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Monday, April 3, 2017

Travels with Sydney -- Finale

Celebrating Chris's birthday
On the penultimate day of our cross country trip home, we stopped on the western edge of NJ to stay with our friends Gregory Anne and Mark. Mark runs a large estate comprising 400 acres, quite a bit of which is farmed. At this time of year, of course, all the fields are fallow.

And full of game.

Sydney: Oh Oh Oh My God. Let me the heck off this leash, I have WORK to do!!!

There's something moving in there...
And when she couldn't beg a trip outside (no way was she being let off the lead; she'd chase something into the next county), she was camped in front of the lovely French doors staring at the Great Outdoors. All over her face: Can I live here forever?

Just wait, we told her. We're almost home.

So the following day, on the first sunny day since we left California, we drove the final few hours to Southampton, arriving early afternoon. After we unloaded the car, I walked Sydney on a lead the perimeter of the back garden to make sure there weren't any puppy-sized gaps in the fencing that could be a problem. As we unloaded the suitcases, put all the laundry in the washer, and settled in, she sniffed out the house and figured out this must be her new home, it smelled like us.

Late afternoon, we walked into town for a coffee and a chance to people watch. Look, Sydney! There are benches to hang out here too!

This morning I walked her down to Gin Lane Beach and back - four miles - and then we turned her loose in the back yard while Chris and I each dealt with aspects of getting back to the swing of things here at A Butler's Manor.

Up unitl this point, Syd has been my little shadow, following me from room to room. But that was before she met the garden. She spent the entire day galloping around and through it, chasing squirrels up trees and flushing rabbits into the next county. And if there are any field mice in the've been warned.

I followed her on one of her forays, watching her tree a squirrel and then stalk the perimeter, waiting for it to come down (hahaha). And I heard for the first time what may be the Nova Scotia Duck Toller Retriever "scream" -- an odd, frustrated whine. It does sound like what I've found on YouTube, but she's definitely a mixed breed because thus far, she's run away from the surf and any water, whereas the purebreds seem to dive right in.

She followed me in once, just long enough to have a drink of water and then ran straight back outside to continue on patrol. She probably burned off all the weight we've tried to put on her since she weighed in at a measly 17-1/2 lbs. when we adopted her. Her eagerness to be outside reminded me of being a child, when we went out to play after school and didn't return until the streetlights came on. And coming in on command? Oh heck no. Nature is the Bigger Name on the Other Line.

Anyway, looks like we are defnitely going to have less wildlife in Chris's garden this year, with Sydney on patrol. She is on the job!! And boy is she happy!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Travels with Sydney, part 2

Spotty Internet service and good company have interrupted my good intentions to post a daily update.

When we say that we have on six or seven occasions driven between California and Long Island, Chris and I often get asked whether we have taken the “blue roads” – those highways “off the beaten track” to explore the small towns and lesser-known byways of this great country.

Wind farm outside of Palm Springs
And the answer has been, for the most part, no. On our way from Southampton to Laguna Beach, we are eager to get there…and on the way home, we need to get back. So generally we don’t stray too much from the main roads when travelling from one coast to the other.

This trip, however, has been somewhat different. For a start, because we routed through Palm Springs, we chose to take a route that wound us up through Yucca Valley but then were forced to detour through the Mojave Desert Preserve, through undulating waves of Joshua trees before connecting with I-15 just west of the Nevada border.

Our thinking on that day was that we would push as far as Richfield, UT in order to shorten the drive to Denver, where we were staying with friends the following day. However, as we crossed the Utah state line near St. George, what started as a light rain quickly became increasingly heavy snow, so we stopped in Cedar City for the night. Since we’d left an 80+-degree Palm Springs that morning, I needed to change out of flip flops before leaving the car.

Sydney jumps out of the car into a snow drift. SNOW! What is this?--and what is even more interesting, what might be hiding beneath it?

(Note to self: In future hotel stays, avoid the ground floor room at the end of the hall near the exterior doorway. Traffic in and out throughout the night meant that each time someone passed downs the hall she startled and barked and found it difficult to settle. So two out of three of us didn't get much sleep.)

SO....What were we THINKING, that waiting until late March would ensure us better weather?!? So far we’ve encountered the worst weather of any of our trips cross country. On Monday we got sandblasted in a windstorm outside of Desert Hot Springs in California. On Tuesday we drove over Vail Pass (elevation: 10,662 feet) in a snowstorm so intense that I was following in the tracks of a motorhome just so I could find some asphalt to drive on…followed by another detour, due to an accident, onto Highway 6 through gorgeous but scary, Loveland Pass (switchbacks, no guard rails; sheers drops) also while it snowed…Wednesday and Thursday we forded blinding thunderstorms most of the day between Denver and Indianapolis, following semi trucks on Interstate 70 because they are big enough to see. (What is WITH drivers who don’t put their headlights on during inclement weather? Didn’t we all learn that in driving school?) I am in sad need of my chiropractor to relieve the tension in my neck and back exacerbated by these weather events.

Meanwhile, blessedly, Sydney just sleeps through it all.

So far, she has discovered that:

1)  Rain sucks when you have to pee. And forget pooping. Tomorrow will be better. (Cue the theme song from Annie: "The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun...)

2) There are such things as Fenced Back Yards where leashes are not required (!) which sometimes contain things even MORE interesting than lizards to hunt and chase. WOO HOOOO!!!!

In Denver, she flushed a warren of bunnies. In Topeka, she discovered squirrels. (Chris is thrilled, thinking about the effect Sydney is likely to have on our burgeoning population of rabbits, squirrels and deer in our Southampton garden.) Ever since, she has since been on point to find other things that will run and allow her to give chase. Alas, as we are averaging 550 miles per day, she isn’t given much opportunity during a potty stop every couple of hours en route. But she’s such a good sport about a change of locale every night, with lots of different people to meet and be petted by. Still a little shy, but learning to try. Good practice for being a bed and breakfast dog!!

Just a few more days....

Monday, March 27, 2017

Travels with Sydney

Doing my best to channel Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley" here.

Under the heading of "What I Did on My Summer (winter) Vacation" -- Chris and I adopted a dog. The thinking was that if we found our next dog while we were on sabbatical in California, we'd have some time to bond and train and accustom it to us before we returned to New York and the usual madness of bed and breakfast life was underway. So with this in mind, we again drove cross country so that we'd be able to transport a dog back without the potential trauma of air travel.

So six weeks ago today, we adopted four-year-old Sydney from a rescue in Baja California, Mexico, and she is a love. She's some form of mixed breed incorporating--possibly--Australian Shepherd, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Pointer, and who knows what else. She's little--24 pounds--about 16 inches at the shoulder. She's continually on the prowl for lizards and things she can flush out of the bushes while on a walk.We've been accustoming her to our vacation life of spending hours on Laguna Beach's boardwalk where the people (and dog) watching is sublime. Here's her getting the hang of it:

Today was the big day to begin our journey East. It will be a fairly leisurely week-long trip, affording us the opportunity to stop in with friends across the country en route. We've taken her on a couple of day trips (for instance, to Temecula Wine Country) and she seems to travel well. And we noticed that she didn't seem to have any paranoid "are you leaving me!?!?" associations with suitcases as we packed.

But as we loaded the last of the cases into the car, she jumped from her bed and ran back up the stairs where I found her curled up defiantly on the doormat of the apartment, and I had to carry her back down to the car.

Yeah, I know how she feels.

Today is a short jaunt, a warm up for the long days on the road, as we are only in Rancho Mirage where our dear friends Steve and Liz are vacationing. The uncommonly green foothills of Orange and Riverside Counties gave way to the snow-capped mountains flanking the clear deserts of Moreno and Indio Valley. Miles of wind farms waved welcome as we neared Palm Springs. Sydney slept through it all.

She may speak Spanish -- we don't -- but for sure when we stopped into a little family run Mexican restaurant called La Casita in Cathedral City, she was up for any dropped tortilla chips or leftover tostada we might put her way. And she evidences lots of interest in the ducks on the ponds here, which makes me wonder again about her DNA.

No problems with the strange hotel room, Interested and excited about all the unfamiliar territory. Mad props to the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa for an incredible pet-friendly experience!

Off to Utah today!