Rest & Relaxation + Nature

I love it when people visit us in Laramie, Wyoming. I love to show them our little house (on the prairie? almost), our fun frontier town, the mountains that surround us, the stark and undeniable beauty of the West.

IMG_9139

My parents waving from the pedestrian bridge to the oncoming trains that run right by downtown Laramie, just in the distance

Most of my family came to visit me this summer after a long roadtrip or flight/s. We explored Laramie as well as Fort Collins, Colorado (since that’s where I’ll spend much time next year). Thankfully the weather stayed sunny and warm for most of their visit, unlike the last time.

We went back to Vedauwoo (pronounced VEE-dah-VOO) for a little hike on the Turtle Rock Trail. My mom was impressed by how lush everything was. Most of Wyoming in the summer is like dried herbs on a cracker crisp- sagebrush, dust, sun, wind. But because the granite in Vedauwoo leads the rainfall into certain pooled areas, through June and July many wildflowers bloom in the shade of lovely aspen groves.

13653185_1212714502072413_9150014561874273241_o

Libby took this photo of my dad on the Turtle Rock Trail through quivering aspen leaves

The granite at Vedauwoo is unique for its roughness (local climbers don’t call it “Bleed-auwoo” for nothing) in addition to its unusual shapes. The Sherman Granite is thought to be 1.4 billion years old.

IMG_0696

Sam and Boone enjoying the hike through sagebrush and wildflowers

I kindly allowed Sam to struggle with walk Boone the whole hike. They both seemed to enjoy it.

Matt and I also took everyone on a more intense trail in Medicine Bow National Forest which we’ve dubbed “the ridge hike.” We originally scouted out the trailhead via online maps of the area, but it was very difficult to spot from the dirt road you take to get there. The trail eventually emerges the further you walk up the very steep hill and into the woods, and is occasionally marked by helpful cairns.

IMG_0715

Parents enjoying a break from hiking while the kids take selfies and contemplate life

We refer to this trail as a ridge hike because, at several points, you get an almost 360º view- from the Rockies down in Colorado to the Snowy Range west of Laramie, and out toward Nebraska to the east.

IMG_0705

In the distance, Sam, Libby, and Boone enjoy the eastern view

It’s also a fairly exposed hike, with few trees to cover you, despite being in a national forest. You wouldn’t want to be up there if a storm rolled in.

IMG_0709

Introspective Ben on the right

After living in Wyoming for 3 years, I still can’t get enough of its beauty. I am continually surprised by the openness, the almost silence, the skies, and- let’s be honest- the wind. I am afraid I’m now used to the practically empty trails (I’m told this is not the case in Colorado). I believe we saw one other person the entire couple hours we were hiking.

IMG_0723

Even Boone, a Kansas native, prefers Wyoming hikes

Each year Laramie celebrates Wyoming’s anniversary of statehood, July 10th, 1890, with a week-long series of events it calls “Jubilee Days.” There are concerts, a parade, a carnival, a local beer festival, and- you guessed it- multiple rodeos.

I hadn’t been to a rodeo since I moved here but, what with everyone visiting, it seemed like as good a time as any to experience the cowboy side of this state. I took my folks to the ranch rodeo which, unlike your typical rodeo, isn’t full of professional bull riders and events like barrel racing, but is instead made up of local ranch cowhands (both men and women).

IMG_9153

Almost got ’em!

They were all trying to do the same thing within a six-minute period: rope steers, get one into a fenced-in pen, and another into a trailer behind a shiny new truck which was provided somewhat riskily by a local car dealership. The announcer jokingly asked if there was anybody left in the town of Walden- a small ranching town in nearby northern Colorado- that day, and dozens of people in the audience whooped and cheered.

IMG_9149

Got ’em this time

At the beginning of each round, one participant had to stand without her or his horse on the side of the ring opposite the rest of their teammates and horses. When the timer began, another teammate on their horse had to gallop across the ring, pick up the horse-less cowhand, and they both had to ride back across the ring so the first person could get their horse. Most of the horses were okay with having two adults on their backs for that short of a period of time, but one horse wasn’t so sure. The audience began to giggle as the horse refused to go forward. Then, very slowly, the horse stepped forward in lurches, eventually bucking its way across the ring, making for a very bumpy ride for the cowboy sitting on his haunches, and uproarious laughter from the crowd.

Though the roping was of course entertaining and impressive to watch, my family was slightly traumatized by the treatment of the cattle. Sometimes the poor animals ran face-first into the metal fencing at high speeds, which resulted in nosebleeds. Despite their black fur, you could still easily see the red blood dripping from their nostrils as they fled from the horses.

After Margaret, my older sister, flew up to join us, we drove down to Fort Collins for the fourth of July.

13584856_1212731118737418_6389838976783086958_o

Old Town of Fort Collins on the 4th of July. Photo by Libby.

We walked around downtown and Colorado State’s campus, ate burgers and sandwiches at Choice City Butcher & Deli, and tried local beers at Funkwerks Brewery, which specializes in refreshing sours, saisons, and Belgian ales.

The next day everyone but Margaret departed, so we began packing the car for a trip to Ten Sleep Canyon, a rock climbing destination in the western part of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. It’s about a 5.5-hour drive, though a pleasant one, from Laramie. We were able to reserve a nice campsite (nice meaning with a picnic table and near a well-maintained pit toilet) at Leigh Creek Campground, which is at the bottom of the canyon on the banks of Tensleep Creek, for the first two nights of our trip. Though we’d never seen any poison ivy in the canyon before, the plants seemed to really enjoy living right by the creek. I’m actually surprised none of us ended up with any rashes. Anyway, after setting up camp, we went CLIMBING!

IMG_0744

Margaret on her FIRST EVER outdoor top-rope rock climb!

Ten Sleep is known for long, sustained, and really fun limestone sport climbing routes. This is kind of the opposite of what Margaret was used to climbing- short, powerful boulder problems. At first it was hard for her to get to the top of several climbs, even though she was strong enough to do every move of the route separately, but by the end of the trip she easily got to the top of a 100-foot climb. I hope we successfully convinced her that roped climbing is SO FUN!

IMG_0768

Me belaying Matt in the Lake Point area of Ten Sleep Canyon, WY. Photo by Margaret.

The approach trail to the Lake Point area, which crossed over a small CCC-built dam above Meadowlark Lake, was stunning.

IMG_0791

Boone on the trail toward Meadowlark Lake, through sagebrush and wildflowers, with the Big Horn Mountains in the distance

IMG_0813

Matt and Boone at Meadowlark Lake in the Bighorn National Forest

On our second full day in the Big Horns (our third day climbing), we decided to take a break and go for a hike instead. I’d only ever been climbing in this part of Wyoming, so I was excited to see more of the area.

IMG_0835

Margaret in front of a small waterfall just off the Lost Twin Lakes Trail

Matt decided on the Lost Twin Lakes Trail, just the portion that would take us to Mirror Lake, which was about 7 miles round-trip. We started at the West Tensleep trailhead, which is adjacent to a campground and picnic area at West Ten Sleep Lake.

IMG_0856

At two points, the trail crosses creeks in lush meadows surrounded by lodgepole pine

We didn’t start hiking until midday because we had to change our campsite to an area higher in the canyon that didn’t require reservations, but the skies were clear and the trail was practically empty. We passed a few people in the first mile, and then ran into two more on our way back, but that was it.

IMG_0857

Margaret and Matt on the Lost Twin Lakes Trail

Our hike was very quiet and peaceful, except for our run-in with a marmot. He stood on his hind legs atop a rock pile and chirped loudly to alert his fellow critters that we were entering their territory.

It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to spot Mirror Lake from the trail; it was somewhat hidden behind a low-lying area of pine trees. At first we weren’t sure that was the right way since there wasn’t a distinct trail down to the shore, so we kept walking for another half mile or so. We never once saw the lake again, so we turned around and walked toward the lake through the trees, away from the trail.

IMG_0876

Margaret at Mirror Lake

Here we drank water, ate a few Clif bars, swatted away a few mosquitoes, and basked in the cool air coming off the lake’s surface. Then we headed back for the car and to our new campsite for dinner.

There was another day of climbing and camping, and an evening of visiting the town of Ten Sleep as well as the Ten Sleep Brewing Company to escape a brief thunderstorm in the canyon. This microbrewery opened almost three years ago, and their beer is really terrific. In the summer, dirtbag climbers drive up in their dusty rigs to pay for a shower and a beer, which they drink under strings of lights and stars at outdoor picnic tables. I honestly cannot recommend this place enough. Should you find yourself in this part of western heaven, get thee to the brewery.

After driving back to Laramie, Margaret and I showered and went out for dinner in downtown Laramie during the height of the Jubilee Days festivities. Streets were blocked off for live music, dancing, drinking, and the carnival. We walked around for people-watching purposes, but were too tired to join in.

The next morning we met up with several friends to show Margaret the bouldering in Vedauwoo. Before this, she’d asked us why we don’t just go to Vedauwoo every day to climb, why we bother driving to places like Ten Sleep. After trying it herself, I think she understood why.

IMG_9194

Our friend Bart Cubrich on “Bombay Hooker,” a crazy-looking and very hard V6 boulder problem in Vedauwoo

Not to say that Vedauwoo’s climbing and bouldering are bad- they certainly aren’t. They’re just- well, different. They take some getting used to, both mentally and physically. Callouses help. Physical callouses. Although if you’ve built up some mental callouses, those could quite possibly help here too.

We especially enjoyed the start to “The Hatchet,” another V6, which was seemingly made for campusing, meaning only your hands are on the rock while your feet dangle beneath you. Yes, we do these things for fun.

After a quick shopping experience in downtown Laramie, I took Margaret to the Denver airport for her flight back to North Carolina. This past week has mostly consisted of me sitting inside at work and putting off cleaning and organizing our kitchen. It’s hard to be productive inside when the weather where you live is only this good for four months a year. Live on, Wyoming summer! Live on!

Love to all.

Advertisements

“Guest Post” by Boone

IMG_8289

Here is my shelter portrait

Hi, my name is Boone or, at least, I think it is. Sometimes my humans call me Abe, but whenever they do that, they’re quick to say “Boone” right after. I was a puppy in Kansas for a while, which was boring because my first home was just a basement, and there was no one to play with me. When I went to the shelters, it was still pretty boring because there wasn’t enough snow and a machine played calming classical music whenever they turned out the lights. BOR-ING.

IMG_8296

I really like the snow

They made me wear a Christmas bandana for my picture, which Katherine loved. Maybe that’s why she and Matt drove all the way to Kansas to get me. She hasn’t made me wear any bandanas in Laramie yet- probably because she knows I’d chew them all up. I love to chew.

Boone_curtain

Sometimes chewing gets me in sticky situations, like here when the curtain attacked me

It’s probably my favorite thing- except snow. I like to chew snow, too. And socks, curtains, blankets, beds, shoes, toys, the couch, balls, rugs, leashes, pots for plants, sticks, dirt, poop, and actual food. There- I think I’ve named all the things.

IMG_8292

Almost forgot the frisbee incident. Thankfully Matt and Katherine were there to help me- after they took a bunch of pictures

The people at the shelter thought I was going to be a big dog. Sometimes Matt likes to measure me with measuring tape, or take me to the nice place with treats where everything smells AMAZING like other animals to weigh me. It’s hard to stay on the scale though because I have a lot of wiggles in my system to get out.

Going to the dog park is a great way for me to get all of my wiggles out, unless I have to ride in the car to get there, which is VERY SCARY. Once I’m there, I get to play with other wiggly dogs and annoy all the ones who aren’t as wiggly. I also like to get my wiggles out all over the couch and Matt and Katherine’s laps. They are always so still and quiet on the couch- it is very BORING. Wiggling on the couch is also a great technique for me to shed some extra fur.

IMG_8291

Matt and I are both smiling on the couch in this picture, but I am doing more wiggling

Last weekend Matt and Katherine picked me up (which I DON’T like) and put me in this scary thing called the bathtub. They poured water on me and scrubbed me with this stuff that smelled very weird, like oatmeal, and not like dog at all, which I’m pretty sure is how I’m supposed to smell. I hope they never do this ever again.

FullSizeRender(3)

Me in the bathtub- yuck

Anyway, I like my new home because I get to run around in the backyard, go for walks, do some tricks like SIT, SHAKE, DOWN, and LEAVE IT, but not others like COME HERE or DROP IT. But most of all I get to chew.

IMG_8293

Here I am taking a break from chewing on a big stick

Matt says when the snow goes away, we can go camping. I don’t know what this is, but if it has anything to do with chewing, and nothing to do with riding in the car or going into the bathtub, count me in!

IMG_8297

Bye for now!

What Dogs Teach Us

In the morning I am careful not to step over any of the pawprints dotting the snow in our yard. In fact, I find one with particularly crisp edges, not yet touched by sunlight, and I squat down to touch the cold circles and corners. I do this because, once this snow is gone, no new pawprints of this same shape and size will ever grace our lawn again.

IMG_9101

Matt and I made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize Abe the afternoon of Monday, November 23rd. Abe’s health had been deteriorating for a month, to the point that he was no longer himself, physically or emotionally. Toward the end of this post I detail exactly what happened regarding Abe’s health, in case you are curious, but I’d like this post to be primarily about Abe’s well-lived life, not his death. So in this spirit I continue.

This past summer, at our family beach vacation in North Carolina, my aunt Morgan brought up the subject of pets. My little cousin Catalina, her daughter, had begun asking for a dog. As you can imagine, at the age of 4 she was starting to realize many of her friends had dogs at home. Morgan never grew up with dogs, and didn’t really understand the appeal. To her, it seemed like the only dog stories she ever heard from her friends were how their pets peed on the new carpet, chewed up articles of clothing, racked up vet bills, or ate food straight off the counter. So then, why have a dog?

Thank goodness there are many thousands of lifetimes’ worth of evidence in support of how awesome dogs are. I offer you just one.

I’ve already written about how I came to adopt Abe, my best friend. Matt and I are still in shock from loss but, as we continue to reflect on our time with Abe, we’ve realized how incredible a presence he was in our home and in our lives. Here are some of the lessons Abe taught us.

  1. Treasure the downtime.  During certain moments, we (people) have a tendency to take a step back and knowingly say to ourselves, “I’m adding this one to my highlight reel of memories.” These are often the big moments: college graduation, the first time I saw our house in Laramie, taking Abe from the shelter straight to PetSmart because I didn’t own anything a dog owner should. But small, subtle moments are added to this highlight reel too, and they often become more representative of our time together than the big ones. Abe loved to be in our backyard, after much hubbub about the doggy door. It was one of his favorite places, even though he allowed the rabbits to wreak havoc on my garden.
    IMG_9055I snapped this photo of him doing his typical rounds of the backyard, after which he’d lie down in the grass and fall asleep.
  2. Smell ALL the roses. Not just one, because not all roses are the same. And if you’re not going to smell them, then why the heck are you outside in the first place?!
  3. Patience is unconditional love in action. Dogs are basically the epitome of unconditional love, in case you haven’t heard, but they are also animals living in human homes. Accidents happen. Once, shortly after I got Abe and before we knew that he couldn’t handle rawhide, we gave him a rawhide bone and he subsequently had diarrhea all over my carpeted apartment. In the extra bedroom, he pooped right in the center of the room, then nosed a book from the bottom of the bookshelf over to cover up his mess. (Author’s note: I do not have a picture of this incident. You’re welcome.) I could tell he’d screwed something up because, when I came home from work, he was cowering in a corner and wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Sure, it took me the better part of two hours to clean everything up- but it wasn’t Abe’s fault. If there was blame to be assigned, it fell with me for giving him a treat his system couldn’t handle. So, to look a gigantic, terrible mess in the face and sigh, then deal with it- knowing it’s useless to be angry- that’s one thing Abe taught me.
  4. Don’t hesitate to show your affection. Smile at the people you love when they enter the room. Greet them every time they come home. Give them hugs and kisses. Be happy and grateful that you have the opportunity to love them, even if they’re not paying as much attention to you as they should.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

    Abe in the backyard, taking himself very seriously

    Abe in the backyard, taking himself very seriously

    Stop thinking so hard about it. Take time to step away from the stressful situations in which you find yourself. We are fond of saying that Abe decompressed situations. Often Matt and I would be on opposite sides of the kitchen or living room, arguing about something we’d heard on the news, and Abe would saunter in, sit between us, and fart- loudly. We couldn’t take anything we’d been saying seriously after that. Though it’d be presumptuous of me to say that Abe took pride in his ability to dissolve our arguments, I don’t think it’s a very far-fetched assertion. When you find yourself in the midst of an intense or difficult situation, take a brief moment to step your mind out of that experience, and breathe.

  6. Take pleasure in the simple things & don’t be afraid to ask for more– mainly food and belly rubs, even if they are part of your routine. Just because you eat three times a day doesn’t mean it’s not still amazing. And don’t be ashamed of your passions and desires; embrace them. You have passion because you are alive, and because you want to be alive! Don’t rob yourself of that beauty.
  7. Life is short. Matt suggested I add this one. It’s true. I adopted Abe on Saturday, August 27, 2011; we were together for just over 4 years. Matt and I feel robbed. Four years were not enough, by any measure. It is a cliché now, but don’t take for granted the time you get to spend with those you love, especially during this holiday season. Say what you want to say. Make that time meaningful. Put away your phone or your new Christmas present so you can have a real conversation. Tell your loved ones that you love them, unabashedly, and without attachment to their potential response. Be honest, and loving.

We were so lucky to have Abe in our lives for these short four years. He converted every person he met into a dog-lover. We love you always, Abe.

IMG_9972


Here is what we know about Abe’s illness.

First, he stopped eating, and what he did eat, he threw up or regurgitated. Then, right after Halloween, he contracted pneumonia and was on IV antibiotics for several days at our local vet’s office. After blood tests, x-rays, and an ultrasound, they determined he had megaesophagus, a condition with many possible underlying causes that is characterized by failure of the muscles in the esophagus to propel food into the stomach. When food does not end up in the stomach, it is either regurgitated or aspirated into the lungs, causing pneumonia. There are special ways to feed dogs with megaesophagus, none of them quick or simple.

Abe contracted pneumonia a second time a couple weeks later, and was not recovering at our local vet, so we drove him down to the veterinary school and teaching hospital at Colorado State University. They admitted him as an emergency patient and put him on both oxygen and an IV in canine ICU. Abe continued to lose weight during this time since he was not eating. CSU is in Fort Collins, which is a little over an hour’s drive from our home in Laramie. We were able to visit Abe once during his stay, but it was hard on both him and us to be separated. After five days on oxygen, the vets at CSU determined Abe was stable enough to return home. All of our various tests for the common causes of megaesophagus (autoimmune diseases, lead poisoning, local tumors) came back negative, so there was no known underlying cause for us to treat. We left Fort Collins with an armful of medications and cautious hope. Normally 65-75 pounds, Abe’s weight was down to a sobering 51 pounds.

Saturday evening (11/21) Abe did well. On Sunday he endured considerable discomfort after eating breakfast, and Sunday night he was awake and in pain all night as he regurgitated food and had accidents throughout the house. Matt stayed up with him, and at about 6AM, with nothing left in his system, Abe was able to sleep again. On Monday morning, Abe’s weight was down to 49.8 pounds.

It is so hard to see a loved one suffer, but it is especially hard to watch him suffer and not be able to communicate. We couldn’t ask, “How are you feeling? Are you in pain? Do you understand that this isn’t your fault? That you are very sick?” Instead, we had to make the call on his life without consulting him. We believe it was the right thing to do but, of course, that doesn’t alleviate our sadness.

Love to all.

Homefront Update

Spring is on its way to Laramie. A couple weeks ago we saw over a foot of snow over the course of several dreary days. Thankfully with this “warmer” weather, the snow doesn’t stick around for very long. Since we’ve had some rain, which is wonderful. I’d forgotten about the lovely persistent sound the rain makes on our skylights and against the window pane, which is kind of inevitable with this Wyoming wind.

Most of the local deciduous trees and bushes, aspen and cottonwood, lilac and crabapple, are still leafless, though you can see a hint toward leaves in the emerging buds. My tulip buds (which I can’t claim to have planted) have fully emerged but have yet to bloom, likely put off by the recent snow.

The week before last, Matt and I learned that Abe, our sweet dog, has cancer. He had a large tumor removed from his right side, along the ribcage, which came back as soft tissue sarcoma grade I. The grade scale is somewhat similar to the stage scale you hear people discuss, as in, “He has stage three lung cancer,” except that there are only three grades for dogs. The first level means there is no metastasis, so the cancer, at this grade, will not spread to other areas of the body. Soft tissue sarcoma is a fairly common cancer in dogs, so we are just monitoring the site of the previous tumor for future growth, as the biopsy indicated the veterinarian did not remove the entirety of the cancer.

Abe endured fairly invasive surgery (the tumor was located below a layer of muscle), was sealed up with over 30 staples, and has been recovering with the assistance of his Thundershirt, painkillers, multiple t-shirts, a cleanup crew (there’s been lots of leaking fluid), and many, many treats.

Poor guy!

Poor guy in our kitchen

He has been a little slower than usual which, if you know Abe, is quite slow, but he seems to be in good spirits generally. Matt and I are optimistic and hope we can remove any future growth in its entirety via a second surgery, before the cancer advances to any further grades. Matt’s family sent us an adorable “sick as a dog” get-well card which, of course, I read aloud to Abe. He licked it, which I take to be a sign of approval.

Slower-than-usual Abe

Slower-than-usual Abe

I don’t want to gross out anyone with pictures of, as the veterinarian described it, “Franken-Abe,” so here’s a picture of Matt visiting Abe shortly after his surgery; he had to spend the night after his surgery at the vet, so we stopped by to bother the staff/visit him before nightfall.

Abe shortly after surgery, still on morphine

Abe shortly after surgery, still on morphine- you can see the bandage from his IV too!

Poor Abe obviously doesn’t understand what is happening to him, or why he has to wear a ridiculous layer of shirts and velcro to keep pressure on his wound, but he is so sweet, as ever, and ready to shed his clothing as well as winter fur. Please keep Abe in your thoughts and prayers as he recovers from this surgery and, likely, prepares for the next one.

Love to all.

Gratitude

I’d like to live in the plane of gratitude, not just offer it up when I’m feeling warm and loved. In the way that some pray without ceasing, living and acting from a place of gratitude would have a profound effect on my frame of mind. Instead of shouting at Abe, my dog, for digging up the grass in the backyard and tracking in  mud all over the house, I’d consider my (justified!) anger alongside how much I love him, and how wonderful a presence he is in my home and my life.

My sweet puppy

My sweet, furry, messy puppy

Instead of banging kitchen utensils around in frustration with the half-burned granola I need for one week’s worth of breakfast, I might realize I have the money to buy new ingredients, and be grateful something (even if it is half-burned) will fill my belly each morning to fuel me for that day.

I find it’s often hardest to practice gratitude in the midst of a challenge. Emily, the owner of Blossom Yoga Studio in Laramie, taught a yoga class recently where she constantly encouraged us students to cultivate gratitude, and yet she was simultaneously guiding us into very challenging poses like arm balances.

From YogaJournal.com, this is firefly pose, which is a type of arm balance

From YogaJournal.com, this is firefly pose, which is a type of arm balance

I found myself immediately criticizing – my legs weren’t straight, my hips weren’t high enough off the ground…. There was so much for which I could be thankful, though – the strength of my arms, shoulders, and core; the flexibility of my hamstrings; my perseverance and power; my ability to breathe while I balance; even my having the time for this class, and the teacher, and the studio itself.

When we fall into pattern and familiarity, it’s easier for us to see what’s missing rather than what’s present, which is part of the reason the Holidays can be so hard for people. Families change; people grow up, move away, marry, divorce, and pass on.

Yet great and disruptive change gives us an amazing opportunity to take note of what it is we hold dear, that for which we’re thankful. And once we notice these things, we can turn them over in our minds until they become woven into the very fabric of our way of living, until they become a constant prayer.

I am thankful for the people in my life who love and care about me. I am thankful for the ever-changing seasons. I am thankful for my house and my home, this little town of Laramie in the wide open state of Wyoming. I am thankful for the snow-capped mountains that loom large over Laramie. I am thankful for nourishing food and libations. I am thankful, as always, for a good book (right now I’m reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed). I am thankful for yoga, the yoga community, and for my healthy body.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

You Know You Have a Dog When…

Adopting a dog was something I’ve long wanted to do, even as a poor college student. I grew up with dogs around the house and learned quickly to love their furry companionship, as well as their ability to eat all the weird green and mushroom-y foods I occasionally slipped to them under the table when my parents weren’t looking.

After I graduated and started working as a full-time, degree-holding adult, I began regularly perusing local animal shelter and dog rescue websites for candidates. I couldn’t handle the time commitment and training required by a puppy, and I knew I wanted a big dog. A really big dog who would let me cuddle with him.

So one rainy Saturday morning Matt and I, armed with a printed list of dogs to meet, headed to the local county animal shelter. Most of the dogs, only let out once per day, had urinated or were sitting in their own feces in their little cages. There were several senior black labs who looked excruciatingly depressed. They watched you listlessly as you walked by, no acknowledgement. One puppy was so young he still had the roly-poly stomach of all baby mammals and kept falling over onto himself as a result. He had attracted a group of children who were cooing from the outside of his cage.

Matt and I sat with several dogs. The shelter allows you to go into any of the cages, but you have to stay inside to interact with the dog, and between each visit you are required to change your latex gloves and paper gown. Then, we came upon Abraham.

Abe is a 75-80 lb. lab/hound/German shepherd/mystery mix with a ginormous head and strangely dainty paws. He has a VERY loud bark. Abe was standing on just his hind legs, his front claws grasping at the wire of the cage door, making him almost my height, barking desperately, showing each passerby his long, sparkly, very sharp teeth. Naturally, I made Matt go in first.

With a human cage companion, Abe immediately relaxed. I asked him to sit. He did. I asked him to shake. He placed a little dainty paw in my hand. The shelter’s description said he was “independent” and already house-trained.

Matt and I headed to the front desk and I told the receptionist I’d be back in a day or so for Abraham. “Oh,” she said, “someone just called this morning about coming by today to adopt him. If you really want him, you should adopt him now.”

And so, owning zilch in the way of dog supplies (you know, like food, a leash, a crate…), I signed some papers and walked out of the shelter with a dog named Abe.

Me and Abe, shortly after adoption and a much-needed trip to PetSmart

Me and Abe, shortly after adoption and a necessary trip to PetSmart

Since that day, Abe and I have been on many adventures. He’s been to the beaches of North Carolina, the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia, and, of course, on our crazy cross-country trip out to Wyoming.

Abe, me, and a yummy-looking ice cream cone

Abe, me, and a yummy-looking ice cream cone

And so, without further adoption ado, I bring you:

You Know You Have a Dog When…

  1. Your dryer’s lint trap is 55% fur, 45% lint.
    Backyard Abe with a giant tennis ball
  2. You forget your friend is allergic to dogs until you’re driving them home and they become increasingly unable to breathe unless the windows are rolled down (sorry, Ross).
  3. Your mom asks to Skype with you and the first thing she says is, “Where’s the puppy?”
  4. You’ve learned to put away food/things that smell like food after use, and quickly.

    Snowy Abe

    Snowy Abe

  5. Dog booties research becomes a serious, hours-long endeavor. No? Just me?
  6. You’re more in-tune with your dog’s bodily functions than your own. “Oh, he probably  has to pee now. Wait, when was the last time I ate something?”
  7. “I can’t – I have to walk my dog,” becomes a legitimate way to get out of things, like happy hour, and real exercise.
  8. Your morning routine is mostly your dog’s morning routine. (Breakfast!!!)
  9. If you see a dog in an indoor establishment, you have immediate love and respect for the manager. Kudos, good people!
  10. You just really, really love all dogs. And the people who take care of them.

Who wouldn't love this sweet face?!

Love to all!

First Snow – Yes, Already

This Thursday night it began snowing. I believe the Weather Channel had named this winter storm (emphasis on winter) Atlas. Matt, a few friends of ours, and I were drinking beers and Moscow mules at a bar situated such that the front windows look directly out onto the railroad. You have to stop talking when a train goes by, or else suffer not being heard.

Wet little flakes were spinning toward the ground as we left, but my poor sans-ABS brakes car made it home alright, mostly because everything here is within 5 minutes of everything else.

As we went to bed, I won an argument about how the word “wintry” is spelled. This is significant because I tend to debate things with Matt about which I don’t know very much (e.g. politics, traffic violations, etc.). For the record, Matt thinks it should still be spelled “wintery.”

As you may have guessed, we awoke the next morning to SNOW.

The park across from our house, blanketed in snow

The park across from our house, blanketed in snow

I’ve been trying to walk to work since it’s only five or so blocks from our house. The walk Friday morning was actually quite pleasant, despite the still-falling snow and temperatures in the high 20’s. I pulled out my wool socks, snow boots, and full-length black wool coat (thanks, Goodwill!) for the occasion.

The view down our street

The view down our street

I shoveled the sidewalk in front of my office and regretted leaving my mittens at home. On my lunch break, the walk back home was much less pleasant. The temperature dropped throughout the day as Atlas careened toward South Dakota, and the infamous Laramie wind was beginning to pick up. I pulled my scarf over my face.

Icicles forming on a neighbor's house

Icicles forming on a neighbor’s house

While leftovers were warming up in the microwave, I took Abe for a walk. I think he is obsessed with snow. Seriously! At this point there was a good six inches on the ground, so traipsing through the park was becoming a chore for me in my boots. Abe was fascinated by the scent of snow. He didn’t quite seem to understand that snow by the tree over there was going to smell the same as the snow in our front yard. He had lots of smelling to do.

Abe on our snowy walk

Abe on our snowy walk

We also invented this fun game where I made a snowball and threw it, then Abe ran to fetch it, but as the snowball hit the ground it magically DISAPPEARED. Abe then looked confused for a moment and ran back to me for another snowball.

A pine branch in the park

A pine branch in the park

Despite all the snow, which is mostly melted after today’s sunny weather, it is still very much fall here. Some of the leaves on the cottonwood trees around town are still green, and not all of the aspens have had a chance to turn yellow just yet.

Fall leaves, wintry weather

Fall leaves, wintry weather

I haven’t even bought a pumpkin for carving yet! I did, however, make two dishes last week that featured butternut squash. The local co-op grocery store is stocking its shelves with all sorts of fall squash: pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut, spaghetti, and of course all those other ones that look like lumpy, misshapen pumpkins’ cousins.

Before the snow, Abe guards the homefront via a strategically placed window

Before the snow, Abe guards the homefront via a strategically placed window

Don’t worry, we didn’t let the freezing temperatures dampen our Friday night spirits! Matt managed to get us free tickets to see Chris Thile in town. Thile is an amazing mandolinist whom I’ve had the pleasure of seeing three times now (once with the Punch Brothers at Merlefest, and again with a jazz pianist from Nonesuch Records in Durham, NC). He is a joy to see live! He played everything from Bach to this goofy and hilarious tune. He can even yodel: case in point.

I’m hoping we can visit Fort Collins before the weather gets too bad (please hold off just a little longer, winter!) and do some brewery tours. New Belgium and O’Dell’s are based there, as are many others, both in town and nearby (Coors is in Golden, CO). Maybe I can also swing a trip down to Salt Lake City to visit friends Kyle and Tallie (who also have a blog!), and new resident Sara, but actually just to stock up at Trader Joe’s. I’m also looking forward to starting my yoga teacher training courses next weekend. Look for yoga updates on my blog!

Off to make some scones and then a couple steaks. Saturday night in Wyoming, yeehaw!