Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Monthly Diary for November, 2011

This month Mommy and I took a three hikes which I wrote about earlier so you can go back and read about them if you haven't already. I earned my hiking badge. Mommy had trouble getting a photo of it, but I wanted to show you the nice tree picture on it.

Mommy sewed it onto my backpack with my other badges

Rover wearing my backpack.
Those are my Dog Scout badges, my PD badges
and my Relay for Life bronze team captain badge

All my county badges, and my TT and CGC badges

Mommy's favorite badge is the one with the skunk, but she thinks the one with the fish is the most appropriate for me, even though we aren't sure what fish have to do with hiking. We still keep all my badges on my backpack even though I can't wear it anymore since I broke those vertebrae.

Besides hiking this month we had all the leftover candy from Halloween. It was great. Mommy kept the candy out on the livingroom end table and I helped myself to some of it each night. I had trouble opening the box of Milk Duds that I took one night so I brought to Mommy to ask her to open it for me. Can you believe she opened it, but then she ate all but one of them! If I'd known she was going to be such a pig I'd have worked harder to get the box open on my own.

This month we also had a really big wind, not as big as the one that made Mommy take me on The Dumbest Vacation Ever, but it was big enough to knock a 10 foot long branch off the neighbor's tree into our yard. I helped Mommy by breaking the twiggy parts off. She appreciated the help and the branch is now in the corner of our yard making the base of our new brush pile. We had a really nice brush pile in our yard for a couple years which the birds, small mammals and reptiles liked a lot. I liked it too because it was full of bird, small animal and reptile smells, but then Mommy had some men come in and trim our trees and they took away and chipped our whole brush pile before Mommy saw what they were doing. We know they thought they were being nice, but both Mommy and I, not to mention the critters, were very sad about the loss. Mommy had been saving bush trimmings and fallen branches to make a new pile, but it was a sad little one. this new branch has really improved it.

Finally this month Thanksgiving happened. Mommy made pumpkin pie and I got to lick the mixing bowl which was wonderful. Then Mommy and I went down to Grandma and Grandpa's new house. I hadn't been in the house since they moved in and I spent about a half hour sniffing in every room. I came and got Mommy at one point and whined at her. I wanted to know where the squirrel window was. They had a great squirrel window at their old house. Mommy showed me where they had a sliding door for me to look out, but I didn't see any squirrels. Grandpa says they are there because he keeps seeing them raiding his bird feeder. Grandpa's college friend and his wife were there. He is the friend who has Alzheimers and he is more forgetful now, but he still liked it when came over to sit on his feet. Grandma forgot I was there at dinnertime and she tripped over me while I was lying down nice and quiet next to Mommy. Mommy had to catch her to keep her from falling and I decided it would be safer to spend dinner under the table if people were going to try to stand on me. I didn't get any turkey because of my tummy, but I did get some mashed potatoes, a bit of roll, and pie crust. I wore my camera so here are some shots of Grandma and Grandpa's house:

There is cheese on that coffee table and I didn't even try to steal it!

The sideboard with its holy light

Looking out from under the table

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving and got some turkey and mashed potatoes and pie. Remember to be good so that Santa Paws will bring you presents next month!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hike 10 or Hike 15 or 16...The Last Hike

Up until a couple of years ago Mommy and I had the Thanksgiving tradition of taking an all day hike and then stopping by a friend's great big Thanksgiving gathering for pie on the way home. (Her friend is the oldest of 11 kids, which is an awful big litter for humans, and with all the spouses and kids and in-laws and leftovers like Mommy they rent a church hall for the gathering and the church isn't far from our house). It was fun taking those hikes because hardly anyone is on the trails on Thanksgiving Day and we'd get to see a lot of wildlife, but then a couple years ago Mommy's oldest brother stopped inviting Grandma and Grandpa to come to his house in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. When that happened Grandma and Grandpa decided they wanted Mommy and me to come to their house for dinner along with some old friends of theirs. So no more Thanksgiving Day hike.

So, we started a new tradition and now take a day before Thanksgiving Day hike. Mommy's work has a 1/2 day the day before Thanksgiving Day and Mommy doesn't do 1/2 days so that gave us the day for a hike. Today we took the last hike on the county hiking challenge. It was a wildcard hike which meant that we got to pick our own place to go so we went to the savanna that is not too far from our house. Mommy had to do some laundry first and I was VERY impatient to get going, but we got out around 1 p.m. The preserve wasn't empty like on Thanksgiving Day, but there were no bikes and no screaming kids and only one person who thinks that hiking means you talk loud on your cellphone so we got to see a lot of wildlife after all. Shortly after we started our hike we spotted two cooper's hawks circling over the savanna and then a third one came swooping out of the trees by the wetlands and flew so low over our heads that Mommy actually flinched! It flew off to join the other two and they all circled and swooped around the prairie. When we got to the wetlands we were suddenly mooned by a good two dozen ducks all at the same time. That seemed a bit rude to me, but Mommy laughed and said something yummy must be in the water. A little further along the hike we saw a flock of Canada geese hanging out debating about continuing south or staying at the savanna for the winter and then we spotted two sandhill cranes hunting mice in a burn area. I watched them quietly with Mommy for quite awhile, but then I couldn't take it anymore and I had to bark at them. Mommy made me move along at that point. After hiking a bit more we came to the wildlife watching area and we spotted a great egret! We see snowy egrets a lot, but we've never seen a great egret. He must have been a migration straggler. Then four more sandhill cranes flew overhead. I think they were going to go visit the ones we saw hunting mice. Maybe they were going to have Thanksgiving together. Finally, just as we were about to finish our hike three deer came bouncing out of a small clump of trees and ran right alongside us!! This was WAAAAAY too much for me and I dragged Mommy along behind me as I totally forgot my hiking manners and chased them. When they disappeared into another clump of trees I barked and hopped around trying to get them to come back out and run some more, but they didn't.

The wildcard hike was listed as counting as one hike, but, since we did a 3.6 mile hike for our wildcard Mommy isn't sure if it would officially count as two hikes so that is why we aren't sure if we are at 15 or 16 for the official count. Doesn't matter though since we only needed to do 7 hikes to earn our badge. I was very tired by the end of the hike, probably because of the deer chase, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to hop in the car, but I did manage to climb in and I fell asleep as soon as the car started up. Mommy ran a couple errands with me in the car, including picking up my hiking badge, and I gave her the stink eye each time she came back to the car and woke me up.

Despite all the critters we saw I didn't get a single picture of one. Here are some of my shots I thought you might like though:

looking across the savanna

there wasn't a cloud in the sky

stopping for a drink

Doesn't this one look creepy?
Mommy liked the way you only see the guy's feet and shadow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hike 9 or Hike 14

Mommy had the day off today. So, after doing the yard work that she skipped doing on Saturday so she could take me on Hike 8, we headed out for Hike 9. Mommy put this hike off for last because the last couple times we had been to this trail about two years ago we had not been impressed. We knew the preserve was being restored, but we didn't hold much hope for it. Before the county bought it the area we were hiking in had been a farm and a long vacant campground. When we had been to the preserve before the "trail" had been rotten asphalt roads which led through weedy farmland down to a little lake with a destroyed shoreline. There had been biting flies, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes in such number that we spent most of the hikes either running or swatting and we got totally eaten up. And, to make matters worse, both times lounging on the picnic tables by the parking lot were male prostitutes in hot pants! Middle aged men were practically waiting in line for their turn. It kind of takes the enjoyment out of one's hike having to pass that on the way to and from the trail. So, Mommy decided that if we didn't get to this trail this year it would be no great loss. Also, she figured if we waited until a cold day after a frost the bugs might not be there and the prostitutes might be wearing more clothes.

Well, we have to say that this preserve won the "Most Improved" award! First of all, there was only one middle aged man sitting in a truck in the lot and he may have just been there to eat lunch, because there were no prostitutes to be seen. There were also no bugs. The asphalt had all been removed and gravel trails had been put in as well as a couple of mowed trails through beautifully restored grassland. The weedy farmland is now a very nice savanna and the grasses were waving and making a "shhhhhhh" sound with the wind for our whole hike. There was also a very nice little patch of aspens which had to have been there last time, but we sure don't remember seeing. When we got down to the lake the shoreline had been restored and a couple of fishing piers had been erected. We are told there is another hike you can take on the other side of the lake and Mommy says we will probably go there some time soon to see what it is like. All in all it was a very enjoyable 1.8 mile hike. Mommy didn't know it, but she had ended up saving the best hike for last.

Here are some photos I took:

The savanna

A little pond down a hill. The brown around it is the dried prairie grasses which were going "shhhhhh"

The fishing pier

The restored lake with more savanna on the other side

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hike 8 or Hike 13

Mommy was working in the yard and was about to start digging more leaves into the vegetable garden when she looked at me and said, "You know what? Today is too nice a day to not go hiking. Especially since they say it might rain tomorrow." So she put down her shovel and off we went on our 8th hike for the county challenge. This hike was 2.6 miles long so it counted for 2 hikes which brings our total up to 13. We haven't been to this preserve for about three years and boy has it changed! It used to be a hike through great big old trees, but now it is a hike through great big stumps and windfalls. Remember earlier this year when we had the really big wind that made Mommy go crazy and decide we were going to live like pioneer dogs with no lights even though it was scary dark out and also that caused her to take me on the Dumbest Vacation Ever where we drove all our food to Grandma and Grandpa's houses? Well, Mommy thinks that that is why there are a lot of big stumps and windfalls. She thinks that nasty wind took down a bunch of the old trees and they knocked down a lot of the smaller younger trees too. There was also a gigantic pile of dead trees in one part of the hike. It was almost as big as our house! We aren't sure why they were there. Maybe they were invasive species being piled up for burning or maybe (we hope not) they had gotten emerald ash borers in them and were waiting to be hauled away. It was a very sad looking preserve.

There were still a lot of younger trees and the river that the hike runs along was still there, although there were some big trees tipped over into it too. There were enough trees that I got to see a big bunny, or deer as Mommy insists on calling them. He was hopping through the scrub and I barked at him to tell him to stop hopping. I also saw a great big V of geese heading to their winter home and a great blue heron flying to the river. Maybe he was related to the one who hangs out by the lake. We veered off the official hike at one point so we could hike down one of the mowed prairie trails and it was flooded. I walked through it with my boot on and then was not happy about having to wear a soaking wet hiking boot for the rest of the hike. I don't understand why Mommy wears shoes on hikes, they are a pain in the neck. I wore my camera but I got only two shots that weren't blurry pictures of my chin and neither showed the trees or the river. Here they are anyway:

Here is a shot that was taken as Mommy and I were putting on my hiking boot because I had walked my bootless limit of 1 1/2 miles:

We aren't real sure where this one was taken. It may be by the gigantic pile of dead trees that we passed. If it is, then the lumpy/hilly shape on the right would be the far edge of the pile:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Monthly Diary for October, 2011

Well, this month, to make up for me being on limited exercise in September because of my toe amputation, Mommy and I did A LOT of hiking and walking. I did a post for each hike so you can skim down and read them. I am very, very happy to be back on the trails even if I do still have to wear a boot if I'm walking on crushed gravel for more than a mile. I will have to wear that boot until I get enough callous on my stub. The big thing that happened this month was that Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred came into town to see me. You may remember that we were supposed to go on vacation with them in September, but Mommy had to cancel because of my toe. Auntie Naomi and I were both very sad about that because she had already bought me a present and because we had to cancel the vacation, I couldn't get it. This would make anyone sad. So, Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred made a special trip down to see me and give me my present. Mommy says that isn't true and Auntie Naomi had come down to see a doctor and they stopped by to see us on their way home, but I know the whole doctor thing was just an excuse.

Mommy changed her work schedule so she could have the morning off when Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred came to give me my present. It was an Empty Nesters Canada goose, which is kind of like the Skinneez skunk that I have and love. I like the toys without stuffing because the squeakers are easier to squeak and they can easily be used as tug toys too. I thought that maybe, since we had missed the previous visit, Auntie Naomi would have two presents for me, but she didn't. I kept checking her bag until Mommy got me a big dog milkbone, which was sort of like a second present. After we had fun and I played with my toy, Mommy and Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred left so they could go eat breakfast at a dog-unfriendly restaurant. They came back afterwards though so I could see them again and then they went home. A short time after they left Mommy went to work. Well, that night I forgot that Mommy had changed her work schedule so Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred could visit me, so when Mommy didn't come home at her usual time I got worried. Being worried gives me a tummy ache so I threw up, and then I peed on the plant stand and I pooped in the back room just to cover all the bases. Mommy was not happy when she got home that night. The throw up and the poop weren't the problem because she knows when my gut goes bad, it goes bad, but it was peeing on the plant stand that got her mad. I think that the plant stand seemed like a perfectly logical place to pee. When I'm outside I pee on plants and Mommy hadn't watered the inside plants for almost a week so I did it for her. She did not agree and I got told, "Shame on you!" when she discovered what I had done. I hate hearing, "Shame on you!"

Anyway, my tummy stayed upset for almost a week, and I had to take Pepcid and eat oatmeal and eggs until my gut calmed down, but I didn't throw up or pee or poop in the house again. Mommy thinks that maybe part of it was that I was drinking out of the dirty birdbath in the backyard, so she took it down. I've had some tummy troubles on and off since then, but Mommy is used to that. She knows it can take me a good month to get everything back to normal, plus I'm still licking my toe sometimes and excessive licking gives me a tummy ache too. Mommy says I am a delicate hothouse flower.

Finally, we had Halloween at the end of the month again and I dressed up like I was being eaten by a big orange spider. (You can see a picture of that in my previous post) Mommy wasn't sure I was going to wear a costume this year since having to wear the Comfy Cone for a month ruined what little fun there was to be had in wearing things on my head. I have to admit after an hour of wearing my costume to greet the kids I told Mommy I wasn't wearing it anymore. That meant that I didn't get any treats after I greeted the kids, but it was worth it. Then for the last hour I went to bed and refused to say hi to the trick-or-treaters. Mommy says I'm getting to be an old fart. I do fart a lot, but I don't think I'm THAT old.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hike 7--Halloween Hike

Today is Halloween so Mommy took the day off. She always does that because she knows that if I had to spend the afternoon having strangers knocking on the door and not being able to open it she'd find a big mess when she got home. She could take a half day off, but she figures it is better to take the whole day and have fun. So, today we took our 7th, or 11th, hike. It was a 2.9 mile hike so it counted as two.

We've never gone to this preserve because it is relatively new. It is a glacial lake surrounded by wetlands, prairie and a small oak forest. It used to be a farm so the wetlands were all tiled and drained and cultivated and the county has been bringing it back to its natural state. We didn't know what to expect from this forest preserve but it was very nice. Mommy said we should have done it two weeks ago because it would have been spectacular during color when the fall wildflowers were still in bloom. As it is, we seem to have done the hike just a few days after half of the prairie was mowed.

That is the sad thing with the newer preserves. In order to get the right plants growing they have to plow the ground up a whole bunch, then they seed and plant new trees and stuff and then, for a few years after planting they have to mow the prairie in mid-summer and fall. This kills off a bunch of the invasive plants, and lets the replanted natives grow better, but it means that there are some very ugly times of year for awhile. After the native plants are established and most of the invasives are gone the county burns the prairies occaasionally to help the plants. Mommy likes walking after the burns because you can see how all the plants send up new shoots through the soot. I prefer mowing because the small animals don't all run away for a few weeks like they do during the burns and I can sniff for a lot of mice and voles and stuff.

The lake in the center of the preserve is still being fixed up so you can't go down to it, but you could see it from a bunch of spots and it is very nice. Also, where they hadn't mowed the prairie, Mommy enjoyed "the ghosts of wildflowers past". That is what she calls it when the plants all go to seed and instead of having an expanse of purple and yellow and red and orange flowers you have an expanse of seeds still clinging to where the flowers were so you see white and black and brown ghosts of flowers. This was very fitting for a Halloween hike if you ask me. The best part about the hike was that we saw two trumpeter swans flying overhead AND, by one of the woodsy areas, I scared a coyote!

Mowed prairie

Unmowed prairie
(they always mow down about 4 feet on either side of the trails because a lot of people are stupid and complain when things come out of the prairie straight onto the trails in front of their bikes, or if they pick up ticks on the trail.)

Mommy heading towards the oak woods in the distance. You can see a little red and yellow.
Imagine what that would look like during color!

Heading home.
(Mommy liked when she accidentally got some shots of me so she is leaving the camera on on our rides home now.)

Aaaah! I picked up a tick on my hike!
Just kidding. That is me in my Halloween costume.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hike Six

Or is it nine? Mommy and I took the longest hike on the county challenge today. It was 3.9 miles long and counted for two hikes. This means we have done six actual hikes, but have credit for doing 9 hikes now. Mommy chose to do this hike today because it was cool and overcast with a little breeze. We have done this hike when it was warm out and I get very overheated and we have also done it when it is cold out and Mommy has nearly frozen because of the wind that hits the trail. Today seemed like the perfect day. The hike goes through sedge meadows and by oak forests and up and down moraines. Unfortunately on one side of a large chunk of the hike is some ugly "more money than common sense" mcmansions with big expanses of lawn and no trees. This is why the wind whips onto the trail, there is nothing to slow it down when it goes through the ugly houses.

Mommy and I don't understand why people would want to have nothing around their house except sod. If they were out playing croquet or polo or golf on their lawns it might make sense, but they never are. Mommy said if she had to live in a place like that that had all that bare space and no trees she would dig up 1/4 of her lawn for a veggie garden and then put in a great big pond in the middle of what was left and surround it with wild and domestic flowers and grasses with a little flagstone sitting area by the water. She says the neighbors would hate her.

Anyway, Mommy was right and it was the perfect weather to hike this trail and I got to hike the last 1/2 mile without my boot on. It felt kind of weird at first and I kept looking down at my foot to see what was biting me, but after awhile I got used to it, and when Mommy checked my foot afterwards there were no sore spots! Mommy says I can try 3/4 of a mile barefoot next weekend if we hike. It was a fun hike and we saw lots of birds and squirrels and I found a chipmunk hole and I saw two deer! I was perfect and quietly watched when it was one deer, but when the second came out of the woods I lost it and started jumping around and barking. It was waaaay too exciting. I also saw two CATS being walked on leashes at the trailhead! That was very strange. Unfortunately when we got back to the trailhead we saw the cats' mom walking around with empty leashes. She said the cats had both managed to slip their leads and vanished when she got distracted by a neighbor and wasn't paying attention to them. Mommy asked me where the kitties were, and I looked around and sniffed and stuff, but didn't find them. We hope she finds them before dusk because one thing we saw an awful lot of on the trail was coyote poop.

Walking by the oaks

Mommy is pretty sure this picture was taken
when I was jumping around and barking at the deer

Mommy liked this shot

Back to the car

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hike Five

Mommy and I did our fifth county hike. Since two were long and counted double that means I have earned my badge. That doesn't mean we don't plan on doing all the other hikes on the list though if we can. Mommy has been sick all weekend. She didn't feel good on Thursday night and worse on Friday and then, because she was running a fever, we spent all day Saturday in bed except when she went to the grocery store and did a load of laundry and picked some late tomatoes and raspberries. Today she still wasn't feeling great so all she did was go back to the grocery store because, "Shopping when you have a fever means you forget to get the stuff you went to the store for, like toilet paper." and she also made some spaghetti sauce out of some of the tomatoes. I was such a good boy about not getting any walks yesterday that Mommy felt I really deserved a hike today, but because she still didn't feel great she chose the shortest hike for today. Also, that hike is all mowed trail again so I didn't have to wear my boot. It was only one mile long.

We don't go to this preserve except when it is on the hiking challenge because it isn't the nicest place. Before it was a forest preserve it was a gravel pit and it must have been in really bad shape when the county got it because the trees are very small and the prairie is just starting to get some real plants in it. The trail on one side runs down the right-of-way for a long stretch of high voltage power lines so you are walking under the giant buzzing pylons. Another side runs right next to the interstate highway. Mommy says when we walk there she always hopes nobody loses control of their car because we'd be in trouble if they did. What was the gravel pit is now a nice little lake that you can hike around though and Mommy says the preserve serves its purpose because it is built in the area of the county which is mostly multifamily housing developments and malls. Mommy says if she had to live in one of those housing developments or work all day in one of those malls she would probably spend a lot of time at the preserve just to keep her sanity.

Anyway, the hike didn't take long, although Mommy did want to sit down around the 3/4 mark so we did and I ate a lot of treats out of her bag and looked to see if there were fish in the lake. If there were, they weren't by the shore. There must be some because there were fishermen on the shoreline and one of them had a bell on his pole that kept ringing. It was a nice little walk for a dog who is such a good nurse for his sick Mommy.

The lake

Mommy and the mowed trail and recovering prairie

High voltage lines

Some of the little trees

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another Hike!

Mommy had the day off today so we took another hike. This time Mommy chose the second shortest hike in the challenge. This one was only 1.2 miles and it had mowed trails instead of crushed gravel so Mommy said I didn't have to wear my boot! It is so much nicer hiking barefoot. We had been warned by a friend who also does the hiking challenge that when she did this hike on a Saturday there had been a whole lot of very bad off-leash dogs with rude owners. It is illegal to be off leash in the regular county forest preserves because of all the threatened species that live there. There are FOUR preserves, each at least 40 acres and totally fenced in, that are made just for dogs to run free in so there is no reason to break the rules, but some humans are very stupid. Anyway, Mommy wanted to do this preserve on a weekday to lessen the chance of me meeting up with an unruly off-leash dog so this seemed like a great day to do it. Would you believe we saw 3 off leash dogs anyway?! Bad humans like that make it so that us dogs with good humans get banned from the forest preserves. GRRRRR. Mommy and I don't see why people don't understand that.

Despite the bad humans and their dogs Mommy and I had a good hike. There was one spot on the hike where there wasn't a grass trail but an old asphalt access road (this preserve used to be a YMCA campground). That road was a little rough on my toe, but I don't seem to have done any damage to it. There was a nice lake, but it was way down a very steep hill and I declined when Mommy offered to help me try to get down to it, my back legs have been acting up a bit today so I decided to be the smart one and just look at the lake. I didn't get any pictures of the lake though because there were so many things to smell, what with all the dogs that run around there, that all my photos but one were of the ground. Mommy laughed when she saw them.

GroundMore groundThis ground has some little flowers of some kind
It is fall, can you see the leaves on the ground?And Mommy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My First Post-Amputation Hike

Today was an exciting day because I got to go on my first hike since losing my toe, or rather having it taken by the vet, it isn't like I misplaced it or anything. My foot still doesn't have enough callous on it to allow me to walk barefoot on the crushed gravel trails so Mommy ordered me a hiking boot from Ruff Wear. That way I could hike and not have to worry about the gravel cutting into the scar tissue. Mommy had trouble at first getting my rather weird-shaped paw into the boot because the cuff part is quite tight to keep it from sliding off. I kept managing to get two toes in and the stump caught on the cuff leaving one toe out. So she put a thin sock on my paw first and my foot then slid right in.

Me modeling my boot

Mommy was charging up the Merlin Cam which was taking FOREVER since we hadn't used it for a month, and she had finished packing up all our other stuff, water, treats etc. and I got impatient because I knew we were going hiking so I started to whine. Mommy said, "Don't whine at me, Argentina." which is her weird way of saying "Stop it." so I started barking at her instead. After 2 hours of waiting she gave up on the Merlin Cam and unplugged it and we took it off with an incomplete charge. Mommy thought it might stop half way through the hike so she took her camera along too, but the Merlin Cam made it through the whole hike and beyond.

We chose the third shortest hike on the County Hiking Challenge. It was only 1.7 miles, but Mommy didn't want me to overdo it the first time out. By the way, some of you have asked what the County Hiking Challenge is. What it is is the county we live in picks 12 trails in 12 different forest preserves in the county and it marks them with little signs. They range from 1 mile to almost 4 mile hikes and you have three months to hike 7 of the trails. Trails that are over 2 1/2 miles count as 2 hikes and usually Mommy and I do all of the hikes (except the bad ones that don't allow dogs on them). In the past we would do them in quadrants. We would divide the county into four parts and then do all the hikes in one quarter in one go, but, because of my back and now my toe, this year we are only doing one trail at a time. Pre-toe I did two of the longer hikes so I'm up to 5 hikes now because of the double hike bonus. If you do 7 or more hikes you earn a metal badge that you are supposed to nail to a hiking stick. Mommy has sewn all of mine on my backpack, even though I haven't been able to wear the pack since I broke those vertebrae a few years back. It is a fun program and a good way to see trails you may have missed.

Well back to today. We chose the 1.7 mile hike and off we went. I started out being very excited and pulling Mommy along, but about half way through I realized I was getting a little tired and my paw was hurting a bit. So I slowed down and walked with Mommy the rest of the way.

Me out in the lead and very happy to be on the trail again

This preserve has a combination of woods and prairie and lawns where people can picnic and even a playground for kids to play on. Mommy objects to lawns and playgrounds in forest preserves because she thinks kids should be hiking the trails and climbing trees and jumping off stumps and stuff if they are in a forest preserve and not sliding down plastic slides or sitting on sod. They can do that in their city parks, but I guess other humans don't think that way. Anyway here are some Merlin Cam shots of the hike:

WoodsPrairie turning into lawn

I saw lots of squirrels and chipmunks on this hike and two [Auntie Naomi, turn away] snakes. One of the snakes was right in the middle of the trail and Mommy tried to get a picture of it, but I decided to take the oportunity that arose when she was trying to get her camera out of her hip bag to knock her hand aside so I could grab some treats out of the treat bag. She wasn't very happy about that. She did take a picture of me trying to find the first snake after it slithered into the grass to hide.

Me looking for the animal Auntie Naomi doesn't like

[Okay Auntie Naomi, you can start reading again.] At one point I recognized a branch of the trail as being one that leads off to one of my favorite hiking spots that we only do on cool spring and fall days because there is no shade there. There IS a lake with fish which I love and usually ducks and geese and sometimes swans and often horses. I wanted to turn off to go that way, but Mommy said no, we needed to stick with the marked shaded trail because she didn't want me to overdo it by hiking too far AND it was 80 degrees out so it was too hot to hike in direct sun. She also said I was too smart for my own good since I normally see that branch going the other way when we are coming back from taking a woods side hike while doing the lake hike. I hate to admit it, but Mommy was right to not let me take the longer hike. I was VERY tired by the end of the little hike we did and was more than a little happy to see the car. Mommy hung the Merlin Cam on the back of the passenger seat like she usually does after our hikes, but she forgot to turn it off, so I accidentally got a self portrait of me on the trip home.

You can see how happy I was to be back on the trails!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Monthly Diary for September, 2011

Well, September was nowhere near as fun as August. Remember my owie toe, the one that had a lump on it that we thought was maybe a weird reaction to a bee sting or spider bite? Well, I took the antibiotics and steroids and at first it seemed like the lump was going down, but then it popped right back up again, so back to the vet Mommy and I went. We saw my regular vet and she poked and wiggled the lump and she looked at my toenails and she told Mommy that she was pretty sure it was a fatty tumor in a really weird place, and because of all the damage I had done to the nails on that foot and the fact that I had managed to remove the skin tag on that shoulder, and because it was only going to get bigger, it needed to come off. Mommy was very nervous about this because I am eleven years old which, for my size, makes me a senior citizen and she wasn't happy about having to knock me out. The vet told her not to worry because she would use a special anesthetic that was very safe for old dogs. Mommy then asked the vet if the surgery needed to be done right away or could we wait a week because she and I were supposed to go up to Wisconsin to help move some furniture, and, more importantly, to see Mommy's youngest brother and his partner (Mommy calls him her brother-out-law because the idiots who make the laws say that her brother and his partner can't get married even though they have been together for a lot longer than a lot of people who CAN get married. So, since he can't be her brother-IN-law he is her brother-OUT-law.). Anyway, Mommy and I rarely get to see her brother-out-law so we didn't want to miss the trip. The vet told us to go have fun and we'd do the surgery when we got back.

The lump

So, off to Wisconsin we went. I had a great time. I got to swim and take two peddleboat rides, and because Grandpa was there I got to go for a ride in the big boat, which is lots of fun even though Mommy and Grandma hog the best seats. Best of all I got to see Mommy's brother-out-law who is the GREATEST! No matter what I did he thought it was wonderful. When I'd get in trouble for something he'd say, "Don't listen to your Mommy, sweetie. You are perfect!" When I would squeak my toys he would clap and say, "Yeah!!" instead of pulling a pillow over his head and saying, "Stop it! I have a migraine!" like Mommy does sometimes. When we were having dinner and I was sitting on the other side of the threshold like Mommy likes me to do in the Wisconsin house he called me over to sit by him! At one meal I sat on the other side of the threshold and squeaked my toy and he was busy talking and didn't clap and say, "Yeah!" so I whined and he got worried and asked what was wrong and Mommy said, "He squeaked the toy and you didn't clap. I told you that was a bad thing to start." so he clapped! It was nice having someone around who understood how important and clever I actually am.

But, all good things come to an end and Mommy and I had to go home so I could have surgery. The plan was that the vet would take the lump off and do a bone scraping to send out for biopsy and I'd be home by noon. We went to the vet and Mommy was very nervous about the anesthetic and I was NOT happy about being taken into the back room without Mommy who was in the waiting area talking to my vet. When the vet came in back she gave me a shot that made me happy and not all that worried about Mommy not being around and being put up on the big table in back for an x-ray or having my foot shaved for the surgery. Then the vet said, "Oh dear." and I got put back in a cage in back, but I still wasn't too worried about it because of that shot. She went away and called Mommy and told her that I needed to have my toe amputated!! She had seen a weird lump on my x-ray and in the past when she has seen weird lumps like that on black dogs' toes it has ended up being a really bad form of bone cancer that gets very aggressive if a bone scraping is done. Mommy was NOT happy about that call, but she agreed we couldn't risk me losing my front leg since my back ones don't work right, and the vet had assured her that my walking wouldn't be affected by one missing toe so into the operating room I went to get my toe cut off! Because this was not a lumpectomy anymore it meant that I wasn't coming home at noon either, but the vet knew I would make myself sick if I didn't get to go home until the next morning (which is normally what she would do with an amputation) so she told Mommy I could come home around 3 p.m. When Mommy came to get me I was still very woozy but I was sure happy to get out of the vet's office and back home. Mommy had moved her mattress to the floor of the living room so that I could sleep there with her, since I couldn't climb while my foot was all bandaged up and when we got home she brought me over to it so I could lie down, but I got myself back up and staggered into the kitchen and stood by my Milkbones because I ALWAYS get a Milkbone when I come back from the vet. Mommy said I wasn't supposed to eat anything so soon after surgery, but I refused to leave and kept tipping over, so Mommy gave up and gave me the "ears" off of one small dog bone and I was happy and went back to bed.

Sad Post-op Me

Because of the nerve damage in my hind end that day and the next I kept falling over or my back end would slowly sink down to the ground when I stood up so Mommy made me wear my lifting harness at all times so she could catch me if that started to happen. It was strange wearing the harness inside, but I didn't object. I DID object to not being allowed to walk for more than a quarter mile at a time and I refused to poop for three days. Mommy said I needed to poop so I wouldn't get sicker like when I broke my back, and she even tried to get me to poop by driving me to some of my favorite pooping spots. Finally, Mommy gave in and went against the vet's orders and let me walk a 1/2 mile and I agreed to poop. I also refused to pee for the first two days because I WILL NOT pee like a girl, and I was too unstable to lift my leg. Dignity is everything you know.

Me Wearing My Lifting Harness

On day three I decided I was sick of being stuck in the house so when Mommy went out to the porch with the recyclables I went out too and then I refused to come back in the house. It was only 50 degrees outside so Mommy covered me up with a blanket so I wouldn't get chilled. I stayed outside for about 3 hours.

Me on the Porch

Mommy had to go back to work after a few days and I had to wear a CONE. Mommy and the vet knew I would freak out with a normal cone so Mommy went out and bought something that looked like an innertube. When she put that on me I laughed at her because it didn't block me from getting to my foot AT ALL!! Mommy returned it. So she ordered something called a Comfy Cone which is like a plastic cone but it is soft and you can bend it into different shapes. The first time Mommy went to put it on me she opened up the Velcro strips that hold it together and I got really scared by the noise and took off screaming out of the room. Mommy caught me and put it on me, but there was something on my head so I tore around screaming again. Mommy wondered how in the world she was going to be able to go to work if I couldn't wear the cone, but then, while I was hanging out on the porch, she realized that she could put it into the shape that worked for me, and, if she made the collar it was attached to tight enough, she wouldn't have to open it in my presence. Then she discovered that she could really bend down the top part and to be safe she tacked it down with some thread and I actually wore the cone without screaming through the house. It DIDN'T mean I was happy about it though.

Me in My Comfy Cone

Everyone was really concerned about me when they saw me walking with a sock over my bandage on nice days and an IV bag over it on wet days. Lots of people at Mommy's work asked for updates on me and Emily, who works with Mommy and was on my Relay for Life team one year, baked me two bags of really yummy chicken flavored treats in the shapes of M's and W's and little vets. After the first few just for being me, Mommy decided they would be my special "Putting on the Comfy Cone" treats. I get one for putting my head in the cone and one after Mommy clicks the collar closed. I hate the Comfy Cone, but I can't resist those yummy treats.

Me Getting a Yummy M (in Shawnee pose)

Mommy and I were supposed to go up to Wisconsin with Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred for a special weekend festival and Auntie Naomi's birthday, but because of my foot we had to cancel. Mommy was very sad about that, but she hopes we can do it next year. Finally, after FOREVER, okay two weeks, and a million trips to the vet for bandage changes, or maybe it was three, I got my stitches out and don't have to have a bandage on my foot anymore. I DO have to still wear a sock on most of my walks because I have a sore spot on the non-toe and I need to build up a callus. I can walk on the foot just fine though if I don't overdo it and scrape the sore spot and I can take long walks again! Mommy has ordered me a boot so that I can go back to taking hikes without having to worry about the gravel on the trails and that will be great because I'd hate to not earn my trail badge this year. I still have to wear my Comfy Cone when Mommy isn't around (and sometimes when she is) because I'm licking the sore spot too much. I think that is mean.

My Toeless Foot

Oh, and the vet techs and receptionists were worried that I wouldn't be able to paint with a missing toe on my painting paw, but Mommy doesn't think that is going to be a problem. I pretty much retired from painting when I turned 10, but Mommy plans on having me paint something for Relay for Life next year if possible. And FINALLY AFTER REALLY REALLY FOREVER, or maybe it was three weeks, we got the results of the biopsy on the original lump and the bone lump and it ends up that both were benign fibromas. The vet says fibromas on bones are rare, but then, I'm me, and weird rare medical things are my specialty. So, Mommy and I don't have to worry about that nasty bone cancer that black dogs get! Hooray!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Monthly Diary for August, 2011

This was an eventful month.

First off, I had my birthday. I turned 11. Mommy took me to the Tastee Freeze for a Pup Cup. Yum! Then a few days later Mommy was slicing bread for herself for a sandwich and when she turned around briefly to get something I jumped up on the counter and stole a slice and ran off to the porch and ate it. Yum again!

We had a nice cool day in the middle of the month and I wanted to walk to the forest preserve, but Mommy said no because it is too long a hike for me these days. I WAS NOT happy to have to go home, but then later that afternoon Mommy took me in the car to the forest preserve and we got to take a hike there. That was good and a little over 4 miles after a 3.5 mile morning walk did seem rather long to me after all, so maybe Mommy was right that I shouldn't do the 8 mile walk to and from the preserve. I guess that is a bad part of being 11.

Mommy has been busy a lot of weekends helping Grandma and Grandpa move to their new place (where I took the Dumbest Vacation Ever) so we haven't gotten to do a whole lot of hiking this summer. But Grandma and Grandpa are officially moved in now so Mommy says our weekends should be more free from now on and we can do our normal county hiking challenge. That is good because I'd hate to not earn my county hiking badge. I've gotten one each year that I have lived with Mommy.

The big thing this month though was that Mommy and I took a vacation up to Wisconsin and Pelles came too! We had a whole week in the woods at the lake which was great! About a week before we left one of my toes on my left front foot suddenly swelled up and the swelling didn't go down. Mommy called the vet to try to get an appointment for me, but she couldn't get one before we left, but the vet said not to worry and go anyway, but go see a vet if the swelling got worse. We were glad the vet said it was okay to go. I went swimming a bunch of times and Mommy took me for a lot of rides in the peddleboat. The first time we went out in the boat I got in fine, but had a real hard time getting out because the seats are so slippery and with my back end not working right I couldn't stand up to hop out. So after that Mommy had me wear my lifting harness and with her help I could get back up on my feet and out of the boat just fine.

There was lots of wildlife around. I saw deer and we heard something squealing in the woods one night and there were a bunch of birds, some of whom I barked at and some who went after me! The little humming birds did not like when Mommy and I were sitting out by their feeder one day and they kept buzzing us and chittering. We weren't trying to drink their nectar so I don't know why they were so mad. We also kept hearing a funny call and then saw that it was a baby pileated woodpecker calling for his mom to come feed him. He was as big as mom so it seems funny that he expected her to feed him. Mommy says that is what teenagers do.

Angry Hummingbird

Pileated Woodpeckers (the baby has the punk hairdo)

I also chased chipmunks and squirrels and FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER I didn't have to wear my leash whenever I was outside. I think it was because I was such a good boy. Mommy said it was because I've slowed down enough that she can catch me now. She only made me wear the leash on walks and after dark. After the first couple of days I decided that I was done CHASING chipmunks and changed to STALKING chipmunks. I would see how close I could get to them before they ran away and when they did I'd take a couple steps towards them and then go do something else until they came back. One time I got right up to one! It was right under my mouth and I couldn't believe it. I tried to grab it, but the little stinker ran right between my legs and got away before I could bite him. I think that was cheating.

Cheater Chipmunk

Mommy and I took three hikes too. I wore my camera for the second hike on Lumberjack Trail outside of Boulder Junction and here are some of the pictures I took:

The trailhead

Mommy Hiking

Silly Mommy set my camera wrong so I only took pictures for the first 40 minutes of the hike, which was a shame because there was some nice water we saw (and I swam in) after that. Oh well, humans, what can you do?

For our third hike we were doing the Bearskin Trail starting in Minocqua and as we were heading towards the trail a group of people stopped us and asked Mommy if they could take my picture. Mommy said yes and we posed for them and I got pet. Then, just as we were getting to the trailhead another group of people stopped us and asked Mommy if they could take my picture. We posed again and I got pets. As we were hiking I kept expecting people to want to take my picture and pet me, but nobody on the trail did. I don't know why, after all, I am quite the star and the paparazzi were wanting to take my picture in town. Anyway, after the hike Mommy and I decided to walk around the town a bit and I got stopped AGAIN and asked to pose. Of course we did and I got pet. Mommy said it wasn't the paparazzi and I shouldn't get a big head. It seems the people were in town for a wedding and were on something called a "scavenger hunt" and they needed to get a picture of a black and white dog with its owner. Mommy gave the last people my e-mail and asked them to send us the picture, but they didn't. Mean people. As we were heading back to our car we passed a group of people and heard one of them say, "No, it is just a solid black dog." Mommy said they were going to be kicking themselves when they got back to the gathering and discovered that I have a white blaze on my chest and what Mommy calls "headlights" on my ears.

A couple days before our vacation was over I started to really lick my toe again, and then I decided to chew off the toenail next to the bump and then I noticed that I had a skin tag on my shoulder so I tried to chew it off too, which REALLY made Mommy cringe. So, Mommy called our vet, but she was on vacation too, so Mommy made an appointment with a different vet and we came home a day early so I could go see him. He was kinda young and new for a vet, but he was nice until he took a needle and stuck it into my toe!! Then he went into the lab/surgery area and we could hear different vets talking about what he got from the needle. He came back and said he thought maybe it was a cancerous tumor and we could do two things, one was cut the lump off my foot and send it off for a diagnosis, but Mommy pointed out that I can't be knocked out so they'd have to do it just giving me Valium and using a local, which would be hard, and the other choice he gave was giving me a steroid ointment, but Mommy wanted to know what it would do to my tummy when I licked it off, which I was going to do. He couldn't answer that so Mommy said, no offense, but we were going to wait until my regular vet came back in town and get her opinion. Our regular vet called Mommy the next day and told her that she thought maybe it was a weird reaction to a bee sting or a spider bite and wanted me to take a low dose antibiotic/steroid pill and see what happened. So I'm taking pills for a week and will go see her next week so she can see my toe for myself and decide what to do from there. I'll keep you all updated on what happens with my owie toe.