Admin Note

My apologies, I had to upgrade the site theme to a more modern one since the old one isn’t supported anymore. I don’t like the look of the new theme but it might take me a while to figure out how to fix it or find a better theme. I’ll delete this post once I’ve got things more to my liking.

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Samwise 2007 – 2022

A close-up of our cat Sam sleeping in my lap on February 21, 2022. Original: _ZFC0381.NEF

Oh this hurts. Sam’s heart failed and we had him euthanized a little while ago. He died peacefully, curled up in my lap and purring until the anesthesia took hold. I’m glad he didn’t suffer and that we could be with him at the end, but his loss is going to sting for a while. This was my view for most of the past fourteen years, Sam asleep in my lap. The background behind him changed at times, as did the cast of characters curled up beside him, but he was my constant companion throughout his life.

I’ll write more later when the tears aren’t streaming so steadily.

Say Hello to Bear

Our dog Bear relaxes on the back porch on the day we adopted him on April 3, 2022. Original: _CAM4276.ARW

Say hello to Bear, we adopted him this afternoon and are keeping him in our bedroom at the moment so the cats can come and go as they please but have the rest of the house to themselves while we all get acquainted. Which is good because at one point Bear chased Boo, I think more playfully than aggressively but understandably Boo was terrified and so I spent a while with him getting him to relax. He’s sleeping in his usual place wedged in between me and the edge of the couch but he still jumps at every unfamiliar sound.

Hopefully as the excitement of the first day wears off and Bear comes to understand his furry masters are to be obeyed and protected this won’t be an issue but we’ll keep an eye on it as obviously we won’t put the cats at risk. He did great with Sam later in the day, and lived with cats previously, so there’s reason to believe we can keep him on the straight and narrow.

He needs to learn some commands and get better at his on-leash behavior but the same was true of Ellie when we adopted her. The difference is that at 100 pounds (!!!) he’s much larger than she was, and she was big for a lab! Those things don’t worry me as he seems to want to please us so it’s just a matter of teaching him what we want.

He’s a very sweet fellow, we had a lot of nice moments already even in our short time together. We had kept a couple of Ellie’s hedgehogs and as Bear I played with them I had to hold back the tears watching him run around, squeaking them with joyful abandon. When my wife went to bed I went in to kiss him goodnight and his tail started wagging as he woke and saw me approach.

He was sleeping on my side though!

Pups Old and New

Our dog Ellie basks in the sun beside the dragon statue at Irvington School in Portland, Oregon on December 10, 2017. Original: _DSC7223.ARF

I’ve posted similar shots of Ellie before, sitting beside the dragon at Irvington School in December 2017. Originally I meant to post it to mark the four year anniversary of leaving our beloved Portland, and when that date passed the anniversary of our arrival here in the desert, but I was pretty tired after work each night and the posts went unwritten. I was in the middle of writing it yesterday under the better-late-than-never philosophy when my wife came in and said the black lab being fostered up in Cave Creek she had her eye on was still up for adoption, and he was cat friendly, and we could meet him that afternoon …

… and we pick up 6 year old Bear in an hour to bring him home. Rather than nattering on and never getting this up I’ll just say how grateful I am for every moment I got to spend with the goofball above and how much I’m looking forward to getting to know the newest member of the family.

Old Cat, New Trick

Our cat Boo looks at our cat Sam as Sam sits in a cardboard box on December 22, 2021. Original: _ZFC0082.NEF

Boo looks at Sam in one of his Boo Boxes, both a little proud that for once he could teach big brother a new trick instead of the other way round, but also realizing the box he wants might now be occupied. Fortunately for Boo Sam only sleeps in the boxes on occasion, plus Boo generally prefers the smaller boxes while Sam only likes the big ones.

From December when I was playing around with the Nikon.

Will Get Fooled Again

A male American kestrel perches on a saguaro near the 118th Street Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 19, 2022. Original: _RAC3136.ARW

Last weekend in the distance I saw a kestrel perched on a saguaro and since the telephoto lens was still in my shoulder bag, just whispered hello to the female I’ve seen here and continued up the trail. Whereupon I found another kestrel on a favored perch, close enough that even with my naked eyes it was clear this was the female I often see. The other kestrel was still visible in the distance so I knew she hadn’t snuck in while I wasn’t looking, pulling out the longer lens I realized the first kestrel was a male.

I was in a meandering mood and went up and down parts of various trails based on whim and whimsy, when I finally made my way back I saw the male was still perched where we first met. But as I set up to take his picture in the late light I realized it was the female.

The ol’ switcheroo!

After taking her picture I continued on, the blue light descending with the sun mostly faded, when in the distance I saw what looked like a kestrel on a saguaro. But this saguaro has fooled me many times, new growth has started where the top is broken and that little bump always makes me think at first glance that a bird is perching atop the old giant. This time though my pattern-recognition self insisted there really was a kestrel up there so I pulled out the lens and could barely contain my laughter as there sat the male, posing for this picture at the end of the day.

Maybe one day this desert will stop surprising me, but probably not anytime soon.

At Least It’s Friday …

A close-up of our cat Boo sleeping smushed up against the couch on March 5, 2022. Original: _ZFC1673.NEF

If it looks like he’s being punished this is how Boo chooses to sleep many evenings, when I sit down on the couch he wedges himself into the gap between me and the edge of the couch. The Great Boneless Boo excels at squeezing into tight spots but the problem is when I’m working on my laptop my right elbow wants to go where a smushed up Boo resides. Sometimes he’ll curl up on my legs as he is now, the other night when his siblings came in to join him the problem became that with a Sam / Trixie / Boo train running down my legs there was no lap left for the laptop.

Good problems to have.

Woodpeckers Without Woods

A tail feather of a Gila woodpecker, taken in our backyard in Scottsale, Arizona on March 12, 2022. Originals: _ZFC2221.NEF to _ZFC2247.NEF

As a child in Michigan we had woods behind the house where I fell in love with chipmunks and squirrels and woodpeckers. In memory the woodies were downies and redheads but the memories are blurry at best. I was in graduate school when I got my first camera and binoculars and fell in love with woodpeckers all over again. Now in Virginia, the memories are sharper, flickers and downies and hairies.

In Oregon where I spent most of my adult life we had flickers in our urban backyard, I was always alerted to their presence since they were also a favorite of Emma’s and she would chirp at me from atop the cat tree on their arrival. On the trails in addition to downies and hairies I saw pileated woodpeckers and red-breasted sapsuckers too.

Before the move to Arizona I was intrigued when looking at real estate listings to see what looked like bird holes in the saguaros of some yards, and upon learning they were made by woodpeckers wanted to see them more than anything. So imagine my delight at arriving and finding them ubiquitous, I can sit on my porch and regularly see Gila woodpeckers and commonly gilded flickers and on rare occasion ladder-backed woodpeckers, so much more often than I saw their cousins in Oregon.

Who knew to see woodpeckers I had to leave the woods!

This is (I think) a tail feather from a Gila woodpecker, having served its duty helping its owner navigate the desert, now fallen to ground in our backyard.

Broken Beauty

A close-up of the broken portion of a saguaro arm that shows the green skin, the spongy material where water is stored, and the woody skeleton. Taken on the Metate Trail at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek, Arizona on February 27, 2022. Originals: _ZFC1543.NEF to _ZFC1547.NEF

It’s always a bit sad to see the old giants breaking down but this fallen arm provides a view into the interior life of the saguaro. On the outside is the familiar waxy skin tinted green by chlorophyll. Light for photosynthesis is ever-abundant in the desert but rainfall is not, so filling most of the interior is a spongy material where water is converted and stored. Storing water is one thing, supporting its weight is another, a burden borne by the wooden skeleton that runs the length of the saguaro, shown here as broken ribs that shattered as the arm fell from the body.

The saguaro itself still looked healthy to my novice eyes, it will seal off the wound and might well outlive me despite having a head start of two or three of my lifetimes.