The west’s version of kudzu — a noxious weed known as Dyer’s woad — is being sniffed out by specially trained dogs as part of a program in Montana aimed at eradicating the fast-spreading, yellow blooming, Russian-born member of the mustard family.
First found in Montana in 1934, the weed, native to southeast Russia, can grow four inches in a week, produce as many as 10,000 seeds, send its roots five feet underground and climb waist high, leaving little room for native plants.
That’s where the dogs come in.
Deb Tirmenstein and her dogs — a Labrador named Wibaux and a border collie called Seamus — joined Montana’s Dyer’s woad eradication project in 2011.
Wibaux, initially trained to find cadavers, and Seamus, who was rescued from a Bozeman shelter, now scramble up and down mountains sniffing out pockets of the weed. When they find some, they get a treat, and the weed gets sprayed with herbicides.
The project grew out of research conducted at Montana State University, acording to an article by the Montana State University News Service, published in the Helena Independent Record.
Montana Dyer’s Woad Cooperative Project started in 1984, and it has seen the weed’s presence drop from 17 counties down to seven – Beaverhead, Silver Bow, Carbon, Flathead, Gallatin, Missoula and Park.
The dogs are just the most recent tool in the battle.
Kim Goodwin, a research associate in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences in MSU’s College of Agriculture, started investigating the possibility of using dogs to detect noxious weeds when she was a master’s degree student at MSU.
Goodwin’s research showed that dogs and people complement each other when looking for noxious weeds. People can spot large flowering patches of the plants ; dogs can detect single plants, even before they start sprouting.
“Through our research, we found they are able to detect twice as many small plants as the surveyors do,” Goodwin said.
This year on Mount Sentinel in Missoula the dogs detected about 40 locations that humans missed, said Goodwin, whose original research used German shepherds and focused on knapweed.
Goodwin said she got the idea for using dogs to detect noxious weeds after reading about the ”Beagle Brigade,” which inspects luggage and boxes for the USDA at U.S. airports and ports of entry.
Trainers introduced Wibaux to Dyer’s woad by hiding the weed inside a box with holes in the lid and placing the box next to boxes containing other weeds.
When Wibaux realized she would receive a treat or get to retrieve a ball every time she detected Dyer’s woad, she started honing in on it.
(Photos of Wibaux and Seamus by Sepp Jannotta / MSU)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 15th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, border collie, control, Deb Tirmenstein, detection, dogs, dyers woad, eradication, idaho, kim goodwin, labrador, montana, montana state university, nature, noxious, pets, program, research, retriever, science, seamus, sniff, sniffing, weed, weeds, west, wibaux, woad
They haven’t saddled them up and landed them gigs at halftime shows, but a group of baboons in Saudi Arabia are reportedly “keeping dogs as pets.”
And, if this video is any indication, the baboons, like humans, can be alternately cruel and loving when it comes to the dogs with whom they co-exist, in this case in a garbage dump outside of Ta’if, not far from the Red Sea.
While the baboons seem to treat pups, or at least the unfortunate one in the beginning of this video, pretty roughly, rest assured nothing too awful happens, and the video goes on to show the two species living, playing and sleeping together, and even grooming each other.
The clip is from a British nature series called “Animals Like Us.”
It came to my attention via Hal Herzog, author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals.”
Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, has been studying human interactions with other species for two decades — and says he has never run across a species other than humans that truly can be described as keeping pets. So he was stunned when he came upon the video of the Hamadryas baboons and what seem to be their pet dogs.
At least that’s how the documentary’s narrator explains the relationship. The baboons and dogs eat and sleep together, and travel as a pack. The dogs chase off predators and the baboons treat them as members of the family, he says.
Herzog, as he explains in Animals and Us, his blog for Psychology Today, doesn’t seem to totally buy it. He did some quick research, but thinks a lot more is needed before being certain the dogs and baboons of Ta’if have a pet-and-petkeeper relationship.
“In short, are the Ta’if baboons really keeping dogs as their personal pets or is the YouTube clip just another example of Animal Planet type TV bullshit?
“… Some authorities are doubtful. The anthrozoologist Boria Sax, author of the wonderful new book City of Ravens, wrote … ‘You can’t tell just what is happening from the video alone, and we have only the word of the narrator that the dogs are kept as pets. I am skeptical.’
“Eniko Kubinyi, a canine ethologist at the Family Dog Project in Budapest was more blunt, ‘Dogs as pets of baboons? Science fiction. Baboons and dogs share the same environment, and they are socially plastic, so they enjoy the company of others…’
“I am skeptical, too,” Herzog said. “But I have been obsessed by the video for a week. It raises a host of questions in my mind.”
Might the relationship, for example, be less peaceful if there wasn’t abundant food for all in their shared environment, he wonders.
I wonder whether the baboons use any positive reinforcement to keep the dogs in line, or, as the early part of the video indicates, they opt for the dominant, Millan-esque, pack-leader approach.
Desolate as the landscape looks, the connection between the baboons and dogs in a desert garbage dump seems some fertile ground for research.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 27th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, animals and us, animals like us, baboons, behavior, chimps, dogs, dump, environment, hal herzog, humans, interaction, monkeys, nature, pet-keeping, petkeeping, pets, psychology, psychology today, saudi arabia, shared, some we eat, some we hate, some we love, species, ta'if, video, youtube
In the virtual world, you can, with a few well-placed clicks, pick your house, your car, your clothes, your physique, hair style and persona.
You can go out for a night on the town, in the setting of your choice, looking for love, or a fight, or any of thousands of other adventures — all of which are under your control.
Or you can spend a quiet evening at virtual home with your virtual pet — like a Panda-chow, or a tiger-husky, whose behavior, traits, appearance and even species combination are all changeable at your whim.
The video above is a preview for Sims 3 Pets, hitting the market today.
At the risk of sounding like an old man (one can’t criticize video games or apps without sounding like an old man), at the risk of being told by countless commenters that it’s only a game (yes, I realize that), I find it bothersome (and I don’t just mean that annoying narration).
In a way, I find what Sims 3 Pets does with dogs and cats nearly as troubling as that dogfighting app that led to so much controversy.
It’s a reflection of the same wrongheaded (in my view) mindset that we can do whatever we want to with dogs as long as it (A) entertains us, (B) makes money, (C) makes our lives easier, or (D) is done in the name of science.
It’s that mindset that leads to dogs as fashion accessories, dogs being abandoned when fads change, cruel laboratory experiments, greyhound racing, dogfighting, puppy mills, over breeding and, yes, cloning.
It’s thinking that dogs and all animals exist to serve our whims — however fleeting, selfish or bizarre those whims may be.
“Lighten up dude, it’s just a video game,” you might say. “It’s just a fantasy.”
And you’d have a point.
But (A) experimenting with and exploiting dogs doesn’t just happen in video games; and (B) Sims is not really the target of my tirade, for the game is just the latest rendition of a recurring theme in our society.
Of course, if it weren’t for man’s self-serving tinkering, we wouldn’t have dogs at all. It was man that shaped the wolf into all the diverse shapes and sizes we have now — and I’m not for doing away with any of them.
But somewhere — at least in real life, if not in video games — all the tinkering needs to stop.
We don’t need tiger-retrievers, or panda-chows — whether it’s the result of creative hair-styling and dye jobs, or inter-species experiments, or cell manipulation.
We don’t need robot dogs, or gladiator dogs, or fluorescent dogs, or dogs so inbred that they are unhealthy caricatures of themselves, or dogs created in a laboratory from the harvested cells of a deceased pet.
We don’t need to reinvent the dog, redesign the dog, ressurect the dog or even fine tune the dog. It’s fine as it is, and much of man’s meddling — whether it’s to make dogs more predictable, produce look-alike, act-alike cookie cutter versions of them, or invent new versions that are low-drool or non-allergenic — is an insult to that.
It’s even more of an arrogant pursuit when you stop and consider that the species that probably needs the most work is us. Maybe it’s our inability to control what happens among our fellow humans that makes us so prone to inflicting control over dogs, nature, or whatever else we can.
Here is something I said before, somewhere: If there is even a remote chance of controlling something, humans wanted to control it, preferably remotely.
In Sims 3 Pets, players can create and control over a hundred different kinds of cats and dogs, and can breed and share them with friends providing endless possibilities to create “new and exciting” breeds.
One can customize the pet’s coat, shape, pattern, color; the size of its ears, tail, snout, eyes, and more. You can also choose their behavior pattern, traits and control their bodily functions.
Dogs can even get jobs and make money.
And most creepy of all, pets can be shaped via virtual interspecies breeding, resulting in skunk-cats and panda-chows.
(If you think mixing species, fluorescent dogs and cloning are too far fetched to ever happen, I’d refer you to my book, DOG, INC.: the Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend. They all already have.
It would be too much to ask, given that pesky First Amendment and all, that gamemakers refrain from virtual interspecies breeding.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow limit all forms of novelty dogs — and other bad human concepts like war — to the confines of computerized games?
Unfortunately, that seems out of our control.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, breeding, breeds, cloned, cloning, control, creating, design, designer, dog, dog inc., dogfighting, dogs, domain, experiments, fluorescent, game, greyhound racing, interspecies, laboratory, manipulation, mindset, nature, novelty, over breeding, panda-chow, pets, robot, SIMS, SIMS Pets, SIMS Pets 3, simulation, tiger-husky, tinkering, video game, virtual, whims
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
More than 100 baby squirrels from North Carolina’s coastal regions will be growing up in North Carolina’s mountains after being rescued during Hurricane Irene.
I’ll have to admit that, in my worries about humans and dogs during natural disasters, I’ve never once found myself thinking, “What about the squirrels?”
But some people do, among them Herta Henderson, a certified wildlife rehabilitator for the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, and Nina Fischesser, director of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute at Lees-McRae College.
Fischesser coordinated the pickup of the coastal Carolina squirrels, and Henderson did the driving, toting the babies across the state.
Henderson arrived in Winston-Salem last week at 3 a.m., with about 130 babies in her van — an occurence duly noted in the Winston-Salem Journal.
(And just in case you didn’t believe me when I told you yesterday, in our discussion on the six degrees of separation, how small-worldy Winston-Salem is, consider this. When Ace and I went out for a beer last night, after starting our post on the squirrel-savers, we ran into the reporter who wrote the Journal’s story, who we’d never met before.)
The squirrel babies were found in Hubert and Newport and are now staying with squirrel foster parents, recuperating before they are released in Avery, Transylvania, Henderson and Swain counties in western North Carolina.
Transylvania County includes the town of Brevard, whose unusual white squirrels we told you about not long ago.
Henderson said the baby squirrels started being spotted during the Irene clean-up, after their nests were blown down.
The rehabilitation and relocation of the gray squirrels will take several months, said Fischesser, who took nearly 50 baby squirrels back to the college, where they will be kept in a lab while they recuperate.
“We will look at their overall health and determine what their immediate medical needs are and put them on a diet of formula. Once they’re weaned, we can introduce them to solid foods and they will go outside,” Fischesser said.
She acknowledged that some people might question saving squirrels traumatized by natural disasters — but that’s only natural.
“Why save a squirrel?… It’s a common animal, it’s not endangered … The reason is that in part we are here to take care of other animals and that’s our motivation, but we’re also a public service. People find an animal and they don’t have a place to take it.”
One couple came from Asheville to pick up about 80 of the squirrels to distribute to other certified rehabilitators across the Piedmont and mountain regions of the state.
“It’s amazing what you do for your critters,” said Janice Burleson, who had converted her living room into an animal triage unit.
“They’re aspirated, water-logged and cold,” Burleson said of her new wards. “They’re going to need heat and antibiotics, and we’ll need to get them hydrated with some formula a little at a time. But, after that, it just takes a little TLC.”
(Video: Jacob Carah / Winston-Salem Journal)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: beach, blue ridge wildlife institute, disasters, Herta Henderson, hurricane, hurricane irene, lees-macrae college, mountains, natural, nature, nina fischesser, north carolina, outer banks wildlife shelter, relocation, rescuing, saving, squirrels, wildlife
This guy — even in his unadulterated form — seemed to be lurking, waiting for unsuspecting hikers to pass by.
But several of them did and he just stood there.
Perhaps, in my attempt to make him more visible, I made him appear more ominous than he really was.
(Tomorrow: A kudzu dog offering his paw)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, attack of the giant kudzu dogs, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, forms, kudzu, kudzu dog, kudzu dogs, landscape, nature, north carolina, pets, photography, shapes, south, travels with ace, vines, weed, winston-salem
I found this fellow resting not too far from the kudzu dog we featured yesterday, along the Silas Creek Trail.
He had the look of an Airedale to me — or at least he did until I trimmed him up.
(Tomorrow: A lurking kudzu dog, poised to pounce.)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, attack of the giant kudzu dogs, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, forms, imagination, kudzu, kudzu dogs, landscape, nature, north carolina, pets, photography, shapes, south, travels with ace, vines, weeds, winston-salem
Those ducks I keep telling you about — the flock that’s experiencing a baby boom around the pond at the retirement community in which my mother lives?
They’ve finally got some big time press coverage:
The mainstream media (I started calling it that when I waded out of the newspaper business) made its way to the pond last week.
A reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal put together a story and video on the baby boom at the old folks home, which touched on what’s most interesting — to me, anyway — about the whole affair:
Ducks, like dogs, can unite us humans — in a way we can’t always manage to pull off on our own.
The Journal piece focused on Bo Bowers, the Arbor Acres resident who took it upon himself to restore the retirement community’s dwindling duck population.
Bowers bought a collection of ducklings, raised them at his home and released them around the Arbor Acres pond. After that, they took over and started reproducing on their own, under Bowers’ watchful eyes.
When the new generation started hatching, Bowers — to protect them from being harassed by cranky geese or eaten by turtles and other predators — snagged many of them up and took them home. There he raises them in cages, feeding them his special mix of beans, squash, corn, tomatoes and zucchini. When they are old enough to fend for themselves, he takes them back to the pond, where many residents delight in watching and feeding them.
“I think it’s interesting how the ducks have united a lot of people. Some people who have never talked to each other before will begin a conversation because they will be standing there looking at the ducks and start talking about them,” Bowers’ partner, Steven Dunn said.
Bowers said some residents have given him a hard time for taking the eggs from the mothers before they hatch.
“Many people worry about me stealing the babies, but I tell them it’s not like a mammal that gives milk or nurses them. With a duck, or any kind of bird, (if) you take their babies, they could care less. Thirty minutes later, they are going to be laying eggs again.”
All of the ducks at Arbor Acres are named after residents and staffers — including one, who recently hatched about a dozen babies, who’s named after my mother.
Bowers reintroduction program has been so successful that he’s now having to find new homes for some of the ducks. He has sold about 30, the Journal reported, with the money going into a fund for the residents.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, arbor acres, baby ducks, bo bowers, community, ducklings, ducks, eggs, nature, pets, retirement, unite, video, wildlife, winston-salem, winston-salem journal
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
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