Tag Archives: Discovery Park

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



Chloë Tries a New Field

Resting with Heather between innings.

As my regular readers know well, I am a creature of habit. I like my routines. All of them.

And yet, one recent morning Heather tried to vary my routine. When we go out around 10 a.m., we’re going out to do my business, take a few sniffs around the smorgasbord by the park entrance and hurry home to get a Frozen PBB, the ultimate treat of the day. On this beautiful spring day, however, Heather wanted to look at the Olympic Mountains, and I followed reluctantly as far as the park chapel. She took in the view, I planted my feet, and we thankfully went no further. As soon as she moved an inch in a homeward direction, she had no trouble getting me to hasten down the wind to the waiting PBB. I have a schedule to maintain, after all.

Playing fetch near the stables with Heather and Charlie.

Something else is new. We have a regular circuit for playing fetch, as we need places that feature light foot traffic and limited distractions, such as rabbit holes and birds. Besides our home turf of Chloë’s Lane, we use the trail outside Capehart, the park road below the 500 area, the cemetery, the Fort Lawton flagpole and a few other locations. The list is actually longer than I thought it would be, and it’s nowhere near complete. If you’re a dog looking for open spaces, living near a 550-acre park has its advantages.

Heather is trying to usher in a new site, a field north of the Quartermaster’s Stable. It used to be a lot more overgrown than it is now, so we decided to try it out. First Mike and Heather tried throwing the ball against the side of one of the barns, but they were afraid that could damage the building, so they reversed field and started to throw away from the barn, toward the grassy area below it.

Fetch in the South Meadow.

The grass there is not as high as it is in the South Meadow, and thus far is not pockmarked with rabbit holes, making it good for fetch. On the other hand, there is a bit of low-lying blackberry stalks, as I unfortunately discovered while chasing a throw the other day. And distractions galore: In this field, I can see every movement outside the restored housing to the east, every car and truck passing on their way to or from the lighthouse and wastewater plant at the end of the road, every bird watching from a tree branch or plume of tall grass. More foot traffic than expected as well: Last week two golden retrievers swooped in at different times to overturn my water bowl and beg for my treats.

We took my pal Charlie there last Sunday, and I could tell he was not all that impressed with the new site. But that’s Charlie, who is rarely impressed with anything. Personally, I’m willing to give the horse barn site more looks this spring, as long as it doesn’t replace my required time on Chloë’s Lane. After all, Heather, Mike and I have to resume our war on Sticky Willy, the obnoxious weed that blankets the forest floor, crawls up the canopy of trees, sticks to my fur and is hard to get off. On Chloë’s Lane,  we have been trying to head it off,  but Willy is gaining, and it’s just the middle of May. This in one battle I don’t think we’re going to win, even if we upset my routines to get it done.

Chloë Goes Underground

Spring mix

Spring is my favorite season in the South Meadow of Discovery Park.  There’s lots of sweet-tasting grass on the salad bar and plenty of small critters darting about, birds as well as vermin. I love it when Heather drops my leash and sets me free to hop around the tall grasses and between the bunny holes. When there are no other people or dogs around, Heather will even  throw the ball for me for a while.

Fetch in the meadow

Hole in one

But one day the ball bounced far off the trail into a field pock-marked with holes. I did take off after it, but only until a more exciting scent came along.  Still, when Heather kept yelling at me to “bring it,” I did find the ball, but it was stuck in a hole, about three inches below grass level. That’s what I kept trying to tell Heather, but she wasn’t interested in listening to me, and she wasn’t leaving until I found that damn ball. She was a bit outta control, frankly. I finally got Mike to carefully inspect the right area, and in a cluster of three holes that were close to one another, he finally found the ball wedged inside the third one he looked into. Way to go, Mike.

For me, it was peaches and cream. It should be a while before Heather dares to deride my tracking prowess again.

A defiant Chloë and her ball: Look out below.


Chloë Has a Ball

Throwing on Chloë’s Lane.

Why, I ask, is every lost ball my fault? Not once have I tossed a ball that went missing. OK, I admit I’ve dropped a few in the woods when something better came along, but other than that, in my view, Mike and Heather deserve the blame. They threw it, so they are responsible for losing it. End of story.

No longer as frequent a story as it once was, however.  The purple-and-white Visi-Balls I learned on are hard and yet springy, and they take crazy bounces. I’ve lost count of how many we lost in my younger days. When Mike plotted them on a map of Discovery Park, there were a lot of Xs on that paper, and that doesn’t count the ones lost in the creek at Carkeek Park, the blackberry thickets along Magnolia Boulevard and many other far-flung locations. Those balls are not coming back. But since we switched to the Chuckit Whistler balls, we hardly ever lose them. Either my senses have vastly improved with age, or these newer balls, with their softer texture and deep indentations, hold a scent better, making them easier to find. Guess that Ahimsa scent-training class paid off after all!

The new-old ball

I hadn’t used one of the purple-and-white balls in quite a while when I stumbled upon one in the woods along Chloë’s Lane while I was fetching another ball to bring back to Heather. I’ve gotten pretty good at finding stuff that lies on the ground, especially if it reeks of questionable digestibility,  but finding this particular ball made me especially proud, even though it wasn’t anything I could eat. I was so happy with my discovery that I carried triumphantly it all the way home and proudly presented it to Mike as soon as  I got through the door. Then I took it onto the living room rug and rubbed myself on it for about 10 minutes, getting its scent all over me, just in case Heather decided to break out the OxiClean to buff it up. Since we haven’t been throwing with this kind of ball for some time, Mike estimated it might have been there for a couple of years. What a find this was! For a few days, I couldn’t let it out of my sight.

Chloe cradles cherished ball.


Heather hasn’t cleaned my new-old ball yet, but it seemed a little shinier after I strutted  around the house with it in my mouth for a few days. So far, Mike let me keep it, and he even rolled it along the floor of the living room and kitchen, like he does with Wiffie, but I have a feeling this game will end as soon as we break something, most likely the glass doors on the dining room cabinets. Which could be any day now, come to think of it. Better enjoy this while it lasts.

Chloë Rates Salad Bars

Off the beach at Golden Gardens

Off the beach at Golden Gardens

It was slim pickins along the Wendy* Way buffet line last week, but as the same crusty lettuce pieces rotted away on the grass I managed to find some substitute rations. I snagged a slimy apple core one day near Chloë’s Lane, and on another day the loop trail featured a pleasant subtrail off popcorn, five kernels in all, conveniently located in my homeward direction so I could find them without losing any time.

One day last weekend was warm and sunny, and we walked along Shilshole Marina and the beach at Golden Gardens, but not on it, unwilling to risk the fines (Heather) and the dangerous waves of Puget Sound (me). I made sure we stayed far away from the water as possible so that the sloshing of sound on shore wouldn’t bother me.

Salad bar is open.

Salad bar is open.

The next day, when we walked with my pal Charlie, it was cold and cloudy with a few showers, but I enjoyed the long walk anyway. We did lots of throwing the ball, and when we walked through the South Meadow the first signs of spring were evident. For me that means the opening of my favorite of the many canine salad bars of Puget Sound. I am indeed lucky to have a meadow full of my favorite variety of grass practically right outside my door. I don’t know if it’s the late-afternoon sunshine or the moisture-laden wind, but something makes the grass from the area known as Bird Alley extremely sweet, and I dig it. Until, of course, Heather figures out that I’ve stopped following her and in favor of a lengthy stop at the salad bar. This time she stormed back to get me and threaten me with her impending retirement “boot camp” that is intended to improve my overall obedience and pave the way for me to become a certified service dog.

Frankly, I’d rather just do what I want to do: chase balls, cats, rabbits and squirrels, followed by eating and sleeping. We’ll see how far Heather’s plan goes. I am sure this retirement thing is going to be a big adjustment for all of us, but we’ll have fun working our way through it.

Chloë Walks Wendy* Way

(*) “Wendy” is not her real name.

Wendy* Way

Wendy* Way

As you know, I previously named the wooded path in the park that is my #1 throw-and-fetch location Chloë’s Lane. I am now re-naming another neighborhood thoroughfare, the northern side of Emerson Avenue between Discovery Park’s southern entrance and the bus stop at the intersection with Magnolia Boulevard. Just as the City of Seattle could rename one block of Atlantic Street outside Safeco Field Edgar Martinez Drive in honor of the Mariners slugger, I am renaming this block of Emerson Avenue “Wendy* Way.”

Note: I am using an asterisk (*) here as a visual reminder that “Wendy” is NOT the real name of the person after whom I’m renaming this block. I deliberately changed her name for two reasons: 1) to protect “Wendy*s” real identity and not embarrass her. and 2) for alliteration with “Way,” a peculiarly Seattle term for streets of varying length and degree of importance. But I digress.

Walking Wendy* Way is my favorite part of any stroll. That’s because “Wendy*,” who is one of our elderly neighbors, frequently scatters food in the grassy area between the sidewalk and the park fence. I assume this is her effort to feed birds, rabbits, feral cats and raccoons that might pass by, not for foraging by local pets. However, being civic-minded, I am trying to help out “Wendy” by doing my part to gobble up as much of her deposits as I can, at the same time protecting all other local dogs from themselves and their few remaining lupine instincts. I generously leave a little lettuce behind for them.

Eggs and cheese

Eggs and cheese

Hunk of cheese

Hunk of cheese

Most of Wendy*s contributions along Wendy* Way come from the grain family: crusts of toast and French bread, sometimes a fully dressed piece of Italian sub roll or a wedge of angel cake. Yum! Once in a while, if I really get lucky, I can see the remains of a sandwich. The other day, however, Wendy* went over the top, laying out a veritable smorgasbord of hard-boiled eggs, sliced cheeses, cold cuts and a large hunk of Roquefort or Gorgonzola (Heather wouldn’t let me near it, so I cannot be certain what variety I sniffed from yards away). It was hard for me to figure out why: Wendy* was either laying out Part 1 of a pre-Thanksgiving buffet for the homeless or just clearing out her refrigerator. I doubt we will ever get to the bottom of it.

Soul searching

Searching for scraps

Wendy* doesn’t leave something out there every day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to check, just to be sure. Policing Wendy* Way has become just one more part of my daily job, with an occasional prize for the effort.

Chloë Smells Smoke

Chloë's chair

Chloë’s chair

Heather and I had lots of fun together while Mike was away. She worked at home a lot, with me in my green camp chair next to her in the dining room all day long, guarding the door and trying to figure out when she was speaking to me and when she was just mumbling to herself about work.

One day Heather left early in the morning for an all-day meeting, and I stayed home by myself for a long time. But wouldn’t you know it, my official walker Jill came over to take me out for an hour mid-day, and my pal Charlie did the same when he got home from work. Quite a surprise to get a mid-week visit from Charlie, and I must have looked particularly forlorn, because even renowned “No Treats” Charlie gave me something when he left. And when Heather finally came home after dark, she felt guilty and gave me extra cheese before dinner, so I guess I managed to survive my day-long loneliness by having a day-long buffet.

Outside Heather's office.

Outside Heather’s office.

Heather and I only had to drive out to her office three times. I had to stay in the car because of the office park management’s no-dogs rule; sneaking me into the elevator in a large canvas bag was considered but rejected. It rained a lot while I was trapped inside the car,  but each time it happened we also took short walks on the office park’s trails and stopped at Carkeek Park on the way home. I got plenty of exercise, too, since I always do a lot more throwing and chasing with Heather than I do with the creaky ol’ southpaw, Mike.

Seattle Times photo of Fort Lawton fire.

Seattle Times photo of Fort Lawton fire.

Still, I got pretty excited when Mike came home, with much tackling and nose-biting to catch up on. And the excitement was just beginning. Just two days later, there was a big fire in one of the historic duplexes being renovated in the park, severely damaging a porch and roof. The first time Mike and I walked by the site, about five hours after 90 city firefighters answered the alarm, small flames were still shooting out.

There was immediate impact on my personal spot, Chloë’s Lane, a couple of hundred yards downwind. Smoke from the fire blanketed the area with the pleasant scent of a roaring hearth. By the next morning, however, overnight rain transformed the site into a sour, doused-campfire smolder that languished for days.

Ready for action

Ready for action

Personally, I hope this unfortunate fire slows the development and re-population of those large houses on the hill. I’ve noticed that since they have been vacant during the transfer and renovation process, the rabbit and squirrel population of the area has increased dramatically. When people and their pets start living in these houses again, the varmint population, and my access to it, will no doubt be greatly diminished. Who knows what territorial challenges lie ahead?