Last week, before it turned 90 and ridiculously humid, I went hiking in the woods with Hazer. We hadn’t gone hiking in a long time and I was feeling pretty nostalgic, especially when we came to Hazer’s “up” rock. The “up” rock is a very large bolder that graces the side of this one particular trail. When Hazer was a youngster he learned to run ahead, jump up on this rock and wait for me to come along, praise him. and give him a treat. It was a game we always played. We’d approach the general vicinity of the rock and I’d say, “go find the up rock” and Hazer would run ahead, jump up on the rock and wait for me to come give him a treat. It was great fun and we’d play the up rock game both coming and going on that trail. Although the trail is littered with large boulders in several areas, this is the only rock Hazer has ever climbed.
We hadn’t hiked this trail in about 2 years and I’d kinda forgotten about the “up” rock. As usual, Hazer trotted along in front of me, veering off the trail from time to time when something piqued his interest. At some point Hazer jogged ahead out of view and when I came around a bend, there he was waiting patiently on his favorite rock. I was so amazed that he remembered! It really warmed my heart. Fortunately, I always carry a little pouch with treats and I gave him several as I praised him for remembering our game. I called him down and we continued on our way.
The trail crosses several small streams, but all have dwindled to barely a trickle in most places. Our final destination is a larger stream that, despite a recent dry spell still sports a pretty little water fall and a deep-ish “swimming hole.” Hazer’s never been much of a swimmer, but if opportunity presents he likes to wade in a stream. At this particular spot he’ll usually walk in until the water is about belly deep, then stand there to cool off and have a drink. There’s a nice crop of ledge that I can sit on while he putters around for a bit. This is our turnaround point, so there’s never any hurry to rush off. Many a deep conversation has been held there between Hazer and I and today was no different. We had a lot to discuss.
Hazer is getting old. Oddly, I’ve noticed him aging more so than Neena, who is the same age. He sleeps a lot more during the day and his movements aren’t as quick or as steady. More often than not I’ll come home from an errand and Hazer won’t run to greet me in the kitchen like I’m the second coming of Christ. When I put my things down and go looking for him he’s usually sacked out somewhere comfy, awake and well aware that I’ve returned, but not inclined to jump up and carry on like before. Sometimes he picks his head up off his pillow, other times he just glances in my direction before sighing and drifting off to sleep again. It makes me a little sad. He’s not always like that, but it’s not unusual either.
I’ve spent most of Hazer’s life wishing he’d shut up and behave more like a normal dog. He could be the poster dog for Autistic Dogs. To say he’s a difficult dog to live with is a gross understatement. Quirky, irritating, OCD and socially inept, he’s the kind of dog who’d have been better off being the only household pet. But he’s not, and so he takes it upon himself to make life hard for everyone. Back in early June Hazer jumped Gus and they had a nasty fight. Hazer doesn’t signal these things and even though I’ve always got one eye trained on him when Gus is around, his usual MO is to wait until he’s behind my back to make a move. There was no pre-warning growl. His posture didn’t change. He just launched. And for the first time ever, Gus didn’t ignore the challenge. Oh, there have been other instances when I’ve had to step between the boys to “break” Hazer’s locked-on, I-dare-you stare. But Gus has always let Hazer’s nonsense roll off his shoulders. You see, Hazer is an alpha-wannabe and I think most dogs get that his nonsense stems from his insecurity. But this time it was different and Hazer finally barked up the wrong tree one too many times.
I’ve lost count how many fights Hazer has started. It’s not a lot, but any fight is one fight too many. And every time it happens you’re horrified, even when the outcome isn’t all that bad. Why do dogs who live in the same house and seem to get along fine suddenly snap and want to kill each other? Something has to take place between them that humans can’t sense or see. Some invisible trash-talk, some insult or challenge must get hurled through space in a glance or a stare. Humans always can’t hear this “inaudible” dialogue and sometimes we can’t even see it, but it’s there. And it can get ugly fast.
I pulled Hazer off Gus, who was reluctant to let go of Hazer. Gus is a terrier and he’s got a strong gripping instinct. Tapping the super-human strength that adrenaline brings to these situations, I hurled Hazer across my kitchen and herded Gus into a corner of the foyer. He was injured, bleeding and threatening to bite me, but there was pain and fear in his eyes, not angst. I paused for a few seconds to give Gus a moment to calm down. It was not a good scene, but at this point I was just thankful that Neena hadn’t jumped into the fray and that for the moment, Hazer wasn’t the least bit interested in finishing the job he’d started. I got both ACDs into my office, closed the door and directed my attention to Gus, who was shaking his head, splattering his blood all over my kitchen cupboards and floor.
As far as ears go the damage was minimal. It could have been MUCH worse. It seems like the bigger the ears the more the target, and Gus has HUGE ears. He sustained a puncture wound about halfway up one ear and the very tip of that ear had what looked like a small divot in it. I couldn’t tell if the divot was just some fur missing or if the tissue was gone too, but it was clear Gus wasn’t going to let me touch it. At least not right away. I grabbed some sterile gauze which I dampened with cold water, then did my best to clean the blood away so I could decide if we needed to make a trip to the vet. Experience has taught me that ear wounds might bleed like heck, but they don’t always require vet attention. After about ten minutes or so the bleeding started to abate and I got a better look at the wound. I didn’t think there was much the vet could do besides clean him up and send him home with some antibiotics and pain meds. I’m not a big on treating every little wound with antibiotics, so I decided to keep an eye on it and pass on the vet unless things took a turn for the worse.
The bigger problem was figuring out what to do from that point on. Living in a small house with two dogs who don’t get along is a serious problem, one I’ve always said I’d loathe to do. Baby gates were dragged down from the attic and covered with polar fleece blankets to discourage any visual challenges. A new routine and protocol had to be instantly implemented to keep the boys from having any interaction. This meant having to think about who was where at all times and carefully planning for trips in or out. Gus now eats upstairs, the other two dogs eat downstairs. Being a reluctant strategist made me grouchy and made my brain hurt, not to mention that I was constantly living with pet strife.
Gus healed, both physically and emotionally. He also got neutered. Zip-zip, just like that, Gus went from a show dog to non show dog. I was seriously bummed, but the alternatives weren’t good. Hazer was neutered at 16 months because he was starting to pick fights with one of my older dogs and now I was neutering Gus because Hazer was targeting him. This so sucked. For about a week I felt like I was living in some endless version of pet hell. Since all my dogs want to be with me, one of them is always whining or yipping or acting out their misery in whatever room I’m not in. All the trainer’s I’ve ever known have told me that if you ignore their noise and nonsense they’ll eventually give up and quit. They’ve never met Hazer. He’s in the living room right now, where he’s been whining for several hours. Pet hell.
Slowly, we’ve started going outside together as a group. I keep the dogs busy playing ball and Frisbee for a bit and then everyone seems pretty content to mind their own business. I have 6+ acres so nobody needs to be right on top of one another. It still requires management, but it’s pretty doable and I’ll take any improvement I can get. Inside we’re still a work in progress. I’ve had the boys “mingle” a little because if I keep them apart for too long they’ll start to think something’s wrong if they’re suddenly together. Better to give them small, heavily supervised doses of togetherness and mix things up to keep them guessing. I want them focused on me, not each other when they’re in the same room. But they can’t be together unless I’m able to have my full attention on them. When the weather permits, I try to hike Hazer, then he and Neena do several hours in the outside pen. Gus hangs out with me. Some days I feel like my whole existence revolves around managing the dogs, but I have hopes that this situation won’t last forever and eventually we’ll return to a more normal routine. I’ll never trust Hazer around Gus, but as more time goes by without any further issues, the better it bodes for all. Although Gus seems to be letting go of any angst he had about the fight, I’m sure he doesn’t trust Hazer. Who would? Gus gives Hazer a pretty wide berth. For now, that’s the new order of things around here. We’ll see how it goes.
Anyone who has been reading my blog for the last year knows I went through a buttload of eye surgery and problems. I’m glad to report that a few permanent changes aside, the affected eye is doing good. Translated, that means it sees pretty well most of the time. Occasionally it hurts and I’ll get a day where it’s achy or feels like there’s a grain of sand in it. The rods and cones that make your eye adjust to different levels of light are significantly damaged. So, for example, when I come inside on a bright day it’s a bit like walking into a black wall. I’m trying to learn to give my eye time to adjust to changing light levels, but sometimes it catches me off guard and I get frustrated. Especially if I’m moving from room to room looking for something. But considering what I went through I’m relieved that I have any vision at all. I dodged a bullet there.
While trapped in the continuous loop of repeated eye surgery, I was forced to post-pone a couple of the preventive tests that the average woman will routinely endure to assure optimal health. Let me just say one thing now and get it off my chest: Men, you have NO idea. None. About any of it. And I’m pretty sure there isn’t a woman alive who, in the midst of a mammogram or PAP test isn’t thinking the same thing. I know women are supposed to get used to having their bodies poked, prodded and palpated by complete strangers, but really, who does? So guys, next time you break out into a cold sweat at the thought of a five second prostate exam just know that no woman alive feels you or cares. Get over it.
Last week, like any well-trained middle-age woman, I went for my slightly overdue mammogram. I’ve been going to the same imaging office since I started this yearly pilgrimage eight years ago. I went somewhere else the first time and was totally and thoroughly traumatized. I mean, who created this torture anyhow? The radiology tech was young, impatient and rough, and it took everything in my power not to kick her in the shins. I promised not to come back and didn’t. Instead, I found an office with a slightly older than middle-age tech. Having been though a mammogram or two herself, Cindy is compassionate, professional and very good at her job. I’ve been going there ever since.
Over the years a few things have changed. For one, x-ray images are now digital, which means they’re “processed” in the same room where they’re taken, and it takes a lot less time to know if you’re done and can be off on your merry way. What hasn’t changed is how the images are taken. The patient steps up to a machine with two small, square plates that close together like a vice. One by one each breast is then stretched out and placed on the lower plate as the tech moves the coordinating arm and shoulder either into or out of the way. The idea is to get not only a picture of the breast, but as much of the surrounding chest wall as possible. This is not an easy feat to achieve, but try they must. Yes, its a little weird to have to watch a stranger manipulate your private parts. It’s not like you can look away. I mean, it’s easier to accomplish the job if you cooperate and …. well, gee … they’re right there under your chin! Sheesh! When the tech finally has your body contorted into the right position she steps on a foot petal that lowers the top plate toward the lower plate and literally flattens your breast between the two plates like a pancake. Yes, it fucking hurts. And if that’s not enough indignity for you to endure, she then has to take a second view from a different angle. This time you turn sideways and step toward the machine so it can squeeze your breast from side to side instead of from top to bottom. Good times, not. Then you get to repeat the whole procedure for the other breast.
The other thing that hasn’t changed is that the tech can’t tell you anything about the x-ray. Now I’m not idiot; I worked in dentistry long enough to know that the person developing the x-ray can probably read it just about as well as the radiologist. Especially someone like Cindy, who’s been taking mammograms since the beginning of time. But her opinion isn’t worth diddly squat and by law, she’s not allowed to share it. But, that doesn’t mean every woman won’t ask. I did. I always do. And she kindly and compassionately deflects. It’s a game every woman probably plays to break the tension. Otherwise it feels a little too much like going to see a palm reader who pours over your hand, then smiles and says, “Thank you very much” and dismisses you without ever telling you what she saw. So we make small talk and babble about the hot weather while I try pretend the whole procedure is really quite routine. Actually, it’s not. There’s nothing routine about getting your breasts manhandled and smashed, then not knowing the results for a week or more. However, once the test is done and I’ve left the office I’ve never worried about the results. I don’t have any real reason to be concerned and I’m usually just so glad to have it over that I tend to put the whole experience behind me for another year. I’ve always gotten a letter in the mail about a week later telling me everything is hunky-dory and they’ll send a reminder to schedule an appointment in a year. It’s kind of like going to the dentist only it’s booby recall.
So now I’ve crossed one thing off my “to do” list and in two weeks when I go to see my doctor for my semi-annual PAP test (another wildly enjoyable event) I can say I had my mammogram done. Dr. C will be so pleased. And I was pleased too, until yesterday when I came inside from riding and found a message on my answering machine. It was the message no woman ever wants to get: the hospital asking me to call and speak to Lesley in radiology. Shit. Your mind just kind of wigs out. You have to call, but you don’t want to call. Finally the suspense is killing me so I dialed back and asked for Lesley, who, after the initial pleasantries says I need to come to the hospital to have “more views” taken. “Why?” I ask. Lesley can’t say. “Right” I think, “you’re scaring the crap out of me, but you can’t say why.” Makes no sense whatsoever. Leslie patiently went on to explain that this is not uncommon and it happens a lot. “What … so this is some kind of breast lottery and my number just got picked?” There’s a small pause in the conversation while Leslie thinks about that. “No” she says finally. “Sometimes the breasts are dense (as in stupid?) or sometimes the radiologist wants a different view.” (Ding! Ding! Ding! Red flag alert! I’m not fooled! How many different ways can you squeeze a breast? I’m guessing that means they think they see something and they want to clarify! ) Leslie didn’t know what my specific case was, but those were the two reasons she gave to help alleviate my fears. (Not!) I scheduled an appointment. They could see me the very next day and oh, by the way, the radiologist will read the films right then and there so I’ll know what’s going on before I leave. Nice touch.
I really don’t have any reason to be worried. Thing is, I’m sure plenty of women thought the same thing and were wrong. But worry never made anything better, so I’ll put on my big girl panties and get myself over to the hospital today to have my boobs assaulted. Again. After all, how much fun can a girl stand?
New year, new beginnings. Lots of stuff going on here right now. My father-in-law has been in the hospital since early Nov. That’s wearing everyone down. No idea if or when he’ll be moved to a nursing home or if he’ll recover enough to come home. Lots of stress and anxiety for the family around that. We’ve had his elderly sister, niece and grand-nephew visiting from Croatia. I’ve yet to see his sister but word has it she’s got some sort of nasty upper respiratory bug. Being here on a visa means no insurance and one more thing for Mom to worry about. Mom’s acute sciatica has run it’s course with the doctor-ordered physical therapy …. to no avail. Basically, they just put off doing what I’m sure they knew needed to be done and let her suffer for two months while trying to cope with her husband’s health problems. I’ve tried encouraging her to push for an MRI so they can move to the next step, which will probably be an epidural injection. She can’t stand or walk, so something needs to be done. Yes, getting her to and from the hospital (daily) has been a tall task.
The animals have all been great … thank goodness for small favors! Gus is fully into his “terrible tweens” and is a chewing machine. (Minor destruction of small abstract objects included) I was contemplating getting him into another basic obedience class … mostly for the benefit of proofing some of his training, but I’m not sure if I can juggle it with my schedule right now. The class I’m thinking about starts tonight, so I’d better decide soon!
I’m starting a new nutrition program with my long-range goals set on getting certified to coach the program somewhere down the line. I’ve been lifting weights and staying fit for 33 years, but like anything else you do long-term, my goals have changed and my routine has grown stale. I’ve been thinking about doing this program for a good four or five years and I’ve finally decided this is the year to take the steps in that direction. I’m doing the course as a participant first, because it’s my opinion that’s the best way to learn it … from the inside out! With my own training and nutritional program needing some tweaks and new enthusiasm, this should be a lot of fun. Besides, I don’t feel I can authentically help others unless I’ve walked the walk myself. So wish me luck … I hope to be in even better shape in just a few months!
Unless the weather takes a sudden turn in the right direction I don’t expect I’ll be posting as many photos. Certainly not landscapes. It’s been several weeks since we’ve had a photo-worthy sunrise and I’m not going to get out there at the crack of cold dawn unless I really think the payoff is going to be good. Of course that can change tomorrow, but be forewarned that a few days might go by with no new posts.
Another day of sleet and rain. How many does that make in the last two months? No photo ops today! In fact, none in weeks. Depressing. I feel like crawling into a cave and hibernating until spring.
May the spirit of Christmas be with you today and through the new year!
I was out doing barn chores this morning when my nose was suddenly assaulted by the strong pungent smell of fabric softener. That’s right, fabric softener. How on earth a fake floral scent can waft through the air and completely override the earthy smell of horse poop, hay and damp horseflesh is beyond me. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Like clockwork, every two or three mornings my neighbor does her laundry, and I guess her washing machine doesn’t work very well because she thinks she needs to coat her clothing and a half-mile radius of the neighborhood with a “flower on steroids” chemical stink.
I simply don’t understand this mindset, but it appears clever marketing has won the war to convince the general pubic that we wreak. We’ve been brainwashed to think our house stinks, our clean clothes stink and even our clean bodies stink. I mean, why else would we feel the need to spritz ourselves with perfume after slathering ourselves with heavily scented body wash, throw perfectly clean clothes into a dryer with sheets that are chemically loaded with phony perfumes and “clean” our houses with chemicals that tout hyper-powerful scents ?
I think this is going to become what the war on invasive smoke was to the last two decades. Sure, you have every right to smell like a floral polecat in the privacy of your own home, but when your fake chemical stink starts to seep into my open windows and linger over my back yard and barnyard then it’s not just YOUR problem anymore. These products are known to make people and animals sick. They’re made to adhere to our skin and clothing and penetrate the surface of inanimate objects, where they can linger for days. Don’t people see the connection between chronic illness and the crap we’re breathing and cleaning and bathing with day in and day out? Enough already! Please, folks. Spend a few pennies more and buy unscented, chemical-free dryer sheets or vent your dryers into your own damn basement … I’m sick and tired of the chemical assault every wash day.
Fall to winter, day to night, mild to cold. Last night change rolled in on a magenta sunset. As we finished up a nice trail ride the sky started to form what l though might shape up into a nice sunset. I grabbed Gus and hit the road with my camera and gear, thinking that if I got lucky I might find a nice shot lurking not too far from home. I thought I had at least a good forty minutes to get someplace and set up before the sky started to really put on a show, but much to my dismay a front decided to come in riding low, dark clouds. Not quite ready to accept defeat, I kept searching. My local region doesn’t have the long, wide vistas one needs to catch the sun slipping over the horizon. Instead, we have nooks and crannies and deep valleys that hide the setting sun, and offer only a hint of a spectacular scene …. someplace else.
They say you should always wait until the final curtain goes down, so with darkness moving in I quickly searched for a sweet spot that might offer one last glimpse of what should have been a gorgeous sunset, but was fast turning into vivid ribbon of color against a dark sky. In a last-ditch effort I pulled off the main road onto a seldom-traveled side road that runs parallel to a big swampy area. I’d driven this road months before, hoping to find better access to shoot the swamp, but I never found the right vantage point. I kept one eye on the winding road and glanced at the setting sun every few seconds. I knew I didn’t have a minute to waste: I either needed to find a magic opening in the trees right now, or turn around and go home. I slowed the car as I drove into a sharp bend and suddenly, there it was, the picturesque view I wanted! The spot wasn’t anything special and in fact, I’d have to do a bit of creative maneuvering to work around some junk in the foreground, but if I could manage to do that then it just might work. In the five minutes that it took for the sun to slip below the treeline I shot a handful of pictures, then blowing on chilly fingers I packed up my gear and headed home. Not too shabby for ten minutes work!
The rain finally wound down to a light drizzle so I grabbed the red dog and my camera and set out to shoot some of the local streams that are flowing. We’ve had an unusually snowy winter and a lot of rain the last two weeks so the rivers and streams are running fast. The footing is still pretty precarious and getting these pictures was a bit risky, but worth the effort. (I had to climb down the slick, steep bank on the right) I hope to have lots of opportunity to shoot some of our nearby rapids and falls … spring is just starting!
March 11, 2011 12:56 PM EST
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 1oo, 24mm, 1/5 sec, f/18
Lens: EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Lightroom: Contrast adj
The piles of snow have melted and compacted some, but they’re still as hard as rocks. The landscape twinkles and sparkles in the sunlight, but my back yard and lower pasture could be converted into a bobsled course with very little effort.
Feb 3, 2011. 8:12 AM EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 100, 18mm, 1/320 sec, f/6.3
Lens: EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Lightroom 3: Brightness/contrast adj.
It’s amazing what a difference a day makes. It’s hard to tell by this picture, but it was very cold on this bright morning … just slightly above zero. We’re in for another winter storm so this landscape may look a little different in a day or two. We’ve certainly had a lot of snow this winter and while I’m a bit weary from all the work, I really do like the snow. I have to wonder what spring will be like, though. All this white stuff will have to melt and go somewhere … like, into my basement!
Jan 31, 2011 8:21 AM EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 100, 18mm, 1/50 sec, f/16.
PS5: HDR toning