Chloë Takes a Hike

Fit as a fiddle.

My annual physical confirmed what I already knew: The doctor confirmed my weight held steady at 21 pounds (the most important thing!), my teeth looked great, and none of my lumps were dangerous. But Dr. Kimmel, my personal physician, also detected for the first time a slight murmur in my heartbeat, which she said was not a concern right now but a possible red flag for the future. She recommended further testing with canine cardiology experts, the nearest one in Tacoma. Unfortunately, the earliest appointment I could get is in October. There must be a lot of these canine cardiology concerns going around.

In the meantime, nothing much is going to change in my behavior or my life before the exam, unless I start to slow down noticeably or start coughing during or after vigorous exercise. Whining doesn’t seem to count, or I’d have been shut down long ago.

Middle Fork Snoqualmie River in early April.

With the weather warming up a bit, one Saturday we drove to the foothills and took an early-spring hike on the new Oxbow Loop Trail trail along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. While this is only 40 miles from Seattle, it was far enough into the wilderness that there was no cell phone service, which is wilderness enough for us.

Current events.

River walks are my favorite. While any puddle large enough to generate a ripple scares the bejesus out of me, rivers are my friends, no matter how fast the current may be roaring by. Excavating mud and moving stones along a river bed is one of my favorite sports.

On this trip, I investigated the Middle Fork closely in several spots until the trail veered away from the riverbed and into the moss-covered forest surrounding Oxbow Lake, which was once part of the river.. Plenty of good smells out there in early spring, but it was also a lot of up-and-down walking, so I was pooped by the time we got back to the parking lot. Heather kept me moving along at a good clip.

Keeping up the pace.

Resting after a walk in the woods.

Luckily, there was a bench nearby where I was able to relax and unwind a bit before the drive back home. Right after receiving my “look forward to getting in the car” treat from Mike, I snuggled up in my bed in the back seat. I slept all the way back to Magnolia with nary a cough or whine.

Chloë Trades Vacations

Chloë and Schatzi ready to walk.

I am strongly pack-oriented. Whenever my pack is not all together, preferably in the same room, I am on edge. So in that respect, the pandemic has been good for me, since until recently my pack had not missed a single night together since early March 2019. That’s a long time. even for me. When on a Sunday morning, Heather and Mike hustled me and all my gear into the car and deposited me at Schatzi‘s house, I was ready for a vacation.

Pre-dinner snooze in the library.

Just the week before, my pal Schatzi spent several days at our house. I therefore deduced that our respective owners have finally shed their travel fears and are sticking their toes in warmer waters, leaving us behind. For me, having Schatzi around is like a vacation, since she’s always the one drawing Heather’s scolding while I get a temporary free pass. Schatzi celebrated her third birthday while she was with us, with Caroline leaving her special birthday presents but no cake or burgers. Schatzi can still get in my face more than I would like her to, but at least she’s smart enough to back off when I tell her.

Scattering of Schatzi’s toys.

As soon as I got on Schatzi’s turf, I searched for and recovered the squeaky bone toy from her birthday gift, which I had commandeered and since missed every second since she took it home with her (the nerve!). But I didn’t stop there, eventually scattering and discarding most of Schatzi’s largely ignored menagerie all over Caroline’s living room. That was fun!

Fetch in back yard.

During my stay we also played ball in Schatzi’s fenced-in back yard. That is, Caroline threw the ball, I chased the ball, and Schatzi chased me. Schatzi has yet to comprehend the “pick up the ball and bring it back” part of the game. But I did enjoy the freedom of a fenced yard and a lawn. We have neither at our house.

Slumber party at Schatzi’s house.

While long overdue, my vacation was low-key. Mostly I laid around with Schatzi, trading beds every once in a while, going out for walks together and sometimes with Marley from across the street, but mostly sleeping and waiting for Mike and Heather to get back from wherever they went (they claimed to have sent me a postcard, but if they did, it arrived at Schatzi’s house after I came home). Rather than feel ignored, however, I went absolutely nuts, with at least 10 minutes of jumping and squealing, when they walked through the door. My pack was back.

Chloë Corrals Her Balls

Chloë’s new Roller.

After I received a new Kong Roller and a Big Mean Kitty as gifts for my birthday, something had to give. My attention to specific old toys normally wanes when new ones arrive, but with the recent gifts joining two Wiffies (the traditional white Wiffie and the newer, multi-holed yellow Wiffie, which is actually a pickleball that I found one day in the park) plus the two small orange rubber balls, I suddenly had too many choices. Sometimes I played with two or more simultaneously, inevitably leaving them strewn all over the first floor in places where foot-dropped, careless Mike could easily trip over them. When he inadvertently  stepped on one of the small orange balls, lurched forward and strained his already injured shoulder, Heather had seen enough.

While all the tug toys and squeaky toys and fetch toys come and go, chasing balls, inside as well as outside, has never wavered as my favorite sport. Therefore Heather couldn’t jut take away my balls, never to be seen again. The spirited  game of throw nd fetch that she and I play every morning bas become one of the highlights of our day. I especially like the part when I push the ball under a chair or cabinet and bark at it.

The Wiffie Corral at current capacity.

Instead of hiding them, Heather rounded up all the balls and herded them into a small area at the foot of the fireplace (which never gets used) and behind the couch (which rarely gets sat on). This was a stroke of absolute genius! The balls were at once accessible and yet relatively hidden away. Once the Wiffie Corral was officially designated, any errant balls I might leave behind were re-routed back to their barn. Within a day or two, I understood where to find them, and soon enough Mike and Heather were adequately trained to look for balls anywhere on the floor and put them there. And this is how it should be! As ol’ Ben Franklin said, “A place for everything, everything in its place.”

With the Wiffie Corral firmly established, my morning romp with Heather continued unabated.

Unfortunately, Heather and Mike still get aggravated whenever I push a ball under a chair or other piece of furniture and bark at it until someone  gets on hands and knees to reach underneath and retrieve it for me. It is what it is. As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” 

Chloë Sees the Lions

Ballard Lions Club.

For most of February, the wintry weather, along with  Heather’s busy work schedule, has kept our afternoon walks close to home. We went to Carkeek Park a couple of times, and once in a while to Magnolia Village or the library, the grocery store , the Mount Rainier viewpoint on Magnolia Boulevard, or the maybe the Ballard Locks. That’s about it. So I was surprised on a sunny Sunday afternoon when we got in Heather’s car, drove to the locks, parked and started walking from the parking lot, along the canal and right across to Ballard over the spillway and the locks.

Retreating from the lions’ den.

I’ve been across those narrow walkways of the locks before, and in the past the crowded aisles made me nervous. In winter, however, crossing the locks wasn’t congested, and I hustled across without incident. We marched right through the botanical garden on the Ballard side and onto the Burke-Gilman Trail, where we had to dodge runners and cyclists for about 20 minutes. I figured we were headed further north to the Shilshole Bay Marina or even Golden Gardens Park, places we’ve walked before. But this time we turned off the sidewalk into the parking lot of the popular seafood restaurant Ray’s Boathouse, which seemed to be closed at the time. We walked all the way out onto the adjoining wharf, where we were finally able to see the perpetrators of the incessant honking that we hear every afternoon of late when we walk in Discovery Park, just across the canal in Magnolia. Ten or more sea lions were unleashing a constant symphony, singly and in groups of twos and threes, never stopping and louder than a visiting Schatzi when the mail carrier delivers to our house.

This article and video from the Seattle Times gives you all you need to know about these California sea lions. This particular herd of the migrating species showed up at the mouth of the canal in December, and they were still hanging out and barking loudly as the calendar turned to March. Apparently they like this pier just fine. For most Magnolians living south of Discovery Park, hearing those husky honks every afternoon provides an amusing diversion. For people who live or work near the canal, however, its their personal March Madness. We can sympathize.

Nervous at the locks.

While it was nice to walk someplace different for a change, while walking back south toward the locks I realized that I still had to traverse the canal again to get back to the car. Things went smoothly on the return trip until Heather decided to stop between the locks to watch a couple of pleasure boats locking through. This imprisoned me to linger on the narrow walkway between the two locks, which left me much too much time to discover water rushing below and on both sides of me. Although this made me queasy, I was trapped on this thin island until the lock filled, allowing the boats to progress to Puget Sound level and the bar across the walkway to lift. When that finally happened, I trotted over the closed lock and the noisy spillway to the Magnolia side in record time. I had enough excitement for one afternoon.

Chloë Enjoys Belated Gifts

Mmm, good!

My birthday celebration may have lacked fireworks at the start, but thanks mainly to my Syracuse aunts Susie and Debby, the festivities just rolled on! Two separate boxes arrived from my favorite online retailer, one containing another selection of fabulous treats (Rachael Ray Nutrish Burger Bites no less, along with two bags of another new flavor of Charlee Bears!) and the other some excellent new toys to toss around. I am going to have to be super-nice to them when they come to visit in the spring. I’m already on the lookout for spiders, ladies, so nothing to worry about!

Getting crowded in here.

One of my new toys is called Big Mean Kitty, and he is so big that I can’t get my mouth around his body. That’s OK, though because he has a head, four legs and a tail that are always available to latch onto to tug and toss  him around. The only problem with the Big Mean Kitty is that he’s so big that he’s hogging the bed for me an J.P., my new toy from Christmas. Big Mean Kitty may not be hanging out in our bed for long if J.P. complains.

Chloë’s new Roller.

My other new toy is something new, the Chuckit! Indoor Roller. It’s supposed to be for “active play that’s gentle on your home.” We’ll have to see how that second part works out. While its doughnut shape is meant for rolling on the floor, not being thrown in the air, any errant toss or bad bounce could easily divert the Roller into breaking-glass territory, since it weighs a lot more than a Krispy Kreme. Anyway, I liked the Roller immediately, and it has already moved into regular rotation on my indoor recreational activity. Just watch what I can do with it, and I’m sure you’ll be impressed!

 

 

Chloë Turns 12

Still smiling at 12 years old.

My 12th birthday passed with little fanfare or celebration. There was talk of a trip to Dick’s, Seattle’s homegrown hamburger stand, but that’s all it was….talk. We did take a trip to my favorite stream and “the rock” in Carkeek Park, two of my favorite fetch locations, and I got a boatload of extra treats over a two-day period, including a rare opportunity to chew on a stewed oxtail bone until I gnarled it into a mere figment of its former self. Yum.

Of course, there was a price to pay for my ingestion of all those treats. On three occasions I had to poop so badly that I just let loose on a sidewalk. Even worse, one of these came right in front of a restaurant in Magnolia Village (I won’t tell which one). Heather was mortified when that happened and spent time trying to clean up all trace. Mike, speeding ahead toward his next stop at the bank, was oblivious, as usual. This year, in fact, old Mike couldn’t remember exactly what day my birthday is, or even how old I am. For months he told everyone who asked that I was approaching my 13th birthday. not my 12th.  I feel a whole year younger already.

Citizen Chloë.

Anyway, I think I’m doing pretty good for an old broad. Just a few gray hairs, a couple of warts here and there, a few less throws per fetch session before I decide to pack it in. True, I’m not jumping as high, or as often, as I used to.  I usually let Heather or Mike lift me up into my camp chair or into their bed without protest. But just the other day, I leaped into my chair unprompted; well, somewhat prompted by the promise of cheese when I got there. Yes, I can still move along pretty well when food is involved.

Besides, if I should ever get too tired or infirm, I’ve always got Heather (Codename: Sherpa) to carry me. We had a trial run last week, using a canvas bag that my old pal Charlie gave them back in the days before I was born and newspaper promotions were common. Ah, those were the days! Or so I’m told.

Chloë Starts the New Year in a Fog

On the Capehart trail on a foggy afternoon.

After that Christmas week snow melted, it rained for many days in a row, saturating the ground all over Western Washington and even causing a landslide about a mile away in our neighborhood that destroyed a home and killed one of the two dogs inside. The other dog was found alive in the rubble several days later. Yikes! As my aunt Susie once opined when her brother Mike fell down a flight of stairs, “Glad it wasn’t me!”

Walking those mean streets,

Then the rain stopped and the sun came out, at least once in a while. We saw some nice sunsets. On most days, however, the moist earth and lack of wind created a thick blanket of fog that often hung above our little peninsula from morning until night and into the next morning. Of course, Heather, Mike and I would still get out for our afternoon walks anyway, even when on a few of those days it looked pretty spooky out there.

When the sun finally peeked through for a few hours, the ground warmed up enough that the first tiny snowdrops popped up in the front yard, and the sarcococca started to bloom with its sweet vanilla fragrance. Spring can’t come soon enough for me.

 

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.