Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bluebonnets Past

A Dog Park regular, E., sent in pictures of the bluebonnets from two years ago and from last year. They illustrate a point I made in a previous post about the bluebonnet bounty of 2007 compared to last year and this year. 

Here is Joey, a lovely young Border Collie, poised mid-air, in a field of bluebonnets. Now, imagine that this field is as big as a city block. Impressive—both the flowers and Joey's ability to fly Superman style! This photo was taken 3/31/07.

Here is Joey a year later (3/28/08) in the same field. Hi, Joey! Both Joey and the bluebonnets are more subdued. (Could both have superhuman powers—including the ability to predict the upcoming  tumultuous  election and the financial crisis that would rock the world?) 

This year, we've only just had our first substantial rain, and already I've seen more, healthier looking bluebonnets than I reported earlier. For consistency's sake, E. promises to take another photo of Joey in the same field at the end of the month, and I will dutifully post it. 

In the meantime, I am heading to Oklahoma for spring break. Roma and Muzzy and I are going to Muzzy's homeland. We hope to be able to post at least once from the land of red dirt, whose motto is Labor Omnia Vincit--Labor Conquers All. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Roma's BDPF

In a previous post, a profile of my dog Roma, I said that she has no BDPFs (Best Dog Park Friends). She's an old lady now and creaky in the bones, so she does not really wrestle or hang out with other dogs. In her middle years, though, she was fond of a Basenji named Pearl. Pearl was fiesty, stubborn, fast on her feet, and years younger than Roma, but they were great pals. Pearl was killed a few years ago after being attacked by a coyote while walking with her owners on the Greenbelt. I wrote a poem in Pearl's honor for her ash-spreading, which took place at Dog-Park. In it, I tried to imagine the situation from Roma's point of view. 

Roma's Lament
"O Pearl-girl, 
wingless Pegasus,
little gem, 
old chum, 
why don't you come to Dog Park anymore?
I wait, endlessly patient, 
in the gnat-thick heat, 
sphinx-posed on pee-parched grass, 
surrounded by fools.

"I hear, but don't believe, the story,
retold countless times, like headline crawls,
'Conquered by Coyote,' 'The Gaping Wound,'
'The Race to the Vet,' 'She Rallies!,' 'The Merciful Release.'
They say you charged up that hill like paparazzi on deadline
and then slipped out of the leash of life
like a British princess in a black Mercedes.
You are just as missed.

"I don't know where you are, Pearl dear, but I hope
the squirrels are slow and juicy there,
the limestone creeks are shallow and swift, and 
the kibble is always from cans.
Godspeed and good hunting, my friend."
June 2006/ March 2009


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pooch Profile: Meet Roma

Name: Roma

Owner: Zia

Nicknames: Romey, Roma-doma, Romisch, Roma-Padoma, Poober, Booby (as in blue-footed, that rare bird), Bubby ; also, now that we have Muzzy, Mumma--a combination of the two dogs' names. Don't tell my own Mum. 

Known at Dog Park as: The Grey Ghost

Age: 13

Breed(s): Best guess: Husky and German Shepherd

Place of Origin: Another planet, but I found her at the Austin Humane Society

Places She Has Lived or Visited: Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, the Appalachian Trail, the Atlantic Ocean

Most Commented-on Feature(s): Her soulful eyes, her worried expression, her thoughtful demeanor 

BDPFs (Best Dog Park Friends): Any human who carries treats

Mortal Enemies: The mailman and the meter readers 

Movie Stars She's Been Compared to: Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo

Signature Move(s): Deep, sad gazing at humans who carry treats; the paw push (as in "I'm sitting right here!")

What She Would Say If She Could Talk: "Ha, ha! I can't hear you." "I am so out of here." I also think she could recite all the digits of pi. 


Pooch Profiles: Meet Muzzy

Name: Muzzy     
Owner: Zia

Nickname(s): Muzzy-moo, Muzzer, The Muzz, Moomish, Muzzola, Moo-moo (alternate spelling: Mu-Mu)

Age: almost 2 (born sometime in April)

Breed(s): Hmm. German shepherd and perhaps beagle (something  hound-like)

Place of origin: Oklahoma (found by friends at 8 weeks, wandering with her brother puppy)

Best feature(s): Liquid brown eyes, velvety ears, long tail with little white tuft at the tip

BDPFs (Best Dog Park Friends): Bindi, Tessa, Wilson, Bailey, Maggie, and Little Dog

Mortal Enemies: Sophie, the neighbor's dog; that  three-legged dog at Dog Park

Favorite Toy: that  @#$%-ing squeaky red football, Nylabone (chicken flavor)

Movie Stars She's Been Compared to: Anne Hathaway (for her leggy, wide-eyed charm)

Signature Move: Paw in the water bowl while drinking, standing exactly where you want to walk, bunny-hop pounce, also--she licks everything

What She'd Say If She Could Talk:  "Why are you yelling? " "Open the door, please!"

Later that same day: I forgot to say that I hope to make this a regular feature about dogs other than my own who visit Dog Park. Dear Reader(s): Please send me photos and interesting stats about your own Dog Park faves. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bluebonnet on It

Yesterday I saw the first bluebonnet of the season at Dog Park. It was puny little thing, pale and wan. I was amazed; I did not expect to see any this year. It's my understanding that bluebonnets need a winter cold enough to break seed coats and rain enough to germinate them, and we had neither this winter or last. Two years ago, when we had a great deal of rain, was a banner season for bluebonnets and all the wild flowers at Dog Park. The north field was awash in purple blooms. From the parking lot, it seemed our field had been transformed into an azure lake. Quite beautiful. I never did take a photo of it. I think I wanted my own little Wordworthian moment. I wanted to recollect those bluebonnets in tranquility. And I often have. 

Bluebonnets are especially cherished not only for their beauty but because they are clear season markers in a place that has little in the way of seasons. Some springs are so hot that the flowers are the only way to identify the time of year. The Dog Parkers await the wild blooms the way kids anticipate Christmas. First signs are not only noted but talked about. Once the flowers are out in full force, they become the main topic of conversation. How long can they last? Are they brighter than last year's? Taller? Fuller? How is the weather helping--or not? The colors in the fields change as the purple of the  bluebonnets gives way to reds and yellows of Indian paintbrushes and Mexican blankets. By early May, only a few tough stragglers are still hanging on before summer heat truly kicks in. 

I will try to find that bluebonnet and take a photo this year. In the meantime, for those of  you who have a shaky memory of high-school English or don't have your Norton's Anthology handy, here is the Wordsworth poem I alluded to above. --zia

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (1807)

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er the vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd, 
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of the bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company;
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my hear heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Source: The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd edition, 1983, p.556.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Man on Wire / Dog at Park/ Free as Bird

Over the weekend, I watched the film Man on Wire, a 2008 documentary about Philippe Petit, a Frenchman who walked a wire strung between the World Trade Center buildings one muggy August morning in 1974. The stills and footage of the diminutive man strutting on a 7/8" wide cable hanging a quarter mile in the air were stunning. His performance lasted 45 minutes before he was arrested by NYPD. Years later, he described his time on the wire as the ultimate freedom, like that of the gulls circling above his head and--amazingly--below his feet. What struck me, though, was the clear difference in how the experience affected both Petit and his accomplices. He felt baptized, pushed into a new realm of possibility—as well as into celebrity; he beamed while recalling his experience. His friends, however, were reduced to tears at the memory of the efforts they had made and the risks they had taken. Their experiences were so intense that their relationships with Petit did not withstand it. Of course, my thoughts drifted to Dog Park. 

Our Dog Park is full of hundreds of canine versions of Petit--bold, adventurous, graceful, hyperactive creatures that are naturally oblivious to the efforts we humans make in their constant care and upkeep: feeding, watering, walking, grooming, medicating, loving. Every day I make sure my girls get a chance to run around like wild things, without the restriction of leashes. The burden of responsibility falls on me. I watch that their interactions with other dogs are friendly, that they don't stray too far. I watch for their poop and pick it up. I watch for the runners and cyclists and kids with kites and the crazy park neighbor who chases us on his motorcycle and Animal Control. I carry bags and leashes and water. I am Doggy sherpa—all so that they can experience a hour or two of freedom. 

A dozen years ago, as a novice dog owner, I worried about my older dog's freedom all the time. I adopted Roma from the Humane Society. A husky mix, she had been somewhat neglected by her original owners. She had no loyalty to me and when she got out of the house, she would run--a bad deal on Austin's East Side, just blocks from I-35. On a hike with friends in Bull Creek Park, she took off. She ran up the embankment of Highway 360, across the six lanes, down the other side, and into the woods. I did not see her again for ten days. Friends and I searched every day. We plastered that part of town and the park with Lost Dog posters. I got daily  calls of Roma sightings so I knew she was still alive and uninjured. One park ranger told me he had seen her in a trash can that very morning. My thoughts were mixed and stupid. "Maybe," I thought, "she needs needs to find her own way, to be true to her wild side. Maybe she ran away because she was unhappy, because domesticated life was so constraining." Eventually Roma let a stranger slip a leash on her, and she was returned to me. She looked unfazed by her experience, though she slept for two days afterward. Amazingly, too, she seemed somewhat reformed, coming when called, avoiding the street, and never, ever running away again. I have often wondered what she thought about while on her great adventure. Had she felt exhilarated, liberated? Was this her Thoreauvian experiment, to see if she could live better without humans than with their cushy sofas and cheesy treats and their constant, annoying demands (sit, stay, heel,down; hate them!)? I will, of course, never know. She will never tell me. 

I still have dreams of losing her. She is always running off, deaf to my calls. In the most recent dream, my ex-husband shows up on a bicycle unexpectedly after a seven-year absence, and Roma takes off after him without a moment's hesitation. Disloyal bitch. Or simply too loyal to her own desire for freedom—she is  in my mind anyway. In the meantime, I continue to be her benevolent dictator, keeping her leashed to this world as long as she will put up with it.