The Day the Dog Got Away

Things can go awry in the space of a moment.

It’s been cold in Seattle, but bright-blue skies without a cloud in sight. Yesterday afternoon I called Louie over, put on his harness and retractable leash, and we set out on a walk.

There’s a road near our house that meanders down a green belt. It’s a long road, but ulimately a dead end, so there’s not a lot of traffic. And Louie loves it. Birds chirping, no cars zooming by, lots of fun forest-y smells. We’ve done this walk… I don’t know how many times. I like it, too — the sunlight filters through madronas and maple trees, there’s a creek bubbling along the side of the road. We’ve seen pileated woodpeckers, and there are always squirrels chattering around. This time of year, fallen years pile on the side of the road, and Louie’s tail starts wagging furiously when he trots through them. In short — yesterday we were headed out on a usual walk, in a usual place.

I noticed a fern off the side of the road, backlit by sunlight, and took out my phone to snap a photo. I knelt down to get the shot, stepped into a pile of fallen leaves — and Louie startled at the sound. The leash jumped out of my hand, and the dog bolted.

Now, Louie is a nervous dog. He always has been, and we do things to try and build up his confidence, but I think he’s just always going to be a nervous dog. However, in this instance, I think he would have startled initially, seen things were ok, then stopped… if it weren’t for the retractable leash. As he ran, it dragged behind him on the cement, creating even more noise. And Louie ran, terrified.

Louie’s built like a whippet, and when he runs, he runs. In a matter of seconds, he was far down the road. I started calling his name and headed after him, hoping to calm him down. Then, as Louie was sprinting down the center of the road, a car came around the corner.

I started running, waving my arms to make sure the car saw the situation. The car stopped. But Louie was still running. Before he reached the car, he made a 180 and started running back up the road towards me. I positioned myself to try and get in front of him, to grab him as he zipped by — but I missed. He sped past my left side, and as he did so, the leash wrapped around my ankle. Louie jerked to a halt, the leash tightened, and I fell, hearing a pop as I went down.

I sat in the middle of the road, holding my leash-wrapped ankle, the dog secured but freaked out. I realized that the car was still down the road. I unwrapped the leash, got up, and hobbled to the side of the road.

The car drove forward and stopped when it reached us. The window rolled down, and a woman came into view. “Are you ok?” she said.

Embarassed? Twisted ankle? Still trying to figure out what the hell just happened?

“I’m ok,” I said.

“Can I give you a ride home?”

Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.

We got back home, shaken up and slightly worse for wear. Louie had clipped a nail and was bleeding, and my ankle was swollen. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the living room, me RICE-ing my ankle, Louie on his bed, licking his paw.

I’ve had a zillion ankle injuries in my life, and this one doesn’t seem too bad. So while the ankle is frustrating, the most “WTF” part of the whole situation was the suddenness of it — how we could go from a sun-dappled autumn walk, to the sudden panic of running down the road with a car coming towards me and the loose dog. The day turned on a dime in about ten seconds.

Tomorrow will be a-ok. But today calls for licking wounds and curling up.

The Bees

“What’s that?”

“I think it’s a fly.”

No. No, it was not.

I’ve never been much of a hiker, but last year I decided that since I live in a gorgeous corner of the world, I should boot up and get out there. So far the hiking adventures have been… minimal. But! Good intentions! And it was with those good intentions that Audrey and I set out to the Mountain Loop Highway this past weekend.

Stillaguamish River on Mountain Loop Highway

Mountain Loop Highway is a really beautiful drive that travels along some meandering rivers and pretty epic forests. Most places in the Northwest, you throw a stick and you find a place to hike. So we figured we’d putter along the road until we saw some trailhead signs and take it from there.

It took us much longer to find a trailhead sign than we originally envisioned, but finally we spotted one. I turned the car right and headed up a gravel road that climbed…and climbed…and climbed. We joked that the landscape around us was either Middle Earth or Jurassic Park — but seriously, it was weird. Woods of reddish trees filled with shadow and light, crazy big-ass plants that seriously looked like something a dinosaur would nibble on, and bright purple foxgloves dotting the road.

Finally the gravel road ended, and we came to what looked like a trailhead (I mean, there were other cars there, it had to be something). We clambered out of the car and, after sticking water bottles and a box of crackers in Audrey’s backpack, started walking.

After about twenty yards down the trail, we heard the buzzing.

“What’s that?” asked Audrey.

“I think it’s a fly.”

It was a lone bee, circling Audrey. Now, Audrey is not a bee fan, having stepped on a hive once as a child. So, understandably, she wasn’t too keen on this bee following her. And it was following her. She jogged forward a couple paces, hoping to lose it. Nothing. She ran backwards — nope, still there. Finally, after some very determined maneuvers, she seemed to have lost the thing. We forged on.

I’m just gonna tell you guys now — this trail was a dud. After walking for less than half a mile on loose shale, we ended up in this weird semi-circle of rotting tree stumps. It looked like there’d maybe been a forest fire through there at some point, and we were looking at the aftermath. It was…interesting? I guess? But odd, I got a weird vibe from it — and there was no trail leaving the semi-circle. That was about the point that we decided no, this trail wasn’t working, time to pack it in.

Rotting Stump on Mountain Loop Highway
A rotting stump on the weird semi-circle.

Of course, the only way out was to come back the way we came — which at first was fine. And then the buzzing started.

“Is it back?” said Audrey.

Yes, it was. Just the one at first. And then as we kept going it was joined by another…and another.

I like bees. Mason bees are useful. Honey bees provide me with delicious sweets. The bumblebees that lumber around my lithadora amuse me to no end. But these bees? These bees didn’t seem too happy. And as they kept circling Audrey — and, by extension, me — they seemed to grow less and less happy.

“Why don’t we try running a little bit,” I said, “see if we can lose them.”

We ran about ten yards down the trail and stopped, listening for the tell-tale signs. Yup, still there. And what was more, the number of bees had definitely increased. In my mind, there were dozens. In reality — there were probably eight or nine. But, you know, eight or nine is plenty when they’re frickin’ following you and circling your heads.

I can’t remember if we agreed to start running again or just started. And as we ran down the trail, the bees followed us. I could hear them whipping around my head (and one of them INTO my head). I kept waiting to feel a sting.

“Ok,” I said, reaching into my pocket for the car keys. “I’m going to open the car from a little distance, then we’ll run and jump in. Just…don’t let any bees in.”

As the car came into sight, I pressed the unlock button — the headlights flashed to say hello. Audrey and I picked up the pace over the last few yards and, without pausing, yanked open the car doors, jumped in, and slammed them behind us.

We listened for a moment. No buzzing — the car was quiet. I’m still not quite sure how we managed to get in there without a single bee, but we did. As we sat there flabbergasted and laughing, I looked out the window and saw a lone bee sitting on the side-view mirror, looking in.

Know When to Fold

Seattle takes its summer solstice seriously. It really is a glorious day — light around 5am, just getting dark by 10pm. And since the rest of the year can be such a Gloomy Gus, you get into the mindset that you need to do ALL THE THINGS! Have ALL THE ADVENTURES! Grab those long summer days by the balls and just run with it.

Enter the Fremont Solstice Parade. The annual event is a celebration of… you know, honestly, I’m not sure. I’m gonna guess the sun? The only reason I’ve ever heard of people going is to see the naked, painted bicycle riders. That’s it in a nutshell (PUNS! I got ’em!). I had never been to the parade, so when some friends asked if we wanted to meet up for brunch then watch, we said, “Sure!” Adventure, commence!

Now, 2013 is my year of saying yes. But there are several things I know about myself. One of these being I don’t really do large crowds. They make me claustrophobic. But I conveniently ignored this fact, and we — Byron, Byron’s sister and myself — set off for adventure.

Half an hour into our drive, we got a text: “Abort the plan. Everyone just get to Fremont.” Traffic, all across the city, was…well, let’s just say, from our house it should take 20 minutes to get to Fremont. Maybe 30, tops.

2 hours.

2 HOURS. That was one long, hot cranky car ride.

Here’s another thing I know about myself: when I get hungry, I get HUNGRY. Or, as we call it, hangry (a combination of hunger and anger that is fearsome to behold). By the time we finally arrived in Fremont, found parking, got down to the festival, it was about an hour and a half past when we were supposed to be eating brunch. I had pretty much bypassed hanger and was in shutting-down mode. Everyone’s immediate mission became to find Laura food… which I’m sure was so much fun for everyone involved.

(It should be noted at this point that we DID see some naked painted cyclists, but I was too far gone into my hunger misery to do much more than think, “Huh. That guy’s butt is orange.”)

After wandering through the dense, dense crowd, we did finally inhale overpriced hot dogs and lemonades. And now the mission was back on: find our friends. But as they were at one side of the dense sea of festival-goers, and we were at the other — problematic. We thought we’d be smart and go AROUND the festival. Nope. That just led to hills. Hills upon hills, in the hot solstice sun.

We were fed, but still cranky. Still slogging towards the destination of FUN, DAMMIT. And finally I said,

“Team meeting. Do we want to keep going, or do we want to quit?” The vote was unanimous.

Fortunately the car ride home wasn’t too bad. I felt kind of bad abandoning the solstice parade, but you know? There’s saying “yes”, and then there’s being stubborn. Sometimes you gotta know when to fold.

The Bone, and Other Discoveries

Sunday I found a bone in the backyard.

I mean, that’s the gist of this story. Your one-sentence summary.

If you live in Seattle, and if you’re me, when the sun comes out you cannot resist the urge to say, “OMG GO OUTSIDE NOW DO ALL THE THINGS!”

So, we did. We got a free lawn mower (thanks, Craigslist!) and mowed the front lawn. We fertilized the sad rhododendron (DO NOT DIE ON ME). And we continued to tame the wild forest that is our backyard.

Can I even tell you how much trash was hidden amongst all that ivy? I seriously think some neighbor saw it and thought, “Well, they’re never going to find ANYTHING in that,” and just started chucking things over the fence. Old peanut butter jars? License plates? Rags? Check, check and check.

Byron was being a total amazing trooper and pulling out the last dreadful patch of ivy, and I was kind of half-assedly moving some dirt around with a shovel. And then I saw what was very clearly a bone.

You know how I joked that we hadn’t found a body buried in the yard? First thought: “Holy shit there IS a body buried in the backyard.”

And then I sat back and studied the thing and… well, it didn’t really look human? I mean, I don’t study a lot of human bones, but I just can’t think what part of the body this would come from. It’s kind of shaped like a fat T, and about the size of my fist when I ball my hand up. I poked it with the shovel and saw the hole in the center where once, long ago, there must have been marrow.

Me to Byron: “I just found a bone.”

Byron to me: “Huh, ok.”

Alright, he was still cursing ivy, so I let his disinterest slide. But as soon as he finished wrestling the GIANT ball of ivy into the yard waste, I said, “So…did you want to see that bone?”

We tromped back to the spot and Byron looked down at it. “Yup, it does look like a bone.”

“But what is it from?”

“Probably a cow or a pig.”

“…THERE’S A COW OR A PIG BURIED IN MY BACKYARD?”

“No, like someone was eating a steak or pork chop and threw the bone back here.”

He seemed pretty confident. I remain unconvinced. But you know what? I really just don’t want to know. If there’s a bovine carcass in my backyard, it can stay there, buried, WHERE IT BELONGS. I don’t want to find a hoof poking up among the azaleas.

And then I thought, what if it is human? What if amongst all that plastic wrap there was a body? And I came to the same conclusion: nope. Don’t want to know.

I’m not totally sure what that says about me as a person — that I’m ok with a hypothetical body staying buried in my yard. I think I’ve just settled on the conclusion that I’m lazy and don’t want to deal with a homegrown murder mystery. But let’s be honest — that’s not too much of a discovery. We already knew that.

That Time I Almost Met Fabio (But Ended Up Acting Like A Middle School Girl)

This is my friend Rachael. This is a photo of my friend Rachael with Fabio, a photo which lives on my fridge and stares at me whenever I get yoghurt or beer.

376652_616070014243_877762989_n

Last night I went to the fancy-pants grocery store to buy champagne (as one does on a Thursday night). I walked past the cheese and produce thinking, “Oh, I hope there some cheese samples tonight OH HOLY SHIT THAT IS FABIO.”

Yes, there was Fabio, surrounded by a small group of people (mostly women). You should know: THIS IS NOT THAT WEIRD. Fabio is shilling some new health food product these days so has been making the fancy-pants grocery store rounds. This is how Rachael met him several months back, before she snuck that photo on my fridge.

But, you know, I still wasn’t expecting to see HELLO FABIO at 8 o’clock on a Thursday night at my grocery store. Fabio has never been my cup of tea, but I will say, in person, he cuts a STRIKING figure. Taller than I expected and good bone structure (what, it’s totally a thing). He actually looked like a pretty nice guy — chatting with all the ladies and whatnot. I couldn’t believe I’d run into the dude on my fridge. And I realized I HAD to get a picture for Rachael.

Only — I didn’t want to be the creeper sneaking photos. I mean, there was even a sign up basically asking the creepers of the world NOT to do that. But I HAD to get this photo. I am decidedly NOT GOOD when it comes to this sort of thing. I get all psyched out and then just deflate like a sad balloon. I was giving myself little pep talks about it, trying to get pumped up. Do I go stand in the crowd? Do I introduce myself? Do I walk up and say, “Hi, you met my friend and your picture is on my fridge”?

And just as I was trying to nut up, Fabio saw me walking past, made eye contact, and smiled.

And I…smirked.

I think that’s the only thing that can describe the facial expression I made. It definitely wasn’t in the smile territory. It was a smirk born out of “OMFG FABIO IS MAKING EYE CONTACT ABORT ABORT!”

So did I pull it together and go say hello? Get the picture for my friend? No. Of course not. I scurried over to the champagne area and HID BEHIND THE BOTTLES, sneaking glances at the crowd. Sorry, 2013, this “being brave” thing is off to a mediocre start.

Fabio, if you ever read this, the smirking girl says “hello.” Oh, and your picture is on my fridge.