Ace’s Halloween treat? He got to hop in the back of this funereal-looking vehicle.
It’s a 1955 Cadillac owned by my neighbor, and Ace’s new best friend, Al, who likes to take it out of the garage around Halloween time and show it off a bit.
Ace, when he’s outside, always keeps one eye on Al’s door, five units down from mine. If it moves at all, he bounds off, expecting treats. Al always has one, and if he doesn’t he raids his own refrigerator. Sometimes I worry the leftovers Al’s giving Ace — chicken, fish, steak – are that night’s dinner.
At one point, Al asked if he was being a bad influence on Ace. With the last bag of dog treats he bought, Al, who is dogless, volunteered to give them all to me so Ace, who normally stays put in the front yard, wouldn’t go running off down to his house.
Smart as that would be, discipline-wise, I said no. Having noted the spring in Ace’s step everytime he sees Al, and vice versa, I decided to let the bad habit continue.
As a result, Ace will do anything Al asks — including, it turned out, hopping into the back of the refurbished, ghostly silver vehicle that, back in its prime, served as the last ride for many a human and floral arrangement.
In exchange he got — you guessed it — a treat.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 1955, ace, al, america, animals, bad habits, cadillac, discipline, dog, dogs, flower car, friends, funeral, halloween, hearse, neighbors, pets, road trip, travels with ace, treats, trick or treat, vehicle
The quietude of our sleepy little neighborhood has been shattered.
We are under attack.
I mean hundreds every hour, and that’s just counting the ones that pelt my roof. It started about a week ago, and has been gaining intensity ever since, as if working up to some nutty grand finale.
Ace, who doesn’t like loud noises — and believe me, it’s very loud — is starting to get used it. Only during the worst, like when 50 or so bombard us over the course of, say, 10 seconds, does he look up, wondering what’s going on.
But it’s a daily and day-long event — thousands of acorns, both green and brown, falling from the sky, pelting the top of my car, rattling the roof of my house, pinging off my grill and air conditioner and slamming onto the sidewalk.
In almost every case, they lose their cute little hats in the process.
I’ve lived among oak trees before, but I don’t remember ever seeing an acorn fall, and definitely not anything like the barrage underway on my street.
Huge oak trees line the whole block, and their limbs hang over the housing units. But none of them seem to be raining acorns like the ones hanging over my place.
When I was planting my pansies Saturday, at least five acorns –and usually you can hear them coming, ripping through the leaves on the way down — smashed to the ground at my feet.
I’m hoping it won’t still be raining acorns on Halloween — because given the distance they are falling from, and their hardness, they could do some damage to young heads. Or old heads for that matter.
I haven’t been hit by one directly yet. I’ve had a few bounce off my grill and hit me, and many land at my feet. Ace has also escaped thus far, even though he spends a lot of time laying under the trees in the front yard.
The acorns pose a double threat. In addition to the possibility of getting beaned by one on the way down, there’s the hazard of sliding on those that have already fallen, especially when they’re hidden under leaves.
Most often they just crunch underfoot, but every once in a while there’s a group that are particularly hard and stubborn, and it’s like trying to walk on marbles.
There are those who believe that an abundance of acorns is a sign that the coming winter will be severe — that somehow nature is able to figure out how many acorns squirrels will need to get through the season and, accordingly, instructs the trees on how many they should grow and drop, so that there’s always enough for everyone.
That’s a little too neat and tidy, trickle-down and happily ever after for me to believe.
We can’t and shouldn’t try to dictate and control it. We shouldn’t ask it to change the song. And when we do cut in, we should do it gently and with respect. After all, we we’re lucky just to be invited.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abundance, ace, acorns, america, animals, autumn, bombarded, control, danger, dogs, fall, falling, hazard, nature, noisy, north carolina, nuts, oak, pets, road trip, squirrels, travel with ace, trees, winston-salem, winter
Ace slept through the whole thing, but I, at least, was honored to be a guest on Animal Cafe this week to discuss my year-long, penny-pinching, Steinbeck-inspired, dog-motivated journey across America.
You can listen to the podcast here.
We talked about “Travels with Ace” with Edie Jarolim, pet travel correspondent for Animal Cafe.
As Ace snoozed on the futon, I recounted, by phone, how — having finished my book, and languishing in a state of unemployment — we came to move out of our home in Baltimore and not come to a stop until 25,000 miles later.
Part of that time was spent retracing the route John Steinbeck took with his poodle in “Travels with Charley.” But unlike Steinbeck, who spent three months on the road, we ended up taking a year before we semi-settled back down.
When Edie asked me if our traveling was over, I had one of those schizoid moments. Responsible John answered yes, they pretty much were. But Freewheeling John was there on the other shoulder, urging that we hit the road again.
I told him to shutup — at least for now.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animal cafe, animals, dog inc., dogs, edie jarolim, john steinbeck, john woestendiek, pets, podcast, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley
It’s clear to see — or maybe it isn’t — that Ace has found his new bar.
Ever since departing Baltimore, though he makes up for it by being social in other ways, I think he has missed his regular corner bar, which we never identify because dogs in bars are illegal in the city.
And it was there, once he got big enough, that he first learned to jump up and, sensing something might be going on that involved food (even if it was only a lime), lay his front paws on the bar, as if waiting to be served.
The habit only became more entrenched during our year on the road, during which, in hopes it might get him a treat, he plopped his front paws on scores of cheap motel check-in counters.
Wednesday night, Ace (quickly ascertaining during our previous visits that Katie was a soft touch) must have jumped up on the bar 20 times, and if she wasn’t there with a treat, he’d drool on the counter until one came.
At one point, when he did it, there were three people taking pictures of him at once (damn puparazzi), including this non-blurry one (taken with her cell phone) by an actual award-winning photographer, Lauren Carroll:
We’ve started showing up there most Wednesday nights ($2 Yuenglings), and after about five visits, we’re to the point that there will usually be three or four people who remember Ace by name.
It’s partly a small town thing; partly, I can only assume, because he is so memorable a beast, unlike his master. (“Hi Ace! And what was your name again?”)
Recreation Billiards welcomes dogs inside and out. They’ve always got treats handy (or at least they did before Ace cleaned them out Wednesday night), and are quick to offer a big bucket of water.
They draw a diverse mix of customers, unlike the homogenized crowds at some other local bars, and offer pool tables, foosball and darts, as well as the requisite TVs tuned into sporting events.
Ace doesn’t care about those amenities, though. In fact, I think he could do without the sounds of billiard balls smacking into each other, much like the sound of baseballs hitting bats.
But for all the attention and treats he gets, I can only conclude that he concludes it’s worth it. It may be mostly about the treats, but I don’t think it’s all about the treats. When bartender Katie took a break, he joined her, and lingered at her side even when she explained there were no more — going so far to sit on her foot, his way of saying “please don’t ever leave.”
What can I say? He’s a social animal.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, bar, bar dog, bars, behavior, dog bar, dog friendly, dogs, dogs in bars, north carolina, pets, recreation billiards, road trip, social animal, socializing, travels with ace, treats, winston-salem
Once again it’s time to get out the metaphorical crowbar — metaphorical ones being far lighter and easier to use — and dislodge ourselves from the beach.
And once again, pry as I might, leaving isn’t easy.
Though the sun was making only intermittent appearances — which didn’t really matter, because even rain is better at the beach — Ace and I had a great four days in the Wilmington area.
Our appearance went well at Pomegranate Books — a fine little bookstore that pulled in an equally fine crowd. Ace got to meet a lot of people. I did some reading and talking and signed lots of copies of my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
Our hosts, Steven and Louise Coggins, and their dog Earl, were hospitable and otherwise magnificent, somehow making time for us between their jobs and all the noble work they do, for a variety of causes, on their own time.
In connection with one of those, I got to go along to see a screening of the new documentary “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls,” the first of a planned three-part series on human trafficking.
As with my previous visits to their home on Figure 8 Island, I marveled at the amount of good-deed-doing they manage to squeeze into their lives — generally doing so while I was lazily sitting on a rope swing or lounge chair.
On Wednesday, leaving Ace and Earl behind, I went with another visiting friend to Wrightsville Beach, and lunch at a place called the Oceanic. Though muggy, we sat outside on the pier, sharing it — the pier, not the lunch — with the seagulls.
“Don’t feed the birds” signs were everywhere, as were the gulls, waiting to swoop in for the leftovers when diners departed.
As soon as I sat down, this one (above) landed right behind me, and managed to snag a french fry from the neighboring table just seconds after it was vacated. A waiter quickly came by and covered the basket of fries with his tray. Party pooper.
On Thursday, the sun was out in the morning, but then storm clouds rumbled in. For a good hour, though, the beach side of the house afforded sunny views, while, on the inland side, it was grey and dark, with flashes of lightning.
Earl, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, didn’t seem bothered at all by the thunder, while Ace, five times his size cowered with every rumble.
The rain and sun fought it out all day, both winning several rounds. Late in the afternoon, a drizzle was falling when I walked Ace and Earl on the beach. When we turned around and began walking back, into the wind, Ace fell into step behind me to keep dry, sometimes stepping on my heels, sometimes bumping into me when I stopped, which I did a lot, so he would bump into me.
This morning we packed up the stinkmobile for the trip back to Winston-Salem. My first day here, I had left my windows down, to air out the car. Rain left both front seats soaked, which only made it more pungent, and required I cover them with my collection of dog blankets, my towels, and some of Steve and Louise’s.
Finally, they seemed to have dried out.
I just hate leaving the beach.
It makes me feel a little like the seagulls, after the french fries are covered up.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, appearance, author, beach, book signing, dog, figure 8 island, north carolina, pets, pomegranate books, road trip, travels with ace, wilmington
One of Ace’s biggest fans — though she has never met him — sent us a gift this week, and it arrived just in time for my birthday.
It came in a huge box that, when we found it on our doorstep, got us both curious. I lugged it into the house, assuming it was for me, and Ace sniffed while I searched for scissors. I opened it up and pulled out what was inside, causing foam peanuts to spill everywhere.
Ace, determining the foam peanuts weren’t edible and finding them a little intimidating went into the next room — until I was done removing the contents and cleaning up the peanuts.
“Hey,” I hollered. “It’s for you.”
He came back in, sniffed some more, and took a look at the pictures on the sides. They were of him. It was a custom made feeding station, decorated with photos of some of our favorite moments on the road.
It was from Sue Kottwitz in Missouri, a loyal reader of Travels with Ace, who advertises her company, For Love of a Dog, on ohmidog! She and her husband, Gary, had built and decorated it — not just an incredibly thoughtful gift, but a much-needed one.
I’d bought Ace, after he started experiencing back problems, a plastic feeding station — but even though it was for big dogs, it wasn’t really elevated enough for a dog of his stature. And of course I wrote about it.
Sue took note, ordered me by email to take his measurements, and asked me for a list of my favorite moments during the 25,000 miles of traveling across America Ace and I recently completed. Then she notified me something was coming my way.
The feeder has huge photos of Ace on both sides, and the front is decorated with photos of some of those favorite moments — meeting Mel, a former Michael Vick dog, in Dallas; watching the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain in Maine; visiting Rolling Dog Ranch in New Hampshire and Dog Mountain in Vermont; volunteering at Best Friends in Utah; paying our respects at John Steinbeck’s grave. And of course, kudzu dogs.
Now, everytime Ace is fed, which is twice a day, I, who still sometimes hunger to be back on the road, get to relive the trip. Ace — more interested of course in what’s in the feeder than on it — gets to eat comfortably.
Thanks, Sue and Gary, for a gift that feeds us both.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, birthday, dog, dogs, feeding station, for love of a dog, gift, memories, pets, road trip, sue kottwitz, travels with ace
Backstory: Ace was in serious need of bath — has been for a couple of months now — so we popped into a self-service dog wash in Winston-Salem. That’s where we met Moses, looking every bit as full of wisdom as his namesake.
Moses weighs 150 pounds, according to his owner, Jennifer. She’d already washed Moses’ sister (though not by birth), a Samoyed, who waited patiently, barking from time to time, as her human completed the far bigger job.
Jennifer, like me, had some trouble with the token machine, which was not taking credit cards, as it usually does. She had to pack both dogs up — the wet one and the dry one — and drive to the bank and come back. I used up all $10 of tokens wetting Ace down and applying shampoo. He waited, all lathered up, while I tried my last $5 bill in the machine. It didn’t like it. So I had to go next door to a dry cleaners to break a $20. Final cost, counting the dryer: $20. Lesson learned: Get all your tokens beforehand.
Ace was cooperative, until I tried the blow dryer on him. He squirmed, but put up with that. It’s a pretty handy way to wash a dog — and with Ace’s recent mystery back and leg issues, I didn’t want to put him in the slippery bathtub at home. At the dog wash, I just walked him up the ramp, into the giant tub with a rubberized bottom, then washed, rinsed, conditioned and rinsed — all with the nozzle provided.
Moses was even more patient than Ace. He seemed a very mellow dog, sitting perfectly still until his owner was done. Then he decided he needed to shake. A wet otterhound, when he shakes, really parts the water, or I guess, technically, the water parts him. It went everywhere.
(Roadside Encounters are a regular feature of Travels with Ace. To see them all, click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, bath, breeds, dog wash, dogs, encounters, go dog wash, moses, otterhound, pets, photography, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, travels with ace
Breed: Great Dane
Encountered: At an outdoor concert by Possum Jenkins in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C.
Backstory: We wouldn’t call him spoiled — at least not to his face — but Gatsby had it pretty cushy Saturday night, lounging on the giant dog bed his owners toted along because Gatsby finds the street itself something less than comfortable to lay on.
When I started taking his picture he got up, repositioning himself on the lap of his owner Steve Joiner, who works for Truliant Federal Credit Union, which sponsors the Summer on Trade concert series. Judging from Joiner’s reaction — there was none — Gatsby must do that a lot.
Later, Gatsby reassumed his position on his cushion, paying close attention as Joiner and his wife, Nora Garver, passed snacks back and forth.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, breeds, concert, dog, dogs, enounter, gatsby, great dane, nora garver, north carolina, pets, photography, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, steve joiner, street, summer on trade, travels with ace, truliant, winston-salem
Our travels have taken us into the past again — this time pretty far, 240 years or so, when my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather was captured, convicted for his role in a pre-Revolutionary War uprising and sentenced to die.
Five years before the American Revolution officially began — under orders of North Carolina Royal Gov. William Tryon, being carried out by Col. Edmund Fanning — grandpa James was placed atop a barrel (by most accounts) in Hillsborough, North Carolina. The noose of a rope secured to a tree limb was looped around his neck, and he was permitted a few last words.
“The blood that we have shed will be as good seeds sown in good ground — which soon shall reap a hundredfold!”
On the gallows, grandpa James — and who could blame him for being verbose, given the circumstances — reviewed the causes of the conflict he’d been captured during. He explained that the band of rebellious backwoods farmers he’d been swept up with, known as the Regulators, were seeking only a redress of grievances. And he reiterated the call for an end to unfair taxation and local government corruption, especially in the sheriff’s office.
He had been granted 30 minutes to talk, which might be considered generous were it not for the sentence that was to be carried out when he finished, prescribed by the court thusly:
“That the prisoner should be carried to the place from whence he came, that he should be drawn from thence to the place of execution and hanged by the neck; that he should be cut down while yet alive; that his bowels should be taken out and burned before his face; that his head should be cut off, and that his body should be divided into four quarters, which were to be placed at the king’s disposal, and may the lord have mercy on your soul.”
Speaking from atop the barrel, and apparently still well within his 30-minute time limit, grandpa James worked in one last verbal jab at Col. Fanning — a Yale-educated dandy (my words) — calling him “unfit to hold any office.” Fanning, whose home had been ravaged by rioting Regulators the previous year, ordered a soldier to kick over the barrel, snapping grandpa James’ neck in mid-sentence.
Whether the additional terms of his sentence were carried out — the bowel burning and quartering and such — seems lost to history. But grandpa James, who was convicted not of murder but of violating a government order aimed at quelling uprisings, was later buried, in whole or in parts, along the peaceful green banks of the Eno River, along with five other Regulators captured and hung after what’s known as the Battle of Alamance.
Fortunately — for me anyway — great (times eight) grandpa James had already sown his personal seeds by then, or at least the one from which I, many generations later, would sprout.
I did not learn of grandpa James until I was in my 40′s, which is maybe a good thing because it would not have made for a nice bedtime story.
Once I did, I began researching, sporadically, the history of the Regulators, who over the centuries have been viewed as everything from outlaws to heroes to hillbillies to the true instigators of what would become the Revolutionary War. There are some who have described the bloodshed at the Battle of Alamance — grandpa James being responsible for much of that spillage — as that war’s first battle.
That, I’ve concluded, despite it being engraved on at least one historical marker, is a bit of a stretch. Historical markers, like the Internet, are not to be trusted.
My family connection with a pre-Revolutionary revolutionary, a rabble rouser before it became cool, has prompted some personal speculation.
I don’t put much stock in genes being the force that primarily shape us — at least not when it comes to our hearts (in the non-organic sense) and minds and personalities — yet still I’ve wondered if grandpa James might be the source of my rebellious streak, my disdain for bureaucracies and my belief that public disturbances are often OK, because sometimes the public needs a good disturbing.
Might it explain — even though it existed long before I heard of him — my opposition to capital punishment, not to mention decapitation and bowel burning?
Or, conversely, might his abrupt demise — that rudest of interruptions — be the reason I don’t talk too much? I think not, since learned experiences aren’t passed on through genes (despite what pit bull haters may say), especially those lessons learned a millisecond before, or at the time of death.
Most of all, as I look at the family tree, nooses and all, I wonder: Do I come from righteous activist stock, or rowdy outlaw stock, or is the line between those two sometimes so thin that its hard to separate one from the other? Was great-times-eight grandpa a felon, or folk hero?
(Top photos by John Woestendiek, John and Ace photo by Will Richardson, 14, of Hillsborough)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alamance county, america, battle of alamance, corruption, dissent, edmund fanning, execution, family, family tree, forefathers, gallows, genealogy, government, hang, hanged, hanging, hillsborough, history, insurgents, james pugh, john woestendiek, north carolina, pugh, regulators, revolutionary war, road trip, taxation, travels with ace, william tryon
With a promised break in the stifling heat, I decided to put Ace to the test on Saturday — giving him that long walk he has seemed to be wanting but I, due to his episode last week, wasn’t permitting.
It was only about a two and a half mile trek, round trip, and I planned a stop for lunch before we returned. What I hadn’t planned on — based on the TV weatherman’s promise of a cooler day — was the heat. (I assure you nothing bad is ahead, don’t worry.)
Our destination was Reynolda Village — part of what was once tobacco baron R.J. Reynolds estate — and in particular a little restaurant there with outdoor seating that we go to regularly, though by car.
It’s about a 1.5 mile drive, but I figured a shortcut through the grounds of another famous Winston-Salem mansion, Graylyn, would shave about a half mile off our round trip walk.
We cut through a residential area and into the immaculately landscaped grounds of Graylyn, where, of course, Ace — who tends to hold his bowel movements in until we arrive at immaculately landscaped areas — dropped his load.
I, of course, then got to tote it across the sweeping grounds, past the 46,000-square-foot home, and all the way to the next mansion, where we finally found a Dumpster.
Graylyn, like Reynolda, was owned by a tobacco executive. The 87-acre plot was purchased from R.J. Reynolds, by Nathalie and Bowman Gray.
Bowman Gray, a son of the founder of Wachovia, was chairman of R.J. Reynolds, Inc., when construction started in 1927. The 60-room home was completed a year and a half later. In 1932 Gray and his family moved in. Three years later, Bowman Gray died aboard a ship in the northern Atlantic while vacationing with his family.
In 1946 his widow and sons gave the estate to Wake Forest University’s medical school, which now bears his name. At the time, the university was located in Wake Forest, N.C., but, 10 years later, it would move to Winston-Salem.
Operated by the medical school, Graylyn served as a teaching psychiatric hospital until 1959, and was then used for academic programs.
In 1980, during an outdoor concert at Graylyn by the Winston-Salem symphony, the third floor of the mansion caught fire, and more than 7,000 people are said to have watched it burn. The next day, the president of the university said it would be rebuilt and restored to its original condition.
I’ve never been inside — for a peek you can check out this slide show — but the grounds are impressive, with sweeping laws, massive weeping willow trees, outlying cottages, bridges, fountains and ponds.
We ambled through, then crossed Reynolda Road, into the former estate of R.J. Reynolds, known as Reynolda.
By then our slow pace had slowed even more, Ace was panting and I was watching him like a hawk, while assuring him we were almost at our destination.
At Simply Yummy, we grabbed an outside table and were brought some much needed water, which Ace slurped down before meeting the dog at the next table, a mixed breed named Kelpie, adopted from a shelter in Florida.
We’d walked so slowly that breakfast was no longer being served, so I opted for a bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich, which Ace shared with me.
Ace got most of the bacon, while the toxic-to-dogs avocado (didn’t I tell you to stop worrying?) was all mine.
We lingered over more water, then got up for the long trek home. Back at Graylyn, we stopped and sat for a while in a shady spot under a weeping willow tree, then kept walking, keeping to the shade as much as possible.
By the time we were back on our own road, we were both dragging, but when I unleashed him, Ace broke into a trot until he got to the front door. Inside he lapped up water, then collapsed with a harrumph on the air conditioner vent.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, bowman gray, dogs, graylyn, health, heat, mansions, north carolina, pets, recovery, reynolda, reynolda village, road trip, simply yummy, travels with ace, update, wakek forest university, walk, winston-salem