Adventure Is Always Present Tense

A sister-in-law: “Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? I think of you as I read it, because of your adventurous spirit.”

Me: “No, but I am thrilled that you think I have an adventurous spirit. Wonder if I agree.”

A sister-in-law: “Are you kidding?”

Adventurous? Moi? I wish! I do like to try new things but I generally fall short of earning the honor of that adjective.

I can be a big chicken, but that’s not what prevents me. It’s my tendency to dwell in the past and on the future. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. It afflicts most adults of our species.

Adventure can only be had right now, in the present. Kids are good at living in the present tense. So are critters. It’s a skill I’m trying to re-acquire.

When you first learn to walk, every moment is an adventure:

LByearphoto

A few years later, adventure is as close as your next idea, such as this tandem go-cart constructed of cardboard boxes, plywood, and skateboard wheels:

StartPoint

 

Red and Luna would head out each morning to patrol the yard and explore anything that might be new since yesterday.

redandluna

And of course, when you’re a dog, like Shadow, adventure is always in the air – especially through a car window:

Waiting for the next walk.

Shadow and I go for walks twice a day. I vary the route but we’ve lived here for years. No matter which way we go, we’ve done it before. Many times. Yet, each time we step out the door, Shadow’s enthusiasm is as fresh as ever, and she’s always in a hurry to get going. It’s not that she needs to go – she’s got a backyard, she’s not cooped up inside. She’s eager because you just never know what might happen next.

That’s the attitude I aspire to. Except without the affinity for cat poop.

Nica, the main character of my latest novel, is completely comfortable with adventure. I’ve never written another character that I want so much to be like!

Transformation by Moonlight

I have always been a cat person, but these last few years, here I am with a dog. My kids knew the right buttons to push. If we didn’t take Shadow she was going to the shelter. Right away. Next week. And she was too old to be adopted, once there. I said we could take her until we found a home for her. I’m sure you can finish this part of the story without me.

Waiting for the next walk.

Waiting for the next walk.

Shadow has been in the family for about 5 years now. She is either 7 or 12, depending on which murky version of her past is correct. All my experience is with cats, and rabbits, who are a lot like cats, except in two dimensions – they don’t usually go high above the ground.

Dogs are not like cats. Shadow doesn’t want to think for herself. She wants me to tell her what to do. I want her to figure it out for herself. Not sure how long it might take to re-train me about this.

Shadow is a sweet soul who had difficult early years. It was before my time with her, but some effects are permanent. She has fly-strike bald patches on her ears (indicating neglect, the vet says), she is afraid of young children and petite women (abuse, we speculate), and she is unpredictably psycho around other dogs. She might be friendly, she might attack. She can switch from one attitude to the other in an instant.

I walk her twice a day, and sometimes she will lunge at a dog who barks behind a fence, with such force I am lucky to remain standing. She knows the lunges are forbidden but sometimes she can’t resist. No doubt my lack of dog savvy contributes to the problem. My aging joints are getting more brittle and someday I may have to stop walking her to avoid these jolts.

During a walk I am quite willing to reverse direction, or take her to stand on the far side of a parked car, when another dog and walker appear. Neighbors who have friendly dogs are oblivious, or amused by this. Neighbors with kindred dogs have similar tactics. There was one night when I stood behind a car forever, waiting for the other dog to walk by, then finally looked out at the same time as the other dogwalker – who had moved behind a car across the street, waiting for me to walk by!

I know all the routes that let me see whether another dog is coming around the bend, I know all the streets that are wide enough to let dogs pass by without incident. And I know the times of day when the streets will be heavy with dogs, or empty of them.

One benefit of psycho dog walking syndrome is that I have discovered the pleasures of a dog walk by moonlight on a summer night. When all the other dogs are inside for the night, Shadow becomes a lovely walking companion. When I can be comfortable strolling in shorts and sleeveless top around about midnight – that makes the daytime heat worthwhile. And when the moon is bright enough to cast shadows, magic ensues. Usually the shadow images aren’t dense or defined enough to show up well in my photographs. But one night recently, they were.

The photos below show the moon-shadows of a tree and a chicken-wire fence on a yellow garage door, transformed from mundane to mysterious. The dog was reasonably patient about my stopping to take the photos. There are things we need to accept about each other on walks. I stop to take pictures. She stops to sniff every frigging molecule in the universe. (One of us is more accepting than the other.)

Anyway, here are the photos:

2014-07-13 21.10.45

 

2014-07-13 21.10.36

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Summer Lovin’.

Sticking to Principles, or Just Plain Stuck?

For readers who do not follow U.S. politics (a wise bunch), some background: in November 2012, our most recent presidential campaign concluded. Obama and Biden won re-election. Their opponents were Romney and Ryan.

Every day I walk my dog around the neighborhood, twice. I try to vary our route but over a week we pass the same homes repeatedly. A couple blocks from me is a neighbor I have never seen on any of those walks, but fantasize meeting, to inquire about this obsolete campaign sign, getting weathered and worn on the front lawn:

A sign of defiance?

A sign of defiance?

What I want to ask – but let’s face it, never will – goes like this: Are you aware the election is over? Are you trying to will a different result? Is this a signal of your refusal to accept the outcome? (Insert rant about kneejerk intransigence in the federal government.) Should we call the SWAT team – have you been held hostage in your house for more than 12 months, unable to walk out front to remove the sign?

Please advise.

(This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge wants to see habits.)

Coming Soon: Cat Attack

The dog and I live with five cats. (Insert who-in-their-right-mind rant here.) It is almost a peaceable kingdom, with one glaring – and hissing – exception.

Shadow the rescue dog, age about 8, likes everybody.  She terrified kitten Leo until Leo discovered the dog tail as toy. Now all but one of the cats like the dog.

Shadow and Luna, lounging

Shadow and Luna

Luna and Bop, age 10, came from the same shelter on the same day. They mostly get along but never much bonded.  We blame Bop.

The oldsters, Bop and Luna, age 10.

The oldsters, Bop and Luna, age 10.

Luna likes everybody. For a long time he feared the dog. Eventually this fear evolved to a play arrangement with surprisingly specific terms: the dog can chase Luna  if the dog is in the backyard first and Luna arrives. In all other locations and situations, no chasing.

A new familiar sight - Luna napping with a youngster, in this case, Bo.

A new familiar sight – Luna napping with a youngster, in this case, Bo.

Arrow, Leo, and Bo, age 11 months, came from two different shelters on the same day. They could not be more loving and friendly to each other. All three are the sweetest cats I’ve ever known. Otherwise they have quite distinct personalities.

Waking up.

The youngsters, Bo, Leo, and Arrow, when they first joined the household.

Bop tolerates the dog but chases her if dinner is delayed and she is crabby.  Ditto Bop with her life partner, Luna. The reality is that Bop wants to be an only animal in a household where she never will be.

Bop hates the kittens and for months we had to keep them separate – no easy task in our 700 square foot home – lest she kill them. Now that two of the kittens are bigger than Bop, we let them mingle. The kittens are learning to stand their ground. We have six spray bottles of water stationed all over the house and yard. We spray Bop whenever we catch her messing with a kitten. Oh so gradually the violence seems to be lessening. But there are some days – you can just tell – Bop won’t be able to relax until she has kicked some kitten butt.

A peacekeeper.

A peacekeeper.

The situation is further complicated by the similarity in looks between mean old Bop and sweet young Arrow. What amazes me: the kittens can’t tell them apart, either! I thought animals used smell to identify. Maybe not, or maybe they can’t distinguish Bop from Arrow because the smells are so mixed up at our house. Whatever the explanation, the other youngsters, Bo and Leo, are always doing doubletakes when a tuxedo cat walks in.

There were too many instances of Leo and Bo clearly mistaking the two – running from their best friend Arrow, or running toward their enemy Bop – so now Bop wears a collar with a bell.  That seems to have helped some.

Typical sight around the household: Bop menacing a youngster.

Typical sight around the household: Bop menacing a youngster.

This time, the target is Arrow, just awakened from a nap to find Bop glaring at her.

This time, the target is Arrow, just awakened from a nap to find Bop glaring at her.

Pop quiz: who is this? Bop or Arrow? (answer on next page)

Pop quiz: who is this? Bop or Arrow? (answer on next page)

Four-Legged Friends and Associates

This week’s photo challenge topic is companions and for me that means the four-legs in our household.  I’ve already posted a bizilion applicable photos (tags dogs or cats).  Okay, at least half a bizillion. So now, make it a bizillion plus six.

A decade ago, Bop and Luna were kittens and my son (now 6'2) was shorter than his twin sister (now 5'10").

A decade ago, Bop and Luna were kittens and my son (now 6’2) was shorter than his twin sister (now 5’10”).

Bop grew up to disdain other four-legs, with one exception. She enjoyed our rabbit Cookie, a bold and aggressive rescue bunny. Bop loved to hang out in Cookie's cage. An extreme sport. Cookie would have killed anybody (not an exaggeration) she caught in her cage.

Bop grew up to disdain other animals, with one exception. She enjoyed our rabbit Cookie, a bold and aggressive rescue bunny. Bop loved to hang out in Cookie’s cage. An extreme sport: Cookie would have killed anybody (not an exaggeration) she caught in her cage.

Cookie liked living with cats. She learned all sorts of tricks that rabbits should never do, such as climbing fences. When we first got her she was indoors in a cage but soon had the run of the backyard. She chased the cats whenever she could. She chased the neighbors out of their backyard. Fortunately they found this charming. For all of that she was very affectionate.

Cookie liked living with cats. She learned all sorts of tricks that rabbits should never do, such as climbing fences. When we first got her she was indoors in a cage but soon had the run of the backyard. She chased the cats whenever she could. She chased the neighbors out of their backyard. (Fortunately they found this charming). For all of that she was very affectionate.

As a kitten, Luna appointed our two older cats as his parents. For the rest of her life, Boink (right) groomed and cuddled with Luna.

As a kitten, Luna (left) appointed our two older cats as his parents. For the rest of her life, Boink (right) groomed and cuddled with Luna daily.

Red, a gentle giant of a tomcat, became Luna's dad. They spent endless hours playfighting and exploring together.

Red, a gentle giant of a tomcat, became Luna’s dad. They spent endless hours playfighting and exploring together.

When Cookie the rabbit succumbed to lung cancer, we lost a special individual and my key excuse against getting a dog. Enter Shadow, who lets the kids mess with her.

When Cookie the rabbit succumbed to lung cancer, we lost a special individual and my key excuse against getting a dog. Enter Shadow, who lets the kids mess with her.

(Posted as part of the Weekly Photo Challenge.)

Canine Kindness

True story from some friends…

Peaches was a rescue dog who liked being the only dog. A big, arthritic German Shepherd, she had the air of a retired police dog (though she wasn’t one). On walks, she avoided other dogs, and when house guests visited they had to leave their dogs at home.

One night on a walk, she suddenly dragged her people across a street toward another dog. They feared her attitude had worsened and that she was about to pick her first fight. Instead, she stopped next to a morose stray and sat down. Never had a dog looked as unhappy with freedom as this stray did.

The stray was short and funny-looking, with a barrel chest and a long pointy snout. The people named her Edna and – with Peaches’ clear permission – they brought Edna home. No one ever answered the Lost Dog signs they plastered around the neighborhood and so Edna joined the family. Peaches continued to tolerate her until Peaches succumbed to various old-dog ailments several months later. 

Edna lived for many more years, delighting all who met her with her goofy, gregarious, and loving ways.

Edna looked like a cousin of Frankenweenie.

Edna looked like a cousin of Frankenweenie.

(Written for today’s  Daily Prompt.)