Family planting

Chrissy and the kids were down to do some planting. The day was okay, not as warm or sunny as we would like but not very cold. A good day to plant trees.

They got around 1700 in the ground before it got dark. It was hard work, but I think everybody got some good memories. We all stayed overnight in South Hill Fairfied Inn. and had supper at South Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

I stole a couple pictures from Marisa’s post, the planters and boomer. Chrissy tended the fire and Boomer, as you see in the second picture. Third picture shows the boxes of pine waiting to be put in. Last are hunting dogs. The local guys were running their dogs to hunt deer. Bear hunters were out yesterday. They got three bear so far this year. Until about ten years ago, there were no bear around here. Now they have moved in and there are lots of them. The dogs do not pay much attention to people. They are friendly but disinterested.

Day in the Life July 6, 2018

Went to pick up my Brazilian visa in anticipation of my upcoming São Paulo adventure. Looking forward to it.
The weather was good enough (a little humid, but only a light and intermittent rain) to ride the bike to Washington. It is more rewarding than taking the Metro. I really enjoy riding the bike, but I like it better if I have a destination. Just riding from and back lacks something.

I am very happy with my “new” bike. All the moving parts are new, but the frame, handlebars and seat are the old and beat up originals. With all the scratches and lost paint, I am hoping that it is less attractive to bike thieves.

Washington has lots of nice bike trails The one on 15th Street (in the picture) is not wonderfully beautiful, but it is convenient. I can take it up to AEI or Brookings, and the Brazilian Consulate in right there in 15th. The danger is that it is a two-way trail along one side of the street. Drivers are sometimes not looking for you coming the other way. It is also dangerous coming onto Massachusetts and New Hampshire Avenues going south, since 15th becomes a one-way street going north and you cannot see the traffic light. The solution is to only cross when the walk light is with you. Next picture shows my half-new bike.

Last three pictures are from the botanical gardens. It is not really on the way, but I make it so. I am trying to get familiar with some of the wildflowers that we are encouraging on the farms. They have interesting names like rattlesnake master in the first picture and star tickseed in the second. I forgot to get the name of the one in the third picture.

Maybe Mariza is worried about not treating Boomer right. We are indeed treating him like a dog, but you can see that he is doing okay. That is a big dog.

Mariza – your mother is getting very much attached to Boomer. He knows how get what he wants.

Dogs & men

For Mariza- they have a statue of Boomer at Vatican Museum. Who knew? The other picture is Apollo that was nearby. This is the most famous Apollo statue, thought to embody perfection. Looks okay.  



The picture is our first dog, Fang.   Springer Spaniels are supposed to be gentle and he looked sweet and docile, but he wasn’t.  In those days before the dog whisperer, he was an incorrigibly bad dog.  He got increasingly out of control.  If you left him alone in the house, he would chew up whatever he could reach.  He knocked over the fish tank and scratched holes in the rugs.  He once even chewed up the metal Venetian blinds.  You would have thought that impossible, but you would have been wrong.  You had to literally fight him off to eat your lunch.  He would sit there growling and lurch at your food if you made eye contact or gave him an opening.  As I think back, it is amazing how long we tolerated his aggressiveness.  He bit everybody … except my mother.  He was afraid of my mother, but one day he bit her too.   After that he bit no more. We were sad to lose our dog, but it was good to be able to eat w/o having to watch for the rushing dog.   The vet told us that he was a “fear biter.”  I don’t know what that meant.  I think he made that up.

Our next dog, Sam, was the most docile dog in the world.   He never bit or growled.  He would bark at visitors, and it was hard to get him to be quiet, but then he hid in back of us when they came in.   I was locked out of the house once, so I climbed in through the bedroom window.  I didn’t hear a sound from Sam, except I could hear his claws on the linoleum kitchen floor as he backed up.  I still couldn’t find him, until I saw him hiding under my father’s bed.  As soon as he saw me, he came out bravely.  Everybody liked Sam.  He was a good looking dog, a Chesapeake Bay retriever.  He had some of the instinct.  He used to point at rabbits and squirrels, although he never bothered to pursue them. 

Our last dog was Xerxes.   He was the dog of my father’s later years and he reflected some of the infirmities of old age.  Xerxes was even more cowardly than Sam and not at all aggressive.   He is cringing in most of the pictures, because he was afraid of the camera.  If he heard a loud noise, he would go crazy.  Thunder storms and the 4th of July were not pleasant times.  My father treated him with a gentleness bordering on deference.  “He has rights too,” my father would say.  Probably as a result of this, Xerxes paid no attention to my father and would not come when he called.   

I have seen the “Dog Whisperer” on TV a couple times and it is clear to me now that we just didn’t know how to treat dogs.   Dogs are pack animals.   They need to know who is master.   We were always ambiguous about that, so the dogs personality and natural inclinations came to dominate the relationship.   Sam was my favorite dog and gave us no reason to complain except that he was too timid.  But compared with Fang, who you constantly had to hold back, it was a better situation.    I think Xerxes just got corrupted.  My father spoiled and indulged him.    We used to have cats until I was around five years old.   They were not really our cats; they just sort of moved into our house sometimes, sort of community cats.  They all had the unimaginative name of “Kitty.”  It made it easier to remember their names and there really is no use in naming cats anyway, since they never come when called.  In those days it was considered cruel and unnatural to keep cats in the house and they wandered the streets.   You “put the cat out” at night.  Sometimes they would come back.  In between, they would enter cat society and alternatively fight, mate and kill birds & mice. They came back when they got hungry and/or when they couldn’t find a better offer.  Cats have no sense of loyalty.  Once Kitty had kittens.  One of them had six toes, so we called him “six toed Richard” after one of my mother’s similarly endowed cousins.  We got rid of the ultimate Kitty and never permitted cats again because she scratched my sister once too often.  My sister was a toddler+ at the time and wanted to play with the cat in a way independent felines evidently didn’t appreciate.  I got along well with that particular cat and even once gave her a bath, w/o getting scratched up.  I guess it all depends on how you approach things. 

My cousins Luke & Irma and their son & Tony, who lived upstairs from us, had the meanest cat I have ever seen.  I don’t remember what its name was, but we called him “Heathcliff” after the obnoxious comic book cat.  He was the Fang of the cat world.  One Christmas, my sister and I were watching Tony while Luke and Irma went to midnight mass.   We didn’t know where the cat had gone until we saw the tree shaking and found the cat climbing inside and batting at the ornaments.   I chased him away from the tree and he ran off and disappeared.  Soon he reappeared.  He had climbed up the back of the couch and was attacking my sister.   I drove him off again and he went and hid in the basement. 

His sojourns in the basement were his undoing.  He didn’t care to use his litter box and preferred to crap on the basement floor.  He did this with monotonous regularity until my cousins got sick of cleaning it up.  That, plus his unusually ornery temperament, doomed him.  I was sorry to see him go, since he was unfailingly entertaining, but I could see the logic in getting rid of him. 

The only other pets we had were fish and salamanders.  We never were very good with fish, so we raised guppies.  They require no care.  I had a green salamander, a newt that sat on an island in the fish tank until once we filled it up too much and he crawled out.  My mother thought that it was my fault because I used to take him out and let him crawl around where he got a taste of freedom.   He didn’t savor it long.   We found him a few days later dried up under the radiator. I subsequently had a red and black salamander that fared better.  He too escaped, but he survived in the basement, where it was damp and where he could eat spiders etc. We had an old house and part of the basement still had a dirt floor.  About a year after his escape, my cousin spotted him, much bigger and apparently thriving.  I don’t know how long those things live, more than a year, evidently.

Dogs of War 2: Man’s Best Friend

Man did not tame dogs; dogs tamed men.  I saw the ancient drama played out again just the other day.  Marine foot patrols come in with a couple of dogs at their sides.  The dogs look very official, very proud.  With their heads held high, they are guard dogs or at least guard dog wannabees.  They take the point; they secure the flanks; they bark at anybody or anything that seems to be a threat to “their” Marines.

When I asked the Marines about the dogs, they told me that these were not their dogs.  The dogs just showed up and attached themselves to particular patrols.  There is some kind of pack order among the dogs.  The Marines said that certain dogs follow certain patrols.  The dogs spread out or pack in close depending on the situation.  When they cross the territories of other, hostile, dog packs, they come in closer to Marines.  In open country the range out further.  When the Marines come home, the dogs sit outside the gates and bark at any intruders.   They recognize the uniforms, the smells, sounds or something else.  I don’t know, but they have assigned the security and accompanying job to themselves and in some situations they provide a useful service.  They make it much harder for the bad guys to sneak up, if any bad guys would be stupid enough to try. 

So what do the dogs get out of this?

The Marines didn’t seem to know the answer.  Maybe the dogs just like to be around people.  Maybe it is a mutual protection racket. All these things are probably true, but one of the Marines inadvertently hit on one of the big reasons.  He said, “I don’t know what they want.  We didn’t even feed them AT FIRST.”  Even Colonel Malay, who told me the story of the Ahab dogs in my earlier dogs of war post, admitted that he gave them a few scraps from the chow hall.  I did too.  Everybody does and thinks he is the only one, or it is only this one time.  The dogs know better.  They have learned a body language that gets us to give them what they want.  We humans cannot resist the cute dog.  We are conditioned to support and reward the dogs, just as the dogs are conditioned to guard us.  It is primeval.  Something in our Pleistocene genes compels the partnership. 

No dogs in the above picture, BTW, just an ordinary foot patrol picture.

I felt more secure with these unknown dogs trotting along at my sides.  Of course my furry new buddies would have been absolutely no use against the dangers likely to beset me on an Iraqi street.  My civilized intellect understands this, but my Cro-Magnon core still ain’t got the news.