Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometime-downtown fauna

Sure to attract a sidewalk gathering anytime of day, this young blacktail deer seemed to take everything in stride in spite of the urban gawkers.

The downtown entree for this Western Washington species seems to be new sprouts brought on by this week's welcome sunshine.

Uh, oh..busted!

A blacktail doe lunching in south Bellingham

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lakeside therapy, and vistas great and small

Lake Padden's mirrored eastern shore

After a Tuesday full of ocular stress, a walk around Lake Padden was just the right therapy, with vistas big and small.

Afternoon stratus lifting over Lookout Mountain

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What do you want first, the bad news or the good news?

Sometimes Border Collie “parents” just never know how their weeks are going to go, and this one so far is no different. After noticing Casey’s unusually bloodshot eyes last Wednesday, coming off of weeks of abnormal eye discharge – usually in the morning and grayish in color – I called Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital to have our boy checked out. 

At the time I was thinking maybe allergy issues and expecting a change of diet to preempt visual issues later, you know, something simple. 

Surprise – the diagnosis was anything but. Casey’s veterinarian, Dan Hall, indicated that the symptoms and appearances of both eyes, after closer examination, lead him to believe that Casey was suffering from Chronic Superficial Keratitis, or pannus, an immune disorder most common in German Shepherds.

So Dan referred us to a Bellingham pet ophthalmologist, Terri McCalla, for a more detailed exam and specialized treatment.

So much for Friday. Saturday, lab work was conducted, a blood test with a lipid profile, to provide as a diagnostic tool for our ophthalmologist visit today. This appointment now seemed weeks away, knowing what we knew then, and the long term adverse effects that another tough diagnosis might mean. We were hoping for the best, and while maybe not expecting, ready for the worst.

Four long days and a constant stream of dire, imaginary scenarios later, we met Dr. Terri McCalla and the staff of Animal Eye Care LLC, and as usual, Casey Mac was the perfect patient, Mr. Docile, or better yet, Mr. Resignation.

After an hour of probing and scoping, one Rose Bengal dye test, one slit lamp biomicroscopy and indirect ophthalmoscopy test, and initial comprehensive ophthalmic examination later, Dr. McCalla gave us the bad news - and the good news.

Dr Terri McCalla and her perfect patient

Terri McCalla had found that Dr. Hall had been right – pannus – but with complications. Dan Hall and Terri McCalla also thought his blood profile pointed to hypothyroidism and a higher than normal cholesterol level, with particles of cholesterol even showing up on both of Casey’s corneas during Dr. McCalla’s exam. So this was the bad news and long term therapy would be needed to save Casey’s sight, now at 60% of normal. It seems our guy has been quite the accommodator with a Frisbee, snatching that disc at any distance and at all hours of the day or night.

The good news – long term therapy will restore all or most of Casey’s sight, an aggressive treatment with both a topical anti-inflammatory eye drop and Tacrolimus, an ointment that will help decrease corneal scarring and vascularization. Also thyroid medication will control the cholesterol levels and a vitamin and an anti-oxidant supplement recommended by Dr. McCalla, Ocu-GLO Rx, will beef up the boy’s immune system.

Techs Joanne and Melissa

There you have it. Our heads still hurt, and Casey really had a stressful day, but you know what, we feel very fortunate to have gotten him help when we did. He deserves it, he brings us great joy. And anyway, we’re never going to have to put him through college.

So he’s still a lot cheaper than a kid.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Congressional comfort food

Autumn leaves, rainy days and Mondays don’t always have to get you down. 

For us it just means that it’s time for real comfort food, and one of our favorites, Senate bean soup…in some circles or political persuasions, House of Representatives bean soup. Discovered on my first trip to Washington, DC, over 25 years ago, we’ve spent years fine-tuning the Capitol recipe and have finally become navy bean soup snobs. 

A souvenier refrigerator magnet for a Chesapeake Bay version is a great start.

Ingredients for 3 1/2 quarts:

1 lb navy beans - soaked overnight,
10.5 oz. consomme (we like organic chicken),
1 ham hock (we use organic, smoked hams slices), 
1 pressed garlic clove, and...

Well, just check out menu on right and improvise. 

Seems simple enough, and almost impossible to screw up, almost any version of the Congressional concoction would be both tasty as well as healthy – using local, organic ingredients. Today we substituted Organic Prairie Hardwood Smoked Ham for a ham hock.

Bean soup has been on the menu of the Senate and House restaurants (or more accurately cafeterias) since 1903. We became hooked in 1992 and have been working on perfecting this Navy bean side dish ever since, each year’s batch of beans, ham, vegetables, and spices better than the last.

And with a side of rosemary bread and butter, well...taste for yourself.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eastern shores

Looking southeast on Hertz Trail on Lake Whatcom shoreline

With the temperatures still hovering around 70, with the bluest skies you’ve ever seen, we headed out to a new hiking trail.  It was at least new to us and it shouldn’t have been, but the fact is there are more than fifty trails in Whatcom County, ranging from easy strolls to all-day expeditions.  We get in a rut with some of our nearby favorites and don’t venture out enough.

Not today.  This afternoon we made it out to Hertz Trail on the eastern shore of Lake Whatcom and experienced what many of our friends consider one of the premier vista hikes.

Over 6 miles in-and-out, we traversed along an old railroad grade, following the lakeshore through lush forests of old Douglas fir and sword ferns, and waterfalls along the foot of Mt Stewart. 

Toward late afternoon, with the trail becoming fairly isolated, we even let Casey off-leash occasionally to snoop around close at hand.

The winds seemed to be snapping at the water today with gusts over 25 knots, as a prelude to wet weather moving in and sticking around for a few days, so venturing out of our hiking comfort zone couldn’t have been more timely, or more picturesque.

The most plentiful genus of 'shrooms on the trail.

They look tasty...but could be the Beguiled variety that knocked off Clint Eastwood for all we know.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A summer holdover Saturday

With the temperatures nearing record territory for this date, pristine Saturdays like today are going to be rarities until next spring, so we tried to cram as much “outdoor” into the Great Outdoors as we could.

First stop, the Boundary Bay Brewery and lunch with oldest son Joe and grandkids Kaya and Silas – who even managed to salvage their appetites after polishing off a half a bag of Kettle Corn. Appetites run in the family.

Before we headed out of town we wove our way through the Farmers Market, stocking up on vegetables and a visual overload. The flower stands were still flourishing, local fruits and vegetables were plentiful, and you could even pedal up an organic Spokey Dokes (peach, strawberry, raspberry etc) smoothie at the Juice Peddler. We were of course conserving our energy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

"What a difference a day made...

...24 little hours."

The first day of autumn came in with a flurry of showers this morning, like payback for yesterday's junket to the county.

And then for the rest of the day, it was anything goes.

But it's time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The last gasp of summer

Yesterday was a day worth archiving to combat any bouts with seasonal moodiness this winter. The weather was absolutely perfect, and an invitation to Doctor Bob's house was an adventure in socialization and exploration for Case. Our city boy got to root around acres of farm and meadow, all the while passing muster, working on his "people" skills with Digby the Beagle and Yogi, an Aussie-German Shepherd mix.

A nearby family of coyotes never made an appearance and the guys didn't even see fit to establish a pecking order. A very good start.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A swing through a legendary indie book store

Stopping by the Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company is a must, particularly if you don't have a lot of time. Because if you did, you'd want to hang out and book browse in this indie all day.

And Casey's in no hurry. He gets blueberry treats at checkout.

Quickie "lunch" at Verite's

OK, not exactly a lunch Dr. Oz would recommend, but we couldn't leave Seattle without our huckleberry cupcakes and Stumptown coffee.

Now, just one more stop.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peaceable kingdom

Just around the corner from our favorite Seattle espresso cafe, VĂ©rite Coffee, a 1984 piece by Richard  Beyer entitled The Peaceable Kingdom adorns the front lawn of the Madrona Branch of the Seattle Public Library. 

The Peaceable Kingdom...a nice thought, but it just doesn't seem complete.

There - much better.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seattle's leafy sentinels

Bigleaf maple (acer macrophyllum)
During a walk around the Madrona neighborhood in Seattle today, while Casey was busy sniff-checking the route, we couldn’t help but notice the omnipresent maples lining each boulevard.

After a quick Google check, we learned that the Bigleaf Maple is not only the most impressive of these giant leafy sentinels in town, pushing 100 feet in height, but also the most planted tree in Seattle, many beginning as saplings as long ago as the 1920s.

But our favorite Acer macrophyllum of all - right outside Marsha’s front door, and still hanging in there. 

Hi Marsh.     

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stress management

At the end of a long day, or weekend in this case, Casey definitely knows how to drop out to unwind, even with a storm raging outside. 
  A little solitude always works wonders, in a chair he laid claim to from day one.
Remember when you could relax like this?