A Boy and His (Shared) Dog

I am finding myself somewhat nostalgic and sad lately. The daylight is beginning to fade sooner and sooner, and while fall is usually my favorite season, September 2 marked the first year anniversary of my husband’s death. So I have been looking through family pictures of late, and went searching for these, as they are among my favorites of the past year – the first year without my husband of 44 years. While the post itself is far longer than six words, the title is exactly six, so I hope I can still use the Six Word Saturday hashtag.

I have written before about the fact that my good friends, Martha and Arthur, and I share our two dogs. Theirs is Teddy the Labradoodle and mine is Zoë the Miniature Schnauzer. When my husband and I returned to Northern California three and a half years ago and moved into our retirement community (St. Paul’s Towers), the grandkids were just 1 and 3½. Teddy was bigger than the 1 year old, obviously, but he was also awfully big for the 3½ year old. About a year ago, when they were 3 and almost 6, the two of them decided that it was time for them to start walking the dogs instead of just accompanying me when I walked them. So they became the walkers, and I became the accompanying and supervising person. The 3 year old was still rather scared of Teddy, but was comfortable walking Zoë. The almost 6 year was adamant that he wanted to walk Teddy by himself, without me holding on to the leash. Here is the result: he walking confidently on ahead with Teddy last February, when he was fully 6+ a few months. My granddaughter, Zoë, and I are lagging behind, in a perfect position to capture a photo.

Walking the Dog at Twilight

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Images: Hannah Keene 2019

Posted for Six Word Saturday. Well, at least there’s exactly six words in the title. 😉

So Beautiful

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Image: Hannah Keene 2019

I found this beautiful greyhound waiting for his master (mistress?) outside our Whole Foods a few days ago. I approached him slowly with the back of my hand out to let him sniff (or not). He was very friendly, so I stayed and pet him for awhile. Every time I pulled my hand back, he leaned into me and wanted more attention, so I obliged. He was an absolute love. I stayed for quite awhile, hoping his human would finish shopping so that I could talk to her (him?). Seeing the grey on the dog’s muzzle, I judged him to be older, which means he was probably adopted as a retired racer. Greyhounds are a very sweet and calm breed, unless, of course, they see something to chase – squirrel, cat, rodent – anything that is running away from them. But they are excellent pets because of their sweet disposition. And they are also very good as certified therapy dogs used to visit patients in hospital. Just be prepared to put in the miles walking them each day. I waited quite awhile because I wanted to find out if, indeed, his human had recused him after he had been retired from racing, and how long she had had him. Finally, however, I had to do my own shopping, and he was gone by the time I was ready to walk home. Admittedly, I’m a dog girl, but I don’t love all breeds equally. Greyhounds, however, definitely make my top 10 list. And do you notice how much their lithe body resembles a female deer?

The Beauty and Hazards of Seed Pods

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Dried Liquid Amber Seedpod                      Image: Hannah Keene 2019

This beautiful dried seed pod is actually hazardous. Not poisonous, but then I assume that you wouldn’t even be tempted to try to eat it. But dangerous none-the-less. I have lived with Liquid Amber trees for 40 years: first in two houses, and now in an apartment. They are lovely trees. They grow fast, if you are looking for quick growing shade, and they are about the only tree here at the lower altitudes whose leaves reliably turn a beautiful scarlet in the fall.

But, oh, in both the spring and the fall, they can be dangerous. The seedpod above was one of many that were inexplicably left on the tree through the winter and only fell to the ground with the spring winds. Under normal conditions, these dried seedpods drop to the ground after the leaves fall off in autumn, and then grow back again in a bright green in the spring. In either season they are perilous. Our family has always called them “spiky balls.” In both spring and autumn if you accidentally step on one, it will roll out from under your shoe and cause a sprained ankle if you are not careful. And if you are silly enough to go out in bare feet? Well, I’ll leave that to your imagination. Suffice it to say that curses usually come out of your mouth.

However, the most perilous time is during the fall. As I say, under any sort of normal circumstances the tree releases the dried pods in October. The dried spikes are extremely sharp and have microscopic barbs on them. Humans are usually sensible enough to wear shoes. But dogs have a harder time. At the house, I always kept the pathway from the front door down to the street swept clear, and we didn’t have a Liquid Amber in the backyard, thank goodness, because that is where our dog, Zoë, was free to roam. But here in Oakland, the tree is planted by the city on the corner that I more or less have to use when I take the dog(s) out for a walk. This spring Zoë stepped on the unseasonably late release of the dried pods and got an infected paw 3 times. That meant expensive antibiotics and the fact that I had to soak her paw. That procedure took 2 people because I had to put the solution in a sort of ballon thing, stick her paw into it, and then sit with her for 10 minutes encouraging her not to pull her paw out. Neither one of us was particularly happy. Neither I, my friends, or the vet could find anything embedded in her paw the first time, so the infection was a puzzle. It wasn’t until the third infection (and by now several hundred dollars later, because the first time the doctor had to do a set of x-rays to make sure she didn’t have a small fracture) that I figured out that it was the seed pods that were causing the punctures.

So there I was, with the dog upstairs in our apartment on the 10th floor, and me down on a public street corner with my red broom and dust pan, sweeping up three dust pan’s full of seedpods, and carrying each full pan back into our building to throw them away.

Sigh.

However, when all of that was said and done, and Zoë was finally once again infection free and feeling fine, I took a macro shot of one of the pods. I looked at the swirls, the spikes, and the complexity of the structure, and I had to grudgingly admit that looked at up close, the pods are absolutely beautiful.

The Necessity of Taking Dogs Out in the Rain

Here is the fundamental issue: Most dogs do not like to be forced to go out to do their business when it is raining. Even dogs that love to swim and fetch things in water don’t usually appreciated water falling on them from above. It’s a totally different sensation than leaping joyfully into the water for a lovely swim or to retrieve a favorite stick. But neither you nor they really like big messes left on the carpet. They are highly embarrassed because they know it’s against the rules, and they very much want to please you. You, of course, don’t want to clean up the mess. So. They need to go out, but often neither of you are very happy about it. Even when my husband and I were still living in our house, our dog Zoe refused to go potty in the rain even if we forced her out the back door. She would spend her whole time huddling under the eaves for shelter, no matter how long we left her out there. We tried not giving her breakfast until she had gone potty. Even that didn’t work. I would always end up having to put a lead on her and take her out. With the lead on, she didn’t have much choice but to follow me and once outside, she did indeed attend to business. Eventually, after we had had her for awhile, we didn’t even try to force her out into the back yard. I would simply suit up with my rain gear and take her out for a walk.

Years later, as many of you know, my husband and I moved back to the Bay Area of Northern California and into a 22 floor retirement community. All of us in the building who have dogs need to take them for walks both for exercise and to give them the chance to go to the bathroom.  Also, as many of you know, after my husband died, friends in the building who have a labradoodle, and I who have a miniature Schnauzer, started sharing the 3 walks a day of our dogs. (See the 2 preceding posts below.)

When it’s not raining, I walk the dogs anywhere from 0.5 – 1.5 miles in the afternoon. That gives them plenty of time to do their business. When it’s raining I tend to stay close to the apartment so I can get home quickly if needed, but I still need to give the dogs enough time for multiple chances to go potty. Taking some photos along the way keeps us all moving a little, which also helps.

The particular afternoon of yesterday (see post below), it had been raining for hours with no signs of letting up, and my phone said it was going to continue to rain for at least 120 more minutes. About 4:00 I finally figured there was no sense in waiting any longer, especially since at the moment it wasn’t raining terribly hard. The dogs and I went out. We stayed out about 15 minutes. I took some photos, they did what they were supposed to do. We all came home and dried off,

And no more than 15 minutes later? You guessed it: the sun came out in all its glory. The dogs, of course, being inside, didn’t realize that the rain had stopped so soon after our walk. Which was probably a good thing, as they are both very good at looking at me reproachfully. Also, thank goodness, dogs tend to live in the moment, so they probably wouldn’t have had something to say about it. But still………

Sigh. At least I got some good photos. (For more photos from the walk, see yesterday’s post below.)

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Neighborhood: Adams Point, Oakland        Image: Zebras Child 2019