Archive for the 'Dogs' Category

Jul 24 2015

Party Time

Kalli’s birthday camping party has become an annual tradition, and a delightful one, too.

Kalli, Jarrett, and an entourage of their many friends convened at the family property on a recent Saturday. Megan and I were a little concerned about the head count of 30 or more, but we needn’t have worried. They arrived with a keg of beer and coolers full of food. Jonathan made 10 pounds of pulled pork, and I made a more modest quantity of chicken filling for the evening’s taco dinner.

We were lucky to have any chicken filling at all. I got up early on Saturday, did a few loads of laundry, and set the chicken to cook in the slow cooker. A couple of hours later, I went to check on it and discovered that it was ice cold. As in, the chicken was still frozen. I tried unplugging the slow cooker and plugging it back in again – pretty much the limits of my expertise with any form of technology – and it still didn’t work.

I took the whole thing, chicken and all, over my brother’s place. We put the chicken into our friend Lu’s crockpot, which she had lent to him a couple of weeks earlier, and I took it back to my place while Jonathan dismantled mine. Spoiler alert: the heating element had met an untimely demise, taking the rest of the slow cooker with it. So much for that. The good news is that I managed to get the chicken filling done on time.

Meanwhile, tents were merrily growing in the garden:


And the tents’ occupants were playing beer pong. They soon discovered that the drinking part of the game didn’t work so well in the pygmy puff dust, so it became more of a game of skill while drinking the beer in your hand.

We had some visiting dogs, including a darling little spotted brother and sister rescued from under a house a couple of months earlier. Lucky, the sister, was a little unsure about all the unknown people and found a safe spot:


I’m not usually one for small dogs, but they were so cute and really warmed up to the attention as the party went on. Another of Jarrett’s friends had recently traded in a problematic girlfriend for the adorable Atticus:


Definitely an upgrade.

Kalli thoughtfully provided Party Survival Kits:


These included provisions like Band-Aids, sunscreen, a toothbrush, condoms, gum, disinfectant wipes, and other things you might need when camping in the middle of nowhere with some of your best friends.

We had a great BBQ despite the near kitchen emergency, and in the morning Jarrett made bacon, eggs, and home fries on the outdoor gas stove (if you can call it that – it’s two rings hooked up to a small tank of propane, last seen in Erica’s al fresco samosa frying at Junapalooza). Then the visitors set off home, with more happy memories and plans for next year.

A YEAR AGO: The joys of faux pho. And the sadness of memory.

2 responses so far

May 29 2015

Birthday BBQ

On Saturday, I made a special appearance at the jobette. It was Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial opening of the summer tourist season, and I decided to go in and help out, partly because I’m still on probation at the new job, so I didn’t get paid for Memorial Day, and partly to help out my former work family.

It was good to be back. I took down all the expired event postings in the lobby, refreshed the supply of visitor guides and other tourism materials, added up all the sales and visitor sheets, balanced the cash, updated the database, took out the trash, watered the inside and outside plants (which I suspect has not been done since I left), and washed the dishes. Oh, and turned off the heat, which was blasting when I arrived.

I had a great time chatting with the visitors, and sold $160 worth of art. I imagine my former employers were pleased when they arrived at the office on Tuesday.

I went home and collected the al pastor which I had put in the slow cooker on Friday night. It was my first attempt at making this, and I think from now on I will just leave it to Libby’s, even if they are almost never open. It turned out to be atomically spicy, despite the fact that I only added a teeny can of chipotles in adobo sauce to a 5 pound roast, along with an entire pineapple, a bottle of beer, some red onion, and a couple of tablespoons of chili powder.

To be fair, I have a low spiciness tolerance and believe that food should come in hot, medium, mild and Suzy. But still. I texted Erica in a panic, and she suggested that I drain off the sauce and put in a can of tomato sauce. I didn’t have any tomato sauce – all I had was an extremely unhelpful jar of spicy red pepper sauce – so I went over to Megan’s, even though it was early, since I had to deal with it before heading to the jobette.

Fortunately, she had a can, so I swapped the sauces, and I think it worked just fine. Rob helped me to load the giant slow cooker into the car and we headed over to the family property, where Megan’s birthday BBQ was in full swing:


Erica and Jessica were there, as well as Jarrett and Kalli and Dave and Jennifer. Jarrett had invited his dog Archi’s brother (and his owners), and I couldn’t get over how alike they look:


Lichen also came, bearing rose lemonade for Jessica, and all together, there were nearly 20 people. Erica fried up samosas she had made in a special pot outside by the Waltons-sized picnic table:


They were, of course, delicious.

Erica had also brought a giant, industrial sized jar of mayonnaise:


It turned out to be an elaborate practical joke. Megan hates mayonnaise (we are a family of picky eaters), but Erica bet her that she would be digging into this one. Megan was horrified until she discovered that the jar actually contained vanilla bean-bourbon vanilla pudding, chocolate espresso cookie crumbs, and sea salted caramel sauce, all made from scratch by Erica the Evil Genius. It was insanely delicious.

Erica said it was the hardest dessert she had ever made, since she had to hide the cookie crumbs and sauce inside the pudding, so it still looked convincingly like mayonnaise. Only Erica!

Meanwhile, I was discussing designers with Jessica, saying that I love it that she actually knows who Charles James, Schiaparelli, Claire McCardell, and Madame Grès are (she has all these and more on her Pinterest boards). She said that sometimes it seems like designers are playing a practical joke to see if people will actually wear their crazy clothes. “It’s like, ‘Go home, fashion, you’re drunk!’” Jessica said, referring to some of the more outrageous confections at Fashion Week.


When it was time to go home, Jessica once again offered her arm and asked if she could escort “Fair Suzy” to her car. I love this tradition!

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday, of course!

3 responses so far

May 10 2015

It’s Official

Published by under Dogs,Family,Schatzi

Star & Stella

Megan pointed out a shocking oversight in my blog: I never told you that she and Rob officially adopted Stella!

You may remember that Stella came into our lives at the puppy tail end of 2013, when Monica heroically agreed to find homes for two year old Stella and her 11 (yes, 11) puppies. Being Monica, she somehow managed to finagle a free room at one of the loveliest resorts on the coast as a nursery, and also found homes for all of the babies.

Megan and Rob agreed to take Stella on a trial basis, partly because Star is, as Megan puts it, “dog selective”, and partly because their hearts were still broken over the loss of their beloved Schatzi. It turns out that Stella and Star are a great match, and it’s good for Star to have another dog around again. Star, like me, can be nervous and unsure, but Stella just barges right into life fearlessly. Nothing bothers her, and she does everything 110%, 110% of the time, whether it’s sleeping, eating, or playing.

The other day, Megan stopped by to see me at work while Rob was at a doctor’s appointment, and brought the dogs with her. Stella was almost as happy to see me as Star, and I’m convinced that I have extra credit with Star because I was there with Megan when Star was rescued from her bad old life. Stella is definitely part of the family now, and it just goes to show that dogs choose us, not the other way around.

Star turned seven on Cinco de Mayo this year, marking her fifth year with Megan and Rob. I bet she doesn’t even remember the bad old days, and it’s so nice to see her cuddle up with Stella, two happy dogs in a happy home.

A YEAR AGO: A field trip with Megan and Stella.

2 responses so far

May 03 2015

Animal Magnetism

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi

While I was getting ready for work one morning this week, I was abruptly jolted from my makeup routine by the distinctive sound of a cat fight in progress. I knew the boys were inside (they like to eat some breakfast and then go back to bed lately), so I figured it was Audrey defending her realm.

I ran out the bathroom door, lip gloss in hand, and chased away a large white cat. Audrey appeared unharmed, but she wouldn’t come in the house so I could see up close and personal. But even my Worrier self knew that a cat who is the terror of the neighborhood dogs can take of herself. And after all, she is something of an evil genius. I was still glad to see Mark’s dog Luna on patrol as I left for work. I really think having Luna and Lupe around keeps us all safer, and I’m pretty sure they also keep the garden eating deer at bay.

In addition to their security duties, Lupe and Luna always come to meet me when I get home from home, merrily wagging their tails and enjoying the pets and attention. Nothing makes you feel more appreciated than a dog who is happy to see you. The other day, I saw Clyde messing around in the bushes near Megan’s house as I drove past, and as soon as he saw me, he scampered homewards, meeting me at the same time as the dogs.

Lupe has also taken to overseeing my jaunts on Mark’s treadmill. I try to get over there most mornings, and lately Lupe has been joining me. The treadmill is in a little building Mark originally intended to be his office, but has been taken over by his teenaged daughters as a hanging out spot, though not early in the morning.

While I hop on the treadmill, Lupe curls up on the floor and goes to sleep while I walk and read, reminding of the way Schatzi used to curl up on the bathmat when I took a bath while she visited me in the city, long ago. When I’m done, she follows me out of the building and then trots home to get on with her day while I get on with mine.

A YEAR AGO: the madness that is Covered California.

2 responses so far

Apr 29 2015


Published by under Dogs,Family,Friends


Megan woke up after her fourth long night shift last week to find a series of texts from our dear friend Lu. Lu had taken her huge, sweet Rottweiler Marco to see Dr. Karen and discovered that he had the same cancer that claimed Lichen’s Rottweiler Padawan at this time of year a few years ago.

Marco’s cancer was so advanced that the bone in one of his legs was almost gone, unbeknownst to Lu and probably Marco, and had spread through his great chest, so it was clear that the time had come. As you may remember, Marco suddenly and inexplicably went blind three years ago, and I’m sure many people would have put him to sleep then. But Lu and Rik dabbed doorways and the location of his food and water bowls with different essential oils, so he could negotiate his way around the home he had lived in most of his life, and it worked well.

When Megan arrived at Lu and Rik’s house, Rik was giving Marco a warm bath in the outdoor clawfoot tub, a treat which Marco always loved. Tears were pouring down Rik’s face as Marco basked in the warm, soapy water. He enjoyed a towel dry before settling down in front of the heater, surrounded by family and friends. Dr. Karen’s dedicated staff made one last house call, making Marco’s farewell as peaceful and comfortable as possible.

Poor Harlow, his little sister (she and Marco can be seen together here), was very sad. Her forehead was wrinkled all evening, and she sniffed him carefully. At least she knew what happened – I would think it would be much harder for Harlow if Marco just disappeared one day. Hopefully she will adjust, along with Lu and Rik, but Marco leaves a big hole in our lives. He may have been 137 pounds, but the biggest thing about him was his heart.

Marco was too big to bury, so he was cremated. There is a local glassmaker who will make the ashes into a special piece of glasswork, so Marco will always be with the people who loved him. Sleep well, gentle giant. You are loved and missed.

A YEAR AGO: The other side of the circle of life, celebrating Jessica’s 11th birthday.

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Jan 31 2015

Road Trip!

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family,Travel

Megan and I went on a little adventure to the south coast on Sunday. We could not have had a nicer day for it. The sky was a clear, cloudless blue, and it must have been at least 70 degrees. No jacket required.

It was an all girl road trip, with Star and Stella in the back seat and Megan and me in the front. Megan drove, so I could enjoy the scenery, which was spectacular. The ocean was showing off, as were the whales and dolphins frolicking in it. Calla lilies unfurled their white flags by the side of the road, and drifts of yellow daffodils nodded in fields. The road meanders through hills, some steep and some rolling, dotted with cows and sheep on one side, and a precipitous cliff overlooking the ocean on the other, fringed with dark trees twisted by years of wind.

Our first stop – first things first, you know! – was the fabulous Thai restaurant in the tiny town of Anchor Bay:


We ordered take-out for dinner, and while it was being prepared, wandered with the dogs through a small, secluded ocean view cemetery:


The ground was starred with wild irises:


and gravestones ranging from the ancient:


to the modern:


I loved how this couple had their wedding date and rings engraved between their names, and that his side reads “Gone fishing” while hers reads “Gone dancing”. Somehow I feel that their love lives on.

We stowed the dogs and the Thai food in the car and set off for the quirky little city of Point Arena. We went to the pier and found a rough wooden table on the deck of the chowder house. As we waited for lunch to arrive, we admired the view:


and the intrepid surfers. As Megan said, they must be experts to risk the rocks as well as the waves. While surfer watching, we moved away from the table, and a giant seagull made his move on our unprotected lunches. He only managed to knock over my nearly empty lemonade glass, which must have been a huge disappointment to him.

After lunch, we took the dogs to the Stornetta Public Lands, which recently became the newest part of the California Coastal National Monument, thanks in part to efforts at the jobette, along with many others. You may recall that my boss actually met the President when the lands were signed into protected status, something that still totally thrills me.

The dogs, however, were more thrilled by the sights, sounds, and smells of this new playground, especially cow fan Star. It soon became apparent that the lands are still in use by the Stornetta family for grazing their justly famous dairy cows*, so we divided our time between admiring the scenery:


and keeping an eye out for cow calling cards, as well as keeping Star from rolling in them. I also began to worry about getting a sunburn. In January.

Somehow, the day was almost over, and as we headed back to the car, I stopped to watch the waves crashing against the rocky cliffs in the last, golden light of day, thinking of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place with such a wonderful family, including Star and Stella.

*The brand name is Clover Stornetta, and I have to admit that their billboards always make me laugh.

A YEAR AGO: Driving, and lots of it – also to the beautiful south coast.

3 responses so far

Dec 06 2014

Between Storms

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family,Weather

Of the many delights of finally getting some real rain (not having to water the garden; not feeling guilty about either watering or not watering the garden; frogs singing; making a dent in the drought), driving and walking dogs are not among them.

As you all know, I’m not one of Nature’s drivers, even in the best of circumstances, and I think we can all agree that pouring rain on rough and curvy roads are not the best of circumstances. Visibility was poor enough and the rain was pouring enough the other day that my back was aching from tension by the time I got home from the jobette. On the bright side, though: no power outages yet.

At Megan’s house, the dogs were bored out of their minds, while yet not wanting to go outside into the suboptimal weather. Megan had to drag them outside for necessary business, and they tried to get back inside as soon as possible. Once inside, they immediately expressed their boredom by sighing, getting in the way as much as caninely possible, and generally making a nuisance of themselves until Megan gave them bones to chew, which is the dog equivalent of sitting your kid in front of the TV.

We took advantage of a break between storms to get the dogs out of the house and hopefully get some of the naughtiness out of the dogs. We headed for the Headlands, overlooked by the village:

Ravens wheeled lazily over the ocean:

I love to watch them waft lightly in the air currents, like they’re surfing on the air.

Stella watched them with me. One of the surprising things about Stella, who does everything 150%, 150% of the time, is that she likes to watch birds, butterflies, and the ocean:

We enjoyed watching the waves together, and I enjoyed watching Stella gaze at the scenery with her golden eyes. We caught up with Megan and Star, and watched a little girl fly a kite with her father before heading back to the car.

At Megan’s house, we attacked the carcass of Turkzilla together, removing the remaining meat and breaking it up to make broth. While the broth was brothing, we made a turkey pot pie, Megan making the roux and sauce while I cut things it up. It was nice to be cooking together in her little kitchen with the fire roaring, the rain falling outside, and the dogs napping on the couch. It was a great day, full of simple pleasures.


A long day heading home from San Francisco.

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Oct 08 2014

South Coast Adventure

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family,Work

Elk Cove Sunset

Just because you’ve lost one job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep doing the one you still have (at least for now). So Megan and I headed down to the beautiful south coast to distribute jobette related materials.

It was a beautiful day, hot by our standards, with not a cloud or a wisp of Karl in sight. September and October are often the warmest and least foggy months in our part of California, and it was probably around 80 degrees, even at the coast, where it’s usually in the 60s, even in the summer.

Since it was late in the day, Franny’s was our first stop (with ten minutes to spare before they closed). Megan got a spicy Mexican mocha for herself and a bag of gummy body parts for Jessica’s Christmas stocking. What says “Christmas” more than squishy, edible people pieces? Here’s look at Franny’s less alarming delicacies:

We stopped in at the feed store across the street on non jobette business: a) to get cat food for Megan’s kitties; and 2) to ask the store owner if we could post a Stella flyer in the window. The owner took one look at Stella’s smiling face and said that she has a good friend whose beloved dog passed away last year and was thinking of getting another one. This person has had nothing but pit bulls her whole life, so she is very knowledgeable about the breed.

Megan sent the store owner some photos and video of Stella and has since made contact with the potential adopter. They will meet in person soon, and if all goes well, Stella will have a new home with 45 fenced acres and another dog to play with, which should be perfect for her. Stay tuned!

Of course, we also had to stop off at Anchor Bay for fabulous Thai food. Amusingly, although we ordered separately and I knew ahead of time what I was getting and Megan didn’t, we ended up getting the same thing (orange chicken; Panang curry; cucumber salad). Great minds think alike. It was really fun to have Megan there with me, and she was a lot of help wrestling boxes and brochures.

As we came around a steep curve, we suddenly came across a cow standing right by the road. I don’t know who was more surprised. The cow seemed to be making up its mind about something, and Megan floored it as much as you can when driving a corkscrew downhill. As she drove, she explained that cows can ram your car repeatedly, and cause quite a lot of damage which is not covered by insurance. I’m still learning the finer points of living in the country, it seems.

The cow didn’t follow us, and it reminded me that this was the second time Megan’s quick thinking had saved us on the south coast. Last time, she pulled the car out of the way of a maniac who had crossed over into our lane in order to pass someone. While coming over a hill with no idea we were there. Fortunately, Megan has quick reflexes and calmness in a crisis, unlike her sister, and pulled over to safety where we both caught our breaths for while, glad we still had them.

You’d think we saw each other all the time, living about 100 yards apart, but we don’t, so we have to make time when we can, even when it’s work related. It was hard to feel like it was work to drive beside the ocean and through the redwoods together, though. I’m lucky that my sister also happens to be my best friend.


Wine Whine

One response so far

Sep 26 2014

Nearly Done

Published by under Dogs,House,Weather

We were gifted with another inch and a half of rain! It’s very early in the season, and it’s making me hopeful for a rainy winter.

During the rainfall, I realized that I did not have any sauce for the pasta I was planning to make for dinner. So I pulled on my little flowered rain boots and the hat I bought at the fair one year, and skipped through the puddles to my sister’s house, where she was getting ready for work.

The dogs were more excited than usual to see me, and that’s pretty excited. I don’t think anyone in the world is ever happier to see me than Star. Even my Dad made less fuss when I flew halfway around the world in coach to see him. The dogs were bored out of their minds in the way dogs are when it rains. They went out to pee, but couldn’t wait to get back in the house and out of the wetness. If possible, Stella actually hates the rain more than Star. So they are bored, but don’t want to go out and play. An appearance by Auntie Suzy just brightens up the dullness of their day.

Fortunately for me, Megan had some tomato sauce, and also tomatoes from the epic family garden which are due to be made into sauce any day. I also used onions, garlic and peppers from the family estate to make the sauce.

While I was at Megan’s, Rob showed me that he had done some work in their bathroom, repainting and planning to replace their sink with a better one he found somewhere, as Rob does. So he’s been cheating on my bathroom with his own bathroom. 🙂

There’s really not much left to do in my bathroom. Rob came by last night and put on a coat of primer. There’s just the walls to be painted white and the door to be painted black, along with installing the new door knob set. Here’s how it looked before the primer went on:

And here’s how it looked before Rob made it beautiful:

Amazing difference, isn’t it? Rob suggested taking down that shelf and it makes the whole room look bigger. I love how Rob was so creative in finding and using things. It’s been so fun spending more time with him. And of course, Clyde did an excellent job of supervising.

One response so far

Sep 01 2014

New Kid in Town

Published by under Calamity Suzy,Country Life,Dogs

Happy Labor Day, y’all! I am celebrating by doing as little as possible, whereas for my hard-working sibs, it’s business as usual. There are no holidays for emergency services*.

I did get back to work at the jobette on Saturday, though. I was careful of my back, and let my co-workers know that hauling around 30 pound boxes of visitor guides is out of the question for at least a week. While I was couch bound, I was touched by all the sweet and caring emails from my colleagues. My favorite was the one which read simply, “Drugs help.”

It seemed like a pretty long day, and I wondered if drugs, in addition to helping, stay in your system for a while. Though I hadn’t taken any in more than 24 hours, I still felt more out of it than usual.

When I finally got home from the jobette, I was greeted by Luna as usual, but also by a miniature Luna. I dropped my things on the driveway in surprise, wondering if it was the drugs, but it turned out to be a puppy! Mark had adopted a sweet little girl named Lupe:

Needless to say, I wasted no time in picking up Lupe and cuddling her, which I have done every time I have seen her since, despite the very scented flea collar she sports. It smells a lot like Old Spice, combining the snuggly, wiggly puppy experience with Old Guy fragrance.

She is super happy and adorable. Luna seems to enjoy teaching Lupe how to be a patrol dog, and I’m glad to know there will be two sentinels keeping the monsters at bay as Lupe grows up. She does need to learn about the cat flap, though:

*On the bright side, we can finally have Christmas on Christmas Day this year, since it falls on a Thursday. Yay!

2 responses so far

Jun 18 2014

Adventures in Transportation

Published by under Car,Dogs,Family

Hello, I love you – won’t you tell me your name?

I left Wednesday at the jobette on Saturday, after notifying our alley neighbor that I was doing so and asking him to keep an eye on her. I figured it made more sense to just leave the car there, rather than get a jump to drive it home and again to drive it back to the car doctor on Monday.

Megan and Stella (seen smiling above) spent six hours in the sun on Saturday, looking for potential adopters for Stella. Stella loved all the attention, the cars, the people, the kids – she is definitely not a bumpkin! After the event, they came to pick me up at the jobette. Due to the car show, they had to park four blocks away. On our way to the car, we turned onto a street where there were two surfer dudes hanging out on a bench.

They noticed Stella right away, and when we reached them, they reached to pet Stella. She responded by joyously flinging her arms around one of their necks and cuddling her big head against his blonde dreads. They both laughed with joy. That’s the way Stella rolls: 150%, 150% of the time. The dude said that if he didn’t already have two dogs…

On Monday, my wonderful colleague Erin gave me a ride to work. I really enjoyed carpooling with her – maybe we should do it when I don’t have a car emergency sometime (assuming that time ever comes). I’m so lucky to work with such great people who care so much about each other.

I called the car doctor and asked them to send the SWAT team to get Wednesday started and drivable to the garage. I was delighted that they sent two girls (complete with sparkly manicures) to do the deed. I handed over the keys and hoped for the best.

They called me later to say that the battery needed replacing. They had one in stock, and when I went to get Wednesday from car daycare, learned that they hadn’t charged me for the diagnosis and had discounted the labor and the battery in recognition of all the time and money I have spent there (undoubtedly in the hope that I will keep doing just that).

I drove home without incident, and without any lights appearing on the dashboard. I am now phobic about dashboard messages and lights- I wonder if there is a psychiatric condition associated with this? Waking up to another day and having the car both start and keep going is about all I ask for now. Maybe lower expectations = more happiness?

4 responses so far

May 09 2014

Field Trip

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family,Garden

No sooner had last week’s heat wave finally abated than Megan and I chased it to Wilits, where the heat usually lives. Megan was questing for pepper plants and other things not readily available on the generally cool and breezy Coast. It’s a beautiful drive on highway 20:

This is looking west toward the coast from the 3,000 foot summit, where it sometimes snows in winter, as Megan can tell you from first hand experience, having driven a patient through blinding snow on that icy road in the deep country darkness back in the good old (bad old?) ambulance days. Even longer ago, it was a wagon route for the first settlers in this part of California.

Arriving in Willits, we made our way to the garden center, accompanied by Miss Stella. I was surprised and pleased by how much positive attention Stella received while we were in Willits. A guy on his way back to work at City Hall stopped to pet her, and she was welcomed at the garden center, where she relaxed in the greenhouse:

Many fellow shoppers took the opportunity to pet her, and Stella soaked up the attention as she always does. She loves town, and she loves attention. She also enjoyed the shade:

in a beautiful little tree-lined park in the historic downtown:

You wouldn’t be surprised to see Wally and the Beav chasing each other around in that park. It was like being in the past (one of my favorite places).

Megan was dissatisfied by the pepper plant selection at the first garden center, so we followed a local’s suggestion and visited a second nursery:

where Megan bought every pepper plant in sight and I amused myself by taking pictures of the quaint garden gate:

Megan didn’t really buy all the pepper plants, but she bought enough that they had to make extra beds for them and borrow all my leftover soil from last year to house them. I think there are 20 plants. We will be in pepper heaven this summer!

3 responses so far

Apr 12 2014

On the Beach

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

Navarro Beach

When work permits, I’ve been going for walks with Megan and Stella on Thursday afternoons.

When Megan wakes up after the last of her long night shifts, she gets caffeinated and calls me when she’s ready to deal with the Stellanator. Stella is a lot of dog, and not just because she weighs 65 pounds (Megan is working on refining this). Everything she does, she does 150%, whether it’s running, eating, or jumping for joy. Even just walking by you, she can body check you with an elan that an NHL player would be proud of. As Megan says, she’s a pit bull in a china shop.

We were trying to think of a different place to take her last week. Stella is a city girl who loves to window shop and meet new friends, but this requires beng on a leash. She is welcomed by most of the shopkeepers in the Village, though Catsby, the book store cat, looks at her with complete disgust as the booksellers fawn over Stella and give her treats. You can’t please all the people all the time, and you can almost never please cats.

We wanted to find a place where we could let her off leash to run around, but it had to be: close by; not overly populated with other people and dogs; not open ended so she couldn’t run off somewhere. Megan is still working on Stella’s recall skills, though they – and all her other skills and manners – have improved hugely in the four months Megan has been fostering her.

We decided on Navarro Beach, which is at the mouth of the Navarro River. We were the only ones there on a windy Thursday afternoon:

We let Stella off the leash, and she ran joyfully across the wet sand, exploring the cold ocean water, which made her run to Megan in alarm. She looked like a pretty happy dog:

Stella burned off some of her apparently boundless energy, and we walked the beach and talked. I picked up some smooth stones to add to the collection in the honeysuckle planter outside the kitchen door, which is already leafed out and will bloom soon.

Eventually, we headed home up the hilly, curvy road:

I think we’ll be back soon!

2 responses so far

Mar 17 2014

The Gift

Published by under Dogs,Family,Memories

Visiting the prisoner

When Dad returned to his native England – about a dozen miles from where he grew up – he brought his muttley dog Jesse with him. He knew that Jesse was facing six months of jail, aka quarantine (which I think has now been abolished), but there was no way he was leaving his beloved companion of nine years behind him. Prison was the lesser of two evils.

When the time came to take Jesse home, he went so crazy at the sight of his leash and collar that it took about 20 minutes before he calmed down enough to get it on him and off to the leafy glades of Wimbledon, where he lived out his remaining days like a king. Dad always said he had a deal with Jesse that he expected five years from him, considering the cost of quarantine, and Jesse lived up to his end of the bargain. When Dad died, his ashes were scattered under the same tree as Jesse’s, so they are still together.

Megan definitely inherited Dad’s love of dogs along with his science gene. With her love and care, Star has blossomed, and in the three months she has had Stella as a foster dog, she has come a long way. Just yesterday, she passed her Canine Good Citizenship test:

The fact that it happened on Dad’s birthday eve made it even more special to me. I know he’d be proud and happy. Happy birthday, Dad. We love you.


2 responses so far

Feb 11 2014

Rain at Last

It’s raining petals

We got about six inches of rain since I last checked in with you. It was wonderful to hear the rain pattering against the roof/walls in my little house. You could practically hear the garden saying “Aaahhh….”, even though it still looks pretty terrible*. The power even stayed on!

The kitties were less delighted than I was, coming home soaked to the skin with their fur all spiky, except, of course, for Audrey, who has the ability to come in out of the pouring rain with magically dry fur. Roscoe got bored with the rain and napped, whereas Clyde perched on the porch and watched the weather for a while before giving up and joining his brother in a rainy day snooze.

The dogs hated the rain even more than the cats. And Stella finds the rain even more objectionable than Star does, which I didn’t think was possible. Megan literally had to drag them outside. As far as they were concerned, the call of nature could stay on hold or go straight to voicemail. I still remember how Schatzi actually pretended to pee once when I was taking care of her one stormy winter night in San Francisco so that she could go back inside.

Unlike the cats, the dogs were bored out of their minds, while refusing to go outside and play. Megan took advantage of breaks in the downpour to take them out, but another storm is slated to move in tonight or tomorrow and last for a few days. I don’t think Star and Stella will greet the next downpour with the same enthusiasm as their Staff.

*Basically whatever the bitter cold snap didn’t ruin, the drought did. When the County is asking everyone to cut back on water usage by 20%, you can’t really justify watering your garden, no matter how sad it looks. I was planning to do more in the garden this year, but it looks like that will have to be on hold unless the weather changes dramatically.

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Feb 07 2014

Miss Adventure

Published by under Bullshit,Dogs,Family

The former hostage, relaxing at home

Being a dog parent, on the other hand…

Megan and Rob took Star with them to the city. She does get a bit bored on the drive home – don’t forget, it’s about four hours each way – and expresses this by yawning loudly and shifting around in the backseat so the Staff knows she’s discontented and that the chauffeur should step on it, traffic and twisty roads be damned.

She is pretty patient in general with the car, though, because she knows that for every stay in the Safeway parking lot, there is the potential for a walk or a visit with her BFF Harlow. And even if it really is all parking lots, she still gets to be with her pack, most importantly Megan.

Arriving in the City by the Bay, they could not find parking. The parking lots near the hospital were full, and the valet spoke just just enough English to refuse a car with a dog in it (and it’s more likely that Star would refuse a strange man getting in HER car anyway). I well remember the frustration of driving those one way streets in the city looking desperately for a parking space – the main reason for selling my Mustang convertible all those years ago.

Time ticked relentlessly toward Rob’s appointment with the neurosurgeon, and they finally found a parking space, locked Star in the car, and ran inside. The surgeon said that he could work on Rob’s pain with an injection into his spine, but apparently Science, however Neurological, has no cure for Rob’s spasming and ever more claw-like hands.

You’d think this would be the bad news of the day, but you’d be wrong.

Leaving the hospital, they walked to the car only to find it wasn’t there. Needless to say, neither was Star.

They then noticed the sign saying it was a tow away zone after 3:00. The appointment had been at 2:45. Megan’s amazing cab catching abilities swung into action as she managed to snag one, in rush hour on Nob Hill, no less. She and Rob jumped in and explained the situation to the sympathetic cab driver, who sped crazily through the city on his mission of mercy.

Arriving at the car jail, Megan was relieved to learn that Star was still in the car and not taken off to the pound, where she may or may not have been alive, partly due to her breed and partly due to her attitude toward strangers trying to haul her out of her car. Star was much calmer than her Staff at this point, and Megan persuaded the car jailers to let her rescue Star from the car while she went to get the ransom from the nearest bank.

Megan had texted me about it: (“My car was towed with Star inside! I am losing my mind!”) while I was in the Village dropping off some jobette materials. I called her and hadn’t heard her so upset in years. When I knew everything was OK, I picked up a bottle of wine for her before getting Stella from camp. Fortunately, I had already bought burritos for them to warm up for dinner when they got home, which ended up being around 9:00 pm rather than the expected 7:00 pm.

I’m sorry to say that the whole escapade cost a whopping $600 between the towing charges and the parking ticket and whatever else the Powers that Be could dream up. But the main thing is that Star is safe. I’m guessing that she’ll be joining Stella at camp the next time!

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Feb 04 2014

Shopping with Stella

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

Daffodils in the Village

Being a dog aunt is pretty good. Much like being a human aunt, it’s all of the fun but none of the responsibility. Well, hardly any.

Today, for example, I picked up Stella and her many accessories (cozy bed; chew toys; kong stuffed with peanut butter and goodies; etc.) and took her to day camp near the Village. She was welcomed by a really nice guy who she took to at once. Stella is a big old flirt and loves male attention and flattery. As Wednesday and I drove off into the morning sunshine, her newest admirer was taking Stella for a walk. She was completely unconcerned by my departure, though I imagine she will be excited to see me this afternoon. Dogs’ total joy at seeing you even when they’ve seen you five minutes before must be one of the main reasons for having one. A daily ego boost! What’s not to love?

I will pick her up after work, take her for a walk in vain hopes of tiring her out (I wish I had half of her boundless energy) and then bring her home. Megan, Rob and Star are in San Francisco today for Rob’s neurosurgery consultation. It looks like there may be more surgery lurking on the horizon for my valiant brother in law.

In preparation for her stay at camp, we stopped in at Dr. Karen’s office last week to get proof of vaccinations. As Megan walked into the office, leaving Stella in the car, Stella took the opportunity to practice The Sad Eyes:

The Sad Eyes vanished as soon as Megan reappeared. After the vet’s, we took Stella for a walk on the headlands, where she was mesmerized by a hawk, wheeling low over the fields, and the timeless ocean waves. I have never seen a dog enjoy watching the ocean so much before.

Since we are all girls, we took the opportunity of window shopping in the Village:

It turns out that Stella is a well-known and well-loved visitor to the shops, including a jewelry shop and the book shop, where the staff greeted her by name and gave her a cookie or two. Stella basked in the attention and helped Megan to choose a book:

Sorry for the sun glare in the photo. I’m using my iPhone for pictures these days since I lent my camera to my brother to document his progress in digging a new well. I think I’m getting a little better at using it.

We had a good time shopping. I always have fun with my sister. And the dogs are just icing on the cake. I’m already looking forward to seeing Stella tonight.

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Jan 28 2014


Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

Stella enjoys the view

My valiant sister picked up an unwelcome hitchhiker on her last night shift in the ER: the Bug From Hell. The same one that rendered me snotty and sweaty and generally miserable for nearly two weeks. Being considerably smarter than her aged sibling, however, she got a prescription for Tamiflu called in to the pharmacy and also armed herself with zinc and other flu fighting equipment.

I learned all this between my many fourth quarter calls, and fortunately had a couple of hours at my disposal to go and pick up the pills and almost more importantly, walk Stella. As Megan observed, no matter how sick you are, you don’t get a day off from dog walking.

I loaded Stella into Megan’s car (I am trying to preserve Wednesday’s fancy leather interior as long as I can) and set off for the Village. As usual, it was a beautiful day with no sweater or jacket required. I am beginning to wonder if we are ever going to get some rain.

I soon learned that driving with Stella is, uh, challenging. At any moment, she may decide to lick you, and she loves to lean against you. She is a pretty strong dog and it made it hard to navigate the curves. As I drove across the long arc of the Big River bridge, the car suddenly slowed dramatically and started making disturbing noises. It turned out that Stella had shifted the car into neutral, unbeknownst to me and to the annoyance of the motorists behind me. So I was more prepared when it happened as we drove down Main Street and able to fix it faster.

We walked along the headlands, where Stella wanted to meet every single dog and person we passed – as I mentioned before, there are no strangers in Stella World, just friends she hasn’t met yet. She made a slightly embarrassing scene in front of a group of little old Asian ladies, who were visibly horrified despite my best efforts. Stella was tangled up in the leash – she has an epic ability to get tangled up in the leash – and was also enjoying her favorite hobby, chewing the leash, at the same time.

Stella is a rather chatty dog, so she was making alarming noises while attempting to eat Megan’s lovely leather leash. It was pretty hard to get it out of her mouth and then untangle her as the little old ladies scurried away in horror, no doubt to report on the girl eating pit bull they had seen in the middle of this lovely landscape.

They probably wouldn’t have recognized Stella a few minutes later, when she sat peacefully watching the ocean. She really loves watching the waves. It was high tide, and the sea spray flew up high enough to wet us both on the headlands. We both enjoyed the seascape for a while before heading to the pharmacy and picking up juice and other Bug defying supplies.

When we were about a quarter mile from home, she curled up on the passenger seat like a dream dog.

*Imagine the Brando voice.

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Jan 22 2014


Published by under Country Life,Dogs

Care to join us?

While people back East are getting covered in snow and dreading the return of the Polar Vortex’s evil twin (and if I wish I’d never heard of it, I can just imagine how they feel), we are having clear, starry nights flooded with moonshine, the temperature about one or two Celsius degrees, and days that get close to the 20 degree mark on the C scale. At some point in the morning, I open the doors, letting in fresh air and temporarily freeing me from being the cat doorman. They don’t make me wear a uniform, but they don’t tip, either. Maybe it’s the lack of pockets in their fur coats.

January these days is a lot more like Junuary, so in celebration, I cleared my schedule and headed to Big River with Megan and Stella on Friday. As you can see, it was a beautiful day:

We didn’t even need jackets or sweaters! Bare arms in January still seems very strange to me. Stella was wearing her bright orange “Adopt Me” vest, along with a big smile:

The gate leading to the road beside the river was open for the first time I can remember. Usually, we have to take a little dirt path, scented with wild fennel, beside the big metal gate. The gate was open because the Parks workers were repairing the road. One of the Parks guys was there to warn us about the giant trucks. Stella jumped on him for joy and kissed him. There are no strangers as far as Stella is concerned – just friends she hasn’t met yet. Unlike most girls, she enjoyed every drop of attention she got from the construction workers. And she got a lot.

She was completely unperturbed by the huge, loud trucks and people whizzing past on their bikes, and her only complaint about other dogs was not being allowed to play with all of them. Stella is taking the Canine Good Citizenship Class which Star passed a couple of years ago, so Megan is working hard on training Stella for her new home. Apparently Stella’s former guardians neglected to teach her minor things like coming when called, not to eat food from tables, and not to chew things like iPod connector cables and seat belts in the car. Or Schatzi’s old dish. No one can use that mangled piece of plastic now, at least not as a dish.

Other than some leafless trees, you would never know it was winter. The grass is still “golden” and the streams are low. I know pampas grass is a pest, but it was so pretty in the sunlight:

And the Village, where both residents and businesses alike are beginning to have water delivered, looked like a postcard:

In the evening, we sat by the fire at Megan’s house and had mojitos while watching “Legally Blonde” (I’m sorry, I love that movie) and listening to the dogs snoring happily.

It was a great day. So much more fun than work!

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Jan 19 2014


Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi

Who, Me?

The other day, I was driving home from the jobette, thinking great thoughts, as I tend to do in the shower and in the car. Or what passes for great thoughts when you only have two brain cells, both underachievers, and the inside of your mind looks like Miss Havisham’s attic. Or this lady’s place.

One thing about keeping track of the magic moments in my life last year is that it really taught me to appreciate the little things, like the sun setting in my rear view mirror (not that I can see it, with Wednesday’s dramatic after-market tan. So non Goth. It’s gotta go) and the golden afternoon light on the long and winding road that leads (eventually) to my door. On this particular evening, I was thinking about how Gene Clark of the Byrds, who lived right here in Hooterville on the same road as Lichen, drove this very road, and how if he could see it today, it would look exactly the same as he remembered it. The Little River Inn, where both Gene and I have enjoyed the view and the bar, is the same, too. It’s kind of cool to think that we have this in common. And that things change slowly in this neck of the woods.

I also remembered the long days Megan and I spent looking for our beloved Schatzi last summer on this road, and how she is probably resting somewhere we drive past every day, peacefully and I am pretty sure undisturbed. It took a long time before I stopped looking for her as I drove down the Ridge, and it took Megan even longer. Guess The Schatz out stubborned us all one last time.

I was thinking about the Saturday afternoon I was driving home from the jobette and came across Megan’s car parked by Lichen’s road. I pulled over and saw Megan, desperately seeking Schatzi. She and our friends Dave and Jennifer had spent the day combing the area. As I was thinking about this, I came around the same corner and…saw my sister’s car parked in the very same place.

I had a horrifying feeling of déjà vu and also “Little did Suzy realize she had entered…the Twilight Zone*”. I pulled over and once again saw my sister heading toward me. Once again, she was dogless. In this case, Stella the foster dog had wandered off the family property, where the boys were supposed to be baby sitting her. Megan was in her work scrubs and clearly just out of the shower, and didn’t have much time before she was due at the ER for her twelve hour night shift.

The boys were looking near the property, and Megan commissioned me to head back down to the store, which is the Hooterville equivalent of alerting the media, while she looked and called. At least this time we were looking for a dog who could hear, though one who is a little unclear on the concept of coming when called.

Wednesday and I had gone a mile or two when I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I hit the microphone button on the car console, but the call dropped – cell service, or the lack of it, is one of the major tourist complaints – so I pulled into the fire station. I saw the call was from Megan, so I headed back, thinking that I could go to the store later if she wasn’t calling me with good news.

She was. While calling for Stella, the grandson of the guy who owns the store came out and asked if she was looking for a dog. It turned out that Stella had sneaked away from her babysitters and found a house with other dogs, where she spent the next hour or so happily playing with her new friends, trying to get in the house, and trying to get a snack.

Megan bundled her into the car, took her home, and then went to work, undoubtedly wishing she could have a drink instead. I’m glad that all’s well that ended well.

*Fun fact: Rod Serling and I were both born in Syracuse, New York.

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