I step out onto the front covered porch. Arthur pulls on the lead in my hand. I am warm enough in my pajamas and robe on this mild winter morning.
Arthur stops at the edge of the porch. I always think he sees, hears, or smells another animal when he does that. Maybe he’s just being sure.
I look around also. It is dark, but my eyes adjust and I can see the silhouette of the branching arms of the locust tree. Four porch lights glow across the front of the vacant house to my left around the bend of the lane. Straight ahead a series of small bright lights from the homes on a neighboring street shine through the winter woods barren of leaves. I’ll not see those lights come spring. The new neighbors’ house to the right, at the corner, is brightly lit on both the back and the left side that are visible from where I stand, perhaps to discourage burglars. I wonder if our motion-detector security lights around back where it’s near the woods still work. The new neighbors’ strand of Christmas lights sparkle across their back porch rail.
Arthur tugs and pulls on the retractable dog leash as he steps off the porch and meanders through the foliage in the landscaping that stretches across the front of the house and along the bend of the sidewalk to the tree.
I notice a drip, drip, drip from the rain spout to my left. Otherwise I hear nothing except the steady drone of distant traffic. The juvenile owl, with its awkward squawk must not be visiting this morning. Ah, now the soft whistle of a train miles away breaks the silence.
Arthur is taking his time.
The sky is beginning to lighten to a dark gray-blue, as the place where I stand, on this glorious planet we call home, turns towards the sun and the dawn of a new day.
This post is not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach.
We decided to escape the frigid, snow-covered landscape of the Midwest and go to Florida for the first week in February to visit my sister Carol. (You might have seen the picture I posted.) We also decided that Arthur was ready for a big-time road trip. We travel to and from Columbus, Ohio with him, a two-hour drive, on a fairly regular basis. And last year Mark and I took him on a three hour trip to a cabin in Hocking Hills to try him out on the road. The Florida trip was a lot longer at almost exactly 1000 miles. We planned to do it in one long, eleven-hour day, and a second shorter five-hour or so day.
In honor of the event, I purchased a special car seat for Arthur complete with a suitcase for his supplies. The car seat sits on top of the suitcase in the car and raises Arthur’s head up high enough to see out the window. I read that this helps prevent pet car-sickness. More on that later.
I’m happy to say that Arthur made it down to Florida without any major catastrophes. Although he did spend almost the entire trip looking out the window. He did not sleep at all, which is his normal mode of operation at home.
We stayed overnight at a pet-friendly LaQuinta. Not deluxe accomodations, by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but which were adequate, especially once the owners of the dog across the hall returned and he quit his incessant barking. All-in-all it was fine. Mark went next door to a restaurant and brought us back dinner that we ate in the room.
We arrived in Siesta Key, Florida in the middle of the afternoon the next day and checked into our apartment at the pet-friendly Gumbo Limbo. The room we had was small, but adequate as long as Mark and I weren’t both trying to work in the kitchen at the same time. The bad thing about Siesta Key, which is probably a good thing for many people, is that pets aren’t allowed on the beach. We came to realize in short order, that Arthur was fine with that.
We sneaked him onto the beach in this front-pack pet carrier that looks a mite too small for him even though it states it can accommodate up to a 20-lb animal and Arthur only weighs about 11 pounds. We were there early to see the sun rise. But it was an extremely chilly morning and the closer we got to the water, the colder it got, and the more Arthur was shaking. I think he was both cold and afraid of the ocean. Considering he is also afraid of many other things, like our refrigerator for example, this did not come as a big surprise.
Mark took him back to our room which was only a block away and returned to enjoy the sunrise.
We did take Arthur to Myakka River State Park, where pets are welcome. And he enjoyed the walking and hiking there, but we had to keep a close watch on him as small dogs are considered bait for the many alligators that roam along the waters’ edges. I’ll show you the alligators next time.
But mostly Arthur just hung around the pool with us and visited at my sister’s house, which was the primary reason for the trip anyway.
Here’s where the queasy part comes in. When our week of fun in the sun was up, we packed ours and Arthur’s bags, and headed north. Arthur was doing his usual looking-out-the-window routine and completely disregarding any efforts I made to command him to lie down. He was looking tired and miserable. So I decided to hold him on my lap for a bit so he could sleep.
Thank goodness it was raining at our first stop.
We all got out, and Arthur got wet, so I got one of the beach towels, my favorite one to be exact, and placed it across my lap for Arthur to lie on. Shortly after we started moving again, Arthur started expelling all his bodily fluids.
First he threw up. But as we had withheld food that morning, all that came out was a clear foamy liquid. The towel caught it, and no harm was done. I folded the towel over and gave Arthur one of the pills for nausea I had asked the vet for before we left.
It wasn’t until I felt warmth on my forearm and looked down to see a large brown spot forming on my sweater that I realized we were in big shit, literally. Little Arthur was having a bout of diarrhea of major proportions, and it was happening in technicolor right in my lap. Thankfully the beach towel was catching most of it. And thankfully Mark didn’t lose his stomach from the stench that was now permeating the car. And thankfully we were only a few miles from an exit where Mark threw the beach towel in the trash and where I was able to change my clothes in a BP bathroom and clean Arthur’s long white hair on his tail, bottom, and lower legs using paper towels and a bottle of water.
We put our last beach towel over Arthur’s car seat, put him back in his harness there, and hoped for the best.
I think Arthur was probably completely humiliated. I shampooed Arthur when we arrived at the Knoxville LaQuinta for the night. The next day we made it home without further ado.
Suffice it to say, if Mark has his way, it will be a looooong time before Arthur takes an extended road trip again.
But if that ever does happen, here is the list of items I will be sure to bring.
1. Plenty of plastic bags (which we had)
2. Plenty of paper towels (which we really didn’t have)
3. A couple of gallons of water in case of a necessary roadside shower (nope)
4. Plenty of old towels (which we did not have)
5. A few changes of clothes for me within easy reach (I only had two pairs of long pants with me. Another unfortunate event and I would have looked like a beach bum in the snow.)
6. Medicine to help Arthur sleep. (When I called the vet, she asked me if I wanted medicine for nausea or to make him sleep. I took the nausea meds. That’s a mistake I won’t be making twice.)
So tell me. Have you taken your pets on a road trip? Any tips? (Not that we need them. . .)
You probably thought I was talking about Arthur. And when I renewed my interest in riding my bicycle a year or two ago, I did think about taking Arthur with me. I even bought a Pet-a-Roo pet front carrier that remains in its box on a shelf in my laundry room closet.
No, it’s not about Arthur. This post is about Penny the biker.
We were finishing our walk at the VOA when Mark directed my attention to a man and his dog. And his motorcycle. He was attaching a harness strap to the passenger seat of his Harley. (Truthfully, I have no idea if it was a Harley, but it makes for better copy.)
This I gotta see, I thought.
And not being particularly shy, in fact being a bit on the forward side some might say, I asked him if I could take a picture of his dog on the bike. The man’s name was Chris and he couldn’t have been nicer. He spent several minutes talking to me about his hobby of taking travel and family photographs, and about his boxer Penny.
Nice man. Adorable dog.
Chris put on his helmet and got on in front of Penny. He started the engine. Penny stayed calm and as cool as she looked.
The sun was low in the sky behind them, throwing their faces into shadow, so Chris accommodated my request and circled around before leaving.
When I sent the photos to him, Chris comment on the one below. “That pose makes me think of the George Thorogood song, B-b-b-b bad, bad to the bone! She looks so serious.”
I think she looks adorable. And inspiring. I may have to pump air into my tires and unpack that Pet-a-Roo carrier after all. But first I need to find Arthur some goggles.
Grasshoppers dot the sun-warmed paved path every couple of yards or so where I walk Arthur beside the rippling lake on a cool autumn day. Arthur gets close and pokes his nose at one. It hops away.
Arthur scampers along beside me in the grass, his nose to the ground. Following a trail. His little white paws startle grasshoppers hiding there. Arthur ignores them.
I remember a long ago fall day on the river levy of my dad’s youth where we scampered along the hillside, our little Ked’s-clad feet startling the grasshoppers who hid there. Grasshoppers popping up all around us.
We set chase, catching them with bare hands then letting them go again. The thrill of the catch enough.
Arthur and I were hanging around the kitchen after breakfast this morning. Arthur was at his post by the side door monitoring the garden outside and I was still at the kitchen table when a little motion from outside near our deck caught my eye. I saw a little black nose attached to a small gray-brown head that was poking itself up through my deck railing right above the space where we’ve housed a family of groundhogs in the past.
Before I could react, the little critter, groundhog I think, made its way up onto our deck. That’s when Arthur noticed it too.
Then all heck broke loose. Arthur started barking. I ran for my camera which somehow rarely manages to be in the right room at the right time.
When I returned with camera in hand, the little critter was gone. I hurried into the adjacent laundry room, Arthur at my heels, but didn’t see anything from that window either. I didn’t see which way it went, and Arthur wasn’t talking.
“It’s gone,” I told Arthur.
A few minutes later the little wild critter came walking along the deck from the back of our house where Mark grows two tomato plants in pots. Need I say more?
The groundhog, I think, was taking its time sauntering back off the deck the way it had entered. That’s when I caught the photo and evidence of at least one of our produce thieves.
He walked down through the St. Francis garden and out into the woods. When he was out of Arthur’s boundaries and reach, I let the little dog, who could hardly contain himself, outside. Arthur did his thing of sniffing, finding a trail and nosing around for a few minutes while I investigated the tomato plants. I didn’t see any tomatoes, but that doesn’t mean much. Mark might have gotten them all earlier.
I heard a loud rustling sound and looked down by the creek where the ground hog was tearing across the bottom of the yard and then jumped down the creek bank. Arthur somehow may have rustled him out, although I don’t know how. Arthur was up by the back of the house and the groundhog was down by the creek. It might have been a diversionary tactic to get Arthur away from the nesting space under our deck.
Nature can be exciting.
I am adding an addendum to this post to correct the identity of the wild animal pictured above. I have been informed that it looks like a baby beaver, and I have to agree. At the time I saw it, I didn’t think it looked exactly like a groundhog, but I wasn’t sure what else it could be. I was worried it might be a big rat, but it’s tail was too broad. The thought of a beaver never crossed my mind. You can see a diagram of a beaver in the link graciously provided by Teepee 12 in the comments below.
In case you missed them, here are earlier posts about the groundhogs that sometimes share our abode.
I’m thinking about taking Arthur back to obedience classes. It’s not that he doesn’t know the basic commands like sit, stay, down, off, and come, it’s more like he doesn’t see the need to obey them. He does pretty good when I reward him with a small piece of chicken. I was told that worked well for training dogs by the last trainer we had. If I’m giving him treats the need factor goes way up. In fact Arthur gets so excited to follow my commands when I’m giving him chicken that often he will immediately flop down onto his stomach when I say “sit.” I imagine he thinks that if sitting is good, lying down must be better.
While I was walking at the VOA park with him this morning, I decided to try out some of his commands. I often tell him to “come” just to check and see if he will. I worry that his harness will have a catastrophic failure and Arthur will be free to roam unleashed, in which case he’d better know how to come if I call. This morning I told him to “stand,” and he very smartly sat down. In Arthur’s defense, that really wasn’t a fair test because I’m not sure we worked on standing very much.
I also worked with him on “heel” today. That went pretty well because, let’s face it, Arthur is a small dog in a harness and I can pretty much keep him wherever I want him, which works out nice when we are walking in areas of muddy puddles. However, he was looking at the dog behind us most of the time we were heeling, so I’m not sure he would have gotten high marks on that one.
We’re trained to get Arthur back in the house after we let him out. He comes to the door. We open it and then go to the refrigerator for a piece of chicken, which we may or may not actually take out to give him. Opening the refrigerator door is often enough incentive. He comes in every time. You’re probably thinking that coming back in the house when you are standing at the door looking in is something you wouldn’t require a treat to do. I know. I feel the same way. I refuse to play. If he doesn’t come in when I open the door I close it right back on his little face, soulful eyes and all, turn my back and walk out of the room. He usually comes when I try again, if I leave him out there long enough, especially if it is raining.
Arthur graduated from beginners obedience class and was taking intermediate class when we quit going. He did not graduate from intermediate class, which I think was partly due to the fact that the instructor was not at all charmed by royalty.
We are not entirely to blame for Arthur’s attitude at times. We were heartbroken people finding comfort in cuddling an adorable soft and fluffy puppy.
Our first dog, Honey, was a rescue dog that the neighborhood vet was boarding for a client who found her in their yard. Honey came to us well-behaved. She loved to please. I took her to obedience classes too and the teacher loved her. So did we. We didn’t need chicken to get her back in the house.
When Honey died early and suddenly from a disc problem in her neck, we were all heartbroken. I maintained that I did not want another dog for about the first 24 hours, and then I knew I needed one. This time I wanted a small dog that I could pick up if he or she had a problem. Honey had collapsed in our yard one afternoon from her neck problem while we were at a relative’s house. Our daughter called us home. On our return we saw Honey lying in the yard and Anna sitting in a lawn chair beside her. I don’t want to go through something like that again. If Arthur collapses anywhere I’ll be able to get him back home and into the house again.
At first I looked for a rescue dog and found a little black puppy I wanted to look at, but by the time Mark was able to go with me to see it someone else had adopted it. It quickly became apparent to me that puppies and small cute dogs were not stranded at the SPCA very long. It reminded me of trying to enter contests on the radio in the ’70s. You had to be highly motivated, vigilant, persistent, and on the mark. I still don’t know how you can ever be the first caller, or the 10th, or the 50th. I wasn’t motivated enough to persist at that.
I found Arthur while searching online for peek-a-poos. My sister had one and I liked the mixed breed. When we got him he was just a little ball of white fluff. He looked like a cotton ball hopping across the back yard when he was still small enough that we could easily catch him if he decided to go for a marathon around the neighborhood.
So maybe we coddled him. A bit.
But I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks. We shall see.
Although we were walking beside fascinating geological features and cliffs that rose as walls around us on our way to Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park, I often found myself gazing at Roots.
Over the years park authorities have incorporated human-man structures to assist the population in experiencing the wonder of the park’s features. This bridge is actually a series of free-standing, unconnected concrete steps with small gaps in between. It reminded me of Robert Jordan’s concept of “the ways” in the Wheel of Time series where characters got on and traveled through the dark without clear guidance or expectation of destination. A lot of bad stuff could happen in the ways, especially if you encountered traveling trollocs. I’m just glad we were traveling here in the light of day.
Some people think that this profile of a face in the rock is the Old Man. Not so. The old man was a recluse named Richard Row who made this cave his home in the 1800s. The face in the rock looks like something out of the time of Cleopatra to me. Do you see it?
It was fun to watch fearless Arthur boldly go . . .
and even cross A Bridge Too Far. Nothing seemed to deter the little guy out there. He was, however, afraid to jump off the bed at the cabin. It was a wee bit too high for his liking.