Cookies! (Just one)

Just one cookie. That’s all I’ll eat. Just to taste to make sure Rob will like it.

Just one cookie. All I need is for one cookie to look remotely like the NinjaBread Men on the cookie cutter packaging.

Well, they taste good anyway. Made some for the doggies, too, and they seem to like them.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: One.

Companions for Life

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme is almost too easy: Companionable.

Before I saw it, I had a photo post planned about killing caterpillars and why that makes me racist. I hoped to somehow connect that with the photo challenge. But who am I to reject an opportunity to invite people to look at pictures of my dogs? (I went ahead and wrote the caterpillar post anyway. Read it here.)

Best Friends Forever

My precious Mia has a very annoying habit of barking incessantly in the backyard. We think she’s just saying, “Hey, look at me! I’m over here!” Because she doesn’t want you to throw her the ball, or even come near her. If you try to get the ball, she runs away with it in her mouth, which is a plus, because at least that stops her from barking.

For this reason, it’s very hard to get a picture of her flashing her beautiful smile. I have lots of pictures of her barking, and many of her lifting her upper lip at Leo. In a show of affection, of course.

Lately, she hasn’t been wanting to come in the house when I need to leave for work. I solve this problem by letting her drag a leash around the yard, but today I wasn’t in a hurry, so I just set her free.

When I was ready to go, I sat down on an Adirondack chair in front of our backyard studio. My plan was to grab her ball when she wasn’t looking and lure her back to the house with it. Mia sat down on one side of the young maple tree and Leo sat on the other side. My smiling, happy dogs looked so beautiful (and companionable, although I didn’t yet know that was this week’s theme), I needed to take a picture.

By the time I walked back inside the house and got my camera, the tableau had moved. I sat down again, waiting for the dogs to settle in exactly that same position, but instead, Mia barked and barked and barked. Her high-pitched attention getting squawk. The one that drives Rob insane when he’s trying to mow the lawn. I took a few pictures of cocoons while waiting for her to be photogenic again.

Eventually she closed her mouth for enough consecutive seconds that I was able to get a few pictures that don’t make her look like a monster. And a few that do.

In the background: A freeway falls into the river

Skagit River Bridge

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Background, I give you Interstate 5 collapsed into the Skagit River. Allow me to zoom out so you can see how close my old office used to be to this freeway.

bridge collapse diagram

This bridge has been in the background of my life for the past 10 years. From late 2006 through 2013, I could see it from my office window. Leo and I used to walk right there all the time, on the dike along the south side of the river. I still travel across the bridge on a regular basis, or rather, I did until yesterday. Earlier this year, my office moved across the river, about a five-minute walk off the right-hand edge of the photo.

It takes a lot for Skagit County to make the national news. Like a mentally ill man getting his hands on a gun and killing six people, for example. Or a freeway falling into the river. Three people were injured, no one was killed after an oversized truck knocked Interstate 5 into the Skagit River at about 7 p.m. last night.

Think about that. A catastrophic failure of engineering on a public roadway, and no one was killed. Mentally ill man plus handgun: six dead.

I’m just saying.

The Japanese art of folding patterned paper

A few years ago, a work associate I knew only slightly was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was given a few months to live, but survived almost a year. During that time, I followed a Caring Bridge blog documenting his illness, treatment and family life.

One of the ways his loved ones coped was to fold origami cranes. Thousands of them. Their goal was to fold a symbolic 1,000 cranes, but they exceeded that number. At his memorial service, they handed out the extras.

I thought this was a beautiful idea and decided to learn how to fold cranes. For Christmas, I received a book on origami and a couple of packs of patterned paper. Last week, I opened them for the first time.

Cranes are not difficult to fold, but unless you have someone to show you in person, I recommend following along with a book, starting with the more basic shapes until you master the preliminary fold and the petal fold.

Here is my offering for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern:

Last year’s tulips

I try not to be like everyone else, but it’s April and this week’s Photo Challenge is Color. What’s a girl to do?

 

I intended to hit the tulip fields today and take close-ups of individual tulips in different colors, then run them in a circle gallery like the above. But it’s so cold and windy, and I already was chilled to the bone from my earlier assignment. I didn’t feel like getting out of the car.

I decided to use last year’s pics instead. This year’s crop isn’t in full glory yet anyway. If this challenge were next week, I’d probably tell you a different story.

Happy Spring!

My Awesome Saturday

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

First time using the Gallery feature. Didn’t even know it existed. Daily Post, you may have created a monster.

 

Leo’s metaphoric ladder of success

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

leo forward

Leo would love to climb this ladder, but I doubt he ever will. He doesn’t seem to understand the nuances of his hind legs. Not that he’s disabled in any way. He can run and jump just fine. He is capable of jumping or climbing on the furniture, but half the time, he just rests his front paws on the bed or couch, leaving his hind feet on the floor. I help him out by lifting his back legs up the rest of the way. It’s weird.

I took this photo yesterday to represent a commitment to move forward. To help our Leo be the best Leo he can be.

He’s sort of a problem child. I found myself saying the other day, “Leo is not reactive like Isis was. When he barks at a bicycle, he’s doesn’t have a full-blown, out-of-his-mind reaction. We just have to watch out for his redirected biting … oh, who am I kidding? He’s reactive.”

Leo experiences barrier frustration. When he’s on a leash and sees a bicycle, he barks at it. Confined by the leash, he can’t get to the bike. He gets frustrated and lashes out at the nearest thing. Sometimes Mia’s head, sometimes our legs. Mia’s head can take it. Our legs are more sensitive.

Joggers and other dogs present a similar problem, but usually I can get him far enough away that he doesn’t bark. Lately, bicycles have become more of a challenge. Rob and I like to walk the dogs after dark, when there are fewer people around. Last Saturday night after 10 pm, we encountered two bicycles. I couldn’t get Leo far enough away. He barked and lunged.

I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of training this behavior away, because of what I went though with Isis. Writing her memoir, I’m still living those two years when I was obsessed with fixing her. With Isis, we got to a point where I could safely walk her around the neighborhood. I need to revisit those techniques to make Leo less reactive.

We started last week by taking Leo to a neutral location with Rob’s bicycle. Leo had no trouble walking beside us while we walked the bicycle. We got overconfident and tried walking around a larger area, inhabited by other people. A person riding a bicycle passed. I clicked and treated Leo, who didn’t react. Hooray. I let my guard down further and missed the approach of a second bicycle. Leo barked and lunged.

I burst into tears, something I don’t remember doing with Isis at this phase of her training. I failed him. Why is this so hard? 

Nothing is worse for reactive dog training than losing your cool.

I realized we need to go back before we can go forward.

We tried again yesterday with the goal of keeping it short and successful. Make sure Leo is calm before we get started, able to make eye contact with me. Have Rob walk by with bicycle. Click and treat Leo for calm. Have Rob ride bicycle slowly past us at a distance. End on success.

Leo became very agitated when Rob mounted the bike. He barked a high-pitched nervous bark (as opposed to the Big Boy ferocious bark) and I could get him to calm down. I moved him farther away, had Rob get off the bike and stand next to it.

Leo could not calm down 50 feet away from Rob standing next to a bicycle. Part of that could be anxiety because he wanted to get to his daddy, but it shows that we tried to move too fast.

So, that’s our starting point. Next time we will start with Rob standing next to the bicycle at a greater distance away. I will try some BAT techniques of rewarding Leo by moving him farther away when he shows calming signals.

We’ll take it from there. Move forward.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

One of these weeks, I’m going to take a picture especially for the Weekly Photo Challenge. But for each of the three weeks I’ve participated, I’ve already had the perfect picture:

isis kisses rob

Isis kisses Rob

When I first took this picture (in November 2008, according to the metadata), I asked my mom if she thought it was too intimate to post on Facebook. She said, “I think so.”

Well, guess what? I’m writing a memoir I plan to have published, so we better get used to sharing intimate moments publicly. I asked Rob if I could post it, he said I could.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

My entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Home is titled
Northwest Retirement Cottage.

cabin

Sometimes my work takes me places other people don’t tend to see. Twice in my career, I’ve visited squatters’ cabins in the woods.

I visited this cabin a few months after its owner died. I hiked about twenty minutes from a logging road down to the river, knowing that the cabin had to be torn down, but sort of fantasizing about spending some solitude in the verdant woods. Maybe instead of dismantling the cabin, we could just clear out his stuff and turn it into a caretaker’s cabin.

The mountain man who lived here apparently had a drinking problem and took refuge in the woods. He posted yellow plastic smiley faces to the trees. He hung odd ornaments and stuffed animals, and appeared to have planted or relocated some trees to his liking.

The inside was creepy. The low-ceilinged interior had a wood-burning stove and a sink (although no running water). Two beds were pushed against the corners of the room, blankets piled high. If I didn’t know that the squatter had died, I might have worried that someone was sleeping there. Laundry was still clipped to clotheslines strung from the trees. I suspect the man spent most of his time in one of his lawn chairs or hammock.

Reusable grocery bags were tacked to the exterior walls. Several pairs of boots were strewn on his tarpaulin front porch. Perfectly good boots. None of us could bring ourselves to take his boots.

We were hard-pressed to find any kind of souvenir we wanted to take home. And no one wanted to move in.

The cabin was torn down a few months later. I’m happy I got to see the before and after.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

At my friend Jolene’s suggestion, here’s my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge:

Last night I revised the prologue to my memoir to include a description of this photo of Isis.

point no point isis splash4

Point No Point Beach, July 2008

Maybe it’s not unique under the larger category of dogs running on beaches, but as I wrote about the photo, I tried to find the words to explain what it means to me, and why I chose it as the photo that decorates the wooden box where we keep her ashes.

About six months after this picture was taken, Isis bit someone, and we never felt safe taking her to public places after that, certainly no place where we let her off leash. I shot, and this is not an exaggeration, about 3,000 photos of Isis during her life. Every single one is absolutely stunning of course, but many of them look alike. Isis chasing a soccer ball, Isis smiling at me as she waits for me to throw the soccer ball, Isis with her squeaky rubber Milk Bones in her mouth. Photos documenting her everyday life.

In this photo, Isis is completely free, operating on instinct, and blissfully happy in the wild, not constrained by the limitations we impose on our domesticated dogs. This moment would never be relived, and that’s why it’s unique. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment for my once-in-a-lifetime dog.