Confinement while my surgically fused ankle heals provides time for reading, perhaps too much. No– that’s not possible. Along with my infatuation with all of Steinbeck and Hemingway I am addicted to any publication that deals with the Corps of Discovery, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I own at least a couple of dozen books dealing with those adventures.
While re-reading, I’ve lost track of how many times, the three volumes edited by Elliott Coues I, as always, discovered something new to think about. The history of the Coues edition is interesting in itself. After returning from the mouth of the Columbia River both Lewis and Clark promised to publish their journals but didn’t get to it. After Lewis’ untimely death Clark travelled to Philadelphia to find an expert to edit and publish the over twenty-seven separate writings, some only partial journals, that survived the trip. The expert he selected was Nicholas Biddle who in 1814 published; “History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark to the Source of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains and Down the Columbia River to the Source of the Pacific Ocean”. It didn’t sell well because a member of the Corps, Patrick Gass published his journal of the trip shortly after their return thus the story was well known.
Biddle trimmed about two-thirds of the journal entries to create his narrative. Elliot Coues and his “expert copyist” Mary Anderson were granted access to the original journals late in 1892. Anderson deciphered misspellings and abbreviations and completed a word-for-word, handwritten transcript. Coues used her transcript to create “The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” first published in 1893. He added many footnotes based on his travels along the route, Gass’ publication and partial journals from other members of the Corps, along with much of the original information left out by Biddle.
Sorry too much information? I warned you that I am an addict. Anyhow during my latest binge of reading I re-discovered that in 1803, while in Philadelphia preparing for the journey, under Jefferson’s direction, Lewis purchased a black, male Newfoundland puppy for which he paid twenty dollars. The basic pay for privates in the Corps of Discovery was $5 a month while Captain Lewis earned $40 per month.
Newfoundland dogs are massive. Males can weigh 130-150 pounds and stand 22 to 28 inches at the shoulder. They have webbed feet and are powerful swimmers, bred to retrieve from strong ocean currents. They are great swimmers with a thick, oily, waterproof coat. When they swim they don’t dog paddle, the limbs move up and down in a sort of modified breaststroke.
Lewis’ dog was named Seaman, but errors in transcription of the journals identify him as Scannon in many writings about the expedition. He became a favorite of the Corps and functioned as a watchdog often warning of danger. Many of the Native Americans they encountered wanted to purchase the dog but, of course, Lewis always refused. One journal entry recounts a time when a deer was wounded by one of the hunters and jumped into the river to escape. Seaman went in after the deer, caught it, drowned it and retrieved it. He made the entire trip to the Pacific and back and legend has it that after Lewis committed suicide, or was murdered, at an Inn in Tennessee on his way to Washington, Seaman wouldn’t leave Lewis’ grave and died of starvation guarding his master.
What troubles me is how the dog survived the trip from the Western Slope of the Rockies to the Pacific. At many times during this portion of the trip the Corps faced starvation; sometimes subsisting on rotting dried and pounded salmon and various roots purchased from the Native Americans. This diet, when they could acquire it, made most of them ill. During this period it is estimated they ate about three hundred dogs, meat that the Native Americans of the Columbia watershed did not use but that the Corps apparently considered acceptable, if not tasty. What did Seaman eat during these times? The issue is not addressed in any of the writings that I can find.
I’ve discussed this issue with Charlize, what else do we have to talk about? She is concerned, as I am, that Seaman might have turned cannibal.
Posted in Regular column in MyEdmondsNews | Tagged Clark, Columbia River, Corps of Discovery, Elliott Coues, Fort Clatsop, Lewis, Lewis and Clark Expedition, Lewis' dog Seaman, Native Americans, Newfoundland dogs, Nicholas Biddle, Pacific Ocean, Patrick Gass, Philadelphia, Seaman | Leave a Comment »
One aspect of growing old, for animals and us humans, is that joints wear out. Osteoarthritis is characterized by loss and/or degeneration of the cartilage in joints. The process is accompanied by osteophytes new bone growth where it is not wanted or needed, the body’s unfortunately ineffective effort to immobilize the joint and stop continued wear and tear. This is a problem I am quite familiar with having treated many old dogs, cats and horses trying to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.
For several years I suffered from severe osteoarthritis in my left ankle necessitating the use of a cane and even with that I was unable to walk Charlize for more than a few blocks without considerable discomfort. Two columns ago I wrote about the surgery I underwent in an effort to do something about the problem. The aftercare for the procedure involves ten to twelve weeks, or more, of no weight bearing on the operated leg. The surgery was done on Oct. 9, the initial cast was removed on Oct. 22 and I was fitted with a plastic boot. I get around on crutches and something called a “knee scooter” that is kind of fun to scoot around on. However it is a bit of a hassle to get up and down stairs with the knee scooter, as in impossible. It is also difficult to get the scooter in my vehicle and take out again while managing crutches. I do have a problem with allowing people to help me, something my sons are constantly giving me grief about. Can’t help it, it’s the way I am.
One of the smarter things I did was to hire a very nice young lady to just be around if I need her. She helps out during the day, walks Charlize, does some chores and errands and keep me company. My regular cleaning lady also stepped up to help the old man manage. An added benefit is the sixteen-month old daughter of my helper. I was, somehow, smart enough to insist that she shouldn’t pay a babysitter, just bring the baby with her. I relate well to animals, young and old and to small children and the little girl is a happy, no joyous, child who speaks a language that not even her mother understands. She loves Charlize and Charlize reciprocates. She keeps me smiling whenever she is here with her mother almost every day.
The first couple of weeks post-op were not fun, post-op pain masked by the mind-numbing effects of the painkillers prescribed along with the side effects of those opioids. I was able to stop taking them in just a few days but the toughest part was sleeping on my back with the leg elevated for the first two or three weeks. Got past that and am now able to sleep on my side again, what a relief!
The next obstacle was getting out then back into the house negotiating the two steps down into the garage. After the weeks of not being able to get out of the house I was suffering significant cabin fever. Perseverance and practice with the crutches finally paid dividends when I realized I had to trust the crutches to hold me up, balance by holding the bad leg forward and swinging down or up instead of trying to hop. Once out of the house and into the vehicle driving is not a problem since it is my left leg and the vehicle has an automatic transmission. Maneuvering on crutches to be able to get into the vehicle also took practice but I am free again! Able to get to the Corner Coffee Café for my regular fix, take myself on errands, including grocery shopping, a chore I found to be very difficult to assign to others since my habit is to go to the store with a list of things I’m out of but to shop for inspiration of what to prepare.
Throughout this experience Charlize has been good. She loves going for her twice a day walks with my helper and I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I will be able to reclaim that time with her. When we are alone in the mornings and evenings she is very attentive and obviously concerned about me. I’ve been having long conversations with her about the resumption of our travels. I think she misses the open road as much as I do. We still have another four to six weeks of no weight bearing to get through and I’m hopeful we will be back to some semblance of normality afterwards.
Posted in Regular column in MyEdmondsNews | Tagged ankle surgery, bone, Charlize, growing old, Health, joints, knee scooters, osteoarthritis, osteophytes, Weight-bearing | 2 Comments »
Lately I am beginning to think that Charlize is upset with me. I think she’s worried that something I wrote, information I believed would be helpful, is being used for nefarious purposes. Because the reach of the Internet is global the potential harm is spreading, and she’s worried about dogs and cats everywhere.
Antifreeze poisoning is a significant problem in dogs and cats, one of if not the most common cause of animal poisoning. Back in January 31, 2012 I posted an article on this blog that was also published in MyEdmondsNews. The article was entitled: “Why do dogs and cats drink antifreeze and how does it kill them?” My intent was to educate about the lethality of antifreeze, how to keep from exposing your pet, the signs and symptoms of poisoning, what to do if you suspect your pet has been exposed and the treatment that can only be provided by your veterinarian.
Since that article was published this website has hosted almost twenty-three thousand visits. A small percentage of those visits were from folks who follow my writings but the vast majority of the visitors reach the site via search engines. I don’t know the exact numbers but a disturbing percentage of those visitors used, and continue to use, search terms such as; how to kill a dog or cat with antifreeze, how much antifreeze to kill a dog or a cat, the best way to kill a dog or cat with antifreeze.
The website provides daily statistics about the articles that were accessed. It is a rare day when the antifreeze article is not the most visited, apparently by folks trying to find out how to rid their neighborhood of a pesky dog or cat. Many of the inquiries come from countries with stray or feral dog and cat problems but it is still disturbing that people are going to the Internet to find out how to poison animals.
So, what to do? I would like to believe that this article has saved some animals from a horrible death. Antifreeze kills by forming crystals in the kidneys that destroys kidney function, not a pleasant death. Quick response and appropriate treatment by a veterinarian is the only way to save an animal thus exposed. However, if the information is perverted, used to poison animals should I leave it on the site? Mine is not the only site that provides information about antifreeze poisoning.
OK, too heavy? The argument is that free access to information is not and cannot be bad, only the use of that information in a bad way. Of course, Charlize is not really upset with me, especially not with something I wrote. She has yet to read any of my essays, although sometimes I read portions of them to her. When I do so she provides unequivocal support rather than critique, constructive or otherwise. It would be wonderful if she would provide me with advice about what to do about this.
Posted in Regular column in MyEdmondsNews | Tagged Animal, Antifreeze, antifreeze poisoning, Cat, Dog, Pet, Poison, Veterinary medicine, Veterinary physician | 1 Comment »
Four weeks ago Charlize and I embarked on a new, a different kind of trip. This trip requires new and different skills. Both of us need to learn to be patient and to find ways to control the way we handle day-to-day emotions and frustrations.
Over three years ago the arthritis in my left ankle started to limit my physical activity and ability to get around pain free. Rosalie and I investigated what could be done. The options, after consulting experts, were to either replace the ankle joint with a prosthetic or fuse the joint. The advice from the surgeon was to continue to use the ankle brace I had been using for over a year at that point and a cane. We were told that when the pain became unbearable I would know it was time to do something.
About a year later, we started thinking surgery was a reasonable option. Then Rosalie was diagnosed with stage four-lung cancer and everything else was put on hold. After she passed, exactly to the day, one year after the diagnosis, I was incapable of making almost any kind of decision regarding my own health.
Six months or so later l I was no longer able to walk Charlize for more than four or five blocks without intense pain. After our morning walk I had to ice the ankle and rest it for more than an hour to be able to take her for another walk. She was good about it though, somehow sensing about how long I could manage, turning back toward home after a couple of blocks. She even took care of her business early in the process so as not to prolong my discomfort.
So back to the surgeon and re-evaluation of the ankle. New radiographs and a CT scan showed significant progression with loss of almost all cartilage and bone loss of the distal end of the tibia, the long bone of the leg that forms the first portion of the ankle joint. After more research and discussion with the surgeon we decided the best option was to fuse the joint and not rely on a mechanical device that doesn’t have the same level of success, as do the artificial knee and hip joints.
Four weeks ago almost three hours of surgery was completed to the satisfaction of the surgeon. After two nights in the hospital I was home with a cast and facing twelve weeks of recovery with no weight bearing on my left leg. So this is the new journey Charlize and I share. We are coping and I will share with you the new challenges, the new friends, new helpers and new strengths we discover on this continuing journey through life.
Posted in Regular column in MyEdmondsNews | Tagged Ankle, ankle surgery, arthritis, artificial joints, dogs, helper dogs, prosthetic ankle, tibia, tibial-tarsal joint, Travel stories, traveling with a dog | 5 Comments »
The Whale Watch Inn doesn’t have a breakfast room. At eight AM, according to my Timex, a discrete knock on the door announced my breakfast’s arrival. The time I selected the previous evening. I opened the door to find a wicker tray waiting for me. There was a tasty omelet, homemade corn meal muffins, coffee, juice and fresh fruit. I couldn’t eat it all but Charlize was happy to clean up the omelet and muffins. I polished off the coffee and fresh fruit on my own.
We continued north on Highway 1 trying to concentrate on the road rather than the distraction of one magnificent view after another. Less than pacific waves crashed against stark dark rocks sending plumes of white water and spray into the salty air. On the beaches the waves retrieved grains of sand and carried them back to the ocean floor only to replace them with the next tide.
We stopped to stretch at Manchester State Park where Charlize made friends with blonde, sixteen month old Chelsea and her proud parents. Chelsea conducted a long conversation with Charlize who was in a “down/stay”. I had not a clue about the information and/or wisdom being communicated but Charlize was completely focused and responded to probing fingers and baby pats with licks. I asked Chelsea’s parents if they understood anything the little girl was telling Charlize but they told me my guess was as good as theirs. Charlize was totally engaged but uninterested in sharing any of Chelsea’s secrets with me.
We said our goodbyes, Chelsea crying about being separated from her new best friend. Charlize was thankfully content to stay with me. Her loyalty is sometimes incomprehensible.
We meandered on north to Mendocino. I don’t know why that small town seemed so familiar, I can’t recall ever being there previously but it is quaint, a throwback to Hippie times. Mostly old buildings, many of them decorated with street art. I found a coffee shop, of course. After collecting my two Splenda latte I had a short conversation about German shepherd dogs with a couple of seriously un-bathed, heavily bearded, philosophers who were occupying the sidewalk in front of the shop. Charlize sniffed each of them once and indicated she was ready to leave. I avoided getting close enough to challenge my olfactory senses content to trust her judgment.
Charlize stayed in Old Blue while I took a quick -self-conducted tour of the Mendocino Art Center followed by a slow drive-through tour of the town. Inside the art center the volunteer docent on duty indicated that there were a lot of writers living and working in the area, along with many local visual artists and musicians. I spotted an open real estate office and went in to chat about local housing prices with one of the agents, just curious to see what living in that mecca for artists might cost. Half a million buys a thousand square foot, or less, fixer-upper without a clear view of the coastal scenery. I thought California real estate had been hard hit, apparently not in Mendocino.
Back on Highway 1 the road swung east to Drive Thru Tree Park where the road magically converted to Highway 101. We continued northward, inland from the coast and experienced several groves of Redwoods including the Richardson Grove State Park and the Humbolt Redwoods State Park. The highway was now identified as the Redwood Highway offering tantalizing samples of once many hundreds of square miles of Giant Redwood forests. Once again I wished I could have travelled with Jedediah Smith to be one of the first Americans to experience that time and place. Charlize, Old Blue and I crossed and re-crossed the Eel River continuing north past Humbolt Bay and on into Eureka where we had reservations at the Carter House Inns.
We found the place, actually three separate buildings on the north end of Eureka’s Old Town. Our room was on the ground floor of the Victorian Bell Cottage building with a private outside entrance to the room. I was trying for an “artistic” view of the building framed by the setting sun, didn’t get it. Our room had wood floors, a bathroom with Victorian fixtures and a large bedroom with Victorian furniture but a comfortable bed. There was an extra charge for Charlize but came with a flannel blanket and a stainless steel food bowl as mementos of our stay.
After dinner Charlize and I went for a walk past the marina where we encountered a middle-aged man riding a bike outfitted with a single wheeled trailer stacked high with his possessions. A pit bull dog was comfortable on top of the collection. We were never closer than twenty yards or so but Charlize strained against the leash and the pit bull rose to his feet, both of them with hackles up. I presume both animals were just defending their respective pack leaders. I put Charlize into a sit/stay and blocked her line of vision to the other dog. I made her pay attention only to me by touching and talking to her whenever she tried to look for the other dog. She calmed and the bicycle man and his dog pedaled away without incident.
Posted in Regular column in MyEdmondsNews | Tagged aggressive dogs, California, Carter House Inns, Charlize, Charlize Theron, dog stories, how to correct an aggressive dog, Jedediah Smith, Manchester State Park, Mendocino, Northern California Coast, Redwood Highway, Richardson Grove State Park, Whale Watch Inn | 2 Comments »
Charlize and I stopped at yet another vista, this one full of cars, trucks, campers, RVs and a lot of folks. The signs for the place identified it as Elephant Seal Beach and the attraction was a lot of Elephant seals sunning themselves on the sand and a few frolicking in the water just off shore.
They aren’t dead but are mostly motionless. Every now and then one of them digs up some sand with a flipper and flings the grains up into the breeze, covering its body with a thin crust. I have no idea what that accomplishes, maybe the action distracts some biting flies or other pests. I’m certain they wouldn’t do it unless it accomplished something, and all of them seem to participate from time to time.
The water was an unbelievable blue and, despite all the people, it was another amazing experience to add to my journal. Many of the folks stopped to chat and pet Charlize. I never cease to be surprised about how easy it is to open a conversation with strangers using her as the “ice-breaker”.
These seals are the Northern Elephant Seal, sea mammals that spend from eight to ten months per year out in the open sea. While out and about, so to speak, they are able to dive from a thousand to as much as five thousand feet down searching for a meal. That is an amazing statistic, as any scuba diver will tell you. Each sixty-three feet below the surface of the water is equal to one atmosphere of pressure. That means they can withstand almost 80 atmospheres of pressure, enough to crush almost anything made by man and they can stay down for as long as two hours.
Only about one out of six of the seals manage to survive to adulthood. The pups, especially, are vulnerable to a variety of predators, including man. They were hunted almost to extinction, their oil being second in quality to only that of the sperm whale. By the early 1970’s there were only about a hundred of these animals breeding on Guadalupe Island off Baja. Before the U.S. government did anything the small colony was protected by the Mexican government. Our then functional government finally managed to pass the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. By 1999 the total population of these amazing creatures was estimated to be about 150,000 with the Piedras Blancas rookery home to about 18,000. Every now and again we do manage to do something right.
Heading north again we went past Tomales Bay State Park and any number of small towns with somehow familiar names; Cypress Grove, Ocean Roar, Valley Ford, Bodega Bay (something out of a Steinbeck book?), Jenner, then an extremely winding road and passing the Salt Point State Park campground where we spent a night in Frog on our first trip. Eventually we made it to Gualala and checked into the Whale Watch Inn, a charming place with a charming hostess, a great view of the water from my room and Charlize was welcomed and allowed to stay in the room with me. We both prefer that!
Posted in Regular column in MyEdmondsNews | Tagged Bodega Bay, Elephant, Elephant seal, Northern California Coast, Northern Elephant Seal, Piedras Blancas, Salt Point State Park, Tomales Bay State Park, Travel stories, Travels with Charlize, United States | 1 Comment »
Charlize and I are on the road again. We spent two weeks visiting my son and his family in their beautiful new home in Carlsbad, California. Rosalie would have loved the house and the neighborhood, both idyllic.
The trip south from Edmonds was made in two and a half days traveling I-5, fast but boring, even though the drive was a new one for us. Freeway speeds and heavy traffic don’t equate to enjoyment of the experience, at least not for me.
Coming home we left early Sunday morning and managed to clear the Los Angeles traffic before eight AM. At Santa Clarita we left the I-5 and worked our way west to US 101 and Santa Paula. Then we headed north along the coast. At about ten in the morning we arrived in Gavita and joined CA 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.
In Lompoc we found a coffee shop and I got my two Splenda latte but only after Charlize found a suitable location for a long overdue pee. Since we were in no particular hurry I occupied a table in the sun outside the coffee shop. Charlize was content to lay in the shade I created. Within minutes a lady stopped and asked if she could pet Charlize, who is always open to new friendships. It wasn’t long before I found out she had two German shepherd dogs who were also rescues.
She noticed the Washington plates on Old Blue and it wasn’t long until I found out that her father, in his mid-eighties, lives in Edmonds where she was raised. Her Dad recently had a stroke and she had to move him from his home to a private elder care home. She said the family that owns the place is very nice, very experienced in caring for the elderly and that her Dad had his own little suite in the house. She told me he seems to be happy with his situation but I had the feeling that she was trying to convince herself. After she left us I turned to Charlize:
“You see what we have to look forward to girl? Hopefully you won’t be around when that happens to me. I need to keep my act together until you are ten or twelve, I suppose.”
Charlize looked at me with the quizzical expression she gets when trying to fathom what on earth I’m talking about but only responded with a tail wag. I suppose that is about as much as I can expect in response to a morbid thought. She was happy to leap back into Old Blue.
Back on the road we made our way, twisting and turning, rarely reaching speeds of fifty miles per hour mostly slowing to twenty-five or thirty for the curves. On our left were spectacular ocean vistas, one after another. We found a place for lunch in San Simon and Charlize made friends with an adorable four-year old sitting with her family at the table next to us on the patio.
Matilda’s mother told me it was impossible to keep her away from any dog, she just had to pet all of them. I offered some grandfatherly advice about being too trusting of strange dogs but it was clear that my warning had little effect on either mother or daughter. One more thing on the long list of things I have no control over.
It was a spectacular afternoon driving on the coast highway, stopping every half-hour or so at an overlook just to gaze at the waves coming in and the surf breaking. Eventually we arrived in Monterey. After settling in to the historic Munras Hotel Charlize strolled while I limped to Cannery row where Charlize introduced me to some more friendly folks. Charlize is impatient and fickle though. If the conversation lasts more than three or four minutes and nobody is paying sufficient attention to her, she is anxious to be off to find another new friend.
That evening Charlize and I ate tapas on the dog friendly patio at the hotel and she made friends with all the service staff. I was just along for the experience, and to pay the bill.
Posted in Regular column in MyEdmondsNews | Tagged California, Carlsbad, Charlize, dog stories, German shepherd dogs, Lompoc, Los Angeles, Old Blue, Rosalie, Santa Clarita California, United States | 1 Comment »