Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reverse spooning

Stella and Casey

There's nothing like a little late-nite, interspecies coziness with a fireplace cranking out waves of warmth and ambiance. Tough life for these two.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


One thing our guy does before heading out on the trail is checking to see if the trail is clear of fellow hikers that may or may not be totally user-friendly. You just never know...some breeds or mixes don't seem one iota threatening, and others? It's usually the tiny canines that make him edgy - cockapoos, Jacks etc. The vibes are out there for sure though, and Casey can always sense that there might be a potential confrontation, or just an obnoxious intrution by a overly playful youngster.

His head's on a swivel here, just before we head out. That's OK though, our rescued guy's come a long way and looks forward to these offleash excursions every time we venture out. Pure approach/avoidance.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My friend Glicka

I met Glicka tonight, a Lab, Golden Retriever, Rottweiller mix of a sweetheart dog at an informal Veteran For Peace gathering. It was enough that she was 70 pounds of lovable canine, but her companion and Veterans For peace member Steve Noetzel shared a great story that the San Francisco Chronicle ran with his byline. Enjoy.
Top of Form

Bottom of Form

What happens when you follow a dog ball right over the cliff?

Stephen S. Noetzel, Special to The Chronicle
Saturday, October 20, 2007

I'm certain she thinks it's her name. Or at least the most important part of her name, since she hears it a hundred times a day. 

From the moment we brought her home from the San Francisco SPCA, her fervent intent has been to greet every passing stranger with exuberant kisses and hugs. And as every puppy knows, you've got to jump to plant a kiss on a grown-up. Not that anyone minded. She was 2 months old - velvety black, big floppy ears and even bigger clumsy paws. And when that tail started to wag - no, not just the tail but the entire caboose - the cuteness factor trumped the jumping hazard every time. 
"OK, Glicka. Easy, Glicka," I'd warn as yet another giddy stranger approached in response to her irresistible puppiness. "Easy, Glicka ... no, Glicka. No jumping. No jumping. No jumping!" Too late. 

She has proved to be a quick study. She might not know that Glicka is the feminine construct of Lucky in Yiddish, but she quickly concluded that "no jumping" was her second name. At the dog park, on hearing a stranger admonish his own dog with the two-word exclamation, as often as not she'll turn and bolt in that direction. "I'm here! No Jumping is here!" When I'm looking for recall (training the dog to come when called - the holy grail of puppy training), instead of "Here, Glicka" I'm better off shouting: "No Jumping!" 

That first year went like lightning. If parents of preteens lament that their babies grow up fast, puppy owners learn that you get just four or five months of sidewalk-clogging lovefests centered on the cuteness of that bouncing, kissing canine. 

By the time we celebrated her first birthday at the end of January, Glicka had grown to a svelte 70 pounds - and she knew her name was Glicka. She had also found her roots - her mama was a golden retriever and her daddy was a black Labrador-rottweiler mix, or so the SPCA said - and Glicka had become a ball hawk. Retrieving her ball became her mission in life. 

At the dog park, I pull my long-handled ball chucker way back and catapult her ball high into the air. From a sitting position before me she's in full sprint in a flash, nose in the air, eyes locked on the arc of the ball. She times her arrival to allow the ball to bounce once. Then just as it reaches the motionless pinnacle of the bounce, she leaps 4 feet into the air and snares it in her jaws. It is a thing of beauty. She lands gracefully, turns to me to display the rainbow ball now locked between flashing white teeth, then prances in circles to accept my adulation. "Yahoo!" I shout to her. "Good catch, Glicka. Good jump, Glicka!" 

"Good jump? I thought my name was No Jumping." Is that a smile as she races toward me? "Here you go, Daddy. That was a good one. Now throw it again!" 

All dog owners know this soft-rubber, bright rainbow ball that feels as though it's stuffed with a marshmallow. It has surface ridges for texture. Best of all, it contains a loud, indestructible squeaker at its core. Glicka cherishes her rainbow ball. She's faithfully retrieved the very same ball going on almost six months. 

The few times she's lost her ball, she's gotten anxious, almost frantic, as I helped her find it. She runs in circles, sniffing, searching, looking. Twice I have suffered an injury while searching for it off trail. Once, just as I found it lodged in the crevice between two rocks on Bernal Hill, I slipped and twisted my knee. I yelped in pain and Glicka ran to help me. I stuffed the ball in my pocket and hobbled down the hill and into the car. She stuck with me, whimpering almost as loudly as I. She knew I was in trouble. Eventually the torn meniscus healed. We were only recently back to the old routine when I sprained my ankle (same leg) hunting for the ball in the woods. 

Telling my Glicka stories in a long-distance phone call to my son, he asked, "Aren't you guys a little old to be raising a kid?" 

"Absolutely," I answered, but I knew there was no turning back.

"That dog" he concluded, "is going to kill you someday."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/19/HO4LSBUVE.DTL#ixzz1kpFT5PxV

Friday, January 27, 2012

We were going, remember?

If you bring up a magic word like walk, run, woods, or, God forbid, bye-bye, you'd better mean it. A four-year-old Border Collie will hold you to it - forget hanging around the house when there's the first sign of a sun break. This otherwise tranquil, domestic family scene above, a quick shot on a beee-utiful day, has become a real bottleneck to moving out the door. Just like a big kid, "Remember, you said we were going for a walk...remember?"

Can you tell who's getting anxious? (Stella doesn't count, she's always a little anxious.)

Vic with her "lap" dog

How about now?

Close but no cigar

On the left, a print we received in the mail from our son and daughter-in-law that really captured the essence of Casey Mac after a good workout. At first glance we thought it had actually been reproduced from one of his blog photos.  But come on, check out Mr Photogenic on the right - on the first sunny day in a week by the way. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A big smile

After two days of mostly continuous rainshowers and occasional gusty winds, enough to result in our first power outage since moving back to Bellingham. We just really needed a good laugh, and decent weather for a change...somewhere.  Check out this little guy from DogWork.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cat nap cocoon

Spreading a sheet cover during the day to protect a favorite quilt from cat or dog shedding is usually a good plan, but fair game for Stella as she retires for the morning, noon, or night. She will grab a sheet corner - she usually prefers the side of the bed by our window for some reason - and roll into a comfy nap cocoon.

You gotta hand it to her. This comfort queen knows what she likes...and what she can get away with.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sixth or seventh sense

Sometimes you can't even think about taking
Casey's picture. He always seems to sense when
anyone is pointing, even reaching for the camera.

Now you see it

So much for this round of winter. In less than 24 hours we've gone from sub-zero temps and a half a foot of snow to over 50 degrees and a mess. At least we were spared the ice storm conditions that hit the Seattle area. And we might have been imagining it but it seems like Casey's been a little down about his missing white stuff all day. The clip below shows the transition in less than a day. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sub-zero ecstasy, while it lasts

More than likely this will be the last chance in a while for the kid to let it all hang out with such abandon on a late night roll in the snow. Tomorrow night it'll be a slushy mess and not nearly as inviting.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teaching Katie an old trick

We ran across this today and had to share it - infant Katie being taught the finer points of catching and throwing a ball by a Border Collie. It looks like this distant cousin of Casey isn't about to let child development and maturation stand in the way of learning this trick. After all, he learned it in five minutes at about the same age. What's seems to be the problem?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The white out that never showed

As expected, we waited all day for the Seattle and Northwest Interior Snowpocalypse of 2011…and as a matter of fact we’re still waiting, by the fire, and pouring our first glass of wine. Casey did manage to coax us outside a couple of times today though, right in the middle of the blizzard that never materialized and temperatures in the teens, for a neighborhood snow trek - stopping to enhance every splotch of yellow snow he found.

And if that wasn’t enough, he was ready for a Frisbee toss as soon as his paws warmed up. Listen to the quiet in this clip, soundproofed by at least six inches of snow, at a time when winds were blustering at the airport with gusts over 35 knots.

Stella and Casey waiting on the white out

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Careful what you wish for

Well, it really paid off this time for Casey with a fresh blanket of the white stuff. The kid was anxious to get outside before the sun came up and probably wondered why we weren’t so enthusiastic.
You see last night was supposed to be the break before the next big blow tonight through Thursday morning.  Bellingham will be coping with another 4 to 8 inches with an urgent weather watch in effect for the duration while an Arctic front moves south.

The novelty’s bound to be wearing off real soon if this keeps up like this.

Casey with the grandkids, Silas (l) and Kaya.

We don’t have any right to complain yet with the Seattle area expecting its most significant snow fall since 1985, and the Inaugural Day storm of 1993 was no slouch.

Looking west to Sehome Hill

Monday, January 16, 2012

So much for that forecast

We should have paid more attention to Casey last night. At about the time it was lights out, he had to go outside, and we thought it was just to take care of business. But when I'd check on him, there was Case, just standing on the backyard deck, carefully sampling the crisp air of a moonless midnight. He’s stoic like that late at night, sort of a sensory mapping of his immediate surroundings. It seems more likely now that Casey sensed a change in the weather, no matter what the National Weather Service had forecasted.

Tonight and tomorrow, the county is getting ready for accumulations of 4 to 12 inches in Northwest Washington. And something tells me it won't be any surprise at all to Casey.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Post script

Late afternoon skies during walk around the neighborhood.

Sorry, Case. This morning was just a teaser. A few snow showers to get us all excited.

And tonight, from the looks of the National Weather Service terminal forecast for Bellingham, just bone chilling cold with mostly clear skies. 

KBLI 160532Z 1606/1706 00000KT P6SM SKC
     TEMPO 1606/1610 1/2SM FZFG
     FM161000 00000KT P6SM SCT040
     TEMPO 1610/1614 1/2SM FZFG
     FM161400 16010KT P6SM BKN040 BKN120
     FM162100 18012KT 5SM -SHSN BKN020 OVC040
     FM170200 18010KT P6SM SCT025 BKN060

White stuff

Finally. A snowfall...and more snow showers forecasted all day long.

Casey's stuffed Santa won't even be an afterthought if we get any kind of accumulation.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friending in VB

On a swing through dog-friendly Village Books today Casey was presented with a great opportunity to make new friends. After all, when he first came to town after being rescued, dog-friendly VB was one of his primary rehab locales for socialization, learning that there wasn’t necessarily a danger from people and canines lurking around every corner.

Tonight on the main floor he took a liking to a couple of potential buddies, a malamute
and a Dalmatian, but had a little trouble breaking the ice.

Luckily we had a camera handy to capture Casey giving them both the once-over, with even sniff checks at both ends.

It took him almost no time at all to lose interest in this standoffish pair of imports (we were so proud), moving on to the real hook for this Border - a checkout counter complete with dog treats. I mean why else would anybody visit a bookstore? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

A definite maybe for the first snowfall

Late in the day while we were making the rounds of the neighborhood, including the sanctuary we call Casey’s Field, the filtered sunlight gave the ridge and surroundings a cast of pre-snowfall conditions. Temperatures were pushing the mid-thirties at best, and our now barren field looked like it had been prepped for a half foot of the white stuff.

Conflicting forecasts will probably keep us guessing all weekend, but for the first time this winter some accumulation seems inevitable. And when it comes right down to it, our snow-junkie deserves it. It’s been so long.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New local R and B find

Appearing tonight at Bellingham's Western Washington University is a remarkable R&B talent from Seattle, Allen Stone. See if you catch a hint of a Stevie Wonder/Donny Hathaway hybrid wrapped around his pure falsetto riffs. Something tells me you're going to see a whole lot more of this kid. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just...one...more. How 'bout it?

After ten or fifteen minutes of Frisbee tosses, which usually includes more catch contortions than I care to watch, we start to wind down with "OK, just three more...just two more...then, last one, make it good."

Each session, after making the last catch, Casey goes into his "just-one more, how-about-it" pose. It's always eye-ball-to-eye-ball, in a crouch, head down with the disc planted vertically in front.

Kind of cheeky for our shy guy.  And it works every time.

Casey posing after a couple of "last ones"

What a difference a year makes

December 2010

January 2012 

Just over a year ago it would have been impossible to pose on the rim of Whatcom Falls as we were doing today. The overflow at that time was torrential and extended the full width of the outcrop.

What a difference a year makes, and Casey is still as fearless (oblivious?) of the height of the drop-off and the rush of frigid Whatcom Creek as ever.

You’ll notice I didn’t let him venture out to the waterline; someone had to show a little respect for whitewater and the twenty-foot drop.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Did you forget something?

No one knows how to play the guilt card like Casey when he knows perfectly well that the time has come and gone for his afternoon run around the neighborhood.
And dragging out the leash is a nice touch…what else can you do but close the laptop, lace up, and let the kid lead the way around Samish Ridge before the next rain shower. Get a load of that look. He's got that down.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Take a number

When have you ever seen four-legged family members enjoy, in fact look forward to being groomed? Okay, jonesin' for a bath might be a stretch, but a good brushing or combing is a ritual that Casey and Stella will actually line up for, as if they had each taken a number and don’t want to lose their place in the queue.
In fact it’s common that Stella, instead of ducking for cover like most cats, will watch intently while Victoria works her magic making Casey a little bit more presentable, or at least snag-free.

Knowing his place

A big shout out to Patrick MacDonnell of Mutts for capturing the essence of what can happen if pet owners fail to lay down the law right from the start. By setting groundrules from the time they're puppies, man's best friends will learn how not to act around the house, and what they can and can't get away with. 

Casey has always been a quick study.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Freight train intrusion

An idyllic Marine Park interval at sunset, during a much needed time out from a relentless series of rain showers and nearly gale force winds that have been battering Bellingham for the better part of a week, was severed by the long and short wails of an approaching Burlington Northern Santa Fe coal train bound for Vancouver, BC for off load.

The environmental impact of these shipments through the state of Washington, originating from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, has continued to spark activism here at home and will undoubtedly be a prime motivator for a well-oiled Occupy Bellingham organization and the passing of a No Coal initiative for all of 2012.

Sustainability and environmental activism, including non-violent civil disobedience, has paid off in the past, even halting the construction of the proposed Skagit Valley nuclear power plant in 1980.

Environmentally committed Bellinghamsters know the stakes, and they remain confident.  They have known for decades that they have to stay focused and active, to protect and preserve these panoramas for future generations...as much as they are certain the rain will definitely let up in May.         

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A slice of comfort food

Victoria was a little under the weather tonight. Well, more than a little, with a monster cold that’s hung on for a couple of days longer than we thought was fair. The perfect comfort food in situations like this? Pizza. And as long as one of us is ambulatory, with car keys, a take-out half veggie/half pepperoni from Rudy’s Pizzeria is just 10 minutes away.

After two or three days on a diet of soup and juice, Vic is definitely turning a corner with this beauty. While take out pizza is not exactly a cornucopia of nutrition, it can sure lift you out of a funk. And if Casey plays his cards right, particularly the guilt card, you never know...a piece of crust?  He's a master at working you for that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On your list of 2012 resolutions, See War Horse

Do yourself a favor. Buy a ticket to War Horse. You know you want to, in spite of the fact that it’s based on a children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo and from what you hear is barely gritty enough to have earned its PG-13 rating.

I gave in today, with no expectations beyond a hope for a decent treatment of a genre that has always been a literary and film draw for me – Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front, Gallipoli, To End All Wars and way more – and now I can’t wait until I can share a bucket of popcorn with my grandkids and see War Horse again for the umpteenth time. Especially with the lessons learned, since director Steven Spielberg didn't flinch from the cruelty and futility of war, and even PTSD, as these issues are woven with dignity throughout a well-crafted subplot.  

As one dog person and animal lover to another, just trust me. This adventure story, with a terrific cast, a John Williams score and photography by Janusz Kaminski, is the total package. It will also be best to settle back in your theater seat, as close to the screen as your movie-viewing dignity will allow – you just might have to go by yourself to pull that off – and watch Spielberg's Golden Globe nominated film. You’ve been waiting for a potentially classic period piece like this since Saving Private Ryan. And when the credits roll, you'll be applauding with everyone else, after first wiping your eyes.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Well hello 2012

Its way too late on New Year’s Eve to spend a lot of time posting, but I think I heard the last of the fireworks within ear shot let loose only minutes ago. The only sounds that are intruding on this much deserved tranquility now, just minutes into 2012, are the relentless ticking of a wall clock and the rhythmic breathing of a Border Collie leaning on my lap.

Maybe the revelers are just as tired of 2011 as we are, anticipating much better days ahead. Nothing wrong with that.