How Close Are We?
“Too close” to your dog:
When he completes not just you,
But your sentences
Posted by jwoestendiek June 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, bonding, closeness, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, hand, highway haiku, how close are we, paw, pets, photography, poetry, road trip, travels with ace
You don’t want to take him or her to Reynolda House, an art museum now featuring an exhibit by famed railroad photographer O. Winston Link.
And you might want to avoid the formal part of Reynolda Gardens.
But most of the rest of what used to be the vast country estate of R.J.Reynolds, the history of which we told you about in this earlier post, is fair game for dogs on leashes, including at least one restaurant and the K-9 Doggie Bakery and Boutique.
Not all the shops, galleries and restaurants in Reynolda Village welcome your dog inside, but we noted at least one that put out a basket of dog treats on its doorstep.
The sign said “take one.”
Ace, before I could pull him away, helped himself to three.
There are miles of trails that wind through open meadows and shady groves, and alongside the remnants of what used to be a lake. Lake Katherine, as it was known, is more of a marsh now, but a great place to spot birds.
The trails are a great way to work up an appetite, or walk off a meal — and there are two restaurants on the grounds of Reynolda, at least one of which is dog-friendly. Simply Yummy, allows dogs in its outside seating area.
There is no admission to get on the grounds of Reynolda, and it is open during daylight hours year-round.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, free, hiking, k-9 doggie bakery and boutique, leash, leashed, north carolina, pet friendly, pets, reynolda, reynolda gardens, reynolda house, reynolda village, road trip, things to do, trails, travels with ace, village tavern, winston-salem
Breed: Yellow Lab
Encountered: At Washington Perk, a coffee house/grocery/deli in Winston-Salem, N.C. that — just down the street from the city’s dog park — has become one of Ace’s favorite hangouts.
Backstory: We were enjoying some breakfast Saturday morning on the outside deck when Piero arrived with his humans.
His owners said the name was Italian for Peter, or at least one variation of that, and that they gave all their pets Italian names.
Like Ace, Piero sat quietly, and grew more intent when food arrived.
Piero seemed a very happy dog. Being a yellow lab, he may not be headed for the dean’s list, his owner noted.
But then he did know enough to get into the shade, which was more than you could say for us.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breeds, dog, dog parks, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, encounter, italian, labrador, north carolina, pets, photography, piero, retriever, roadside, roadside encounters, travels with ace, washington park, washington perk, winston-salem, yellow lab
“Going in Circles”
On a spinning wheel
Beasts circle, musically
Posted by jwoestendiek June 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, burlington, burlington city park, carousel, circles, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, going in circles, haiku, highway, highway haiku, merry go round, north carolina, pets, photography, poetry, road, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
One of the best parts of being on the road was being off the grid.
For a full year, as Ace and I traveled around America twice, we paid not a penny to electric companies, gas companies, water companies, cable companies.
Liberating? You betcha.
Now, as we settle in for a period of undetermined duration in Winston-Salem, N.C., we are back on the grid. As much as I hate the grid, I do love air conditioning, and Ace loves it even more. I was holding off on turning it on, but this week did the trick, with record high temperatures that left both Ace and me panting.
The summer of 2010 was, or at least seemed to me to be, the hottest ever — maybe because we spent so much of it outside. If we’re in for another one of those, I’m happy to be indoors, and on the grid.
The grid, I’m sure, is equally grateful to have me back. You may say the grid can’t be grateful, the grid has no emotions, but keep in mind, the person who operates the grid does have feelings — that being the man.
The man, through individual networks, operates the grid for the system — the system being even bigger and fuzzier than the grid.
You may not entirely understand — just like you don’t understand your monthly bill — but the truth is we’re not supposed to. It’s all part of the matrix of vague terms, undefineable dimensions, innumerable options and indecipherable formulas thrown at us to keep us confused, subservient, feeling inadequate and paying the monthly bill.
I decided to restrict my patronage of the grid as much as I could — to electricity, gas and water.
Rather than add home internet, I decided to just keep my mobile version. Rather than get a landline, I just use my cell phone. (So, actually, by using those on the road, I was still on the grid, but the grid didn’t know my address, and neither did the man, since I didn’t have one).
In my new place, I checked into getting cable television, but the prices for that start at $60 a month, and I balked as well at the slightly lower prices of ot
her options. I nixed the idea of having a large satellite dish attached to house, and receivers installed inside. That would have given us 800 or so channels, but, as we all know, those recievers are also programmed to read our brain waves, and report our thoughts back to the man. That’s just the sort of thing the grid does.
I briefly considered bundling, in which the man has been so kind to arrange for you to receive multiple services from the grid for one low price, provided you agree to pay for the duration of your life, don’t mind your brain waves being monitored, and sign your soul over to the grid upon your death.
Instead, for television, we’re using the digital antenna. They run about $40 at Radio Shack, are generally unsightly space-age looking contraptions, and allow you to sporadically pick up a channel or two, if the weather is good.
I’m getting four or five channels in the living room, though on most the signal gets lost every time a car passes down the street outside — the picture either disappears entirely or turns into something that looks like an Impressionist painting getting struck by lightning. I get two channels in the bedroom, depending on where Ace sleeps.
The digital antenna is actually even more infuriating than the grid, the man, and the system.
The signal will go out at key moments, prohibiting me from learning whodunit, and more, and it’s especially bad during storms:
“I know who did it. It was ….”
“President Obama has scheduled a statement to announce the killing of …”
“Three tornadoes have been spotted in the county in the area of …”
??? ??? ???
The thing about digital antennas is it’s not just how you position them — and one can spend hours at that pursuit – but how you position you.
In the bedroom, I can get myself into a position where the TV signal comes through, and I’m somewhat comfortable. But Ace inevitably throws a wrench into things, jumping into bed and interrupting the signal.
Sometimes it’s a matter of adjusting the antenna again; sometimes it’s a matter of adjusting Ace. Usually, just as I get everything settled into proper position, Ace decides to get up, spin around and lay in another direction.
That’s about when — with the TV playing ten seconds on, ten seconds off, amid sporadic bursts of Jay Leno, in a nether world with no punch lines — I fall asleep.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, bundling, cable, digital antenna, dish, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, electric, electricity, frustration, futility, gas, grid, home, internet, matrix, pets, positioning, radio shack, reception, road trip, satellite, settling, system, television, the grid, the man, travel, travels with ace, tv, utilities, utility, water, whodunit
Encountered: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Backstory: Not long after moving into our new place, Ace and I ran into Butch, who lives around the corner.
He’s mostly blind, and mostly deaf, according to his owner, Martha. He has probably had some strokes, too. He tilts to the left when walks.
Martha still talks to Butch, even though he probably can’t hear her, and I did too when I took him for a walk last week, volunteering after I heard Martha had hurt her back.
Martha explained the basics to me — pull up on his leash to support him when he’s going up or down a curb, try not to let him walk into a telephone pole. But if he does, it’s no big deal. He’s a resilient little fellow who has gotten good at absorbing the bumps life brings our way.
Butch doesn’t go that far on his walks, and lets you know when he has had enough by sitting down and refusing to budge. But he didn’t seem to tire out on his walk with Ace, following him through the grass and sometimes winding underneath him through his legs. Ace, who seems to be able to sense old age and fragility in his fellow dogs, didn’t step on him once.
The next day, when we walked by Martha’s house, Ace tried pulling me in the direction of her door, then stopped and stared at it when it became clear we were passing it by, as if to say, “Wait a minute. What about Butch?”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, breeds, butch, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, encounters, north carolina, pets, pug, pugs, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, travels with ace
A new generation of Woestenducks entered the world Saturday, when the eggs laid by the duck named after my mother cracked open and at least eight — maybe more — ducklings emerged.
I was visiting Arbor Acres, the duck-crazy retirement community where my mother lives, and by the time I left that evening, eight of the eggs had hatched, and four more were about to, according to Bo Bowers, a resident who monitored the nest all day long from a nearby folding chair.
It was Bo who, when the Arbor Acres flock was dwindling last year, ordered 16 ducklings of various breeds, raised them in cages at his home until they were old enough to survive on their own, then released the newcomers — each named after a resident of the community — into the Arbor Acres pond.
The duck named after my mother was the first one to become pregnant. She built herself a nest of pine needles in which to lay her eggs under an azalea bush just outside the window of my mother’s room.
Bo counted 13 eggs in her nest last week, but when he later found one had been stolen and destroyed, apparently by a crow, he saw a need for increased vigilance.
He put a little fence around the nest, then watched and waited all Saturday — getting up from time to time to chase off the geese and other ducks who approached.
Once all the ducklings emerged, Bo gently gathered them, placed them in a box and took them home, ensuring that, for the next six weeks, they won’t become the victims of predators. Those include coyote, fox, crows, herons and at least one good-sized turtle who lives in the pond and, attacking from below, is believed to have pulled a few baby ducklings, bobbing along behind their mothers, into its depths.
On Saturday, I stepped outside my mother’s room and asked Bo how many eggs he was sitting on, and whether he’d like to borrow my tent for the night. Despite my teasing, he let me get close enough to take a picture.
Mother duck sat firmly on her nest, protecting the unhatched eggs, and making sure none of the ducklings ventured off. I was able to see one who poked its head out (that’s it under the hosta leaf, in the bottom right corner of the picture atop this post).
As news of the births spread, the crowd grew outside the window of my mother’s room. Other residents, staff and even a security official showed up to take a look.
Bo was still sitting sentry when I left. One could argue that he’s interfering with that whole “survival of the fittest” thing. But (being not particularly fit) I’ve never been a big fan of that. Besides, Bo, having brought the ducks to Arbor Acres, feels more than a little responsibility for them, and the second generation they are producing. He sees nothing wrong with giving them a headstart — at least until they’re big enough to avoid the snapping jaws of the turtle that lurks beneath.
I agree. Long live the Woestenducks.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, arbor acres, assist, birth, bo bowers, dog's country, dogscountry, ducklings, ducks, eggs, guarding, hatched, headstart, helping hand, jo woestendiek, nature, north carolina, predators, road trip, sentry, survival of the fittest, travels with ace, wildlife, winston-salem, woestenducks
I was quietly enjoying my new nest the other day when a visitor landed on it.
This bird hit the window screen with a bit of a bang, but didn’t bounce off. Instead, it held on, clinging to the side of my apartment and looking in.
It didn’t appear stuck, injured, or even dazed, as Ace and I, from the other side of the window, walked right up to it. It wasn’t disturbed when I took a few pictures. It just clung there, sideways, looking inside — as if slapping into my window wasn’t an accident, but exactly what it planned to do.
For a moment, I wondered whether it was Jehovah’s Witness bird, there to chirp a bit about the Lord and hand me a pamphlet I could read at my convenience after it left. Or that it was going to try and sell me some magazine subscriptions to help it get through bird college.
Neither subject came up though, and a couple of minutes after it adhered itself to my front window, it left.
It’s a good thing I screen my visitors.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 29th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, bird, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, nest, pets, photography, road trip, screen, travels with ace, visitor, wildlife, window
On the first morning of our camping trip, your intrepid trio — foursome counting Ace — decided to take an impromptu hike, just a slow and casual one, following the Davidson River upstream for a ways to see where it took us.
Our first stop was at a fishing/swimming hole, where a few campers were trying their luck, including a woman who had just learned to fly fish. She hadn’t had much luck that morning, but before that she’d caught some, and she whipped out her cellphone to prove it, clicking her way to the correct photo, then holding it up for us to see, as one might hold up a just-caught fish.
In it, she said, there appeared the ghostly image of a little girl that wasn’t there when the photo was taken.
Not having my glasses, I really couldn’t distinguish anything. But as my two friends seemed amazed, I pretended I was, too, nodding my head and saying ”wow.”
We walked on a bit, Ace being more than up to the task. This is his favorite part of camping — blazing a new, to him, trail.
At one point he clambered up a three-foot tall tree stump. At another he darted in and out of the water, then jumped atop a four foot wall. He showed absolutely no sign of his back bothering him. Despite his fear of the campfire, and the noises it produced, the night before, he was, after two long months, starting to act like himself again. Perhaps the camping trip — as camping trips can do — was curing what the drugs couldn’t.
He ran. He played. The stiffness that seemed to have been bothering him was gone. And when he shook, it was all out, with gusto — not that fearful tentative headshake he has been doing of late.
When we came to a fork in the trail, we let Ace pick the direction, and he chose left — up a mountain, instead of following alongside the river. Not a rigorous climb, by any stretch, but I still felt it necessary to inform my two doctor friends that I had imaginary peripheral artery disease (IPAD).
Understand that once a disorder/disease/infirmity gets advertised on TV, I become convinced I have it — not enough to talk to my doctor about whatever drug the ad is for, not enough to submit to the numerous side effects the drug ads list, but enough to fret. That’s why I also have imaginary mesothelioma, though, according to advertisements, you want to talk to your lawyer about that, as opposed to your doctor. The cure for that, apparently, is a lawsuit.
(Disclaimer: These diseases are no laughing matter, even though the advertisements, in which drug companies and law firms feign great concern for your well-being, are.)
“Yes,” I explained to Dr. John, “that peripheral artery thing, I’m pretty sure I have it. My legs get tired when I walk uphill.”
This low grade climb didn’t seem to bother me, though. Perhaps Ace’s return to normal was putting a little more spring in my step. I’m convinced our dogs reflect us, and us them — both when it comes to personality and how we’re behaving at a moment in time. What’s harder to figure out, often, is who is doing the projecting and who is doing the reflecting. Am I, for instance, behaving lethargically/bufoonishly/fearfully because Ace is, or vice versa?
Am I low key because he’s low key, or is he low key because I’m low key, and are we both feeding off each other’s low keyedness and becoming more low keyed yet, and, if so, how low can we go before we’re both asleep?
We were both wide awake on this walk — me due to five or so cups of hearty campground coffee, Ace, I think, because of the newness and the nature. When we came to a weathered wooden sign that said “old cemetery,” we followed where it pointed.
After a couple of switchbacks we came to a hill from which a dozen or so gravestones protruded from the ferns. If the stones had names on them, few of them were legible anymore — except for the one pictured at the top of this post.
Buried beneath it was Avo Sentell, who had just turned five when she died — the same day in 1916 as her mother, Susan, who is buried next to her.
We paused, and grew more sober. Amid towering trees – some thriving, some rotting, some dead — we speculated on what it could have been that killed both mother and daughter on the same day.
I told myself I should stop joking about deadly diseases — even though that is how I cope with my own immortality. Call it a survival skill.
Back home after my camping trip with college buddies, I Googled Avo Sentell — Googling being a generally safe activity, whose only side effects are eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome and terminal frustration over all the garbage, pop-up and otherwise, that litters the Internet.
Through one of those grave-finding websites, I learned that Avo and her mother were killed in a landslide in Pisgah National Forest during the Great Flood of 1916.
Both were buried at the site of their deaths. I found a group photo that contained Avo — she’s the third from the left in the second row in this picture of the entire student body of English Chapel School. Seeing how tiny she was wrenched my heart a little more.
That mystery resolved, another remained.
It was not whether Avo was the image in the fisherwoman’s photo. We’re not, much, prone to believing in the supernatural, and I doubt Avo’s ghost is haunting the mossy, fern-studded hills — even though we were in Transylvania County.
What I was left wondering about was the tiny pink mitten that was draped over her tombstone. On the mitten are the words “Always Trouble.”
I doubt it was left there as a commentary on her – for the mitten was too modern, and who is left to remember a girl who died 95 years ago? Besides, Avo appears to have been too small to have caused a significant amount of trouble in her life, much less “always.”
Maybe it was dropped by a hiker. Maybe someone else picked it and placed it there so someone might find it. Maybe it was left there as a gift, or commentary on life, by a stranger, or a descendant of the Sentell family.
A bouquet of yellow plastic flowers was at the base of the stone, which was clearly an upgrade — it’s too clean and clear and modern to have been the one that was originally there.
To me, it was also a reminder. Life is fleeting, and sometimes unfair, and there is always — somewhere — trouble. We work. We laugh. We play. We cope. We die.
Sometimes, before the journey’s over, we tackle those troubles. Sometimes we ignore them. Sometimes we joke about them. Sometimes we’re too rushed to pay them any mind at all. Sometimes we let them weigh us down to an unhealthy degree.
At times like those, friends come in handy.
At times like those, a walk in the woods — with your dog — is good.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 27th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 1916, ace, america, avo sentell, campground, camping, coping, cures, davidson river, death, disease, doctors, dog's country, dogscountry, drugs, fears, flood, ghosts, grave, hike, hiking, illness, imagination, lawyers, life, mountains, nature, north carolina, pisgah national forest, road trip, symptoms, travels with ace, woods
As safaris go, ours in the mountains of North Carolina was a pretty laid back one — but then we were a pretty low-key foursome: my current roommate, Ace, and two former ones from my college days, Dr. George Fish and Dr. John Stringfield.
To understand how we came to be in the wilds of the Brevard College campus, searching out our rare and elusive prey, you have to go back to the day before, when we arrived at our campground in Pisgah National Forest.
I’d never heard of white squirrels — or that Brevard, N.C. was renowned for being home to them — and, to make matters more confusing, for a fleeting moment I thought the woman at the campground gate had said “white girls.”
She went on to explain that the peculiar species could be found in town, mostly in residential areas, and that it was just a matter of driving around until you saw one.
“The White Girls of Brevard” became our running joke — and every good outing with friends, like every good sitcom, needs a recurring joke. So as we sat around the campfire drinking beer — debating what we might do the next day, other than sit around the campfire and drink beer — the phrase would inevitably come up.
Rock-climbing? A five mile hike? Whitewater rafting? Or go in search of the White Girls of Brevard?
There was a day, and it was back in the 1970s, when the possibility of encountering a female, of any color, would probably have been our top priority. And there were probably many nights that we set off, safari-like, with that goal, if not stated, at least in the back of our heads. But, for us, in college, it was more a dream than a mission. At that time, all three of us put together probably had the self-confidence, when it came to females, of one normal man.
John and George are married now – both for 29 years, though not to each other — so, even if they captured, humanely of course, one of the White Girls of Brevard, they couldn’t bring her home.
For me, though – with no wife to say, “You’re not bringing that thing into the house” — it’s a different story. Perhaps, I thought — whimsically of course – I should scope out the White Girls of Brevard, select one and bring her home. She’d have freckles and look a lot like Sissy Spacek. She’d be small, yet of hearty mountain stock — a ”tiny little” thing. People would say of her, “She’s a tiny little thing, but she can lift a bale of hay twice her size.” She’d call her mother “momma,” and her father “papa” and have quaint names for all six of her dogs. She’d know how to work a plow, and cook real macaroni and cheese, and those green beans that are boiled for three months, and she’d hang on every word I say — no matter how few and far between they were. She’d be more than happy to care for me well into my golden years and dodderage, both of which she would find sexy.
A sharp crackle from our fire pit snapped me back to reality. The three of us weren’t here to hunt anything, or even fish, just to meet up again after a few decades, build a fire, drink some beer, reminisce and perhaps take a short hike or two.
The next day, after one of those short hikes, we deemed the white squirrels worth checking out and drove the few miles into town. Upon seeing a college campus, I turned in, figuring if I were a squirrel, that’s where I’d hang out.
My hunch paid off. We rounded a corner and saw one who was already being viewed by a couple with a camera. The squirrel was flattened out and clinging to the side of a tree — that being a defensive mechanism squirrels use. It works when they are grey, but, for some reason, the white ones do it, too, thinking no one can see them. Apparently, they don’t know they are white.
Ace stayed in the car looking out the open back window with interest as George and I took photos of that squirrel and several other white ones we came across on campus.
Back in the car, we spotted several more, and we pondered opening up a business in town, offering white squirrel safaris to tourists — perhaps a big open-air bus that would shuttle them to where the white squirrels hang out. There they could snap photos — the squirrels are far too cute to otherwise shoot — to their heart’s content. We would charge exorbitant fees for that, as well as all the white squirrel merchandise we would make available. Perhaps, upon conclusion of the tour, they could enjoy a home-cooked meal, prepared by my mountain wife Sissy — if she’s not too busy plowing – eaten at picnic tables with red checkered tableclothes.
On the tour, we would explain how the white squirrels came to be there. We’d opt for the the most oft-repeated and fanciful version — that being that they are descendants of some traveling circus squirrels who escaped when their circus truck overturned.
That supposedly happened in Florida.
In that account — and it’s the one that both whitesquirrels.com and the local tourism website go with, supported by local newspaper reports in the Transylvania Times (Brevard is in Transylvania County) — the squirrels escaped when the truck they were in overturned. Two of them set up camp in the yard of a man in Madison, Florida.
She kept them inside and hoped they would breed, but they didn’t — probably because everybody was watching.
In 1951, Barbara Mull got married, leaving the squirrels with her father. One of them escaped, and not long after that, Barbara’s father let the other one, who apparently was deemed heartsick, loose in the wild.
By 1986, the White Squirrels of Brevard had become so famous that, in addition to capitalizing their name, the Brevard City Council saw fit to unanimously pass an ordinance declaring the town a sanctuary for the white squirrels and — apparently not wanting to be seen as racist — the grey ones, too.
“The entire area embraced within the corporate limits of the city is hereby designated as a sanctuary for all species of squirrel (family Sciuriadae), and in particular the Brevard White Squirrel,” the ordinance reads. “It shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city by this section.”
As it turns out, other towns with white squirrel populations have adopted it as a mascot as well, including Olney, Illinois; Marionville, Missouri; Kenton, Tennessee; and Exeter, Canada.
Unlike some of those squirrels, Brevard’s are not albinos, but a variant of the Eastern Grey Squirrel. More than a fourth of the squirrels in Brevard are white — and the town knows because a squirrel census is regularly conducted.
Brevard is home to an annual White Squirrel Festival (it’s this coming weekend), and The Squirrel Box Derby downhill race, and it considers itself the “White Squirrel Capital of the World.”
In Marionville, which is where some believe that Olney’s squirrels originated from — victims of squirrelnappings — other theories on their origin range from the squirrels once belonging to a traveling circus to being the result of a mad scientist’s experiments.
As for the White Squirrels of Brevard, an article in NC Farm Bureau Magazine says they are not true white squirrels, but a color variation of the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Most have white bodies but pigmented patches, spots and stripes.
That doesn’t make them any less beloved. To make sure the population stays viable, the White Squirrel Research Institute, based there, conducts a white squirrel count every year.
On our short safari, we spotted at least five. And, in reality (a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there), they weren’t that elusive at all.
After John left, returning to his home and practice in Waynesville, N.C., George and I lingered another night and discussed the possibility of making the camping trip a tradition — either in Brevard or going each year to a different location, where we could seek out, if not white girls, other elusive species.
I’m thinking unicorns.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 26th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aging, albinos, animals, barbara mull, brevard, brevard college, camping, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, exeter, friends, george fish, john stringfield, john woestendiek, kenton, legend, marionville, mountains, north carolina, olney, pets, photography, pisgah national forest, prey, reunion, safari, sanctuary, species, squirrels, travels, travels with ace, trip, unicorns, white girls, white girls of brevard, white squirrels, white squirrels of brevard, wildlife