Friday, August 31, 2007

Paradise Lost

2007-08-29_009Well, our vacation is coming to a close. Tomorrow we are headed home, with the Labor Day traffic helping to repressurize us for life in DC. We have had fantastic weather, with just enough rain to make us appreciate the sunshine. The last few mornings we've awakened to thick fog, but the sun and wind have burned it off by mid-morning. We've had lobster on the beach, sailing, hiking, kayaking, and all the best activities.

Pappy has had the time of his life, but hasn't had many opportunities to play with other dogs. Back home he may have a tough time getting used to us not being around all the time, but I think he'll enjoy being back at the dog park.

Dinged Up

2007-08-28_103Pappy has found there is a price to be paid for being an adventure dog here in Maine. There have been a few mornings where he was looking a bit stiff after a strenuous day of dashing about. I have been keeping an eye on wear spots on his pads from scrambling around on the rocks, and one day he was limping a bit on his right foreleg. He's constantly got gunk in his fur, and recently I combed out a big clod of pine sap. Yesterday I put disinfectant on a sizable scrape over his eye from dashing face-first into the spruce thickets after his ball.

But there is an upside too. When I let him out this morning, he had the freedom to saunter down to the beach in the early morning haze to lick spilled butter from the rocks following last night's lobster party.

Breaking Rocks

P1080723After fishing and tourism, Deer Isle's other great historic industry has been the quarrying of local granite. We've taken Pappy out to the hiking trails at the old Settlement Quarry a couple of times this visit. The waterfront of the island's big town, Stonington, is made out of gargantuan blocks of granite from similar quarries, and it has been used in Manhattan bridges, the Smithsonian, and other sites. If you've ever visited Arlington Cemetary near Washington, D.C., John F. Kennedy's tomb was built using granite from this very quarry.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kayak Krazy

DSCN4992There's one activity up in Deer Isle in which Pappy cannot partake... kayaking. Well, that's not quite true. My wife and I were in a small boat race the other day, and there was a participant with a preserver clad Yorkie aboard her wide-cockpit kayak. Of course while she was trying to avoid accidentally bopping her precious, I was focused on beating the stuffing out all the grannies in rowboats and paddle-wielding preteens on my way to a glorious victory. My wife came in second, further teaching all those youngsters and oldsters an important lesson in losing.

DSCN5032Yesterday my wife and I left a yelping Pappy in the house as we headed out on a kayaking adventure. We are situated between two tidal coves; coves that empty of water at low tide. For someone used to bigger boats, kayaks are simply amazing for their ability to clear the shallowest water and these coves are ideal areas to explore. They tend to be well protected from wind and chop, and you can just float around and watching the doings in the shallow water. If they drain through a narrow channel, you also get some interesting currents as the tides race in or empty out. It turns out the endless piping shrill we heard the entire time we were floating around Pressey Cove was a nest of ospreys (sea eagles) on Little Crow Island. Boy nature can be annoying.

Aerial Invasion

P1080615Today Pappy and I spotted a portentious event. Dozens of butteflies had congregated around a batch of wildflowers growing on the leech field for our septic system. This would probably be a much more interesting posting if I knew the first thing about butterflies or plants. Or if it hadn't been atop a field of poo.

Maine Photo Extravaganza

For those of you who have expressed interest in seeing more photos of our Maine adventure, I've posted a few photos in a set on our Flickr page. Again, sorry not to be responding to comments, but while I am sitting here typing away in Suzy Q's, Pappy's waiting out in the car.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Miracle Cure

P1080581Pappy has undergone a transformation. My wife arrived the other day in the company of guests, a couple and their two children. Two children who loved the beach and stumbling around in the surf. And throwing the ball. Yes, throwing the ball. Since their arrival, Pappy has stopped picking around his food and gobbles it right down. And he clings less to me, and is enjoying everyone's company.

And one more thing-- we tried a little experiment. Pappy doesn't like the uncarpeted steps, so I carried his highness upstairs at bedtime and let him do something he's never done before. We let him sleep in our bed. My wife and I spent the night with no covers perched on the edges of the bed, so there wasn't a whole lot of sleeping going on. Pappy didn't take up that much space, but it's only a double bed and he's as hot as a blast furnace. The curious thing is that, this morning, Pappy was suddenly no longer afraid of the stairs. When I left him upstairs luxuriating on the comforter, he followed me downstairs after a few minutes. Then he headed back upstairs to idle away the early morn on his new bed. Seems I just had to have the right motivation to get him to test the stairs. But bad news Pappy, tonight it's back to the dog bed. Yep, we're putting the genie right back in that bottle.

Later update: When we went up to bed the next night, Pappy turned towards our bed and made ready to get right in. I directed him to his dog bed, and he sulkily went over to it. When we got back from brushing our teeth, he was happily wagging his tail from up on our bed. Unh unh, think again buster.


It's not widely known that the great Maine insititution, L.L.Bean, home of the famed 'Rubber Ugly' boot, is named for Leon Leonwood Bean. We've taken to calling our dog Pappy Pappywood in his honor.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hot Rod Grafitti

HotRodAbout fifteen years ago I remember first seeing the evidence; long black streaks of burnt rubber on the back roads in Deer Isle. At first I thought it was cars coming screeching to a halt, but I quickly came to understand that it was cars peeling out. These antics are to be expected. It's beautiful up here, but I speak from experience when I say that it's a pretty slow pace for whippersnappers.

In recent years increasingly extravagant tire tracks have become ubiquitous on all the island roads. As I was recently tut-tutting it to a cousin, she told me that in fact it is a cultural phenomenon. One of the local Hardy kin is a recognized practitioner of the art form, and I've seen the evidence of his skills-- there are serpentine curves hundreds of yards long on some roads. Among the cousins there have been some heated debates whether this is environmental art or simple vandalism. If I heard right, there is even a documentary on the subject of peeling out. Final proof of the decline of western civilization.

Vacation Vocation

P1080390I arrived in Deer Isle this year to the mystery of why the derelict rowboat on the front lawn had been filleted. This boat was a big player in my childhood, with beautiful lines, great stability, and supreme rowability. Then, one year we carefully scraped, caulked, repainted, and launched it, but it kept taking on water even after the boards had swelled. It had finally gone punky. We hoisted it to the porch rafters, where it stayed until we retired it to the lawn a couple of years ago. There's a local children's book by Robert McCloskey called "Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man", in which Burt's leaky old dory sits on the lawn planted full of geraniums and Indian peas. We never did get around to planting in ours.

So when I got here this year I was suprised to find that the floorboards had been pulled off the rowboat and carefully arranged on the lawn. It was sort of fascinating looking for about five minutes, whereupon it started to look like a truck on blocks. There are little nails sticking out of all of the ribs, and with Pappy constantly poking his ball underneath it's a bit of a menace. I briefly considered whether my cousins, who had been staying at the place before I arrived, would have done this. I quickly decided no, it had been my insane brother's handiwork.

My brother is a sprint hobbyist. Over the course of a vacation he'll take up guitar, or watercolors, or carving, or whatever for a couple of weeks. I haven't talked to him yet, but the word I am getting over the family grapevine is that last month he decided he was a boatwright and plans to restore the rowboat next time he comes up. Uh hunh, this sounds promising.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sea Dog


Stuff for Pappy to Chase

2007-08-16_168Among the fauna for Pappy to chase here in Deer Isle, the most appealing is probably the red squirrel. These guys are smaller than their grey brethren to the south, built more on a chipmunk scale. And, where the squirrels I know are silent as Pappy chases them up the trees in the back yard, these guys are incredibly noisy. They chatter away constantly, sounding more like the birds from a jungle cartoon than rodents. These guys aren't as good sport as grey squirrels since they seldom leave the safety of tree branches.

Pappy's also taken some notice of the crows, but we haven't had as many seagulls hanging around the beach as in past years. A pretty regular occurance is for a dog to tear off into the bushes and come back looking a little sad after getting shot by a skunk. My aunt's dachshund got sprayed earlier in the summer, so she keeps a ready supply of deskunking shampoo. Sea birds are pretty safe from Pappy's attention, but we have deer, foxes, and tons of mice. Yesterday I saw a reddish long bodied rodent wandering across the seaweed carrying a crab, but Pappy was oblivious. I'd never seen its like before in my billions of summers. Too bushy-tailed for an otter. Maybe a stoat?

Pappy: Wild & Free, Crazed & Neurotic

P1080262Pappy has been having a fantastic time as an adventure dog here in the outdoors of coastal Maine. He's taken to the ocean like a seal, and taken to the woods like a fox. Or maybe the other way around. No, I had it right. And he has been fantastic when off-leash, staying nearby and never erring towards the road. If he wanders out of sight, I just have to whistle and clap my hands and he comes tearing back. His fur has gotten a little disgusting with accumulated salt and twigs, but other than that he was made for this outdoor life.

Not so for indoors. His neurosis about uncarpeted stairs persists here, and early on he was about to drive me nuts with his crying when I was on the opposite end of the staircase. Before coming on vacation I special ordered some paw wax that was supposed to prevent slipping, but it didn't seem to do much to help with the loose screws in his bean. Now he's finally settled down-- he still won't climb the stairs, but seems satisfied to stay downstairs. Loon.


SeaCukeWhile roaming the streets of Stonington, Deer Isle's cosmopolitan center, I came across these signs in the window of the vacant building that was once Atlantic Hardware. It's an advertisement for Sea Jerky featuring the rather disturbing image of a werewolf threatening to bite off the head of the Coppertone girl while she looks at a lovely Maine sunset. Sea Jerky (using a "Sea Cucumber formula with Sea Chondroitin"), seems to be a pet health product of Coastside Bio Resources which probably no longer exists. I was once in Baja and saw a group of fishermen boiling down sea cukes on a deserted beach. They were for use in supplements and the Asian market. If you thought green tripe was nasty, I still have nightmares about the fishermen spooning the slimy lumps, like giant okra, from the rusty oil drum. I'm not very fond of okra.

Update: I've been better informed in the comments that the werewolf was dear old Paugus, the building is not vacant, Sea Jerky is a dog favorite, and that Coastside Bio Resources is alive and well. But I still wouldn't want a sea cuke sitting across from me when I was trying to eat dinner.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Nice Thing About An Island...

The nice thing about an island is that you can be on the East Coast and still have a western view.

Sunset off Dunham's Point, 2007-08-15

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Barred Island Almost Adventure

(Well, I'm parked in front of Susie Q's in Stonington filching internet access. I really would buy lunch there, except they are only open Thursday through Monday. Sorry not to be responding to comments, but my ancient laptop's battery is going down like the Lusitania.)

2007-08-14_038-webAt the tail end of yesterday Pappy and I headed to my favorite trail to Barred Island. The last few times I have been in Maine the Barred Island, connected to the big island by a sandbar at low tide, has been closed because of nesting bald eagles. But since they are off the endangered species list it's open season, and I'm not going to miss my shot to bag one. Kidding. The eagles have moved on to a new nesting location.

On arrival I was sad to see clear postings that no dogs were allowed on the trail in consideration of wildlife. The Island Heritage Trust, who runs a number of trails on the island, thoughtfully listed several nearby trails that do allow pets. With heavy heart, I rolled down the windows and left Pappy in the car as I jogged down the loamy path through the pines. I did pass one couple who were giving me furtive glances as they hustled their dog back towards the car park, but I wouldn't want to play that game. Next time we'll focus on the dog-friendly trails.

Find the Pappy


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Live from Maine

Well, I'm in my third day in Maine and the weather is beautiful as I post this. The island grapevine was saying that you could park in front of the hardware store or Pilgrim's Inn and poach broadband access, but no such luck for me. I'm trapped using my aunties dial-up access-- how does Frasier do it?

Here's my journal of the first days of Pappy and my vacation, the "War and Peace" of postings:

Day One
After leaving for Maine at 2AM, I left flaming tire tracks all the way up the coast and arrived before 3PM including a few stops and a nap on the road. I stopped at my aunt's house on the way to our place. Pappy was tearing in circles with delight to be free of the car, dive bombing his dog-cousin Polly. I ran into huge packs of cousins roaming about, but many were finishing up their visits. I was so tired I could barely maintain an intelligible conversation.

2007-08-13_110Day Two
There are two flavors of weather in Deer Isle-- glorious or dismal. Brilliant sunshine or chilling rain. Fresh breezes or pea-soup fog of the kind that drives people to murder. If the barometer needle is stationary throughout your first visit, you either had the best time or will never come back. Today was an exception-- I woke to gloomy overcast but we weren't socked in. There have since been periods of sun and a few passing heavy showers, but we get so little rain during summers in DC that it seems like a treat.

Pappy and I were playing down on the beach, and he's getting his first experience of sea water... and he loves, loves, loves it despite its being temperature challenged. He was dropping his ball in the water and bobbing for it over and over. I tossed the ball a little way out, and for the first time I saw him really swimming. He is a water dog. I'm a little nervous that he doesn't have the sense to come out before hypothermia sets in.

Day Three
A quick background on our history in Deer Isle: my grandfather's widowed sister, whose first husband was killed in a WWI-era naval gun accident, remarried to a man whose family had been visiting Deer Isle since the nineteenth century. After visiting for a number of years, around WWII my grandfather jointly purchased a 40 acre lot with three summer houses with his sister's two daughters by her first marriage. Four generations and many cross-family marriages later, we now have cousins spread across a mile and a half of coast and can all recognize each other by our family's distinctive sixth toe on each foot.

About 37 of the 40 acres are woods and wetlands, but the rest is lovely coastline. Our shared beach, to my mind the best in the vicinity, is called Brook Cove. This is a euphemism for "place where the swamp drains", but after a heavy rain the water running down the beach from the woods looks much less like over steeped tea. Our wonderful, open cottage was the Pressey Village schoolhouse relocated to the current site by barge a million years ago. They raised the roof to add a second story over the huge living room, and my grandmother later added a huge steel eye-beam from a navy yard to keep the second story from collapsing into the first. In the tradition of the islands where no brick went unrecycled, additions to the house were scavenged from elsewhere-- there are windows that were originally on boats, and untrimmed logs used as supports. From year to year, our main tasks are to keep the house from falling in on itself and keep it from falling into the ocean.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Tomorrow morning at this time I'll be on my way to Deer Isle. We'll see about posting; I don't know what internet access I'll be able to cobble together during my visit. Otherwise, have a great August.

 Deer Isle Panorama

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ode to Rocky Beaches

2000-09-21_DIPan_017Though Pappy does not seem to have a strong opinion on the matter, I grew up with rocky beaches and am very fond of them. To tell you the truth, I find sand beaches a little blah. Of course they photograph well and were part of my childhood visions of fantasy locales. But, in reality, a heavily trafficked sand beach now looks to me like a construction site. Footprints accumulate above the tideline like a stampede passed by. Every piece of debris or litter sticks out like an angry zit. And though it is pleasant to walk for mile after mile along a sandy shore, it's a bit much of a muchness.

With rocky beaches there is incredible variety. Where we go in Maine, you have dramatic rock faces and stones of every color and type. They generally form a gradient, with the big rocks driven above the tideline by storms giving way to smaller rounder stones as you move down towards the water. In a protected cove, you can get nice patches of sand or fine gravel which are great for lying around. On storm-driven coast you have boulders and big rocks with tidal life and interesting debris secreted around. Some beaches specialize in flat skipping stones. Others have enormous stores of sea glass, increasingly rare in the age of recycling. Passing feet leave little trace, so you can easily imagine yourself on an undiscovered shore. Plus a rocky beach provides an infinite supply of ammo for chucking into the water.

Now, if I can just explain how freezing cold water is vastly superior to a balmy warm ocean, it should be clear to everyone that Maine is the perfect vacation destination.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Schooling Pappy, Down East Style

Here I am, anticipating Pappy's first trip to Maine. I've missed a year here and there, but I have gone to the same island for most of my 47 summers. In fact, I could lay claim to an extra summer visit-- there are pictures of my mother, hugely pregnant with me, sitting on a lawn chair next to the cottage. Smoking a cigarette and drinking a tumblerful of vodka. (Not really.)

Over the years I have garnered much knowledge of the island and its environs, and now I must pass this legacy on to Pappy. He will learn where to look for crabs, how long to steam a lobster on the beach, what are the master techniques in skipping stones, and how to walk the rocks from Brook Cove to Sylvester's Cove staying below the tide line. And he will meet all the generations of relatives, and learn the definition of second-cousin-once-removed.

Truth is I'll probably spend most of my time trying to keep him from gobbling down sea urchin shells and rotting seaweed, but that's fun too.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On the Road Again

Road Trip To MaineFive days and counting until Pappy and I head out on our road trip to Maine. My wife has used a lot of leave already this summer, so she's waiting a week before flying up to join us. Pappy and I are going solo, and he's not much help with the driving.

I have it all planned out in my head. A couple of years ago we left at 3AM on the Saturday of July 4th weekend for Maine. That may sound ridiculous, but we hit New York at 7AM with barely a car in sight. We were flying past Boston by noon. Of course then we got gridlocked by all of the Bostonians squeezing through the lousy New Hampshire toll booths on their way to Maine for the holiday, but the execution was almost perfect. Take out the holiday weekend, start on a Sunday morning, add an EZPass to speed through the toll booths, and we're there in a day. (I may make a dog-friendly hotel reservation around Portland just in case I am utterly deluded.)

All this assumes that I survive the week. Somehow the last days at work preparing for a vacation always make me need a vacation. But there are wonders that await Pappy and me at the other end of that highway.

The Island

Monday, August 06, 2007

Decline and Fall

Well, our back yard and garden is at a low ebb. Drought and Pappy have done their worst. The grass on the route that Pappy uses for fetch looks like the football field after a mudbowl game. The garden which Pappy runs around after catching the ball looks like the end zone. After the fans have stormed onto the field and torn down the goalpost. Set fire to it. And then stamped it out using clogs.

The photos above show one of the hosta plants, illustrating the stages of destruction. The shot on the left is from early in the summer-- showing a few torn leaves and broken stems from Pappy's victory dances, but still looking hopeful. Yesterday's shot on the right would just make a visitor wonder why we planted the homely thing. That settles it, no more visitors.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Slam-Dunking Pappy

Pappy Action Shot, 2007-08-05One of the favorite activities of the denizens of the dog park is to sucker pop Pappy. While everyone else is resting in the shade, Pappy endlessly chasing the ball is often the only action. And Pappy is so relentlessly fixated on the ball and the thrower, it's awfully easy for other dogs to move in for a free shot.

Flash Getting Ready to Tackle PappyIn this photo from today, Pappy is captivated by the ball while Flash is sidling into position. As soon as the ball was in flight, while unsuspecting Pappy was turning to run, Flash would lunge toward him at ramming speed. Being of lightening reflexes, Pappy would occasionally vault his attacker, but more often would get knocked stumbling before he raced on his way. Then Flash would halfheartedly chase and bark at Pappy for a few feet before returning to get into position for the next round. Repeat.

If it wasn't Flash, it would be Kaiser or Molly or Cassie or somebody else. It's a wee bit embarassing being the owner of the dog park's biggest chump.

Now, doesn't that look comfortable...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Admirable Restraints

While driving Pappy and neighbor-dog Molly home from the dog park last weekend, a pinhead idly pulled out of a driveway into traffic, panicked on seeing approaching cars from the other direction, and solved the problem by angling into my lane and coming to a dead stop. I came to a tire-incinerating halt with two dogs loose in the back seat, and thankfully they seemed to be unaffected. After the incident I happened to be heading into the same shopping center as her, and noted that she proceeded to drive diagonally across the rows of parked cars rather than use the access road. I've long since learned the futility of lecturing knotheads, so I took some deep breaths and let it pass.

My real point is that Pappy and I are getting ready to take a long drive to Maine in about a week, and this situation kind of brings home that I am a dope for not getting him some kind of safety restraint. Preferably a comfortable one that gives him the freedom to move around during a long trip. If there are any geniuses with wonderful solutions, I'd love to hear about it. And if it is something that is likely to be available at my local pet shop, even better-- special ordering will be a problem with this little time to go.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My Deer

Pappy and I went out for our morning walk, and two young deer wandered from a neighbor's back yard and sauntered down the street and around the corner. This was a pretty singular event-- we live not too far from a park, but we are less than two miles from the DC line. I'm not talking the sticks here.

Pappy was highly intrigued as we followed behind them. He walked for half a block on two legs as he strained against his leash, silent but for his gasps of excited strangulation. I pointed them out to a slowly passing car, and the deer trotted across the street and took up stations on another neighbor's lawn. Just shy of passing out, Pappy distracted himself with a discarded tissue on the street and settled down. The deer just stood on the lawn and stared at us two predators passing below them, the brazen ungulates.