Not What I Was Working On


This was not the post that was supposed to go first … but it would be wrong to not write it.

I was working on a very different post several mornings ago. The day started out like many others. This time, it was in a parking lot of a casino resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not that the place mattered.

Shortly after the dogs had their breakfast, we got the first inkling that “the day” had come for our “lump of love”. Ginger, the ancient queen, was having some sort of “event”. She was struggling to stand, trembling, couldn’t walk for periods, and was uncomfortable or worse.

We’ve been through the loss of too many beloved companions but it is never easy to know when it is time. We held on to Charlie too long. He knew it was time to go, but we held on to him because we weren’t ready. Only when he demanded to go outside in the rain to go lay under a tree did we surrender and take him in. But this time, with Ginger, we weren’t in denial. Neither of us really expected to return to Texas in the fall with three dogs. The writing has been on the wall for a while that Ginger was in decline, but she continued to eagerly participate in the usual highlights of a dog’s day: eating and going for walks, which, in Ginger’s case was actually going for rides in the jogger, but she quickly loaded up in anticipation of getting a cookie for her effort.

After some discussion, we headed on towards Durango, Colorado with Laura monitoring the old girl. After a couple of hours, we pulled over for a comfort break. We lifted Ginger and it was clear. She declined food. Human food. She tried to stand to do her business, but wasn’t successful. She lay peacefully on the ground, still stoic, but we had a sense that systems were shutting down. She no longer responded to us, even with her bigger-than-big eyes.

The decision was made that Durango was too far. The next community of any size with a vet available will have to do… we don’t want to prolong her suffering. Laura found a hospital in Farmington, New Mexico. The staff was terrific, even if the circumstances weren’t. Ginger left us. The grief hasn’t.

Having two dogs will be so much easier. In addition to not being able to go for walks, other than in the jogger, Ginger had also been deaf for the past several months. We developed some gesture-based commands that she responded to, but you couldn’t just call her… well you could, and we did ‘cause we’d forget… but it didn’t do any good. She had to see you with her one good eye. She took more pills than the rest of the family combined and her medical conditions caused a great deal of worry. Like I said, having two dogs is going to be so much easier, but right now, it really isn’t. Someone is missing. Someone larger than life. Ginger had a presence that people responded to. So did dogs. Never once did we see another dog respond aggressively to her. We called her “our Ambassador” because of her way of approaching strange dogs that put them at ease. She was a special girl.

We have and will continue on, but our lives are less for her loss.

Shifting Gears

coconino national forest campsite

As I begin the entry, the words that first come to mind are “This Is It”. It’s Friday morning of Memorial Day Weekend. I’m watching the sunrise through the pines. The only sounds to be heard (other than the whistling of the tea kettle and the tap-tap-tap of Dottie’s toenails on the floor) have been a pack of coyotes in the distance and the first calls of early rising birds. We’re “dispersed camping” in the Coconino National Forest, south of Flagstaff, and things couldn’t get much more perfect for us. red flowerOur food stores and fresh water tank are full, our waste tanks aren’t. We have good cell phone coverage, the satellite internet receiver found its signal quicker than usual, and we even pick up the NBC station out of Phoenix. Although we are surrounded by trees, we have enough sky for adequate solar gain to recharge the battery bank. This is exactly what we had fantasies of when we set the rig up. We haven’t spent nearly enough time living this way.

One of the challenges of our annual pilgrimage to Seacliff is that it puts us on the road over Memorial Day Weekend, one of the biggest camping periods of the year, so we end up competing with everyone else. Each year we stress about available space, up until the time that we actually find a place to be. We may have stumbled upon the answer to this recurring problem. Of course, we’ll see how the rest of the weekend progresses. Maybe next time we’ll plan to spend a week. The sense of peace and quiet are in sharp contrast from the past couple of nights, spent in parking lots along the interstate as well as the perpetual cacophony that we’ll be in the midst of soon enough.

yellow-headed blackbirdNot only are we experiencing a change of place, but a change of season. Back in South Central Texas, bird migration has peaked, wildflowers are well past their prime, and summer has arrived, regardless of what the calendar says. Here, it is early spring. It snowed last week. The wildflowers are just coming on, and we’ve caught up with the migrating birds.

Now, a little about the past week…

We’ve found it to be something of a universal truth that the longer you stay in one place, the more stuff you tend to accumulate, and the more stuff tends to get spread out. Having been in our “big house” for almost 8 months, even though we made a conscious choice to reduce our support of the Texas economy, that truth became evident. Preparing for departure is always a challenge, especially when someone else is going to stay in your home during your absence. The process of moving out seemed to drag on for an eternity…and we really were not satisfied with the way we left things when we finally said “enough!” and hit the road.

yellow flowerOur choice to be nomadic has many wonderful things about it, but it is not without challenges: walking away from gardens that you’ve spent hours, days, weeks, even months to establish and nurture, and tried (many times in vain) to protect from the voracious appetites of the omnipresent Hill Country white-tailed deer (and more recently, armadillos), “unplugging” from a network of people that you’ve worked hard to connect with (fortunately, Facebook will help maintain some contact as we wander), or (internet junkies that we are) trading a stable fiber-optic-as-fast-as-we’re-willing-to-pay-for-connection for one that costs half again as much for about 1/5 the bandwidth and speed, latency, and a “Fair Access Policy” that limits our daily usage to about 375 Mb per day.

Each season, we’re finding it more difficult to untangle the knots that bind us to “home”. On our first morning out, Laura had the urge to turn around and go back. After seeing five “life birds”, that urge seemed to fade. We spent two lovely days at South LLano River State Park, watching birds and playing in the river. Daytime highs were nearly 100 and we had to run the AC 2 out of 3 nights to be cool enough to sleep.

Prairie Dog Fork of the Red RiverAfter an overnight stop at Waylon Jennings Memorial RV Park in Littlefield, Texas we continued on to explore Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the “Grand Canyon of Texas”. A lovely park, but the Grand Canyon it isn’t. We did get great views of Mississippi Kites, Black-Headed Grosbeaks,and Bullocks Orioles. Our plan was to just spend one night, but due to forecasted high winds we decided to layover one more night. That didn’t work out quite as expected; we ended up being evacuated a few hours later due to a wildfire that was racing towards the park. At last report, the fire was still burning and the park was still closed. The evacuation center directed us to the local Walmart for the night. In the morning, we took the opportunity to pick up a few things we had on our shopping list before heading for Interstate 40. Unfortunately, the winds that were supposed to abate did not. The crosswinds were strong enough that there were times I was not willing to go more than 50mph. Fire at Palo Duro CanyonFortunately, we drove out of them as we traded Texas in for New Mexico. Wednesday night we slept in the parking lot of the Sky City Casino Hotel before making our way to the little piece of heaven we’re currently enjoying.

Despite the loveliness here, we are already making plans to move on. Maybe we’re just a little gun-shy after our Palo Duro Canyon experience but the winds are back up and we don’t feel safe staying in a national forest filled with holiday campers committed to the notion of campfires despite red flag warnings. Pulling a trailer in those same winds doesn’t seem like a good idea either, particularly on the interstate. It’s a dilemma.