Chloë Nixes the Locks

Herons roost above Ship Canal.

Last week Heather and Mike made me walk all the way down to the Ship Canal and back. The walk was OK, although I would have preferred a walk with less walking and more ball-throwing. It was the destination that I could do without.

My first objection would be the birds. The great blue herons have moved their local rookery from Kiwanis Ravine across the railroad tracks to an alder grove right next to the Ship Canal walkway. In early spring, lots of birds nest and hunt there. So graceful in the air, when roosting in the trees these heron are obnoxiously noisy and poop like crazy, making the wet walkway a slimy white mess. A lime-green rental bicycle left next to the canal looked like a ghost. Mike wanted to take a picture but didn’t want to stop to do it. Just walking through it so low to the ground made me feel creepy. From now on I’m going to call it the Shit Canal.

Digging in at the Locks

And that wasn’t the worst of this walk. After we passed the pooping birds, Heather tried to drag me closer and closer to the locks and their spillway, where water was gushing through, loudly and forcefully, a mini Niagara. I could feel the mist on my nose. I dug in. No way I was going to walk over the locks into Ballard, as I had reluctantly done many times over with just token protest. This time, there was too much rushing water.  Finally Heather relented, and I steered us uphill, away from the canal and across the footbridge over the railroad tracks.

Maybe Mike and Heather better rethink any planned summer boat rides. I don’t go near the water.

Ship Canal looking west from Locks.

 

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Chloë Changes Trails

Old trail closed…

One of my favorite spots for fetch was ruled off-limits recently, but it was for a good cause. As part of the reclamation of the former Capehart military housing site and contiguous areas in Discovery Park, the long straightaway above the Loop Trail that ran parallel to the chain-link fence that surrounded the site was removed. Large tree stumps, mulch and new plantings now cover the trail where my fetch court was. The fencing is gone, except at either end of the former trail. This was because after eight years of fenced-in recovery, a 27-acre Northwest native mixed forest has been attached to the existing city park. Last week, unannounced, new trails opened traversing the site. Finally, some new territory to explore.

No more fetch here.

Capehart site in 2011

We tried out these new Capehart thoroughfares a few times in the week that they opened. I generally liked them, although I do fondly recall the days of my puppyhood, when this area was still a devastated no-man’s land. With structures gone but infrastructure remaining, the deserted streets were great for fetch, rabbits were plentiful, and I could roam far and wide on my own, since the whole area was fenced in. Walking through there now, you would never know that a village stood here just eight years ago.

Serious business

Last week when I walked through Capehart, Heather kept me firmly tethered. Signs every 10 feet or so reminded scofflaws like me to stay on the trails and off the fragile, recently replanted grounds around them. Heather has thus far been determined to keep me a “green dog,” at least when we’re on these trails around Capehart. I’m willing to play along, at least at the beginning. After all, I want to be a good role model.

…new trail opened.

Good dog, green dog.

Chloë Shows Her Frustration

Dog police have returned to park.

Uh-oh. The dog police have returned to Discovery Park, and Heather is mad about it. She got really angry when she saw the officer drove his SUV across the parade ground and through the meadow. She got even madder a couple of weeks later, when we saw his vehicle parked on the park road where we first came into the park and later cruised all the way up to where we were playing fetch at the entrance to Chloë’s Lane. We suspected he had tailed us. Luckily, Mike saw him coming and started humming the theme music to Law & Order, so Heather had time to stop throwing the ball, grab my leash and pretend to be compliant. He turned his SUV around without getting out to speak to us, so he must have known better than to tangle with Heather.

The Rock

Anyhow, we’ve been trying to be a lot more careful about where and when I’m allowed to run free (with leash still attached to my harness, of course). Sometimes on the weekend we drive to more distant locations, such as the North Creek Trail in Mill Creek and Carkeek Park, where there are many different trails for variety and usually places we can  throw the ball around in peace, including the Rock, where the caroms are crazy, and the fish hatchery trail, where there is a long, secluded straightaway that’s ideal for ball chasing.

My favorite game these days is “monkey in the middle,” where I’m the monkey. In this game I chase throws from both ends, turn around and do it again, so the running never stops. Well, at least until I can’t corral a skipping throw or I catch up to the ball but it doesn’t want stop. Can you imagine the nerve of that ball? Ignoring me? That’s when I have to let out the Bark of Frustration!

 

True, most of the time the Bark of Frustration doesn’t slow the ball down, but it always makes me feel better.

Atop a rebuilt wall in Fort Lawton Cemetery.

Chloë Vacations in Style

Taking it easy.

One evening before dinner, Mike and Heather packed up all my traveling stuff  and, without any warning, herded me into the car. We drove off with me in the back seat, whining in trepidation. I feared the worst. That is, until the car stopped in front of a house I recognized immediately: I was going to the vet for an operation, I was going on another vacation with my friends Caroline and David . My whimpers instantly modulated from mournful to excited. So was I at all nervous to be abandoned? Hell, no! As soon as Mike and Heather shut the door, I settled in. This was like a spa week for me.

Dozing on the couch.

This time I didn’t get to visit Caroline’s new financial planning office, but she came home to check on me several times a day. One day David stayed home and I got to watch him do some engineering. Since David and Caroline are expecting to get a dachshund puppy of their own later this spring, he seemed to want to be my pal so he could practice. We got along great. One night I even jumped up on the couch and put my head on his lap. He didn’t chase me away, which I took it as a good sign. I’m hoping that if I’m nice to him, maybe after they get their puppy he’ll invite me onto his boat. I’ve never been on a boat, so the puppy and I could get our inaugural sea legs together. Assuming there are no waves involved, of course.

Waiting for a treat.

Even though Heather made me leave my indoor plastic ball Wiffie at home, I got plenty of exercise over there, inside and out. We had so many games of “chase the muddy ball” in the back yard that Caroline’s arm got sore. We sometimes took walks with Marley. a dog who lives across the street. Marley and I got along fine, and he was nice enough, but mostly I treated him like any other dog: I chose to ignore him. Most of the time Caroline and I walked over the to  city park near the end of her street, which has a nice view but doesn’t have real trails like there are in my own park. For a longer trip, we walked along Magnolia Boulevard, next to the Sound. It wasn’t Chloe’s Lane, but it was OK.

Caroline kept telling me how much of an angel I am, which is always nice to hear, so I actually tried to be on my best behavior for her most of the time. She knew that Heather always calls me “Chloë TULLY,” when she’s scolding me, which  seems to me happens way too often. In the week or so I stayed with Caroline, she only had to say it a few times, no doubt when I was being a little too stubborn or spoiled for my own good. Her delivery lacked Heather’s pointed emphasis, I might add.

Pulling a donut out of the mug.

My favorite part of this stay was the quality of Caroline’s dog toys. She let me play with a stuffed alligator and a big, soft coffee mug that had fabric donuts inside that I had to pull out. It was kind of like my toy Chinese food takeout container with dumplings, except much better: bigger, plusher, more colorful and much more fun. And that pretty much summed up my whole time at Caroline’s: Similar to the high-quality treatment I get from Mike and Heather, only better. This was too much fun.

Even so, I got very excited when Mike and Heather returned to pick me up. When they rang the doorbell and entered I ran around in circles and squealed with glee, but Heather still refused to bend down to let me jump into her face. Even though she was happy to see me, she doesn’t want to encourage such excited behavior. Mike, on the other hand, had no compunctions, so when he stooped down to my level I tackled him, licking his face and biting his nose for quite a while before I settled down.

When we finally drove back to our house, before I went inside I inspected the whole block, both sides of the street, to make sure no new cats had moved in while I was away. I was thrilled to report the coast was clear.

With a stuffed gator.

 

Chloë Turns Nine in a Snowstorm

Dachshund sculpture after first snow.

My ninth birthday mostly came and went without fanfare. My brothers are in Arizona, so there was no big get-together. Heather forgot about it until just before I went to bed.  Mike gave me no special dinner or extra treats. I got no gifts and just one card, an e-greeting from Yankee, a puppy in Juneau who I haven’t even met. And then it started snowing, and I promptly forgot all about feeling low.

I love the snow. And this time, there was lots of it.

Hurrying up after second snowstorm.

The first time it snowed that week, a few inches of snow covered the park, and it got colder, so the snow was a fluffy powder that got kind of crunchy underfoot on the park trails. Usually snow doesn’t last long around here, but this time the air stayed cold as more moisture drifted in from the sea. So it snowed again. And then it snowed some more. Soon it was hard to find a spot to pee. And then it snowed some more.

By the fourth time it snowed in about a week, it was getting tough for someone of my stature to get around, but I was still digging it. People out walking with their much larger dogs would marvel at my speed and agility when bounding through the snow. Not bad for a 9-year-old wiener dog, eh? Anytime snow covers the ground, I can match the Westminister Hound champ Burns for moxie.

Chloë at the height of the fourth snowfall

So how much snow did we get? It must have been a lot, because Mike said that for one day Seattle looked a lot like Syracuse.

Chloë’s Lane after four snows

On our block, neither mail nor newspapers nor even UPS packages were delivered for several days, although I made up for my UPS fix on Valentine’s Day when I saw Donna three times in one day and got heart treats every time. Can you believe that some people in Seattle don’t have a snow shovel?

Chloë’s block after fourth snowstorm.

Heather shovels after fourth snowfall.

All the snow was pretty, but the forecast was for additional snow to turn to rain before dark, and Heather knew this beautiful snowy blanket would turn to ugly slush and ice soon enough. Since she has three snow shovels (each for a different shoveling task), she was able to clear most of the sidewalks on our block and several storm drains,but even she couldn’t do the whole city. So the day we walked to over to the Magnolia library on partially shoveled sidewalks, she told me it was OK for me and poop on the property of the people who didn’t shovel, and she wouldn’t pick it up. But we all knew that was a lie. She’s way too Canadian to let that happen.

 

 

Chloë Does Dirt

 

Fort Lawton Cemetery

Last weekend my pack walked to the Fort Lawton military cemetery with my pal Charlie, who hadn’t been there in quite a while. It’s a traditional fave spot for playing fetch, due to its enclosed nature, traffic-free roads and few pedestrians save other dog walkers. The cemetery has been renovated over the past couple of years, most recently with pressure-washed gravestones, refurbished curbs and plantings, updated irrigation, historical panels and walls rebuilt with original stone. It has been such a beautiful restoration that Heather doesn’t want me to run around the grounds unabated anymore. That means no squirrels and no fetch? Why do we come here? The scenery?

Atop a wall in Fort Lawton Cemetery.

We’ll see how long Heather’s new rule lasts, but it was definitely in force the day Charlie came with us. I didn’t even get in one throw while we were there. Maybe that’s why I look so perturbed in this photo. 

It’s still January, of course, and after a short stretch of sunny days it turned wet for about 10 days running, And every time we walked in the rain, two things continually befuddled Heather: Why I paused at regular intervals to chow down on the long grass growing along the sides of a trail (a.k.a. “the salad bar”) and why, even more disgustingly, did I keep plastering my mouth to the ground and chomping on mud, much to her loud chagrin.

I cannot deny either act, but in my own defense I note that I’m a picky eater. Not just any old grass or dirt will do. Among the many grasses that abound in the lush Northwest, there’s one variety I particularly favor, and it’s one that’s fairly easy to find anywhere in the world, which is good for me like Starbucks is for Heather. I want dependable, not exotic. When I was back east the past two summers, I discovered some aquatic plants in streams and ponds that I liked, but that’s about the only upper-crust varieties I savor. In the realm of mud, I prefer the moister, denser Northwest varieties to the drier versions I encountered in the Rockies, the Midwest and East Coast. Throughout the land, however, my favorite treats are always the little ridges of mud that elevate slightly from the ground after boots or running shoes have trampled the squishy ground around them. Yum and um!

At the salad bar.

The way Heather shrieks at me when she catches me at the mud bar would lead many onlookers to think I had bitten a child, or worse. In the greater scheme of things, however, this behavior is no big deal: Eating grass and dirt is common among dogs. According to WikiHow, “eating dirt and grass is a form of pica, or eating things that aren’t food. In some cases, seeking pica is a reaction to a mineral deficiency in a dog’s diet or a parasite infestation, especially in puppies and young dogs. A dog may eat dirt to alleviate anemia or intestinal distress caused by eating something he shouldn’t have.” Most of the time, though, the dogs seeking pica are perfectly healthy. They just like to do it.

So nothing for me to worry about, right? Well, not exactly. Eating at the mud or salad bars could conceivably expose me to harmful bacteria, toxins and foreign objects that could make me (and Mike and Heather) pay later. Some stuff is just too large or toxic for a little pooper like me to handle.

Chloë’s favorite variety.

One thing I do want to refute, however, is the common notion that dogs eat grass just to make themselves vomit. I may gag once or twice after chowing down, but I’m not grazing with the idea of blowing my lunch later. What a waste of good food!  WebMD says that dogs eating grass is natural, and has been observed in wild dogs as well as domesticated ones. Most veterinarians consider it normal dog behavior. Still, herbicides and pesticides used on lawns can be quite toxic, especially if ingested. I’ll be confining my grazing to untamed park lands, not urban or suburban lawns.

 

Chloë Explores a Fallen Tree

Assessing the damage.

January is definitely the dullest month around here. Hardly any UPS deliveries, for starters. And it’s fairly dreary every day. Everywhere is brown and muddy, since the forest usually doesn’t show its first signs of life until the middle of the month. It’s either overcast or rainy nearly every day. I get Heather and Mike out of a walk regardless of the weather, but we walk so early in the afternoon that when we get home I have much too much time to kill until dinner. By the time meal time finally rolls around, I’m in a deep sleep in my chair, not really wanting to be disturbed. What else is there to do but sleep? Mike will play fetch or tug for only so long, and then I’m on my own. I don’t play solitaire. I don’t watch TV or listen to music. I can’t read. Might as well get some rest.

Inspecting the job

January weather had been much warmer than normal, but it has been especially windy. We lost power twice at our house. And every time we went to Chloë’s Lane for fetch, Heather had to police the trail first to remove any wind-blown debris that might impede my mad dashes after the ball.

The strongest windstorm of the month toppled a giant Sycamore tree in the park, probably planted when the park was developed as an army base in the early 1900s. I investigated the scene later that same day, and I immediately determined the tree would be a public hazard if left there on the parade ground in its current state. Someone could be poked in the eye from one of those smaller branches. Mike said he thought it would lie there forever, as so many other fallen trees that weren’t blocking a trail.

Lo and behold! The following morning, the sun came out for the first of five days in a row. After so many days of wind and gloom, the pastel sunsets and afterglow behind the Olympic Mountains was spectacular. And within those few days, the outer extremities of that tree were cut off and removed . In my lifetime (almost nine years!), nothing else in the park had been accomplished as quickly. While nobody among us knows when (or if) the remaining pieces of the tree will be removed, the parade ground is already pretty much back to usual. Fetch is back in season, as long as the dog police don’t drive up or the next windstorm brings down another elderly Sycamore.

Fetching on the parade ground