December Hiking and a Farewell

I’ve totally been slacking with my blog lately…

Today, we finally made it out to enjoy a bit of unseasonably warm December weather and take a hike. Chilly decided she’d rather not go in favor of all-day snuggles with her grandpa. She really missed out! We headed out to Chippokes Plantation, which is a Virginia State Park and also a functioning plantation. While the trails aren’t particularly long or interesting, and the weather turned sour just as we arrived, we managed to have a pretty great time. The rain cleared just as we were gearing up to get out of the car. We noticed there was a path from the visitor’s center leading to the river below, so we followed it to get our trail started (the trail maps aren’t particularly helpful).


First off, there were more shells than I’ve seen on any beach ever! And it’s the James river, but apparently still brackish at that part. It was mostly clams, scallops, mussels and oysters, but my mom managed to located something that looks like ancient coral. There were some people panning for something on the beach. I’m pretty sure they were looking for shark’s teeth (there’s a Boy Scout camp up the river that’s known for it’s beach full of shark’s teeth– or used to be before everyone cleaned them out), but I’d like to think they were searching for pirate’s gold!

Shizuka had a blast navigating the river-beach strewn with fallen logs and giant rocks, while I tottered along behind balancing Yuuki in one arm. She played in the water, swam across a feeder stream and back again (thank goodness for extra long flex-leads! we only use them when we hike). Then we hiked up the trail a bit and ended up at the tourist area set up like a farm. Shizuka came face to face with chickens, saw a giant pot-bellied pig, eyed some goats like a coyote on the other side of chicken-wire, and attempted to chase some donkeys. Then we made our way up the path to the lookout over the river, and Shizuka pounced into the brush after any number of wild animals. We only walked about 4.5 miles, but she was “on” the whole time– swimming, pouncing, prowling and zig-zag-running. Good times!


Also, my little fat dog only rode in his pouch for about 10 minutes in the middle. After that, he was fine and waddled his awkward little frame all over that farm. He’s definitely a cold-weather Chihuahua.


On a sadder note, Sir Ouch-a-lot passed away last Friday. He went in for surgery to have his cancerous foot amputated. We didn’t actually think he would live this long, but since he seemed to be doing fine, and his foot was really swollen and starting to smell a little, we had scheduled his amputation. He made it out of surgery fine, but we think maybe they should’ve kept him longer to monitor him. He was gone by the time Thomas got him home. You wouldn’t think a little guy like that, who didn’t really enjoy our company, would leave such a hole…but he did.

We, of course, shed far more tears for our spikey hamster than seems reasonable, and then committed the worst sin of all. We got rebound pets. Argh. I will regret this forever and ever. Thomas had gone to the store to get guinea pigs before I got home and found out Sir Ouch was gone (like I’m a helpless child!), and ran into a woman who instead offered to give him her 2 degus, which she couldn’t properly care for with all their other pets (her daughter’s pets). We didn’t think it through, and she handed them over- cage and all- and then we got them home and realized we could never protect them from the wrath of the big dog. These things chitter and chirp and cling to the side of the cage. I later read that they’re so inquisitive, they often won’t flee a domestic predator because they’re more curious than fearful. Eek! So, we did what no one should ever do, and took that lady up on her offer to give them back. We didn’t make it even 24 hours. Sigh. So the hedgehog tragedy turned into a terrible pet-return disaster. I felt so guilty that I bought them all new toys and researched healthier food and bought that for them, so I’d at least return them in better shape than I got them. How can we be this old and not know better than to get a rebound pet? HOW!? That will go down as one of my most shameful moments ever. At least we didn’t actually buy them, and she had offered when we took them that if we changed our minds, she would take them back. I still feel horrible. And it wasn’t going to fix the hole that that little prickly, grumpy guy left in our hearts.

Rest in peace, Sir Ouch-a-lot. We will miss you, even if you won’t miss us!



Leashes Optional: Adventures in Taipei

I’m reposting this from my travel blog to keep all my pet-related stuff together. Think of it as saving it for posterity.

I’ve noticed that dogs are an integral part of Taiwanese life. Ever since my travels to Rwanda where dogs are not a common household companion, I am really conscious of how people interact with their pets and what exactly constitutes a pet.

Excuse me miss, is that a dog in your tote bag?

Shizuka, what are you doing here?!

That’s not to say that some people don’t use leashes, it’s just that most people don’t and their dogs wander around with them without incident. With so many Americans struggling with their dogs on leashes, I can’t help but wonder what’s different here. If anything, you’d think the bustle of motor vehicles would motivate people to use leashes. I almost got hit by a moped today, and I can understand (sort of) traffic patterns! I wonder why that Chihuahua is sitting on a stool with a sign all in Chinese except for the word “money.”

So, the very well cared for dogs lounge about adorned with decorative collars and without a fear of strangers. Do you think maybe all the dogs who are not good off-leash dogs have just run away? Maybe you would just cut your losses and move one until you found a dog that didn’t require a leash?

I’m sorry, is that a dog in your shopping basket??

Yesterday, I was sitting on a bench at the university- which is very modern and very clean- and a dog loped by. No collar. Very dingo-like. “Ah!” I thought, “That’s what would happen to my big dog if we lived in a leashes-optional culture. She would’ve run off and joined a ferrel pack.” They looked like her and acted like her. I say “they” because shortly after the one went by, another that looked exactly like it wandered by. Obviously from the same litter. They look like the dog in the picture above, only with hound-dog (blue tick) markings. They don’t seem to bother anyone, or the pet-dogs that walk with their owners off leash around campus. The university does post signs not to feed them though. “Don’t feed the dogs or the pigeons.” At least that’s what I imagine it to say. Your guess is as good as mine. Minus those two urban dingos, all the dogs I see laying about the sidewalks and streets trusting the many passersby to not step on them, all the dogs seem well cared for, happy and healthy. It’s actually really refreshing what a natural, symbiotic relationship with their canine companions. Yet another reason I think I could live here…

A “Don’t feed the dogs” sign on a bench at the university