Thursday, May 29, 2014

Toward Simplicity

This whole two dogs thing really is relaxing. 

Even before Lars was adopted, when I was feeling so worried about how I'd miss him, I knew it would be great to go on walks and camping trips with just my two dogs. 

When we had Lars, on any excursion I always had to choose which selection of dogs to bring. On day hikes and trails with Florian, we usually brought Lars and Fozzie so they could get tired out and Lamar could relax at home. 

On long drives, like our trip to Fredericksburg, VA and our walk along the Rappahannock River, Lars plotzed out peacefully in the back while Fozzie, as is his custom, smashed himself against the windows whenever we passed another car.

Good to have two people available for the walking, as Lars and Fozzie are just about impossible to manage together in the face of other dogs, skateboards, or squirrels. I gave Fozzie to Florian, as of the two Lars was probably a bit more challenging since he'd had less practice trading calm for treats.

We didn't go on a lot of long walks with Fozzie and Lars; my anxiety about encountering other dogs or other triggers was too great. But on the way back from Fredericksburg, we did stop at a wildlife refuge just to enjoy a bit more sun. 

The weather was fantastic and the boys enjoyed just being outside, seeing the sights, and sniffing the sniffs. 

For me there's something about boardwalks and places where you can view wildlife out over the water.

I love that these places are set aside for the birds and that there are probably all kinds of things thriving out there. 

Not least Fozzie and Florian's eternal, undying love for one another. 

Which I think made Lars a bit uncomfortable.

Mission accomplished, we brought two tired dogs home to Lamar, who seemed glad to have had the time to himself. 

Sadly, Lamar is getting to where a longer walk tires him out and we will probably have to start letting him stay home for some of them. But when my sister rented a beach house near Rehoboth recently, it seemed a perfect opportunity to get some quality time with Lamar and enlist my buddy Francine to stay with the other two. 

I was on the tail end of a nasty flu and not sure if I was even strong enough to make the trip, but after being flat on my back for two weeks there was no way I was going to pass up a break from my house and my cloud of dark thoughts.

So I loaded up Lamar, picked up my dad, and we headed out for a nice drive to the coast. Dad loves going for drives, and he didn't need to know that my head was still spinning and I probably should've still been in bed. 

We got to the beach house without mishap, and were greeted by Florian, his son, and my sister and niece, who had been braving the freezing coastal winds for the past week. 

Dad, Lamar and I just stayed for a day. Long enough to go for some nice mellow beach walks, feed Lamar some really tasty tuna fish and let him know he's my #1 son, 

watch Point Break for the umpteenth time on TV, bond with my sister and dad 
and brother-in-law-like figure Eric, and buy way too many tie-dyed dresses from my favorite hippie store in Rehoboth.

A relaxing break at a time of way too much stress. Let's do that again soon! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Life without Lars

Although my bond with Lars was unique, somehow I knew that if he found the right home there would be a net gain of happiness in the world.  

I think he was really kind of anxious with me, more anxious than he'll be in his new home. 

Some of his behaviors, like when he decided he absolutely needed to excavate under the doggie pool,

were probably triggered by his anxiety.

And though I loved his squishy little nose

and his filthy, precious, adorable paws 

that I could hold for hours and kiss and sniff, 

I don't mind that someone else is holding them, kissing them, and washing them now. 

Lars, you troublemaker. 

I'm so glad you found a great home!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Remembering Mom in White Oak Canyon

The first Mother's Day without Mom, and the first weekend Florian and I were able to get away, coincided this weekend, and we decided to make a trip to White Oak Canyon.

We'd seen an article on some of the top dog-friendly hikes in a dog magazine--an indulgence Florian loves to pick up for me when he's browsing for a French celebrity magazine for his own pleasure reading--and this one was described as challenging but worthwhile due to the presence of six spectacular waterfalls. 

We found the trailhead Saturday afternoon when we arrived in Shenandoah National Park. There were some threatening clouds but it was warm and pleasant, and the parking lot was packed; with Fozzie and Lamar in tow we started up the trail without thinking much about it. We had to think about it pretty quickly once it started to drizzle, then pour down rain, and with me in my sarong and tank top we had to admit it was probably not the best time to attempt a several-hour climb up steep, slippery rocks.

Drenched, we returned to the van and decided to drive to Charlottesville in our underwear, the heat cranked up and our sodden clothes draped over the vents. It worked like a charm! We looked only slightly scruffy but pretty dry for our walk through the scenic and pleasant university town. 

Returning to the Shenandoahs, we spent the night close to the trail so that we could get to the trailhead early, before it was packed with hikers and their dogs. 

Sunday broke clear and sunny, perfect for a Mother's Day hike to some waterfalls. 

A fitting hike for the day, as right away it reminded me of the places my parents used to take us in the Adirondacks when I was a kid. 
I'm the diminutive one in a basket on my dad's back
Trails, running water, swimming holes, picnics and sometimes a dog wash. 

Fond memories of my dad carrying me once when the trail had lots of slugs on it, and I was scared to step on one. 

No slugs on this trail, but rich vegetation that reminded me of the Adirondacks and a trail that started to climb fairly quickly. 

There are a total of six waterfalls in White Oak Canyon, one of them a drop of almost 90 feet.

The trail alongside the waterfalls stretches along only for about a mile, but it sure seems longer than that.

I'd been a bit worried about this trail as it's getting hard for Lamar to do really strenuous climbs.  

If you were 98 (in human years), would you want to ascend nearly 2000 feet over a rocky and uneven substrate just to indulge your wacky bipedal friends' desire to enjoy stunning natural scenery? 

Even if there are good resting places and plentiful places to relax and get a cool mountain-fresh beverage?

I'm not so sure I would. 

But Lamar done us really proud. 

He just kept on going, and we stopped and rested often for him, and when there was a steep, rocky part of the trail I walked behind him so I could give his behind a boost up stone stairs that were too much for his shaky hind quarters. 

And though his hind legs looked like wet noodles by the time we descended, I felt so proud Lamar was able to do the whole thing with us.  

So much to see on that trail. 

We got to see five of the six waterfalls, each one more stunning than the last. 

And the dogs got to cool off in the perfect swimming holes, some of which were right below the falls, and which we will have to return to when it's warm enough for the humans to join the dogs.

None of the trails we went to when I was a kid were quite like this. Probably because, I am willing to wager, young kids are even more of a pain on the trail than dogs, or maybe on a par with leash reactive dogs and dogs who need a frequent boost. 

But we were outside, on a trail, with the dogs, near the water, enjoying tasty snacks and each other's company, all day. 

Which is exactly the kind of day my parents taught me to enjoy when I was a kid, all those summers in the Adirondacks. 

Mom would have loved this trail, she loved water and flat rocks in the sun and enjoying nature with the dogs and family. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I hope you were there with us like I felt you were. 

Like I always feel you when I am remembering how well you taught me to enjoy the important things in life, like family, trees, flowers, dogs, and nature in all its wild and unfettered glory. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A New Chapter

I've been posting sporadically of late, because at times it is hard to find motivation and because with my three big problem children around, necessitating double walks so Lars and Lamar didn't have to walk together,there just wasn't much time.

Then when my Uncle Bob passed away, it was a comfort to remember him and pay tribute to him, and to read your condolences.  

And now that another significant life event has occurred, it feels good to record for posterity that Lars has gone to a wonderful new home!
Just when I was beginning to despair of finding an adopter who was mature enough to give him lifelong stability, loving enough to tolerate his anxiety and other issues, and who didn't have cats or little kids or incompatible dogs, I heard from an applicant who saw his ad on

This adopter has spent a lifetime rescuing dogs, cats, and even rats, volunteers at the shelter, works from home, and has a husband and teenage son who are equally wacky about animals. After talking to her at length on the phone, I had a really good feeling about it and decided after a few more talks that I would drive the three hours to bring Lars to her.

Which I did, worrying the whole way. 

Lars himself was not too worried.

He was a little worried when he got there, but we quickly saw that these were really good people and Lars would be happy with them. 

Wendy and her dad put my mind at ease with stories of practically living at the vet's office for stretches at a time because they were trying to rescue three cats and seven dogs with multiple issues, and of Wendy's rescued rat Ms. Nippy who bit everyone she met, but nonetheless lived a happy life and was loved until she died of old age. 

I was still a wreck. The hardest part is knowing what's going on--knowing that I was going to leave and not take Lars with me, and knowing that Lars did not have the same information. That as far as he knew, he was just on an excursion with me and would be returning with me. 

I tortured myself with these thoughts the whole way home. Fortunately, the moment I returned it was time to pick up Uncle Johnny and my brother Barry from the bus station, so for the rest of the evening I was regaled with riveting debates on the relative costs of driving or taking public transportation in New York City, or the width of the average median barrier. As you might imagine, pondering these vital questions soon chased all stressful or sad thoughts from my heart. 

And then, I came back to my relatively quiet home and saw how relaxed Fozzie and Lamar were, and felt my own relaxation, and was able to leave the house without separating anyone. 

And then, I started getting updates from Lars' new family 
telling me how he's happy and loved, falling asleep holding hands with his humans, 

going for walks and car rides in his new safety harness, getting lots of love and attention and treats. 
And even I am starting to relax, just like Lars.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Uncle Bob

My Uncle Bob passed away last Saturday morning, April 26. 

Uncle Bob was an endlessly generous, tolerant, warm, loving part of our lives. 

No matter how many foster dogs we brought his way on summer weekends, Uncle Bob and my Aunt Nancy welcomed us and the foster dogs too. 

Uncle Bob was an amazing host and loved nothing more than to share his good nature and enjoyment of life with his family and guests.

All my memories of Uncle Bob, even the earliest ones, are of him offering me something to drink, telling a funny anecdote about his travels, bringing us on fun family trips. 

All my memories of Uncle Bob are of his generosity and warmth. 

Uncle Bob seemed to always be smiling, always relaxed and cheerful and vaguely bemused, in a way that was infectious. 

When I was in my pre-teens, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob used to invite us to stay with them in their house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. One day when I was going out in the ocean on my boogie board, there was a powerful undertow and I got pulled out too far. 

Because I was a dippy pre-teen and a bit embarrassed about my situation, all I could do was smile shyly at the lifeguards as I got pulled further and further out, instead of indicating in any kind of effective way that I was in trouble. 

Somehow Uncle Bob managed to swim out and pull me back in to safety. 

Uncle Bob and I always enjoyed remembering that story together.

Uncle Bob really knew something about how to live, how to enjoy each moment, how to give abundantly and impart his own relaxed vitality to others.

I will miss him deeply.