Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Wheel in the Sky
Never knew this carny dog but I did know that sausage flipper for many years. His name was Jojo. Unfortunately, we lost him a few months back to a long standing heart condition and I just wanted to take a moment to say goodbye & good luck to him here at the end of 2009. This photograph was taken on Thanksgiving morning (circa 1999) at winter quarters in Tampa.

Clean up on Aisle Twelve
Stella and I went to Lowe's yesterday where apparently, some one of you cruised the aisles eating (and dropping) popcorn all over the place. Having had some experience with popcorn in her younger days on the midway, she took care of it in short order. I'm thinking of renting her out.

Postcard From the Road

We got a note from Mr. Belvedere's mom the other day. Having spent a whole summer on the road, he's having some much deserved R&R in Miami. We're more than a little bit jealous but we totally approve.

Exercise Your Right to Vote
In an effort to win a $200. donation to the animal rescue of our choice I am asked to persuade you dear people to cast a vote for Stella at Koko's Pet Spa (It's a close-up photo of just her face). In theory, you could vote once a day until January 15 but we'd love it if you even clicked the one time. Thanks.

One Last Thing
We'd like to thank all of our readers, subjects, followers and twitter friends for their comments and support here this year. If it hadn't been for you this little scrap book wouldn't exist. Have a happy and prosperous 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Radnor Lake

Radnor Lake is just over the hill from our house and no matter what time of year it is, it's a great place to walk the human or the dog in your life. My (personal) dog, who is prey-driven and may have been a Bloodhound in a former life, is frustrated by the olfactory stimulation of it all but we visit occasionally anyway. It's a wildlife refuge and although my own nose isn't so sensitive, I suspect (by her behavior) the scent of deer is overwhelming. In an effort to preserve their habitat, dogs are required to stay on the paved road, which is off-limits to motorized traffic, but the scenery is still pretty spectacular. Three days after we last visited, it became clear there was yet another reason to keep your dog on a leash at all times - not only at Radnor Lake but at any of the parks in Tennessee. You know if there's someone paranoid enough to carry a semi-automatic weapon into a neighborhood park, they wouldn't hesitate to parlay that stupidity onto a loose dog.

Lately, I've been reading a ton of stuff about natural dog training (it focuses more attention on the the direction or redirection of a dog's energy; see links below). A couple of days ago I decided to implement a little regimen of exercises with Stella. This led us immediately, to one of the best walks we've ever had. There was little pulling and her reactivity to squirrels and other dogs was greatly diminished. I was excited by what I considered to be her progress. For once in fifteen months of walking, she was entirely mine.

We have been on walks since that time where I (again) played the part of anchor at the end of Stella's leash. I try not to take it personally (which may in fact, be the real trick). We continue to practice.

Here are a couple of good links to information on natural dog training if anyone is interested in learning more. Kevin Behan, Lee Charles Kelley's Blog and Neil Sattin's Natural Dog Blog. I haven't seen any research on it (if there is any) but the neuropsychologist in me suspects that it's perfectly logical.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Puppy love

Crisp and clean the air this day as we walk your favorite trail. The autumn teases us, the rains have come and gone but this day is thankfully, bright. Perfect. We dodge a hailstorm of black walnuts and I threaten to retrieve both hard hats from the trunk of the car. We walk in unison and you, suddenly remembering your independence dance away from me and back as if I plan to stop you. No longer fearful of the concrete fairies in the grass, you run to greet them now. A flock of birds breathe life into the trees above us, beginning their song, then suddenly stopping over and over again. Forever following your nose, you don't seem to notice them at all.

I sing your praises the entire way, telling you more than once how beautiful you are, how you are ninety nine point three percent a perfect dog and that I will love you forever until one of us is dead. You are thrilled as always to be outside soaking up the sun. I love how you know your way around this place, the first trail on which I ever took you walking. You turn the corner into the woods in just the right place bringing us to where the two creeks join each other and the thirty foot umbilical cord between us gives me room to pass you on the right as you stop to investigate something on the ground. Continuing on, around the bend a short distance, I stop and patiently wait for you behind a tree, imagining the entire time that you can feel my heartbeat trailing down the leash and around your still-soft belly.

Breathing in the sweet, luminous air, I eventually drop the leash to test my theory, firm in the belief that you will sense my departure and come looking for me. Nothing happens. I peek around the tree. I gaze lovingly at your magnificently cute backside with those swirls of hair, and your tail still wagging quietly thirty feet away, you are engrossed. I walk slowly back to where you're standing, only to find my reverie set on fire by the fact that you are busy making lunch of a rather large pile of something expelled from the belly of a big raccoon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Richland Creek Greenway

Thanks in part to a close personal friend - who might choose to remain anonymous, Nashville has managed, over the last ten years to incorporate a ton of green space into its landscape. Beyond the traditional parks and recreation areas, there are a number of greenways that follow the creeks and rivers in and around the city. They're abundant, well-maintained and logistically convenient to most areas. That said, prior to Stella, I hadn't taken advantage of any of them. Now, it's become something of a challenge to hit every one in town.

Richland Creek Greenway, on the west side of town, is a favorite.
For the most part, it's flat but the scenery changes at regular intervals, there's some built-in historic interest and the creek itself is really beautiful. I usually try to go after a big rain although I don't let Stella go in the creek there since it's surrounded on all sides by commercial businesses, busy streets and neighborhoods. It also runs alongside the edge of a golf course, which fascinates Stella to no end but is more than likely laced with fertilizer and pesticides. Barring that, it's a great walk and well worth the short drive over there. (There's a trail map here) At the moment, the only restroom available to humans is a portable toilet at the White Bridge Rd. trail head. Plan accordingly. If you're visiting or passing through Nashville on I40 this greenway is simple to get to. From the White Bridge Rd. exit go south about one mile, it'll be on the left, just before the intersection at West End Avenue.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It's been a funny week. Funny ha-ha, not funny strange, for the most part. Thanksgiving was a pretty good time. My sister-in-law, despite having a whole house full of guests, let me take Stella to her house on Thursday. Stella needed some kid time and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. There would also be dogs there but their owners made an executive decision to keep them away from her and/or the rest of the crowd. I was sorry about that but it was their decision to make. She had fun with the kids anyway and a few minutes after we finally got home, she collapsed in a way I haven't seen since her younger days.

On Saturday we found a new dog park that's fairly close to the house. Unlike Nashville, they haven't passed an ordinance to ban pit bulls from it yet which is great but it wasn't without challenges. First, there weren't any dogs there and when Stella goes into an empty dog park, she has no idea what to do with herself. Her nose is hyper-engaged which apparently renders her deaf so we always end up leaving. No ball tossing, no running around, it's like we're lost in a foreign country. I decided to take her for a walk and try again later on. When we came back there were two dogs, Midnight, a lab mix and Maizie, a beagle puppy who probably weighed oh, I don't know - five pounds. We stood outside the fence for a couple of minutes and both dogs ran over to greet Stella. They touched noses through the chain link and Stella did the play bow like she always does. We approached the gate and I watched the blood drain right out of the faces of the puppy's owners. I can't say I blamed them, I would've been concerned too. They stood up and walked straight over to us and asked me point blank what kind of dog Stella was. I sucked it up and told them the truth. I didn't want to but I also want people to learn that she's not scary or dangerous or bad. It turned out they were a brave young couple and when Stella headed off with the other (bigger) dog, they decided to stay. Fifteen minutes later, the beautiful and, as we were about to learn talented, Maizie was ready for her turn. She ran up and body checked Stella much the same way Stella does to the biggest dog in the dog park.

Never one to turn down a romp, she got up and launched off after the puppy. Cue the cartoon chase music. The next few minutes were hysterical. The five pound puppy out ran the pit bull. Turns out, she had moves. She'd dive under a bench and do a one-eighty, lie down flat and look at Stella, then take off running again. Stella loved it. L-O-V-E-D it and all four of us adults, paralyzed at first, were charmed right out of our brains. It was magical. It was like five hundred dollars worth of mood elevating pharmaceuticals, crammed into six minutes.

The photos below are from a visit to a different dog park. Stella had fun that day too and even managed to briefly engage a Husky (which hardly ever happens, they don't usually have time for her nonsense).