Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rough day

I'm off for the rest of the year and won't be back to work until January. I have a lot to do before I drive to Chicagoland on Sunday with Eric. Besides the proverbial "packing," I also have to complete product reviews for Amazon (I don't want to take all the items with me on this trip!) and clean up the dining area. It looks far too much like an abandoned, filthy warehouse with cardboard boxes and packing material. Writing reviews is now more for me than just relaxing at night with an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of the latest history or science book.

The day was at first a typical day for me, as I sat in my office reading an ARC from Amazon. I normally read my books at night (when I normally have some peace, since Kevin goes to bed early every night and Eric is at work). I often try out several products and then sit down and write several reviews at once, to maintain momentum. Yesterday I tried out WipeNew, a headlight restorer chemical, a few small electronics, and continued reading "Red Notice" by Bill Browder, about his harrowing experience as an investment banker under Putin's new Russia. Pache sauntered into my office, flopped on my lap for attention, while hissing at the scent of Miss Kitty in my office. He let me pet him but hissed and swiped at me in the process. What's up with his aggression (other than not liking other cats?) When I got up close to his face, his extended paw swiped me over my upper lip. I now sport two small wounds there. Lovely. And this from my own cat.

I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out my van and setting it up with a new, more sturdy cot so that Eric and I can take turns laying down and resting while the other person is driving. I wanted this done before the forecasted storm came and got things colder and wetter. Naturally I found stuff in the back of the van that was placed there before my road trip to Oregon in June...Being neat and tidy is definitely not my forte. My father's spirit is taking over.

But is Eric in the mood to be with his friends and family? He seemed so out of it yesterday, coming home from work around 10pm and searching through the kitchen (I'm assuming to look for something to eat). He was, as usual, laconic in his responses. He doesn't like it when I ask if we can talk, and instead goes into his room. "Do you still want to drive home for Christmas?" I asked, was answered with a "Meh."

Last night, however, he drove off, which he's done a few times when he's been feeling blue, only to come back late at night or early in the morning. Sometimes he just goes for long walks at night with just the clothes he's been wearing all day. I do not know where he goes, but whenever he takes off like that, I worry. He does not come home drunk or disorderly, though. He's been depressed like this since coming back from his summer vacation in Indiana last August. I know he needs professional help.

Eric mentioned a week ago that he felt Kevin resented him being here with us. I hope that is not true. I enjoy having him here as he's an extra set of eyes and ears for the animals. He gets along great with Minnie and is gentle to all the animals. He helps out when we ask him to and is reliable. I don't want him to feel unwanted, as that only feeds on his depression.

It was also around the same time that Miss Kitty, my little feral, had escaped from my office. She had been in the office since my two foster kittens went to PetSmart and were adopted out last Thursday. She seemed unhappy in my office (I would be too; what a cluttered mess!) but lately she had been scratching at the lower door as if to escape. She must have run out when I didn't close the office door all the way, and shortly thereafter I heard Kevin yell something incoherent from where I was in my office. Miss Kitty had gotten into our bedroom and had gotten Sweetie to attack her, which caused Miss Kitty to hide under Kevin's nightstand.

"Connie, see this!" he yelled at me. I was afraid to see carnage. I couldn't see her when I looked at the area he was pointing at, and Kevin was not patient at all with me. He usually isn't after drinking his daily amount of beer. Miss Kitty was instead hiding behind his DVD pile on the lower shelf of his nightstand and looking scared, but otherwise fine. She did not growl at me. I had to have all the dogs and Kevin outside to lure Miss Kitty back into a carrier and back into her XL crate where she was with my foster kittens last week. There were no wounds on her, but her neck was wet from Sweetie's saliva. This, I know, was a close call. I gave her a new kitty bed, fresh food and water, and she slept well for the night in her crate. For the first time in days, she did not meow. This morning she's still rather quiet. When my other two foster kittens were with me, she'd join them in unison and meow for their canned kitten food. Instead, she got up to sniff her Fancy Feast Kitten, but didn't devour it as usual. This is not the kitten I know!

She did, however, show an interest in part of a dead pack rat I found on the back porch later this morning, a small rat that was killed and torn to bits by one of the dogs. Where are these pack rats coming from? The old, moldy garage next door, where a few years ago we had a bad mouse infestation?

Will Miss Kitty ever warm up to people? I've had her now since September and she's calmed down some. Did yesterday's experience with Sweetie, however, traumatize her? She doesn't mind being petted, but she doesn't like being picked up. Ferals often need months to calm down toward humans, if they ever do. But keeping her in a 48" long crate seems inhumane in the long run. Yet I can't just set her free outside, not in this cold weather with no time to re-adapt to the weather.

Yesterday's experience with Pache, Eric, Miss Kitty and even Kevin seemed all so surreal. Even I am not in the mood to drive 1900 miles (one-way!) to Chicagoland to see Erin and Carol and her family. I haven't had the Christmas Spirit hit me yet. That long, cold drive alone always offsets me. At least I have company with Eric, but if he won't talk to me, how much better will his presence be for the both of us? The older I get, the more I dread this time of year. My daughter Erin is eight months pregnant with Owen, who is due around my birthday next month. I have so many things I've gotten for her, Nick and Ethan that I must go!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend fun with the dogs

Saturday the hiking club had its annual Christmas picnic at Fairbank. Although I didn't go on the hike that preceded the picnic, I brought my water-loving dogs Zeke and Minnie along, with the intent to take them to the nearby San Pedro River after the picnic. There were three other dogs there, all separated from each other. Minnie barked at a few of them as I kept a tight leash on the dogs, who were more interested in having some leftover chicken anyway. They got plenty of chicken when the food was delivered at noon.
Only 23 people showed up, and everyone left as soon as they had eaten, an hour later. There weren't that many leftovers. The wind was getting colder. The storm that was predicted to come through by 11am never materialized, as it blew north of us. The grey clouds made for nice backdrop, however.
The fun began when the picnickers left and I took the dogs down to the river, a one-mile hike to the turn-around point. This is where I took them off-leash (there was no one around) so that they could enjoy the water.

The river has returned to its pre-flood levels. Water is clear and flowing well. It's actually quite pretty here as the banks are sandy and walkable, not muddy and stinky as in other areas, and offers a wide path along the banks. Both Zeke and Minnie ran into the water, with Minnie chasing sticks and Zeke chasing Minnie. Zeke seemed to not mind the cool water. I followed along on the "illegal" trail until a large pile of snags and flood debris prevented me from going forward. I doubt I even got two miles in with the dogs, but they certainly enjoyed getting out.
By the time I returned back to the picnic area, there was no sign that people had gathered here just an hour earlier. Even the parking lot was deserted, save for a few equestrians started out on a trail going north. Clouds were looking pretty impressive and it was colder, but no rain ever fell along my route of travel. I only saw isolated rain clouds over the higher peaks. We were back home by 3:30pm.

Sunday, yesterday, was also another fun day. I had planned on hiking up Carr Peak as it would probably be the last chance for me for the year. Next week will be too busy with school just before Christmas break, and then Eric and I are leaving for Chicagoland next Sunday. Then Saturday night Ellen, whom I hadn't hiked with since June (and that was in the morning, the day of the US-Portugal soccer match and I left the dogs at home in order to hike faster) asked me if I was interested in hiking up Carr Peak with her Sunday afternoon. Of course I would join her! I also needed to make sure that the road was still open. A local announcement in the paper said the road would be closed for the season, but didn't say exactly when. Other roads up peak trail heads in the Coronado National forest will close on the 15th.
Sunday morning started with no snow on the peaks. From our front door, the peaks were naked! So much for taking the dogs through a snow romp up Ash Canyon. Even aging Sammy enjoys that. I packed all four dogs into the van and drove toward Carr Canyon Road, to make sure it was still open today for cars. It was. So I parked at the Comfort Springs trail head, off the road, for another nice 1.5-mile walk with them. Frost was still shimmering in the rising sun. There already were muddy sections from frost that had already melted, but there was no obvious sign that we had gotten any decent amount of precipitation.
This trail is where I like going to watch the moon rise over the Mule mountains. On a winter morning this is where the sun shines quickly, as the trail is exposed for most of the way, thanks to the many dead trees from our 2011 fire. While the road itself had small pockets of frost, and there was some ice in the crevaces of rocks, this trail was free of all that. And the nicest part? There was no one around and the dogs could run to their hearts' delight. Only one solitary hawk spooked us, but we had the trail to ourselves. It was a cold, snowless winter morning out in nature.

Knowing that I was going to hike in the afternoon, I cut this walk just long enough to benefit the dogs. They chased each other, Minnie relocated branches, snags and tree stumps, Zeke chased Minnie, Sadie barked at Minnie and Sammy made sure he peed on all the plants along the trail. Sometimes I do have to wonder if they stop to enjoy the view. They apparently all had had just enough exercise in the morning, that none of them fought me to get outside and in the van on my drive to meet Ellen for the hike. And when I returned five hours later, they didn't seem to mind my suspicious absence.

My hike up Carr Peak makes this the 12th hike up the peak this year, making it to the summit every month. I will try to continue this tradition, as the 6-mile hike does seem to keep me in good condition. The dogs were with me ten out of 12 summit hikes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Heading up to Phoenix for the day

Kevin and I are leaving for Phoenix for the day. Eric will be in charge of all the dogs and cats in our absence. He's taken quite a liking to Minnie, who adores Eric and even enjoys sleeping in his room. She's the only dog who interacts with him. So it's no surprise that he asked me two nights ago if he could have her when he moves out on his own after college.

"NO!" replied Kevin when I told him what Eric asked me. All the animals are here to stay with me until the end of their days. Yet I have no doubt Eric would take care of Minnie. If he doesn't move too far away, I could still visit and spend time with her.

Pache managed to dart outside Wednesday morning. While I saw him in the front yard pounching on something near the juniper shrubs as I drove into our small drive-way, he had disappeared by the time I went outside to call him. Bobby came back after two nights outside, too, just this morning. Pache followed home an hour after Bobby. What's up with the cats spending the colder days outside? Could it be they enjoy feasting on the desert rats in our area? I found a third dead rat on our roof when I went to photograph the sun rise this morning. That rat surely was the victim of our resident barn owl that lives in our palm tree.
We got a nice rain on Thursday, remnants of the California storm that finally came down south enough to saturate southern California. I hope to hike up Carr Peak next week on a day off so that I can appreciate the added moisture from that rain. We didn't get bombarded with a lot of rain, just enough to give all the plants a nice soaking.
My only walk with the dogs this week was Wednesday afternoon, before the forecasted storm. I took all four dogs with me to Ash Canyon to walk up the road past the closure sign. Sammy enjoys the drive as he likes to stick his head out the window. So does Zeke. No one was out target shooting, which is always nice for me as we don't get spooked. Fall colors are still on, too. But that one-mile walk was too much for Sammy and he has been limping for a few days. He wants to be part of the pack and stay with the pack, so I slow down to stay with him, but walking is now getting to be too much for the old boy.