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.

I corralled two dogs a couple of days ago. I took Old Pup out to the front for a wee, and saw two Labs, yellow and chocolate, galloping across the yards on the other side of the street. Old Pup took notice of these interlopers, and I called her inside before she could attract their attention. The yellow boy was easy to catch; he was a people loving’ guy, so I just called him into the backyard and closed the gate. The chocolate girl was a little more wary. She would sniff your hand, but dart away if you lifted it to pet her, and was totally uninterested in the duck strip I offered. An across-street-neighbor cooed to her and kept her attention while I ran to get a leash. I gave Chocolate Girl some water, and managed to grab her collar. She was startled, but gentle, and I led her to the gagte where Yellow Boy had stuck his head and front paws through the cat door, trying to get in on the action.

They both started exploring the yard, Chocolate Girl a little agitated. Thinking to distract her, I found an old tennis ball and she was OMG! I was now her BFF! So I threw the ball for her, and she tore after it, ignoring Yellow Boy as he tried to play with her.

I called the animal shelter, and the owners came by about half an hour later. As I watched Old Pup sniff around the yard, peeing to claim it back as her own, I thought about Chocolate Girl’s intense focus on the ball and her coiled energy as she tore up the mulch chasing after it. That was Old Pup before we knew her, when she was Young Pup, blond and buoyant and ball-obsessed. Did she live with a handsome big brown dog, imprinting her for tolerance of that body type? So much lost in the mists of time.

Early in the morning last week, Mr. Kitty got off the bed and started roaming around the house.  Then I heard him scuffling around on the rug runner, something he does when he wants to play.  What time was it?  I looked fuzzily at the clock.  1:30 a.m.  Oh god, he probably wanted something to eat.  Well, if I do that, he’ll want a snack every morning.  I’m just going to ignore him. 

Mr. Kitty darted in and out of the room, and Old Pup got fed up and lunged for him.  That roused my DH, who got out of bed and said, “What is up with the cat?”

“He’s hungry,” I said from under the pillow, thinking : you can feed him and then he’ll bug you.

DH went into the kitchen, turned on the light, then said flatly, “He’s got a mouse.”

That got me out of bed, and I got DH a broom.  He trapped the mouse, and then swept him across the floor, away from our fascinated cat.  Poor mousie, he bounced against the baseboard, and stayed there, trembling.  Before Mr. K got his act together, I picked the traumatized mouse up in a hand towel and tossed him out back, no doubt to be a snack for a passing owl.

We went back to bed, but Mr. Kitty prowled the house for the rest of the night.  That mouse was still around, he could smell it!

So even though one of my earlier posts disparaged Mr. K’s hunting technique, he proved that he’s still got it, and continued to prove it when he nabbed another mouse the next morning.  With the consideration that Mr. Kitty is known for, he hunted this one down at 6:00 a.m.  DH shoved his furry orange behind out the door (mouse still in mouth).

I set up traps, well out of paws reach, and Mr. K held vigil in the laundry room, but no mice have been seen.cat_skull

Not to be outdone, on our Tuesday morning walk, Old Pup dashed towards the drainage pond in our local park.  I figured she was chasing the ducks, but then I heard her barking, and, as I got closer, something else snarling.  Oh, no, she’s cornered a raccoon.  I could barely make out Old Pup’s pale shape in the morning gloom.  I called to her, but of course, the prey drive was roaring in her ears, so I paced the water’s edge, and hoped I wouldn’t have to go in after her.

Finally, the Pupperoon gave a final bark and moved away, towards me.  I would like to state, for the record, that I don’t blame the raccoon for any of this.  It was in its territory, minding its own business, when a huge galumphing animal burst through the reeds with murderous intent.

Old Pup turned around; maybe she heard splashing or movement.  She went deeper into the pond.  I shone my little flashlight in the water, but only caught the gleam of two little eyes.  There was more snarling, then a yelp, and Old Pup’s head disappeared under the water. 

Not the real raccoon but a simulation

Not the real raccoon but a simulation

Oh god!  The raccoon was trying to drown her!  I waded into the water, shouting.  Old Pup was  back up, swimming towards me, and I could just make out the raccoon head somewhere on her back.  I swung the metal end of the leash towards it.  I don’t think I got near it, but the raccoon decided discretion was the better part of survival, slipped off Pup’s back and disappeared into the dark.  Immediately, Pup turned around and tried to swim after it.  I grabbed her tail and hauled her ashore.  The Puparoon immediately ran along the shore, trying to track it.  Finally, I was able to grab her collar, leash her, and drag her home.  Riding high on adrenaline and the chase, Old Pup was thrilled.  Her tail was high, her ears alert, her step prancing.  Soaked from the waist down, shoes squishing, I wasn’t nearly so happy.  Back home, I rinsed her under the hose (the pond water isn’t very clean), then had my own shower (with hot water, thank you very much), and related the whole tale to DH.  Under the kitchen light, we could see bloody scratches on her muzzle and ear.  Taking a look into her bright eyes and happy smile, she seemed to consider them worthy trophies.

One of the most-quoted lines from Republican veep nominee Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech is, “You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?  Lipstick.”

Governor, I’ve worked and played with pit bulls, I know pitbulls, I am friends with pit bulls.  Governor, you’re no pitbull.

Most pitbulls I have met are sweet, non-partisan souls, who would rather lick a person into submission than lay teeth on them.  They can be hazardous around cats and squirrels, but unlike most hockey moms, can often be taught to leave smaller critters alone.  They bear fewer grudges than your average politico.  I haven’t known one to wear lipstick, but some have painted toenails.

I run a program, Paws to Read, where children can read to dogs, and two dog members are pitbulls:  the effervescent Egg and Monte the Magnificent.  Egg is cream colored, with big dark eyes and a nose made for kissing.  He is always ready to play, but easily settles down.  Monte is a huge brindled hunk.  Like the Rock, he is daunting to look at, but is a serene soul who is unfazed by hordes of small children.

Not any Joe Blow dog can join the program.  They have to be tested and certified therapy dogs, safe around people, obedient to their handler.  Therapy dogs are invited to hospitals, schools and libraries.

Hockey moms or beillergent governors?  Not so much.

I don’t have permission to put Egg’s or Monte’s picture up here, but here are some other pibbles I’ve been lucky enough to know:

Look at that smile!

There are 4 young hawks in our nearby park. When I walk the dog, I can hear the high calls (for food? for company?) and see them flapping from tree to tree. The parents were kept busy feeding these voracious youngsters, and though I hoped some of the many,many squirrels in the park would disappear, most of the food seemed to be pigeons, judging by the scattered feathers beneath the trees. But not only feathers. I heard Old Pup go crunch, crunch around the base of a tree. Old Pup is a master forager, and must be monitored around picnic tables. But it wasn’t a chicken bone I pulled from her mouth. It was much smaller and slenderer; some unidentifiable pigeon part.

Well, I guess Old Pup is just fulfilling her part in the ecosystem.

In other news, Mr. Kitty decided to take control of his own diet. Since being diagnosed with FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder), he is having to go on Hills c/d (what does the ‘c’ stand for? Why not u/d?). Mr. Kitty is an obliging sort, and ate his prescription kibble, with occasional longing glances at our cheese and chicken (previously, he would be rewarded with these tidbits if he looked pathetic enough). Yesterday, DH (Dear Husband) heard the cat come in, meowing for attention, which he often does. DH turned around, only to see Mr. Kitty come around the corner with a bird in his mouth. To his credit, DH did not scream at the cat, but he did tell Mr. Kitty to get outside in a rather commanding voice. Mr. Kitty did, and since DH didn’t want to share the bounty, Mr. Kitty ate it all himself.

This was something of a surprise to us, for Mr. Kitty would not be considered the Great Orange Hunter. He has brought in a couple of mice, and once a rat (which he let go in the house), but we’ve seen him chatter at birds, which doesn’t seem much like an effective technique. And we’ve never seen him eat his prey.

Which shows you what he thinks of his diet.

Yeah, yeah, we know you’re not supposed to judge a book (or anything else) by it’s physical appearance, but who doesn’t? I’m always amazed by books with if not ugly, then insipid covers. Publishers spend good money on getting a title out, why put out something overtly trite?

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has wonderfully smart and snarky things to say about covers (warning: definitely PG-13 and up) and is generally a brilliant blog of all things romance.

On the kid/YA front, my personal affront is for Shaper by Jessie Haas. It’s a great story about a young man grieving over his late dog and falling in love. It also is an excellent intro to clicker training (which sounds wierd, but there you are). But still, that cover!

Blech.

I’ve been fooling with other covers:

or

If I could just figure out how to print it out on 11×17….