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