude couldn't complain too much either.

Ladies (and Sam's Dad), how do YOU keep that spark alive when all your sheets are covered with paw prints and there is a snoring, hairy beast coming between you and your significant other at night?

Do you too have to bribe him--or her--with peanut stew and New Age trinkets?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom

Today would have been my mom's 80th birthday, had she lived to see it. 

My sister, my dad and I are going to visit her grave tonight and talk to her, make sure she knows we're thinking of her. 

I still think about her just about every day. I'm not sure if this is normal, but I still have this feeling in the back of my mind that she's present, that her humor and warmth and vitality are right there somewhere. 

Almost that I could access her if I really wanted to. That connection with her was so woven into the fabric of my being, so foundational to my existence, so essential to the cohesiveness of my identity and my family and the universe, that her disappearance is impossible. 

Maybe this is what they call denial. Or maybe she really didn't disappear, maybe, as in my dreams, she is still present, though in a different form. 

I know this is not standard fare for a dog blog that generally deals in paw behaviors, ear infections, and hiking adventures, but I somehow want to put all this out there. This intimate experience of death, of losing someone who felt like a part of my very being, is uncharted territory for me. Maybe someone else will read something that resonates, and find comfort in knowing that others have undergone the same experiences. 

I've been decorating my house for Christmas, and enjoying the process of taking out all the incredible crafty Christmas creations my mom made over the years. The angels, the ornaments, the wreaths, the mosaics. 

I don't have my Mom's artistic eye, but I love having all her beautiful things around. 

I'm having a gathering on Saturday to celebrate my mom, and guests can take home one of my mom's creations in exchange for a donation to the Washington Humane Society and AWARE, a no-kill sanctuary in Guatemala. 

It will not be a somber affair, as my mom was far from a somber person!

We'll play a little music, drink a little spiced rum, and give Fozzie some practice in not being a complete raving lunatic when guests come over. 

Whaddya think, Mom? Do you approve? Or do you think we're all a bunch of complete nitwits?

I hope you approve. I think you would. 

And I hope you feel the love that still surrounds thoughts of you each time they arise. 

And I hope you're flying free, as joyful as you were in life, surrounded by green growing things and birds that sing and twitter and cheep and infused with the vibrant life force you nourished while you were here. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

A series of Star updates

I just love it when adopters keep me posted about my former foster babies.

Though I've gotten pretty used to letting go, they are always all my babies and I wonder about them all the time, and it brings my heart so much joy to hear about them thriving in their new homes. 

Star was a really special foster dog, who distinguished herself from the moment she, as a stray, jumped in the open window of a police car and proceeded to wash the officer's face, to her 5 months with me during which she was a loving, licking, snorting, difficult-to-manage little troublemaker. So its been especially wonderful to get updates and hear how well she's doing from her people. 

The first update:
We got back from our fabulous vacation in Maine and our baby enjoyed herself a lot. She even got to swim in a lake - not intentionally but she got so excited when she saw a dog on the island that we think she didn't realize it was water and went right under.

For split minute Toby thought she is drowning but she surfaced and swam back to boat and jumped back in! 
crazy pooch!
She is definitely getting attached to us which is so wonderful and we love her so much!
After we came back from the trip, all she was doing for 2 days was sleeping!

Star always enjoyed traveling, hiking, being around water, so I was so happy to hear the adventures she's having with her people. I got the next update for her birthday, which was coincidentally noted on her papers as the day before mine.

Your favorite girl turned 2! 
now she is terrible two!  
The day probably wasn't her favorite because birthday started with bath at Petco and she would rather roll in mud than getting glamorous! 
Then we decided to treat her with a little bone which she wasn't really thrilled with! She is a real princess and little picky! :-)
We thought that maybe beef stew will go with her a little better and it did! She loved it and ate it very gently and gracefully! 
And soon after, I got this update:
We want the shelter to know that she went to a loving house and we gave her a chance she deserves! Even with all the issues, she is a sweet and loving creature!

Her Dad says:
Star is getting better every day. She has her moments of lunacy but they are fewer and further between than when she first arrived. She is calmer now during her daily activities like walking, riding in the car or hanging around the house. The only thing that still sets her off, every time, anywhere are squirrels. My theory is that she is reincarnated from being a squirrel in her past life and that she misses zipping around trees with them, Joanna's theory is that they are Star's favorite meal.
Finally, I got this update:
We hope you have a wonderful holiday! We sure have one thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving......
Yay Star! You so deserve it. I hope you're being as good as your people say, because they are really incredible and deserve the best dog ever.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Castor & Pollux Organix Dog Treats

This month, the kind offer from included the opportunity to review Castor & Pollux Organix dog snacks.

Since every moment in my household is a teachable moment, I am always looking for a good training treats and things that my dogs are willing to work for. 

Though the most useful treats for the challenging things I am trying to train --like not going ballistic when the mailman comes around, like watching the pug next door and the boxer across the street with coolness and equanimity, like accepting the nail clippers with acceptance and joy--are high value treats, I was interested in discovering whether a more basic biscuit could inspire my dogs to realize their better selves. 

Could these treats be that biscuit?

At the time of writing, I confess that it seems not. 

These Castor & Pollux Organix chicken snacks are a hearty, crunchy, substantial-seeming biscuit that are great for late-night snacks, when the pups are hungry, or bored of their leftover mealtime food, and need a little somethin' to tide them over til breakfast.  I feel good about giving them to the dogs because they contain 95% organic ingredients, including free-range chicken so you know those sweet birdies were at least reasonably comfortable before their lives were taken so our dogs could eat them. They fill the pups up, and they are glad to have them.

But on walks, when we are going past our boxer friend Oliver's house and Fozzie and Oliver are going nuts at each other, these treats are not enough to break Fozzie's singleminded fixation on tellin' Oliver a thing or two. 

No, I'm afraid we gotta find some more freeze dried snacks for that, huh Fozzie? 

Freeze dried snacks, comin' right up. In the meantime, thanks for the chance to review a really good, basic hearty snack!

Since we're talking about food, I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday filled with traditional foods like Veggie Booty and kale chips. We are bringing together a wacky assortment of people and a scrumptious array of food in what will surely be a mindnumbing day of debauchery. Can't wait to hear about your adventures around the tofurkey!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Back to River Bend

Not so many hikey posts lately, as Florian and I have been occupied with family and hardly get the chance anymore to get out in the woods. 

But we got to go on a little one recently, just before Florian had a rehearsal in Great Falls. Yep, it's Nutcracker season again, which means lots of rehearsals right near some of our favorite spots on the Potomac, like River Bend State Park. 

The river looks so pretty in the fall, 
and not surprisingly, Fozzie was not deterred by the cold water. It looked so clean and refreshing, it was tempting to join him.

but that will have to wait til next summer.

Of course the trail is pretty flat, and maybe doesn't make for the most thrilling of hikes. 

But it was enough just to be outside in the sunshine, 
to enjoy the last leaves remaining on the trees, and to look out over the water.

With less vegetation around, it's easier to notice really stunning natural features, like this tree with its gnarled roots exposed. 

How do some trees survive with their roots exposed and so close to the water? How did this tree get that way--did the river gradually widen, engulfing its banks and washing away soils along the way?
Whatever happened, it is beautiful. 

I wonder how that tree will look in a few years though, after the water levels rise even higher. 

Fozzie, do you wonder the same thing?
Probably not. Happily for them, I don't think dogs are troubled by existential questions, questions about the future, questions about the natural world and its rapidly shifting systems. 

They're just happy they get to go on a good walk. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Regression Analysis

Given all the seriousness of the past few months, I've had a bit of an urge to regress as of late, to cling to an earlier era before body parts started aching, before I had to grapple with adult things like death, before I had a serious job requiring Business Casual. 

This has expressed itself largely in harmless ways, like going to drum circles and dancing my aging heart (and back, and neck, and right piriformis) out. 

It also meant going away one weekend to a hippie music festival near the Shenandoahs in Virginia, for no other reason than that I needed to cut loose, be a free spirit, do the kind of thing that I used to do as a matter of course when I was in my 20s but feel so distant from, now that I live a much more settled life and have an employed Swiss fiance, and a job (or three), and a car that I drive, but do not live in. 

The festival was held at a beautiful campground with a large clearing surrounded by forest, fall foliage just past its peak. 

I camped with my old friends from that hippie band I used to play in, up on the hill above the clearing. 

There was a stage for the jam bands and grungy bluegrass acts to play on, 

and a bunch of grizzled old musicians and professional festival-goers living in amazing contraptions that I didn't know existed anymore. 

A friend of my buddy Eric was there with his wife and kids in their enormous camper, with vintage interior decor that our friend's wife did herself. 

My sleeping accommodations were nowhere near that deluxe. But the Honda Fit made a surprisingly cozy dwelling during the coldest night of the year so far, with temperatures in the upper 20s, and I was glad to have a car to sleep in.

It was good to spend a night under the stars, alone in my mini-mini van, with no one else to worry about or take care of. 

But one night was enough, and the next day, after warming up in the sun with my buddies and some instant oatmeal, I was ready to drive back home and face the adult world--with its family responsibilities, jobs, a real house with a real bed, and of course those dogs--once again. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mobile Bones Canine Joint & Bone Supplement

I was contacted by Pooch and Mutt of, with an invitation to receive a free packet of dog supplements in exchange for a product review. 

Lamar Latrell is 13 years old and though he still trots along like a young dog and chases seabirds when he's on the beach, he is definitely developing some stiffness in his hindquarters. 

Most troublingly, he has started to have some trouble coming up stairs and sometimes stumbles coming up my porch steps. Sometimes, he can't manage to hoist himself up on my bed.

What do you do when your dog's back legs start to fail? I guess I could install a ramp or an escalator. Or I could get one of those devices that you use to lift your dog and give the back end a boost up stairs.

But before we go to those lengths, I thought we'd try some Mobile Bones canine joint & bone supplement

I've tried other glucosamine products for Lamar, and never really noticed stunning results. With glucosamine, MSM, Omega 3 and 6 and a variety of vitamins, this supplement seemed like a good thing to try. 

I sprinkled a bit on Lamar's food with every meal, and watched to see how he did on those stairs.

And it's hard to say! He may stumble a bit less going up stairs and climbing on the bed, but he still stumbles occasionally. 

And I'm not so sure my slightly picky eater enjoys having a grainy substance sprinkled on his food. It seems preferable to me, if you have a dog who's not a food inhaler, to give supplements in the form of a discrete tablet that can be smothered n peanut butter. 

Now I am not one to knock nutritional supplements in general, and I have found that for my own health there are a few that make a great difference. And, I am not necessarily the most perceptive person when it comes to noticing subtle differences in my dogs' mobility. Maybe someone else would have noticed that Lamar's got a bigger spring in his step, a bit more jaunt in his stride. But not I. 

What's been YOUR experience with doggie supplements? Have you found anything that really works for arthritis?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Creative Directions

My blogging has been more sporadic of late, the main reason being that with the passing of my mom it has been hard to motivate to keep writing. 

I know that many of you come and visit regularly and it means a lot to me that you do....yet some part of me was writing because I knew how much my mom enjoyed keeping up on our adventures. 

Life goes on though, and ultimately we have to live for ourselves even when the reasons for living are harder to discern, or when one very big reason for living changes or goes away. 

We have to find new reasons, not forgetting the ones that nourished us before but finding some way to access them even in their new and perhaps unrecognizable form. 

So last week, I started a new part-time job doing climate change communications for a government agency. My repertoire of writing topics will expand from ear discharge, Turkey & Duck snacks, and dandruff, to the necessity for human populations to adapt to a radically changed world and to mitigate what impacts are still in our power to alter. I am hoping that it will be a satisfying outlet for my desire to write things, especially things that may have some positive reverberations in the world.

And the evening of my first day on the job, I went to a drum circle and played Middle Eastern rhythms in seven and danced like an eighteen-year-old tree-hugging sarong-wearing hippie, my Business Casual neatly folded in my bedroom and long forgotten like it belonged to a distant lifetime. 

And as it was the night before Halloween, we took a moment to remember the dead. 

My Mom wasn't there in the flesh, but it's probably a good thing she wasn't. She would have been infuriated by a bunch of New Age idiots going on about connection and community and spiritual claptrap. 

I wish I could call her and tell her all about it, and again feel bathed in her uniquely disparaging and humorous form of love.  Instead, I am practicing keeping that love alive all around me.

Maybe someday I'll get used to the fact that she exists only in the night sky, in the flowers and trees, and in my heart. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

All Souls

Although this year we didn't have a momentous occasion like the birth of the 7 billionth human coinciding with Halloween, I still wanted to mark the holiday in some way. 

This year Halloween was a somber occasion, as for many of us--especially those who may have some pagan tendencies--it is a time to remember and honor the dead. My mom never made a huge deal for Halloween, but she did love kids and loved seeing all the little beasts come by in their costumes, and enjoyed rewarding their adorableness with sugary snacks.

This year, we didn't have Mom but we did have Dad, Uncle Johnny, Florian, and our buddy Eric whose house we descended upon. With that crowd, plus an old bag of costume stuff that we brought up from the basement,  how could you really go wrong?

Eric served us some really good, healthy, TVP-rich vegan chili he'd made from scratch with onions from his own garden, while we handed out sugar-laden, tooth-rotting corporate snacks to neighborhood children. 
Why is it that some of the most boring-sounding events, like sitting around in Eric's house with Uncle Johnny and some vegan chili, turn out to be some of the greatest times ever? 

Maybe it's all of those really good sugary snacks.