Category Archives: animals

Maddy, Not Daddy

My wife called our son to tell him the dog died. We were on our way home from the vet, and were both pretty upset.

“I’m calling to tell you Maddy died.”

There was silence on the other end of the line.

“Daddy died?”

The connection was not great — it took about a minute to sort out who was dead — and it was a terrible phone call over all. It’s funny now, but at the time, not so much.

Maddy

So, Maddy died. She was nine-years-old and we had no idea she was walking around with a tumor growing inside of her. One day she was herself, and the next day she was lethargic and wouldn’t eat. She was bleeding inside and that was creating pressure on her heart. It was literally squeezing the life out of her.

The vet cried as much as we did when she gave us the news that there was nothing to be done. And just like that she was gone.

Our older dog, Scarlett, has been glued to my side since this happened. She always paid a great deal of attention to me, but now she doesn’t leave me alone for a minute. I don’t know what dogs feel, but she’s feeling something.

Maddy loved our walks in Thacher Park. Early in the morning, the park is deserted and most days you won’t see a soul. We’d take the dogs off leash and let them run up and down the trails and explore the woods. I know, it’s against the rules.

Maddy’s ashes are going up to the park, where we spent so many hours. I’m sure they have some sort of rule about that too — but rules be damned. Off the leash one last time, through the woods and away like the wind.

A Dog’s Age

There are a world of people out there that you’d never talk to, but put a
leash in their hand and you’ve got something to chat about, And it’s not just
trivial banter, like about the weather, but something that’s that’s
interesting and personal. Caring about someone’s dog, is caring about them.

But I’ve noticed something interesting about dog dialogue. Without
fail, one of the first questions is this:

“How old are they?”

I’m not sure if people are genuinely curious about how old ours dogs are, or if it’s just something to get the conversation going. Is it going to provide them with some insight into behavior or temperament? I don’t know if it would mean anything to me, unless we’re considering a very young or very old dog.

Sometime I give the answer in people years, which really throws folks off. One time, I said “This one’s nine and that one’s eight.” Then I gestured to my wife. “And she’s 55.”

Some of us had a pretty good laugh about that one.

The Bear of Voorheesville

The mornings are getting brighter, but when I’m out running at 5am, it’s still more dark than light.

On one recent morning as I was trudging along, in a field across from Indian Ladder Farms I spied a dark object. I recall my exact words, muttered to no one: “Holy shit, that looks like a fucking bear!”

I stopped and stared at the dark object. It was a good 40 yards off, but what else could it be, but a bear? I turned on the headlamp, but could not see a flash of eyes in the shadows. I clapped, thinking it would move — but then imagined myself being caught by the bear and mauled. The newspaper would have a field day with that.

Hmmm. Best to turn and be on my way, carefully putting distance between myself and the bear. A quick glance over the shoulder confirmed that it was not after me.

My wife was somewhat skeptical of the bear sighting.

“Were you wearing your glasses?”

No, I was running — but a bear!

I drove back there later in the day, now with a seed of doubt planted in my head. Here is what I saw, in the approximate location of the bear:

Well, OK — perhaps it wasn’t a bear. But imagine being chased by a small pine tree. Now THAT would be terrifying.

Beaverville

The beaver are busy.

Just off Johnston Road in Guilderland, you can see where beaver have been working on a couple of substantial trees along the Normanskill. Many people are saying it’s part of a plot to cut off Voorheesville from the rest of the Capital Region. One never knows.

The beavers are eating these trees.

I don’t have to remind you that America’s largest rodent casts a long shadow here in ye olde Beverwijck.  Christ, they named the place after the beaver. Albany’s seal shows a beaver felling a tree as a white man and Indian look on, presumably saying, “WTF is up with these beavers?” Stranger yet, is the coat of arms of the Albany Diocese, which shows a beaver holding a bishop’s staff. Bishop Beaver, I presume?

But look closely and you’ll see lots of beaver activity around streams and swamps, and to learn more DEC’s excellent website has much information about beaver – including an extensive page on “nuisance beaver.”

Meanwhile, I’m interested in seeing how long it takes for those trees to come down. The beaver may have their revenge, yet.

Coyote Ugly

“The coyotes were after me!”

My wife was out of breath and extremely worked up after rushing back home with the dogs. In the woods along her regular route she’d heard a pack of coyotes — or at least what sounded like a pack of coyotes. She didn’t actually see them, but in the dark, scary noises are amplified; they may not have truly been “after” her, but it seemed that way.

Coyotemania gripped our house for a week, and we were consumed with talk of carrying pepper spray and cudgels to ward off the invaders. Then this.

According to the Times Union, these signs were posted around two adjoining golf courses in Albany and Bethlehem, warning of coyotes (“They are smart and fast”) and cautioning people not to mess with them.

By the way, what do you do if you encounter coyotes on the golf course? Let them play through.

Look, coyotes have been around here for a long time, and now all the sudden we’re freaking out? I’d suggest we all spend time worrying about real animal risks, like the deer who play chicken with your car. You’re much more likely to be injured in a collision with one of those damn deer than you are to be bitten by a coyote.

I much prefer the approach of Frank Vincenti of Mineola. This self-styled coyote defender spends his spare time trying to protect coyotes on Long Island and in New York City. Yes, New York City. From a recent NY Times story:

When he hears of a sighting, he closes his barbershop and heads to the scene. He may spend all night working as a human scarecrow, chasing the coyotes back into the underbrush. The goal is to keep them out of the public view and away from the traps set by specialists hired to euthanize them.

Vincenti believes the coyotes will persevere in the end, citing the most famous coyote of all:

“Wile E. Coyote always loses,” he said, “but no matter how they try to kill him off, he always comes back.”

Cat 2.0

miaTwo of our three cats died over the summer, one giving way to old age and the other to a terminal illness. But as we mourned their loss, one member of the household seemed to celebrate: Mia, the remaining cat.

Mia is a whole new cat since the others are gone. She suddenly has the place to herself, and free of the stress of sharing our home with other felines, she’s become increasingly bold.

The upside is she’s much more sociable — but some of her behavior pushes the limits. For example, she’s taken to a shine to the kitchen counter, where we’ve found her licking our food, and in one case stealing bag of bread and running off with it.

She pays no mind to the dogs, in fact she joins them in watching us eat, hoping for a handout or dropped bit of food from the table.

None of the cats ever got along, so for Mia, this is the best thing to ever happen. Me? I miss the other two, but I have to admit, life is simpler with fewer pets. Even if it means walking in the kitchen and finding someone eating the humus I left out.

Foto Friday

Help Wanted

cows

518 Life, the Times Union’s free monthly magazine about the Capital Region, is seeking an editor. Knowledge of the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area is helpful. Must know the difference between a cow and a horse.

Lost

Lost might be overstating it, but it makes a much better headline than misdirected or mildly confused, wouldn’t you say?

Anyhow, I woke up on New Year’s Day in a strange house on the edge of Mother Myrick Mountain near Manchester. Our family ski vacation was a bust thanks to the lack of snow, but we turned it into a perfectly fine playing board games and drinking vacation.

So, the dogs and I greeted 2016 with a walk up the path behind the house. It led to a well travelled trail up the mountain, and the gradual climb was the perfect antidote for my throbbing head. We three went along until the human in the group had enough.

It’s not clear when things started looking unfamiliar, but somewhere on the way down it was obvious that we’d missed our turn.

Untitled

Rob, where the f**k are we?

We walked and walked, and eventually emerged from the woods, at a point on the road some three miles from the house.

At worse this was an inconvenience.

There are few places in the northeast where you can really get lost these days. Keep going and you’ll come to a road, and if you’re luck you’ll turn right instead of left when you get to that road. Then , perhaps, you’ll have a half mile walk home, instead of a three mile walk. Oh, well.