adventures of beck

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


There! You see that? He's totally interested in the duck!

We're grooming her for police work. Leperachaun Police Work.
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It's Alive!

Just before these photos were taken, Kayak initiated tug-o-war with Sonar! I of course failed as a mother to capture this exciting moment in digital, but I did get some shots of the 55 pound black beast that graces our household.

Sonar catches the "gingerbread man."

Sonar practices her CIA prisoner "breaking" techniques. GRRRRR YOU WILL TALK GRRRR.

Sonar makes a mockery of Lassie.

Sepiatone Frolicking.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

He's actually a dog.

When I say that Kayak is mellow, I'm understating. There have actually been times that neighbors have inquired about his health as he lies motionless on the front lawn. We invariably check his health status with an over-the-shoulder "Hey, Kayak, you alive?" He signals his good health with a tail thump or an ear twitch. If he's feeling really frisky, he'll lift his head, and fix his brown eyes on you with a look that says "can't a dog dream about rabbits in peace?"

In any case, it was obvious from the start that Kayak did not have a happy or normal upbringing, or in the very least he had been fending for himself for at least a year. Although we appreciated the ease of handling him (he can be flipped and turned in any direction, picked up, bathed, teeth brushed, put in any car, be with anyone of any age, in any crowd, in any house etc etc) and his general good behavior, we knew that it wasn't normal. The way he related to other dogs was the most telling part of his social miscueing. He routinely got into/started fights. He never exhibited any play behavior- no chasing, no leaping, no play bows. He also had absolutely no interest in objects, whether they were presented by humans or dogs. His sole play behavior was to throw his bone in the air and pounce on it, and it was during these rare moments of solo play that a look crossed his face that could only be described as distinctly joyous. Pizza and other people food could produce a similar look. Rabbits remained the only stimulus that could excite Kayak into a full blown sprint. Kayak also never got into any trouble. He never ripped anything up or chewed something he shouldn't. He never stole food or got into the trash. He never jumped on strangers or chased the cats. He didn't bark at the door or in the car. He could only be urged into frantic tail wagging by a carefully cultivated question: "Do you wanna go outside!!!????" He lived for walks, and for smelling, and for snuggling. But he did little else.

Enter Sonar. Call her what you will (and I do...) but she has changed Kayak's entire demeanor. This sort of thing will happen when a small black puppy jumps on your head and bites your ears. Oddly, though, Kayak is a happier dog. The changes started slowly, with him occasionally giving in to her constant annoying behavior. He would get angry, and bark, and growl, and briefly chase her. She was completely unfazed by his temper (thank God she isn't a shy puppy) and she acted as though this was exactly what she wanted. We were worried that she would drive him insane. But about this time, we also discovered the local 48-acre off-leash dog park. Gradually, she taught him to chase her. Then to tackle each other. Now they work as a team, chasing and tackling other dogs. Naturally, this isn't always popular, so we try to rein them in if other dogs don't like rough and tumble play.

Then, the really weird antics started. I came home from work to find the trash can in the kitchen had vomited its contents across the kitchen. Since Sonar was in her crate, there was only one suspect. Next, he stole a bag of jellybeans in the car, ripped a hole in the bag, and began consuming them. He shredded several pieces of paper and packages in the car. Early on, when Sonar came, Kayak began guarding the yard and the house. He barked. He barked? He barked!

Just last week, their relationship came full circle. Sonar was trotting past the couch, and Kayak suddenly lept from the couch, landing near her in play bow. He started barking and mouthing at her. Sonar was as shocked as we were. Since that day, Kayak's play behavior has exploded. He has been busted playing with a ball, fetching sticks occasionally at the dog park, finding his own sticks at the dog park, chasing other dogs, and rolling on top of Sonar on the floor. He is truly a whole new dog. He has also been working on his jumping ability, and both he and Sonar can jump through the open driver's side window of the van. This is a skill they will need when I'm training them to be the next Rin-Tin-Tins. Kayak will be the devoted, well behaved dog. Sonar will be the running stunt double. I'm not sure which one's fur we'll have to dye.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Day 3 Pictures

Did we mention it was windy near the summit?
Dooley with Mt. Algonquin "looming" in the background. We were on top of that, you know. This shot was taken from somwhere between Algonquin and Boundary.

This was a nifty little wall thing that we had to climb to get to Boundary. Oscar figured this one out okay, but the next one on the way to Iroquois was more difficult. I had to make a beck-bridge for him to cross. He's not heavy. Just 85 lbs.

This is a traditional shot of all the hikers' feet near (not ON, Oscar!) the summit marker. These summit markers were placed by the original surveyors of the Adirondack mountains. We reflected on the difficulty of climbing a mountain with no marked trail, no map, and no weather forecasting. Oh, and don't forget to pack the summit marker equipment.
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The Rest of the Story.

There is a reason that I don't make money off my blog, the way does. That's because it takes me a month to finish the story that I started. Back to the Adirondack adventure.

Near the end of day two, we struggled into lean-to site, FINALLY. We were so tired, and so happy to get there. As we rounded the corner of the lean-to, we saw that it was full of stuff. Probably about 5-6 people's stuff. CRAP. But it was a nice lean to site, and we were sick of walking. Hiking. Carrying heavy packs. We were stone tired. I noticed a form sleeping in the sleeping bag in the lean-to. Whatever. As we collapsed onto a log, we were chatting about the wonderful lake, and doing laundry, and laying around and eating. The form sat up. "We'll be out tomorrow," she said shortly, and then laid back down. We shrugged. At this point, we didn't even care if we slept in the lean-to. We knew it was illegal to put up a tent near a lean-to, but we decided we would be happy to just sleep under the stars. We had Oscar, and we knew the weather report was fine for the next 24 hours or so. We couldn't handle the idea of walking any further. At this point I will need to remind you that the occupancy limit of a lean-to is eight people. The DEC (Forest Rangers) require that parties share space up to the point of 8 people. But if this old lady was going to be anti-social, we didn't care.

We started to remove socks, boots, to put up a clothes line, to basically make camp. The old lady again sat up. "What are you doing," she asked. "Oh," we replied amiably, "we're just going to sleep under the stars. All the other camps are full, and we're really really tired. We've been hiking all day." We were so emotionally unprepared for what happened next. The old lady began a tirade; "you can't stay here, the other people at this camp won't want you to, why don't you just move along, you're not wanted here..." We were stunned. Everyone so far had been so friendly, (even when the nearly burned down the lean-to.) This woman was plain MEAN. She became so cruel that I eventually walked ahead to look for another campsite. I ran into a ranger, and he showed me where another one was. (It wasn't on the map.) By the time I got back, Dooley was pretty upset. The lady had been making her feel terrible while I had been gone, calling her everything from the ludicrous "lean-to squatter" to the downright offensive "you're not wanted here, why don't you just move along, go on, take your stuff, pick it up, get out of here!" We packed up and left, telling her that we hoped that if she ever was desperate for a kind word that she would find someone who was willing to lend a hand. We were shook up and exhausted. We finally struggled into a semi-creepy lean-to campsite that we had all to ourselves. We took a daypack adventure down a creek briefly that was a lot of fun. Then it was back to camp and in our sleeping bags by 7pm, though we stayed up until about 11pm scaring the crap out of ourselves with random noises and the lean-to journal entries about bears.

The following morning, we tackled the McIntyre Range. Specifically, we hiked up Mt. Algonquin.
"Algonquin Peak in the MacIntyre Mountains is, at 5114 feet, the second highest mountain in New York State. But in all other respects, Algonquin is second to none. Standing in the midst of the noblest group of mountains in the Adirondacks, it offers an exciting climb and the best view from within the High Peaks." -

Algonquin is also "one of the longest continuously steep climbs in the Adirondacks."

It hurts. But it was so worth it.

Above: this is a waterfall that I photographed on Alqonquin Peak trail. We followed this stream a good deal of the way up, often walking on dry rockbed that was the stream's territory during spring rains. This is surprisingly unsettling to do. You could actually fall a pretty long ways if you fell over backwards on one of these parts. Because your boots are grippy and the rock is dry, the footing is pretty good. But you do have to pay close attention, you wouldn't horseplay in these areas, or attempt to climb them while intoxicated. And I personally wouldn't climb that trail in winter. But people do that. They have a lot of special equipment.

Above: Dooley and Oscar at the top of Mt. Algonquin. As you can see in the background, it's a pretty busy peak. BUT a lot of these people came up Mt. Wright to get to Mt. Algonquin. This is a lot easier than the climb we did. Mt. Wright has plane crash wreckage on it, I'd like to see that next time. The top of the mountain is bald, we are "above the treeline." Also called "an alpine zone." All of this means that the plant life that can grow so high up in the elements is very very fragile, and we aren't allowed to step on it. You have to stay on the bare rock parts. You can incur a very big fine for not doing this.

Above: Oscar and me posing on the top of Mt. Algonquin. This was relatively soon after we summited, and although we quickly threw on wind breakers, we hadn't yet gotten on the windpants. It was probably 50 or so degrees or less with the windchill on the summit. Plus we had just stopped moving from the climb, and we were sweaty. You could catch a chill pretty easily. We ate our two powerbars each with peanut butter and nutella smeared on them. This was a great idea for a snack, but we didn't bring enough of it, and by the time we got off the summit, we were famished.

Above: Oscar appearing to pose for the tag of a Columbia clothing item. We photographed him for his veterinarian team who had spared him from death row. He was a sweet, sweet dog, but they were in overflow, and his ticket was up. But the techs couldn't bear to go through with it. He was only getting one bowl of food per day, so little were his chances of survival that he didn't even get full resources. But they spared his life for 2 weeks, in the hopes someone would adopt him. And that person was Dooley. Oscar now lives the good life. On the top of the mountain, people of course asked what breed Oscar was, and we told them that he is a Shepherd/Lab mix. We told them he was a rescued dog, and that he was about to be put down. We say this as their children are happily patting Oscar on the head, and he is loving the attention. Their faces are shocked: "Why would he be put down?" It is always difficult to keep the emotion out of your voice when you tell them that it is because people BUY purebred dogs, and money talks loudly, drowing out the voices of the true diamonds in the rough, like Oscar.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Why Your Dog Hates Home Depot

Everyone who's cared for a dog certainly knows that it is a rare dog who will sit politely to have his nails clipped. Rarer still is a dog that will do this when cheese is not present. In light of this knowledge, I am helpless to explain why some people insist on having a veterinary technician DREMEL their dog's nails. That's right, a ROTARY TOOL. A tool that runs on AC current. A tool with voltage that spins at high speeds. To be fair, it would be wonderful if Sonar's nails didn't have a sharp edge to them that scraped my skin; but I'm sure she would think it was wonderful if she didn't have to stay in a crate when we go to work. (She would also think it was wonderful if we stocked dead birds in the fridge for her, but that's a whole different blog post.) In any case, in order to dremel two mellow greyhounds it takes three people and about 20 minutes. One panicky mixed breed takes five (strong and determined!) people and about 10 minutes. Oh, and all dogs HAVE to be muzzled. This is to override the natural response that all living things have toward being attacked with powertools. Duh. Clipping a dog's nails is never a stroll in a dead-bird-free-park, but even Kayak the ultimate wuss will stay steady while I clip each nail. All it took was a little (ok a LOT) of patience, and a piece of cheese after every nail. He prefers colby jack, but has taken a shine to pepper jack lately.

Right when I got to the vet this morning, I found a very sad scene. A chocolate lab and a yellow lab laid side by side on the floor, heavily sedated, their eyelids heavy. Both were elderly and white on their muzzles. I knew instantly that they weren't here for simultaneous surgeries. The enormous needle capping a syringe of pink fluid being prepared by the tech confirmed it. Another tech told me their story: they were brother and sister, both suffering from health ailments in their old age, and though they weren't at death's door, their parents had elected to have them put down together, to go out together. From one perspective, this was kind. Having known and loved their sibling for their entire life, it would be extremely painful for one to lose the other in old age. The parents had said their goodbyes outside the clinic earlier. The tech said that the dogs had come in together, happy to be together, been sedated at the same time, gotten woozy together, and laid down together. Labs are notorious for being sloppy kissers and enthusiastic tail waggers even when sedated, and these two were no different. The chocolate one was the sister, and the bigger yellow one was her classically blockheaded brother. Now they lay peacefully, tails still, heads between their front paws, breathing deeply and steadily. I scratched their ears and ran my hands down their backs, knowing they could not feel me. I pondered their long life together, thinking of all the mischief they must have enjoyed with each other. There is something surreal about the swirl of bright red blood as it accelerates into the syringe as the tech finds the atria of the heart and pulls back to get the flash. Within the time of the plunger depressing, I feel as though I think a million thoughts. The brother was put to sleep first, with his sister following. Though it was too sad for me to voice out loud, I settled on a vision of them chasing rabbits together in a beautiful sunny field, tails wagging furiously as they had in this life.

Because it is the nature of any hospital scene, where there is sadness, there is also hope and delight. Coming around the cages, I came upon a crop of kittens doing their kittenish business, batting at toys and eyeing the world with a healthy dose of curiosity. One was a white-ish stray with a possible upper respiratory disorder. He was happy and alert, stuyding my face. Two were in a cage together, a black one and a gray one. They were way too cool for anyone but eachother as they lounged triumphantly on their soft towels. What they thought they had accomplished is anyone's guess, but the black one let out a tiny hiss to remind me of how tough she thought she was. This of course prompted me to open the cage and pet her, which she of course loved. Typical cat. The smallest of the kittens was in a cage by himself. His scientific size classification would be "itty-bitty." His right hind leg was in a splint, the craftsmanship of which I recognized as being identical to that of Bradford-the-Cat's. Though his broken leg lended him in inordinately pathetic appearance, he seemed rather non-chalant about the whole affair. He sized me up with his tiny eyes, as if to say, "what, this old thing? It's just a flesh wound." To make him truly a tiny drama, he had been "found on the side of the road." This of course is the ultimate heart-breaking line. The only thing more heart rending is to be found in some sort of body of water. Knowing this, the tiny black kitten made every attempt to be a trooper about his plight, brazenly batting at the toy strawberry in his cage as he reclined in his hero's bed.

In the ISO (isolation) run was a fluffy, sand-colored dog of profound character. Her eyes were depressed and dull, and she was uninterested in her appetizing food. As she was housed in the run across from the cage where Sonar had been kept, it was difficult for me not to feel a pang of guilt that I could not save the sand-colored dog too. Her owner had died and she was very lost now. Though it does not have the instant impact of being found abandoned as a youngster, her situation is one that I find excruciating, especially in light of her age. She is probably around 8 years old, and now utterly without a friend in the world. One day she was living the good life, the next day she was a lost soul. Her fur was soft and curlish, and she got to me in a way that even the itty-bitty kitten and the lab siblings hadn't. Older dogs have a much harder time being rehomed because they've lost their puppy-cute factor. (Which is the only thing that keeps Sonar alive on some days....)

Near the end of the day, I had the opportunity to get some in-depth x-ray reading training from Doc. This was a really fun contrast to my real job which is intense customer service. At the clinic, the main focus is on skill development. My brain likes this, and it is refreshing to be in a different mindset.