Chloë Screws Up Her Training

Snoqualmie Valley Trail

Boot Camp with Heather had been going so well. When we arrived for a two-week stay at my Cascade foothills Getaway, she voiced her amazement at how well I was complying with all of her increasingly difficult commands. On more than one occasion, I heard her tell Mike that I was doing “fantastic.” That was her word, not mine.

And then things got a bit out of hand.  I got out there in the country with my pal Pumpkin and the sweet spring grass and lots of wild smells, and I just lost control. On four straight days, Heather let me off my leash and I ran away from her, at four different locations for four different reasons. She would call me back, and sometimes I would even stop and look at her.  And run.

Shooting range

The first time I was chasing the orange ball that Mike had tossed along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, and it took a bad hop and flew over the embankment right into the local gun club’s shooting range.  When I skidded down after it, I caught my leash on a bush, and both I and the ball needed assistance. But as Heather slid down to get me, I extricated myself and ran back uphill to Mike, who was trying to keep Pumpkin from following Heather down. I dropped the ball in the process, but Heather was able to get it. No harm, no foul, right? I might have gotten away with it if it only happened once. Unfortunately, no.

Heather shows the dogs where the ball flew over embankment.

Charlie was with us for the next incident. He drove out to visit on a Sunday, and we took him for a walk on a different branch of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. I was leading the pack on the way back to the car when I caught a fresh scent of fox or weasel and took off on a small game trail that ran under some barbed-wire fencing and Posted signs. This sliver of a trail led to a much wider one some 20 feet below, which then wound further into farmers’ fields and ultimately toward the busy highway beyond them. Heather and Charlie kept calling me to return, but I ignored them, put my nose down to the ground and scurried another few yards in the opposite direction. At one point I bounded toward the highway, but soon reversed course and headed steadily back to the main trail, where Mike stood waiting at my original point of egress. This time Heather ordered Mike to keep me leashed up for the rest of our walk.

Wanted: Chloë’s missing ball

But did anybody learn anything from this? Apparently not, because on the following day, in between the heavy rains and hailstones I endured, I split again on yet another section of the Sno Valley Trail. (Heather likes this former railroad bed trail because it’s flat, and I like because it has lots of small critters lurking about.) This time I ran circles around a muddy field before returning to Mike and his waiting leash, again the prescribed punishment from Staff Sergeant Heather, who was amused by my recent performances. She was even less pleased the following day, when she and I were playing fetch on the back lawn, for both of us by far the most favorite activity on the Getaway agenda. She threw the ball, I retrieved it, and then I ran right past her and all the way down to the landscapers’ garage down the hill, ball in mouth – until a big dog named Coconut who lives there intercepted me and chased me back towards the Getaway house. Heather was made when she came to get me, and she was even more so when she saw the ball was no longer in my grip.

At least I’ve got another week out here at my Getaway to find that ball. Meanwhile, I figure I am on a leash for the duration of our time here, even when I’m inside the house. It’s like house arrest! And who knows how long it will last with Heather in charge? Might be forever, come to think of it.

Chloë Slims Down for Boot Camp

Exam room: The weighting is the hardest part.

With Heather officially retired and  boot camp looming, I approached my annual physical with some trepidation. After all, my most recent weigh-in last December hadn’t gone so well: an all-time high of 19.5 pounds. That explains why on our February staycation,my best friend Lynn was much stricter with portion control. But the diligence paid off: At last week’s weigh-in I has dropped a whole pound to 18.5, which Heather says is my “ideal” weight, and she should know. The vet’s assistant weighed me twice just to make sure I wasn’t cheating.

Don’t touch me there!

My regular physician, Dr. Aimee Kimmel, was back from maternity leave, and even though I had no new concerns to report, Dr. Aimee made sure to poke her instruments (or fingers) through every orifice in my body. While she, as usual, praised my dental work (“Beautiful!” she exclaimed), she did chip a big hunk of tartar from my upper right molars, which are understandably hard for Mike to get with a toothbrush. “Please keep brushing her teeth daily,” the doc told Mike. “It is really helping.”

Bonding with Dr. Aimee post-exam.

On the down side, literally, was that the rash on my underside has returned (or never really left), meaning another course of little antibiotic pills that Mike sneaks into my dinner when he thinks I’m not looking. I also get weekly shampoos from my personal trainer, Heather, in which the lather has to stay on my sensitive skin for 10 minutes. Trust me, it’s a long 1o minutes for everyone.

If the treatment for this skin rash doesn’t do the job, Dr. Kimmel said, “We should discuss possible allergic causes and allergy medication.” That didn’t sound good. My brothers Frank and Stanley have been down that road, and I would rather not go anywhere that might involve giving up such favorites as chicken broth on my food or, worse yet, Frozen Peanut Butter Boneys.

That’s why I put up with this shampoo for now. The things you do for love.


Chloë Gets Some Balls

Toy relocation plan unfolds.

I spent the rest of my most recent staycation with Lynn resting up for my highly anticipated Heather Boot Camp and doing some minor interior decorating, moving my toys around the house and just leaving them there. No Mike around to pick them up for me. In fact, when Lynn was downstairs doing laundry one night, I brought almost all my toys down there one at a time, playing for a while with each new one, then maybe going back to the first or third one for a few minutes before taking a well deserved nap on a pile of soft toys. When I awoke and Lynn was preoccupied with something, I discovered the laundry room waste can was vulnerable, so I tipped it over and pulled out a big ball of dryer lint and some tissues, something the super-vigilant Heather would have headed off at the pass. What fun I have when Lynn’s around, and she lets me sleep with her, too. I’m a good bed warmer.

With my pal Charlie

I also had a couple of great walks with my good pal Charlie. He cleaned out his racquetball bag and brought some old balls over for me. I love these balls, because they are softer than my usual ones and small enough for gnawing, Mike likes them not so much, since I am loath to relinquish them. So Charlie and I decided not to tell Mike about the balls. Charlie let me parade around the park with one in my mouth, and when we hit my lane he pulled a few more out of his pocket and we had a great game of fetch, with me bringing the balls back every time and dropping them at Charlie’s feet on command. When we left, I insisted on carrying one of the balls all the way home, but Charlie left a couple at the top of the lane for next time, or perhaps for another dog who wandered down Chloë’s Lane in need of a racquetball. What a guy.

First Heather came home, and I was still a like antsy and off my routine until Mike finally showed up several days later. It was fun as usual with him gone, but I am definitely happiest when the whole pack is back together.

Chloë Finds a New Hero

Waiting for Jane.

Thank heavens, I got a reprieve on the start of Heather’s boot camp. One day she retired, and the next day she and Mike were gone for a while, which was plenty OK with me. Instead of 30-minute down-stays on the floor, I get 30-minute cuddles with my pal Lynn on a couch or in bed. Maybe they should go away more often. (Just kidding, guys!)

There was some surprises on this mostly uneventful staycation at home with Lynn. When Lynn went to work, instead of Jill coming through the front door to take me out for my mid-day walk, in came Jane, my down-the-block neighbor Merrie the Basset hound’s owner. I know Jane is really nice and always talks to me, so I was very glad to see her, especially since she didn’t bring Merrie along. As my readers well know, I do better with one-on-one relationships. So every day around noon, I took Jane for a walk around the neighborhood, sniffing my way along the sidewalks and hydrants and pulling her along. Jane said that seeing me strut down the street reminded her of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, the same rhythm and determination. I can dig it; after all, we’re all just “Stayin’ Alive.” On the other hand, all she has to compare me with is the slow-moving Merrie.

It was pretty rainy, and most days I got bored with the neighborhood walk after a half-hour or so and made it clear to Jane that I wanted to go home, walking her briskly until we got there. Then I would bolt inside and run to the kitchen, where Lynn left the Kong Wobbler sitting on the counter. I’d do my usual adorable dance, and Jane would set the Kong on the floor before departing, leaving me happily pusing it around and knocking out its treat. One time Jane even found the Kong when Lynn couldn’t. And for a game-saving catch like that, Jane will forever be my hero.

The next week Jill returned for my mid-day walk, and Lynn kept telling me that Heather was coming back any day. By mid-week, however, I was just treating that information like it was more of that fake news. When she gets here, she gets here. I am ready for boot camp. Bring it on.

Chloë Immortalized

Sculpture park

Sculpture park

The “sculpture park” in our front yard is a terrific recognition of my place in the family, and I do appreciate my photo being hung in the hallway outside the kitchen along with pictures of Mike’s other dogs. But the “secret present” that Mike promised last week went light years beyond that. I know of few dogs who get their portrait painted by a noted artist.

For their recent 20th anniversary Mike and Heather commissioned a portrait of our pack by artist-musician Ed Hamell. While touring the U.S. and Europe as the one-man show Hamell on Trial, Ed for many years has also pursued visual arts, with his work featured on some of his own CDs. Working in acrylic on canvas, Hamell paints scenes “inspired by the ‘underground’ and ‘disenfranchised’ of our society,” he says. That’s my pack to a T, right? Ed uses bold and bright colors in his paintings, which contrast to “the darker subject matter, championing the underclass, drawing you into the characters he depicts, endearing you to them and sparking emotions one might not anticipate.” I do declare! Well, here it is, Mike, Heather and I on canvas.

Portrait by Ed-Hamell-

Me and my pack. Portrait by Ed Hamell

Perfect placement.

Perfect placement.

Since it arrived last week, Heather and Mike can’t stop talking about the painting. They are constantly analyzing the underlying meanings behind the colors (green, orange, purple) and imagery (baseball cap, mountains, five stars) Hamell employed. They see in Hamell’s style echoes of the Canadian landscape painters know as the Group of Seven, stressing Heather’s proud heritage. But I ask you: Why am I the only one whose tongue is hanging out?

Anyway, Mike and Heather love the painting, and they immediately installed it in a position of prominence above their bed, where previously nothing hung as a precaution against an earthquake and having a framed picture land on your head. When he was putting it up, Mike told me that if this painting came down on them in an earthquake, he’s suing Hamell.

This certainly put everybody in the pack into a good mood, a nice precursor to the impending great unknown: Heather’s retirement from her job has just become official. And we all know what that means: Heather’s Boot Camp for Chloë is about to begin. Wish me luck.



Chloë Retraces Her Family’s Roots

Could it really be 20 years?

At Redmond apartment complex

At Redmond apartment complex

Yes, long before I plopped down in the Puget Sound and found myself a home in Seattle, Heather took up residence in a second-floor apartment in suburban Redmond on the other side of Lake Washington, not far from the burgeoning campus of the new software giant Microsoft. It was there in February 1997, while Mike was on mid-winter visit from Syracuse, that he and Heather finally tied the knot after a blissful decade of what used to be called “living in sin” and/or “needing somebody to vouch for me so I can hang onto my Green Card.” As their only child (so to speak), I am so glad they finally made things legal, because if they hadn’t, who knows? Mike might have stayed in Syracuse for the rest of his life, and I might not be here in Seattle talking to you today.

From what I’ve been told, their wedding was quite the affair. The mystic ceremony took place at the King Country District Court in Redmond, right next to the public library, but only the judge heard after all the contentious civil cases and the court’s clerk and stenographer took pity on  Mike and Heather and volunteered to be their witnesses. The judge did his thing, Mike and Heather exchanged plastic spider rings, and they retired to the luxurious Redmond condo for leftover burritos and beer.

Down at the court house.

Down at the court house.

So last Saturday, in the rain , the three of us retraced the steps of that fateful day. First we took a side trip to a furniture store (I think they are planning to get me an ottoman so I can be rolled around room to room). Then we hiked along a greenbelt trail where they used to take my esteemed predecessor, Heidi. Parts of this walk were OK, but I wound up feeling sorry for Heidi. I mean, it had no stretches of secluded trail where I could walk off leash, no fields for chasing my orange ball, no trails that weren’t paved or planked like a boardwalk. I’m sure Heidi liked Discovery Park a whole lot better when Mike and Heather moved over to the other side of the pond in 1999.

Still, our walk had plenty of nostalgia value, as did our stops at their apartment, the courthouse and their favorite Redmond Italian restaurant. While they had dinner, I had to wait in the car, of course, although I did score a leftover lamb shank for later. For the next anniversary, I’d prefer they pick German cuisine.

Mike keeps promising Heather there will be another anniversary surprise, but nothing had arrived yet when I told Mike to roll the presses anyway. We’ll have something to look forward to next week.

Chloë Takes in the View

Olympics from Richmond Beach Park

Olympics from Richmond Beach Park

Finally, maybe the winter is over. Sure, it rained a lot this past week, but it was warm rain. Snowdrops and crocus have emerged, and all my salad bars are ripening. It’s not Arizona, but it’s not that bad.

In fact, the previous weekend was sunny both days. Sunday was gorgeous. Mike, Heather and I picked up Charlie and drive to my dog pal Penny’s neighborhood in Richmond Beach, even though we knew Penny wasn’t home, still in Florida for the winter. Why did we go there anyway? It was the just the right place at the right time, I guess, with apologies due to Dr. John. We walked all around the park, from top to bottom to top again, and I liked the place fine until it came to the beach part. Even then, I was OK walking in the dunes as long as I didn’t have to get too close to those monster waves. Even when Charlie threw my ball away from the water, he couldn’t coax me out onto the sand to chase it.

Fetch on the lawn

Fetch on the lawn

I much preferred the upper elevations of this park, which offer 180-degree views of the Olympic Mountains and an expansive lawn area for me to chase my ball, even when there were other dogs and people around. To guard against potential distractions, Heather stationed herself at one end of the lawn, and Charlie stood on the other while I played dachshund in the middle.

Later, after many, many throws. I rested on the grass, something I never get to do at home. Maybe I can convince Mike to put in a lawn in our yard if I promise to graze enough to keep it well-trimmed.

Resting on the lawn between throws.

Resting on the lawn between throws.