Monday, June 30, 2008

What the Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over

June 8, 2008 -- Truman and I have pretty much been hanging around the apartment, having a lazy day. Some days, he just looks big and grown up in ways that I've not yet seen. Today, inexplicably, he looks suspicious.

Riding the Rails with Roo, Part 3 (My Dog Is Well Trained)

(Sorry about the title. Couldn't help myself.)

June 1, 2008 -- Just four months after our first train trip to San Diego, Truman and I were headed there again. And though we were riding in an Amtrak passenger car, this time was different in that the train was being pulled by the steam locomotivewe've come to know and love.

Unlike the trip to Fullerton, this was a full-blown steam excursion that was open to the public; it had been three years in the making, and the cars that followed the engine were filled with families, old-timers and steam enthusiasts who travel to distant locations for opportunities such as this one. As we pulled away from Union Station and rounded a curve of track, I was able to get a quick photo of Santa Fe 3751 in action -- forgive the "filter" of the dirty Amtrak window:

As usual, many people were surprised to see a dog on the train, but Truman makes friends quickly and soon one of our car hosts was snapping his photograph for inclusion in his train club's upcoming newsletter. We settled in and enjoyed the view all the way down the coast, having chosen seats on the side of the train that we knew would be closest to the ocean during the daylight trip southward.

She certainly draws a crowd! We pulled into the historic Santa Fe station in San Diego a few relaxing hours later, and were immediately met with throngs of curious onlookers and TV cameras. Here are some shots of her from the station and from across the street, with the station behind her, against the backdrop of the modern buildings of downtown San Diego:

We were free to explore for a few hours, so Truman and I had a nice lunch in front of the tall ships docked nearby, the most well-known of which, Star of India, had a bunch of people doing rigging or something high up just above the sail.

Before we got back onto the train for the journey home, I took a few shots of the inside of the lovely old Santa Fe station.

The only trouble with traveling is that I come home tired after a full day on the road...but Truman, who has by this time slept for most of the day and left the arrangements and coordination up to me, is ready to play. After having been so well-behaved and "in jacket" all day long, he got home to the apartment and hit the stairs at full shuffle, going up and down three flights twice in the time it took me to do it once, then doing donuts on my living room carpet until I made him go to bed. Is there a way to tap into puppy energy?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

CSI: My Apartment

May 27, 2008 -- The phone call from my roommate came at the end of the day.

Amy: When are you going to be home?

Me: I'm on the road even as we speak. Why?

Amy (laughing): I have to show you something....

When I got back to the apartment, she was sitting against the headboard of her bed, reading a book. She invited me to come in and sit where she was, to get her vantage point.

You may already know that dogs are not allowed in Amy's bedroom. You may also have read here that Truman has grown into a well-mannered dog, trustworthy around the house.

You may not know that my roommate often puts a bath towel on her floor on which she sets "lay flat to dry" clothing.

Click to enlarge the evidence.

I went over the events of the day in my head, and realized he would have had exactly one window of opportunity in which to perpetrate this act of sneakitude: while I was in the bathroom that evening, for approximately three minutes. Stealth Dog strikes again...but he is apparently not smart enough to cover his tracks.

Riding the Rails with Roo, Part 2

May 24, 2008 -- There's not always an opportunity for us (or most people) to hang out with a big steam locomotive, but there is a local train club here in Southern California where steam enthusiasts gather to build and run their own miniature trains, and to give rides and tours to the public as well.

Truman's favorite human is a member of the Los Angeles Live Steamers, so we were invited to attend their annual Spring meet. People from all over the country descend on the LALS portion of Griffith Park for a weekend of food, entertainment, camping, and riding the little rails through the forest!

We were fortunate to be in the company of one of the core members of the club, who gave us a special walking tour of the facility. Truman enjoyed his stroll through the woods and a photo session with several of the miniature set pieces that make the track circuit even more fun. We thought the bridge was especially cool:

There are full-sized pieces on the property as well. This caboose houses the club's library of historic books, documents, manuals and other train-related ephemera.

The atmosphere was festive, the BBQ was delicious, and the entertainment was provided by our favorite big band, The Fabulous Esquires...and yes, they played "Take the A Train."

If I hadn't had to keep both hands firmly on Truman, I would have taken a photo of us riding this little Santa Fe. Truman is typically an excellent traveler...when he's in an enclosed compartment, that is. When he is sitting on a bench in front of me, with my arms around him to keep him from leaping off, he is less enthusiastic about riding the train. We had a few power struggles in which he was certain that if he wiggled enough, or climbed over me, he could elude my grasp and disembark mid-trip, hobo style. Fortunately, however, my dog-enhanced biceps are well practiced in the art of puppy restraint, and no one caused a derailment....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

TrumanVision: Hot Day at GDA

May 17, 2008 -- GDA is located in Sylmar, which is also known as Blistering UV RayTown. Some days, like this particular Saturday, it's so hot that it's just cruel and unusual punishment to do any obedience work with the dogs up there. So in lieu of the usual monthly puppy classes, the trainers broke out the wading pools in the dog run and had us observe our pups' play behavior.

At first, Truman didn't think much of getting into the water, preferring instead to run around the pools with a toy in his mouth, trying to get the other dogs to take the bait and tug with him. But after a while, the siren song of happy canine splashing was too much to resist, and he joined Camry and Blitz and the rest of the dogs in their jolly water sports.

I'm not sure if he was thirsty here, or just trying to show the water who was boss by digging in it and biting the splashes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Or Sit. Whatever.

May 13, 2008

We're With the Band

May 3, 2008 -- Truman and I are huge fans of The Fabulous Esquires Big Band, so when we heard they were playing the Armed Forces Dance at Atomic Ballroom, we knew there was a good time to be had!

Though I did get a little dancing in, we mostly just hung out in the corner with the musicians' gear, watching the swing dancers and enjoying the tunes with a couple of other friends of the band. Because Truman is so enamored of the saxophone section, he sat in next to the bari for a couple of numbers. He figured his primary job was to look cool and detached, like a real jazz musician.

He was eventually so cool and detached that he fell asleep.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

TrumanVision, Sort Of: If Only I Were Taller

May 2, 2008 -- If Truman had been tall enough to look out the window of the tool car, this is what he would have experienced. Fortunately, I shot this snippet of video to show him later. Just listen to that whistle!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Riding the Rails with Roo

May 2, 2008 -- Sometimes you do an outing because it's a valuable learning experience for the dog, and sometimes you do an outing because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Lots of future guide dogs have taken the train; Truman's first experience with this form of public transportation was an Amtrak trip down to San Diego. But how many dogs can claim an adventure as an unofficial crew member aboard a historic tool car pulled by an antique steam locomotive?

Thanks to our favorite steam locomotive fireman, Truman and I were invited to ride with the crew of Santa Fe 3751, owned and maintained by the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society, as they ran the mighty 1927 steamer on an excursion down to Fullerton's annual Railroad Days festival.

It was an amazing trip! The tool car, pictured below, has open windows in the doors so you can stick your head out and feel the breeze, take a look around, and take in the entire sensory experience as you roll down the track.

The funniest part was watching the faces of Joe and Jane Citizen as we chugged over freeways and past strip malls...even folks who live close to the tracks don't see THIS every day. Kids and adults alike waved enthusiastically as we passed, and I wish I could have counted the number of people who held up their camera phones (even from the windows of moving vehicles) to capture a little piece of this elegant time machine.

As I'd predicted, Truman was excited and wiggly as soon as we got on board, but settled in quickly and was content to ride on the old wooden floor of the car, getting up only to occasionally seek attention and ear rubs from his friendly crew mates.

Meanwhile, I had been warned that a ride in the tool car could be hazardous to decent clothing, so Truman's official puppy-in-training jacket didn't stay on him very long (and in the few minutes he did wear it, he managed to magically attract some grease that took three wash cycles, half a bottle of soap, a stiff-bristled brush and a near exorcism to remove). But any dog who's riding a steam train needs to wear a bandanna, right? So we went with the skull & crossbones theme, which turned out to be a good choice -- on one prior excursion, the crew apparently flew a Jolly Roger from the engine just for fun. Truman fit right in with the rest of the guys.

His jacket wasn't the only thing that needed a bath when we got home. By the end of the day, after lolling about and picking up some souvenir grime from the collection that has accumulated on the floor over the last 60 or so years, Truman was almost a black Lab.

Friday, June 06, 2008

It May Be Worse Than I Thought

So, the vet put him under, looked up both nostrils, and found nothing up the boy's nose. Nada. No foxtail, not even mucous membrane damage to indicate that a foxtail had been there. What could it be? According to the vet:

1.) Could be an allergy of some kind.
2.) Could be a foxtail that has somehow been snorted wayyyyyy up there, only detectable by the use of a pediatric endoscope through the mouth and up the back way into his nasal workings. That's apparently specialist domain; regular vets don't typically have to do this.
3.) Could be something else. (Thanks, that was helpful.)

At any rate, I was instructed to keep an eye on him for further sneezing episodes, which would apparently get worse; excessive discharge, in colors that would indicate the presence of infection; and/or blood, which is just never what you want to see in any case.

So today I went downstairs for a couple of minutes to get something out of the truck, and when I got back up to the apartment, my roommate and I had the following exchange:

Amy: "Um, Truman was making this awful gagging/choking noise, and then he spat something on the floor."

Me: "What was it?"

Amy (holding open a napkin): "This."

Me (freaking out, after a split-second look at what was once a spider): "EWW! You could have just said! You didn't have to SHOW me!"

It was a few minutes before it dawned on me that the spider could have been our option number three. Makes sense, in a way -- no mucous membrane damage, possibly bit him in the mouth or nose and caused irritation that might result in sneezing. Also makes sense that Truman would find a way to present me with some kind of horrible nightmare starring creatures that freak me out more than just about anything else.

He is still sneezing occasionally, but it's just once or twice instead of the crazy, minute-long violent sneezing jags he had on Wednesday and Thursday. No funny-colored dog snot, no blood.

My dog the spider-snorter. Figures.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Reason #517 Not to Be Sniffy

It's foxtail season.

Apparently, someone -- who shall remain nameless -- stuck his nose where it didn't belong, when no one was looking, and is now at the vet, having surgery.

He'll be fine, but it's derailed our plans for his big weekend visit with his sister Tori. Hopefully this will teach him not to go snorting up the vegetation.

Never seen a foxtail? This handy foxtail info page will show you what you should be looking out for, especially if you live here in Southern California....