Friday, September 30, 2011

The Seven Year Myth

It's one of those things we learned in our formative years. Like bread crust has more nutrition than the soft bread part or swallowed watermelon seeds will start a melon patch in your belly.  Haven't we all heard to not cross your eyes or your face will freeze that way?  Toads and warts?  Frog kisses and handsome princes? Pop Rocks, cola and exploding digestive systems?

Bring back any memories?  It's ok, I'll hang loose a moment while you reminisce.

It's a loss of innocence, isn't it? Finding out this stuff that we held to heart just isn't really true.

Let me help you along with that loss of innocence. Ugh, that's not sounding right. What I mean is I have one more nugget for you - another childhood tenet to crush right before your eyes.  It's about that dog age thing. You know the one; every one dog year is seven human years.

I know. A lot of you dog people know this just isn't true. It's not hard to notice that your sweet fluffy ankle biter has a longer life span than your neighbor's 150 lb Mastiff.  We're comparing a 16 year life expectancy of a toy breed against the unfairly short life of a giant breed's typical eight or nine years. And this calculation isn't even taking into account the dog's lifestyle or health criteria. (An obese pooch will suffer very similar health risks as us human beans.)

So what if you crossed the petite Bichon Frise with a Mastiff? Throwing logistics and mental images aside for the moment, I suppose you could average the resulting life expectancy of the puppies at twelve years because these poor funny looking critters would come out a large breed, wouldn't they?  (Holy cow, but wouldn't they look like fluffy gargoyle heads with dripping, ropey drool?)

Now this has completely stopped making sense, even to me. There's a plethora of opinions and resources out there on calculating dog age.  Here's an article from the Mental Floss website that puts the logic back into my argument. From their story on Fuzzy Math: How do "dog years" work? . . .

The folks at The Dog Guide suggest that when we think about “dog years,” we have to consider the breed and calculate accordingly. Across the board, they say, you can consider the first year of a dog’s life as equivalent to 15 or so human years. By that time, dogs and humans are approaching their adult size and have reached sexual maturity. On their 2nd birthday, you should add about 3-8 more years to your dogs “human age,” depending on size, and value each dog year as being worth 4-5 human years from that point on.

Let's put this theory to work. The mighty Micron has just celebrated his second birthday on September 23. We'll start with the 15 years suggestion for his first 12 months, then considering his large-breed retriever heritage let's add another six years. Fingers and toes tell me that our handsome boy is a mature 21 years old in human years. Yep, I only have ten finger and ten toes, so I had to carry a digit (heh heh - get it? carry a digit? oh, never mind).

Now the final test - does this math make sense when compared to his actual maturity? That is, does Micron fit the 21 year old model we've designed?

Well, he's a college drop-out who's moved back into my house. [check] The first thing he did when he came back home from dog college was flop onto his old bed and ask when dinner was.  And every time he's out with me in public, the girls flock to him like he's the bachelor on some reality show or something. So yeah, I'm seeing a match here with the fuzzy math.

I guess that means next September when Micron's three years old, he'll really be 26.  Huh.  Maybe he'll have a job by then.

Micron shares his birthday month with my favorite kid.  The Husband and I traveled to the BGSU campus (that's a college, Micron) to celebrate with Derek and his adorable girlfriend, Sam.

Derek turned 22 on September 16. So let's see, doing the math backwards, that makes him around two in dog years; about the same as Micron.  

My two handsome birthday boys.

I took Micron to a studio for his two year photo shoot. A few of the better shots you'll see above.  But I just gotta share some of the outtakes, too.  I do believe some of these have captured Micron as his true goober self.

a sneeze coming on

Oh I get it! Carry a digit!  hahahaha

Yeah, I'm so outta here. When's dinner?

Photo credits

The studio shots are by Flash Photography of Dayton. If you're anywhere near the Dayton OH area, you may just want to check this place out. For a flat fee, you're provided a professional photo session customized to your request. All photos are given to you on a flash drive, along with a copyright release to use them however you wish. No photo packages to stress over, just your digital images.

Thanks for the great photo session, Flash!  And for pulling out that Happy Birthday headpiece. Apologies for the squeaky ball, though. Hope you got the dog slobber off of it ok.

We'll see you again in a couple of months for our Christmas shoot.

Flash Photography of Dayton website is here.  Also on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night

 August 18 2011 . . .

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."  -Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Storm's coming in, says the Husband, I'm going to pull in the window awnings.  A storm?! Coo-ell. 

Okie dokie, I say, grabbing the Canon. I'll be at the beach if you need me.

You know, my husband sighs a lot. And he knows there's little to be done from me making one dopey decision after another. Not only am I just the tiniest bit stubborn, I'm also faster than he is. I'm already outside the RV, screen door slamming behind me before you can say certifiable.

But a storm! Besides pesky rain, storms also mean contrasting clouds and wonderful filtered light you don't get on any normal sunshiny day. And normal this is not. There's a beautiful coastal storm on the horizon here at Myrtle Beach. Once we're back in landlocked Ohio, we won't be seeing another one of these wonders until the next road trip down this way.

Oh, but let's be clear on something. There's a rather healthy amount of self-preservation running through my psyche. These swollen and rolling clouds are merely a harbinger of things yet to come. It's not like I'm going to stand in torrential rain and risk getting the Canon (my preciousssss) wet. Now that's lunacy, I say.  Naw, I just want to get out there and capture the mood before the heavens open up on us.

So I can get shots like this.

That's not our sand castle masterpiece. Actually, I don't know whose it is other than some Pirateland family who had the common sense to get back to their camper when the sky started to darken. 

The Husband stops at the beach to check on me during a potty break with the dogs. Micron!, I exclaim, Photo op time, my love!

A couple of quick shots with Sir Micron, brave knight and castle protector. Well, that was my vision. What really happened was more of a medieval-era Godzilla style rampage. I send the boys on their way back to the RV before the rain starts. I'm getting low on Febreze (Sunflowers! Sunshine! and wet dog), you know.

Humm, not only did we seem to lose the third castle tower here, but where did the sticks go?  Micron?

I got it!  I'll protect your castle, m'Lord!  Oh. oops.

Me thinks the tavern wench was a little heavy handed
with the margarita salt

With the boys back in the RV, I start capturing the aura of the imminent tempest . . .

Not easy to see in the panorama above, but the dark section in the sand on the left is the sand castle creation from the first set of shots  On the right, you can see folk in the water, still fishing as the clouds move in. Silly people. 

Another wondrous thing about evening coastal storms are the sunrises the next day. Here's a sunrise from a normal day, hazy and humid. Soft, pretty colors, but nuthin [yawn] special, really. 

This, however, is the stuff you get the morning after a good storm comes through.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Know what else is a rare wonder of nature; something you only see with that elusive, but magical combo of sun and rain?

Rainbows, that's what. And this time  . . .

I found my pot of gold.

And this time, the treasure at the end is for me.


I'm rather excited about an improvement by our website host, Photos on the blog can now be viewed through Lightbox.  Just click on any of the photos to bring up a large screen view. You can navigate through all the images in the post from the Lightbox view. Very cool stuff indeed, especially for a nerd like me who likes to tell a story through pictures.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nature gets uppity

August 17 2011 . . . 

A couple of days enjoying sand and surf at Myrtle Beach, then it's time to blow this pop stand. We dress Yaxley in his CCI cape and we're off to see the sights. But where to go today?  Hmmm.

Shopping at Barefoot Landing

Well, we've always enjoyed walking around the shops at Barefoot Landing, an outdoor shopping experience designed to remind you of an old fishing village. Docks, boardwalks, saltwater taffy and alligators. And it's just a skip and a jump down the road to get there. 

We walk around the Barefoot complex, checking out as many of the blessedly air-conditioned stores as we can.  Yaxley is a rock star as we meet folk who ask about him and the Canine Companions for Independence program. In all our road travels, we've found the Myrtle Beach community as one of the very few places where we'll encounter a challenge with service dogs in restaurants. So raising awareness of CCI is always time well spent there.

 If I don't like the ocean, Food Lady, sez Yax
then why the heck do you think I'll be a surf dog?

Carolina Vineyards Winery
Elvis sighting in MB

These signs were on every boardwalk at Barefoot Landing.
Kinda falls into the same category as
"Careful! That cup of coffee you're about to drink may be hot!"
Thank you, Captain Obvious

Wheels of Yesteryear

This was a new and different stop for us. Wheels of Yesteryear is an impressive collection of restored classic and vintage automobiles. About fifty cars you can see up as up close and personal as your little V-8 heart desires. 

Being a dog person, this could have been a yawner for me. But no, as we pull into the parking lot, the marquee is shouting out at me with "SEE JOE DIRT'S CAR"

Holy Cow! Joe Dirt's 1969 Dodge Daytona?!  From the soon-to-be-a-classic movie?! Well, why didn't you say so before?


Sadly, I'm not kidding this time. It's a fun movie and if I'm flipping the channels around and discover Joe Dirt is on, then I'm heading for the microwave popcorn. It's true. Sorry you had to find this out about me.

But it gets even worse. The Husband tells me that as I walked up to the car and looked inside, I actually said, Da-a-ang. I have no memory of this happening, but I'm inclined to believe him.

Because he was laughing at me.

Joe Dirt's car (!) from the (destined to be classic)  movie

Brookgreen Gardens

What a treasure this place is. I just love Brookgreen Gardens, both an outdoor sculpture garden and nature preserve. So much history there. It was my reward for surviving the car museum, cuz marriage is all about the give and take, isn't it? 

Because of the nature preserve, we decide to leave Yaxley to relax in the air conditioned RV with the other dogs. As puppy raisers, we're asked to avoid taking the young pups to zoos and such. And you can get pretty darn close to some of the animals in the Low Country Zoo, especially in the aviaries.

For example, we enter one particular aviary to greet a big flippin' turkey vulture skulking about the boardwalk like some kind of bridge troll.  Huh.  So, do we keep walking and hope he doesn't go all medieval on us? Or back away slowly to the double door exit?

Never one to shy away from a really bad decision, I went for Option C, which was to raise the camera to get a close-up shot of his ugly mug. Turns out, turkey vultures are camera shy. Well, who knew? Put that little nugget in your field guide, Audubon.

That's right.  Fly away, tough guy.
Yeah, I know that photo is near impossible to make out. But this is the back of the big, bad turkey vulture as he takes flight so the Canon lens can't steal his dark and shriveled soul. Just below the center of the photo you should at least be able to see his gnarly yellow vulture feet, then squinting may help to make out the wing span. [shudder]

Anyway, Brookgreen's sculpture garden is truly a one of kind experience. As my usual style, I took a gadzillion and two photos. But to keep in the theme of all things canine, here I will share my shots of  Louise Peterson's Bella and the Bug.  The sculptress created this image after watching her Great Dane concentrate on a fly crawling on a wall. I think this lady knows her dogs; she's absolutely captured the spirit of the moment.

Bella and the Bug

Not trusting those beady little eyes

We take a break from walking around and rest on a bench under a shady tree. Rustling above reveals a squirrel busy at some kind of urgent tree rat business. Ah, a fox squirrel. We don't have these fancy critters back home.

Hoping to get a nice clear shot of the fuzzy tailed rodent, I get closer and closer until . . . I say to the Husband, If this thing jumps from the tree and goes all militant on my head, you'll save me, right?  The Husband, still back on the park bench, is looking straight ahead as he takes a sip of his Sierra Mist. He says in reply to me Sure, I got your back.

Right.  Well, rodent, I say. It looks like it's between you and me. Now just hold still a sec, willya.

An experience in fine dining

The Husband and I joke about folk who come back from a vacation at some exotic locale only to talk in grisly detail about the what they had to eat on the trip and what the best restaurants were. We say it's a sign that you're getting old.

And I suppose it's possible that we could be creeping into that distinction as one of us had a milestone birthday during this vacation week. To maintain dignity, I won't disclose which of us it was. I'll only say that I'm the younger one and leave you to do ponder on it.

All right, my mateys!  It's Shrimp Night!
The kid called to check on us and asked what our big plans were for the night. Why, it's Shrimp Night!, I say excitedly.   O-o-o-o-kay, is the reply.  Hey, ever since we saw the sign in Pirateland's parking lot that Hog Heaven BBQ was showing up, we've been looking forward to this dinner.

With the sound of the waves crashing and the ocean breeze blowing gently through our campsite, we settle down at the picnic table to nosh upon some barbecued crustacean goodness. Now this is what I call a  (stop that barking in there, dogs!)  vacation. Some white wine in a plastic cup is the icing on the cake, so to speak.

A lovely ending to a busy day.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pawprints in the sand

CCI pup-in-training, Yaxley, watches
his first South Carolina sunrise
August 14, 2011 . . .

The briny smell of the sea, the roaring sound of the waves, the skin blistering heat of the South Carolina sun. Yup, we made it to Myrtle Beach. Not just Myrtle Beach, my friends, but we've scored a great beachside campsite at our beloved Pirateland Family Camping Resort.  What's that you say?  Arrr, Matey. Pirateland?  Really?

Oh, really.

Now we've done the MB vacation a few times over the past years and gave a couple of other local campgrounds a try. When you travel in an RV, you're tempted with thinking, hey we don't need to plan ahead. Campground reservations are for sissies. Guided by the glossy RV magazine ads, we cruise around believing we can park this beast anywhere we want, whenever we feel like stopping.  Sadly, this is not always true. It's possible your destination of choice may actually be booked solid and you end up needing to find an alternate spot for your arrogant self and the house you rode in on. 

So this one year, we were able to snag a spot at local mega-campground when Pirateland was full.  We've certainly heard of this other camping resort, but had never checked it out before. The place was touted as being voted "best in MB" and family-oriented. This will be just fine, we said. We arrive in late evening and navigate our way into a labyrinth to find our site. And found ourselves entering an alternate universe. It was like some dystopian city where the entire adult population, and their 16 year old kids, were driving a golf cart. Full speed ahead, they all say, let's take these babies to warp speed!

Anarchy, martial law and no apparent traffic rules. Ever see a golf cart traffic jam? Not something on my bucket list, either. It seems everyone was in a rush to get to the beach to set off bottle rockets and other such fireworks for the next few hours. Which had one of the dogs in hyper alert mode the entire flippin' night.

You never know what the tide will bring in.
(holding back on the otherwise obligatory seahorse quip)
Bleary eyed, we packed up the next morning and moved on with renewed vows to always call Pirateland ahead of time. And of course we did for this summer's trip by reserving one of their great camping sites within just a few steps from the beach.  We can actually see Russia the ocean from our house. 
The public beach rules in MB have restrictions on when you can take your dogs out there to enjoy the sand and surf. Before nine o'clock in the morning and after five in the evening. Understand, agree and will comply. The dogs aren't here to sunbathe or read a cheap novel on the beach anyway, so not a problem to keep them out of the heat of the day.

Jager, a true road dog, has been to the beach before. This fastidious little Felix Unger incarnate can go for a mile walk along the surf and come back clean and dry, with not even a grain of sand between his prim little raccoon toes.

I'm so shiny, clean and bright!

Jagermeister and water just don't mix well.

Boiling acid sewer lava!  nooooooo . . .

The big yellow dog, on the other paw, is a whole nuther animal, so to speak. Micron has those webbed toes for a reason.  He's a natural water dog.

Micron channels his inner sea lion
Doing the doggy twist

I love watching dogs as they discover the wonders of the seashore. Once Micron worked out that the rolling, foamy stuff was made of water there was no keeping him out of it. We held tightly to the leash, fearing that if he started swimming we'd be left ashore just watching his bobbing noggin as he dog paddled across the murky deep towards the horizon. The big goober.

I think I see a Squirrel out there.

Yaxley, however, had a different experience altogether. While he was trying to get his head around the sand shifting under his paws, he next realized the roaring ocean just ahead. A little overwhelming for the little yeller feller, so we just sat by the sand dunes and watched the waves for a few minutes so he could process all this through his puppy brain.
Why won't the ground stay
still under my toes?

Yax and I took the rest of the week in puppy steps until he found his comfort level. By Friday, we made it to the shoreline and he ventured into the water. Well, ventured is a strong word. What really happened is he stuck one toe in the surf and said, Yep. That'll do.

In the end, the best we got out of the pup was a tolerance of this nonsense. Ok, Yax says, I can accept this weird moving ground and whatever the heck is going on over there with the water. But I don't have to like it.  His favorite part of his beach walks was finding washed up dead things to try to roll in.

But the mighty Micron is a social creature. He just attracts new friends like flies on a . . . oh my, I need a better analogy than that. Anyhow, I'm reminded again of my dashed hopes for his future as a Facility Dog for CCI.  Which leads me, like a smack to the head, to the renewed realization that this is my dog.

And that I am one lucky chick.

Others have mentioned it to me as well, so I do believe there is a positive energy about this dog. Folk want to be in his presence. Being around Micron just makes you feel better. Kids want to be with him; dogs want to be him.

A beach walk with Micron is a time to meet some of our Pirateland neighbors. Like these two delightful kids, who tell us they have six (six!) dogs back at home. They miss their dogs, can they give Micron a hug?

Of course you can, you adorable young people. Take your time and enjoy him.

Mmmmwah!  A kiss for Micron. He returned the affection
with a tongue up this poor kid's nostril.
A hug seems a safer bet for brother.
No tongue for me, he says.

Micron made some dog friends, as well.

Micron  meets his doppelganger

A couple of parting shots of the two good-lookin' yellow dogs taken in the warm glow of the morning sun.

Hey, I can see our house from here!

No, actually I can't dial down the handsome.
Sincere apologies to all the other beach dogs.

Next post - more fun with dogs in MB

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