Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pooch Plunge 2

Since we're on the subject of water (and way behind), this last Sunday we went to the Pooch Plunge at Nashville Shores. It was a benefit for Nashville Public Television (NpT). Some of you may remember we tried to go last year and the weather didn't cooperate for them and it was eventually canceled. This year though, was another story altogether. There were tons of dogs. Stella had a lot of fun although for the first hour it was like chasing a delinquent kid around.

As usual, before we went I took her for a long walk to (presumably) expend some of her energy but this time, under such stimulating conditions, the long walk just didn't take. Once we got into the gate and I let her off the leash, she went tearing off around the outer perimeter of the event like a freight train. It was basically harmless but managed to score her lots of attention. By far, it exceeded the efforts of any and all herding type dogs in attendance. When she finally burned off the top layer (believe me there were six or seven left to go) she discovered that the sponsor tables had treats on them and that if she ran up to the table and gave them the look, they would give her a treat. Now, you might ask yourself what happened when they finally cut her off? Well, she either stood up on the table and demanded one or waited until they looked away and rammed her whole head off into the bucket and helped herself (ahem!) Very unladylike. Very unStella. Bad. Dog.

Once I was finally able to get her to understand that there were consequences to this sort of foolishness, she gave up on the food and crashed the Flyball demonstration. I looked away for two seconds and heard someone yell "Wait! Where did that dog come from?" When I followed their gaze she was chasing the Flyball dog and I had the urge to just say: Jeez, I don't know but somebody needs to get control of that thing. Again, harmless but totally disruptive. She did the same to some pups taking the Canine Good Citizen test. It was a good chance for her to experience the fact that not all dog interaction involves playing. Understand - her version of playing goes two ways-- Chase and Smackdown Wrestling. She's as happy to be chased as she is to be the chaser and she'll adjust her speed if it's a little dog that she could easily overcome; those are the ones I love to watch.

She got into the water a time or two and was very curious about the dogs that were busy retrieving things but never actually made an effort to swim (basically killing my theory that if she saw dogs swimming, she'd copy them.)

Then she found two playmates one after the other who thanks to their owners, gave her the work out she was really after. The first was a young Great Dane named Bella. She was pretty gentle but not intimidated (as some dogs are) by her rough and tumble approach. The second dog was Sampson and for the record, if Sampson was our neighbor I have no doubt he'd be Stella's new boyfriend. The two of them wore each other out. He was a young (competitive) dock-diving German Shepherd. After several rounds of full-throttle playing which I might add, scared the crap out of some patrons, and the life guards, he was the only dog there able to lure Stella into the water. She still didn't swim - but just like all the girls with a bad boy crush, she followed him right in there against her better judgment.

Needless to say, this all culminated in one big satisfied snooze complete with snoring all the way home. We had a great time (minus the initial craziness and if any of you Flyballers should happen by here - we apologize again) and hope the folks at NpT made a big wad of dog-friendly cash. Thanks for the swim.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stella with Old Barney

We caught up with a different incarnation of "Old Barney" in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Someone sent (our) Barney a postcard once with a picture of this lighthouse on it and since Stella and I were looking for a beach it seemed like the thing to do. Stella discovered horseshoe crabs on the beach there. She tried to get it to move and when nothing happened she uh.. relieved herself on it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Atlantic City: gamble vs. gambol

When all else fails, ask you waitress. There isn't a thing online about any dog beach in or near Atlantic City. Stella and I took our chances and looked for local dog lovers. It was tricky to find it but once we got there, I just wanted to pitch a tent. We went three times and three times Stella forgot all about her Bulldog side and tapped into the Terrier for a change. She'd eyeball the ground suspiciously and launch herself into the sand, digging as hard and as fast she could go. She would then freeze and snap her teeth a couple of times (possessed) and have another go at it. It was better than any casino.

Bear, the smaller of the two dogs above was a big dog trapped in the body of a small dog. He gave Stella the wrestle of her life and it was wonderful to watch. He had the best moves. His owner and I just stood there laughing the whole time. The other dog, Seamus had a pretty good time too. He was the only dog that manged to lure Stella into the water deeper than she would've normally gone. She still never got the hang of swimming out there but she was totally curious about the dogs that were able to.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Canine tourism

I still have a few posts from Baltimore (and beyond). Locals won't be too impressed by the tourist type pictures but it was such a treat to be able to walk a few blocks to the harbor from where we stayed that I did it repeatedly. It was actually pretty sweet, as tourist districts go. They seemed to have all the right ingredients: music, food, water, boat rides, a fountain for the kids to play in, dragon boats to pedal (I wanted to take Stella out on one of them (what a photo op that would've been) but the line was too long and I doubt she would've been allowed anyway. It's funny but of everything in and around the harbor, those were what fascinated her most.

On the far side, just below Federal Hill there was a carousel with dogs and other animals on it as well. I took a photo of it and realized that for the first time in nineteen years, the fair was setting up back home in Nashville and I wasn't there. Good thing we were in Baltimore or I might have been missing it a lot more.

Federal Hill overlooks the harbor and it's a great view too. We hung out up there while we waited for the tour boat to arrive. Again, Watermark Cruises was the only tour I could find that would let Stella ride along. It was a forty-five minute cruise for fifteen bucks. For a dog that can be kind of skiddish on a slick surface, she did an amazing job of climbing the steps between decks. I wasn't the only one stunned by her willingness to descend the nearly vertical steps. We never made it to Little Italy and I'm really sorry about that. Well okay, we did do a drive-by - but it'll have to wait until the next visit if there ever is one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Anniversary Party

Wednesday was mine and Stella's 2 year anniversary. I wouldn't change anything really except maybe those two knee surgeries which you'll see in a minute, seem to have worked. We haven't been to the fair this year at all. The rides aren't even on the midway - they're up on the hill which to me, is interesting but sad. After more than a century, there won't be a state fair next year so we made an executive decision to boycott. Almost all of our old time friends are gone anyway. Don't worry, we're still keeping our eyes open for carny dogs, human and canine.

Meanwhile - I made this goofy video of Stella playing fetch; or at least her version of it. You'll have to forgive me as I'm working with a twenty-five dollar camera and my assistants rarely cooperate; not to mention the fact that it's my first ever attempt at video editing. At one point I sped the whole thing up by accident and Stella looked like the Roadrunner. I'm embarrassed to say how long it took me to undo it.

P.S. I know some of you out there have been looking for a way to artfully disguise your vicious baby-snatching dogs. Well, thanks to SkateTruck, we've found the solution.

The Ace of Crab Cakes

It was just over a week ago that Stella and I had the good fortune to meet up with Ohmidog's John Woestendiek and his handsome and lovable dog Ace. Having read John's blog for the last couple of years, I knew he and Ace had gone on a pilgrimage of their own but I decided to send him an e-mail anyway and ask if he knew where I could go to find reasonably priced crab cakes. That e-mail alone might have been the best decision I made all week. As it happened, he was not in Alabama or Santa Fe but right there in Baltimore, taking a little break.

John suggested we meet at Riverside Park. Stella and I walked the nearly two miles from the hotel through Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood (a visual treat) and I called him when we got within shouting distance. I hadn't actually seen John before in person, but I'd seen Ace plenty of times on the blog. They came over the hill like a couple of old friends and it didn't take long to realize that the two of them were as much a part of the neighborhood as the park itself. Everyone from homeless guys to moms pulling wagon-loads of kids knew them well enough to stop and talk, and they did. Humans called out to Ace from a distance. Stella wasn't exactly thrilled that nearly all the dogs were off leash except her but she seemed to enjoy being part of a scene where there were almost as many dogs as humans. Thankfully, she appeared to take her cues in the park from Ace who was obviously one of the more well-adjusted dogs we've encountered.

We moved on to a nearby bar, Idle Hour for some human refreshment, where Ace and Stella were welcome to cool off and have a snooze, inside the bar. Stella had ants in her pants most of the time but everyone there was pretty relaxed about the whole thing and (attention bar owners:) having the dogs along made the beer taste better.

After the brew, we ditched the mutts at the home of a rather large feline named Mister and moved on to Captain Larry's for the crab cakes and fish tacos. If it had ended right there it would've been worth driving all 1930 miles for but it didn't. There were leftover birthday brownies and mint chocolate chip ice cream to be had at the home of a real live Vanderbilt graduate and her carny-loving husband. It is a true friend who will let a man show up with a complete stranger, at nine-thirty at night for dessert. Seriously, it made me want to move.

That said, our timing was excellent as man and dog have now headed to Philadelphia with plans to begin again in Maine, and spend the next three months tracing the path of John Steinbeck and his dog Charley across the northern portion of the U.S. They're in the market for a loaner R.V. by the way, and if the folks at Coachmen ever find out about the two of them, I've not doubt they'll get one. I can't imagine an RV manufacturer finding a better entré to a world filled with dog loving travelers than John and Ace.

In case anyone missed it, here's a perfectly wonderful post from John, about our trip east.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Urban Solutions

Hey all, we made it back to Nashville safe and sound. Obviously I'm little behind posting but it came down to a couple of choices: walk on the beach or blog. Crab cakes or blog. Local flavor, homegrown beer, dog beach - or blog. I made an executive decision to live first and blog later so here we are.

In Baltimore, we stayed in a perfectly wonderful hotel (Hotel Monaco) on Charles St. It was smack in the middle of downtown and when morning came there, I got dressed as usual but instead of starting the coffee and casually walking out in the yard with Stella and the cat, we had to get on an elevator, ride ten floors down, speak to the bellmen, step out into the morning rush hour traffic and beat feet up to Liberty Dog Run, two and a half blocks away. I wasn't familiar with the whole idea of a dog run exactly. I was fascinated by the fact that there was a strip of fenced in grass carved into the middle of four busy streets in which neighborhood and visiting dogs could relieve themselves. Stella was pretty suspicious about the whole thing. She tiptoed around most of the time, overwhelmed by the smells and sounds inside and around the fence. We did meet some nice local people there though and each morning (with some encouragement) she did her thing at the dog run instead of on the sidewalk or at the carpeted entryway to the nearby Wyndham Baltimore Hotel. Actually that was a pretty close call a couple of times.

On the subject of coffee, I had hoped to find a coffee shop downtown where both humans and canines could hang out. We didn't find one (that doesn't mean there weren't any) but even if we had, there's the problem of going inside to order. Those traveling alone with a dog have the option of tying the dog to a lamp post or whatever (not an option in our case), or finding some dog loving soul to babysit for a few minutes. We did find one that would let you bring a dog inside to order but only if it was a dog you could carry. Naturally, I gave it some serious consideration but decided take Stella on back to the hotel instead.

View from the gate; loved the architecture in Baltimore.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Minding the Seagulls

We went down the to Inner Harbor (I'm assuming that's capitalized?) this morning and waited for the Watermark (water taxi) to arrive. They're kind enough to allow pets on board and they gave us a nice forty-five minute tour of the harbor which Stella seemed to enjoy, although it was 11am and unusually hot for Baltimore this time of year. I took this photo at the slip before the boat arrived, mostly because of the Seadog (yellow watercraft) behind her. It didn't take much sitting out there before the seagulls started buzzing us. Sorry I didn't have a video camera along when her head started following them in circles.

Now that I've almost managed to get my bearings - it's nearing time to leave but I feel very lucky to have run upon one of Baltimore's very own dog lovers. He's agreed to lead us on to affordable crab cakes and the real Baltimore, before the day is through. Then I'll tell you about my own little adventure yesterday. Stella and I are both still recovering from that one.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Charm City

Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore.... With all due respect to Tom Bodett and that Motel 6 we stayed at in Virginia, we got to Baltimore and it's like we won the lottery. Call me Eloise, I want to live here. Stella is obviously a big city girl in disguise too. She cuts a rug on city streets and elevators, in alleys and swanky hotels. She's already gotten to know the bellmen and exactly where that treat bowl is in the lobby. Check it out, it has her name on it. These people clearly have our number.

We got a spectacular deal online at the Hotel Monaco, in fact it was so good I decided to stay in Baltimore an extra day. So far (it's been a whopping 24 hrs.) it's been a fabulous experience. More later. But not before crab cakes and a water taxi ride around the inner harbor.

p.s. There's Barney in the chair. We went to the cemetery this morning, found his mother's grave, and scattered most of his ashes there. I'm in love with Baltimore already. Little Italy has our name all over it. Also, I recommend traveling on the Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend. It was truly the easiest drive ever. The only drawback was the Beltway which is absolutely LAWLESS. Those of you who live in the Baltimore/Washington area already know this but you people who live in oh... say Nashville, Tennessee - don't know the first thing about traffic problems. That last forty miles getting here was the only rough part of the trip. Stella rode it in the floorboard of the back seat.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Packing Heavy

It's funny how dogs behave when they know somethings going on. In Stella's case all I really have to do is pull the crate out of the corner a couple of inches and as far as she's concerned - it's on. She wasn't totally sure she was invited until about seven thirty this morning when I picked up the leash. It seems I read a similar story over at Stumpy's recently. Our trip is much shorter than hers but it does involve swimming - eventually. My neighbor asked the other day when we were coming back. When I hesitated, she wisely turned it into a question: "You are coming back?" I had to give it some thought because you know - it does involve an actual beach. I'm still mulling it over.

Stella and I are on the way to Baltimore, Maryland and Barney's riding shotgun. I'm not sure how often we'll have internet access but I'll try to update periodically. For example, I forgot to specifically request a room with access here at our first stop (Motel 6) so at the moment, we're sitting in the parking lot at Days Inn bootlegging their wi-fi. (note: I just lost this entire post and didn't have enough battery left to rewrite the thing, ack!) Also, if Carny Dog hasn't been updated you might want to try us over at my other blog. Just now, it looks pretty depressing but there's fun in our future because Barney would've wanted it that way.

p.s. In the last couple of days Stella has developed a mean cold (I'm hoping that's what it is anyway). Her fabulous pink nose is stuffy and extremely raw. Last night she barely slept. I've promised her that the salt air will cure it as it cures most things (achy bones, bad attitudes) but if anyone has any miraculous home remedies I'd love to hear it.

p.s.s. Night before last I dreamed I was sitting on a toilet (sorry) and the shower curtain fell down. In the tub there was a full grown male lion. Named Taffy.

Once again, who needs fiction?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vehicular Dodgeball

I'm going to take some heat for this. I know it.

I made an observation recently that I decided to discuss here but before I started running my mouth about it I thought it might be wise to collect some evidence.

We live in a suburban neighborhood that was built in the fifties. Here in Tennessee, they've never really saw the need for sidewalks and our neighborhood is no exception. This puts Stella and I walking in the street. I noticed that as the cars are coming toward us, some of them slow down and move over a considerable distance and some of them don't. Some of them are speeding and some aren't, in fact some wave at us or nod or acknowledge that they've seen us. It may come as a surprise to some that those considerate, cautious, above average drivers - appeared to be of the male persuasion.

I know. It sounds crazy and I didn't want to believe it myself but yesterday morning during rush hour Stella and I carried a little note pad with us on our walk. To keep things simple (and lower our chances of being run over) we counted only ten men and ten women drivers, all of whom were obviously on their way to work. These results are preliminary, as being "on the way to work" is potentially a confounding variable and we here at Carny Dog like our data to be as pure as possible but here's what we found: All of the drivers we noted were inside the neighborhood; not on a main thoroughfare.

Eight out of ten men drivers slowed down and moved over.
Two out of ten women did.
All ten women were speeding.
One in ten men was speeding.
Six women were talking on their cell phones.
Zero men were.
Eight men made eye contact with us.
Zero women did.

Conclusion: Again, we can't draw any real conclusions but a couple of possibilities do come to mind:

1. Women are more likely to be late for work.
2. Men typically love dogs. And women*
3. Women think they're bulletproof - until something happens.
4. Men are naturally protective of themselves, women, animals and their cars.
5. Women are used to doing ten things at once.
6. Men pay attention to the road and are generally better drivers (eek!)
7. ?

What do you all think?

*It should be noted that I make no effort whatsoever to be cute at seven o'clock in the morning, I rarely wear shorts and am usually only whistled at by perverts and construction workers too far away to recognize that I could be their mother.

Meanwhile, there's some serious road blogging in our immediate future. If anyone out there has ideas about visiting our house while we're away, you should know that I've sublet it out to two bikers named Rebel and Loco. They've been instructed to shank first and ask questions later.