I hadn’t taken on a new foster since before the pandemic, and I was itching for one. So I got two.
Not just any two. And not just from anywhere. We flew down to St Thomas, USVI, and brought back two scaredy dogs.
It started with an email to our International Program Coordinator. Did we have any contacts there? Could she find me some dogs to bring back? She was worried that it would be tough with the late notice, especially since we didn’t have established contacts there, but she’d try.
Meanwhile, we were on vacation, and I happened to strike up a conversation with a boat captain. He told me he was good friends with someone who worked with the St Thomas Humane Society I asked for her contact info, and reached across the aisle.
Did they think we could make it happen? They, too, weren’t sure. But they have a robust international program called Pets With Wings so are very experienced, and they got on the task.
The next few days were full of calls, texts and emails. Could we take cats? Dogs? Bonded pairs? Any breed restrictions? They were feeling us out, as they needed to know they could trust us. Luckily the organizer has heard of Secondhand Hounds and was willing to take a chance on us — and me.
When you travel with a dog to be adopted, there are lots of restrictions. May depend on the airline, and each airline might have different restrictions and requirements depending on where the flight originated. For example: I needed animals small enough to fit in carriers under the seat in front to me; they couldn’t be too young; they had to be healthy. So Rhea worked her magic in the Caribbean, and Taylor finagled from the cold, bold North. And Tammy met me at the airport.
Meet Tulip and Trillium, sisters (presumably from different misters) who were trapped as part of the island’s save the strays program.
The girls are about 4 months old, and scared of everything. Tammy was especially worried that we would try to rush them into acclimating, but I reassured her we would take it slowly.
We got all checked into our Delta flight (they were awesome).
The pups were drowsy thanks to a little Benadryl, and settled into the flight easily. We never heard a peep from them for the whole six hour flight.
When we got them home, I let them out of their carriers, and let them wander into the house on their own. Well, Tulip walked in, took her first right and found my dog’s kennel. Trillium frantically followed, and there they stayed. All night. No interest in food or water, and definitely not interested in the humans. When Stevie Nicks sniffed at them through the door, Tulip growled a little, but that was it. We all went to bed.
On our first full day with them, I began Operation Ignore the Dogs. When you have super skittish pups, they need to learn to trust you. Who knows what these babies endured in their little lives! They were not aggressive at all, but would cower whenever I tried to approach them.
They stuck around the laundry room (that’s where their kennel domain is), ad got busy catching up on what they didn’t do the day before: eat, drink, poop, pee.
If I tried to approach the kennel, they would press their bodies against the back wall and scratch like they were trying to escape.
Periodically I would come in the room and lay down prone on the floor, stick my hand in the kennel, and not look at them. It took awhile, but eventually Trillium, the black one, would do a cautious sniff — then a scurry.
The next day they decided to explore. First they discovered my closet, which is attached to the laundry room. That was interesting with its piles of unwashed vacation laundry. Then they expanded their horizons, going into the adjoining bathroom, then our bedroom. I decided to try something: I scattered kibble down the long hallway to the main part of the house. As long as they couldn’t see or hear me, they would nibble and follow the trail.
When in my office, which shares a wall with that hallway I could hear scampering feet, so knew they were getting braver. A peek around the corner discovered playing puppies! Things like that were big steps I knew If they felt comfortable enough to let their guard down and play, even for a second, we were making progress.
They discovered a dog bed in the great room.
Decided that was cool — but not awesome enough to stick around when they saw me. Back to the kennel!
The next day they decided they were obsessed with Stevie Micks. Not like, hey, she seems cool, maybe we could hang” way. But as in an OMIGODWHERE HAVE YOU BEEN WHERE AE YOU GOING? CAN WE TOUCH YOU? way. They would just flirt mercilessly, curling their bodies and lowering to the ground, frantically wagging tails and bowed ears.
Stevie thought they were weird. She kept escaping outside, which stressed them out terribly. They would cry and whine when she left, certain that the great glass portal door had swallowed her up for all eternity, never to return. I didn’t need to with the door when she wanted back in: the puppies would whine and scratch and jump around — until I walked over. Then they would sprint to the other room, torn between fear for me and lust for Stevie.
I started using that lust to my advantage. I’d put my had out for sniffs when they wanted her back in. Sometimes it worked, but rarely.
They started being naughty: dragging things from suitcases. Chewing slippers. Trillium realized she could jump on the couch. Tulip, a good 5 pounds heavier and three inches taller, wouldn’t get there for a few days. Taunting ensued.
We decided to see how they would do outside. We don’t have a fenced yard, so double-leashing was a must. That’s tricky, when they don’t let us near. But we managed, and out we all went.
They had a ball! Who knew little beachy babies would love the snow? Of course, the main quest was attempting closeness with Stevie, who loves to run and chase and knock puppies over. They were all in. Until, of course, I decided they had been barefoot in the snow for long enough. HWSNBN managed to grab Trillium, who screamed like she was being gutted. I used Stevie to lure Tulip in, so that was a little less dramatic but no less stressful. We have not tried the front yard since.
They prefer napping, anyway.
I have tried to get them used to the leash, by coating it with peanut butter and laying it on the ground. I don’t think they hate the leash — they just hate us getting close enough to put them on (and God forbid we hold the end when we do get them on). I’m going to reach out to the SHH trainers for advice on that.
We’ve had them now almost two weeks. Occasionally I can get close enough to pet or scratch them, but they certainly don’t relax when I do. I wish I could start house training them, but that’s just going to have to wait until we get more trust. I’d also love to get them outside for walks, but again, we seem to be a ways away for that. There may come a day when I decide to separate them, but I don’t think they are there yet, I don’t know that they are relying on each other exactly, so that may not be necessary. I am not ready for them to go up on the website yet: if they won’t let me touch them, bring potential adopters into the house could be traumatic.
I am not frustrated: I have four months of fear to overcome. I am sad they are missing out on walks and pets and cuddles, but all of a sudden one day it will click, and there will be no turning back. I know that they have lives of love ahead of them! And I know that if not for the valiant efforts of rescuers almost 2,500 miles apart, they would most likely have ended up with terrible lives.
So for now, I will continue to throw kibble around, and hope that one day they will look at me with as much joy as they do Stevie Nicks!
If you would like to save a dog or cat when you travel next, and live in the Minnesota area, click here for more information. If you are not in our area, contact your local rescue, or find a rescue in the country you are visiting.
Once again, when the calendar turned to Labor Day weekend, we packed the car and headed to Madeline Island, WI.
Our plan was to leave no later than 10am, which would put us at the ferry in Bayfield around 2:30, but HWSNBN got sucked into phone calls and couldn’t pack up the car. Usually I drive so he can do work calls and sleep, but this time it just didn’t happen. And normally, showing up late isn’t a big deal, as ferries typically run back to back about every 20-30 minutes. However: we received an email from our rental landlords (the wonderful Madeline Island Vacations) the night before, letting us know that winds were high and the last ferry would be around 8pm.
When I read the email, I wasn’t worried. That would be an exceptionally late time for us to arrive.
But as his calls lingered on and on and on, and the hours passed, I started getting concerned. We made good time on the drive up, but, as we approached Bayfield (where we catch the ferry), I suggested that he check the website and see if there had been any updates. Sure enough, the winds were really bad, and the last ferry was now going to be 5pm.
It was 4:30, and we were 40 minutes away.
HWSNBN started to panic, urging me to drive faster and faster. I sped up, but decided that even though I was the only car on a pretty straight, relatively flat country road, I wasn’t willing to break the sound barrier just because he was late leaving. I calmly asked him to start looking into places for us to stay the night. He refused. He called the ferry, hoping to ask them to wait. They didn’t answer. As we reached town, of course I had to slow down, which of course meant his heart raced faster. I pulled up to the ferry line where the boat was still docked, but there was a truck towing a trailer in line before us.
We sat, and waited, and wondered if they’d let us on.
The ferry people were walking around the truck and trailer, and the guy finally shook his head and motioned us forward. We got the last spot on the ferry, simply because trailer dude didn’t fit. We sailed across (with our ass hanging off the back of the boat, according to HWSNBN), not nearly as relaxed as we usually are on the ferry to Madeline. But there is nothing like it once you are there!
It was an unusual start to an unusual weekend. The island has five restaurants, and two were closed early for the season due to COVID-19. The others were take out only. The place was unusually busy, crowded with lots of new faces. I guess everyone needed a getaway, and you saw folks all over the island wandering around with maps. Which is really funny, because the island may be 14 miles long and 3 miles wide, but the business district can be walked end to end in 10 minutes.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to see and do. But, sadly, not as much as usual. Yeah, Tom’s Burned Down Café was open, but only allowed a few folks in at a time. You could get a garlic burger and Superman ice cream at Grandpa Tony’s, but you wouldn’t be sitting at a table with an oversized playing card signifying your order number.
As we ran into the map clutchers, we gently suggested they come back when the pandemic was settled, as the island usually has a much more vibrant energy .
As for us, we did just fine. We stayed at a new cabin this time, called Haven House, and it may just be our favorite ever. One of our friends asked if we get tired of staying at new places all the time, but not at all. It’s great finding new island treasures, and this one was fantastic.
HWSNBN and I usually go up on Thursday, while our friends follow the next day. So the first night we ordered take out from The Pub, opened a bottle of wine and played cribbage in front of the fire. It was a perfect kickoff to the weekend.
The next day I read a book outside while he hit a bucket of balls, and Stevie Nicks kept an eye on the local wildlife.
When our friends arrived on the island, we all grabbed takeout again, this time from Cafe Seiche, and ate it at their cabin. After dinner we played drinking games and let all our dogs run amok on the golf course (it’s a pretty casual place, is Madeline).
Saturday was golf for the fellas, and the beach for the dogs and the ladies.
Sadly, this was not a warm weekend. The windy theme that rushed us onto the island Thursday never let up. Our paddleboards didn’t get any use — they just enjoyed a nice roundtrip strapped to the top of the car. We hosted dinner that night, and finished the night by the bonfire.
Sunday was pretty much a repetition of Saturday — golf and beach, but with a little stroll downtown in the afternoon, including a visit to the charming Bell Street Gallery, which is always good for live music and an adult beverage, and, of course, lovely local art work. Then we meanedered back to enjoy a cocktail at The Pub’s fantastic new patio area (it’s not a Madeline Island trip without a Bootleg or two!).
The group all headed back to our place to play Kubb, a fun game at which I do NOT excel. then dinner at their place, with more laughs and dog merriment.
It’s a predicable weekend, and maybe that’s why we love it so much. We know we will eat, drink, laugh and run around after dogs. After the craziest 6 months the world has ever experienced, that’s all you really need.
You’ve heard it said before: our pets are loving quarantine. The only thing Stevie Nicks likes better than us staying home with her, is her going on vacation with us.
For the fourth of July weekend, we travelled up north to one of our fave places, Madeline Island, WI.
It was a different trip than usual: no dining inside restaurants, no bar hopping, no hanging by the pool. So it was take the dogs to beaches, day after day.
They loved it.
This was Stevie’s second trip to the island, but it was the first for her friend Lyle, and the umpteenth for old man Monte. At first Stevie was swimming laps around Lye-Lyle corocdile, butt after a day or so Lyle was kicking her doodle butt at stick fetching!
Lyle, the black doodle above, has a neat trick: he likes to dive for rocks. We didn’t understand at first, but as you’ll see in the following slideshow, he likes to sort through the rocks underwater with his paws, and pull one where he can get it, then sticks his head underwater!
Monte is the handsomest boy, but he has never been a big stick chaser. He’d rather catch water in the air, or the occasional rock. He’s 14 now, and fighting cancer, so we were happy to see him enjoy himself!
Lyle and Monte are brothers, and they tried to play together a bit, but Lyle is a puppy and his crazy speed revs a bit higher than Monte’s.
Oh yes: there were humans on the trip as well!
Goof balls. They managed it, but man they looked silly!
We head back up in a month or so. I think the dogs are already in the car, waiting to go!
Hey now! I didn’t say sleeping around IN Seattle. Get your mind out of the gutter!
No, this is about our last trip before the world melted. It was a mini vaca of sorts to Seattle and a few surrounding areas, taken to witness and celebrate Sailor Boy’s re-enlistment in the US Navy.
He could pick any time, really, to do this, as long as it was done a certain amount of time before his contract was up. We chose the last weekend in February, because it was the beginning of Singer Girl’s spring break, and she was able to escape and meet us cross country. She’d never been to Washington, so we decided to add some touristing to the schedule.
Sailor Boy picked us up at SEA-TAC, and we took the long, meandering way around Puget Sound to get to Bremerton, where his aircraft barrier is docked. We had a lot planned for the next three days, and, as we were eager to get to sleep — but we were hungry. Thought a drive-through would be a good quick option, but evidently, Taco Bell is the place to be after 9pm in a Navy town. An hour later, our border run complete, we stuffed tacos u our faces and fell asleep.
The next day we had to meet Sailor Boy and his fellow sailors for the swearing-in. It’s always interesting being a civilian at these things, as you really don’t get all the procedures and, frankly, they speak another language.
First, he was honorably discharged from the Navy, which took me by surprise. I didn’t expect that step, and for a moment I thought “he is free — maybe he should walk away?” Evidently, I wasn’t the only one thinking that because a sailor piped up “Run!” But everyone laughed, and his lieutenant shifted gears to swear him back in. Last time I saw him sworn in he was freshly out of high school, and we were all a little terrified about what was coming next. It was easier this time, even if it meant not having him home for an even longer period.
But we had him now — for the next 48 hours!
All were invited to a celebratory lunch at his favorite restaurant in town, The Curry. It was fun breaking bread with the sailors who were able to join us! Next, it was off to the ship. Singer Girl had never been on the aircraft carrier before, so a tour was a must-see.
The next stop on our agenda was checking into a new hotel, in a different town. My brother and sister in law live in Olympia, so we were meeting them for dinner. As always, we were fashionably late on our drive to the new digs. But we cleaned up quicky then feasted at one of their favorite places, Basilico Ristorante.
After dinner we hung at their house, celebrating and going through my brother’s record collection. He let Singer Girl pick 10 of them as a birthday gift, and it was so fun listening to them — especially since so many of them had been our parents’. It was bittersweet in retrospect, as my parents had been huge Kenny Rogers fans back in the day, and he passed away so shortly after this. Gotta love The Gambler!
The next morning we checked out and hustled back to Bremerton to have brunch at Sailor Boy’s fave diner, the Big Apple Diner. I love this place, too! Super kitschy and great food (the potato pancakes are to die for!). After eating it was time to get on the ferry to Seattle.
I loved that someone had left a puzzle on one of the tables. Singer Girl and I tucked in and got to work. Who knew that would be the first in a series of puzzles in the coming months?
Once in Seattle, we checked into our VRBO. I picked a place right downtown, minutes from the ferry and walking distance to everything. If you are looking for a place, check it out.
Before we left, I borrowed a date night trick and booked a scavenger hunt via Groupon. I love these as a way to get to know a city and to give you an idea of what you want to come back to. We started up by the Space Needle, wandered around by the museums and gardens there, then headed back down towards Pike’s Market and other downtown sites. Halfway through we met up with our niece/cousin Alyssa who lives and works in Seattle.
As always, whenever I get near a market, I am camera happy. The colors are always too tempting for me!
Scavenger hunt completed, we went back to the condo to chill and get ready to go out to dinner. Dinner was at an awesome place — in all ways. The ambiance was terrific, the food was delicious, service outstanding! If you happen to be in Seattle, check out Toulouse Petit!
HWSNBN had to fly back on Sunday, so it was just the three of us left to pal around. At Sailor By’s suggestions, we breakfasted at a Seattle landmark, Biscuit Bitch.
I had an orange latte, and the Cheesy Pork n’ Bitch,(middle picture), which was biscuits and gravy with bacon and cheddar cheese. Sailor Boy had the Smokin’ Hot Bitch — biscuits, gravy, andouille sausage, and jalapenos. Singer Girl had some sort of breakfast sandwich which looked awesome — until a hunk fell on the ground. Sadness.
We had some calories to burn so we headed north to where we started our scavenger hunt the day before. Our intended destination was MoPOP, the Museum of Popular Culture. This place is a must-see! It highlights everything from music to TV, Movies, books, art and more.
Some of my fave exhibits:
Next, it was off to the Chihuly Museum, another fantastic place. Yeah, it sounds kind of boring: a bunch of glass sculptures. But seriously amazing.
Singer Girl is not a fan of museums, so she had grumbled at our itinerary when I revealed it that morning. But she loved both!
We did a bit more wandering (and a lot more photography for Singer Girl’s Insta page). The next day it was back home for us and back to the ship for the Boy. During the two days there we heard rumblings about the Coronavirus outbreak in Seattle and joked that we probably all had it. Thankfully, almost a month later, I can say we most likely did not. But unbeknownst to all of us, this was the last trip for a while.
I am glad we had the time together!
On our last full day, I left the schedule wide open. We slept in ( as much as we could. I seem to be waking up around 630am anymore, no matter where I am or how late I stayed up the night before), ate a leisurely breakfast, and hung at the beach and pool.
We also got to hang with our favorite new critter friends: lots of lizards and Freddy, the neighbor dog we thought was a stray, but wasn’t.
Captured a few moments of Drummer Boy and Singer Girl:
HWSNBN took it upon himself to go snorkeling — way too far out for my liking. The bay we were on was sandy smooth and clear, which was great for wading and splashing, but not good for marine life sightings. So he swam out — and disappeared. After 45 minutes of having no idea where he was, I asked folks at the neighboring villa if they had seen him when they were out swimming and canoeing. Nope. So one of teh guys took a boat back out and found him; I could see them talking from teh beach, and can only imagine the conversation:
“Dude, your wife is stressing.”
“She can’t see you. I think you better get back. You might be in trouble, man.”
So he came back. I gave him the stink eye, explained calmly that if the kids or I had done that he would have lost his ever-loving mind. He agreed, kind of sheepishly. I gave him another look, then left to get ready for dinner.
That night we went out to an amazing restaurant — Scotchies in Falmouth (http://scotchies.restaurantsnapshot.com/). As we all wondered what to have, the waitress just took away the menus and said. “I’ll take care of you, mon.” And she did. Jerk chicken and pork, sausage, ribs, steak, and sides. Our fave new food in Jamaica had to be festival, a kind of semi-sweet dense doughy breadstick. Incredible! And the margaritas at Scotchies were amazing as well! We sat outside and it was very pretty — thanks to Andrew for suggesting it!
After dinner, it was time for our last adventure: swimming at Glistening Waters, one of only 4 bioluminescent bays in the world (http://www.glisteningwaters.com/luminous-lagoon-tour/). Once again, Andrew hooked us up: we were the last ones there for the night, so went out in a boat solo and got to swim. The waters glow when they are disturbed, so we treaded (trod?) water with wild abandon to make the magic happen!
The bay was bath water warm, and if you ever go heed the call for water shoes because that is some squishy stuff on the bottom (don’t ask, don’t tell). But what a fun last adventure!
well, not quite the last one!
When we got back to the house, we resumed a marathon activity that Sailor Boy had been planning for us: a game of Dungeons and Dragons. For weeks leading up to the trip, he helped the D and D virgins (me, HWSNBN and Singer Girl) create characters, and gave us YouTube videos to watch. It didn’t help. I spent my teen years avoiding this game, sure that it would ruin my social standing if I played the “game of nerds.” Well, having happily raised a proud nerd, it was inevitable that I would have to come to the dark side eventually. We played the game over a span of three days and nights — and ultimately had to speed through the end or we would still be there at the table, me baffled at what I was supposed to do. My son was in his element, and we were all bonding with wild abandon.
It was awful.
It was awesome.
I’d do it all again tomorrow!
On day three we donned water shoes and hiked through the Jamaican jungle to climb up — and jump off of — waterfalls.
I had originally planned to visit the famous Dunn’s River Falls, but Andrew reassured me that the Blue Hole area was actually more enjoyable, according to the other folks he had driven around. Again, Andrew did not steer us wrong!
There were little falls and big ones. Tiny shallow pools and great big deep ones. Lots of blue water and green foliage. It was beautiful, and it was so fun! We actually got some great pictures, too! I don’t usually buy the CDs that the professional photographers hawk, but these were worth it!
After all our time in teh ocean, the fresh water was incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating. As tourist attractions go, it was about as far from American as you could get: pot brownies sold at stands as you climbed, Rastafarians selling Red Stripe beer out of coolers, and very few safety rules.
always be wary of what’s happening behind you…
The last jump was the biggie: about a 40 foot drop!
After that (and after we had to reinsert Drummer Boy’s arm shoulder back into its socket), we did a short zip line into a pond!
All in all, a stellar experience!
That evening, back at the villa, Chappie, the house caretaker, made a bonfire on the beach!
HWSNBN couldn’t resist helping:
A great ending to a great day!
I have never made a formal bucket list (note to self: good blog topic), but I already know some of the things on it, and am working my way through it. Last year, I danced on teh Champs Elysees for my birthday. This summer I will go skydiving. And last week, I rode a horse on a beach!
When I broached the subject with the Jamaica-bound crew only Singer Girl was an immediate and emphatic yes vote. The others came and to the idea (except for one. He chose to sleep in and hang out poolside at the villa. Not a bad choice!).
The rest of us hopped in the car with driver Andrew and headed to Braco Stables (http://bracostables.com.jm/).
After donning the requisite headgear, we saddled up!
Soon we wandering fields and beaches, passing abandoned drug airstrips and banana trees, enjoying the flowers and the wildlife. Occasionally our horses had minds of their own — especially mine, who wanted to keep nibbling the tall grass as we passed. We all secretly hoped we’d get a chance to pick up speed, but the guides really frowned on that. Every now and then I’d hear Drummer Boy call out “Yah!” to his horse. I think he may have had the most fun of all of us!
Then it was time to get in the water (after a beer break, of course!)
Then we hopped back on the horses and rode back.
What a glorious day! So many laughs, and such huge smiles on everyone’s faces! And the scenery! Whatever could we do the next day to top it?
As we were planning the trip, I gave the crew a list of adventure options. Some were universal yeses, some were met with a “no thanks” and some were in the middle. We started the trip strong, with a unanimous choice: scuba diving.
HWSNBN and I have been certified for decades (took our classes in a YMCA swimming pool in Fargo in the dead of winter), and Sailor Boy and Singer Girl have gone twice before, in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. But since they aren’t certified, they were required to do a “how to” crash course along with scuba virgins Drummer Boy and Mojo Jojo. Andrew brought us to Garfield Diving in Ocho Rios (http://garfielddiving.com/) and we all suited up. HWSNBN and I went out for a dive while they took classes, meeting up with three other divers from Germany.
Every time we dive, I know I am going to get a wee bit panicky at first. The human body is not supposed to breathe underwater, and, as an overthinker, I always have to work through that first time. But once I start to swim a bit, I get distracted by the beauty and wonder of the underwater world.
When the kids were done and ready, our boat met up with theirs. We dove in and waited at the bottom for the rest of the group. A couple came right down, but two took a while, as one was experiencing the same panic I get. The dive master from Garfield was patient and understanding and helped him through his nerves, and soon we were all swimming with the fishes!
As always, I am humbled when I am under water. The vastness, the sense of peace and beauty and wonder — all combine to make me slow down, relax, and enjoy the moment. I did see a lot of dying coral, which was heart-wrenching. It is hard to see the environment failing because we have failed it. Before we went down, our dive master told us to be on teh lookout for lionfish, an invasive species dangerous to fish and humans. They prey on baby fish and are contributing to the destruction of the reef. During our dives, we found (and he killed — that was hard to watch but necessary) four of them.
Once killed, he trimmed them of their dangerous spikes and fed them to sea anemones, so the circle of life was fulfilled!
Here is a slide show of some of the amazing sea life we experienced:
As always, we came away knowing we HAD to do this again — and my kids are determined to be certified! After diving, it was time for some grubbing, so Andrew drove us to Olympic runner and Jamaican legend Usain Bolt’s restaurant (https://tracksandrecords.com/) where we replenished our stores, then headed back to the villa, reminiscing about today, and looking forward to the next adventure!