In earlier years, going on a hike with Pup meant grabbing the fanny pack, a water bottle and the car keys. Now that Pup is Old Pup, it involves a lot more. How long of a walk? Is it very steep? How hot will it be?

Although human oldsters tend to like the heat, Old Pup prefers temps in the 40s and 50s. When the temperature rose 10-degrees during the week, we decided to start as early as possible. We were going to Little Yosemite, in Sunol, to see if there was any water or wildflowers.

Got up at 6:30 (with encouragement from Mr. Kitty), and managed to be on the road before 8 a.m. Heavy overcast, but by the time we got to 680, the sky was clear and blue and the temperature was creeping up past 60. A little anxiously, we hit the wide gravelly trail.

When I started commuting in California over 20 years ago, poppies and lupine were a common roadside sight in the springtime. When I returned in 2000, I saw poppies, but only rarely lupine. It was heartening to see the purply-blue sheets of blooms along the Sunol path.

We got to the falls with little trouble; they were closer than we thought; about a mile from the parking lot. The water was already drying up; the falls were babbling rather than roaring. We made our way down to the water via a gentle incline. ‘Gentle’ was an operative word. Old Pup had lost her footing earlier while scrambling up a ravine, and both DH and I had to give her a boost so she could get back onto the trail. It was a little cooler down by the water, and I lured Old Pup into the stream so that I could cool her belly. When she saw the water, her ears pricked up, and she got her ‘Where’s the ball’ stance. Although we didn’t want to wear her out, I couldn’t resist her anticipation.

We took the low road back, to stay as close to the water as possible. We had to bushwack in a couple of places, where the path seemed to disappear into the stream, but it was a peaceful, pretty route. We dunked Old Pup in the water several more times, and she was appreciative. We tossed the ball a few more times, once to distract her from a big rottweiler splashing with an impressive stick. She was moderately well-behaved around the other dogs; ignoring them if possible, and barking (rather than snapping) when they came to give a curious sniff

DH wanted to check out the town of Niles, and we found a shady place to park. The plan was to leave the tired Old Pup (after the hike she needed to be lifted into the car) and come get her when we found a coffeeshop. But as we walked away, a plaintive howl-whine came from the car. DH and I looked at each other. Old Pup didn’t like being left behind, but it usually was better than going to a scary new place. The howl-whine came again. Bleeding-heart that I am, I said, “Let’s take her with us.” We anticipated the heisitancy, the lagging behind, but Old Pup leaped happily out of the car, and speed-walked down the sidewalk. She even let the owner of the doggy boutique coo over her, and performed her repetoire of tricks for some organic treats. She explored Niles at least as enthusiastically as we did. This doesn’t sound like much, but Old Pup has slowed down dramatically in the last couple of years. She still loves to go places, but not for very long and not if it involves a lot of people. For Old Pup to go from a hike (with swimming and ball play) to a hearty jaunt around a strange city and not lag behind or falter or come to a complete stop was awfully impressive. We marveled between ourselves, and praised her lavishly as she snored on the way home.

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