Bad dog!

Bad dog, Bella! Bad dog!

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 For the big one...

You know dog, the big pillow is for the big dog, not for the little dog to just be comfy.

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 Doggen walken to Starsbucken

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The dogs and I went for a walk today, longer than our normal walk. Since I've become so addicted to short Starbucks Signature Hot Chocolates, I decided that I could have one, and enjoy it guilt-free, if I walked to the Starbucks to purchase it. A walk to the nearest Starbucks would pretty much be a waste of time if I didn't take the dogs, too (that, or listen to a podcast), so off the three of us went.

Fortunately, "walking to Starbucks" doesn't mean "take the normal route" or "take the longest route." We started on our normal route, heading south, then turning west. Last time I took the girls this way, along the long walk route, they took to *sprinting* across the street, then *screeching* to a halt as their noses caught wind of an interesting smell, which, on a new path, meant every 15 feet.

Today, we walked along the sidewalks near the local middle school. Several classes of kids were out for gym class, which started by running around the perimeter of the school's athletic fields (about 10 acres or so), before stopping at the tennis courts. My heart went out to the stragglers in the bunch. I so wanted to tell them "learn how to play ultimate, here, I'll show you."

I didn't, though.

When we arrived at the Starbucks, I tied the girls up to a post and went in. Unfortunately, the line was annoyingly long, and, despite the loud din in the store, I could *still* hear Bella howling outside. Dogs.

I asked the woman in front of me if she could order me a short Signature hot chocolate and handed her $5. When I left to calm the dogs, then came back in to see where she was in line, she needed to leave the line for her son who REALLY needed to pee. I offered to buy her what she wanted, which was fortunately only a $1 milk. She handed me a $10, but I passed it back to her with the milk, which sorta weirded her out, I think.

Tragically, the hot chocolate was a regular, and not a Signature, so I was massively disappointed in the drink.

We started back home, taking a less trafficked route than our walk out. We walked along a fence that bordered a sports field next to a park. As we were passing the field, a squirrel sat out in the middle of the field, watching us.

I couldn't resist.

We wandered onto the field, with Annie crouching low, and Bella completely oblivious. I released Annie, and watched her slink sprint close to the squirrel, then shirt into full speed as the squirrel took off. She *almost* caught it when it zigged up a tree then leaped back to the fence. Annie was under the squirrel as it leaped, and only barely missed it. The speed of the chase was impressive.

The walk wasn't completely fun and games, though. At one point, we walked by a house where a good dozen people somberly walked out, all dressed in black, saying little. I wanted to offer my condolences on their loss, but thought that might be just a little too weird.

We also managed to visit a napping mail carrier, who was sleeping in his truck. I thought about taking a picture, but figured that it might get the guy in trouble. I somehow managed to refrain.

I'm glad we went for the walk, though I do wish the hot chocolate tasted better.

 Lockwood hike and home

Kris and I managed to sleep most of the night through last night, with Kris' waking to the smell of Andy's coffee and my waking to the thud of an excited Blue landing on top of me, bringing the tent down in the process.

Nothing like using a sixty pound dog as wake up call.

That same dog makes a great escort in the middle of the night when there might be coyotes and other large animals roaming around, and you're not sure if it's safe to walk around the small building, across a small open space to the other side of the hilltop, in order to pee.

Andy thinks that Blue didn't actually sleep last night, that he maintained watch the whole night. I know that Annie wriggled her way out of the tent in order to sit watch for a while. She did, however, recognize the warmth of the tent, and wormed her way back into the tent, sitting on Kris' head in the process.

This morning, I was, unsurprisingly, the last person up, with Bella being the last of the seven of us actually getting up.

After breakfast, a meal that Bella thought meant, "We're going home!" but really meant, we're heading off for another hike. Having climbed to the top of the hill he'd been wanting to climb, and discovering another hill beyond it, he decided he wanted to climb THAT hill to see if there was another hill beyond it.

Interestingly enough, I think all of the dogs have decided that I am the source of all that is good. That is to say, food.

So, off we went on our hike, pretty much following the same trail that Kris and Andy (and Blue and Shadow and Annie and mostly Bella) took yesterday. The six of us (where the six of us were the seven of us minus Bella, who was, once again, on her own hike again) went out the back way, down the hill, up the next one, and along the ridge. Up and over a couple hills, to the top of one hill, to discover the next range of hills after that range.

For the way back, we decided not to go back the same way we came up, and opted instead to hike back "towards the water tower." We found a copse of pine trees, though how they survived, much less grew so big, on the top of the hill with little water, I have no idea.

Bella kept up with us, following her own path, sometimes being ahead of us, sometimes being behind us, but always walk walk walking at her own pace.

At one point, I stopped to squat, and Bella passed me, to catch up with Kris and Andy. Kris decided to wait for me, Andy decided to continue. At that point, we lost Andy. He went off either down toward a large ravine or down towards a dropoff of unknown height. We decided to try to the left, towards the large ravine.

After a few hundred meters, Kris was less confident about the direction we were going, so decided to turn around. Bella was in front of us when we made this decision, being the only dog with us. I hurried up to her, turned her around, and hustled her back the way we had come.

We had walked just far enough for Bella to disappear over the hill we were scrambling up when we heard Andy call out to us, why were we walking back the wrong way? Eh?

We called for Bella to come back, but, being on her own hike, she just kept going. We turned back back around, headed back to the ravine, scrambled up and around around the ravine, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Must to my pleasant surprise, Bella figured out our mistake, had turned around, and was coming back our way. She didn't seem too pleased about our mistake, deciding not to greet us when she caught up to use, and just walked right by.

Much like yesterday, according to Kris.

We wandered down to the bottom of Crews Hill, walked up Crews Road to the top of the hill, and gathered up our stuff. The dogs were sufficiently tired out to sleep all the way back home.

I'm happy to say when we made it home, I was able to stop by a Starbucks and buy a hot chocolate. A premium hot chocolate.

One I'd been talking about for the previous day, to Andy's consternation, I think.

 Trip to Lockwood

Andy, Kris and I went off to Andy's place in Lockwood today. Well, no, no, that's not quite correct. Andy, Blue, Shadow, Kris, Bella, Annie and I all dogpiled into Andy's truck and drove down to Lockwood today for an overnight campout at Andy's place. I think Andy mentioned that he hasn't camped at his place before, and has been wanting to do so for a long while now. Kris and I were up for the adventure, so over-packed for a night of camping (eh, it's not like we were going to be carrying the stuff), and headed off with the girls, the boys and Andy.

The two hour drive wasn't too bad. We zipped down, parked the truck at the bottom of the hill, grabbed some snacks and started up the hill. We didn't make it more than about 30 yards before I was grossed out.

Nothing like a dead deer leg to remind me that we're in nature. Like real nature.

Of course, the electrical wire connector right next to it puts a modern twist on the nature thing, eh?

So, off on our hike we go to the top of the hill. Andy's been meaning to go to the top of another hill, one or two over from his hill, for a while now, and wanted to conquer that hill today. After the two hour drive, the movement/hike/walk felt good.

As we were walking up to the top of the hill, Blue was chasing his disc, Shadow was trailing us, Annie was dashing off the road and back on, and Bella was doing her own thing. As we were summitting the hill, Bella caught a scent and turned away, to head down the hill following Annie who had just run down the hill herself.

As Bella turned to head off, I thought to myself, "Hey, maybe I should stop her." I didn't, because, hey, we're off in the wilderness camping, right? Except that Bella doesn't seem to listen to us when we go off in a specific direction. Annie stays with the pack: she'll run ahead, but always stop to and return to check in with the Alpha (aka Kris). Bella just puts her nose down and goes. We lose her for hours on end when we go to Water Dog Lake.

So, Bella turned right when we all wanted to go left. Andy commented, "Bella. Yeah, that one is going to cause problems."

Of course, he was right. None of us could find the dog after that. We walked up to the top of the hill. We walked half way back down the hill. We walked in the direction Bella went. We followed her path. We followed all of the dogs' paths. We couldn't find her.

After about a half an hour of not being able to find her, I offered that Andy and Kris should just go ahead and head up the mountain. We were losing daylight, with Andy not knowing how long the hike to the top of the other mountain they needed to get going.

"You sure?" both Andy and Kris asked. Yes, yes, sure. I mean, stay back and take macro pictures of rocks while looking for the dog?

Sign me up!

So, Kris, Andy, Annie, Blue and Shadow went off to the top of the hill, while I continued to look for the little dog. I started by walking down the hill she disappeared on. I walked down the hill, around the corner, back up the hill on the other side. I walked down the drive Andy had cut into the side of the hill, calling for the dog. I walked back up to the top of the hill, calling for the dog. I walked to the edge of various dropoffs and called and called and called. I walked through bushes where a little dog could go, but a woman probably shouldn't have gone. I eventually scrambled back down the hill to the truck, in case she decided to just head back to the starting point, which is what she had done when Bella had wandered off last time we were at Lockwood. She wasn't there.

I decided to walk down the road leading out of the property, still calling for the dog. I began having images of the dog actually being lost, unable to find our scents, and being alone at night, maybe eaten by a mountain lion or some other wild animal. Hearing a gunshot around 4 in the afternoon (4:09 to be exact) didn't exactly help me feel better about losing the dog, images of her thinking someone's chickens would be easy prey, and getting shot by a neighbor.

I started progressing through the seven stages of loss. I was well past the disbelieve and denial stages, and skipped straight through the bargaining phase since there really wasn't anyone to bargain with. The guilt phase was easy to zoom through, too, as I was the one who was thinking hey, maybe I shouldn't let her walk away right now. She's dead because I didn't stop her from turning to the right. Great.

So, completely in the anger phase of loss, I stomped down the dirt road to the main road, calling the stupid dog's name, and stomped back up to the truck. I was at a loss. I had walked the areas the dog had been. I had branched out in the likely directly she would have gone. I had called her name for the last two hours can couldn't find that thriced damned dog. Hell, I had even stopped taking pictures.

Back at the truck, I thought, okay, maybe she's wandered well off Andy's land. I can't do much for the land to the east, but I can check the land to the west, maybe see a small tan spot moving in a large field of tan. Crap, I'm not going to find her, I thought, depression at having lost the dog settling in as the sixth phase of loss. Damn it, dog.

So, I hopped into Andy's truck, and drove back down the dirt trail, and back onto the main road, driving slowly and trying to look for a tan beagle on the mountain sides. I pulled over for other trucks (and they were all trucks) to pass me, as I moved into accepting that we had lost the dog. Stupid annoying little dog, going off on her own and f---ing dying on us. It was SUPPOSED to be a good trip, not a sad trip. Fine, I'd stay the night, but only because I had small bit of hope, possibly we'd hear the calls of the coyotes and be able to find the dog. Dumb dog.

I turned around, and drove the truck back to the Crews' base camp, just as Kris and Andy were walking down Crews Road within shouting distance. On a lark, I called out, "Did you find the dog? Because I didn't!"

"Yes! We did!"

Turns out, Bella decided to hike her own hike. Kris and Andy had walked to the top of the hill that Andy wanted to hike, and turned around. About 200 yards from the peak, Bella popped out of the brush to Andy's and Kris' joyful calls. Instead of turning around with the two of them (five of them?), she kept walking up the hill that Andy and Kris had just summitted. When she reached the top, she turned around, and followed the same path back down the hill that Andy and Kris had taken. She was on her own hike, walking her own pace.

Oddly enough, her own hike didn't involve lots of nose-following, off-the-path directions.

The prodigal doggie returns!

Yay!

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