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Urban Legends of the Trail

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I hear tell a tale of two folks and a dog who done wandered off the paved trail one day and pert’ near disappeared. It was a mighty fine adventure that took ’em ’bout an hour, or possibly much, much longer, to find their way back to civilization.

Seems it all started when them folks and the pup got on the trail only to be  confronted by two unleashed dogs whose disinterested humans followed a goodly distance behind. Leashes, people! Leashes! What in tarnation is so difficult about leashes?! With a large barking labradoodle headed right at ’em, well, the easiest thing to do was head up the dirt trail before things got ugly. Couldn’t be far before that trail intersected with the pavement again; they’d seen other folks re-enter the main trail with their dogs lots of times.

So they wandered up the hill and within a few minutes were surprised at how far away from civilization they felt. The constant presence of street noise on the main trail disappeared. The trail went up and it went down — steeply. It switched back and forth repeatedly to get to the bottom of a ravine, then repeated the process to get back to high ground. And the trail slanted deeply sideways, putting one precariously close to a rapid, tumbling descent with every step. After the third or fourth ravine, well, only the pup was still running strong.Yes, the mini fjords of the Midwest can be taxing on human and, eventually, beast.

And the lady adventurer, well, not having planned on this excursion, quickly realized these were the wrong boots. Oh, they had plenty of much-needed tread, but they were heavy. And while the thin socks were warm enough, her feet slid inside the boots requiring extra effort for each step. She cursed not being more diligent about yoga for the flexibility needed for grabbing branches and taking high steps up, and the balance for taking sliding steps down. But she did become reacquainted with her glute muscles.

Figurin’ the rescue squad might find only their cell phones, she wanted to take more pictures. But her main goal was not going arse over tea kettle down the hillside.

Also with surprising quickness, the nearby rich kids academy (because rich kids don’t go to a school), and the parents’ fancy homes had disappeared from view; all the trio of accidental adventurers saw were trees and snow. And snow and trees. After cresting more than a half dozen hills, houses blessedly reappeared. But these weren’t the same houses visible from the paved trail. And the railroad tracks were nowhere to be seen. Where exactly they were was, and remains, a mystery.

At this point, the couple drew on the wisdom they had gained from many years of riding bike trails: The trail is just as long back to the car as it is going out — only you’ve got less energy. They turned around. Funny thing, though, it was a cloudy day so they didn’t really know which direction they were headed, and pretty much every snow-covered tree looks like the next so every direction looked the same. And there were a.lot. of trees. As well, they had made several choices at Ys along the way, which had to be properly re-chosen on the way back.

Why just look at this Google Earth pic – you can’t even see the dirt trails!

ashworth-park-google-maps

Now even the pup was showing some stress. She’d been wary of the narrow bridges crossing the fingerling creeks on the way out, and was even less inclined to cross them on the way back. And the snow was starting to turn to ice balls between the pads of her paws; her people not thinking she’d need Musher’s Secret on this excursion, left her paws bare. Problem is, that paw problem only gets worse over time and the party came to halt several times on the steep slopes to clean the pup’s paws.

‘Bout now, the fun aspect of this adventure was wearin’ pretty thin. But the car doesn’t get any closer by whining, so they trekked on. First the chimney of the academy appeared through the trees. And soon the Rock of Gibraltar came into view. OK, it was a rough tree stump that reminded the gentleman adventurer of the Rock of Gibraltar. Sorta.

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That was funny on the way out, but it was likely delirium talkin’ on the way back. Soon the car – with its heated seats – came into view. Rarely is a sight so devine. With only themselves as witnesses to these events, the couple and the pup headed home.

So how do I know this tale is true? Well, I listened to them retell it to each other with great animation as they stood in line at the donut shop. Seems the lady adventurer was sure she’d used up all her carbs on the adventure and felt it imperative to replenish. The gentleman adventurer indicated he was feeling the same deprivation.

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Nature Stinks

The trail we most often use for dog walking runs along a river. Several times a year sections are closed due to flooding, and frequently after a good rain we’re dodging puddles and commenting on which areas have gone boggy. Last year the mosquitoes were almost unbearable. I’m particularly appealing to the little buggers and the hubs would have to wave them off my back as we walked — even after applying a healthy (unhealthy??) coating of OFF!

mushroom

For all the dampness this year, the mosquitoes are thankfully few. Recently what’s almost unbearable is the smell. Not, mind you, at the height of heat and humidity. Rather now, when tempuratures are moderate but the humidity still hangs thick.

mushroom-2

Even the mushrooms keeled over in a day or two.

Rinse, Repeat

Rice Cooker 2

Every eight days, the rice cooker goes to work. The dogs do love their rice, or at least I think that’s what the snarfing sound means.

The instruction booklet says rinse. Meh. Is it worth it? Hmmm. The word brick comes to mind when working with the cooked rice. But a brick of rice that’s easy to cut.

Just this once, I’ll rinse. Still a little sticky, which I like (the pups have expressed no preference), but crumbles nicely. Yes, that is nice.

Okay, I’ll rinse every time.

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Well I Never!

A couple more food grades this week. First up: The rice cooker.

Rice Cooker

A slightly begrudging pass.

Countertop appliances must earn a place in my kitchen. Even pots and pans beyond the basic array are subject to extreme scrutiny. Space and funds are limited, cooking habits rule; behaviors of high frequency do not require new equipment; minor adaptations for one-offs are encouraged. Specialized items must top a pretty high bar.

The rice cooker wasn’t even under consideration. But the hubs saw a category review on America’s Test Kitchen and got it in his head. . . I listened, nodded, and waited. The interest did not pass or even fade. The arguments presented were reasonable. The dogs eat a lot of rice; we should/could eat more rice.

Yes, the dogs were the turning point. Dear Liza was a chubby puppy before she came to us. Her weight and exercise levels are now in the healthy range, but she maintains her exceptional food motivation. Adding rice to her dinner fills her up efficiently. Naturally Iko expects rice too; animals understand food equality. So every week we made two batches of rice in the microwave. Efficient but noisy and a little messy, and more time than I’d like to devote to the task. However overall much less muss and fuss than the stovetop method. The result was a steady diet of rice for the dogs but none for us; it rather lost its appeal.

The hubs extolled the virtues, ease, and low price of a rice cooker. For 30 bucks at Target, meh, give it a try. The ease of filler ‘er up (a week’s worth in one batch), push a button, and walk away was admittedly appealing.

We still haven’t made much rice for us. In time, perhaps. When not in use, it’s stored in the basement and presence is practically everything.

Oh, and the stars aligned on this right before the hubs marked another trip around the sun. Happy Birthday, dear! Shall I put a bow on it?

 

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Duck, Duck, Goose!

Real, real, fake!

Walking the pups along the trail, we occasionally see a pair of wood ducks fly by. The event is unpredictable, so no photo. But this fake goose awaits us every trip.

Goose 1

Look at the center of the pic.

Goose 2

And again. It’s an eye test. . .

Goose 3

There she is in all her fallen-branch glory! I call her Nessie.

Spring in Her Step

Our pup Iko is a tad over a year. The little black fuzzball next to her is the neighbor’s Shih Tzu pup Delilah, not quite half a year. The big difference in weight class, currently 44 lbs and about 6 lbs, doesn’t hinder the scrum.

Iko and Delilah 2

Both being young and fresh, and reasonably well mannered, play time is everything. Now that the sun is out and the temps are just right, play dates happen frequently. Delilah is fearless, as is the nature of a young pup. And Iko is relatively gentle most of the time, always backing off when told or when there’s even the slightest yipe. Then the roughhousing continues, frequently with Delilah picking up a stick to instigate the chase.

After an exuberant 10-15 minutes, the play goes into an ebb and flow for another 15-20 minutes. By then the pups have run out of energy and the people/referees have run out of  conversation.

Iko green feet

Everyone retreats indoors with a happy little memory that lingers for the rest of the day. Like the grass stains on Iko’s paws.

The Nail File – Entry II

Please meet Liza.
Liza full figure small
She’s a sweet, well-mannered, almost blind, now 9-1/2 year-old Shiloh Shepard we adopted two years ago.

At the time we didn’t know two things: She’s going blind and she has, in our veterinarian’s direct turn of phrase, s****y nails.

We’ve all adapted to the blindness for the most part.

But the nails. She’s at the animal hospital right now having yet another cauterization on a badly broken nail. At least I hope that’s where it stops. One bad infection last summer required surgery and a couple of weeks in a bandage.

Our ongoing quest is to find a way to make her nails strong enough to withstand a daily walk as part of a good dog life.

As I noted earlier, we’re trying soy milk. Coincidentally, today I read an article on a hand model’s regimen in the New York Times.

Imagine the veterinarian’s face when I ask about adding a sulfur supplement. Liza won’t mind another pill; her vitamins are first swiped in butter then wrapped in bread. And hopefully neither her nails or the budget will break for a bit longer.

 

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