Sunday, November 4, 2012

The "Indestructible" Nylabone

I might as well start out here with a confession. I am an overprotective, "Nervous Nellie" dog mom. My dogs don't run loose (they might get hit by a car), they don't eat raw eggs (they might get salmonella), and we don't hike near steep cliffs (they might fall off). You get the picture. This caution extends to bones and toys too. While all the other dogs out there happily chomp on rawhide knots, cow hooves, and steak bones, Lady, Lucky, and Katie must be content with crunchy rawhide - the type that crumbles and can be easily chewed. Not quite the same, I know. But at least I don't have to worry about a chunk of rawhide getting stuck in their throats or intestines.

But one day recently, I decided to purchase a pack of those indestructible hard plastic (or nylon, I guess?) Nylabones for Katie. She loves to chew, and had discovered Jessie's 10 year old Nylabone at the bottom of the toy basket. Jessie found the concept of a plastic bone ridiculous, and after giving it a sniff and tentative lick, never went near it again. But that rejected Nylabone had remained there in the toy basket all these years. When Katie discovered it and seemed to enjoy gnawing on it, I decided to spring for some new ones. And not just the boring plain type, but the beef flavored variety!

It took less than a minute. One loud chomp, and by the time I registered what that sound was and got to her, the end of the Nylabone was gone, and Katie was working on sawing off the next hunk. Eeeek!! I grabbed it away from her, and frantically began reading the back of the package. PRODUCT IS INEDIBLE. The instructions go on to assure you that if a dog consumes a piece about the size of a grain of rice, it will often pass through the intestinal tract without incident. Anything larger - "consult your veterinarian." Oh, GREAT. As you can see from the photo above, the hunk that was chomped off was considerably larger than a grain of rice.

Katie, Katie, Katie...Nylabones are indestructible, don't you know? You gnaw on them because they're too hard to bite through. Ugh. Thus began a vigil, with various doggie emergency room scenarios playing out in my mind. I passed the time by reading every word on the back of the package, searching for some hint that these bones aren't always indestructible. And then I saw that Nylabones have weight limits! See?...

What, you can't see the weight limits? Well, that's because they're hidden behind the white bone in the package! Apparently you're supposed to rip the package open in the store in order to determine if a certain size Nylabone is safe for your dog. How about now, can you see it now?

No? Well, let me enlarge the photo even further...

There it is, plain as day - "for dogs up to 35 lbs." Hidden behind the bone inside the package, and in a microscopic yellow font that I had not noticed even when I took the bones out. Katie weighs 50 pounds! Grrrrrrrrrr..! Boy was I mad. Even Lady, who watches over Katie always, and tries to keep her safe, could not save her from this. We just had to wait and see.

All I can say is that it's a good thing Miss Katie apparently has an indestructible gut, because I would have wanted to sue the company had anything happened to her. As it is, I think they owe me for worry, lack of sleep, and 3 days of dissecting poop in a futile search for the missing piece of bone. Take heed any of you who let your dogs chew on these bones - Nylabones are NOT indestructible!

"So, can I have the rest? That plastic is delicious!" 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

(Well, this was supposed to be wordless, but I can't help commenting now that I've got it up - this photo taken last weekend looks so much like the header photo from a couple of years ago! Even that little tuft of white hair in his ear is in the exact same spot and angle. Too funny!)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Lap Desk Has Many Uses

Such as, a kitty platform.

My nephew gave me this lap desk for Christmas last year, and within 10 seconds or so of settling down on the couch with it - before I could even reach for my book - I had a cat perched in the center of it. I came across these photos recently, and even though they weren't very high quality and are now months old, they still make me laugh!

Silly Lucy. 

It is all about the cat, after all. 

Sometimes I forget...

...but Lucy reminds me. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

High Elevation Adventures

Dogs may not use words, but they can talk.

This is Lucky saying: 
"Let's go for a ride in the truck. Or for a hike. Can we?" 

He's so unassuming with his requests, and so seldom asks for anything, it's hard to say no. With the hint of fall in the air lately, I had to admit the mountains have been calling. So off we went - this time to Black Balsam Knob. This is a spectacular higher elevation hike, which made it a great destination on a day that would otherwise be almost too warm to take the dogs hiking. The truck's temperature display dropped from 81 to 68 degrees as we climbed the Parkway.

Lucky had done this trail as a young dog, but neither Lady nor Katie had ever been to the area. Excited faces crowded the little window in the back of the cab, and a trio of tails wagged joyfully. When we arrived, the dogs were like pups in their enthusiasm to hit the trail - despite the fact that two of the three are 12 years old!

The path to the summit starts out winding through thickets of blueberry and blackberry bushes, and patches of spruce forest. As you might imagine, this is a very popular hike when the berries are in season. Rising higher, the vistas grow more expansive, providing great views of a dense spruce-fir forest that skirts the edge of a meadow.

Black Balsam is one of my favorite places to hike. The mountains in this area are grassy balds due to logging and forest fires in the 1920s and 40s. It gives the entire area a unique and "faraway" feel.

Katie takes a good sniff of the higher elevation air.

The late summer wildflowers were so beautiful - both sides of the trail were lined with a kaleidoscope of purple, green, and yellow. Our hike proceeded at the pace of about 1/4 mile an hour, because I kept stopping to take photos!

Cow parsnip grows in great profusion along the trail. This tall herb was used by Native Americans to make poultices, with the dried stalks used as drinking straws for the elderly, and as flutes for children.

Eventually the trail becomes a winding path through a wide mountaintop meadow.

Can you spot the people further up the trail?

It's hard to gauge distance without trees or nearby objects as reference. From this point, it's still about a quarter mile to the summit. Even though this was a short hike, the plan was to play it by ear. If going all the way to the top seemed too much for the older dogs, we'd stop and head back. But Lucky said "Let's keep going!"

After another 15 minutes or so of hiking, we arrived at the 6214' summit. A bronze plaque embedded in the rock honors Art Loeb, for whom the trail is named -

"An industrialist, conservationist, and hiker who deeply loved these mountains."

Lady seemed to understand we'd reached our destination, and stood majestically for several moments gazing out over the Shining Rock Wilderness area below. Too bad she's the same color as the rocks. This would have been a great photo, but she was almost perfectly camouflaged!

Numerous campsites dot the summit area. I can hardly imagine a more beautiful place to camp, with 360 degree panoramic views. On a clear day, they say you can see 70 miles into the distance.

However, I would not want to be up here in a tent during a thunderstorm!

The Art Loeb trail traverses several peaks in this area. In addition to Black Balsam, you can hike to Tennant Mountain (6040'), Pilot Mountain (5095'), or to the base of Cold Mountain (6030'), which became quite famous with the popularity of Charles Frazier's book and the 2003 film. Another popular trail in this area is the Ivestor Gap trail. There are so many branching and spur trails on the broad summit of Black Balsam, you have to pay attention so you don't get lost!

I missed getting a photo of picturesque Mount Hardy, but this photo borrowed
from shows its 6110' dome looming over the trail to Black Balsam.  

After exploring the broad summit for awhile, we headed back. Lucky was a bit wobbly on the way down and had to be helped over a few of the steeper rocky areas. Seems like his enthusiasm for the hike might have exceeded his physical abilities a bit. He wasn't too bad off though - on the ride home, while Lady and Katie were out of sight resting on their beds, Lucky was up, his happy face in the window, and his nose taking in all the passing smells.

Lady, Lucky, and Katie all agree - when the mountains call, go.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

On Rainbows and Being Alive

Have you ever touched a rainbow? And no, I don't mean in the spiritual, poetic sense... I mean really, reached out and touched the colors. I did that last night! What an exhilarating experience! It all started with a train and getting stopped by a cop...

It was the start of Labor Day weekend. In trying to be good and squeeze in some exercise before going to a Friday night movie, my walking partner and I decided to head to the nearby Oaks Greenway, for a super quick 3 mile walk - sans dogs (they slow things down considerably). But wouldn't you know it, a slo-o-o-o-o-o-w train had traffic backed up right before we needed to turn. It was only 25 yards or so further to our turn, and no cars were coming, so I helpfully suggested a creative traffic maneuver that would help speed things along. And it did, for about 10 seconds, until the blue lights appeared in the rear view mirror. Arg!

Fortunately, this turned out to be a nice officer, and he let us off with just a warning. We drove the additional few feet over to the parking area and hopped out. Eager to make up for lost time, we opted not to take the umbrella and instead just scurry on up the road. Big mistake. Despite the fact that it was sunny, blue sky weather when we started, we got caught in a downpour. Hopeful that it would just be a quick shower, we took shelter under some trees and waited, and we talked about Marti.

Marti died yesterday. She was young, only in her 50s, and full of life. A few months ago, plagued by indigestion and stomach issues, she went to the doctor. It turned out not to be a food allergy, but pancreatic cancer. You hear these stories from time to time, and they almost become cliche. But the thought that someone I know, someone just a little older than me, someone who just a few months ago was worrying about work, finances, getting the "to do" list done - is now gone... it seemed surreal.

The rain went on and on, and pretty soon it became obvious that the "hunkering down under the trees" solution wasn't working. So off we went, into the rain, laughing and squishing and remembering how much fun it used to be to play in puddles as a child. Just for old times' sake, I jumped in a few of the biggest puddles. And then this rainbow appeared - which in and of itself was a treat. But as we continued up the greenway, suddenly the rainbow was right there, next to the path! You could actually reach out and touch it! Amazing! It's also amazing that these photos turned out, since it was really pouring at the time. I guess it's hard to drown an iPhone.

Even though getting stopped by the police and getting caught in a downpour weren't at all convenient or in keeping with getting to the movie on time, it was fun. Fun in a crazy, go-with-the-flow kind of way. And I felt very alive.

There's something about getting drenched and touching a rainbow that makes you feel very, very alive. I think Marti would be happy to know that we were laughing and jumping in puddles and thinking of her and touching rainbows all at the same time.

The one who wasn't happy was Lady. Even though she can't talk, it's always quite clear when she's displeased. She acts out by stirring up one of the throw rugs.

And if she's really, REALLY unhappy, she stirs up two rugs. 

It's hard not to laugh when she does this, but of course I don't. Because to her, it's serious business.

I just feel lucky to have a dog who expresses herself by stirring up the rugs, and not be eating furniture, wallpaper, or sheetrock... like in this photo I found tonight on the blog life in the dog house.

Oh could be much, much worse.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hiking in Montreat

While the rest of the country has been baking in one of the hottest and driest summers on record, western North Carolina has been cool and wet. Highs have generally been in the 70s this month, when normal August temps are 80s and 90s. And the rain! 

It rains EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I am not exaggerating. Despite the fact that today was forecast to be partly sunny, it is raining as I write this, the promised sun hiding somewhere far, far away. Missouri or Iowa no doubt, where it is not wanted. 

When I think of August, the image that comes to mind is a dry, brown lawn surrounded by trees with unenthusiastic leaves that look weary of summer. Not so this year! 

If I walked out my front door and didn't know better, I would think it was April. Everything is green, vibrant and lush...remarkable. That's the positive side of all this rain. The downside is that it's almost impossible to plan any kind of outing. 

This weekend, I decided the time had come to scrutinize the hourly forecast and attempt a hike in between rain episodes. Somewhere close by, so as not to have a repeat of that very frustrating experience of driving all the way to a trailhead, only to discover that it's pouring when you get there - a scenario that has occurred several times this summer. Try explaining to three disappointed dogs why you are turning around and going home after arriving at a favorite destination. 

(this is the look you have to endure when you turn around and go home)

But yesterday the weather cooperated. The destination was a loop trail in Montreat, only 10 minutes away, that utilizes parts of 3 separate trails - the Greybeard Mountain trail, the Harry Bryan trail, and the Julia Woodward trail (P.S. I want someone to name a trail after me when I die). As a bonus, this particular loop promised a side trek to a small waterfall. 

Despite this loop being so close, I only recently learned of it from an acquaintance. I've been up Greybeard before, in my younger more ambitious hiking days, and there's no way the senior dogs could do that trail, which is 5 rugged miles one way. But this little two mile loop was perfect (although for the record, it felt longer than 2 miles! Lots of climbing) We had a grand time. I will share the experience with you through some of the photos I took along the way. 

Lucky is always the first one out. As soon as he's out of the truck and on the trail, he's in his element. Lucky loves hiking. And I love the great big smile he gets on his face when we hit the trail. 

I'm so very thankful that even though he's 12 years old, he is healthy and not limited by arthritis or any other condition. He can't go as far, but he can still go. Knowing these carefree canine athletic days may be numbered now makes these little adventures even more special.

These trips into the woods often inspire gratitude. I feel grateful for health and the ability to walk and to see and to smell. 

So many things to see and smell in the woods. 

Lots of rain means lots of fungi! 

The sheer number of variety of mushrooms we encountered on this hike was amazing! Little teeny yellow ones, and great big orange ones as big as my hiking boot. White ones that looked like brains, and brown ones that looked like pancakes. 

In some areas, it was obvious that violent storms had shaped the forest. I would not have wanted to be there when this massive tree fell across the trail!

Can you imagine the sound when this giant came crashing down??

After climbing for a half hour or so, we arrived at Julia Woodward Falls. There were striking boulders, a wooden bench, and a sweet little waterfall. 

Doing a bit of boulder scrambling up the trail alongside the creek provided a fun discovery. Over many, many years, the water coming down the mountain had carved a trough through the rock - and this is what created the waterfall. What a beautiful green glorious sight it was, looking back down the ravine. Check out this tree, clinging to the rock with its feet. I wonder how it came to be this way, crooked and bent and poking out over the cascading water?

("Enough of the picture taking - can we go already??")

Saying goodbye to the falls and heading back down in search of the connector trails, it was nice to discover that the intersections were all well marked. 

The only moment of uncertainty came upon arriving at a wooden footbridge over a rushing stream blocked off with yellow caution tape. The final trail intersection, according to the map, was just on the other side of the "broken" bridge. Hmmm. 

A look at the stream below quickly put to rest the brief thought of a water crossing. But upon closer examination, it appeared that the caution tape was in place because of broken railings, not any inherent problem with the bridge itself. And the final bit of convincing evidence was that the tape barrier on both sides showed evidence of hikers having disregarded the warning. On the close side it was hanging low as if it had been stepped over, and on the far side it was down altogether. And since there were no broken boards in the middle of the bridge or broken hiker bodies in a heap below the bridge, off we went. 

Photo taken after the successful crossing! Indeed, the next trail intersection was right there on the other side. Glad we didn't have to turn around and go back! This helpful sign was a bit farther past the intersection. Made me wonder how many hikers had inadvertently wandered off into the wilderness looking for the parking area before this sign was posted.

After another hour or so of hiking, meandering, sniffing every leaf and rock, and taking photos, we made it back to the upper parking area. Happy and filled up with all the good things that come from time spent in the woods, we trekked back to the truck and piled in, the first raindrops of the day splatting down in one of those moments of perfect timing.

An information board located near one of the other trailheads off the parking lot contained a wonderful quote by John Muir. I hope you have enjoyed seeing the photos from our hike, and I will close this post with his words. 

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves."   John Muir