Woefully Unprepared

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is as close to perfect as you can get. Sun, sun and more sun, the days are sunny and clear, humidity is almost non-existent, daytime highs are in the eighties, to low nineties and lows are in the high fifties, to low sixties. This year we are trying to coordinate our schedules to get more time for outings, hiking, kayaking and searching out my dream vistas.

Thursday the plan was to rent kayaks at a lake that was close to us and do some paddling around. After a convoluted call to the rental shop, the guy at the shop said that the owner called in to say he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t going to open the store that day so he was going to have to call all of the people that had already reserved kayaks and paddle boards to let them know the store was not going to open. I thought wow what a way to run a business and figured it was probably for the best that we didn’t try and use one of their kayaks.

We decided to go hiking instead. I searched around for a hike that wasn’t too far away, since we were going with plan B and getting a late start. I found a hike south about thirty miles away, a forty-five-minute drive that was reported to have three waterfalls. We thought the dogs would enjoy tagging along so we added extra water for them too and headed out. I should have packed some snacks but didn’t think about it. (Poor planning on my part)

Following the directions to Little Mashel Falls, we arrived at an access point on the side of the road that looked really sketchy, with a couple of cars parked that looked like someone lived in them and were not mobile. There was no marked trailhead, so I got out of the car (really smart idea) and walked along the edge of the woods to see if there was a path. I found a narrow path leading off into the woods and walked in a few feet to check out the trail. It looked feasible, but there was a lot of trash around, like a bunch of slobs had been through. I walked back to the car, leashed up the dogs and we headed off down the creepy trail.

We hiked in about fifty feet when we came up on a steep path down to a train trestle. There was even a rope tied to a tree as a hand hold to get down the path without face planting at the bottom. Mitch and Royal headed off down the steep embankment, and I looked at Orso and thought there was no way we would be able to get the dogs back up that path if it was the only way in and out. I wasn’t even too sure I would be able to get myself back up let alone going down without filing an Aflac claim. I called to Mitch and told him that this was not a good idea and let’s look for a better trail down. He and Royal made it back up with some effort and we headed out looking for a better descent trail. We came up one a man just standing on the trail looking off into the distance and said without turning around, “The next trail over has a better access.” Creepy, where did he come from?

We turned around and headed back to where the car was parked and looked for a better access point. Right by the van that was parked there and looked like it was not mobile, was a sign that said, NO TRESPASSING! Property of the Railroad. Too bad we didn’t see that sign first. We loaded the dogs back up in the car and put in a different description in my phone, hoping for a better spot.

We found a better access point, actually a park with a real parking lot and a gravel path and markers with real directions. Imagine that. What a difference a better description makes in my phone. We headed off down the trail noting the sign that said 4.8 miles. We hoped that meant round trip. The sun was shining, and the day was warming up. And we forgot the water, it was still in the cooler in the back of the car, (really stupid). We thought that once we got there, the dogs cold get in the water and cool off.

At the halfway point, we realized the 4.8-mile sign was one-way and the dogs were getting too hot. Orso was panting and struggling, I was even getting tired, lugging my camera backpack. So, we decided we had not planned well at all, and were stupid pet owners. We turned back and headed back to the car. No waterfalls today.

Next time I promise to do a better job planning and packing for a day hike. I will even read all of the trail description, not just the highlights.

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Almost Silent

Orso will be twelve years old in August, a true senior citizen in dog years. Not only is he old by dog standards, (seven people years for each dog year), but he also weighs ninety-nine pounds, making him ancient, almost a living fossil. He has started to slow down; his hips are weaker, and he often has a sway to them. He also has a mystery limp in his right front leg. We’ll be walking along, then all of a sudden, he stumbles and limps for a few steps. I’ve checked his paw for any cuts or foreign object, I’ve felt his bones and soft tissue up and down, massaging his leg up to the shoulder and nothing. No cuts, no injury to his leg or paw. Then almost as if it’s a miracle, he takes off trotting along without a care and no limp.

We noticed that this winter, he started breathing heavier and louder on our walks. There was no sneaking up on anyone with him around. He sounded like a little old man with emphysema. As winter became spring, the wheezing got louder and longer. At times there was a bit of a whistle to the wheeze, making me wonder if he had something stuck in his throat. His annual check-up came and as soon as the vet walked in the room, she commented on the wheezing and said she suspected he had laryngeal paralysis. Of course, the only way to diagnose laryngeal paralysis is with throat surgery.

The surgeon goes in and checks the larynx for paralysis. If the dog had laryngeal paralysis, then there are two options, one is to cut one side off which is also called de-barking and hope that allows enough air flow for the dog to breathe and to keep cool. The other option, which is very expensive and done by a specialist, is to go in and tie back one or both sides of the larynx to open the airway. One of the biggest concerns with laryngeal paralysis is heat stroke, because the dog is basically breathing through a straw and cannot get enough air in and out to cool off.

With summer almost here and the days getting warmer, we made an appointment for Orso to undergo the surgery, after talking to the vet, decided the best option was option one, but we would combine the diagnosis and surgery in one. The vet would check and if he had laryngeal paralysis, the vet would cut one side off.

The day of the surgery Orso was definitely not happy with me, nothing to eat, he stood there and watched Royal chow down, looked at me, then back at Royal, and back at me. Definitely not happy. And he had to suffer through a walk, on an empty stomach, life was not fair.

The vet called me after the surgery and said Orso had laryngeal paralysis on both sides, he wasn’t getting much air at all, so he cut off one side as a start. He didn’t want to cut both sides, for fear of too much scar tissue forming causing as bad a problem as before the surgery. So we’re trying one side and seeing how well Orso can breathe and get through the summer.

Orso still pants heavily, but the little old man wheeze is gone at least for the time being and we’ll almost silent.

Jet Lag

I’m going with jet lag, otherwise the alternative is more depressing. Last week I had to travel for work and spend five days at the main office. I travel alone frequently for work, but this time Mitch traveled with me. While I toiled away at the office, attending meetings and helping coworkers, Mitch slept late, ate a really nice buffet breakfast and hung out at the local tobacco shop smoking his pipe in peace. While we were out of town, we had the dogs kenneled, not our favorite option, but out here we don’t know anybody well enough that we could impose on to dog sit.

Flying home, we found out at the airport after we had checked our bags that our flight was delayed about an hour and a half. Yay, now not only we will feel like it is two hours later than it is, but now it will be two hours later when we get home. Talk about major energy drain. We finally landed and by the time I recovered the bags and Mitch retrieved our car it was almost nine o’clock. The drive home takes almost an hour, so tack that on, add in unpacking and getting settled in for the night, so you could say we were well past tired.

The next day we went to the kennel to get our dogs out of hock, who were very happy to see us. After we got home and parked the car, Mitch went around to the back of the station wagon, to let the dogs out. Instead of just opening the tailgate and releasing the hounds, Mitch decided to take off Royal’s harness. All well and good if he had just voiced any command, but no Mitch didn’t say anything to the dogs who were super excited to be home. Without waiting for the tailgate to be opened and the normal invitation to get out, Royal leaped out of the open section, then Orso followed landing badly. Keep in mind that both dogs are large, over a hundred pounds each, and old. Orso is almost twelve years old and Royal will be ten in April. When Orso landed I was for sure he had blown out his shoulder, then his hips collapsed, and I thought, “Oh no now what?” But like a true Labrador, he got up limped a bit, then was off sniffing everything he missed for a week. I looked and Mitch and told him he dodged a bullet and what was he thinking. Standing there and not saying anything with an open access sort of, was like an invitation to the dogs.

We decided to go on a walk to burn off some pent-up energy. We put on their leashes and our jackets and walked outside. I had both leashes in my hands and was showing Mitch some things I wanted to move in the front garden, when we heard a voice calling, “Rocky, no. Rocky stay, Rocky no.” I looked up at see a large black dog heading our way to check us out and say hi. I was standing there, trying hold back two hundred plus pounds of excited muscle mass, keep a strange dog at bay and hoping that everyone would play nice. All the while, Mitch was standing there with his hands in his jacket pockets and a goofy smile on his face saying, “Hi Rocky, hi Rocky, how’s it going?” Just like a ten-year-old boy.

I looked over at him and said, “Take a dog, what are you doing?” Royal was not as giddy about meeting Rocky as Orso was and all I could think of, was that this was going to leave a mark. I could not believe that after almost twelve years of Charlie, Mitch would forget how careful we needed to be when meeting unknown dogs.

I’m chalking it up to jet lag, because otherwise I’m stuck with the ten-year-old boy.

Ticklish

You know, when you scratch that “sweet” spot on a dog and his leg will scratch involuntarily along with you. That’s what I call ticklish on a dog. I think every dog has at least one spot where he is ticklish. Do dogs get more ticklish as they get older? Well lately it seems Orso has gotten more ticklish spots on him. It fact almost his whole body is one giant ticklish spot.

He will be lying on the floor and rub his chin on the rug then his back leg will go spastic scratching at the rug. Even when he scratches himself and hits a ticklish spot, his leg will get going and twitch nonstop. His throat is very ticklish and when I scratch anywhere around his collar his leg gets going. His belly, his back and hips are all on the ticklish list now. I think the only spot on him that does not get his motor running is his ears.

When his back leg gets going you want to make sure your hand is nowhere near his paw. He has great big nails on his huge paws and he scratches with great zeal. I’ve come away with a bloody hand more than once.

Last night I was awakened from a sound sleep with something shaking me. At first I thought, “So this is what an earthquake feels like.” But no, Orso was trying to scratch an itch that was on a ticklish spot, and his back leg was thumping away pushing his hips into my back shaking away at me. First I was relieved that the house wasn’t going to collapse around me, then I was irritated that now I’m wide awake at three-thirty am.

What a way to start the day.

Chasing Waterfalls and the Coast

A couple of weeks ago we decided to buzz over to the Olympic Peninsula and search for some waterfalls. There is a waterfall road trip that loops highway 101 starting on the east side of the Peninsula goes north to the Strait of Juan De Fuca and turns south to drive along the Pacific Ocean coast for a while. We took the dogs, so we couldn’t go into the National Park, but we could go into the National Forest, so we drove west and found a couple of waterfalls in the Olympic National Forest, then drove up the coast and found a beautiful beach.

We barely scratched the surface and as soon as we have a couple of days to explore we’ll go again.

This is a Public Service Announcement or You’re Doing It Wrong!

What is it with people today? Is everyone so self-absorbed that they don’t realize there is a world going on around them and they are not the center of the universe? Well news flash, the rest of the world doesn’t give two cents about your well-being. Today and only for today, I am climbing up on my soapbox to put this public service announcement out there for the general public.

Would you put yourself in harm’s way on purpose? Would you turn your back on a charging bull and believe that because you have opposable thumbs you are safe? Of course not! Who would turn their back on potential, impending danger and not do anything to keep themselves safe? So why is it every day I encounter some self-absorbed person walking, running or walking their dog on the wrong side of the road. These people are walking along with traffic, some with their nose in their phone, some not, but they are still oblivious to the fact that all it takes is one distracted driver or one trying to miss oncoming traffic to swerve a bit and they get slammed in the back. And I guarantee you that the person walking is going to lose in that moment.

I was taught a long time ago that walkers and runners go against traffic, which makes perfect sense, that way you at least have a fighting chance. If I can see danger coming at me, I have that split second to get out of the way or at the very least, if I live through being run down, I can give the police a description and license number.

So here it is, my public service announcement:

“You’re Doing It Wrong!” Cross the road and walk facing oncoming traffic, arrive alive!”

And as my mother used to say, “Don’t make me come other there and shake some sense into you!”

How I Spent My Spring Vacation – Or At Least I Didn’t go to the Emergency Room

Mother Nature finally came through for us. The weather here has been so damp and dank, with rain and unseasonably chilly temperatures for so long, I was beginning to fear that summer would never come. Our vacation was rapidly approaching and we had not made any plans yet, no destination in mind, we just knew that we did not want to stick around here for more misery. As the first vacation day approached, the weather forecast started looking a bit more promising with temperatures ranging in the eighties and lots of sunshine, so in the end we decided to stay here and go exploring locally.

Our first day was a trip to Woodinville, for a day of wine tasting. Hey, I have my priorities. And yes, we tasted many nice wines and bought a few bottles. Our second day we included the dogs on our day trip. We drove over to Point Defiance on Puget Sound and let the dogs run around and play in the ocean. One day we did some yard work and finished our newly built and planted raised beds. We drove down to Olympia and went to Tumwater Falls Park. It was a bit of a disappointment, I was hoping for bigger falls and a longer hike, but that was not the reality. The falls were small and the trek around them was short, maybe a mile at most.

We took a longer day trip with the dogs to the Green River Nature Area O’Grady Trail and had a longer hike. The trail was partially a road access that could handle cars and trucks with offshoot trails that were dirt paths wide enough for a horse or single file hikers. The trails had nice carved wooden signs that not only showed where the trail went but also had a “you are here” notation on each so we could place ourselves on the trail and where in the area we wanted to go. We found a homemade Tic Tac Toe Board carved into a stump complete with rocks for markers. We hiked down to the Green River, saw how fast it was running and decided it was not a good idea to let the dogs go in. We would have to drive to Puget Sound to save them.

To finish off our vacation, we decided to go kayaking. The dilemma was where? We thought about Point Defiance Park and go kayaking in Puget Sound, but common sense won out. I had only been kayaking once before, on a nice calm lake where the boats had to have a motor no larger than fifteen horse power and Mitch has never been kayaking. Out here the sky is the limit, plus there is the tides to consider. We talked it out and decided a lake would be safer and a better first time experience. We checked on kayak rentals around Lake Washington and found one in Bellevue. We got there before the rental office opened, about thirty minutes early and found a line had already formed. We rented two single kayaks so we could each experience paddling and maneuvering our own kayak, plus I watched other people in double kayaks and most weren’t paddling in unison, one paddle would be up and one paddle would be down, the kayak going nowhere.

The water was still very chilly, around sixty degrees or so, but the sky was clear no clouds for as far as the eye could see. We set off heading north crossing under the I-90 bridge to run along the coast gawking at houses on the shore. Most were very large and new, but there were some older smaller homes tucked in between the larger estate homes. We watched the boats go up and down the main channel, a few smaller boats but most were larger vessels, suitable for the ocean and felt the wake of each one. I was glad we chose a lake to start on first. After about forty-five minutes we turned around and headed in the opposite direction to see what was on the other side of the bridge and farther south. We headed into the back of the cove and gawked at some more houses.

We decided to call it a day and head back to the boat launch. We talked about how much we enjoyed this and as I headed toward the launch I made a comment about shopping for a kayak online. I got no response, so I looked around and couldn’t find Mitch. He was right there and then he was gone. I slowed my kayak and turned around to look for him and saw in the water about three hundred feet or so, his kayak flipped upside down. I looked next to his kayak and there was his head bobbing beside it. I paddled as fast I could and as I got closer, I could see him hanging on, so at least he was conscious. As I got close enough to talk to him, I asked what he did. He answered he didn’t know, not that succinctly but with more descriptive adjectives and adverbs. I asked if he was okay, but was not sure how I could help get the kayak righted without rolling myself, and not being that selfless, I didn’t offer to help right it. That’s what you get when you’re dealing with amateurs, dumb and dumber. Two guys and a little girl in a canoe came and offered help, but Mitch declined, saying he could make it to the launch. Another couple came up and offered assistance and again Mitch declined, I don’t know what he was thinking, that maybe AAA was going to show, or maybe he was suffering hypothermia. Probably not, his teeth weren’t chattering.

Finally, a man paddled over on a paddleboard that knew what he was doing and grabbed Mitch’s kayak and pulled it up on his paddleboard to steady it, then righted it and held it still for Mitch to climb back into the seat. Just like the Lone Ranger, after saving the town he paddled off to save the next unlucky soul. I think all in all, Mitch was a bit embarrassed that he rolled it and I didn’t. I contained myself and followed him in to the launch, but the whole time I kept saying over and over, “It wasn’t me, I didn’t roll it, it wasn’t me. Woo Hoo!”

We had a great time and have decided to get our own kayaks, but I think some lessons might be prudent. How could you ask for a better vacation, wine, hiking, kayaking and watching someone else crash and burn and for once it wasn’t you?