Tuesday, March 24, 2009


click pictures to enlarge Today started out beautifully. It was warm at a very early hour and the promise of seventy degrees by noon appeared to be an accurate forecast. I have a remodel project started that is running into the Springtime later than I like and it is a frustrating project. I was heading there mid morning after I returned from a doctor appointment. But first things first. The dogs needed fresh cool water and the bowls needed topped off with food. Homer and Seafoam, the cats, were already up and done with breakfast. They were chasing each other around and over the big lounge chair at the far end of the room. Now to find Julia. I usually go out to the coal shed to get her and walk with her back to the room where she spends the night. I put a deep bed of straw in that shelter especially for her. When the weather was cold; she would be in the room here with all the other guys and myself. As things warmed up, she spends more time out doors. I walked to the shed and searched about in there and she was gone. Had I missed her laying in a corner in the room? I strolled back to my habitat and walked in and carefully scanned the room. Not here. At that point I was concerned. I bolted out into the yard and got down on my knees to scan under the shed where I keep my motorcycle. Not there either. Where then? There was a strip of yard that ran up behind the adjacent store that had a chain link gate at the end. I jogged around the corner and as I faced that gate I saw Julia laying under a bush asleep. Julia is deaf and I approached slowly and from her front so she wouldn't be startled. She did, however, raise her head in surprise. She got up slowly on her usual shaky legs and started to turn toward me when her back legs collapsed causing her to fall to her left. Another attempt to rise resulted in her right front leg collapsing followed by both her back legs. She lay there with her head swaying too and fro, her eyes showing panic and uncertainty. I rushed to her and held her shivering body to me to let her know she wasn't alone. I repeated the words oh no, oh no, oh no over and over again softly while tears poured from my eyes. I wondered why she didn't come into the room last night. I thought she was demonstrating her disapproval at being with the rest of the dogs. I wondered, as I held her, if she was in trouble and needed me. I felt terrible. I gently lifted her front paws off my knee and lowered them to the ground gently. I needed to see if she could follow me into the room where the cool water was. I backed away from her and she watched me. Finally she made the attempt to rise. Once standing, her legs wobbled and she started to walk and went sideways to the left and again to the right and fell down again. I picked her up in my arms and rushed up the steps to where we live and laid her down on her pillows. Her head moved left and right as though scanning an unfamiliar place. She made vague attempts to stand and failed. Again I went to her and held her face in my hands while moving my finger tips along her muzzle to calm her. I could see that she could not understand what was occurring. This great old dog who has probably not had a kind word spoken to her in years; this gracious dog that was cast out by uncaring people; who walked unending miles for a scrap of food and braved the coldest of weather has finally confronted something she didn't understand. She appeared to be touched by dementia, but she was fine just a day ago. Just yesterday she actually ran as a puppy would when I got down on my knees in the yard and feigned play. And now this. I stared at her as I caressed the top of her head. This is so hard! The tears never stopped flowing from my eyes. I am a realist and fairly level headed and practical. Why was this affecting me like this? I was holding Julia and talking to her as if she would understand. Understand!? She was practically deaf. What was I doing. I'll tell you what I was doing. I'll tell you. I guess I look at dogs differently than most folks. You see; I live with them, or they with me if you like. They have emotions, feelings, happy and sad times. They are totally dedicated to he who really cares for them. They are ever loving and bond to "their human" even more so than human friends do. I treat them with more dignity and respect than I do for most people. They have no choices but the ones we offer to them and they make the best of it and return our favors with dedication. No one shall ever treat a dog badly while in my presence. No one! I will take the dog's position every time. They are innocent. Totally. Humans are not. Humans expect dogs to adapt to them. It is the human who should adapt. If you buy a sports car you adapt to it's design. The car does not adapt to you. It can't. You can buy options to change it somewhat. And so it is with dogs. You can find breeds that will increase your satisfaction, but it's still a dog. And a car is still just a car. And here I am holding Julia. The pads on her feet are course and I can only imagine how many miles those hound legs have carried her. My minds eye could envision her as a puppy with her whole life ahead of her, romping in the grass on a sunny day chasing her siblings. And later, probably as an adolescence, something caused a huge, deep, long gash along her side that shows so prominently now these many years later. I run my finger along the mark in wonderment. Poor old girl. I'm trying to get the thought of what must occur out of my mind, but I can't. I even called a friend to ask an opinion and my thoughts were reinforced. I have always stood firm on the side of my dog friends. I would risk my own safety for their well being. I protect and rescue those in need. I am compassionate for them and show empathy for the needy ones. All that and more. And here I sit with this old hound's head in my palms contemplating the taking of her life for her own good. Try to sort that out in your mind. Everything about euthanasia revolves around what's best for the dog. Oxymoron? I'm holding this old hound's head in my hands and I turn her face up toward me and I see that seed of panic in her eyes, ever growing greater. She can't understand why she can't rise up. She doesn't understand why all of a sudden I am putting so much attention out toward her. I hug her tightly feeling her soft hair against my arm. I have been brushing out the winter hair she has been shedding. Julia. Why are you doing this to me? The vet assistant arrived at my place around 4PM this afternoon. I carried Julia out to a grassy spot in the yard. I held her head as the needle containing the sedative pricked her. She let out a brief hound howl as she was startled. After a minute I noticed that her eyes were getting wide and she was shivering. She was in panic. I held her as gently as I could and her panic became worse. She must be thinking "what is happening?" I am feeling the pain for her. She can not cry but I can. And finally she rests quietly with my hands under her head, and suddenly she, in her sleep, start convulsing; her entire body shaking and contorting. She experienced a seizure. She couldn't feel it but it was terrible to watch. The second needle is prepared and the deadly poison is administered. And finally peace overcomes Julia. And I still held her; and I held her for a half hour after it was over. And I prepared a hole in the ground and laid her at rest. And I cried; hard. And I'm damn proud of being able to express that emotion for a dog. A sweet, noble, dedicated and cast out dog has finally found the path to freedom from humanity. I was and am crushed by what occurred today. It was my first time. And I have Douglas, Shade and Happy to live through. I'll not have another dog after them. I can't do it. I won't. The next time you want to get your kids a cute puppy for their birthday; remember what you read here. If you aren't prepared to accept that puppy through it's entire life; don't enter into a relationship with it. Temper compassion and empathy with common sense. I'm learning to do that. Julia; I'll miss you sweet old one. Thank you for your company. I'm sorry we never had our afternoon together, just you and I, down by the lake. And I'm sorry I had a hand in what happened today. I am so very sorry Julia. For everything.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


A beautiful morning. Wow; what a day! Oh boy! Seventy degrees and not a breeze. Motorcycle, Gheenoe or Canoe? This is going to be a super duper day for sure! So much to do! But as I trot on out to the shed to retrieve one of my magic carpet getaway vehicles I notice something. Grass, Grass and Grass. I forgot all about it. My adventures have caused me to cast a blind eye to the ever present grass. Grass; that dirge in life that interferes with living.

Now, theirs two things in this life that I absolutely abhor. One is painting and the other is mowing grass. Mowing grass is, to me, a total waste of precious time. I look at it this way: I walk all over the yard area and pick up bones, toys, limbs, pieces of stone, old socks that my dogs stole from the laundry and hunks of unidentifiable solid material that resemble petrified dog crap. As a matter of fact; it is solidified dog crap. But back to my rant. Then I gas up and try to start my ever reliable mower. It doesn't start. Off I go to the hardware store to buy a spark plug and an air filter. I'm told I have a discontinued mower and that it wasn't a popular model even when it was new. Back in the truck I go for the twenty mile ride to the nearest large town with a decent hardware and a lawn mower repair shop. Then the twenty mile ride back to my trusty mower companion that is waiting for me alone on the lawn. Well, almost alone. The Golden Retriever, Douglas, just raised his leg over the left wheel tread on the thing. With new parts replaced and fuel in the tank, I grasp the plastic handle on the pull cord and yank it back expecting to hear the old reliable engine come to life as it has done each summer for the past five years. But the cord breaks. Another trip to the hardware for a cord, that they have, and back home to dissasemble the apparatus that the cord attaches to. And at last she comes to life and off I go following the contraption around the shed and next to the chain link fence. I circumnavigate the yard going under the shrubs and trees enduring scrapes across my face from the low hanging limbs and drooping thorn bushes. The blades occasionally strike a piece of rock or a broken brick that has leached up through the soil due to the thaw process from winter. Then a solid ka clunk and instantaneous stall. That little tree stump wasn't there last year. Yep; the dogs dug around it sometime during the winter and exposed the three inches of a sapling that had been cut down in the past. A mear imposition to my progress. Around and around I walk following this machine designed for one thing; shortening grass. I do this every week of every summer month. And I do another three acres of grass on one of the most hilly properties imaginable. I use a riding zero turn mower for that Days off are precious. So why am I doing this? Why does anyone do this? How many hours of a lifetime are spent following one of these stupid machines around all over creation to shorten weeds? That's all grass is. It's shortened weeds. And we all try to keep them short. Whats wrong with long weeds? Why do we spend thousands of dollars on machines that require upkeep, fuel, specialty shops for repair and cause so many hours of additional work? Work ten or eleven hours at the office or business, or more, and run home to ------mow the grass. I mean, ok, you mow the grass. Why? Oh, it looks good. Who cares. People driving by aren't going to stop their cars and back up to look at your new shortened lawn. Can you hear them talk? " Oh Martha; this is an exceptional lawn. I wonder what kind of mower he's using." Yea, right! Some folks actually like mowing lawns. I think guys who like it are pretending they are riding a Harley Davidson. Their wives probably won't let them buy a real Harley Davidson, or any manly machine for that matter, and they fantasize with their lawn mower. There's a heck of a lot of things one could be doing with his precious time that are stress relieving and relaxing. Following a noisy contraption designed to shorten weeds ain't one of em. Total waste of precious, valuable time and an absolutely unnecessary task. In short; we do it because our neighbors do it. Neighbors; we'll discuss that in another blog entry. Right now I gotta go put my boat in the water.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


CLICK PICTURES TO ENLARGE The lake surface was silky smooth. Not a ripple could be seen anywhere. A gentle breeze wafted down the valley and provided a welcome element to an already fantastic 65 degree morning. The only sound was the water falling off the paddle as it was withdrawn from the surface in preparation for the next power stroke. Soon the sounds of loud exhausts and the engines of endless tourists would start. But for now; only total peace and quiet. I am on Chilhowee Lake and I'm paddling up the side of the lake toward the old Alcoa Lodge site. I wrote of this place earlier in this blog. I investigated the trout pond in that entry. Today I will beach the canoe on the original old ferry landing that lies across the lake from the Route 129 side. It is quite a way and a lot of paddle strokes to get there. From the Rt 129 launch site I paddled across the lake and followed the embankment toward my destination. The morning was so calm and quiet I found myself paddling slower and slower. I have had a serious problem with a vertibrae between my shoulder blades this week that prevents me from lifting anything more than about 50 pounds; and I have to be very careful doing that. The Chiropractor told me not to lift anything at all. He didn't say anything about paddling. But I was experiencing pain in the center of my back while paddling. I just paddled slower. As the canoe moved slowly ahead I marveled at the glide this thing has. It slices through the water like a knife. I pulled the paddle through the water and laid it across the gunnels and photographed the glide lines. The boat continued on and on. I became bored with this game and commenced paddling again. I could hear the roaring of water up ahead coming from the mountain side. A cove lay in front of me and I opted to steer into it to investigate. The water was tumbling down off the mountain and flowing into Chilhowee. Gorgeous! I had to beach the canoe and check it out. What a great time to just sit down and relax my back and finish a good book my friend Tom in Pennsylvania sent to me. It's a great read. What a perfect place to relax. I found a sandy little channel to tie off the boat. I took off my life vest and put it on the ground up against a rock that jutted vertically out of the ground. Perhaps I'll peal an apple and grab a few mouthfuls of trail mix. Great spot, this! As I was paddling into the little cove; a bald eagle did a fly by directly over me. I did not see him the rest of the day. How unfortunate. That is the first bald eagle I have seen on Chilhowee since I have been coming here. I have, however, seen one on Abrams Creek, far up toward the headwaters. Thats about ten miles from this spot. I'm to meet up with my friend Paul today and that's part of the reason I'm not in a hurry. Why rush? I figured I would linger along slowly and eventually see his yellow canoe coming up the lake. And I did; but later. For now all I wanted to do was take pressure off my back and lean against something. And I did - a rock; and commenced to read. I finished that book there on that mossy spot. A great read on a great day. My back ached as I tried to get up. Very sore! What am I putting myself through this for? And as I stood and painfully straitened up; I scanned the lake and the mountains behind it and knew the answer to that silly question. The mountains are starting to show their spring colors. Red buds are emerging as well as some of the colorful forest flowers. I rounded a slight bend in the lake and came up on the old Alcoa ferry landing that once brought the rich and well to dos to an elite lodge owned and operated by The Alcoa Company. The lodge was eventually demolished along with the three cabins that housed guests on the property. Incidentally, this area is a game preserve. I love those signs. The ferry landing has stood the test of time well. I have seen present day boat ramps deteriorated more than this old ferry landing. I pulled the canoe up on land and tied it off. A path was clearly apparent and I decided to follow it for awhile. And I am glad I did. A small stream was flowing across the path and on the other side was a set of steps. I wonder what lay beyond them. I quickly jumped across the stream and up the steps. I felt as if I were discovering some new land or something. Investigating these old places is exciting and interesting. I search the internet for information pertaining to my finds and am prompted to ask questions of local people. I rounded a corner in the trail and there were stairs with stone corner markers with stone flower holders. This must have been an elegant creation in its day. The stairs lead up and onto a terracotta tiled area surrounded by a stone wall. A babbling brook ran unimpeded past it all. Outrageous! Gorgeous. I can almost envision the richness of this place at one time. How many conversations had taken place here?; how many couples walked hand in hand along these paths and up these stairs? How much wealth changed hands through deals made out here across the river in this private place? We'll never know. But you can bet it happened. I kept walking. A stone wall was constructed along the left side of the path; and it was a long path. The cost must have been astronomical to construct this place. After a while I came upon a structure . It appeared to be a cabin of some sort. I later found out from Paul that it was an old original milk house. The building was here even before Alcoa built the lodge. Very old. It is a slate building. It's amazing the thing lasted this long as the slate pieces are simply laid one upon another in no particular pattern. Bricks and block buildings are built with the materials overlapping one and other to create strength. As can be seen here on this old milk house, the walls are leaning precariously. It soon will be given back to nature. As I was leaving this mystical place; I took one last picture of this great old structure. I did eventually meet up with Paul. Funny; I did not take any picture of him. Well, I did get one. And I wish I would have had a camera in my hand for a photo opportunity that may not present itself ever again. That photo op caused me to laugh while paddling with Paul the entire distance across the lake. Maybe I'll tell you about it some time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


CLICK PICTURES TO ENLARGE I'm just sitting here on the bank of this wilderness lake wondering if the feelings I'm experiencing now are what humans are supposed to feel routinely on any average day in any average human life. The sensation of peace and tranquility simply replaces the tension, cares and worry of everyday living. I wonder why we humans must complicate our lives. It's not only our own lives we complicate but our incessant drive for fame and fortune influences even the natural world negatively. Humans just can't seem to get it right when it comes to interfacing with ecology. If it weren't for humans applying their influences, for one reason or another, on the natural world; there would be no need for human intervention to reverse those influences. Where am I going with this? I guess it's not anything I can change. But there seems to be an awful lot of drugs on the market designed to reduce tension, promote sleep and reduce all types of mental strife. Today; out here; on this wilderness lake; without the sounds of telephones, exhaust noises or Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Neal Bortz "every" pressure point in my body and mind is massaged by this gorgeous natural place. Try it. You might discover less need for prescription drugs. I'm here at Indian Boundary Lake again. My friend Paul and I had made an appointment to meet here today sometime back. I paddled around the lake a couple times, said hello to my otter friend and beached the canoe here on this quiet shore line. Funny thing; when that otter appeared, I put the paddle down and grabbed the camera. I sat in the canoe, camera in hand, scanning the lake. Nothing. I carefully placed the camera in my under-seat storage bag and picked up the paddle. You guessed it. I had started the downward movement of the paddle to the water for the first power stroke when suddenly the otter's head appeared just in front of the paddle. The back of his head was to the boat. It startled me, to say the least. He turned toward me; saw me; and arched his length into a dive and ran into my canoe paddle. If Paul were here he would have had the most amazing kodak moment imaginable. He's supposed to be here but he has a very long drive to reach this lake. Otters are amazing! Fantastic! The otter incident satisfied my otter desires. So it was off to do some fishing. I pulled into a brushy little cut in the bank and quickly caught a largemouth bass. Then another. A short time later I caught a bluegill. Pretty little fish. But now I'm just sitting here on the bank leaning against a tree stump reading a chapter or two of a new book that a friend in Pennsylvania sent me. It's called "Dog On It". Imagine that. It's a story about a down on his luck detective named Bernie and his dog Chet. It's a good read by Spencer Quinn. Oh, don't laugh at my new Tilley River Hat. It may appear odd, especially on my head; but its functional out here in these elements. I said don't laugh. As I mentioned earlier; I paddled around the lake earlier this morning. I wanted to walk the lake trail and paddled to the far side of the lake and beached the canoe. The trail itself is manicured to perfection. It has been graveled the entire length. Obviously the design is to satisify the comfort of the city type tourists who demand ease while walking. Thats nice.. Note the circle around his bill. Well, there's Paul. I can see him paddling over toward where we saw an otter on a previous visit. Time to load all this stuff in the canoe and join him on the water. We paddled to the back side of the lake and beached the boats. We decided to hike around on the bottom of the lake. Yes, I said the bottom. The water has been drawn down and the lake bottom is exposed. It looks like a stump field. It is a stump field. This is a very interesting place. This is a very interesting place. All the brown earth and stumps you see are normally under water. It's interesting walking along on the bottom of a lake. The fish leave tracks. Well, sort of. For instance; the photos below indicate where crappie and or bluegills have fanned the mud in order to sweep out a place to lay eggs. Spawning grounds. Here are the nests high and dried by the sun. Not to worry. The lake will be totally filled by the time they will need their nests again. But look at the depressions! Amazing! This lake has a lot of habitat for fish. It contains countless hundreds of stumps and bottom irregularities that provide shelter, food and that all important function; reproduction. We rinsed the mud off our boots and shoved off to fish on on the way back down the lake. As I was slowly paddling, I looked down at something floating in the water that appeared to be a black piece of tree bark. But it wasn't. It was a turtle. It was a snapping turtle. This little guy was just floating along minding his own business when a "human" hand reached out and plucked him out of the water for inspection. And here the young little fellow is: Paul took the following pictures. He has a wonderful camera that is great for macro photography. The little turtle was gently set upon the water in much the same place where picked up. There is always something fascinating to be found on a lake like this. And by the way; Spring is definitely here. This Eastern Soft shell Tortoise is sunning himself on this snag. All his buddies plopped into the water as I approached. Turtles are wary creatures and difficult to approach. The little heads sticking out of the water are comical. They are ever on the alert. What a relaxing day! This is great fun. This is medicine. Time to go. Hope you liked the entry. The sun's going down quickly. See you next time. And don't laugh at my hat