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Posts Tagged ‘Recreation’

Seems I can’t stay away. I’m back in Denver visiting old friends who have made a special effort to welcome and include me in their lives even after a fifty plus year hiatus of minimal contact. Some of their friends are people I knew back when CSU was still Colorado A & M and we were all young and unbelievably ignorant of life.

Denver is now a cosmopolitan city and my friends participate in many of the activities that make it so. Their lives seem very different from mine in quiet, artsy Edmonds. I’m certain I cannot live here full time. I have come to rely on the moist air, overcast days and lush green, not to mention my son and his family who I am already missing after only twelve days, but the Mile High City is a great place to visit. Maybe I am destined to just wander then return to Edmonds only to wander again. Not so terrible a thing to contemplate.

During the last few months Charlize has developed some troubling behavior. When she is on leash she is extremely aggressive to other dogs when we encounter them while out walking. I have been using the techniques promulgated by the Dog Whisperer on his TV show and we are making good progress. If I spot another dog before we are too close I put Charlize in a “sit” and make her pay attention to me. This prevents her from getting her “ruff” up, snarling and lunging at the other dog. What is remarkable about this aggressive behavior is that when I take her to a dog park she is not aggressive to the other dogs at all.

My host recently adopted a Maltese/Pomeranian that might weigh five pounds before she shakes off her bath water. When we introduced Charlize and Chloe I put Charlize in a “down stay”.  She wagged her entire hind end and although Chloe was a little apprehensive and slightly aggressive at first they are now getting along with no problems and have started to play together when the spirit moves. Chloe hides under a chair or couch, where Charlize can’t reach her, then launches preemptive strikes with a quick retreat to safety. Charlize seems mostly bemused at this behavior but seems to be getting the idea that it is a game. Occasionally she responds and lands one of her big paws knocking Chloe off balance, but only for an instant. The little dog is almost cat-like in her ability to ability to instantaneously regain balance, change directions in the air and leap onto surfaces twice her height. A couple of mornings ago the two of them shared a plate with a taste of leftover quiche, fun to watch.

A few days ago I went on line and found an off leash dog park not far from my host’s home. Charlize and I have been there several times now. This morning it was already in the high eighties, supposed to reach mid-nineties today, bright sunshine, clear air and high altitude. There were a dozen or more dogs when we arrived shortly after eight AM, some of them already old friends. As usual Charlize was completely focused on her ball. She races after the ball when I chuck it more than a hundred yards using the plastic throwing stick. She ignores the other dogs and if not the fastest she is the most focused on the ball. So far she has outraced all other dogs to retrieve her ball. She also ignores the other dogs as she retrieves but holds the ball in her mouth until she catches her breath then drops it for me to throw it again. If someone throws a ball for one of the other dogs or even if they intercept her ball and throw it, she ignores all but her ball and only if I throw it for her. When she brings it back she continues to ignore the other dogs even when they try to interfere with her progress back to me. No aggressive behavior at all in response to the challenges by any of the other dogs. Good girl!

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Matt called as promised, about six PM. I had half-a-day of his time reserved for the next day and we agreed we would go out when it was most propitious. He checked with his fishing guide buddies who had been out that day and decided the afternoon would be best, it might be possible to get into a Mayfly hatch and do some dry fly fishing, the most exciting. We agreed to meet at eleven the next morning and did so.

He drove us upriver where he put his float boat in the water and got all the rods and other equipment ready. He watched me cast a few times on the bank, made some corrections in my “technique” and we took off, Charlize with us. We talked about the wisdom of taking her in the boat with us but he assured me he took his own dog with him when he fished and he was certain Charlize would adjust. It was not to be. The first time I cast my line Charlize was out of the boat and into the river after it. Matt had rigged my rod with two different flies and an indicator.  We called indicators bobbers when I was a lad. He explained that with the strong wind and swift current the indicator would carry the bait downstream faster and I would be better able to mend and control the line. OK, whatever, he’s the expert. But Charlize was convinced that the bobber was her ball and she was determined to retrieve it

The charade continued, Matt and I taking turns hauling Charlize back into the fast moving boat. Finally I used her leash to snub her to the swivel chair I was sitting on so her movements were very limited. Every time I cast she barked incessantly and managed to swivel my chair enough to lunge at the cast. I lost patience but Matt was more understanding. After about an hour she finally responded to my repeated corrections, or just got tired, and settled down.

Matt told me where to cast and how to “mend” the line. Before long I hooked, and Matt netted, a ten-inch long whitefish, cousin to the trout and native to the Madison. The next fish netted was also a whitefish, then a nice rainbow, maybe fourteen inches long and heavy. We took a photo and let the rainbow join the whitefish back in the river. Then I landed two or three small rainbows, new plants, didn’t even need the net for those. They were also put back in the water to grow. A nice sized German brown trout, also native to the river was netted and photographed, then another rainbow. Amazingly when I was fighting to bring a fish in, or when it was netted, Charlize seemed uninterested, even bored. Matt told me his dog goes nuts when he brings a fish in.

We reached the pullout after almost five hours of sun, fun, fast water, and memorable fishing. A compatriot of Matt had retrieved his vehicle and trailer and parked it at the pullout site. My face and hands are sunburned but it was a fantastic day on a world-renown river, spectacular scenery and damned if I didn’t catch some fish and I have the photos to prove it. Excuse the finger, I was really excited.

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I bought a couple of beers for both Matt, and myself at his favorite watering hole, and we rehashed a day I will consider outstanding and he considers about average. After we said goodbye I returned to the RV Park where I met up with Dan.

I connected with Dan at the park the previous evening when he was walking his Miniature Schnauzer and I was walking Charlize. We learned we were both recently widowed after long marriages and were both trying to figure out how best to manage on our own. We agreed to go out for dinner the following day after I returned from fishing.

We went to the local bowling alley where he had been told the food was very good and to my surprise it was. We talked for some time over dinner and discovered we were kindred spirits, exchanged e-mail addresses and agreed to stay in touch.

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Here is the German Brown trout I caught. Check out the river and mountains in the background. Spectacular!

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Charlize and I went fishing at Lake Lenice just south and east of where I-90 crosses the Columbia River in south central Washington. It’s a small lake set in a desert of almost brown sand, similarly colored rocks, sagebrush and little else. The area does have a stark sort of beauty but the input into the water is 3/8 of a mile away from the gravel parking lot that also serves as a bare-bones campground. The lake is reported to be one of the best early spring catch-and-release fly-fishing lakes in the state.

We arrived Friday evening with a couple of hours of daylight remaining. I set-up Frog then Charlize and I walked to where the cattails were removed to provide access to the water. I wanted to find out if anyone from the several vehicles in the parking lot was doing any good and if they would tell what they were using.

Charlize immediately waded out into the lake to greet a couple of fishermen bringing their pontoon boats into the landing. They reported reasonable success given the windy conditions resulting in whitecaps. They showed me the egg pattern they were using and even gave me one yellow and one orange to try out. My experience with the catch-and-release fraternity is that they are almost always willing to share their techniques and strategies. My two new friends even described their technique for tying the flies. My guess is that since members of this fraternity release everything they catch there is no feeling of competition with other people fishing. Any fish that are present are available for everyone.

Hope is the mantra of any person sitting in a boat on a lake or standing in a stream, especially if the wind is blowing whitecaps. Persons practicing catch-and-release fly-fishing have to believe the next cast, the next self-tied fly, will produce a result. I say persons because people who cast flies are no longer solely male. The gentle gender has discovered the joys of freezing cold water, windy days, rain and uninterested trout. What the hell is the matter with them?

Saturday Charlize stayed in the warmth of Old Blue’s covered bed while I fought whitecaps and wind on the lake. I tried the egg patterns, and half a dozen other types of flies, different colors of leech patterns and woolly buggers. I had one strike that I missed landing and after another couple of hours with no sign of a fish I struggled to row back to the landing. I was rowing against the wind, a foot forward for every dozen strokes. Back at the parking lot I talked to another person who had access to a radio. He told me the wind was forecast to continue Sunday. I hitched up Frog and headed home to Edmonds.

Rosalie never grasped the concept.

“Let’s see,” she smirked. “You put on those wader thingies that you can’t get off afterwards, and the life jacket in case you fall in, and the fishing vest loaded with all kinds of toys and goodies, and the flippers that kill your ankles and then you kick or row around the lake while you sit in that float thingy in the cold water. You spend many hundreds of our dollars on equipment and more hours tying things onto hooks that don’t resemble any bug I’ve ever seen, then drive for more hours to get to a lake or river and if you do catch a fish you let it go. Have I left out anything?”

“You just don’t understand,” I responded.

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Screaming at a toddler not to touch something hot can be effective, sometimes, but not nearly as effective, long term, as allowing that curious mind to experience pain. The same is true of dogs, although they seem to have slightly more built-in survivorship skills than toddlers do, with one exception I can think of, dogs and porcupines. I cannot tell you how many times I have pulled porcupine quills from the muzzle, nose and face of the same dogs. They never seem to learn.

Maybe it’s the chase. Rabbits, squirrels, all those creatures that run and rarely get caught are a source of pleasure, dogs love the pleasure of the chase. Porcupines are disdainful. They scurry, but not quite fast enough to avoid the catch. Maybe they enjoy the reverse chase, knowing they will prevail.

Roger was a Boxer dog who never learned. The first time I saw him his head was as big as a soccer ball, filled with porcupine quills and swollen with inflammation. After anesthetizing the poor guy I spent almost two hours laboriously pulling quills, one at a time, out of him. I saw him at least three more time, maybe more, not nearly as loaded with quills, but obviously not hurt enough to learn, or maybe he had ADD. He was not the only dog I encountered with a similar problem when it came to porcupines.

The same phenomenon does not seem to exist when it comes to Cholla cactus, called the jumping cactus. During our recent travels, my dog Charlize knew to avoid getting close enough to that troublesome plant to experience it and I don’t recall treating the same dog more than once for a Cholla encounter. Charlize does love to chase small creatures. She has come amazingly close but has yet to capture one, but we haven’t run into a porcupine,…yet.

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Charlize doesn’t know we’re home. For over a month at six-thirty or so each morning she pressed her cold nose on my cheek and uttered a soft whine to get me up. I let her out and then get on with whatever the day has in store. We wandered for over a month, asking questions without answers but gradually discovering that decisions can be made unilaterally after almost fifty-three years of collaborating with Rosalie. Of course I discuss everything with Charlize but she has yet to voice a comprehensible opinion, except for exuberant enthusiasm for walks and playing ball.

I went through thirty-nine days of accumulated mail, paid the overdue bills I couldn’t identify on-line and restocked the refrigerator. Now what? During my travels I rekindled some old friendships, now I have to work at keeping them viable and active that will require both time and effort.

Frog needs some repair and renovation to improve her ability to travel rough roads. I was disappointed with how she responded to the rough spots we hit along the way. They are just minor things. She needs improved access to the storage space under the bed, clasps on cupboard doors and drawers to prevent them from coming open when I hit a bump in the road, a method of keeping the table from sliding and banging around loose and into the corner of the cupboard and the refrigerator. I should be able to get her in good shape for our next adventure planned for May.

I also have my writing projects. A novel, PSILOCYBE DREAMS, that I just finished editing for, I hope, the last time. Now I have to start submitting it to agents and publishers.

I am starting a new project that I am very excited about: Samuel Ha-Nagid was born near the end of the 10th Century. He was a Rabbi who wrote poetry of love and God and wine and war in both Hebrew and Arabic. Some of his poetry survives today. He became the Caliph of Cordoba’s right hand, his Viser, his Chief-of-Staff, the General of his armies. He was never defeated on the field of battle. They were a team, a Muslim ruler and a Jew in a time of enlightenment, education, literacy and tolerance that lasted over three hundred years. What happened? There’s a story to be told and a trip to Cordoba, Spain for research.

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I would never have anticipated it. Charlize is probably the friendliest, most calm dog around strangers I have ever been responsible for. When we arrived at my son’s home in San Diego she met their Golden Retriever, Bentley, for the first time. I’ve known Bentley since they got him as a puppy. He’s a lovable lug, typical of the breed, a vacuum cleaner when it comes to food, with a happy go-lucky, what-me-worry, outlook on life. He outweighs Charlize by at least twenty pounds, maybe more.

When we first arrived the two of them dashed madly around the house, narrowly avoiding breakage. We turned them loose in the immaculately planned and executed backyard that mimics a Mediterranean villa garden. They rushed about, banging into each other, tearing up the lawn with their toenails and having a grand time.

After a short while Charlize noticed one of Bentley’s toys, grabbed it, ran off to the corner of the yard and lay down with the toy between her front legs. Bentley stood stock still, not understanding, making no effort to retrieve his toy.

After awhile we all went indoors, including the dogs. Now Charlize had access to a cornucopia of toys and took advantage of the opportunity. She gathered several of Bentley’s chew toys and deposited them on a spot, carefully chosen, on the floor. Bentley went over to retrieve one of them and she rushed over, growling, and chased him away. After she deposited all the toys she could find on her spot she again lay down with the toys between her front legs and dared him to try and take any of them. He didn’t respond to the tease, just stood, cocking his head from side-to-side, trying his best to understand.

Then it was time to feed the dogs. To avoid any confrontations Bentley was given his food in his regular place inside while I fed Charlize outside on the patio. As I said Bentley scarfs up his food like a vacuum cleaner. Charlize is lady-like. She eats slowly, actually chews each mouthful and frequently does a little walkabout then returns for another mouthful or two. She rarely eats everything in her dish, leaving a few kibbles. Her mother must have taught her that proper manners dictated leaving a little food on your plate. As usual she left some food in her dish and asked to come inside so I let Bentley out to cleanup the leftovers. He got within two feet of her dish, his intent obvious, and Charlize rushed in, shouldered him aside with a low growl and swiftly dispatched the remaining kibbles. My mild mannered companion harbors a mean streak.

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Stayed in a fancy RV park in Fortuna, CA the night of Feb. 5. We had the full hookup at our pull-through space; water, power, TV cable, a dump station. The next day we stayed on U.S. 101 until Leggett then hooked up with highway 1. It became very slow going, but extremely scenic. We stopped at many vistas and a couple of tourist traps. Lunched in a tiny place in Fort Bragg that featured a Wizard of Oz theme and a tasty salad loaded with Dungeness crab. Worked way south, but the road was full of 15 to 20 mph curves, switchbacks and steep grades.

During the day we stopped at three different groves of redwood trees. Only relatively small, protected groves of what were once massive forests. Steinbeck ascribed almost god-like attributes to these three-thousand-plus year old behemoths and when Charlize and I were alone, walking amongst them, I did experience feelings similar to those I felt visiting old world synagogues whose congregants were annihilated. Charlize was subdued, watching me closely as she mirrored the emotions I was feeling.

At three-thirty we started looking for an RV park. The only ones seen were after we passed and the road was too narrow to turn and go back. Stopped at a grocery store in Gualala to purchase some fresh vegetables for dinner and was told about the Salt Point Campgrounds owned and operated by the state. There were no hookups for water, power, cable, no Wi-Fi and no cell phone connection, no sewer dump. The advantage was that, except for two senior ladies living in a RV as “hosts” of the campground, Charlize and I were the sole transient occupants. There was a friendly Park Ranger at the gate talking to a young couple that didn’t stay. He told us that if we walked down to the beach, about a half mile jaunt, we might get a cell signal. Not worth the effort.

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The Start

I was holding her close, cradling her head in my arms when she died. As I write this, it was thirty days, three hours and thirty-six minutes ago. April 23rd we would have celebrated fifty-three years of marriage. I’m coping, sort of.

“Well,” she said, pulling the nasal tube flowing oxygen out of her nostrils, “pretty soon you’ll be able to get a dog.” That happened the week before she passed.

Bear, our last German shepherd died six years ago, we didn’t get another dog.  That is the only period in my life that I can remember, being dog less. Rosalie developed balance problems and we were worried that she would trip or fall over a dog, thus dog less. She knew I missed having a dog and her statement out-of-the-blue was an example of her dark sense of humor. I told her to stop talking nonsense.

The last six months all my prayers were that the end would be fast and with as little pain and discomfort as possible. The diagnosis was stage four-lung cancer. It came on January 4, 2012. The oncologist told us the average statistics were survival for three to six months. We practiced positive thinking and prayer and with her typical quiet determination, Rosalie made it to six months, then eight, then ten and counting. She tired easily but appeared normal to all but me, and our two sons. She needed supplemental oxygen in mid-December and on Dec. 27 the oncologist suggested home hospice care. The hospice people showed up and enrolled her on Jan. 2. She died two days later.

Charlize, pronounced Charley, is a rescue dog, another German shepherd, about three years old. She’s been with me since January 15. We are two injured beings who need each other. The first two days she was apprehensive and distraught but every day since we have bonded more and she is calming. I keep her with me all the time. She is housebroken and vehicle broken (yeah), and fetches a tennis ball like a retriever, good exercise for her and saves my gimpy ankle. On February 1 Charlize and I will embark on an extended road trip. We will meet new friends, both people and dogs, and should have some interesting tales to tell. You can follow our adventures here.

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It was my first weekend on the job. The middle of June 1960 and I told my new boss that I would be happy to handle the Saturday calls and any emergencies that weekend.

I was on the last scheduled call of the day when Dick Mathes, our office manager/ receptionist/call scheduler, reached me on the mobile radio.

“John Jones is bringing in his cow dog, got caught by the mowing machine. His ranch is about thirty miles from here, in the badlands. He called about three so he should be here soon.”

A petite, young woman, blonde hair, dressed in clean but worn Levi’s, a denim shirt, and cowboy boots jumped to the ground from the passenger side of the pickup. She turned to lift down a young girl, her blonde hair almost white. An older boy, another towhead, jumped out unassisted.

The way the rancher carried the dog into the hospital told of his gentle nature. I noted his weathered face, thickly callused hands, and massive chest.     I held the door open and directed the Jones family into the exam room. Skipper, a two-year old Border collie bitch, black and white with wide set, expressive brown eyes thumped her tail on the stainless steel of the examination table.

Skipper raised her head, the rancher patted it and the dog lay back down on the table with a sigh. Both front legs and the left hind leg were lacerated, it appeared that metacarpal and metatarsal bones were broken. The upper portion of the left hind leg looked strange. When I palpated it the dog flinched. There was dried blood, dirt, and hair contaminating all the wounds.  I detailed all the damage to the family and explained what it would take to repair it.

“How much Doc?”

“Three dollars to put her to sleep, probably at least a hundred if we try to save her but here’s the deal, I’m new. I’m anxious to prove what I can do and I want the challenge of trying to save this dog,” I glanced at the two children. “It appears to me that Skipper is pretty special.”

The boy couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “Please Dad,” then he clenched his mouth shut.

The little girl chimed in. “Yeah, pleath Dad, we have to.” She was missing front teeth.

The rancher sighed. “OK . . . you guys understand this means no Christmas or birthday gifts this year?”

I called my new bride and convinced her to come and help with the surgery. I needed a “go-fer” since I was all alone. Several hours later, we finished. Skipper had her fractured hind leg in a Thomas splint and both front legs in casts. The next morning she was frantically banging around in the cage, but calmed down immediately after I took her out to treat her. When I tried to put her back in the cage, she became frantic again. I finally realized she was a ranch dog that had probably never seen the inside of a house, let alone been in a cage.

She was happy as could be in a stall in the barn and there she stayed, content, for almost two weeks recovering. Then on a very hot evening, we left the barn door open for ventilation. Somehow, Skipper got out of the stall and was gone. While out on farm calls I searched the sides of the road for the next week and a half, hoping to see her, nothing. The Jones family also searched, put up posters, called into the radio. The radio station made numerous announcements about Skipper and the newspaper ran an article about her, nobody reported seeing her.

As I walked through the door to the clinic, the phone rang. It was John Jones announcing Skipper had arrived home, a thirty-mile trek on one good leg, the previous evening. He brought her in and I was able to repair the casts and Thomas splint and dress all her wounds. She was terribly thin but happy to see me and eventually made a full recovery.

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