Posts Tagged ‘Standard Poodle’

Mt. Willard

Even though Fall colors won’t be at their peak for another 3 weeks, we decided to hike to the top of Mt. Willard, which has a panoramic view of Crawford Notch on the New Hampshire side of the White Mountains.




The climb is labeled “moderate.”  At 1.6 miles each way, it only take a little more than an hour to reach the top if you are in average condition, and is certainly suitable for families with small children.  The hike can really be divided into thirds:  the first third the grade is moderately steep; the second third the grade is gentle, with lots of rocks; and the third and final stage (just when the kids will start complaining) suddenly becomes nearly level and very easy.  The granite viewing ledge is expansive, as is the magnificent view.  You can see the train tracks reaching far into Crawford Notch that are serviced by the Conway Scenic Railroad, and perhaps the Willey House far into the distance if the day is really clear. The Willeys were a homesteading family that met a tragic end in 1826.  You can read about it here







After the hike, our pup Truman was quite tired out.  He fell asleep on the way home while sticking his head out of our car’s window, his ears blowing wildly in the breeze.



An Absorbing Morning

The foliage is starting to turn and the nights are definitely cooler.  I’ve been putting off a chore I hate – painting – but I could put it off no longer.  The trim on our house is now 6 years old, and looks scraggly and worn.  If I waited to paint until Fall I risked the air being too cold for the paint to dry properly, not to mention the possibility of rain.  It was now or never.

I spent a couple of hours scraping loose, peeling paint and smoothing the remainder.  My husband helped by putting our very tall and heavy ladder against the house. Carefully balancing the paint bucket in one hand and the brush in the other, I leaned against the ladder just so, praying that my balance would hold and I could get the job done without calling in an expert.

It went better and quicker than I thought it would.  A new coat of paint is an amazing thing:  the house looks new again.  What I didn’t realize is that my Standard Poodle, Truman, was concerned about my being so high off the ground on the ladder.  He was determined to not let me out of his sight, so he got as close to me as he could – – directly under the ladder.  I couldn’t see him and didn’t know he was there.

His cream-colored fur absorbed the dark bronze paint drips nicely, better than any drop cloth.  When I rounded a corner, he did too – – by cocking his head and leaning his neck against a freshly painted post.  Soon he resembled a pinto-colored horse.

Naturally I didn’t discover my dog’s new look until the paint had completely dried.  I spent the next twenty minutes with a scissors and electric clippers, cutting out huge chunks of hardened, dark bronze colored fur from his head, neck, ears and back.  Now he resembles a molting moose, and it isn’t pretty.



Swimming Lessons

Although Standard Poodles are usually natural water dogs and love swimming, my previous Standard Poodle only liked it if his feet could touch the bottom – – I guess you’d call it wading.  Since we’ve had some very hot days this past week, the lake finally warmed up enough for us to go swimming, so on Friday afternoon we decided to take our first dip of the year and of course we brought Truman.

He loved the water and caught on to swimming immediately.  Soon he was swimming out to deeper water with great joy, retrieving sticks that we’d thrown.  Only a few days ago I gave him a very short haircut – – it made me sad to say goodbye to his fluffy, luxuriant puppy hair – – but I was getting tired of bathing him and brushing out the tangles on a daily basis after he went exploring in muddy areas around our property.  The shorter cut makes what I hope will be daily swims in the lake all pleasure for him and low maintenance for me.




Evans Notch – Spring 2016


Two weeks ago Truman and I climbed Little Deer Hill and Big Deer Hill, a total of 4 miles round trip.  Short, but sweet, there are some steep parts but it’s not a killer hike.  It had really warmed up — 64 degrees with brilliant sunshine – but the key here is that it was nice and breezy, which means NO BUGS when hiking! Hooray!

When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot, there was only one other car. Up we went to Little Deer Hill. We passed the NH-ME border marker.




deerhill1During the entire climb up that mountain, we caught the wind coming off of Evans Notch.  The summit views of Mt. Meader, and No. and So. Baldface Mountains were clear and lovely.



deerhill3After admiring the view from the top (where Truman sat like he was King of the Mountain; he owned it), we went down the other side of that mountain, and then up to Big Deer Hill. The view from the top of Big Deer Hill looks down upon Deer Hill Bog, which is only 3 miles from my house.  Unfortunately on this side of the mountain, there was no breeze, so the blackflies were swarming and I didn’t stay more than a minute.


We were the only ones on the entire mountain; the only noise was of the breeze and various songbirds.  We got to the dam on the bottom of Little Deer Hill, explored the shoreline, and headed back to the car.  There must have been 20 cars in the parking lot trailhead upon our return!  Now you know where people from Maine and New Hampshire go when they call in sick on a Tuesday morning!  Nature lovers find a beautiful day hard to pass up.


I really didn’t want the day to end, so I drove to the Basin for some pictures. The wind was gusting and actually blew my scarf right off my head.  It was a gorgeous day and I was back home in time for lunch.




Happy Sunday

This past Sunday was one of those days when everything went right.  Now that we’re in the midst of blackfly and tick season, hiking gets pretty uncomfortable when the weather is sunny and calm.  Saturday it was a sunny, gorgeous 80 degrees, so I made sure to wear a bug net whenever I took the dog for a walk.  Unless it’s really breezy, the blackflies love to swarm all over you.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been pulling off a minimum of 10 ticks a day from my dog, and 5 ticks from myself, despite the use of repellents.

So I was not disappointed to wake up to a blustery, cloudy Sunday in the 40s.  Although rain threatened, at least it meant that we could go walking unmolested by bugs.

But first, we needed to dump our trash and recyclables at the transfer station.  I was delighted to find several great books at the freecycle station.  When I finish the books I will return them to the freecycle area so someone else can enjoy them.  I also contributed several old garden pots that I had no plans to plant to the giveaway pile.

From the transfer station we continued a few miles up the road to visit our friend Paul’s building site (I guess you could call it tresspassing since he wasn’t there).  Paul is building a new, off-grid home there and is doing everything singlehandedly.  For the past several months he’s been busy grading the area, and raising the site with packed dirt since the house will sit along the river and he has to worry about a flood line.  We were really impressed with the attractive retaining wall he set.  The house will overlook the river, where I’m anxious (with Paul’s permission) to bring my kayak and try a little trout fishing.

By now the skies were looking a bit mean so we thought we’d forget a hike and just take a scenic drive.  We went up the Crooked River Causeway and then drove west on Route 2, taking in the grandeur of the northern White Mountain Peaks.  We turned into a parking area at Rattle River trailhead, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, and decided to walk the gentle 1.8 miles to the shelter erected for the benefit of thru-hikers.  (A thru-hiker is someone who hikes the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.) We figured a little rain wouldn’t hurt us.



Fortunately, the weather held, and there were no bugs! The many small flumes and cascades along the Rattle River were incredibly soothing and beautiful.  Although we’ve taken this walk several times before, it never gets old.  The last time I was there I was with our dog Spencer, who died this past September.  Now we were accompanied by Truman, our 7 month-old Standard Poodle puppy, and it was fun to experience the walk through his doggie eyes and nose, as he exuberantly discovered the joys of the Rattle River trail for the first time.  It made the old new again.















It was also lovely to see trillium, a type of wildflower in purple or white, in bloom.20160515_133817




From the Rattle River we headed over to Gorham NH to do my week’s worth of food shopping at the Super WalMart (the only major food shopping in that area; it saved me a trip into town later in the week).  I know a lot of people who hate WalMart and won’t shop there out of principle, but ask anyone living in a rural area and they will tell you that WalMart is a blessing.  The one-stop shopping saves rural folks from traveling 100 miles into the closest city to supply their needs, and at reasonable prices.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a large selection of organic produce at this WalMart!

From Gorham we traveled back on Rte 2, but instead of returning the way we had come, we went down the 113, which is Evans Notch; it’s one of my favorite drives in the area.  The views are magnificent, the Notch is filled with dozens of challenging hiking trails, and there is always a chance of seeing a moose.  We didn’t see a moose, but we did see very fresh, recent beaver activity along a river.  The beavers appeared to be decimating the entire shoreline, working on felling several large trees simultaneously along the riverbank.







Thanks to the longer days, when we got home there was still time to sow some beet seeds in the raised-bed garden.  I’ve also planted garlic, kale, and some winter squash, and last year’s strawberry plants are doing nicely.  My only garden disaster (so far) is the complete failure of my apple orchard.  Although I attended a university extension course on apple growing, fed them, talked to them (and God),  pruned them, and generally babied my apple trees for the past 5 years,  I had yet to see  even a single apple blossom and no apples, despite a proliferation of leaves!  Even putting a beehive next to the trees didn’t help them pollinate. Finally, finally – – four apple blossoms!


Will they make it?  Who knows.  I’ve been vigilant about removing insect nests that hatch worms and devour young apple leaves on an almost daily basis.  I’m trying to keep the orchard organic, so pesticide is a no-no.   Meanwhile I have 8 organic apple trees that mock me daily, a life lesson and humbling reminder of the fact that despite my best efforts, I am not always the one in control.


Spring 2016

There is a saying in Maine:  “If you don’t like the weather, wait a moment.”


And that pretty much sums up our early Spring.  As of last week, even the most stubborn ice melted from the lakes and ponds as temperatures ramped up to the 50s and 60s.  The woods came alive with sound:  Canada geese and various wood ducks mating and nesting; Spring Peepers; beavers emerging from their dams and whacking the water with their tails; a long, harmless garden snake emerged from the rock in front of me and slithered away; the newspaper warned homeowners to put away their bird feeders as bears emerge from hibernation.  And then, today, a “polar vortex” swooped down and splashed us with violent winds and fierce cold.  After this past week of warmth, tonight’s temperatures will see a low of 4 degrees F.

While still warm, I took the opportunity to empty a year’s worth of discarded fruit and vegetable peels, spent coffee grinds, and crushed eggshells – – now turned into rich, earthy soil – –  from our compost bin.  It filled two huge wheelbarrow loads and I transported it to my orchard, where after aerating ground near the trees’ roots, the compost provided some fertile food for the apple trees and there was even enough left over for the blueberry bushes. It was great to touch the warm earth, and feel the sun on my face, but best of all, it was a pleasure to work the soil and complete all my early gardening needs without the hum and sting of blackflies, deerflies or mosquitoes.




Inspired by a week of beautiful days, Truman (our new puppy) and I hiked and bushwhacked in the woods near our house.





On one of these walks I met a new neighbor who built a cabin last year on land that her grandfather had bought when he was in high school, back in the early 20s.  Now all the descendants of this man – a son and daughter, cousins, nieces and nephews, are slowly reclaiming parcels for self-sufficient homes and cabins of their own. It’s a wonderful legacy and I’m sure he’d be thrilled that the extended family remains close, and that it’s his large, remote parcel bought so long ago that brings them together.   All of them see themselves as stewards of the land, ensuring that its natural resources will not be misused, but will provide them with the wealth of clean air, pure water, and fresh produce from the earth to their tables, and a lasting appreciation of the glory, beauty and power of nature in these woods.


Although I’m not a fan of daylight saving’s time, I did appreciate the ability to take evening walks with my husband after his workday ended at 5.30 pm, knowing it would still be light when we got back, even if we walked 3 or 4 miles.  Away from the city, it’s such a pleasure to be less distracted, live slower, to breathe deeper, and be able to focus more easily on sights, sounds, and the ones we love.




Dog Woes

Spencer on the day of his devastating diagnosis.

Spencer on the day of his devastating diagnosis.


This was a tough Spring and Summer in Maine.  The bugs were out in full force and constantly biting.  As miserable as it was, it was worse for my Standard Poodle, Spencer, who was left scratching and biting and licking all the discomforts his skin suffered from bug bites. (Yes, our dog is an “indoor dog” – – except when we are outdoors, which is a lot of the time.  And yes, we use Heartguard and Frontline.  But you can’t put DEET insect repellent on a dog.)

So when Spencer started licking a bit under his tail I thought it was kind of gross, but figured he’d stop when the discomfort of a bite faded away.  He was still occasionally licking the area in September once the bugs were gone, but I couldn’t find any irritation on his tail that would indicate he’d been bitten.  So when I dropped him off to be groomed, I asked my groomer, Chris, to check and make sure he didn’t have a clogged or overly full anal sac.  Spencer had not been “scooting” on the ground which would have hinted at this problem, but I figured since Chris was going to be grooming him anyway, it was a good opportunity to check.

Her answer was alarming.  “Something is wrong,” she said.  “The sac is hard and dry, and it felt weird.  You need to go see a vet – – immediately.”

We were leaving for Maine in two days so I decided to wait until we got back to Maine before having him seen.  Within a day or two of being back, I took Spencer to the vet for an exam.  Meanwhile, ever the clown, Spencer was his exuberant, happy self; he was eating well; and still enjoyed chasing a ball and going for long walks.  I had no reason at this point to be overly concerned.  But the vet sucker-punched me.

“Bad news.  Spencer has a walnut-sized growth in his anal sac, and these types of things are almost always adenocarcinoma.”


She said he needed surgery sooner than later, but it would require a specialty surgeon, due to the delicacy of the area.  “I don’t have enough experience with soft tissue surgery of this nature.  And I’m likely to do more harm than good if I need to get aggressive.”  She recommended a specialty veterinary surgery practice in Portland ME – – but when she got an estimate from them by phone, it was $4,000!!!!

That’s when I cried.  I felt like it was only my inability (and let’s be honest, my unwillingness) to come up with such a hefty sum that was dooming my dog to a premature death.  I felt so guilty!  I called two vets back in my hometown for a second and third opinion, and they both said the same thing:  Spencer would require a surgical specialist to do the surgery.

Maybe in big cities you can find specialists, but in rural Maine it’s another story.  For one thing, out in the country many dogs are working dogs.  Many of them live outside or in a barn.  Many people in the country are of very limited financial means.  If a dog gets really sick, and they don’t have the money for a vet, they will euthanize the animal (and many will simply shoot the animal behind the barn).  That’s life in the country.  They may feel sad, but not sentimental.  Bad things happen, and that’s just part of life.  So there is very little incentive for vet specialists to set up practice in rural Maine.

None of the vets I called within an hour’s drive of my house in Maine said they had the expertise for this surgery (at least they were honest).  I called the renowned Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and Foster Hospital for Small Animals in North Grafton, Massachusetts – – and they quoted me a price that was a fraction of the $4,000 quoted earlier by the specialty vet practice in Portland.  Even though it was a 3 1/2 hour ride from our house in Maine, I made an appointment for a consult and the surgery, which would take place in a week’s time.

I couldn’t bear to euthanize him, because he was not ready to die, nor was I willing to let him go – – at least, not yet.  Spencer certainly didn’t realize he was terminally ill!  He was bouncing around jubilantly and not currently suffering in any way.  Partly I was in denial – – how could a creature so full of life be dying?

On Friday, a week before the upcoming surgery, we were playing hard outside.  It was a game of chase combined with hide and seek.  First, I would hide.  Then he’d try to find me.  Then he’d run like the wind to get away from me, encouraging me to chase and “catch” him if I could.  Of course I never could, and he loved that.  Then it was my turn to hide again and the whole scene repeated itself.  He always loves to play this game and he always sports a huge devil-dog “grin.”

But on Saturday morning, he most uncharacteristically did not get up from his bed to do his business outside.  Instead, he lay on his dog bed, listless and apathetic.  My first thought was that the cancer must be super-aggressive, and perhaps this was the beginning of the end.  When I finally convinced him to get up and go outside, he hobbled painfully.  But upon examination I couldn’t find anything wrong with his feet or legs.  The entire day he was stiff and clearly in some kind of pain.

By evening things deteriorated dramatically.  He was hot to the touch, as if he was running a fever.  But – – and this had NEVER happened before – – he would not let me touch him at all.  His right front leg was completely lame, but I could not visually see anything wrong with it.  The pain was so intense that the muscles of his leg were involuntarily quivering.  The closest 24 hour emergency vet facility is about an hour away, but since his cancer diagnosis I knew they would want to run tests with equipment their clinic didn’t have, and they would send me on to Portland.  So I waited until the first morning’s light and set out for the Tufts Foster Animal Hospital emergency room.  Luckily I had all his vet medical records on hand.

From the time I put Spencer into the car until 3 1/2 hours later when we arrived, Spencer’s leg had meanwhile swollen to gross proportions.  He also had a tennis-ball-sized lump in his joint that was soft and mushy.  His pain was extreme.

“I think it’s bone cancer,” the intern (1st year medical resident) said.  She recommended an x-ray, but said that if the x-ray showed cancer, I’d have to have his leg amputated and even then, his prognosis would be extremely poor so it would be in his best interest to be euthanized.  Her severe hypothesis came as such a shock to me that I burst into tears. Meanwhile the lump on his leg burst and (spoiler alert: this gets gross) it started seeping pus and blood.

“Well,” she said after the x-ray, “the radiologist (yes, there are vet radiologists! And just about every other specialty too, from ophthalmologists to oncologists to orthopedists to nephrologists to neurologists to surgeons, etc.) said that there is no evidence of bone cancer.  So that’s good news.  But we need to figure out what IS happening and why.  Meanwhile I’m starting him on an antibiotic IV to see if we can control the infection.”  Cummins vet school at Tufts is a teaching hospital, but overall the vet residents are really smart people.  Statistically it’s actually harder to get into Tufts vet school than it is to Harvard medical school.  But it was interesting to see how Spencer’s cancer diagnosis prejudiced the resident giving the intake exam, and that bias made her overreach her initial assessment regarding his leg.

Spencer was then seen by an Attending (yes, veterinary medicine in the US is engineered similarly to our medical school system: after veterinary medical school vets do an internship and residency, and there is a chief resident and an attending physician on duty at the hospital for in-patient creatures big and small), who then referred him to the surgeon on duty.  Here is where we really lucked out, because Dr. Kudej (pronounced KOO-jee) is arguably the best surgeon at Tufts and a professor of veterinary medicine at the school.  Besides being a true mensch and explaining things carefully and giving me all the options for Spencer’s care, he consistently kept in touch with me in person and via cell phone throughout the entire ordeal.

As it turned out, Spencer’s infected leg was the result of a totally freak accident and had nothing whatsoever to do with his cancer.  While we were playing on Friday, he suffered a puncture from a small piece of bark or wood that was lying about.  He must have slammed into it very hard, because although it was small it traveled up into his leg five inches (!) taking with it a bunch of his hair (poodles have hair, not fur), and the two foreign bodies (hair, wood) caused massive infection.    Spencer would not only need surgery to remove the cancerous growth; he would require surgery to open up the entire length of his leg and debride it.

Spencer a few hours after his surgery, feeling pretty woozy and miserable.  I gave him a personal "cast signing party" which fell out on the 5th game of the World Series.  One of the residents was originally from Kansas City and was delighted by my "artwork."

Spencer a few hours after his surgery, feeling pretty woozy and miserable. I gave him a personal “cast signing party” which fell out on the 5th game of the World Series. One of the residents was originally from Kansas City and was delighted by my “artwork.”


As far as the surgery to remove the growth, the real question is how far the cancer had metastasized.  An ultrasound revealed that his lymph nodes near the abdomen were enlarged – – a really bad sign – – and there was a tiny lesion on his spleen.  Dr. Kudej indicated that for the best outcome, he would have to remove the lymph nodes and spleen, which was a rather involved abdominal incision and surgery that would require a longer post-op recovery.  And expense:  it would be an additional $2,000.  But Dr. Kudej was not finished.  He suggested that Spencer ideally should undergo both chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  The chemo would be administered weekly by IV; and the radiation was not only a huge commitment of time, it would be an additional $5,000 – $6,000!!!!

Once again I cried.  I knew there was no way I was going to commit this kind of money to my dog’s recovery, nor was I going to put the dog through the pain and suffering of treatment which would buy him an extra year at most beyond treating the primary cancer.  The vet said that the goal was not to “cure” Spencer: since his cancer was terminal, the chemo/radiation was merely to extend his life.  I was heartbroken, but knew that we would not be treating him beyond removing the primary tumor.

It is hard, but I have to put it into perspective.  I am very sad about the cancer diagnosis, but I am also glad it is not my husband, children or grandchildren.  Spencer is such a wonderful dog.  He’s a companion for my many walks and hikes in the White Mountains.  He’s a loving dog with great tolerance and love for baby grandchildren who unintentionally clobber him or pet him a little too hard.  He loves to run around with the older grandkids and appreciates their attention and excitement, and has taught them a bit about pet ownership and responsibility that they would not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.  There is not a person or other dog that he doesn’t greet with excitement and friendliness and love.  He can be wild and crazy and fun, but is always gentle and kind.  I cannot justify spending tens of thousands of dollars on my dog, although I met many caring people while waiting in the emergency room at Tufts who were doing just that, and no, they were (mostly) not neurotic (stay tuned for more about our Tufts adventure in a future blog post).  I will not judge them for their decisions to treat their animals sparing no expense, though those decisions are different from mine; and I only ask that they not judge me.  My goal is simply to appreciate Spencer for whatever time we have left (6 months?  1 year?), and when the joy goes out of his demeanor, and he is in pain that cannot be resolved, I will know it is time for us to say a final goodbye.

Right now Spencer is full of life, and enjoying every minute of it.

If you click on this link you will see Spencer a week after his surgery, once again playing “catch me if you can.”  He is wearing an e-collar temporarily until his stitches dissolve.