Saturday, December 5, 2020

Needless to say, OTR-11 was cancelled

Although I gave serious consideration to getting on the road this year, my better judgment said that that was not a good idea.  Instead, we took a few week-long trips to the Cheat River Lodge in Elkins in WV and then to Lost River State Park in WV where our accommodations were a little more upscale than what we were used to taking.  It was not as rigorous as our usually trips, but  settled in the gorgeous WV mountains was as calming as camping in the shadow of Denali, amongst the bears and wolves of Yellowstone, the granite hills of Yosemite, and the grand sweep of the Grand Canyon. My hope is to get on the road again in 2021 for the real OTR-11, maybe even twice.  Perhaps we will head up to Labrador in the late spring, return home, or the equivalent of home, for a few months, and then head back on the road to at least the Yukon, maybe Alaska, in later summer.  But now that everyone has discovered nature, it will take come planning, so my usual two weeks planning will have to be stretched out some. 


Stay safe, everyone.


ED and Donner, from our cozy cave on 26th Street.



Thursday, October 15, 2020

On the road, sort of

 October 16, 2020,

I managed to get on the road on Monday, to lovely West Virginia! 250 miles from DC. No tenting, just hanging out in the cozy Cheat River Lodge. While the scenery is enough to make me wonder  why i travel 16,000 miles to immerse  myself in nature, i have to admit that i miss tenting and moving on every day. But i am sure Donner appreciates staying put and bedding down in a cozy lodge instead of a cold wet tent.

Today i took a six hour day trip through the wonderful back roads of west virginia to get to Spruce Knob,  the highest Point  in West Virginia. I scouted out a number of campgrounds along the way and a few cabins for future reference.

I will post a photo of our lodge. Not quite the big cabin down the street usually rent at the end of my road trips, but i  will be back in a few weeks for that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Some kind of a trip is on...

I have been unusually silent these last few months due to the covid mess we are in, Donner’s multiple rushes to the hospital for one thing or another, and some pesky condo business I had to take care of. But as I have been nearing the end of those pesky condo issues, and Donner is in fine shape, my mind has started to wander back onto the road, where Donner and I both belong.  While Alaska, and with it the Yukon, and all other beautiful places in between north of the Canadian border, are out of the question this year, that still leaves 3,120,000 square miles of roads, campsites, nature, dogs, and people, not to mention critters of all kind, as options to options.  This is the way I plan most trips.  Thoughts rush through my head, and over time my mind begins to focus on a few, and then it settles down to one choice, and that’s the trip.


Two thoughts that my mind seems to be skittering to and from these days are to drive onto Skyline Drive in the north Shenandoah and then just keep driving south until it is time to turn back, staying in any campsite that will have us.  The other thought is to drive to Springfield Illinois, and from there, recreate the trail of the hapless Donner Party in 1846, hoping for a happier ending.  Or perhaps another option will pop up between now and the time when I have to put “pen to paper” and start planning.


I do know one thing for sure: I miss the road, although I cannot same the same for Donner.


Ed and Donner

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Donner's situation

It’s been a while since I reported on Donner’s situation, so here’s an update.

I rushed him to his specialist vet in Baltimore the day he went lame in his right rear leg, and after an exam, x-rays and other tests, they sent him home with pain killers to wait out the results of his blood work. The first days were spent helping him get around since he could not walk at all, mainly because he did not know that he could get around on his good rear leg.  I also spent the days getting the home ready for another disabled dog, which went quickly since I had been down that road twice before, more than that, really.

One other key task I had, perhaps the most important, was to get his spirit up as he was very depressed over what happened to him.  The only way you can do that is to do everything we did before, and we did.  I took him to his favorite dog parks and doubled as his guardian and his rear legs.  Over the next four days, his spirt returned to normal.

The following Monday the vet called and advised that they needed to do a biopsy on his rear right leg as the blood work hinted at an infection, so I returned to the vet the next day for that.  He still needed help with walking.  We left the vets with a handful of antibiotics (Clavamox) just in case there was an infection. The vet explained that a bone infection would cause the lameness we were seeing.

Within a couple of days, I stated to notice that he was dropping his bad leg a bit more each, but not really walking on it, using it mostly for balance.  In the meantime, he became a pro at walking on his left rear leg only. I knew that he achieved that status when I came home one afternoon and found him on my bed. 

The vet called a week later and said the biopsy confirmed an infection, and so they continued Donner on the Clavamox, for a period of six weeks.

He continued to show signs of improvement, but he is a long way from being able to use that leg for anything other than balance.  But he is dropping it to the ground, although clearly favoring it. He may never be the same as he was before.

In the meantime, I resumed his weekly swimming, one of his favorite treats (he understands the GPS instructions on when we are getting close, and gets all excited), and increased it to three times a week. Every day I give him at least one of his three favorite treats: swimming, rides in the Defender, or walks “to see his buddies.”

Take him for a walk?  How?  Fortunately, I kept Leben’s three-wheeled stroller and he absolutely loves it. Occasionally, when I cannot find him in one of his nine beds throughout the house, I find him sleeping in the stroller. I also ordered a four-wheeler as a backup.  Although I took all his measurements for a wheelchair, I will hold off on that until he loses the ability to walk on his good rear leg, which will eventually happen. In the meantime, I stroll him the three blocks to the waterfront and then let him get out and walk around, although he is just as comfortable meeting other dogs from his stroller as he is walking. When he gets tired, without my coaching him, he steps into his stroller on his own.  While some people avoid looking at him, most smile, to which I respond, “This is what Pedicare for All will look like,” or, “He had “a good retirement plan.”

I have to say that the leaning curve on managing Donner was fast, just a matter of days. The management plan for each of my disabled dogs was different.  It took me three months to work through my learning curve with Sonntag, less with Leben.

To be sure, my life has changed because of this. And so has my home. My foyer looks like the parking lot during a disabled dog convention.  And, fortunately, I trained him just weeks before this happened to do his business on my balcony, which he dutifully does.  But knowing that he may be prone to “accidents” in the home, I seat out an indoor/outdoor carpet over the rug in my home where he had his “accidents” when I first got him, and set out large cloth underpads on top of that.  He never goes when I am around, probably hoping that I do not know that he is the one who did it. When I find that he has gone, I pick it up, walk it into the shower, rinse it off good, hang it to dry out, and set down another in its place.  It’s amazing how routine this has become so quickly. And when he goes completely lame, managing him then will become routine, too.

So, that’s where we are now.  Life is back to normal, and to all intents and purposes, and his life has not changed. In fact, it may better than before.  As for my life, well, it is different, but worth every bit of the work involved. One positive thing for my life (besides having him around) is that, after 47 years, I no longer have to rush to take my dog for a walk in the morning or the evening.  Oh, what a relief that is. (Not only a relief, but a savings. If I have to go into quarantine, I wont have to hire a dogwalker to come by at $75 a day for three walks. And as for setting up a pee station in the home for him, isn't that we we humans did, except we cal it a bathroom?) Why didn’t I think of this 47 years ago? With Sonntag, since he lost the ability to urinate on his own, I had to take him outside in his wheelchair and express his bladder from the wheelchair. The same with Leben, although to save myself from having to walk him late at night or in hurricanes, as happened, I learned how to set him on his side inside and express his bladder that way. Over and done with in one minute, virus 30 minutes for a walk outside. And I gained a new party trick in the process.

See below photo of Donner in his stroller.

FW: Thought I'd beat the crowds

I thought I would outsmart all of the panicking “Nora O’Donnell” * shoppers this morning, so I drove to the Safeway at 3 a.m. By God, I beat all of them.  There were maybe three people in the huge store shopping.  Problem was, there was nothing to buy. The shelves were picked bare.

I was always a daily shopper.  Those days are over, unless I want to wait on line every day for five hours to wait for the truck to arrive.  And counting on people being at work and not able to shop is wishful thinking. Most people will be working from home or are out of work. So, my bet is that 80% of the people who catch the virus will get it on a food line.

I figured I would outsmart everyone by getting Amazon to deliver my food supplies.  Well, after I spent an hour on line last night creating a huge shopping cart for Amazon to deliver, the message came back that there were no more delivery times available in my area for a week, and to come back later. And here I thought I was going to be treated as a VIP with Amazon Prime.

Life as we knew it has changed. So has our diet.  I had to pick up things I never knew existed or were edible this morning at the Safeway, or never thought I would ever have to eat it if I did.

I found one thing very interesting as I searched the aisles for canned salmon. There was no salmon. But the canned chicken shelves were full.  That was odd since Americans eat 2,640,000,000 pounds of chicken a year. Is this a sign that during hard times they are becoming more compassionate for those hapless chickens?  Probably not. It’s probably that you cannot make nuggets out of canned chicken.

By the way, the banana rack was empty, so I ended up buying three bags of freeze-dried, salted banana chips. Terrile. I will trade any reader of this blog three bags of these chips for one not-too-overripe banana.

* I blame Nora O’Donnell on NBC for the panic buying. A week ago, she advised Americans to stock up for two weeks of about 10 items. Since food stores stock only for one day, the shelves were bare the next day. And this will ripple through for weeks because when those who were left out get to the store when the shelves are restocked again, they will empty out the shelves themselves.

On the Road 11 begins today

Cormac McCarthy published a novel in 2006 called The Road. It was about post-apocalyptic times. How absolutely  horrible life would be, I thought to myself.  For the grace of God, I pray I do not have to experience that in my remaining years.

Today, I realized that I will experience it. Life as we knew it and hoped it would has just changed, forever.

Before I left for OTR-10, I had hoped to take all of my retirement funds out of the stock market, where it had all sat unchanged since 1995.  I did not have the chance to do that, though.  As good fortune would have it, the market went up when I was away, by 6%.  Lucky me, I thought.  For the first time in my life, I felt financially secure. Not so much for my financial well-being, but for the life I led to make it here. Not wanting to lose that feeling, and comparing it to how I felt in prior years when the market dropped, I decided that 11 years was way too long for the market to keep going up. And so, thinking that any one event (e.g., Iran, North Korea, etc.) could take the market down, I bailed 70% of my funds out of the market.  Aftre I pressed Return on my computer to accomplish that, I remember feel euphoric, again, not because of that one incident, or that it was the market, but because I was able to do it at all because of how I chose to live my life until then.  What a pleasant feeling it was, especially since my good fortune would allow me to spend my time and money on those causes I believed in. 

The date of that action was January 6th.  I don’t recall if I read it or not, but that was the very day any news media reported on the corona virus in China, the New York Times, buried in a small piece in the middle of the paper.  How coincidental.

Since that date, the entire world knows what has happened. Only God knows what will happen now.  But since in my spiritual mind we are all God, we have to make the best of it, for ourselves, for our neighbors, and for all of humanity and the creatures on this planet.

It seems to me now that there will be no OTR-11 this year.  I do not think the odds of my picking up the virus will be any greater or less on the road than they are here at home. But the consequences if I do contract the virus on the road are much, much greater, especially for Donner.  I cannot afford to be off in  some distant camp with Donner and be hit with even a mild case of it.  So, considering how life will soon became more primitive than what I ever experienced on any of  my road trips, and I can assure you that some of it was very primitive, I might as well declare OTR-11 on as of now and  start the blog for it now.

Yes, this posting is pessimistic, and for good reason.  But that is only meant to apply to the short run until I figure out how to adjust my behavior and habits and acclimate them to what comes my way.  In the long run, we will survive, maybe even thrive once again.  But just as those who grew up during the Great Depression never abandoned the habits and attitudes they developed during those difficult years, so, too, those who live through this time period will never abandon the habits and attitudes we are about to develop. My hope is that they are somewhat better than they were before. Maybe this epoch should become known as the Great Awakening. I hope it does.

Frankly speaking, I am going to approach this just like I approach all my road trips, as a challenge: Plan, act, improve; plan, act, improve; plan, act, improve. 

Vinceremo, Vinceremo, VINCERMO.


Friday, February 21, 2020

A bittersweet day

From the first moment I rescued Donner on October 30, 2015, I wondered if he would suffer the same fate as my three other male German shepherds, Montag, Sonntag and Leben, and go lame in his rear legs. For two years I watched carefully for any downturn, but none showed up until I one night when I walked with him in Central Park in NYC in November 2017.  I noticed then that he was favoring his right rear leg.  I watched it for several months and when there was no improvement,  a trip to the orthopedic vet confirmed that he had multiple spinal issues and, as luck would have it, hip issues, too. The hip issues could not be resolved by surgery since the spinal issues would pose too much risk, and the spinal issues were too several and unlikely to be cured by surgery.  With surgery not an option,  I resolved to manage him carefully and hope that I could either postpone the day he would go lame or avoid it completely.

For the last two years, I religiously carried out my resolution and managed Donner very carefully: I never let him off the leash to run or chase after dogs; I took him swimming every week; I gave him two pain killers daily, and never missed a day.  I gave him Dasuquin and fish oil supplements.  I lifted him from our Defender instead of letting him leap out. But I made an extra effort to have him meet every dog who came within nose distance of him, to make up for his first four years chained in back yards in Los Angeles, and to compensate for any restrictions on him if he did go lame. My guess is that be befriended more than 800 dogs -some repeats- over the last two years, from DC to the Arctic and all points in between.

Unfortunately, although I might have postponed the inevitable, I did not avoid it.  Over the last few months, as I saw occasional signs of his experiencing some difficulty with his right rear leg, I made adjustments to my management of him:  I cut back on our walks; I put a carpet down in the bare kitchen floor so he would not slip on the ceramic floor as he went to eat, or to see what I was eating; I started to lift  him onto high places instead of allowing him to jump up himself; and, just last week, I ripped out the front passenger seat of our Defender to let him walk freely from his rear bed to his bed in the front instead of having to climb over the console. Despite these changes, this morning, when he emerged from the bedroom, he could not walk on his right rear leg at all, and he was wobbly on his left rear leg.  Although I suspected what the vet would say, I made an appointment immediately and drove to Baltimore for the appointment.

The vet reconfirmed that surgery was not an option.  He did prescribe another powerful pain killer for the next week to see if that alleviates his pain and gives him some mobility back,  and suggested, if that does not help, to return for tests to see if a bone infection is causing his immobility.  I intend to do so.

As soon as I returned home with Donner, I started the process of reorganizing things around my condo to accommodate Donner’s new life.  But the first thing I did was to make the same vow I made with Sonnatg, and then Leben, when they became lame:  this dog is not going to be put down just because he cannot walk. He will do everything he did before.  However, instead of putting him into a wheelchair right away, I will give him some time to acclimate to walking on one -albeit wobbly- rear leg and do what I have to do to keep his quality life, and with it his spirit, up. When the now-more-inevitable happens, I will order his wheelchair.

I entitled this posting “a bittersweet day.” Why bittersweet? Where is the sweet?  Because there was a great sense of joy I felt that had Donner, then Thunder, not been abandoned into that high-kill animal shelter more than four years ago for me to adopt him, today would have been the last day of his life. What a feeling of joy I now have that he is with me to live out his full life, first during what will be a tough transition to a wheelchair, and then in a wheelchair.  Sure, what a lucky dog he is; but what a lucky guy I am that this job has been handed to me. I got joy from all of my dogs, but having rescued Donner the joy was extra special. Now it is even more extra-special.

Needless to say, because I am posting this on our OTR-11 blog, what happened today does nothing to the planning for that road trip. In fact, it makes it more certain than yesterday that there will be one.

ED (and Donner)

Updates on Donner's situation will be posted on his blog.  click here.