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First Snow of Winter

Nothing like the first snow of winter! It rarely snows here in Portland, so when it does it feels extra special. Even though we were running late this morning with Chloe due at gymnastics, I couldn’t say no when she asked to go outside to play. This was also Leo’s first real experience with snow. Last December he was only 6 months old! Now he is running around and checking out the substance called “snow” like a budding scientist. And I’m glad they got the chance, because when we were done with gymnastics all the snow had gone as quickly as it had come.


Barkley Update

Poor Barkley. He’s had a hard year. Not only did he have to adjust to a new baby in the house, but he also had leg surgery which put him out of commision for months. I’m afraid that nothing will be quite the same for him again. This past Sunday we make it Barkley Day to give him a little extra love including a special walk, gentle game of fetch, and a trip to PetSmart. He would have preferred we left it at that, but when we returned home he also got a good brushing and scrub down in the backyard (see below). Chloe was very amused. Barkley not so much.


Doggy Surgery

It’s official. I took Barkley to the vet for a second opinion, and yes, it was agreed that he has ruptured his cruciate ligament. It is why he’s been limping so much. The vet could feel how his muscles have atrophied on the one leg from disuse. Sadly, the recommended “fix” is $2500-$3500 worth of x-rays and surgery. Ugh. Such bad timing. David actually said it best when he noted that if it was one of us human family members, we wouldn’t hesitate about the surgery. I went ahead and scheduled the x-rays for Wednesday to confirm the diagnosis and set us up for the following procedures. I just hope that it will work.


She'll be missed

Mia (background) and Barkley on one of their many adventures

Barkley’s best friend, Mia, was put to sleep today. She had been having trouble walking last week, and slowly got worse, to the point where she could hardly move. Several trips to the vet eventually revealed a tumor near her spine.

Mia has been part of our lives for over 6 years. It is hard to imagine a future without her now. And I wonder about Barkley. How long will he look around to try and find her when we’re over at their house? How long will he be able to smell her scent in the grass? I’m sure he’ll be sad. She was his favorite playmate, the alpha of their doggy duo. She will certainly be missed.


Found objects and other excitement

Found objects are so interesting. You can’t help but imagine how they got to where they are. What the circumstances were. Who they belonged to. Their prior lives. Kind of like I wonder about Barkley. Who loved him first? Who was with him when his baby teeth fell out? Was his one floppy ear broken by accident or was he just born like that? These things I’ll never know, but it stirs the imagination in several different directions.

Found object: blue toy soldier.

Found object: flashing dog tag. It still works!

Found objects: Maple leaves with galls.

Another exciting event this weekend occurred while we were at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro today. The park is currently severely flooded by the adjoining Tualatin River. Paved trails abruptly end and are completely uncrossable. You can see the halves of trees sticking up out of the deep, milky opaque water. At one point after a trail stopped, David, Barkley and I walked out onto a huge fallen tree over the river to take a better look. In this situation, Barkley was pulling on the leash too hard for my balance and comfort so I bent down to unleash him. When I gave the release command, and pointed back down the tree toward David, he must have misunderstood me. Instead, he immediately leapt off the tree and into the moving water, shocking us both, only to find that his passage back to land was blocked by large tree branches and crisscrossing vegetation. The tree was too high above the water-line for him to get back on and he was desperately trying to find purchase somewhere, but couldn’t get a grip on anything, clawing wildly at the bottom bark of the trunk. Luckily he was wearing a body harness. David rushed over, knelt down and eventually was able to drag him out. David is my hero. It was over pretty quickly, but I know we were all a little shaken by the experience. The thing is, Barkley always enters water gingerly and with caution. I’ve never known him to just jump in like that. Was he just so trusting of me to blindly follow what he thought was a command into the water? I just don’t know what he was thinking or why he did that. I guess I’ll never know. I just hope that all doesn’t happen again.

Hard to believe but there is a parking lot under all that water.

One of the paved trails flooded by the Tualatin River.

Barkley safe and unharmed after the incident.

Getting his confidence back. He decided he prefers running on top of the water.

Just to be sure this experience wouldn’t frighten Barkley out of the water forever, David rolled the ball into a much safer and shallower area, barely inches of water. It took him a few moments, but after very cautiously peering in and taking it one step at a time, he quickly got over his initial reservation and retrieved the ball. Whew!


Weekend Retreat, Crescent Lake

A view of the cabin from the back, almost buried in the snow.

This past Friday Alex called about the four of us and the dogs spending the 3-day weekend away somewhere. We agreed it would be fun to go somewhere new, but not spend all day in the car. We settled on the Waldo/Crescent/Odell lake area east of Eugene, about a 3.5 hour drive southeast of Portland. A place where we’d find lots of snow for snowshoeing. Not surprisingly, most of the lodges and cabins in the area were already booked. Luckily Alex found a private home listed on craigslist that was still available. So that’s where we went.

The home was a charming A-frame cabin on a secluded 3.5 acre lot, not far from the national forest. Although poorly furnished (with not a shred of toilet paper to be found), it was comfortable and cheerily warmed with a sturdy wood stove. Actually, the place had loads of potential, and I couldn’t help wondering why the owners didn’t put any effort into making it a little better. A set of decent hooks for hanging wet coats or towels and a matching set of dining chairs could have made a big difference (but I’m just picky). When we arrived there wasn’t a track to be found, and in some spots the dogs would sink in up to their bodies. Part of the fun was just watching them bound in and out of the drifts.

Crescent Creek, right in the backyard.

A little snowshoeing adventure along the creek. We made those tracks ourselves.

Barkley taking a much needed break from all the excitement.

Overall, it was so nice to get away. And I’m again reminded how lucky we are to have such good friends. With Marcy and Alex’s baby boy on the way (see this pic), it likely won’t be so easy to just pick up and go, as we’ve done in the past. But it will be interesting, too, to see what kind of new adventures will come into play, and all that the future will bring.

A brief stop at Odell Lake, on our way back to Portland.

More pics from this weekend can be found here on my flickr page.


Neighborhood Coyotes

barkley on hike

Barkley on a hike at Stub Stewart State Park

As I sit down to work at my computer, I hear a fire truck siren going off in the distance, followed by a clear, harmonious howl. David and I turn to each other and smile because we know the howl is coming from Barkley, who is outside at the moment. I’ve only seen him do this a handful of times, but it is simply adorable to watch and it doesn’t last long. I barely get a glimpse of him through the window (never long enough for me to get my camera, argh!). It’s heartening to see a shelter dog who used to be so shy and quiet, feel free to express himself like that.

This reminds me of that coyote I saw on my street last week. A pretty strange occurrence since I don’t live all that far from the city. And no, I wasn’t just seeing things, and no, it wasn’t just a dog on the loose. I know it was a coyote. I’ve seen the signs by our neighborhood lake, and I’ve heard about them from a neighbor, but I never in a million years expected to see one myself. I was just driving home one evening and turned onto our block to find it right in the street. It took one quick look at the car and then trotted away, out of sight. Wow! It was really cool.

Here are some interesting articles from the Audubon Society of Portland on Living with Urban Coyotes and a story from a neighboring community website.


Camping at Pamelia Lake

We went camping at Pamelia Lake in the Mt Jefferson Wilderness for the past few days. It was our friend Alex’s birthday weekend, and as a trial for our trip to Vancouver Island in September, we were only supposed to pack the necessities, including freeze-dried pre-packaged camping meals.

Compared to Alex, Marcy and David, I am so out of shape (I’m sure I’ve said this before). I packed as light as I thought I could get away with, meaning no luxuries like a change of clothes except for some capilene underwear, and no swimsuit (I swam in my bra and quick-dry shorts). I even bought a new backpack and sleeping pad in hopes of cutting some weight. And did I mention that David carried the whole tent by himself? Regardless, I was huffing and puffing practically the whole uphill 2.3 mile hike. What a challenge!

This was the first real hike where Barkley had to carry his own pack, too. A couple weeks ago I got him a red Kelty K-9 dog pack and steadily added weight during our neighborhood walks. For the weekend he carried his own food, a little water in a Platypus bladder, a collapsible water bowl, some dog waste bags and a leash. Mia also carried her own pack and both dogs seemed to have no trouble at all. I guess I could have tried to train myself the same way, by carrying my pack and adding weight, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. 🙂

Pamelia Lake is really beautiful. I couldn’t stop taking pictures (until my camera started flashing the low battery warning). I definitely need to start carrying an extra one. I would say swimming in the lake with our friends and the dogs and watching the bald eagles were some of the coolest moments. The saddest moment was when a guy came by asking if anyone had cell phone service, because someone just had a heart attack. We found out later that he died and had to be carried down the trail on a stretcher. Very sad. David philosophically said that it is better to go with your family around and doing something you enjoy, instead of just at home alone. I guess that’s true.

Day two we hiked up the 3 miles to Hunt’s lake and spent the afternoon. There we had one of the worst prepackaged meals – a Backpacker’s Pantry Turkey with Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing – which never fully reconstituted and did not have an appealing texture or flavor. Actually both of the Backpacker’s Pantry meals we tried were awful. Next time I’m going to stick with Mountain House meals, like their pasta primavera, which was the best one we ate. It just so happens that they’re also an Oregon-based company.

Some photos from our trip:

A first glimpse of Pamelia Lake

Alex & Marcy embracing by the lake

Barkley and his reflection

A little trout that David caught


The bee that landed on my pant leg

View of Mt Jefferson

Butterfly on the trail

Pink wildflower, Hunt’s Lake

View near the Pacific Crest Trail

Sunlight through the trees

Sunlight over Pamelia Lake


Camping on the Clackamas River

This weekend David, Alex, Barkley and I went camping on the Clackamas river, about a half an hour south east of Estacada. It was mostly a last minute decision, but none of us had plans so we decided to go with it. This was a hike-in campground, quiet, secluded, and peaceful despite being the fourth of July weekend. Hiking in was a little rough, though. Even a mile with just an overnight pack was a strain on my city-girl self. My shoulder, hips and legs are so sore, but it was worth it.

The Clackamas is a beautiful river. The water is very cold, but clear and refreshing, perfect for splashing and cooling off. With so few people around, it was like we had a bit of paradise all to ourselves. The only problem (besides the hike-in) were the mosquitos. We’ve camped here before and they were nothing like this. These suckers were relentless. Not being a big fan of DEET, I brought a product called Cutter Advanced with 7% Picaridin as the active ingredient, but I don’t think it worked as well as Alex’s DEET product.

The most memorable moments of the weekend were jumping off the boulders into the deep pools, David and Alex building rock sculptures only to knock them down afterwards by hurling stones, throwing driftwood in the river for Barkley to fetch (he’s still a timid swimmer) and the incredible amount of food we brought and consumed. With the gourmet assortment we had, you’d think we were car camping. It was awesome.

More photos from this trip can be seen here, on flickr. 

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Surfing and Flowers


What a lovely day. This morning, after a bit of a late start, we headed to the coast. Our first stop was Seaside, but the wave situation wasn’t so good there so we made for Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach. I love this park although the waves are rarely good, and being Oregon, its always freezing cold. There is something more peaceful and protected about it, with a pretty beach and beautiful scenery.

I am pitifully out of shape. Nothing makes it more obvious than trying to fumble through wave after wave of white water just trying to get off the shore. My arms and sides are so sore from trying to paddle out. Either I’ll sleep like a baby tonight or every painful movement will jolt me awake.

It was fun though. David caught several nice rides early on and throughout, and I was actually able to paddle out beyond the white water to wait for waves with him. There are days that the breaks are so rough that I just can’t get past them. Of course, once I’ve caught a wave, I end up riding it most of the way in, only to have to fight my way back out again. Barkley had a great time as well, running along the sand and fetching the pieces of driftwood we’d hurl into the water for him to retrieve. This was only the third time we’ve taken him surfing with us, although he’s been to the beach quite a few times. The first two times he would bark as we left him (secured to a tree with plenty of water and at least a sliver of shade). This time David went out first, then I did a walk around the beach. He barked only once, and after I was out of sight, I circled back around to him, so that he would be reminded that we’ll always come back eventually. I left him with a Greenie as I grabbed my surfboard and headed to the water. This time he was fine and didn’t bark at all.

After surfing we drove into Cannon Beach for our favorite halibut “fish and chips” dinner at Ecola Seafoods and then gorged ourselves to fresh waffle cones and ice cream at The Picnic Basket. Normally I am a mint chocolate chip kind of girl but today a scoop of both chocolate peanut butter and caramel pecan praline ruled the day. Delicious!

On our way home we stopped at Raintree, a nursery near Seaside which is now owned by Seven Dees. There were several nice hedges blooming where we sat and ate dinner so we brought in a few clippings to see if they could i.d. them for us. $56 bucks later we ended up with three gorgeous dahlias, a six-pack of lobelia, two compact escallonia and one Irish heath with the most adorable little purple egg-shaped bell flowers. David is becoming quite the gardener, and I am so glad this is something that we enjoy together. We’ve spent a fortune on plants for our yard since we bought the house. Unfortunately, the two important things I learned a little too late are: 1. Buy mostly perennials. Annuals are fun for color spots, but after the season ends your money is gone. Perennials offer repeat blooms year after year, a long-term commitment but a real bargain. 2. Always plan room for evergreens. It totally sucks when all the deciduous plants die out in the winter and leave nothing but swathes of ugly dirt where their once was healthy blooms and foliage. Evergreens that bloom are the way to go (thus our new escallonia and heath, but also our lavender, hebes, azealeas, rhododendrons, heather, viburnum, etc).

I’m sad to say that I hardly took any photos today, except of the plants, so I’m inserting a previously taken photo of David above. It was too fun just to be active, and bask in the memorable, if fleeting, moments of a perfect summer day.

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This Dog Has Changed My Life


Today marks Barkley’s second anniversary with us. He is now about 3 and a half years old. Two years ago we walked into the Bonnie Hayes Small Animal Shelter in Hillsboro to look at the possibility of getting a cat, but fate obviously had other plans in store for us.

Today Barkley is pretty much an ideal pet. He’s mild mannered, attentive, trained and just plain fun. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs in the past, particularly right after we brought him home. He was shy and nervous, unsure of his place and how long we would be there to love him since obviously his previous owner did such a horrible job.

Yes, those were the days when we’d come home to find he’d ripped up the floor of his kennel, or tore holes in the sofa cushions. When he’d dig out my freshly planted garden, or catch squirrels, or bark unstoppably while left on the beach when we went out surfing.

Thankfully, he has out-grown those tendencies. His destructive behavior only ever surfaced when he was completely alone and his separation anxiety over-rode his natural, happy-go-lucky self. With the help of days and weeks of repetition where we always returned home to him, 3 sets of obedience classes at PetSmart, a wonderful tool called the KongTime, and a decent backyard for him to explore and protect, Barkley has finally found peace.

Now our days are filled with walks, bike rides, playing fetch, and a small fortune in vacuum bags filled with dog hair. But I can honestly say it is all worth it. Even my husband, who was against getting a dog in the first place, has fallen for Barkley’s big brown eyes and wagging tail (although he’s still unlikely to admit it).

Barkley has found a permanent place in our family, but I count myself as the lucky one.

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