07 July 2016

Summer has arrived in the woods around our home. And I don’t mean that the leaves are back on the trees, the skunks and porcupines have come out of hibernation, or the migrating birds have returned. I don’t even mean the bugs and the humidity and the heat.

I have spent more time on the miles of nearby woodland paths in the past seven months than I did over the last eighteen years combined. When the kids were little (and yes, we had other dogs but rarely took them in the woods… ticks, you know) exploring the mile walk to the ponds or riding our bikes on the forest trails was a special occasion. I mean, only during fair weather seasons, we might have done it a couple of times each month. But I think it’s safe to say I never ventured into the woods during the wintertime until this year.

Dinah changed everything and we walk in those woods at least three or four times each week. Sometimes every day. And while the woods LOOK and FEEL far different in the summer than they did all winter, the biggest difference to me is the people.

Usually I could let Dinah off leash and walk her three or four miles without seeing anyone. Once in a great while we’d meet another adventuresome dog walker, but the earlier we went out, the smaller chance of it. We had the woods to ourselves which meant I could leave her off leash for all but the roads. It was quiet, peaceful, serene. It was good.

But now? The kids are out of school and of course everyone likes the mild weather. Early mornings often mean at least a handful of others out on the trails with their dogs, plus the joggers, bikers, and rare early ATV riders (usually an older couple traveling slowly). But after 10 a.m. the kids are out in force, swimming in the pond, racing their ATVs and dirt bikes, playing hide and seek, and I’ve even seen ambitious high-schoolers running in anticipation of the upcoming cross-country season.

In some ways the bustle of summer in the woods is refreshing. It’s great to see people out, away from their televisions and computers, especially the kids. I’m glad to know kids still like to play in the woods, even on cloudy days. But I’m also selfish. I have to keep Dinah on leash the better part of the time or she’ll chase anything on wheels. She’ll also chase anything that runs. Or walks. Or stands still. She wants to befriend everyone, but not everyone understands that her barks and lunges don’t mean that she wants to eat them. Imagine that?

Copyright © 2016 - Paulla Estes

21 June 2016

Where did that year go?

A year is a long time. Long enough to finish a term of school, get established in a new job, or birth a baby. I suppose in some ways, I've done all three.

I'm climbing back on the horse after an insanely busy and distracting year, but before I do, here's what's been going on in my world...

First, I left my last post a year ago with my youngest daughter having just discovered skydiving. Well, she's still doing it. By the end of last summer she had enough jumps to become a licensed skydiver. Then, after the fall semester of her senior year at Syracuse, she did her Spring semester online and traveled out west to skydive up and down the California coast. It was a dream come true. Now she's back in Maine doing coaching at Skydive New England.

My other daughter had enough of the Maine winters and moved to Phoenix in March. She's working out there and somehow enjoys the temps that are well into the 100s right now. It's a dry heat!

The third piece of big news is that we got a puppy.

And fourth, we got a puppy.


I think you probably get the idea.

Our beloved Roxanne died at Christmas 2007, and although we've always wanted another German Shepherd, I just couldn't bring myself to do it again. It was partly the timing - our kids were getting older and I wanted to be able to visit them without a dog tying me down. It was also partly the work involved. Mostly I just didn't want to set myself up for heartbreak like that again.

I guess 8 years was enough to get over it because Dinah came into our lives at 8-weeks of age in mid-November last year. Here she is just after she was born in September...

Don't be fooled by how tiny and cute she was. She was and is MUCH more dog than we bargained for. (That's her below on the left, giving me a kiss at 4 weeks.)

How cute was she???

Our old shepherd, Roxanne, was gentle and quiet and docile - all the things you want in a big dog. She was even like that as a puppy. Sure, she was playful, but she was also mellow. She grew up to be nearly 100 pounds and she was like a big, black rug in our home. Our gentle giant.

Silly me, I thought we were getting another one like her. NOT HARDLY. See how she's running at 6 weeks? SHE'S ALWAYS RUNNING.

Aside from being another solid black German Shepherd, Dinah is NOTHING like Roxanne. During the weeks leading up to her arrival, I read all kinds of puppy and dog training books to re-familiarize myself with having a puppy. I had everything planned out as to how it would be.

Let me tell you, Dinah laughed in the face of my plans.

Dinah came into our home in November like a race horse out of the starting gate - at a sprint. Here are a couple of the only photos we have of her that weren't blurred from constant movement...

We had the whole family here at Christmas, and by then her ears were outgrowing the rest of her body.

We had a fun winter walking every day in the snow, meeting new friends, and even graduating from obedience school.

She didn't slow down until we had her spayed in April. And I should add that really, she only slowed down for a day. By the next day, you'd never know she had major surgery. Although we kept her drugged for two weeks to slow her down, I practically had to sit on her to keep her from running and jumping and doing the "explosive" behavior the vet warned us about.

Suffice it to say, Dinah has changed our lives. Now, at going on 10-months of age, she's definitely becoming the adult dog she's going to be. She's super friendly and enthusiastic about EVERYTHING. No, I mean EVERYTHING. Walks, of course (we go 3 miles each day off leash in the woods to get her jitters out), our three cats, getting in the car, anyone visiting, going outside, coming inside, chasing the butterflies and bees. You get the idea.

She is an all-or-nothing dog. She's either going, going, going, or passed out cold on the floor at my feet.

I have to admit, for the first few overwhelming months, I said more than a few times that THIS IS NOT THE DOG I WANTED. I told her she'd never be like Roxanne. I cried and moaned and even entertained the idea of giving her back.

Yes, really.

But now she's crawled into my heart and curled up and made her home there. I adore this dog.

She's going to break my heart one day - I know that, and it kills me already (yes, I'm pathetic and think about things like that). But I'm living in the moment. I'm getting exponentially more exercise than I've had since I trained for a marathon several years ago. I'm spending time out in nature, rain, snow, or shine, and I feel younger and stronger.

And now I'm coming up for air. Time to get back on the horse and bring this blog back to life.

More soon! :)

OH! And P.S. - Biggest news of all...

The Broncos won the Superbowl! :) :) :)

Copyright © 2016 - Paulla Estes

03 June 2015


Our youngest daughter has become a bit of a thrill-seeker after spending a semester in South America last year. Plus, she's the youngest child, so you can do with that what you will.

Anyway, as she's between her junior and senior year in college, she needed an internship to add to her resume. We found a few for the summer, including a very low-key but educational internship at MY work place, but instead, she decided to go with one she was offered at Sky Dive New England.


So you can guess what happened next. Although she's working in marketing and customer service, with her intern hours she earns free opportunities to sky dive. I think I covered my ears the first time she told me this.

Then last week I got a phone call. Her voice was higher and faster than I'd ever heard it, other than when she'd sucked helium out of a balloon. She'd just made her first jump.

Good God.

Thankfully, it is a safe, reputable place, and of course her first jump was a tandem jump. Secretly I hoped that if she tried it once, she'd hate it.

I'm not sure, but something here tells me she didn't. What do you think?

Then last night I got this text:

"My 8 hour sky-diving course on Thursday is being led by a new friend I have here from Brazil, and he is familiar with everywhere I visited in Chile! :)"

I'm afraid she's hooked.

God help me.

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes

10 May 2015


Last year we bought an oriole feeder and we learned all about how the orioles migrate and how to attract them.

We put the feeder out last Spring and Fall, hoping that one day the little orange guys would spy our feeder and pay us a visit.

Well, last week "one day" arrived.

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes

21 April 2015

Such Fragile Little Lives

Last summer we were treated to two downy woodpecker chicks that were not long out of the nest. They followed their mama to our bird feeders and we laughed as they struggled to land, to hang onto the slippery metal pole, and to take off again. They had all the basic techniques, but nothing was graceful yet.

Over the fall and winter, these two babies matured and became flying experts - to no one's surprise. After that, they sort of blended in and found their place with all the other little birdies that come to our yard to feast at our feeders.

Like the chickadees, the cardinals, and several other types of birds here near the coast of Maine, the woodpeckers stayed all winter. We kept the feeders full and they showed up many times throughout the course of each day.

Now that Spring has arrived, and with it some of the migratory birds that left us in the fall, our feeders have been busier than ever. Just this morning I spotted FIVE bright yellow goldfinches all on one set of bird feeders, dining together.

After a rainy morning, the sun began to come out this afternoon. Not enough to dry things out, but it brightened up the yard and the birds were active as always. I sat at the kitchen table writing, ironically, about lost pets, when something slammed against the kitchen window, startling me and the cats. I'm surprised the window didn't break - it sounded like someone threw a baseball at the glass.

I figured what must have happened. I opened the window and leaned out, and there on the wet grass was one of our little woodpecker babies. And no, they're no longer babies, but they're OUR babies from last summer. I ran outside to see if it was ok. It wasn't. It was the little female - the one without the red spot on the back of her head.

I knew the drill. She looked dead but she might just be stunned, so I picked her up in a towel, put her little body in a box, closed it up (with air holes) and brought her inside to keep her warm. I hoped she would wake up, blink, and fly off with her brother within the hour.

But when I picked her up, her head flopped to one side. I'm pretty sure her neck was broken and she was killed instantly, which is a little comforting. Still, I brought the box in, hoping for a miracle.

While I waited, I glanced out the window and saw the male on a low tree branch nearby. It broke my heart that he was out there looking, waiting for her.

An hour later, not only was she not awake, she was beginning to stiffen, so I knew.

Sadly, my daughter and I took her outside and put her body below the same tree, so the male might see her and know to stop looking. I don't know if birds are aware of such things, but we felt like it was the right thing to do.

Now it's getting dark and I can't help but think of that tiny body out there, that black and white, feathery body that, just hours ago, was swooping around our yard. Sure, there are bigger, sadder, more tragic things in life, but I will miss that tiny girl. I'm just glad she didn't suffer.

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes

25 March 2015

Finishing Winter Out West, Part TWO

This was the first time I had the chance to visit my son and his wife as a married couple. They have this fantastic house on the northwest side of the gigantic city of Phoenix. Their development sits, literally, just on the edge of the desert, although the desert around them is being developed and soon their area will be swallowed up by what is the greater Phoenix area.

That first evening when I got in, we headed to Scottsdale and the famous Barrio Queen Restaurant (or rather, as you can see from the sign, Tequileria). YES. My friend Sue went there recently while on vacation and she gave me strict orders to visit the Barrio Queen, to have a specific meal (pictured below) and to bring her back a t-shirt. Go there, and you will see why. The food - oh God, to DIE FOR.

The next morning we went on a nearby hike. It was a relatively easy hike, but I had shin splints from walking the hills near my dad's house in San Diego, so I was a bit slow. PLUS, it was like 85 degrees. Yes, 85 in Phoenix is sort of like 72 in Maine - it's very pleasant - but San Diego had been a bit chilly, and heck, I was still slightly frozen from this crazy winter we had in Maine. So to me, it was HOT. But I could have stayed out there all day. :)

Horseback riding was the next activity. We planned our ride for early in the morning, to avoid the heat, and it was lovely.

BUT. Or should I say, BUTT. Yes, it was a two-hour ride, which, for me, was about an hour and a half too long. I hadn't been on a horse in years and when I got off, I really was walking like John Wayne.

This was, by far, my favorite thing to do. Sit by a pool and eat blueberries. I mean, really - what else is there in life that compares?

And check this out, the pool even had a covered playground. I'm telling you, IT GETS HOT THERE.

We spent much of the week eating at favorite restaurants (several more than once) and just hanging out together. And on the last day, we went back to Scottsdale and back to the Barrio Queen. IT'S THAT GOOD.

Honestly, I was sad to come home. I always am. And I'm never really sure if it's the weather I'm sad to leave, or my kids. Definitely the latter, but the former is a huge factor.

But the really great thing is, the snow in Maine is melting. We're WAY down to only about a foot of snow on our yard now...

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes

16 March 2015

Finishing Winter Out West, Part ONE

I have the good fortune of having family members out west, so if I can swing a flight to San Diego or Phoenix (or Portland OR, though it's not as warm there) then I have a place to stay and family to see.

So in early March, I flew west to spend the last of our official winter thawing out.

San Diego is lovely at this time of the year. Let's face it, San Diego is lovely at pretty much ANY time of year.

I went to visit my dad and step-mom, and not only was it great to spend time with them, the Southern California weather was, for the most part, very cooperative.

We spent the first day downtown, eating great Mexican food (because that's the only kind of Mexican food they have out there) and walking around downtown along the shore.

My dad's house in the hills is delightful because of the huge lemon tree out front and that amazing view out back.

The next day, Dad and I went to Mission Beach to walk the boardwalk and see the sights. And people-watch. If you've never people-watched on the California beaches, you haven't lived.

The next day I visited my friend, Connie, who lives in Pacific Beach with her cool husband and very well-trained dog, and new puppy that is trying to run the show. Connie lives a block from the beach. YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT. So although it was a cool, cloudy day (reality check, once in a while the sun doesn't shine down on Southern California) we walked to the beach, the PB pier, and had fish tacos (of course).

On the last day, which is always bittersweet, the sun came out again and we basked in the sunshine on their hilltop back yard.

Then we went out to lunch and drove downtown along the bay once more. And near the airport, I remembered the one thing I do NOT like about SoCal. That traffic.

Next stop - Phoenix...

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes