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.

Crash Kelly Strikes Again

I wanted to go hiking today and decided not to wake up Mitch, so I turned on the computer and searched around for some trails nearby. I found one that was only about fifteen minutes away from our house, so I loaded up Orso and headed out about seven thirty this morning. I left a note that said we went hiking, but I neglected to say where we went. I pulled into the parking lot and noticed a car already in the parking lot. I unloaded Orso and my backpack when I noticed that there was a man just sitting in the car with the engine running. A bit odd, but you know me, once I start on a path I usually just plow on through. As I passed his car he rolled the window down and said something I didn’t hear. I said good morning and kept on walking to the trailhead and into the woods. Yeah I know, not super bright, go into the woods and make it easier for a maniac.

The man didn’t follow us, just my overactive imagination, but I was more aware of any movement I came across. I was disappointed in what I found. The trail was okay, primitive, which was fine, just not much to see. There was a creek and a rickety wooden bridge, but not much else. Maybe because we were too close to civilization or maybe I was just spooked from the guy in the car, anyway I decided to turn around and head back to the car. When I reached the trailhead I saw that the white car was still in the parking lot and there was another car parked between his car and mine. As I got closer to the cars I saw a man in the second car just sitting there. Pretty creepy, so I quickly loaded up Orso, my backpack and jumped in the car and locked the doors. What a scaredy cat. I drove home and decided to wake Mitch up so he could take me hiking.

After he got up we headed out for a second hike, this time farther away. Our destination was Federation Forest State Park, about ninety minutes away. This one turned out to be a bust because the park was closed. Not to be denied, we turned around and found a trailhead along the side of the road, which was part of the park. We unloaded and headed off into the forest. We found huge trees toppled over, some that had pulled out of the ground by the roots. Huge trees that were six or seven feet in diameter laying between other trees or stacked on trees that were crushed under the impact. The trails were a tangled mess of branches and limbs and whole trees that we had to either climb over or crouch down and crawl under.

One such tree that was laying across the path proved to be my swan song. I stepped over it with one leg and as I was clearing it with my left leg, my boot got caught on a small branch still attached to the tree. I went down hard landing on my right side. I hit a root that jutted out of the ground with my ribs under my arm. I thought I was dead for a minute, then when the pain hit I realized I was still alive. I hit so hard I thought I popped an implant. But least I landed so that I saved the camera I was holding and the backpack with the other cameras were not hurt.

Mitch walked up to me and asked if I was impaled on anything before he helped me up. I guess he didn’t want to have any blood gushing out of me. I’m not sure what he would have done if I was impaled on something, leave me and go get help or just leave me. I slowly got back up on my feet and assessed the damage. I think I bruised my ribs on the right side, but none were broken I was pretty sure. There will be a nice bruise in a day or so on my right hip too and I cut the palm of my right hand on something.

I decided I had enough fun for one day so we headed back to the trailhead. As we neared the trailhead we saw a sign that was taped up that read, “Trail closed due to hazardous conditions.” Really I never would have known.

I think I need to do more pre-planning on our hikes.

Charlie

I will preface this by saying I consider myself an animal lover. I would never intentionally hurt or abuse any animal for the pleasure of seeing something in pain. I think of myself as a good pet owner, or at least I try to be. Sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact right now I’m at an impasse as to what is a good pet owner.

We got Charlie when he was ten weeks old. He is the only dog we picked out as a puppy and purposely brought home to raise. His parents were proven bird hunting dogs, so Mitch figured that Charlie would inherit those traits and he did. Charlie has always had a great nose, searching out pheasants. His points are picture perfect and he’s never been leery of the retrieve. He’s a good hunter despite having us as pet owners. Now after eleven years he still has that hunting heart and soul.

What he doesn’t have any more is all of his facilities. He is suffering from Canine Dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction. There isn’t a lot of good information out there on Canine Dementia, but he’s not exhibiting most of the symptoms, loss of sight, hearing or incontinence. No, Charlie has become very aggressive. He has always been a bit unstable, stemming from being attacked by the dogs of a former neighbor twice when he was a puppy. Those two incidents pretty much set the tone for his animal aggression for the rest of his life. Now an explosive episode comes without warning or provocation.

In the last two months Charlie has attacked Orso three times just for being within five feet of him. On one occasion, Charlie went after Orso and I was between the two so Charlie bit me, not breaking the skin, but he left a large bruise and a knot on my thigh. Another incident happened with Orso walking in the door and Charlie went after him drawing blood and when Mitch tried to separate Charlie from Orso, Charlie went after Mitch. Mitch said that when he looked in Charlie’s eyes, he wasn’t there. His eyes were dilated and blank, no recognition, just rage. Two of the last three episodes have drawn blood.

We’ve tried Diazepam (doggie valium) but it doesn’t help much. I think we were hoping he would sleep through his days and be blissfully dopey. Instead we still have a dog that gives way to explosive violence and aggressive attacks aimed at Orso. It is so heartbreaking to watch our dog (crazy as he is) slip away and become replaced by an animal that is more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll. It is even more heartbreaking knowing that we can’t protect Orso, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, doesn’t deserve any of this and loves Charlie so much.

Since we don’t have a vet here yet, we don’t have anyone we trust to talk to about this and ask for guidance, we called our vet in Kansas City to discuss our options. Sadly there are few out there, and only for the short term. More Diazepam maybe but this is only going to get worse. We need to plan for an end of life solution. We know this and accept it, but following through and finding a vet here feels almost like an act of cowardice. We took him to raise and euthanasia feels like we are failing Charlie; that we should figure out a way to fix him. That is our hearts talking, our heads know better, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. It’s hard to even talk about it because to voice it and say the words, makes it real, and that means you have to make a decision.

I only hope that Charlie will sleep well and rest easy and know how much we have loved him his whole life. He was a good hunter, and loyal to a fault. A piece of my heart will go with him.

Flaming Geyser Park – Hike

This morning we did a bit of exploring and went to wander around Flaming Geyser State Park in Black Diamond, Washington. The morning was cool in the high forties and raining. It’s November in Northwest Washington, and that is what we get, chilly rainy mornings. It stopped raining about the time we got there so I was able to grab one of my cameras and snap to my hearts content.

Sadly there was no flaming geyser but I did get some pretty cool shots.

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A Catastrophe Narrowly Averted

The day started off so benignly, I took Mitch to work, walked the dogs, went to see my grandchildren and picked Mitch up from work. Boring stuff. After we got home from picking Mitch up, I started to fix us some lunch. Mitch was in the process of changing out of his work clothes to his grubbies so he could finish installing a step to the passenger side of the pickup truck. It’s a real challenge for me to climb into the truck, since I’m vertically challenged. Yesterday he installed the driver’s side and today it will be the passenger side.

I had set the table and finished making the salad, filling the salad bowls when I heard a weird noise coming from the third bedroom. I turned to look and saw both of the dogs lying on the floor in the dining room not the least bit interested in the noise. Because of their lack of interest I thought that Mitch was looking for something there.

We are in the midst of ripping up the hardwood floor and replacing it with bamboo. Because of the age of the house there has been some settling and the back corner of the room has sunk a few inches. Mitch is tearing out the floor and the subfloor to assess what will need to be done. This has left a small hole in the floor opening up to the basement on the old side of the house. The basement on the old side is made up of shelf rock, limestone, I believe. It’s very primitive and if I had a way down there without going outside first, I would have the perfect place for a wine cellar, cool and dark. Otherwise, it’s just creepy down there.

I called out to Mitch to ask what he was looking for and there was no response, but I could still hear the rustling sound. So I walked to the bedroom stepping over two sleeping dogs and started to walk in the room to ask Mitch again what he was looking for. Imagine my shock and surprise when I walked in on one large panicked squirrel running around in the room jumping up and down on each window looking for a way out. How he got in there I have no idea, but the last thing I wanted was the dogs to wake up and discover him in the bedroom. There would have been mayhem and carnage unimaginable. I’m not sure the house would have survived.

I quickly stepped out of the room and started yelling for Mitch. I had no idea where he was, so I ran to the door and shouted for him out in the garage, luckily he was still in the house and I didn’t have to search for him, leaving the squirrel and the dogs alone together. I told him we have a squirrel in the house, to which he didn’t believe me. I told him where it was and grabbed the dogs to take them to the master bedroom for the squirrel’s safety. Of course the panicked squirrel didn’t stay in the bedroom; no he ran to the kitchen and starting running around under the kitchen table. All I could see in my future was it jumping up on the table destroying dishes and scattering food everywhere. At that point I probably would have just burned the house down.

Mitch stood there watching the squirrel run around with a silly grin on his face. I could see the ten year old boy very close to the surface just when I needed a superhero and not a ten year old boy. Mitch regained control of himself and told me to open the kitchen door, close the bedroom door and hand him a broom. I thought oh please don’t start whacking things. I don’t want squirrel parts everywhere and in the course of killing the squirrel destroying the kitchen. I know most men resort to the caveman inside when an opportunity to be the tough guy comes along and I didn’t want to have to clean up the mess.

Thankfully Mitch just used the broom to point the terrified animal in the direction of the open kitchen door. The squirrel couldn’t get out of the house fast enough; he raced across the yard and fled up a tree. I still am not sure how the dogs missed the sound of the squirrel running around in the bedroom or didn’t catch a whiff of him either. But one thing’s for sure, I am really glad they didn’t.

Snow Dogs

What is it about snow that makes a seven year old dog think he is a one year old puppy again? We had about two inches of snow the other night, but the streets had been cleared making it easy to walk the dogs. I took the dogs on a walk and both acted like perfect gentlemen as we left the house and walked down the street. All three of us were on the lookout for deer or other wild animals in the dark. Charlie and Orso, because they want to chase something anything, me, because I don’t walk to get my arms ripped out of their sockets or knocked off my feet and slammed to the pavement left to freeze in the dark. I know, pretty selfish on my part, but I’m the one with the house key.

Everything was nice and peaceful, a great walk all the way to the dam. On the way back I spotted three deer standing in a yard up on the hill, but lucky for me the wind was blowing the other direction so the dogs didn’t pick up their scent. We walked past them, with the dogs oblivious and the deer stood very still waiting for us to get beyond them. Both dogs sniffed and peed on just about everything they could all the way back.

Just as we got back to our driveway, which hadn’t been shoveled yet, Orso decided that he was twelve months old again and spun around in a circle and jumped at Charlie for a full on tag team match, leaving me on the ground with my feet sticking out in front of me. Luckily I went down on my rear end and not on my face or we would have had dog stew for dinner. Orso turned around looking a bit contrite, not too contrite but a little and when he realized I wasn’t dead he turned back to Charlie for a snow romp. I let go of the leash too late to save myself but in time to not get dragged into a chest bumping dog wrestling match.

It took me ten minutes to get them back under control and into the house. It seems Charlie can still act like a puppy too when the mood strikes him.

I Just Love Orso’s New Habit (Not Really)

Orso has a new habit and it’s a doozy. When I had my foot surgery earlier this summer and couldn’t walk the dogs, we had these wonderful friends that came over every morning and walked both of the dogs for me. Sometime during that time Orso decided that he really liked standing up on his hind legs and giving me a good greeting face to face. At ninety-eight pounds he literally can put his front paws on my shoulders and look me in the eye. What a great experience when coupled with that same ninety-eight pounds coming at you with a lot of exuberance and me being in a walking cast.

I have no idea where he came up with this new “fun” discovery of his. Maybe he picked it up from watching westerns on television in the mornings after I left for work. We started leaving the television on when we were not home for AJ our black lab who had severe separation anxiety issues to help him cope and just continued on after he died. Maybe I should stop this practice; it seems to be giving Orso ideas.

Since then we have been trying to break this new habit without much success. Orso has decided that rearing up like a horse is a great deal of fun. He’s started standing up routinely when we meet other dogs walking during the afternoon. This is his new way of saying hi I guess. The look of terror on the other dog owners faces don’t seem to agree with his idea. If he sees a deer in the darkness on our early morning walks, standing up barking at them and then lunging forward is huge entertainment for him. Couple that with me getting lurched around and jerked almost off my feet and we’re having a great walk.

I figure that in the near future I am going to be paying for a really nice vacation for my orthopedic surgeon.