Summer and Finding Dory

Miss Keebler Elf  with bat ears

I haven’t been posting much lately, mostly because making myself sit on the computer after a long day of already being on the computer isn't extremely appealing. Not to say that it hasn't been a busy and productive summer, but little about it has been catalogued. I've been using the big camera less too, mostly because I’m trying to keep up with this little gal:

Meet Dory. 

Dory and her Nemo

No doubt, it’s been a rough dog year for us. We’ve been thru a couple of difficult foster situations (including the foster-trial-to-adopt Chewy that was so disheartening), then having our hearts stolen by Captain only to lose him less than three months later.

Upon returning from our Oregon coast/Redwoods trip (more on that later) I found out that work had screwed up my scheduled so I had a few additional days off. Darn. :) What to do with those days off? Apparently I ended up at the Humane Society and a day later, came home with Dory (previously Dolly).

She’s been a delight and a challenge, which, I understand most young herding breeds/mixes are. No history, beyond that she was picked up as a stray in California. She’s the quietest, most submissive, almost timid dog we’ve ever had, so Andy and I have been working hard to build her confidence and trust in just about everything: people, cars, new places, other dogs. Hellishly intelligent and untrained.  Combine these qualities with an off-the-hook prey drive (cats, squirrels, bunnies- anything that moves- she’s our indoor fly swatter) and she’s a unique little monster that is slowly coming out of her shell and blossoming into a really great little gal. 

(Nemo before)

death to all squeakies (Nemo after)

Until she eats my lipstick all over the carpet right before work. Sigh.

Teenage dogs are the worst.

First hike: Bear Lake

snaggle-tooth grin

learning how to be off leash with friends

pack of pups on the Little Santiam

The Art of Post-Holing

grumpy face that I dragged her thru all  of this

The area around June Lake on Mount Saint Helens has many faces: blanketed in marshmallow style snow on a bluebird day in January, or hot, barren and exposed (much like our very uncharacteristic summer last year).

(Obviously, I’m again woefully behind on posts. This was an impromptu day hike that took place on an 84°F day in April when it looked like our summer was shaping up to be as brutal as it was last year.)

Displeased by that thought and irritated with the heat overall, I grabbed the dog and headed higher, hoping to find reprieve in the quickly melting alpine.

My happy place

All I can plead is mountain insanity, if I think post-holing for five miles thru sun soft snow and lava fields is somehow "fun." Fun at home, maybe, as a distant memory, less fun in reality, when my foot hits a hidden tree sunk knee height beneath the snow, jarring me back to reality. 

This article sums up the insanity and denial quite nicely and had me laughing at how apropros it is:

By the time I reached June Lake, I’d already sunk thigh to hip deep numerous times, clamoring around downed trees and following the misleading footprints of some poor elk, clearly also trying not to post-hole in the deep stuff.

My original goal had been to make a loop, up to Chocolate Falls and back down the Swift Creek trail; brain smarts won out, as I wasn’t keen on losing a shoe again or, (after punching thru to yet again on  lava rock trying to reach the Loowit trail) breaking a limb when it was clear I was the only human around.

So, home it was. Still, exercise is always good for the body and soul, even if I forgot how exhausting post-holing for five miles can be.

Until next year, when the brain forgets again.

The month of March (aka SPRING in all its glory)

I love all the seasons. Fall is my favorite with its gorgeous burst of color and changing light, like a celebration before the long night that is winter. Winter, for its long nights and grey days, all gloomy and moody and slumbering, and its absolute quiet, especially in the snow in the mountains. Spring, for its celebration, rejuvenation, longer days, new color and flowers. Summer- oddly, probably my least cherished- but glorious in the high alpine and with its long days and sun.

Spring has many faces.

chillaxing in Siouxan

In Bend, on our only ski day of the year (our winter completely abolished by my back...*le sigh*), this is what spring looked like:

snow is actually blowing sideways

One of the entertaining aspects of new homes is finding out what little delights creep out of the ground thru the seasons. Daily, this year in March, I would come home to find something new:

absolutely gorgeous, fifty plus year old trillium

bleeding hearts

not sure what kind of cuteness to call these guys, but I love them

Regaining my hiking legs and stamina, rediscovering the beauty of the forest, of water, of friends and family, both two and four-legged:

because...this guy

giant ferns, tiny husband (Andy's first visit to Siouxan)

revisiting the Clackamas River trail with dear friends

Twas a good month.

best friends

life so hard

Oregon Coast Babies

Siletz Bay sunset, low tide
(And still in the theme of catching up on posts):

Our gorgeous February weather continued to hold, so late that month Andy and I headed back down to the Lincoln City area, originally intending to do some more kayaking.

We ended up just...playing.

Couple o' dorks

The weather was gorgeous, and the rain held off until we left, late on Sunday evening, winding our way back up Highway 6 thru Banks.

Saturday evening, with the low tide, we tried out our hand at clamming and were much more successful than in previous endeavors. Apparently Siletz Bay is filled with purple varnish clams, an invasive species from Asia, that have a high daily quota of 72 per person.

We each caught our quota in under two hours. Our maturity levels plummeted to new lows as we competed heavily about who had more clams in their buckets and raced each other with shovels and sand-flinging to find more clams.

Pepper entertained herself chasing seagulls.

All of us were positively filthy and giddy by the end of it.

(On a side note, washing 144 clams is a painstaking undertaking. The flavor of the purple varnish clam was surprisingly good- light and clean, and they made lovely clam chowder when we got them home. Tiny little boogers for so much work though).

Andy LOVES this

purple varnish clams

a gorgeous evening for clamming in Siletz Bay

We also spent some time down at the Aquarium (just because it's adorable), Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Scenic Area, and, of course, Rogue Brewing.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse


Delightful times. {GRIN}

A Superbowl Sunday kayak

(Hullo world. 

Funny, I always said I was going to be one of those people who “kept up” with their blog. Famous last words, Amanda. Not to mention a lesson in humility about how when you say you won’t be that person, you are destined to become that person.

Obviously, I am woefully behind, and, just as obviously, I am still alive. I have no excuses beyond being uninspired, and transitioning into a new job role post-injury that has left me both more appreciative of how much my body actually does and reluctant to spend yet more hours behind the computer. Bad combo.

The back injury took time to mend…and - in the grand scheme of back injuries -  wasn’t honestly all that bad. Still, it left me with a new appreciation for pain and how incapacitating back *stuff* can be- and mine was strictly related to severe muscle strain-  I didn’t even venture into the realm of spinal injury or nerve damage. So, my hat is off to all of you who suffer from chronic back pain. It's awful.)


Andy and I have been in the process of rediscovering the Oregon Coast for some time now after an extended hiatus…kayaking clearly has something to do with it, but it’s been a joy to remember what an incredible area we live in.

(My wonderful father, who lives in Ohio, and constantly teases/harasses me to move back closer to family, one time asked me, “What does Oregon have that Ohio doesn’t? [a few years later, my adorable brother asked me something similar, however, he lives in the South. Yup, family spread out all over the place.] I replied (to both questions): “Topography.” [GRIN])

Never good at sports, my Super Bowl Sunday looked something like this:

pretty little Nestucca

Kayaking. Island Life. Sunshine. Next to no one else around. Pretty much perfect.  

Andy and I decided to explore Nestucca Bay near Pacific City. It’s a fairly sheltered bay that is part of the Nestucca River flowing thru the coastal flats between the towns of Pacific City and Neskowin. Its personality is variable- pastoral in the upper reaches, flowing thru flats and pasture land, increasingly tidal and coastal towards the inlet, with quite the wind chop as Andy and I discovered soon after launch.

We’re still new to bays- as such, we exercise caution. We launched during the change in tide, so we were careful to steer clear of the mouth, which we could see in the distance, breaking white and wide and frothy- not smart for novice newbies like ourselves. No loss, however. We played in the current and chop, practicing strokes and maneuvers, and watched wary seals follow us around, poking their heads in and out of the waves.

sea glass and barnacles

We made landfall on an island. Andy crabbed. One of the wonderful aspects about dry suits is they are insulating- so I took a nap in the February sunshine on an island on the Oregon Coast in FEBRUARY. 

It was glorious.

Off the Beaten Path

Some old and some new trips that I have neglected.

Panther Creek Falls
This is one of those gems of the Pacific Northwest that takes a little while to find, a little sleuthing, a little driving down unsigned forest service roads, a little faith. It's less of a trail and more of a use path straight down, to a creek, into an amphitheater full of water. Honestly, it was mesmerizing. This is a destination, really just to see, because it's that beautiful.

I didn't really dig the frozen ground scramble in or out though. 

The stunning Panther Creek Falls

lots of ice this day

and straight up we go on frozen ground

Bennett Pass
Cavorting in the snow with a dear friend. J.B. can always be counted on for antics.

snowshoe feet selfie

Why? I don't know :)

snowman with a moss toupee

Valley of the Giants
Abort. Fail. Do your research, Amanda. This trip *took* place during a glorious January day, one where we were coming to terms with Captain's diagnosis. We threw us and the dogs in the car for a much needed day of soul therapy. My back was still injured and in the process of healing at this point, so a very short leg-stretcher was the only thing called for- Andy was going to carry all the pack weight, which just went against all my Ten Essentials instincts, but it was only supposed to be a 1.5 mile hike. Getting there is three quarters of the adventure though.

somewhere, on some road, in the coast range

always call ahead to check *if* the bridge is in

The Salmonberry
There are a number of hikes of varying length, ability and destination to choose from along the old Port of Tillamook rail line, accessed from various points deep in the Tillamook State Forest. We initially planned to make it to the Wolf Creek Trestle this day, just exploring an abandoned part of Oregon history. Andy's engineer instincts kicked in on the Big Baldwin trestle though- muttering things like "80 years old"..."Abandoned"...and "unmaintained" and doing stress force calculations out loud. We turned around, gingerly picking our way through rotten and suspended rail ties along other mini-trestles and made our way back to the car.

I was content though. This was my first hike since November post back injury. Even a simple walk in the woods felt outstanding.

O' Captain, My Captain

I am missing our boy today.

On a quiet Saturday morning, a few weeks ago, we let Captain go in our arms, a relief from suffering which had developed suddenly and quickly escalated out of control.  

Right now, though devastated and angry, I’m also trying to embrace gratitude for the time we had with this incredibly beautiful boy. I think some animals touch your heart more than others, teach you lessons never looked for, bring a bright and swift bond into your life. And gratitude is the only word I can think of.

We’ve had our little monster, Pepper, for two years now and had been looking for quite some time for the right second dog- in November we brought home Captain. And fell in love. He had been through probably ten transitions in a year: continually returned to the shelter, slated for euthanasia, adopted out, returned again. From day one, Andy and I just didn’t get it. He felt like home. 

To summarize a long journey, soon after bringing him home, Captain developed what we originally thought was a strain on his right front leg. When this didn’t improve quickly, x-rays showed a possible bone infection, potentially related to an old injury sustained in the same area. Initially he responded well to antibiotics and pain meds… until he simply didn’t anymore. The final diagnosis rolled in, so unfair, so unbelievable. Our lovely, goofy, Gumby boy had osteosarcoma (bone cancer).

As an oncology nurse, I know what that course looks like. Sarcomas (soft tissue cancers) are just bitches- they are aggressive, metastasize quickly, and don’t respond well to treatment. Most courses are palliative in nature (aka, symptom management only, not curative), and in dogs it’s evidently even worse. Utilizing all resources- amputation, chemo and radiation-  90+% of them don’t make it one year.

In an email to his incredibly supportive rescue group (who all came together looking for recourse and resources and advice, I cannot thank them enough) I said:

“So, we're heartbroken. I, especially, feel like I'm in a weird place, like being outside of myself and looking in. Professionally, I understand what we are looking at and that any intervention is simply a time buyer, and not necessarily a quality time buyer at that. It *might* be, or it might not. Yet I find myself wanting to try, but I also know that is grief and denial and anger talking. To say I'm pissed at the injustice of it all is an understatement. But that's cancer for you…”

That said, Captain has been a blessing, especially, I think, for me. He lanced a wound I didn't even realize I had. Without going into excessive, boring detail, in the last months we have delved into an entire new world of dog training related to reactivity, body language and the incredible response of shaping behaviors thru positive reinforcement and counter conditioning. We learned more in the last few months regarding dog behavior than we had in years.
What is it about dogs? I don’t know. I don’t know why they are so incredible, why I’m a dog person instead of a cat person. Regardless, I feel animals are important in our lives- not substitutes for humanity, not more important, but different and vital and amazing. A book I’ve been reading recently summed it up beautifully, I think:

“I like that Luke is not a small, furry, four-legged human. I am blessed with many human friends and I don’t need dogs as substitutes. Some of what I get from my dogs is similar to what I get from my human relationships. But just as I can’t discuss world peace with Tulip, there’s something that I get from my connection to her that I can’t get from my other, human friends. I’m not even sure what it is, but it’s deep and primal and good. It has something to do with staying connected to the earth and to sharing the planet with other living things. We humans are in such a strange position- we are still animals whose behavior reflects that of our ancestors, yet we are unique- unlike any other animal on earth. Our distinctiveness separates us and makes it easy to forget where we came from. Perhaps dogs help us remember the depth of our roots, reminding us- the animals on the other end of the leash- that we may be special, but we are not alone. No wonder we call them our best friends.” (Patricia McConnell, The Other End of the Leash, 2003)

So, I am missing our boy. I’m missing his goofy run/stride/gallop, his whoo-whoos, and his 6 am face-lick alarm clock. Those long legs. His unbelievable ability to find squirrels anywhere, anytime. 

It feels like a piece of home is missing. 

We let Captain go at home, holding him in our arms, feeding him steak and Tillamook cheddar, kissing his head.  His fur smelled minty and like something else, something akin to good, clean earth. The pain had escalated dramatically in the last ten days, and we had already made the decision not to put him thru extensive and invasive treatment that wouldn’t save his life.

I am grateful for the time. What an adorable joy of a boy. Hopefully we did right by you, even for such a short time.