The Last Snow

A close-up of the snow beginning to melt on the fur of our dog Ellie, taken in February 2018

We got a few inches of snow in Portland on Tuesday, but with Ellie’s recent injury or illness she didn’t want to go for a long walk in it so I was surprised when she flopped down in the backyard and rolled around in the snow. I’m glad she got to enjoy it a little bit as I suspect this snow will be her last, not because she is in any imminent danger but because I have to choose now between two job offers, one in California and one in Arizona, and neither place gets snow unless you drive a ways to the mountains to look for it.

A Little Jealous

A self-portrait in Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

I had to laugh when I looked at this self-portrait from fourteen years ago at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, judging by the youth in my face I initially assumed it must be older than it was. I’m a little envious of him, a little for his youth, but especially because he was on the other side of a move. My wife had changed jobs a couple years prior and we moved to Portland, I’m not sure why I went back to my old stomping grounds on this day but it was one of the rare times I’d visit the refuge again. I must have sensed that I wouldn’t be coming back often, both due to the distance and new favorite parks to the north, since I took the time for a self-portrait on the trail. As I recall this was the first park I visited in Oregon, but either way I spent a lot of time here when we lived nearby.

I believe the job search will be over soon, I’ll say more when I know for sure, but I will be glad to be moving on to the next phase, which will be moving. Of the two opportunities I’m considering (one is an offer, one is an upcoming interview) both require a move, either to California or Arizona. Not that I’m looking forward to moving, getting the house ready to sell, figuring out where to rent or buy in the new city, and actually packing and moving, but rather that I’m looking forward to being on the other side.

Moving the pets will be a challenge. Ellie had a health scare yesterday, while I was waiting on a phone call about the job offer I noticed she couldn’t stop panting and was really restless, so when I got off the phone we were off to the vet. X-rays and blood tests didn’t show anything surprising but the vet noticed she was sensitive around her back and stomach so she’s on extra painkillers for now that also keep her somewhat sedate and if she doesn’t improve will have to go in for more tests. She just had her yearly checkup a couple of weeks ago so we’re not sure what is going on.

Sam and Trixie also had their checkups recently but this time, when I put her in the carrier, Trixie began slamming her body against the sides of the carrier and howled like a banshee the entire way there and back, even upsetting the normally docile Sam. The move will require a two or three day drive, so …

Threat Assessment

A tarantula tries to hide in a crevice under a rock

I grew up thinking tarantulas were deadly assassins that would kill you if you crossed their path, as I lived far from their domain and my impressions were formed based on how I saw them portrayed on television. We love to demonize and vilify certain animals (and worse, people) based on primal fears, and on deliberate lies told to mask the real threats, but in truth tarantulas are not a threat to us. As my wife and I walked down the path and stopped to watch this tarantula in New Mexico, she noticed us (their vision is poor but they are good at sensing vibrations in the ground) and ran over to this rock and tried to hide in a crevice but was slightly too big to fit. I always feel bad when I frighten an animal when I hike but thankfully she decided to trust us and climbed out onto the rock. A lesson my young self did well to learn – I was the threat.

A tarantula climbs up a rock

My First Tarantula

A tarantula walks across the Little Arsenic Trail in the Wind Rivers Recreation Area of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico

My wife and I were hiking up from the Rio Grande on our trip to New Mexico in 2007 when we met this lovely little creature on the trail. It was the first (and so far only) time I had seen a tarantula, a couple of job opportunities I’m pursuing are in areas where we might meet again. This one could still be out there, the females can live up to 20 years (the males only half as long).


Our dog Ellie sleeps in the middle of the kitchen floor

Age has rendered Ellie mostly deaf so she can no longer hear me when I walk up to her. While she’s always slept on the kitchen tile or the hardwood floors, especially when it’s warm, she now often sleeps where I’ll have to step over her so she can more easily keep track of where I am in the house. The cats have adjusted by hopping over her when she inadvertently blocks them in a room.

At the dog park this morning the two other old black labs in the neighborhood were both there, one of their owners asked me if there was ever a time Ellie wasn’t smiling. I thought of all the solemn looks the pup has given me over the years when she’s been bored as I’ve photographed her, but I knew what she meant. That smile is contagious, I’ve seen it spread onto the faces of so many people who have met her. And countless times, to my own.