blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Hooray, camping again at Lake Pueblo!  I've been down here four times now--twice camping, twice hiking--and absolutely love the openness, the dryness, and the off-season quiet.

The first time I camped at Lake Pueblo, at a lovely site overlooking the lake, ended early because the winds came up so strong.  I was afraid the tent was going to snap, so packed it in.  Turns out that was a good thing, since an unexpected blizzard was roaring in.

This time?  Stray shower, maybe a thunderstorm, said the forecast.  Winds gusting to 20mph, said the forecast.  That's nothing, my darlings.  I've tent-camped through Indiana thunderstorms strong enough to spawn tornadoes within a couple miles of my campsite.  I've tent-camped in inch-an-hour rainfall.  I've tent-camped in a desert windstorrm.  So 20mph winds with maybe a little rain?  I was not concerned.

So after a fantastic day that involved a lovely hike, proofreading 250 pages, and sausages roasted over an open fire for the pupper and I, I sat outside while the last of the fire burned down.  The moonlight from the east was bright enough to wash most of the stars from the sky.  Off to the west, I saw a couple lightening flashes in the distance.  I took the moments to stash this-n-that in the tent or the Jeep (I don't much like last-minute dashing when other options are available), stirred out the coals so they'd burn down faster, and got myself and Gambit settled in the tent.

It wasn't fifteen minutes later that the first wind gust slammed the tent hard enough to knock a tent pole against my head.  No warning, no preliminary breezes, nothing.  Zero to whatever-speed in a single gust.  I tried everything I knew to do, inside the tent and out, but lost the battle.  For the first time in my camping experience, the wind was strong enough to yank one of the stakes out of the ground.  And when one stake goes, the strain on all the others increases.  In a minute, half the tent was levitating and the other half was considering the same.

Alas, this happened when Gambit and I were still inside the tent and--in the fashion of one with an overactive imagination--I envisioned my dog and I entangled in the tent, blown over the steep hillside, landing in the lake, and dragged down by the weight of the tent and everything in it.  So I wrestled the tent flap open far enough to shove Gambit outside, thinking even if he ran off, he'd be safer anywhere but inside the smooshed tent, then got myself out too.

I remember finding the car keys and jamming them in my mouth.  I remember yanking the poles out of the tent and folding them just enough to fit on the back seat.  I remember dragging the tent halfway under the Jeep so I could lie on the ground (Did I mention the nigh-constant lightening, and the fact I was standing on a high point beside the lake?) and find by feel the valve that would deflate my mattress.  Yeah, that might sound like a stupid thing to consider, but I couldn't wrestle the mattress out of the tangled tent, and the tent and all its contents was going to take off if I let go.  I remember stuffing the tent--along with the sleeping bag, mattress, clothes, and assorted stuff--into the back of the Jeep.

At some point, I had opened a door so Gambit could jump in the Jeep.  I don't remember doing so, but the poor pup was shaking on the front seat when I finally got in the car.

I guess I could have stuck around for awhile to see if the wind died down enough to risk setting the tent back up.  I opted to head home instead.  I didn't know if a pole had snapped (It hadn't. Near I can tell, one end of the pole yanked free of the pin.), or if the weather would get better or worse (I'd lost all connection on my phone), or what the state of everything inside the tent was, seeing as it was now all wadded up in the Jeep.

I drove home.  Got there around midnight.  It took over two hours this morn to sort out and untangle the mess I hauled out of the Jeep, but nothing is terrible or unfixable.  It was just... messy.

I'm thinking that the next time I camp at Pueblo, I'll choose one of the sites set back from the lake views, where junipers and gulches and some such will break the wind before it kills me.  I'm thinking I can damn well drag a chair to one of those views during the day, and sleep in peace at night.  I'm thinking I need to remember more about my desert camping youth than my Midwest camping middle years!


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Between swings of cold weather, there were two days that looked perfect for a quick, early-season outing–clear skies, warm temperatures, and an almost-full moon as a bonus.  Shortly before the trip, the forecast called for a bit of wind and rain on the second day, but I’ve camped through Indiana summer thunderstorms (and a tornado outbreak), so I didn’t have much concern for a slight chance of a maybe-rain event in the high desert.

Compared to Indiana, Denver is pretty darn dry.  Compared to Denver, Pueblo is damned dry.  Truly, it’s been almost twenty years since I’ve spent significant time in the desert, but there is no mistaking the distinct feel of the air on the skin and in the lungs.  It isn’t just the low humidity (which dropped to around 5%).  It’s the smell of dust and–if you’re lucky–the heat-pushed scent of twisted little trees and determined brush.  Breathe it in long enough, and you’ll be able to discern the distinct scent-feel of plain water, too.

When I stepped out of the car and took a few deep lungfuls of that air, I felt as if I were visiting a long-lost home.



LakePueblo March16
Afternoon View From My Campsite

It didn’t take long to set camp.  I was one of two campers on the loop, with my nearest neighbors way on the other end, and we couldn’t see each other without stepping around the stunted trees and table covers between us.  We waved from afar, a nice little acknowledgment and mutual agreement to ignore one another.  Really, when you deliberately choose a campground as far as possible from everyone else–not to mention a short hike from the bathrooms–you recognize others who do the same.

In comfortable and quiet isolation, I settled down to bask in the sunshine with a bottle of water (my third since arriving, and I was still thirsty!) and my Kindle for a session of what was essentially self-chosen slush reading.

I looked up as tumbleweeds rolled between me and my tent.  The next one rolled through even faster.  Sitting in the shelter’s lee, intent on my reading, I hadn’t noticed the rising wind.  But now grit was scratching my eyes and my mouth felt a little dusty, and the tent was rippling.  Then a new gust shoved the tent, squishing it down to about half its height, and I thought I might have a problem.

After a few hours of checking and re-checking tent stakes, weighing down the leading edge of my tent to keep it from pulling up, keeping track of everything else that kept trying to blow away or blow over, and consoling Gambit where he’d decided to curl up under the table and shake, the wind abruptly stilled.  My tent had not blown away, its poles hadn’t snapped under the strain, and I just might get a decent camping trip in.

The moon was so bright that night, I sat out writing notes for book-plotting long after the sun went down.  And those other campers at the other end of the loop?  Musicians.  Every now and then, light guitar melodies provided a quiet accompaniment to the few insects chirruping in the night.  Owls hooted.  Coyotes yipped in the distance.

I turned in early, thinking to catch up on sleep, but awoke shortly before midnight with Gambit nosing me.  He never asks to go out in the middle of the night at home, but does so when we’re camping.  So we took a moonlit hike, not at all needing a flashlight, up and down the shale-scattered hillside around the campground with nothing but a light breeze for company.

The next morning, rested and ready to spend the day in combination of book-plotting and brief hikes, I checked the weather alert that had come through my phone.  It was another high wind warning, set to begin late morning and go late into the evening, with predicted wind gusts exceeding 60mph for hours and hours.  And Wednesday’s forecast was even worse.

Staying would have been little more than a decision to battle the wind all day in the hope I’d have enough energy left by nightfall to accomplish what I’d actually come to do.  So I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, gave the sausage intended for the next day’s meal to Gambit (HAPPY DOG!), and packed up.  The wind starting rising while I was taking down the tent.  That made it extra fun, I tell ya.  Driving through those winds coming home made for a long and tiring two hours, too.

And so it was, tired and dust-covered, I rolled up back home.  It was not a wasted trip.  After all, I screened a few novels, mapped out plot points and essential elements of two others, and plotted two novels of my own.  Gambit was thrilled to scout new stuff of his own–he has earned the privilege to wander off-leash under certain circumstances–and I felt absolutely ALIVE to reach even the edge of a desert again.

But within a few hours of being home, the headache started.  Out of curiosity, I checked the weather.

Surprise!  Blizzard warning!  Six to twelve inches, consistent winds around 30mph and gusts over 50mph.  Set to begin in the very early morning, and be at its worst just about the time I would’ve been attempting to drive home had I stayed that extra night.  Yep, I’d have been looking at a 100-mile drive in blizzard conditions.

Had the winds not been so terrible in Pueblo, I would have stayed that extra day.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to check the weather in Denver.  I’m not an experienced enough Colorado resident to assume blizzard potential in March.  Lesson learned.

Over a foot of snow has fallen here already, and it’s just early afternoon.  We’ve at least three more hours to go.  Denver International Airport shut down, as have numerous roads.  Even the snowplows are getting stuck.  And the winds around Pueblo, where I was camping?  Today, they’re gusting over 80 mph.

Home is good.  Really, really, good.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

In my recent post on camping while female, I mentioned I bring weapons that are legal and that I'm trained to use. Yesterday, out of curiosity, I asked what folks envisioned those weapons might be. Most of the answers involved firearms.

Before I say more: THIS IS NOT AN INVIATION, NOR AN EXTENSION OF PERMISSION, TO DISCUSS OR DEBATE GUN CONTROL AND RELATED TOPICS IN THIS SPACE. ANY COMMENTS THAT CROSS THE LINE—AND I DETERMINE THE LINE, DARLINGS—WILL BE DELETED.


Guns are the default, truly. When we hear armed, we think "gun." When we hear weapon, we think "gun." When we watch crime dramas, we see "gun." When we watch the news, we see "gun." So it's natural to assume the discussion of weapons concerns guns. And, for anyone familiar with and comfortable with guns, it'll seem odd to hear I am, too, but have made the decision to leave them behind when I camp alone.


So here's why:


One-Mississippi.


Say that as fast as you can while you pretend to draw a gun from your holster (or shoulder a rifle), disengage the safety, take aim at a moving predator, fire, and hit the target.


Certainly there are people who could not only accomplish that skilled feat, but could also count on their single shot dropping the hurtling creature at their feet. Certainly that number is much, much smaller than the number of people who think they could do it.


I do not count myself as one of those skilled people. I don't spend enough time with a firearm in my hand to count my knowledge as "skill." And the more I gained actual skill in other areas, the more I realized the limitations of both the firearm and my ability to wield it as anything but a weapon of desperate and last resort in most circumstances.


It seems logical to want a firearm in bear country, but only if the actual nature of bears and attacks aren't long considered. Many bear attacks happen under conditions of mutual surprise: the bear is startled by the sudden appearance of a human, and so startles the human by charging and mauling. There is a great deal of speed, a great deal of mass, and a great little smidgeon of time involved.


The same is true when it's a mountain lion, but without the smidgeon of time. I mean, if a mountain lion wants you, it'll stalk you from behind or drop from above and bite the back of your neck to kill you. A good thing it is mountain lions aren't much interested in adult humans.


So once I put that information together with the actual cumulative likelihood of being attacked by a bear or mountain lion (it happens to a total of five or six people in Colorado a year), and with the knowledge of what I can do to further reduce the likelihood (safe and simple actions often not taken by folks who are attacked outside city limits), bringing a gun along didn't seem all that important. In fact, some of the research I looked at seemed to point to bear and mountain lion attacks bearing a striking similarity in setting to sexual assault: wildlife attacks are more likely to occur on one's home property than in the wilderness.


But there are indeed well-trained and experienced gun carriers who could pull off the shot, and quite a few more who are certain they could if properly motivated.* Are you one of theem? Try it with a stationary target. Then simulate the live attack by having a friend toss a 300-pound sack of unsheathed daggers at you when you least expect it. One-Mississippi.


I mean, absolutely the right gun in the right hands will stop a bear or mountain lion. I don't dispute that. But the absolutely comes into play only in the presence of the those two "rights."


So how about two-legged predators? The ones who lie in wait along remote mountain paths in anticipation of a lone victim out for a five-mile hike? Or the ones who cruise through campgrounds after dark in search of a lone victim asleep in a tent?


Well... those are almost non-existent. The hiker or camper is far more likely to be attacked by a bear or mountain lion than a skulking human. Yes, it happens. But we've discussed the actual likelihood of a woman being attacked before.  Searching Colorado news reports for the last year—imperfect, but what I have time to do—I find one report of sexual assault in a Colorado campground. It was, heartbreakingly, a crime against two children camping with their parents.


But let's put the data aside completely. Let's assume that, no matter the statistical risk, I want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. The rare horrible thing.


I still am not going to reach first for a gun because, as I mentioned above, the more I understand about how attacks actually go down, the less effective I see the gun as a defensive weapon in my hands in most scenarios.


One-Mississippi.


Just as with wildlife attacks, folks consistently underestimate how quickly a human attack happens and overestimate how quickly they can respond. If I'm going to be jumped by someone on a trail, the attacker would have to give me—at my skill level with a gun—about three Mississippis... which means I'd have to count on being attacked by an incompetent attacker suffering from a sprained ankle and a fever.


Or perhaps we'll go with the creepy nighttime attack, the attacker who will attempt to silently unzip my tent and creep inside before I awake. Do I need a gun to stop that person? Only if I'm unwilling to move from my sleeping bag. And honestly, from the perspective of someone who has camped in Indiana, where many popular camping areas involve sites that are quite close to their neighbors, I wouldn't want anyone firing blindly through a tent wall within fifteen feet of where my kid was sleeping in an RV.


So what do I bring along? What do I consider part of my self-defense?

My dog. Even though he has the appearance of a dog who could be a weapon, he absolutely is not. He is a defensive tool. An alarm against all attackers, and a deterrent for two-legged attackers. He has given warning of Something Scary Is Ahead during our hikes. He has growled deep in his chest when something walks past our tent in the middle of the night. I've watched people give our campsite a wide berth once he stands up to stare at their passing.


I don't expect him to attack any creature that comes to attack me, but I know I can count on him to warn me, and a heeded warning can be a lifesaving thing. And in some instances, a big dog makes a potential target seem to be just too much trouble to mess with.


Bear spray. This is something I added since moving out here. I've carried pepper spray before, but never much worried about it while camping in Indiana because that state doesn't have the wildlife population of Colorado. Unlike a firearm, I don't have to be concerned with fantastic aim and slamming stopping power. Bears don't like this stuff. Bears run away. I don't think mountain lions would much like it, either, and am pretty sure a human getting a noseful of it will desire to be elsewhere at a rapid pace. Yes, there is a risk of spraying myself. As with any weapon, practice pays off.


My bo. It's about six feet of hardwood, of a diameter that fits firmly in my fist, and I've spent far more hours with it—striking stationary and moving targets—than I am likely to spend with any firearm. It lets me strike and thrust at a distance or at medium range. It can be a shield against attacks at medium or close range. It's in my hand when I hike, either as a walking stick or in an "at ease" position at my side. It leans against my chair when I'm beside the campfire. I can't swing it inside a tent, but I can darn sure ram its end into the face of someone trying to sneak in. That would really hurt.


And please—please—understand that bo-as-weapon is nothing like bo-as-baton-twirling. I mean, I can twirl a bo to amuse my instructors, and there's a whole tournament scene where people compete in bo twirling and acrobatics. But y'all know I'm likely to point out the difference between what flashes and what works. I prefer Yamanni Ryu.


Knife. I've a couple I trade off wearing, depending what I feel like. My preferred is better for stabbing, though it's sharp enough for cutting. One is better for cutting, but can certainly stab as well. One is quite heavy. One is light. But no matter which I have, I know if I'm using it against an animal—four-legged or two-legged—I'm also like to be in the process of being injured myself. A knife is an up-close, personal weapon. I'd be perfectly content to go through life without testing my capabilities with one.


Like a gun, a knife takes time to draw. But, unlike a firearm, I feel perfectly comfortable sleeping with one at my fingertips, even with my dog tromping and rolling around in the tent, as the accidental discharge of a blade is highly unlikely.

There are other things I bring along should the fancy strike me, and a multitude of camping accessories that can certainly be utilized should the need arise, but the four things above are as about as complicated as I'm likely to get. I didn't feel any more or less safe for the presence or absence of a gun. Others will feel differently, and I respect that. Others will have different skill sets and abilities, and I most certainly respect that.


Should circumstances change, my preferences might change as well.  (I might feel safer, reasonably or not carrying during springtime hikes, when bears have cubs to protect.) But I'm good for now.


And really, more than anything, I was just curious what most folks thought I carried into the woods. :)

*This is the same magical thinking that happens with folks who have a few years of martial arts training. "I know how to score in a sparring match, therefore my punch will stop an attacker."


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Now for something happy!

Our new little girl, Tanner, is settling in a little more every day.  She’s loving all the cuddles and playtime and—now that she’s well-trained to the invisible fence and the weather is better—is merrily running around the yard, investigating rabbit trails, and bounding on and off the deck just for fun.

She and Gambit have reached friendly cohabitation and are working toward being buddies.  One night last week, we let her in the house while Gambit was still out romping.  She watched out the window until he appeared on the porch, whined at us to let him in, then gave him a quick nuzzle when he trotted inside before immediately acting as if it hadn’t happened.

Already she’s picked up on the House Rules such as “All treats must be taken nicely, with no injury to human fingers,” and “Paws out of the kitchen while I’m cooking,” and “Rough play is acceptable, but must stop when humans say so.”  We’re still working on “Drop all toys on request” and “Come when you’re called even if you don’t want to.”  Those will take awhile to master.  Such is the challenge of a terrier!

We had a beautiful morning recently just perfect for pictures.  I tried to get Tanner to pose.  The result is a series demonstrating her penchant of paying attention to anything and everything that twitches.  Terrier!

Read more... )

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
On one hand, it feels so very soon after losing Ty to bring a new pup home.  On the other hand, it felt so very right.

So here is the newest member of our little pack -- Tanner!

100_3077

More pics and storytelling below the cut!

Read more... )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This would be so much easier, in one sense, if Ty didn't have a tail that almost never stops wagging.

Ty's tail is a wonder in itself. So wonderful, in fact, it has its own set of nicknames. Kangaroo tail, tail of destruction, Great Destructo, thwap of joy.

When Dev competed at the State Fair, most other dogs would keep their tails still and down through their obedience trials and showmanship displays. But Ty? He'd stand in his showmanship pose, perfectly still except for the tail--which would speed up the moment the judge's attention turned his way. He'd go through his obedience exercises with the tail up and wagging. The only time it might stop was during the down-stay--the pups are required to lie down for a set period of time regardless of noise and distractions--when the day was warm enough Ty might doze off. Even the judges who saw Ty but once a year remembered him as the dog with the ever-wagging tail.

In our home, there is nothing breakable or spillable within 30 inches of the floor or a foot from a table or counter's edge. There are no stacks of paper, either. The tail of destruction trained us well. It can send a heavy coffee mug spinning with a single blow. It can scatter hundreds of manuscript pages with a merry sweep. We try to quickly train any new visitors by explaining their drink must stay in their hand, or be placed in the precise middle of the coffee table, but I've lost at least a dozen wine glasses over the last ten years. (And while his tail certainly can't reach as high as the breakfast bar, Ty was--until this last year--perfectly capable of helping himself to anything on the counters.)

If you stood at Ty's hip when he had a sudden fit of overwhelming joy, his tail would hit hard enough to hurt. There's a place on the kitchen doorway, near where Ty has stood for three years in anticipation of getting munchies and treats, that no longer has any paint on its edge.

That tail has operated as a rudder when he swam in rivers and ponds, visible just below the water's surface as it swayed lazily from side to side. We used to joke about Ty's ability to multitask. He could swim, drink water, and wag his tail all at the same time! Truly, one of my regrets is that it's too cold for us to give Ty a final opportunity to swim. He loves it so, so much.

And even now, when he's spending all but a few minutes every day resting and sleeping, that tail wags when someone makes eye contact, pets him, says his name (and any nicknames, and any mention of love), when Gambit sits beside him, when Gambit plays with his toys, when people-food comes near... Everything triggers the tail to wag.

Dev and I talked last night about whether we'd made the decision (our appointment is for Tuesday) was made too soon. We came to the conclusion we've reached the point that there will never, ever be a time that isn't "too soon" or "too late." As long as the tail wags, we'll wonder if it's too soon. But if the tail stopped, we'd know it was too late.

And we made an agreement that neither one of us needs to "be strong" for the other. (It's a habit we share, alas.)

So today, I'm writing while Ty sleeps on my foot. All I have to do is whisper, "Ty-baby Handsome," and the tail gives me half a dozen thumps.

I'm disabling comments here--not because I haven't appreciated the words of support y'all have offered, but because I simply can't respond to them right now while also continuing to function. Fortunately, I've pretty much purged from my life everyone who'd utter the phrase "just a dog" in my presence.

Home!

Jul. 5th, 2014 03:04 am
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
One thousand five hundred sixteen miles driven in the space of (checks clock) forty-two hours.

Random thoughts:
My son is an awesome travel companion. He gets bonus points for helping navigate through weird highway configurations during a monsoon.

I swear the highway in western Pennsylvania is designed to kill you or make you turn around in terror.

If you have to pee after you drop off someone at JFK International, you're screwed. Ditto if you believed the online map's assertion that there is a gas station right there. Actually, the gas station is still there. It simply isn't operating.

OH YE GODS ROAD CONSTRUCTION

One favorite sign: CAUTION: NEW TRAFFIC PATTERNS. I was hoping for something more interesting than lane-shifts. Maybe a eighteen-wheeler tango.

Two favorite sign: BORO OF ALPHA. I suppose there must be BORO OF OMEGA on the West Coast.

Three favorite sign: LLAMAS FOR SALE. The billboard was huge. But there was also a cloth "For Rent" sign hanging on it. So which is, Llama Keeper? Are selling them, or renting them? If the latter, for what does one rent a llama? (Say it five times fast!)

If you think your windshield is clean, driving into the sunset will swiftly prove otherwise.

Little Gambit is a pretty good travel buddy, too, even though we made him do horrible things like climb stairs at a strange hotel and drink water while strangers were walking by. Worst of all, Ty wasn't there to demonstrate how anything should be done.

The saddest part of the whole trip was Gambit staring at the door Dev disappeared through, then whining as I drove away.

And I'd like to lodge a complaint. It simply isn't fair that my son's plane touched down in Pisa before I made it home to Indiana.

And now... *thud*
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I'm revising. And teaching karate and overseeing Dev's school and scheduling another visit from my folks and coordinating meetings and getting the rest of the garden in and battling ants that seem immune to anything and everything I've used to be rid of them before.

Hence, pictures!

Puppies and pretties! )

And less than ten days to Wiscon!!
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I am not religious, but celebrate the "big" holidays as if there were secular events.

But now that Dev is older, the rest of the family lives elsewhere. My single and non-religious friends -- the ones who usually shared holidays with us -- have likewise moved away. The majority of people I know in the area celebrate with their own family and strong religious traditions, and half of those folks believe their good churchgoing habits will eventually rub off on me and I'll be gratefully saved.

Considering all that, I didn't have much to do yesterday.

Dev, being a teenager with a day off, didn't want to do anything at all but hang out. So I put Gambit in the my car and the pup and I headed off to a nearby nature preserve I hadn't yet visited. After twenty minutes of walking in dappled sunshine along the creek, I realized I was grinning. Grinning and looking at everything. A few wildflowers, purple and violet, bloomed along the sunnier patches. Bare branches showed the tiniest of new green leaves. The sound of the creek and short falls covered almost every other sound. The only scent in the air was fresh.

And Gambit, who usually doesn't want to go first unless Ty is at his side, scouted up the trail with his little nubby tail held high. He even splashed into the creek shallows.

Pictures! )

Then I came home and made a huge dinner for Dev and I (and for the freezer), and essentially took the evening off.

So it ended up being a good day, though it felt all strange and transition-y. Next year will be different yet again, and the year after that likely different as well. My goal is to get better at planning since the past defaults are no longer there.

Aging Pup

Feb. 8th, 2014 11:58 pm
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Ty Handsome the Wonderdog is getting close to thirteen years old. His face and paws have been white for years, and he spends more time than ever just lounging around. He will still play Grizzly Bears with little Gambit, but his go-to techniques have shifted from hind-leg dancing to ground fighting. And he loves to prowl the yard and snuffle the trails rabbits leave around the bushes and trees, but it's been a long time since he's sprinted after anything. He will gladly hop up on the couch, but no longer jumps on the bed. He trots all over the place, still prances with excitement, and--of course--that kangaroo tail of his wags almost all the time. He even wags his tail in his sleep.

He's still happy, energetic for his age, and sweet as ever.

But.

One of Ty's greatest joys was competing in 4H shows. No, really, his greatest joy was the single moment when the judge said, "Exercise finished," and Dev said, "Ty's okay!" Then Ty would jump high enough to plant his forepaws on Dev's shoulders and lick Dev's face. (It was an audience favorite, too.) But... Ty doesn't do that jump anymore.

But he still wants to! So Dev will sit on the couch and say, "Ty's okay!" and Ty will throw his chest onto Dev's lap so he can lick his face.

A couple days ago, something odd happened. Ty and Gambit were stalking my steps in the kitchen while I filled their bowls with chicken and eggs. Ty was so danged excited, he was dancing on all four paws. Then his right hind leg kinda slipped out, and his left slipped the other direction, and he ended up on his belly with his hind legs splayed out behind him. And he couldn't get himself back up.

Mind you, his tail never stopped wagging, and he wasn't in pain. (Ty has rarely in his life vocalized pain, but his facial expression of pain is quite clear.) Instead, he looked up at us with a doggy grin as if to say, "Hey, can I get a little help here, guys?" So Dev hooked his arm beneath Ty's waist and lifted him up. The dog gave himself a shake, then dug into his chicken. Dev fretted for the rest of the day. It was the first sign of a senior-dog issue that could actually impact quality of life.

We've had him on joint supplements for some time already, but I'm thinking of upping the amount a bit. I'll add some other anti-inflammatory if it seems discomfort is bothering him. This isn't a life-threatening issue, but something we will certainly need to watch.

And yeah, it makes me sad to think about it. Dev and Ty have grown up together. Ty has been his comfort and companion through so much, and it was Ty with whom Dev chose to shed his first tears on the night his Daddy died. That sweet pup is half of that's child's heart. Any sign that Ty won't always be around is enough to make me want to wrap my arms around him to keep him near.

As for Gambit... Well, the little dog is mostly oblivious to any of Ty's troubles, and Ty continues to be Gambit's big brother and protector. But I sometimes wonder. Yesterday, when Ty flopped down after a bout of tug of war, Gambit stretched out beside him and rested his muzzle on Ty's shoulder. Ty's tail went thump, thump, thump...
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I'm watching Mystic River this morning. I do so love this movie, for so many reasons. The experience is somewhat marred by Gambit's seemingly insatiable urge to make his new dog toy squeak. Even Ty is trying to ignore him.

I had end-of-the-world dreams last night of Walking Dead variety, set in one of my dream-brain's stock locations. (It's as if my sleeping self decided it had already put enough effort into set-building and would rather focus on other dream elements from now on.) This one was the brick-terraced garden that at first looks like an over-built university campus, but opens in the back to endless cultivated rolling hills crisscrossed with barbed wire fences beneath a huge set of power lines. I don't remember much about the dream, but do remember a single scene in a greenhouse, when almost-thirteen-year-old Ty Handsome the Wonderdog leapt onto a shelf as high as my shoulders just so he could lick my face. Which is, when you think about it, a pretty nice thing to remember from a dream about rampaging zombies.

And it's worlds better than the dream I had last week--the dream in which I'd been shot in the head, and was stumbling around in search of help. Everyone I met acknowledged that yes, I had been shot in the head. But the usual response was, "But you look like you're doing all right, so no problem," and a return to whatever had been occupying the person before I arrived.

This is my second week of vacation. Most of the first was spent catching up on everything domestic. I scrubbed my house top to bottom, end to end--a task I tend to do in autumn rather than spring--then reorganized some stuff in the garage, purged extra stuff, and sorted out financial information. I did also write a little, but not too much.

That's what this week is for.

Well, it's also for hosting my nephews on Monday and Tuesday so they can see their father--who can rarely find time in his currently-unemployed=but-supported-by-pregnant-girlfriend schedule to see them--over New Year's Eve. I plan to continue my goal to become Auntie Awesome by cooking homemade doughnuts and the like. Before and after, I'll also be trying to cram in visits with friends I haven't seen in far too long. And on Friday, I'll head to downtown Indy with a friend who is thrilled to teach me about geocaching in the city. We'll do some caching, then head to the Slippery Noodle for dinner and music. Best of all, everything in that Friday trip is research for Crossroads!

So... That's it. Nothing all that exciting. Not even a 2013 retrospective or 2014 goal-setting. Maybe I'll get to that later.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
May we all be blessed with bones large enough to rest out chins upon, and a bounty of fuzzy toys that squeak.

100_2313


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
So one of the gifts I found for Dev is a Tardis alarm clock. It makes the wonderful Tardis sound while lights pulse. I thought it would be a good idea to set the time and all before wrapping it. That way, it would be ready to go out of the box. I even set up the alarm to sound at the time he'd need to wake up for work on Thursday. I wrapped it and the other presents, then set them under the tree.

Then I remembered he wouldn't be opening it until tomorrow morning, most likely AFTER the 7:00am alarm time I'd set.

I unwrapped it, reset the alarm, and wrapped it again. If Dev isn't up by 9:00 tomorrow morning, it'll sound as if a Tardis is arriving under the tree.

And now, the pictures!
Read more... )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
The dogs started their raw food diet last week, chowing down on chicken quarters every morning. Yesterday they had rack of lamb as a treat. In the evening, they have a raw apple, carrots, or banana. They both believe this raw food thing is the bestest most wonderfulest idea ever.

Despite all the reading and research I've done on raw feeding over the last year-plus, I still couldn't shake my fear of feeding the dogs raw chicken bones. Thus I sat on the back porch as they ate, ready to intervene at the first sign of trouble.

Hah.

Ty the Wonderdog had no trouble at all--expected, since he lived on the farm for years and dined on... whatever he and the other farm dog sniffed out in the woods. Seriously, there was a patch of meadow up the hill from our house we nicknamed The Bone Yard because it was the dogs' favorite place to stash their treasure when they could eat no more. I once found a... a thing that so grossed me out, I was determined to get rid of it. After a couple attempts the dogs foiled, I decided to dump it in the fast-moving river, figuring the coyotes that roamed in the woods down there would eventually grab it. That was not to be. Instead the dogs swam down the river to retrieve the thing and return it to The Bone Yard.

So yes, Ty is quite accustomed to raw food.

Gambit was another matter. He was absolutely certain he should love-love-love the chunk of raw meat in his mouth, but he couldn't figure out how to eat it. By the time Ty was licking his lips in satisfaction, Gambit was just starting to experiment with tearing off little nibbles. Ty looked on as Gambit went from nibbling to gnawing. I'm sure he would have pitched in to demonstrate technique, if I hadn't been watching. But in the end, Gambit succeeded in finishing his meal.

Seven raw meals later, it's obvious they're not having trouble with bones, or any other part of the meal. Gambit still takes longer to eat his portion than Ty, but danged near any creature would take longer to eat than Ty.

As for the miscellany:

I've been scolded about working my arm too much--a scolding brought about because I was stupid and re-injured it and am back to wearing a soft brace all the time.

Related to the above, I'm sitting on the Black Belt Review Board today--very excited to watch one of my students test, and excited/sad to watch three adults of my own cohort test because I was supposed to be testing with them.

We shall see how much progress I can make on Crossroads before the end of November. Yesterday was my day to believe everything I write is junk. Stupid junk. Stupid, derivative, incomprehensible, boring junk. But I've been here before and, just like my occasional certainty I'm a clumsy and substandard karateka, the feeling passes.

The above feeling was shown the door this morning, when I got a note from a friend that said his coworker liked my first book and wanted to know when the next one would be coming out.

And, in the most important news of all... DEV PASSED THE WRITTEN DRIVING TEST AND NOW HOLDS A REAL LICENSE. This means that, on Sunday, I can hand him the car keys, he can drive himself to and from work, and I can stay home.

It also means the beginning of fret-festivals every time he leaves the house on his own. I'm assuming the edges of that worry will dull over time, much the same way as every other fear.

Lastly, and least importantly, I've been feeling restless again. Truly, I should have figured out how to have a career as a travel writer. It's been months since I've traveled more than 50 miles from home. I'll be heading to Denver in December, but will be staying with family, so that doesn't really count.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This is what it looks like when the pups decide I've been writing--and thus not paying attention to them--for too long.

ImpatientPups
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Trying to explain what Gambit looks like is always interesting. A Staffy-Boxer-Rotty mix doesn't really look like any breed. Maybe a dog crossed with a hyena, with a head too small for the body.

Pictures under the cut: )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Ty Handsome the Wonderdog is a Labrador Retriever.  He retrieves.  I don't remember any of us really teaching him to do it, so if there was training involved it must have been pretty minimal.

Gambit II the Pocketdog is a mutt comprised almost completely of fighting breeds--Staffy, Rottie, Shar pei and Boxer.  He does not retrieve.  But he doesn't fight, either.  Anything that seems more serious than a mock grizzly bear fight with Ty--for which they usually use the back deck as their arena--will send Gambit sprinting for safety under a table.

I tell you all that to say this: Trying to play fetch with these dogs is extremely entertaining.  Ty always reaches the ball first.  While he works desperately to retrieve, Gambit works just as hard to prevent Ty from reaching us with the ball.  You can almost hear Ty shouting, "MUST!  RETRIEVE!  MUST!  RETRIEEEEEEEEEVE!" s he tries to outmaneuver Gambit. 

Mind you, Gambit doesn't want to retrieve the ball; he spits it out after a second or two of claiming it, then waits for Ty to try the retrieving thing again.  This goes on until Ty becomes good and sick of it, and forgets about the ball long enough to bark at Gambit and knock the little dog over.  Then Ty, tail wagging, brings the ball to my hand and waits for me to throw it again.
blairmacg: (Gambit2011)

Y'all know about Gambit, the rescue dog we adopted last year.  The one that looks a bit like a hyena, but with a smaller head.  With a head that is not only smaller than a hyena's, but a bit smaller than would be proportional to his hyena body.  And a tongue that will, after Bit has sprinted to his heart's content, hang out the side of his mouth at a freakish length.


LilBit


We've been trying to figure out his breeds for that entire year.
Read more... )

So there you have it.  We have a genuine mutt who cuddles like a cat.

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