Monday, July 18, 2016

The Baleful Back: Glad and Sad and all that

SUMMARY: My back was SO SO bad in mid-2014 to late 2015. Now it's not SO SO bad.

The excruciating pain that I experienced back then, for well over a year, is still much on my mind almost every day. And some of that is in a good way, as in remembering how bad it was and how glad I am that it's not nearly that bad, because it was really bad:

  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning, as in, moving my body parts very, very slowly and very, very carefully and praying, although I'm not a praying woman, that I wouldn't move just so or turn just so or bend just so to put myself into screaming pain. As in, screaming. In some ways, it was a blessing if it happened while I was still lying down, because then at least I could probably roll into a position where the pain would abate enough that I could catch my breath and go back to careful, gentle stretches.
  • If I were standing up and moving around and DID do the wrong movement, and suddenly I'd learn all over again what a pain level of 8-10 really is like--it hurt so badly that I'd be screaming, and I knew that if I could only lie down on one side, it would abate, and yet the process of MOVING from standing to the floor was so excruciating that it nearly made me faint as I struggled to get to the floor without getting to that level of pain, but even then finally lying on the floor sobbing.
  • Looking at the doggie door that fits into my sliding glass door and that I take out every night and put in every morning and have for nearly 30 years without thinking about it. And knowing that trying to lift it into position would hurt so very, very badly that I didn't want to do it, almost preferred leaving the door open all day. Sometimes did. Thank goodness sometimes someone was around to do it for me.
  • Showering: Could not shower standing up, it hurt so much. Fortunately, there's a built-in seat in my shower.  Still, hurt very badly just trying to clean all of me.  Couldn't stand up to dry myself off. Lifting the towel to wrap around my hair was a danger zone as well.
  • Don't even think about getting dressed. Can't bend to get at my feet because of the pain. Can't lift my leg so I can get at my feet because of the pain. How to pull on pants? Let alone shoes or socks?
  • Going to the movies--once I was in the seat, I could mostly relax and have less pain. Getting to the seat was the hard part. For a while, a friend doing with me would pick me up and drive me there and drop me off right in front of the theater, because me driving my car and trying to walk in from the parking lot--even from the handicapped spot, once I got my tag--hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt.  Some theaters have more walking to the entrance and/or to the theater than others.  Trying not to cry as I hobbled another 20-30 feet before needing desperately some way to take the weight off my back & legs--leaning on something might help a wee bit, but a bench would be much better. Could take me 15 minutes to walk a few dozen yards.

Just a few of the special joys of my life for so many months.

Slowly, physical therapy tricks and tips and classes and pain meds started to help and, finally, when I *could* get myself around again, walking more and more helped instead of wiping me out.

So, in the morning now when I carefully tighen my core muscles, align my shoulders and back and knees and legs to raise the dog door into place and it hurts only a little, I often think about what a miracle is that I can do this for myself.

When I can walk blithely in from anywhere in the parking lot to the movie theater and not have to slow down or stop to stretch or let the pain ease, wow, I walk past places where I'd stpped in misery and think, wow, hard to believe how bad it was. But at least it's nowhere near that bad now.

Still, trying to do foundation obedience & pre-agility baby class with Zorro on Saturdays is aggravating things much more than I had hoped it would. After this most recent Saturday morning, I was hobbling again yesterday and the nerves down the backs and sides of my thighs are just letting me know calmly that they would like me to not do that.

BUT--back after I got Chip and I tried the class with Chip, I couldn't do it at all, it hurt so much, and I dropped out after maybe only 2 classes. And, so, it's not as bad as back then. And I'm glad.

I can shower normally and dry myself off normally.  Well, bending forward to dry my hair is still a risk if I don't do it carefully, but mostly everything's pretty good.

I haven't had screaming or even merely crying pain in months. This is very good.

Still, trying to work full time is right out. I'm managing half time more or less, but I'm often so sore when I get home after 4 hours that all I want to do is ice my back and thighs and lounge on the couch.  (And a lot of computer work is out even then, as working on a laptop like that is hard on my neck and shoulders, even with this wonderful laptop-holding-arm that my company provided for me. Oh, and, right, did I mention very recently discovering that somewhere along the line I completely tore out 2 of the 4 rotator cuff tendons in one shoulder and there's no surgical help for it and it hurts. So that makes it even harder.)

Things that don't bother me so much:
  • Most movie theater seats. I think it's because there's ample support all the way up to my head, plus I can hold up my weight on my arms to take the pressure off the back and thighs so much.  Hard on my arms and shoulders after a while, and I can't just sit there comfortably, lots of shifting around. But can do it without nearly as much trouble as sitting at a desk, even with a good chair and studiedly good posture and getting up every 25 minutes to a timer to walk around for 3-5 minutes.
  • Driving my car. Again, support all the way up? And I think having the steering wheel to grab and/or push on with my hands/arms, and the floor that I can push forward on with my feet, helps keep the pressure lighter than I can ever hope for while computering.
  • Lounging on the couch, as long as I'm not too much lying down and not too much sitting up. I can use the mouse a lot lot lot without bother, which is good for some photo editing and clicking Like on Facebook. I think that's why I often default to FB--I'm on the couch, I'm clicking Like, nothing much hurts. Sigh.
  • Lying in bed.  This is best. But I can't do that all day or things start to get worse again.
  • Walking around. Most of the time. This is much better than either sitting or standing still. On many days, even standing while the elevator comes to my floor is painful. So I just pace back and forth, back and forth.  Standing in the hall and chatting?  moving from foot to foot to foot and back and forth and back and forth---  I say that nowadays walking makes me feel better and better, until I pass some limit on my back's tolerance and it quickly deteriorates to much worse.
Still, what I wanted to say was that how much better it is than it was, and that's why I've been able to avoid having the scary spine surgery that I was sure I'd have to have, back then.

Well, had more I wanted to say, but my shoulders and neck are already killing me.  And my nice comfy bed awaits.

Wishing you all good health from youth through old old old old old old age. 120 or so.  G'night.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Our Old House with Memories and Photoshopping

SUMMARY: In Poughkeepsie

Actually, in my world view, we've had more than one "old" house--meaning "previous".

Got to thinking about Poughkeepsie, NY, where we lived once upon a time. And so went browsing on Google Earth to see what it looks like now. Lot of changes in the area--the "Crown Heights Playground" down the street from us now is full of a clubhouse, parking lot, and two big baseball diamonds. Shame--I have fond memories of playing there.

But wait: Back up to when we lived there. This was maybe a year after we moved in. The house had been freshly built in a freshly cleared old orchard (along with the rest of the neighborhood. Dad added the rail fence in front, probably to keep the 5 of us from running into the street, and the flagpole (not sure why; our previous house and next house didn't have one), and I think my mom added the stones around the base for a flower garden. And our good old Chevy Carry-All, which was the first car I remember, and which didn't survive to leave Poughkeepsie with us, after 2 trips across the continent and many side trips.

Wellll... let's say that that's the photo as I scanned it in originally. Clearly the color is off, and I recall the yellow of the house being more--uh--yellow. So it's time to play with Photoshop [Elements]!

First stab: Not bad, but now it looks washed out to me. And now maybe erring on the blue side. (But I did crop out the over-scanned edge).

And another variant! Eh, too yellow!  -- note the yellow tint in the flag. And the shutters were white.

Try again... Yellow is looking pretty good but maybe the whole thing is still too yellow--

...and again... back to the blue side and the yellow fades out... Eh, I dunno, either of these last 2 are probably good even though they're quite different.

Well. OK, then, about the best I'm going to do with an hour's work without turning it into multiple hours of work.  That's the thing about photos: Is the way they come out of the camera "real"?  Not likely--oh, particularly when the photo is printed by someone who is not you. And then left in an album for many years. And then scanned....


OH! Some cool details!  The baby carriage with the red-plaid plastic basket that could detach from the carriage frame and just sit on a surface or the floor! I'm sure these things wouldn't be considered safe any more.   AND the lumberjack wind vane! When the wind blew, the pinwheel on the front (left) spun and the man pulled his saw back and forth.

Then here's another photo that probably my grandparents took, when we put the house up for sale.  The Chevy is gone and now it's a Ford truck with our huge-old cab-over camper. This gave us a lot of miles, too, back across the continent  and many other trips.

Somewhere in there, dad painted the shutters blue and I think the house a brighter yellow. Developers never *did* get his houses bright enough for him. Heh.

Oh. But the photo is too too dark. Back into PhEl...  Ahhhhh, better, although the dark parts have lost too much data; they'll never be excellent.  Ha--that's Ann on the front stoop!  I don't know why I know it from just this photo; has to be a memory of clothing and hairstyle.

And here's me in the doorway. I'm pretty sure there are photos somewhere of me with the same shirt and shorts. These house colors are likely the most accurate, as the whole photo was taken in shade rather than parts in sunshine. (I still had to brighten it, though.)

The front stoop! We kids hung out there a lot. And it was a good place for photos, especially with mom's marigolds.  (Me again. And Susan.)

Oooh, nifty detail: The milkbox, insulated, where we'd leave our list of eggs & dairy things that we needed, and the milkman would provide them.

Anyhow. Again.

Back to the present (well, 2012) and Google Earth's image-- The house--big changes! Colors, of course; siding and maybe the shutters are different. Windowbox is gone on the living room window. But particularly interesting: It's now a 2-car garage with a 3-car-wide driveway! And there's a huge add-on of some sort behind the garage.

 (Naturally, the flower garden and flagpole are long gone. The front door and stoop and walk are fancier.)

Somewhere I have a photo or two of the place in between then and now. Not sure where. Maybe still in a print only.  Someday I'll dig that out, too.

That's all!

Monday, July 04, 2016

It was the third of July and we survived

SUMMARY: Long, long day at agility trial, and a noisy night.

Friday morning I had awoken feeling beaten down beyond any rationale, head swollen (like, eyes being forced from skull), and thoroughly enheadached. Eventually crawled into work anyway, and it wasn't until I was there that I put 2+2 together: That unreasonable exhaustion and the eyes being forced from their sockets feeling has been a precursor to a migraine. So I went home again and rested a lot. Apparently I was already *in* the migraine by then, because only some of the fatigue and headness lasted into Saturday.

Saturday I went to see The BFG with a friend, did a few things quietly around the house, and packed up for an agility trial! It has been a while since I've taken dogs to anything like this, although I have worked at a few competitions over the last several months. Of course we weren't competing since these Boys know nuthin' about no agility, but I signed up to work full time. Decided to take them with me to give them a chance to be around the hubbub and dogs and people of such events, and also to keep Chip with me for the evening when I expected there to be noise but I'd still be down in Prunedale.  Which meant ensuring that I packed everything I'd need for me and them, and I haven't done that in so long!

Then I tried to sleep with all the fireworks and poppers and bangs going off until the wee-est of wee hours of the morning (has been bad for a least a couple of weeks, worse that night after we got home).  I tried mitigating the shocks and jabs of noise by keeping windows closed (even on a hot night) and running a loud fan in one window.  It helped, but poor Chip-- and poor me, some of them thar things loud enough to wake the dead. And I don't mean Jerry Garcia.  ...Oh, wait, I guess I do mean him.

As a result, when my radio alarm went off, it barely registered as being not a dream, and when I finally opened my eyes, discovered it had been playing for half an hour! So much for a head start.

BUT I got stretched out and dressed and dogs pottied and still arrived at Prunedale in time to walk the dogs for additional potty-work before going to work.

I scribed all day, which gave me a chance to see familiar people and their new dogs, and unfamiliar people and their unfamiliar dogs. And in between, I got the dogs out for exercise and experience and practice paying attention to me and doing tricks (including sits and downs); Zorro was surprisingly excellent and Chip surprisingly not. The rest of the time, they rested in MUTT MVR off to one side of the field.

(You like how I've left on some of Tika's and Boost's last ribbons to make us look like official agility beasts? But, oops, I still haven't replaced their emergency info with the new dogs'.)

And I wandered around snapping candids or semicandids or not candids at all. For some reason, people knew when I was "sneaking" around taking photos (click-click-click).

The sky remained overcast all day, although bright at times. And refreshingly cool after the heat of San Jose recently.  OK, cold.

And in the evening, we had our Bay Team club meeting, complete with occasional puppies and, yay, pizza. It was still cold and getting colder. (You can tell because Dustin, although still in short sleeves, conceded to the chill and donned long pants.)

(Below, Lonny fetching himself more pizza and all of us keeping warm and pondering equipment purchases.)

Headed for home around 8:30 (and it was still light then! Love summer!), home maybe 9:30, went to bed.

So, last night, it was again hot here in San Jose, and "we" again ran a noisy fan, but I slept well despite the trouble staying in sleep because of the firestorm in my neighborhood (It's only the 3rd, people, AND it's illegal in this county! (Chip ran away on the 3rd 2 years ago)), but catnapped until Luke--excuse me, Zorro-- woke me with desperation to go out at 1:30. I let him out briefly (Chip would have nothing to do with going out there with the noise), and then I went right back to sleep until...yep, Zorro...woke me around 7:30 desperate to go out, so I staggered downstairs, put the doggie door in, and went back to bed and right to sleep.  The miracle is that (a) the dogs then let me sleep until 10...—unheard of! likely due to their level of stress (good or bad) over 14 hours of travel and being at the agility thing— …when my sister called.

(She said, oh, so you're the second sister I've woken up this morning?  Then I officially named her Linda Sisterwaker.)

Then I catnapped for another 2 hours. And  (b) the dogs left me alone and dozed with me. Amazing. 

If you've followed all that, you're doing better than I am.  

Not looking forward to tonight's insane night of noise and flash-bangs and all that. Sigh. But we'll survive again, with noisy fan and probably leaving the radio on until the wee-wee-hours again, and then glorious sleep. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Shock to the System

SUMMARY: Boost's Special Toy and cancer and life changes and all that.

In yard news, I took a photo a little while ago of the stack of PVC pipes and (hidden underneath) firewood, none of which I've touched in years. My intention was to post all of it on Freecycle to get it out of the yard.  (Not the extra teeter totter board or agility chute, of course.)

Just discovered that "a little while ago" was June 19 -- of 2015.  So I finally listed them on Freecycle two days ago. Whew!  Yup, I have just enough stuff in my yard that things like that can be out of sight and out of mind for "a little while" indeed.

Like, way back in November of 2013, when Boost's Special Toy vanished.

A side story: I've sometimes wondered whether Boost didn't die of a slowly broken heart. It's this weird idea that infiltrated my brain a couple of years back, and it started with that vanishment.

See, when Boost came on board here, this little blue plush bone with a squeaker in the middle was already here, something that Jake had liked that had been left behind when a much earlier renter and her dog left town.  For some reason that I don't know, that only Boost could ever know, this was her play-by-herself toy. From when she was a pup, she'd hold that bone in her mouth, right in the middle, and squeak squeak squeak while running full speed through tunnel after tunnel, around and around the yard with the joy of speed and freedom and the wind in her hair.

I knew that the toy would give out eventually, so I started keeping an eye out for replacements of the same size, shape, and material.  I sometimes got close, but it was never the same as the Special Toy, and for some reason she needed that toy in her mouth, mouthing and squeaking, to fly, fly, fly.

I replaced its squeaker two or three times and sewed it back up where the seams were coming loose, but the seam on that one side eventually became raggety enough that sewing it back up wasn't practical.  The squeaker stopped squeaking, and the end of the squeaker stuck out through the fabric, but it still made a soft plastic clicking sound as she mouthed it, and so that's what she did, running full tilt around the tunnels on her own out in the yard with joyful abandon.

That darn toy periodically vanished. I'd sometimes look for it and not find it. But then, a few days later, or a week or two later, there she'd be, racing around the yard with it in her mouth, the thrrrrump thrrrrump of her full-speed dash through the tunnels easily heard from inside, where ever I was.

Sometimes I'd happen to see when she found it again, wherever it had gone; with the delight of a long-lost friend, she'd perk up and pounce on it and, again, tail flying behind, run, run, run.

One day, in November of 2013, as I walked back from dumping kitchen scraps into my compost bin, I noticed it sitting on the walkway in the yard. I walked past it because I had stuff in my hands.  Usually if I notice a plush toy in the yard, I immediately take it inside to prevent it from becoming wet or muddy. But, this time, I walked by it, and I remember it because it felt odd to just leave it out there.

Something like this. (A recreation; back then, before the big drought, there were plants and pots and groundcover and ponds and lawns and jumps and tunnels everywhere).

The next day, I went looking for it and didn't find it. As days and then weeks went by and Boost didn't reappear with it, I started hunting for it more and more, crawling under shrubs, lifting and moving things everywhere. Never found it.  It struck me that some squirrel, finding such a lovely soft plush thing, might have carried it off to its tangle of a nest in some tree somewhere and I'd never see it again.

And after that, I also don't remember ever seeing Boost running through the tunnels on her own again. I felt terrible. It was as if I were personally responsible for the loss of her faithful tunnel-running friend.

That was the beginning.

Three months later, that February, I kicked out the renter who had been living here since before Boost was born.  Not that they were super close, but almost every day he went out in the yard with her when he got home from work and kicked her Jolly Ball until she was ready for a rest. So, for 9 years. And suddenly he was gone.

That was also when my spine started decaying in a major way and I had trouble doing training and walking and hiking and agilitying, and all of those activities became fewer and fewer and fewer, until that summer I was on full disability because I could barely move from room to room without excruciating pain.  And, of course, she being a working border collie, I could see how much she missed it.

All of Boost's life, she and Tika had played together on my bed at least once a day while I dressed in the morning or showered, until maybe about this same timeframe, as Tika's heart became worse and worse and she didn't have the energy for it.

In place of the previous renter, a new woman and her two small dogs moved in.  Boost seemed to really enjoy those little dogs and played with them whenever she had a chance (not often, maybe once a week or so).  Then, after only a short time, the woman and her dogs moved on, as well.

Chip moved in, but he was a wild and crazy thing, and although Boost liked to play with him, it wasn't NEARLy as much as he wanted her to play, so he pestered her and pestered her.  Of course, at the time I didn't know that there was likely already cancer growing within her.

The day that Chip escaped, July 3 of that year, was the first time in several years that I started having Yard Guys come in to do the mow-and-blow treatment every week.  So much debris had accrued while my back had been failing that I was afraid that maybe her little blue bone toy had become tangled in a pile of detritus somewhere, and I specifically showed the guy a picture and begged him to keep a look out for the toy as they commenced a huge cleanup.  (Not only did that not show up, but my FitBit vanished in the yard that day, too, never to be seen again.)

And then Tika died.

So, as Boost's energy level had flagged more and more, I blamed it part on aging and part on mourning all of these important parts of her life that had vanished and that she, as a dog, couldn't fully understand.

And then we discovered her cancer. And then, a year ago this past April, six weeks after Tika, Boost died.

The other day, there was a discussion on Nextdoor about rats in the neighborhood.  They've always been here, they'll always be here.  But that's what reminded me to go look for that photo of the PVC pipes and firewood in the side yard and to take action; would be nice to have one fewer places for rodents to hang out, even though Zorro loves to hunt them.

Tuesday evening, a woman responded to my Freecycle ad saying that she's a teacher and she has some great ideas for projects for all those PVC pipes from my yard and they also go camping in the summer and would love to have the firewood, too.

So, first thing yesterday morning, I hauled all the pipes, a few at a time, out through the side gate to the front lawn. And then I loaded the firewood, a few pieces at a time, into a cart, dumped that out onto the lawn on top of the pipes, over and over again until there were only a couple of small pieces of wood that had fallen between the slats of my firewood support frame.

I knelt, disentangled the wood from the piles of leaves and twigs and soil, pulled them out.

And then I sat there and cried.


SUMMARY: Learned some stuff.

After seeing Change is Hard's photo of a squirrel (likely Eastern Gray) and reading the comments, I did a little reading of my own.  Particularly because, as the roommate of many dogs who have taken a great interest in squirrels that run across the dog's personal fences, I want to know more!

We have quite a few black color variants on gray squirrels here. They seem to appear in waves; some years I see lots, other years, none.  I don't seem to have any photos of the black ones, so here's a gratuitous Gray on a random palm tree.

Interesting that the Wikipedia post on Eastern Gray Squirrels mentions the variants: --
"Particularly in urban situations where the risk of predation is reduced, both white – and black-colored individuals are quite often found. The melanistic form, which is almost entirely black, is predominant in certain populations and in certain geographic areas, such as in large parts of southeastern Canada. Genetic variations within these include individuals with black tails and black-colored squirrels with white tails. (See Tree squirrel for more information on these color variations.)"
But the post on our Western Gray Squirrels doesn't mention the variants.

So I searched farther afield, and, wow, ok, I didn't know any of this:
"Three species of tree squirrels live in the Bay Area: the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis), the Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus Niger), and the Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Griseus). Of these three, only the Western Gray Squirrel is a California native, and its status is of concern to naturalists." 
So, likely, the blacks that we see here could be invasive Eastern Grays!

The things I learn in the blogosphere.  (And makes me feel even worse each time Luke--er, Zorro--brings another squirrel in. I don't know whether I'd know the difference between species, though, and if, as the article says, the Westerns avoid people more, then maybe we're OK. Sort of.)

Soooooo moving along to other topics. Tomorrow: A sweet heartbreaker for Boost.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Luke Becomes Zorro

SUMMARY: Finally picked a name.

Because I and everyone else have trouble applying "Chip" and "Luke" to the correct dogs, I've blamed it on the fact that they are both short 4-letter guy's names (as in people-guys).  Although Luke is an awesome dog name, I decided to change him up in respect for Chip's previous family, who still occasionally see him--plus I've had 2 years to accustom myself to Chip and he's had 5 years, whereas both Luke and I have had a mere 1 year.  Soooo...

I've been talking about changing it for months.  Asked for suggestions on FB and got a lot of good ones (I'll post them here later).  Tried out a few.

Then, one morning a couple of weeks ago, as I roamed around the house, I was singing (as I often do). This is the song that came into my head, don't know why:
Out of the night,
When the full moon is bright,
Comes the horseman known as Zorro.
This bold renegadeCarves a "Z" with his blade,A "Z" that stands for Zorro.Zorro, Zorro, the fox so cunning and free,
Zorro, Zorro, who makes the sign of the Z.**

And, as I was singing, I once again noticed the door scratches that I have attributed to him, and it suddenly hit me!
Comes the canine known as Zorro...
So, introducing.... Zorro!

Like a shadow, he marked the door and vanished again into the darkness. Well, it's not quite a Z, but he's a superhero, not a writer.

** From one of my most favorite TV shows; here's the music (and a sample show, if you want to see something kind of hokey but at the time I loved it): Zorro theme song and show

Monday, June 20, 2016

Curves (WordPress Photo Challenge)

SUMMARY: Just a photo, just a cloud

I hardly ever do this. But there's a Wordpress Photo Challenge regularly, and a blogging friend participates regularly, and I love seeing her photos.

Just happened to have taken one this weekend that meets the Curve challenge.

Stopped at a garden-supply yard on our way back from Monterey, and my sister pointed out this delightful cloud front across the sky. So, of course, me see, me photo.

Here's the challenge, with photos that others have posted.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Visiting an Old Friend

SUMMARY: I haven't been to this park in a long time.

I used to come to this park fairly often with Boost and Tika. The huge lawn area was perfect for frisbee, and then the trees along the sides were perfect for Tika to go exploring when she tired of the frisbee game. We'd walk all the way around the lawn, then up the hill for the view across southeast San Jose and out to the Mt. Hamilton observatory, then down the other side of the hill, then back up and down again.

The last time I was here, I had just gotten Chip, and Boost and Tika were along. So about 2 years.

I had no good reason to go here with these dogs; can't have either off leash yet. Maybe someday. If I pay more attention to training. I'd been dreading going here, because of the memories. And, oh, boy, it was hard-hitting indeed. I wanted to go here to start building new memories, but for now the old ones hold powerful sway on my heart. Kept wiping tears from my eyes.

There were changes.

All the times I had ever been here, for 12 years of Tika's life, the trails up and down the hill were wide dirt like fire breaks. I had never seen them overgrown to a narrow track like this.  And the huge rock to the left had always looked like a huge rock--yesterday you couldn't even see it for the tall weeds.

But the dogs seemed to enjoy it, tentatively--we hardly go anywhere--and I got maybe another mile of walking in for the day. Ground squirrels and their holes were everywhere, which Tika found hard to resist and fascinated Luke, too. And, for the first time in more than 2 years, here I am at the top of the hill with my dogs. I was pretty sure that one or the other would break their Sit when I moved back to take the photo (hence the leashes left in easy reach), but Lo! They remained!

(Luke's ears and eyes were pointed directly at me when I clicked the shutter, but dang the delay on the little camera. Still, he stayed.)

As I snapped the photo, I heard a man's guttural cough/laugh behind me, I assumed at the dogs being willing to sit, which startled me because I hadn't seen anyone on the trails.  I turned around, and no one was there.  Puzzle.

We descended the hill, and my knees began reminding me that I haven't done hills in a long time.  At the bottom, again I heard that guttural sound. Looking around, I finally discovered who was amused at my expense:  Mr. Raven.  I don't ever remember seeing ravens in our area before, and now I've seen one in my yard and there were a few flying around here, too.  Tres odd.

Went home, had dinner, dropped onto the couch with about 9,000 steps for the day on the pedometer, shoes off, slippers on. And then the renter came downstairs and said, "You up for a walk?" So off we went around and through Martial Cottle Park behind the house. Retired with over 14,000 steps. No wonder I'm tired.