Category Archives: A Dog's Life

Chloe Seeks an Omen for the New Year

Snowy walk.

2021 went out with a whimper. It snowed on Christmas night and temperatures dipped into the teens, boxing in our block in snow and ice for a week. I much prefer going outside in the snow to the incessant rains we normally get here all winter, so several days of snowy walks and being home inside with the heat turned up was OK by me. Except, of course, when I get those pesky ice balls forming under my belly and in between my toes. Not a lot of fun there. It’s c-c-c-c-cold to start with, and then becomes painful when Heather picks them off my fur one by one. I’d much rather just drag my body around the living room rug and rub them off myself.

Treat bag found hanging from tree.

While I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions (eat more treats?), I was on the lookout for events that could serve as omens, good or bad, for the year to come. Like the evening at Carkeek Park, with darkness falling fast, that we had to scurry uphill to the car while  the loud howling of coyotes–several of them, it seemed–echoed behind us.  That was kind of spooky and possibly a bad omen, but a few days later I started leaning the other way. That’s when Mike recovered the red treat bag he had dropped the previous day in Discovery Park. When that happened, it seemed a Christmas miracle indeed, positively a good omen, even if it didn’t have any of my treats left inside.

Chloë’s tree, December.

After that high note, however, a couple of potential tragedies marked the beginning of the new year. First, the prompt removal of the holiday decorations in the living room (Aunt Susie dutifully polices this rule) revealed that my personal Christmas tree, nurtured for almost two years and seemingly thriving when it arrived on the mantel four weeks ago, was dried up and dying, deprived of sufficient water and accorded limited light for far too long.

Chloë’s tree, January.

Sensing my disappointment, Mike made a last-ditch effort to save my tree. He watered it, gave it more light in the kitchen, and finally transplanted it in a larger pot to the plastic greenhouse in the back yard. Until I see otherwise, I’ll take this as another positive sign. Check back in a month.

St. Francis, decapitated.

Likewise, Mike averted another back yard catastrophe. Whether the fault of the extreme weather or the clumsiness of a neighborhood cat, we awoke one morning to find our poor St. Francis statue lying on the ground, decapitated. He must have put up a fight, as the gashes on the side of his face seemed to indicate.

St. Francis in Traction.

Although this wasn’t the first time St. Francis lost his head, and this incision was much more severe, Mike decided to try to put Humpty St. Francis back together again. Bringing him to his garage emergency room workbench,  he applied liberal amounts of Gorilla Glue at the neckline and remounted Fran’s noggin at what felt like a comfortable angle, trussing it into place with a network of blue rubber bands recovered from organic broccoli crowns. After 24 hours, St. Francis wasn’t perfect, but he was back in one piece and again guarding the garden, befriending any raccoons and squirrels that pass through.

St. Francis ready to resume his duties.

Chloë and JP snuggle.

And to cap the holiday season, my good friend Jeré returned after missing her visit before Christmas, meaning I hadn’t seen her in a month, and she hadn’t been able to bestow my gifts. Not only did she give me a bag of high-quality treats (cheese, meat and salmon, my favorite), she also brought me a new squeaky toy–a monkey dressed as a Christmas elf, extremely soft and gnawable. Mike was first going to pack it away with Santa Monkey and the rest of the holiday decorations, but Heather convinced him to let me keep this elf/monkey in the living room year-round. I named him JP, short for Jeré’s Prezzie. He’s my best good omen so far for a better year ahead.

Chloë Has Herself a Merry Little Christmas

Trying to look cute.

I’ve spent this month spreading lots of good cheer around the neighborhood. Even through the dreary December weather, strangers will still stop to marvel at my cuteness. They see my jaunty walk and they smile. My new orange-lighted collar has added another dimension to my appeal in this season of lights. People with young puppies try to practice their socialization skills on me, like I’m a  Santa Claus or something. Sorry, my holiday cheer extends only so far.

Chloë auditions at the Rosebud Motel.

This year we got out to check out some holiday  light displays. After touring Magnolia with Caroline and Schatzi last week, one afternoon we drove over to Queen Anne Hill to check out a replica of  the Rosebud Motel from Schitt’s Creek (Mike is a fan). Then, with a lengthy session of fetch at Carkeek Park in between, we did a motor tour of the Olympic Manor neighborhood in north Ballard that gets itself really decked out with lights for the holidays. Even I must have been amazed at this magnificent show, because I didn’t emit one whine in the entire 45 minutes Heather and Mike drove the car around the neighborhood with me in the back seat. The whole excursion barely delayed my dinner time.

Secret Christmas Tree 2020

My only holiday season disappointment was the Secret Christmas Tree in Discovery Park. While the same tree in the South Meadow was decorated once again, the poor thing looked like it was on its last legs, a skeleton of its former self. Perhaps it was another victim of last summer’s drought and record high temperatures, although the tree right next to it seemed to have survived just fine. We’ll see what happens to it next year.

Secret Christmas Tree 2021

At home, however, my personal Christmas tree is thriving. Just check out how much this young sapling has grown in just one year! If Mike can groom this red cedar to its full maturity, a trip to the other Washington to become the National Christmas Tree at the White House is certainly possible.

Chloë’s tree 2020.

Chloë’s tree 2021,

Waiting for Santa.

My holiday season ended well. On Christmas morning I awoke to find three giant bags of high-quality treats (Snausages!!) in my stocking, courtesy of my Syracuse aunts Susie and Debby, and when dinner time rolled around, turkey skin and gravy (two of my favorites!) returned to my menu. Later on, while I was asleep, all snug in my bed, about 6 inches of snow fell and it got real cold, so the snow will likely stick around for a while, a perfect way to make the season bright. I could dig it, and I did.

Digging the snow,

Chloë Continues Her Comeback

Morning treat in downstairs crate.

It was way back on Sept. 13 that Dr. Aimee Kimmel, my personal physician, prescribed a regimen of drugs and bed rest (i.e, no exercise) to improve my increasing episodes of rear-leg instability. Ever since, my recovery has been steady. After a month of short walks for pooping purposes only, Heather started to gently increase my workload. Gradually favorite toys such as Lamby and Wiffie came out of the closet, the length of  afternoon walks increased, and off-leash sessions of fetch crept back into the picture. I handled them all with no problem.

I was still a bit shaky on stairs, however. At home, the door to the downstairs staircase was always kept shut, and Heather moved my downstairs crate upstairs, near the dining room table. That way I didn’t have to go downstairs and then back up the same stairs before leaping into the crate and awaiting my rightful morning treat. By moving my crate, we could go through the whole ritual on one floor while I recuperated.

Heading up the stairs.

But for almost two months, I stayed off the stairs because  of a combination of prescription and personal confidence.  I wasn’t sure I could do it. Finally, Heather decided the time was right, opened the door to the stairs and ordered me down for the morning treat. I galloped down and back up the stairs with no problems. The next day, my downstairs crate moved back to its regular location, where it’s supposed to be.

Near the top.

Chloë’s stairway to heaven.

Still, a few challenges remain before I’ll consider myself totally “back.” There’s the two-step approach to Heather’s side of the bed; something about the angle of the approach makes me hesitant to make the leap. I’ve wound up an awkward half-step from the top of the mattress once too often.

This week, however, Mike, Heather and I took a walk with Caroline and Schatzi around their part of the Magnolia neighborhood, and at one point I had to go down a park staircase that was long and dark enough that it made Mike nervous for me. I handled it with no problem or hesitation. Maybe by spring I’ll be ready to tackle the one in Discovery Park again.

Discovery Park staircase awaits.

Chloë Talks Turkey

Smokey looking abnormally  mellow, with Chloë and Pumpkin.

Thanksgiving at my country getaway was mellow compared to past visits. Smokey is four, finally old enough to know when he needs to take his nose out of my butt and leave me alone. Pumpkin and I have always been simpatico. And the feline Mr. Fuzz didn’t show his furry face downstairs except at night, when he snuck down when the rest of us were in the bedroom with the door closed. Smokey and Pumpkin, apparently more insecure than on our past visits, had their beds moved from the living room to the floor next to where Heather was sleeping. At least this ploy kept Smokey quiet all night, rather than barking every time a  car passed or the wind stirred outside.

Sniffing out Beaver Lake

Although it rained parts of every day we were there, we did get in some good walking, once at Beaver Lake Preserve in Sammamish and on both the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, each about 10 minutes by car from the getaway. Pumpkin came with us once (she’d rather sleep) and Smokey a couple of times, until Heather got tired of him barking and lunging at every dog he sees. Smokey’s a big guy, and Heather’s arms were getting tired from yanking him back. The final straw came when Smokey tried to climb into the front seat while Heather was driving. It was a lot harder for Mike and Heather to push back Smokey than me, I’m sure, and Heather was screaming at him. After that incident, Smokey’s hiking days were over, at least for this visit.

Crossing a trestle on the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail.

Because we weren’t having Thanksgiving dinner at home, I had been concerned I might be shortchanged on my normally ample rations of Thanksgiving leftovers.  But I needn’t have worried. I got plenty of gravy-laden dishes and casseroles to lick on the big day, and the next day all the leftovers came back to Seattle with us. I will be feasting on chopped-up gizzard, cartilage, liver, skin and turkey meat mixed in with my kibble right through to Christmas. It’s that most wonderful time of the year.

Chloë Takes a Field Trip

Tiring day for Schatzi.

My pal Schatzi stayed with us last weekend, and this time was much more fun than the last. That’s when I was on “bed rest,” and Schatzi had to pretty much leave me alone. Now that I’m fully recovered (and as demanding as ever), this time we were allowed to tussle. So we did, at least until I growled to let her know when I had enough. Schatzi  has calmed down a little, but she’s still a bit more energetic than my recently recovered bones allow. She gets the message.

A weekend with Heather is good training for Schatzi.  (“Tully Obedience Camp” is what Schatzi’s owner Caroline calls it.)  Saturday was a big day for her. In the morning, my pal Penny and her pack came over to watch a Syracuse football game, which usually makes all the people grumpy. We girls just hung out on the couch, chatted and hoped some food would fall on the floor.

Schatzi, Chloë and Penny root on the Orange.

Reining in the girls on a misty afternoon.

Mercifully, the football game ended early in the day. After Penny left, Heather hustled Schatzi and me into the back seat of her car, and we drove all the way out to the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail on what turnd out to be a rain-free but misty afternoon. This being Schatzi’s first visit to these rural environs, we walked all the way from the Lake Alice Road parking lot to the north end of the trail, 1.8 miles each way. Schatzi admitted this was definitely the farthest she had ever walked in one day in her life, but she did OK. I didn’t have to worry about her pouncing on me when we got home, though. She was plum tuckered out.

Trail dogs.

On the drive home, Mike and Heather stopped briefly at my country “getaway” for instruction on some recently installed kitchen appliances. We will be returning here for a longer stay in the near future, but on this rapidly darkening afternoon Schatzi and I stayed in the car, swapping beds in the back seat and curling up for the ride back to Seattle. We both slept well that night.

Chloë Gets Collared

Aglow in the dark.

When Daylight Saving Time ends, the days grow shorter quickly here in the Pacific Northwest. My morning walks can start in darkness, and in the afternoon we often return home with the streetlights on. One morning a car roared up our block way too fast, and it came within inches of my tail as I innocently sniffed along the parking strip across the street from our house. With the dark days already upon us, Heather decided we needed to throw some light on the situation. So she had Mike order me one of these illuminated Blazin’ Safety Collars. Now I glow in the dark.

Moon over Seattle.

My collar is orange, of course. Heather only puts it around my neck when it’s dark outside, and she usually doesn’t bother taking my regular Syracuse collar off. The new one can be set to have a steady glow or flash at two different speeds, but we’ve only stuck to the steady glow so far. Don’t want to get too radical now.

As you can see, the normally reliable Mike has yet to master the nuances of night photography with his cell phone, and thus the images I’m including here are hardly up to my normal high standards. He’ll better up his game, or he’ll find out he can be replaced.

Mike shows off Chloë’s new collar: Who’s leading whom?

Chloë Makes Her Comeback

Wiffie baffles in storage.

Mike usually stuffs old towels under the living room furniture to prevent Wiffie from rolling underneath and causing him to get down on his hands and knees to pull Wiffie out. When those baffles came out of the closet and resumed their respective positions on the floor, I knew my month of “bed rest” was over.

And so I have enthusiastically reembraced playing tug of war with Lamby, and as soon as Wiffie hit the floor, I took off  after it and went flying into the kitchen, barking like a banshee. I also enjoyed knocking Wiffie into a corner and barking at it, daring it to try to get past me. No way, Wiff.

 

Fetch along the creek trail in Carkeek.

Our daily walks gradually ramped back up to an hour or more, and there has been some moderate reintroduction of fetch–kind of like pitch counts in baseball.  A few times we went to Carkeek Park, which has some of my favorite locations for chasing my ball. The trail that runs parallel to the small creek leading to the salmon hatchery is perfect, because it’s fine gravel, secluded, straight and flat, with the creek on one side and a steep slope on the other to confine me and my ball. After about 10 or 15 throws there, I felt I was getting my legs back under me. But the most recent time we went there, lots of people and other dogs were around, mostly to watch mature salmon flop up the creek to return to their original spawning ground and die, which doesn’t seem like the most fun thing to do on a fall afternoon. Instead, Heather, Mike and I ambled up the trails to the Rock, where I chased caroms for a good half-hour. I’m definitely all the way back.

Playing fetch at the Rock.

With the days getting shorter, we’ve started walking a little earlier in the afternoon, and maybe that’s a good thing. Coyote sightings from all over the neighborhood have become a daily occurrence, especially in the early morning and at dusk. We hear them howling at night and have seen them several times in the park. One morning Heather and I saw two of them walking towards us from down our block. When they saw us coming, they darted into the Bartons’ back yard–with any luck, they were after Fred, my nemesis neighborhood cat. Anyway, these days Heather keeps me on a tight leash and throws the ball only in open, controllable locations. Not a bad idea at all. Let the coyotes eat salmon.

Coyote ambling along Magnolia Boulevard.

 

Chloë Goes on “Bed Rest”

Therapeutic massage.

Turned out all that slow walking I was doing the past couple of months might have been more than my natural dachshund stubbornness. Heather and Mike increasingly observed my back legs shaking when I was standing still, and sometimes limping during and after a rousing game of fetch. When Schatzi stayed at my house back in August, my discomfort boiled over. I tried to ignore her, but I had to nip at her a few times to let her know in no uncertain terms there would be no unbridled wrassling on this particular visit. I needed to take it easy.

Bed rest.

Heather called the veterinary  about an examination, but since my personal physician, Dr. Aimee Kimmel, was not available until the middle of September, Heather put me on “bed rest” for a five days. That meant no hijinks with Schatzi, no chasing my ball, no knocking Wiffie under the furniture, no tug of war with Lamby, no jumping in or out of my camp chair, no going downstairs and, most importantly, no long walks. Every day, just a few brief excursions outside for a pee and a 10-minute (tops) afternoon stroll just to get some fresh air and take care of business. When I finally saw Dr. Kimmel, she endorsed Heather’s prescription and extended it for another month. If this were baseball, that’s like being moved from the 10-day to 60-day IL (injured list). That’s a long time.

Rest in another bed.

Despite my relative lack of activity, so far my treatment hasn’t included special hospital rations – that is, portion reduction in my meals or snacks. Heather has been holding steady in that department, thankfully, although I will approach my next weigh-in at the vet with some trepidation. Other aspects of the plan aren’t so bad. For instance, since I’m not allowed to go downstairs, Heather moved my downstairs crate into the living room, so I can still get inside it for my morning biscuit. I immediately liked running up and down the short ramp they put over the steps by the front door. And, while I have missed the long walks and especially playing fetch, I do have to admit that these short afternoon walks are surprisingly to my liking. Every day, I have been prancing along enthusiastically, eliciting many smiles and comments on my gait from admiring passersby, and more-than-happy to be getting home for dinner that much quicker.

Wiffie under-furniture baffles in storage.

Rest and medication seem to be working, too. Heather noted just yesterday that I am showing more energy and more power in my stride. Sometimes I forget that I’m supposed to be taking it easy, and I jump out of a chair to the floor without help or coax Mike into having a brief tug  of war with me and Lamby. Heather has kept a watchful eye on me, and she scolds us before things can get out of hand, shutting me down but deflecting the responsibility: “No throwing!” she yells. “Dr. Kimmel says NO!” Doctor’s orders! End of story.

Chloë Walks Behind

Walkabout.

I just don’t like anyone or anything walking behind me. Makes me nervous. I slow down, slink to the side of the trail, plop on the ground, avert my eyes from whatever’s sneaking up on me. I don’t like surprises. I let them pass, and then I’ll start walking again. That’s just the way I am.

While this has always been among my idiosyncrasies, during the recent stays of my house guests Willy and Schatzi, this reaction became more frequent. That’s because whenever I go for a walk with another dog, I can’t be the one leading the way. If I did, there would be someone behind me. And I couldn’t tolerate that.

Schatzi gets groomed during her recent spa visit.

So when Mike was holding my leash, Heather walked ahead with Willy or Schatzi. Those younger dogs are faster walkers than I am, anyway. Since neither Mike nor I walk very fast these days, Heather and the other dog sometimes got too far ahead, so I couldn’t see them. I didn’t like that, either.

After first Willy and then Schatzi left our house, we reverted to our walking ways since last September, when Mike had back surgery and ceded the leash and other care responsibilities to Heather while he was rehabbing, which must still be in progress, since Heather has shown no signs of relinquishing the reins.

Staying ahead of the curve.

As far as our daily walks go, that means Heather leashing me to her belt with a carabiner and dragging me along at the speed she desires, not the slowpoke pace Mike lets me get away with. Thus she and I usually walk a good 25 yards ahead of Mike, still clicking along valiantly with his trekking poles. That’s enough distance that I can accept Mike walking behind me. But I wouldn’t want him to get any closer.

Chloë Aids a Friend

Scott and Mike (top row) with Willy and Chloë.

I have been getting an inordinate amount of compliments from strangers on my walks lately. People saying how “cute” I am is (of course!), the most common, but it’s hardly the only one. Many people admire my joyful walk (although they don’t see me when I’m dragging my ass along or flopping entirely). Last week, an Asian woman started making funny faces and waving at me from 15 feet away, and continued  to turn around and do 15 feet past. Then a runner stopped to ask what breed I  was and said I reminded him of a wolf.  A fox, maybe. But a wolf?

I attribute all this notoriety to having walked in tandem for the past two weeks with Willy, a small, pudgy, scruffy-looking dog of terrier and other indeterminate breeds. In comparison, I must have looked good.

Willy

Willy came to stay with us when my good friend Scott, who I’ve known since my own puppyhood, died suddenly. In fact, I think me sitting beside Scott on our couch during Syracuse football games was part of the reason Scott adopted Willy last summer. He wanted a dog of his own to cuddle with, and Willy likes to be petted, even more than eating. That priority is far from the only thing Willy and I don’t have in common.

Walking the dogs.

But I went out of my way to be nice to Willy while he was here. He arrived the day Scott died, along with Scott’s niece Caitlin, who lived with them. Caitlin stayed with us about a week and then flew back east for the funeral, leaving Willy at our house. We all took good care of Willy while she was away, especially Heather, who was looking out for him 24 hours a day. The first night Caitlin was gone, Willy still wanted to sleep downstairs by the bed she had been using, but Heather left the lights on for him, just in case he wanted to come upstairs to sleep. By the second night, he did, and his bed stayed right below Heather’s the whole time.

Willy on the trail.

Even though Willy disrupted my routine and horned in on Heather’s affection, I never got snippy with him. We didn’t really pal around like I do with Schatzi, though. There was no wrestling or running after balls together. Mostly I just left him alone and let him do what he wanted (be next to Heather). I even left his food alone, except one day when I scarfed up a rawhide chewy he had walked away from. Mike and Heather had to corner me  by the fireplace to get it back. What ever happened to finder’s keepers?

Willy’s bed was next to Heather’s.

Caitlin and her mother (Scott’s sister) picked up Willy a couple of nights ago on the way back to Scott’s house in Snohomish to pack and get it ready to sell. Eventually they will drive back to Virginia, where Willy will be the second dog in the house again, but much better off to deal with another new environment after two weeks of boot camp with Heather. She didn’t love him to death like Caitlin does, but she pay him lots of attention, groomed him, took him on lots of long walks (sometimes we went 75 minutes or more) and let him sleep wherever he wanted, including on the couch and even under their bed. I survived. As long as Willy stayed out of their bed, he could sleep wherever he wanted. That bed is my spot, and I’m still top dog around here.