a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: June 2016

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. Even then, it was her favorite toy.

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.
Yes, some small critter had pulled this into a hole under the fence.


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, June 06, 2016

Father's Day...

SUMMARY: notes from facebook June 6, '16
Backfill: Didn't post this until August 2, 2016

A friend posted on Facebook today:
Just realized for the first time in my life, I don't have to worry about Father's Day plans.
That was a blow.
And I replied--
I've been going through exactly the same thing this year. And we are not alone [based on other comments I've seen on FB lately]. 
I've been seeing or hearing things that might have turned into nice father's day gifts (such as activities), and then -- oh, right. 
I empathize. It's interesting how Father's Day was no big deal--I did try to do something most years, even just a card--but now, this year, it looms large.
Several additional people noted on this post, "Same here," or the equivalent.

And then, of course, this reminder from another person:
25 years for me this year...and it still will be sad
Fathers are both not forever and forever.

I look a lot like my dad.