It’s The Pits

This Labor Day weekend is not what I envisioned for 3 glorious days of sunshine and lovely, comfortable temps.  Nope.  This Labor Day weekend has been full of stress, worry and anxiety.  I brought it upon myself though.  But, I also have to forgive myself because accidents do happen…

Pongo, our little Hoover, decided that he’s starving and needed to slurp up a nectarine pit that slipped out of my hand and fell on the floor before “LEA…” (leave it!) could be sputtered from my mouth. (This, unfortunately, is not the actual pit but one that I brought to the vet so they could see what we are working with.)

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So, we spent Saturday and Sunday at Diamond Animal Hospital taking x-rays and attempting to get him to expel the pit.

Pit X-Ray Test Nectarine Pit

They induced vomiting at least 3 times over the two days (poor guy-he’s not a good puker). We fed him beef broth soaked cotton balls and white bread hoping they would help push it out.  He’s had three meals of oatmeal, coconut oil, and a little food.


He’s bored out of his mind…


…and feeling well enough to roll in something stinky.


He’s pooping regularly–just not that damn pit!

We were told it’s just the right size so who knows, “It might pass and it might not.”

Now, we’re just waiting, waiting, waiting and praying that the pit decides to rear its ugly head sooner rather than later.


It Was A Hot One

Steve has been working around the clock lately, in town and out of town.  He was thankfully able to take the 4th of July off, so we packed up the trailer and headed out to our newly acquired property.  We were looking forward to getting away from Anchorage and all the Pongo-frightening, firework mayhem that comes with the 4th of July.

The day before we headed up, we had our driveway improved: cleared of brush, leveled and a circular drive built around the dry cabin for easy in and out of the trailer.  There’s a lot of dirt right now but that just means more planting fun!

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What is so nice about spending time at the property is Pongo gets to romp and roam (within eye-sight).  He loves it and all the ball playing that comes with having more space.


What we weren’t expecting though was the HEAT.  I LOVE the heat but unfortunately, my boys don’t tolerate it very well.


There was a lot of shade seeking…



…and trips to the creek to cool off.

DSC_0047 DSC_0044 DSC_0054 DSC_0059 DSC_0062We were lucky enough to have Mt. McKinley out in its majestic glory two out of our three days up at the property.

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We had an amazing time, and Pongo and I feel very fortunate to have some Papa time before he gets really busy again!


It’s A Big One!

Has it really been five years?  I guess so…although it sure doesn’t feel like it!  Our sweet boy, Pongo turns 5 today!  As always, we made sure to celebrate his birthday in style.

The morning started out with some yoga to warm up and stretch things out.




Then, on to some serious ball playing.



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After a good game of ball and one tired pup, we headed home for a birthday breakfast surprise, which…

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…was gone in under 3 seconds.


And what is a birthday without donning the beloved (or not so beloved, in Pongo’s opinion) birthday hat?

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We ended the celebration with Pongo’s favorite birthday and Christmas job: unwrapping the gifts!




So Happy

This past week was a rough one for Pongo and me.  First, Steve left town to work out in the field and we all know how Pongo deals with Papa leaving: not very good at all.


On top of that, I was dealing with a nasty stomach bug and had little energy to do much of anything with Pongo.  He was one very bored pup this week.  But, I do have to commend him for handling it well and giving Mama the time to rest and recoup.

IMG_0789So today, with Papa back in town and me feeling so much better than I have the past 5 days, we took to the road for a little fun and exploration.  Pongo was beyond thrilled to be riding in the truck, off on an adventure to find some good snowshoeing.

We now have one tired and content boy.


A New Year

It’s always in the back of my mind: I need to blog!  But lately, life has gotten in the way and not always in a bad way.  Here’s a brief overview of what our little family has been up to the past 2 months.


In early November, Steve and I spent 6 relaxing days enjoying the sun, warmth and beach of Oahu, Hawaii.  It was heaven!

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IMG_0628While Mama and Papa were basking in the sun, Pongo enjoyed spending time with his beloved Miss Sue.

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November also brought with it the dreaded ice that we always seem to get every winter.  It is impossible to do anything outside because it’s slick as snot and deadly!  When cabin fever made us all crazy, we braved the ice for a few moments of play outside….Pongo, in the booties he loathes.



December finally brought some much needed snow but unfortunately, that did not protect Pongo from the ice it covered.  The cone of shame came out, once again, to keep the boy from licking a badly cut and infected paw pad.

IMG_0723We are finally on the mend from that wound but are now on the lookout for some booties that will cover-up all his pads, not irritate his dew claw and STAY ON (suggestions are always welcome).

December also means Christmas.  While Pongo does not understand the meaning of Christmas, he sure does understand that when the tree and stockings come out, presents are soon to follow!

DSC_0250 DSC_0256I have never seen a dog so excited when it comes time to open presents.  I would even call it manic!  He was all over the place: ripping open his presents, trying to sneak by Papa, the present gate-keeper, to grab at any present he could get his mouth on.  It’s often more fun to watch him in his frenzy than to open the gifts ourselves.

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Here’s Puna watching the madness from her safe place.


Pongo’s least favorite gift.


The Christmas photo-bomb.


And after it is all over, we have one pooped boy!



Each year when January comes around, resolutions are to be made; things I want to see happen and goals I want to accomplish.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to post at least one blog a month.  And by saying this “out loud,” I am hoping it will keep me accountable.  I would love to and will try to post more but right now, I’m trying to keep an attainable goal.  Baby steps, right?!?

Happy New Year and wishing everyone a safe and wonderful 2014!


Bring It On Again: Nose Work 2 Trial

Last May, Pongo and I experienced our first Nose Work 2 trial.  We learned a lot at that trial and hoped our lessons learned would benefit us the next trial.  So 4 weeks ago,  Pongo and I traveled down to Ninilchik to compete in the Nose Work 2 trial.  I realize I am only now blogging about it–very sad when life gets in the way of blogging!

Several months before the trial, I had made reservations at Ninilchik 132.6 Cabins and RV Park in hopes that we could take the Airstream down and camp overnight as the trial was on Saturday.  Life is never certain when you’re married to a surveyor and there was always the chance that Steve would be out of town that weekend.  So, I knew that Pongo and I may be car camping that Friday night.  A couple days before the trial, Steve realized, with great disappointment, that he was not going to be able to make the trial due to work.  I emailed the owner of the RV Park asking if he would mind if I car camped in the RV spot we had reserved.  He was fine with that so, Pongo and I drove down to Ninilchik Friday evening all geared up to car camp.

As I came out of the mountains, my voicemail beeps.  It’s the owner of Ninilchik Cabins and RV Park saying that he just wasn’t comfortable with me sleeping in my car and they had opened a bunkhouse for me to use.  I was very touched by the gesture.  I called the owner back letting him know that I very much appreciated the offer but I had my dog with me and I knew their pet policy: no pets in the cabins or bunkhouses.  He told me that he would make an exception for me and allow Pongo to stay in the bunkhouse also.  I was so grateful to have a warm place to stay that night so we could get a good night’s rest and be ready for the trial.


Saturday morning we woke up to brilliant blue skies and sunshine.  It was going to be a fantastic day!  We arrived at the State Fairgrounds, found Miss Sue who came down to support us (thank you, Miss Sue!), and signed in.  The official briefed us and then we started our walk-throughs for that morning’s elements.

The first building we walked into, met us with a scattering of luggage, plastic containers, and metal tin containers.  It looked like a bomb had gone off!  Holy crap!  The Container search was going to be our first element.  I tried to reframe it in my mind: at least we’ll have the hardest element done first and we’ll know if we’re still in the running for titling or if it’s all for fun and practice.

The official then gave us even more of a shocker: we were going to do the two elements back-to-back.  We would go right from Containers to the Interior search.  Now, that was different and a little concerning as there would be a minimal mind-clearing break between elements.  But, it worked with the flow of the building and we just had to roll with it.

We were released to our cars to get ready for the first dog.  Pongo was number 3 in a line of 13 dogs.  I pottied him and we took our place in line waiting for the go-ahead to enter the Container search.  As we were waiting, I had a heart-to heart with Pongo; I let him know we were about to do Nose Work and “go work.”  I looked him in the eyes (or least tried) and I told him how important it was that he leave those food distractions alone: leave it! PLEASE!!!  I’m not too sure he was listening because as soon as I said, “we’re here to work” he was in work mode; his nose was searching for that odor and we hadn’t even stepped foot in the building yet.  This was a good sign!

It was our turn.  As soon as Pongo heard the “OK” to come into the building, he took off at Mach 3 for the 50 feet we had between the staging area and the building entrance.  This dog was ready to work!  We walked inside and I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. Pongo’s nose was already working.  I gave him the “go find” command and off he went. He was all over the place-how was I going to keep track of what we had covered and what we hadn’t?!?  I just had to trust my dog.  He became interested in a plastic tub sitting on the ground but I could tell from his interest that it wasn’t source.  Maybe, just maybe, Mama’s words of wisdom were running through his head when he smelled that sausage, egg, and potato container…”Pongo, leave the food; leave it!”  He quickly moved on, making a wide swing around the outside of the search area and stuck his nose on a suitcase.  This sign of interest was different.  He sniffed the top of the suitcase putting his paws on it, knocking it over.  He whipped around to where the zipper lay face up-“Alert!”  I waited with bated breath for that single word of confirmation.  “Yes.”  I praised Pongo and gave him his cheese reward.  I couldn’t stop telling him what a good boy he was and what a good job he did!

We had a very short wait before entering the Interior search area.  It was two rooms: one with one hide and one with two hides.  Pongo loves interior searches so I let him do his job. He found the first hide quickly and we moved on to the second room.  He circled the room without really taking interest in any one place.  I thought to myself, Alright, he’s just categorizing where they are so he can go back.  He finally took some interest in a big, plastic tub full of rubber duckies and before I could stop him (he was off-leash), he dove into the tub, grabbed the hide and threw it at me.  Thankfully, I had alerted while his head was still in the plastic tub.  Oh, boy.  That’s definitely a fault-throwing the hide at your handler.  We had one more hide to find.  I gave him the “go find” cue and he was off and running.  He sniffed around the room for a few moments, which actually felt like an eternity, and hit on the bottom of a book rounder.  I knew he had found source, so I called alert and immediately yelled, “Don’t eat it, Pongo!”  He sat his butt down and got his reward. Whew! That was over but I was worried about that fault.  You can only get 3 faults and still title.

Our next two elements, after a lunch break, were the Vehicle search going immediately into the Exterior search.  We did our walk-through once again.  The Vehicle search didn’t look too bad: a car, an ATV, and a tractor with a small trailer.  Then, we walked into the Exterior search area…it wasn’t looking good.  It was a huge barn with 3-4 stalls made out of metal. Our search area was the whole barn.  What made it worse was the wind was blowing across the start line into the barn.  The odor was going to blow straight out the exit!  All we could do was try our best.


They reversed the order for the second set of elements.  Pongo was now 11th in line. Pongo was ready to work but the anticipation and nervousness was killing me!  When it finally was our turn to move to the staging area, Pongo was in full on work mode.  His nose was working even though the Vehicle search area was a good 100 feet away.  He was catching something and I just hoped it was revving up his drive to work.  We entered the Vehicle search area, once again at full throttle.  Behind the start line, I allowed Pongo a moment to focus on the task at hand.  He was ready!  I gave the command and he was off and running to the vehicle.  He circled it once and then hit on the wheel-well closest to the start line.  Alert!  “Yes.”  One more to find.  Pongo worked his way toward the back of the tractor and inched his nose along the hitch that connected the trailer to the tractor.  He alerted right in the middle.  “Yes!”

One more element to go.  Pongo was on a roll.  The Exterior search was where we had timed out in our last trial.  I had to believe that he could find the one and only hide in two and a half minutes.  We crossed that start line and he immediately went to the right side of the barn.  He became very interested in a metal U that was attached to the side of the barn.  I could only guess that it was a place to tie up livestock.  He wore a look of animal scent interest so I waited patiently to see what he would do.


He moved on down the wall and began nosing a beam where the actual source was hidden. I called “alert!”  The judge responded with a “yes” and then a loud, “Don’t eat it, Pongo!” Well, that was embarrassing but I also had to laugh out loud wondering if the story of him throwing the hide at me had entertained the judges at lunch?

1239136_435473663236331_915493802_oWe did it!  Pongo had earned his Nose Work 2 title!  I was so very proud of our boy!  He had this huge smile on as we walked back to the parking lot and was so proud of himself!

At the awards ceremony, I learned that we didn’t fault on him throwing the hide at me in the Interior search but we faulted in the Vehicle search?!?  He had gone around the start line cone while I had gone through.  I had no idea.  I tried really hard not to kick myself for that but upon speaking to the judge, it sounded like Pongo had caught wind of the odor and bee-lined for it (on the vehicle) missing the start line.  Unfortunately, that fault cost us second place overall but we got what we had come for: a Nose Work 2 Title.  Pongo placed 3rd in the Interior Search (1:42.85) and 3rd in the Exterior Search (0:28.02).  We were pronounced in the Interior and Exterior searches.  His overall time was 3:35.50 (click here for complete trial results).  We couldn’t be more proud of Pongo!

As you can see, the little stinker would NOT cooperate with Mama in having his picture taken with his ribbons.

DSC_0254 DSC_0253 DSC_0252 DSC_0251DSC_0249 DSC_0248 This is probably the best one.



Why did he have to be right on this one?  I chose the shortest train ride available, on Saturday, to take my visiting parents on.  Steve was conflicted about leaving Pongo in the car, in Portage our departure depot to Grandview because “something could happen” that would delay us.  It was a four hour train ride out and back.  I assured him Pongo would be fine-in the hundred or so train rides I was on while serving and tour guiding for Princess Tours, we only were delayed a couple of times.  Everything was going to be fine.

We left Portage and made our way up to Spencer Glacier, our first stop.  The views were gorgeous despite the less than ideal weather.



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We dropped off about half the train load at Spencer Glacier and continued onward to Grandview.  All of a sudden we slowed to a crawl.  We overhear talk on the radio that there’s a black bear up ahead.  We plaster ourselves against the windows in hopes of catching a glimpse of the bear.  The train continues to creep around a corner and then stops.

Cue bear…


DSC_0189 DSC_0186 DSC_0225We sit for quite awhile watching the bear and snapping pictures.  I thought, “How nice of them to give us so much time to bear watch.”  Steve then made the comment, “Something’s wrong.”  I retorted with, “No, nothing’s wrong.  They are just giving the tourists the ultimate Alaska experience.”

Cue conductor…

“Well, folks I’m going to be completely honest with you, and this has never happened before…we’ve run out of fuel.”

WHAT?!?  How can you run out of fuel? Ooohhhh…someone is going to be in big trouble for not doing his/her job!

We sit for awhile, continuing to watch the bear who is giving us quite the show while the railroad figures out what to do.  Their first idea was to drop one of the cars so our car could be pulled up to Grandview but they decided they didn’t have enough power with just one engine to do that.  So, back to Spencer Glacier we coasted.

Once we returned to Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, we were told we had a couple hours to walk around while the railroad sent an engine from Anchorage.  Our directive was to be back by 5:00 PM.  I really hoped that they could get an engine to us quickly-our boy was sitting in the car, waiting for us!

We unloaded and began the 1.3 mile hike to Spencer Lake.  As we were walking we all realized that it felt good to get out, stretch our legs and walk to an absolutely gorgeous lake with front seat views of Spencer Glacier.



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Fortunately, the railroad was able to get an engine to us quickly and we were on our way to Portage.  We ended up being only an hour late and Pongo was just fine.  And even though we didn’t make it to our final destination, we all agreed that things worked out for the best as we were able to experience an amazing piece of Alaska.

Winding Down and Gearing Up

If you listen closely enough, you may be able to hear the wails of a grieving school counselor.  Summer is coming to a close.  I can’t complain though because we were blessed with a summer like there’s been no other: sun and temperatures in the 70s, sometimes 80s.  And not just one or two days but day, after day, after day.  It was spectacular!

Besides celebrating an amazing summer, Steve and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary at the beginning of August.  To ring in our ten year anniversary, we thought it would be fun to pack up the camper, along with Pongo and hit the road for a 750 mile trip to Haines, Alaska and the Southeast State Fair.

We took our time getting to Haines, which is something very different for us because driving the Al-Can for us always seems to be a hurried death march with deadlines to meet.  Taking our time meant we could stop and explore places we had never explored, like Dezadeash Lake in the Yukon Territory.


Pongo was more than happy to get out, stretch his legs and cool off with a swim in the lake.


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After a two and a half day journey, we finally made it to Haines, a.k.a Dog City.  We weren’t anticipating everybody in Southeast Alaska attending the state fair.  But, that appeared to be the case and low and behold, so did their dogs.  Why not bring your dog when it’s just a short ferry ride from where you live?

We camped at the Haines Hitch Up RV Park, which is a well-run and well-maintained RV Park but hell for a D.I.N.O.S.  Our space was right in front of the dog walk area, with no option to move.

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It was a test of patience managing our dog, who needs a very wide berth of space and clueless people who don’t understand, or maybe even know, that there are some dogs who need space.  I think Pongo probably gained about 5 pounds with all the treats we used to distract him while dogs walked by!

We tried to get out as much as possible-trying to find areas where Pongo could get out and play without running into other dogs.  This was very difficult as the population of Haines probably doubled in the two-legged population and positively tripled in the four-legged population because of the state fair.DSC_0079 DSC_0074 DSC_0082 DSC_0070

While down in Haines, we were also on the hunt for bears.  Haines has a lot of bears and Steve ran across two last year, while working on a job.  I wanted so desperately to see a bear (from the truck) and every day we would drive the route where Steve saw his two bears.

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Did we ever see a bear?  Nope.  And along with that, we didn’t see a single piece of wildlife the whole ten days we were out!  I was so disappointed!  Despite the lack of wildlife, we had a wonderful time camping and exploring Alaska, while celebrating ten incredible years together.



Our extremely peaceful campsite, in comparison to our site in Haines, at the Sourdough Campground in Tok, Alaska.


Pongo’s first taste of raspberries.


Matanuska Glacier


Now, it’s time to get back into school mode and get ourselves prepared for the Nose Work 2 trial coming up in September.  We’re hitting the nose work practice hard in order to redeem ourselves from the Nose Work 2 trial last May.  Pongo will by-pass the buttered wheat toast this time!

Belated Birthday Celebration

I admit it: Pongo is one spoiled dog.  Who in their right mind throws their dog a belated birthday celebration because Mama and Papa were out of town on his 4th birthday last Sunday?  We do.

Here’s Pongo doing what he loves to do when he sees presents–ripping into them!


As you can tell, this was not his favorite present.


A new bobble-ball to replace the beat-up, chewed-to-pieces old one.


And, a new bully-stick.



I think the best part of the celebration though was Grandma Bev’s present, which I had never heard of before…Frosty Paws.


Oh boy, was Pongo in doggie heaven!

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And 30 seconds later–it’s gone!  I wonder if dogs get brain-freeze?


Pongo was one happy boy after his birthday treat and celebration!