Beth Deitchman

Reader, Writer, Knitter, Slayer

Category: Ralphie

Assume the Worst

Last Tuesday at midnight, I woke up in the middle of a hot flash as Dave was getting up to go to the bathroom. Ralphie, ever alert to our movements, hopped from the bed to investigate the sudden change in status. He followed Dave to the bedroom door where he hovered, presumably because he had to know where The Man One went. After Dave returned and crawled back into bed, Ralphie needed a little coaxing to resume his spot. Instead of curling up and going back to sleep, however, he climbed up to the head of the bed. On hot nights he tends to avoid the top of the bed, but there he was, sniffing, next to my pillow. I hoped he’d cuddle, but he leapt off the bed and rushed to the other window, still sniffing. For the next several minutes, Ralphie chased something around the bedroom–head lifted toward the ceiling and shifting on a dime. It was pretty impressive, but whatever he was trying to catch had some mad flying skills.

“It’s probably the beetle I saw earlier,” I said, so confident. “Ralph, get back in bed; you’re not going to catch him.”

Ralphie ignored me. I sat up and watched as he continued to spin around the room. Then something black swooped over me–it was a little bigger than a Monarch butterfly. “That’s not a beetle!” I shrieked and pulled the covers over my head. “Make it go away!”

Dave, like the good husband he is, got out of bed and looked around.

I peeked from under my covers. “Turn the light on,” I suggested. He did. As I dove back under the covers, again shrieking, Dave said, “I think it’s a bird.”

“It’s not a bird.”

He took a beat.

“No, it’s not a bird.”

Underneath the blankets I shivered, so creeped out by the bat flying around our bedroom.

Meanwhile, Dave and Ralphie watched as it banked again and again around the room. “Wow!” Dave said. “It can really fly!”

I wasn’t interested in its prowess. “Open the door!” It wasn’t a suggestion. (We have to keep our bedroom door closed at night or Ralphie will go charging down the stairs–barking–at regular intervals.)

I heard the door open and a moment later close.

“Is it gone?” I pulled the covers off my head.

“I think so,” Dave said. “It flew around the hall for a minute, but I think it found its way out the door.” He turned off the light and climbed back into bed. Ralphie stood by the bedroom door for another minute before he, too, jumped on the bed, curled up, and went to sleep. Dave started to slip back to sleep.

I, on the other hand, was WIDE awake. A bat had just flown around my bedroom. That by itself isn’t such a big deal. It’s just a (creepy) little winged creature–most likely more afraid of me–that simply wanted to catch some bugs. I  was kept awake by something I remembered hearing while in graduate school: the fiancé of a friend telling a story about a bat flying around in a restaurant–how that had been considered dangerous because of the potential for rabies infection from a fly-by. He was a med student and spoke with authority. Wikipedia didn’t yet exist and instead of questioning him or looking it up in the library, I merely stored this terrifying little nugget of (mis)information in that vault in my mind where such things lurk and moved along.

Until Tuesday. I spent the early hours of that morning convinced that the bat had sprayed rabies ALL OVER my room. I know, rationally, that such a thing isn’t possible.* I’m not an idiot. But at 12:30 on Tuesday morning I wasn’t operating from rational thought. I was operating from fear and a super-charged imagination.

What’s the worst thing someone can do in such a situation? Yep, consult the Internet, whose slogan should be “Assume the Worst!” The next morning I looked stuff up on the Center for Disease Control website. According to the CDC, if you wake up to find a bat in your room, you have to assume the worst. That’s not how they phrase it, but that’s what they mean. I sat in my office wondering how long the bat had been in the room–had we been asleep? Had it entered not through the upstairs deck door as I thought, but through the window over the bed? Had it crawled through that window and hung over me while I slept? Had it landed on me? Had it bitten me or Dave or Ralphie? Stories began to spin themselves–fueled by a catastrophic imagination, an episode of House, and an episode of Scrubs. (Who knew such different tv shows could make use of a rabies death?) To stop the stories from spinning out of my control, I made several phone calls, starting with the Advice Nurse. The one for my doctor’s office had to call back later, so I tried the Anthem Blue Cross Advice Nurse. She was a lovely lady, based in Atlanta, I think, who had had to get a bat out of her house recently. Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell me much–she was searching the CDC website for information. She suggested that I call the CDC and helpfully gave me the number.

So I called the CDC. The sweet lady on the other end read me what was on their website. While I was answering a brief survey about customer service, my other line buzzed. The Advice Nurse from One Medical had returned my call. Another nice woman spoke to me–this one in San Francisco. She didn’t have very much experience with bats. We began to bandy about the terms “post exposure prophylaxis,” which I had learned from the CDC website. Apparently rabies shots have gotten less daunting than they were when we were kids. Now it’s just a series of four shots to the upper arm, not the gazillion shots to the belly we whispered about as children, wide-eyed and thrilled by the horror.

But as nice as she was, she couldn’t give me any advice beyond considering the shots or contacting the Marin Department of Public Health. I asked her what she would do, and she replied, “That’s a good question. It’s kind of a tough call in this case, because you don’t want to take any unnecessary medication, but rabies is fatal.” Yes, well. I took down the number of the public health department and thanked her. She wished me luck.

By now I had to get going–I had a Pilates private session to teach. Plus I was all phoned out. I asked Dave to call the health department while I was gone. As anyone who knows Dave can imagine, he was completely blithe about the whole thing. Maybe not completely, but he wasn’t really worried. He agreed to call them and to stop by the vet’s office. (I made the mistake of looking things up like cases of rabies in dogs with up-to-date vaccines. It can happen.)

Luckily my client that morning was the daughter of another client–a marvelous man and retired surgeon who knows about my health concerns. He happened to drop her off for her session, and naturally I told him–mocking myself as I do to hide my fear. He waved it off, laughing, and said I shouldn’t worry about it, which mollified me for an hour.

Meanwhile, Dave had called the public health department. He told me when I called him from the Good Earth parking lot that they suggested we take the prophylaxis. So he’d called the closest urgent care center that had the shots, and they said to come in as soon as possible. Cue freak-out. I kept myself pulled together to grocery shop, but visions of horrible things accompanied me home. No matter how much I pushed them aside, they kept storming back. Lunch was a tense affair–Dave insisted we eat because who knew how long we’d be at Urgent Care? But we finally made it out of the house and up to Terra Linda.

Dave and I have a lot of experience of emergency rooms together. We had only been dating a few months when I had an acute case of appendicitis that led to a morning at the UC Davis Student Healthcare Center and then the afternoon and night at Sutter Davis Hospital. We’ve also been to Sutter Davis for a couple of serious asthma attacks (mine). I find trips to the ER with Dave very entertaining. Something about medical facilities inspires his already great sense of humor and timing. So it was only fitting that we spent part of our thirteenth anniversary at Urgent Care.

By this point in the day we had come to a clearer sense of the timeline–determining that we were awake when the bat entered the premises–and we were also pretty sure that we hadn’t been bitten. But those damn websites I consulted made it sound as though a bat could swoop in, bite its victim, and swoop away completely undetected. And that it would leave the tiniest of marks, easy to overlook. (Who the fuck writes these websites anyway?). Since rabies is fatal, I was not taking any chances.

Urgent Care was not busy, so we were seen pretty quickly, starting with Dave. Just before my turn, I heard the doctor in the hallway saying, “He’s fine with not getting the shots.” Then he came into the room and calm descended. He told me about Dave’s decision but added that I don’t have to do the same thing. Then he said that he didn’t think I needed the shots, but it was up to me. Naturally I was torn. He inspected me for bites, found none, and reassured me that if it were he, he would not bother with them. I debated–thinking that I might spend the next ten days seeing rabies in a headache or a sore muscle. Finally, my nascent rationality, something I’ve been working on, took over. “Let’s skip it,” I said.

“I think that’s the right decision,” he replied. Then he got up to do my paperwork, sending me down the hall to sit with Dave. When the nurse came in to give us our paperwork, she said, “The nurses all think you made the right choice.” That statement provided the most comfort all day. We thanked the staff for their wonderful treatment and headed home to Ralphie, who had forgotten the whole incident and just wanted to play fetch.

That night over dinner, Dave and I talked about death and fear and life and love. We toasted our thirteen years of marriage, made plans for the future, and reminded each other how lucky we are. We imagined the best.


*I have a theory about the bat spraying rabies: rabies is transmitted through saliva. A rabid bat can drip saliva from above, unlike a land-bound creature that has to bite to spread the disease. In the infinitesimal chance that a bit of infected bat saliva lands on a freshly opened wound or in your eye, you might contract rabies from a bat flying overhead. But that’s just my theory.


We woke up in our own bed this morning because we came home a day early.  We’re all glad that we did.  Ralphie already seems to have forgotten we left, except that he’s been carefully, almost methodically re-marking the neighborhood, letting his dog friends know he is back, I suppose.  (There’s a very lame joke to be made here about catching up on his pee-mail.  But I won’t make it.  Oh, wait, I just did.)

When we left Battle Mountain yesterday morning at 8:30, we planned to go to the Whole Foods in Reno (we can’t figure out why we didn’t find it on the outbound portion of the trip) then continue on to Truckee.  Around 10:30 , however, I decided that I did not want to sleep in another hotel bed.  Nor did I want to unpack and pack the car.  I wanted to go home.  Dave was cool with that so we changed our plans.  Just like that.

Ordinarily I find changes in plans very stressful.  I’m a planner.  A careful planner.  When packing for this trip, for example, I needed to plan ahead for multiple hotel stops.  I didn’t want to have to dig through the suitcase for clothes each day, so I devised a packing system that involved what Dave called “clothes packets:” each one contained a shirt, underwear and socks for Dave then a shirt, underwear, and socks for me laid on top of Dave’s clothes.  I folded Dave’s shirt’s sleeves over to make the packet complete:

Yes, those are my polka dot panties and they are very cute.  The system has more details but I’m simply using it as an example of my need to plan.

Yet when we agreed that we’d just push through and get home yesterday instead of today, I felt relief, even elation.  That’s how badly I wanted to sleep in my own bed.

We stuck to the part of the plan that involved stopping at Whole Foods in Reno–people have to eat.  There we shared a rotisserie chicken, and then I had what probably amounted to half a watermelon while Dave ate figs. I was really hungry.  Ralphie got some of the chicken, so he was happy.  I finished my lovely (albeit paper) cup of tea while Dave went back in for peanut butter and strangers came up to admire the Ralphster.  Strangers everywhere admire Ralphie.  How could they not?

After lunch and some navigating around construction (thank you Samantha!), we resumed the long drive home.  Maybe it was all in my head, but once we got beyond Truckee and we reached lower altitudes, the air seemed thicker, even richer.  For Ralphie’s sake we stopped in Davis so he could do some running.  The Google led us to a dog park, which happened to be near my old running route.  I never noticed its existence when I lived in Davis.  We had the park to ourselves and Ralphie enjoyed playing fetch with his new toy, until the squirrels appeared.  We let him work off a little more energy chasing squirrels  then bundled him back in the car for the final push.

Thank God we were driving West–the traffic eastbound looked like a nightmare–but we had a smooth ride from Davis.  We pulled into the driveway sometime around 6:00 pm.  Ralphie started wagging and wiggling at the sight of the house.  It turns out he really missed home, too.

As we ate dinner last night (at our kitchen table using real plates and utensils) I asked Dave what his favorite part of the trip, (category road portion) was.  We had the same favorite: hiking Sunlight Mountain with Ralphie and Bella.  His second favorite part, (category road portion) differed a little from mine: his was sitting in our room at the Hotel Denver drinking a beer and reading.  I voted for the Greek omelet at the Daily Bread.  Dave’s favorite moment, (category Denver) was playing video games with Clark.  Mine was a tie between playing Wii with Clark’s coaching and playing cards with Cory and Jack.  But other moments stand out, too: watching the Gay Pride Parade, listening to the thunderstorms, and relaxing in the backyard at Dave’s parents’ house, surrounded by family.

We didn’t come face to face with as much wildlife as I thought we might, and I can’t decide if I’m relieved or disappointed by that.  But we did catch glimpses.  One day I looked over while driving and I saw a deer swimming in the Colorado River.  It was pretty magnificent.  Yesterday Dave nudged me and pointed so that I wouldn’t miss the coyote standing casually in the grass dividing I-80 East from I-80 West.

And that’s the end of our road trip with Ralphie.  We are already planning another one for next summer, driving up the west coast.  I think it will be as successful as this road trip.  But that’s next year.

I’m probably going to take a little break from blogging for a few weeks.  I have a novella to revise, and I start rehearsals for my next show, Our Country’s Good, in July.  I think I’ll blog about the rehearsal process. I’ve never written about rehearsing.  I think that might be fun.


Return to Battle Mountain

Driving is damn tiring work.  You wouldn’t think so since it involves so much sitting.  But I’m exhausted.

We’re in the middle of nowhere again: Battle Mountain, Nevada.  It is really freaking hot–as hot as it was cold in Truckee.  In fact, I can’t wait to get to Truckee tomorrow for the cold (then I will complain about how cold it is). I decided today that if there is a hell it looks like the stretch of Nevada that lines 80 Westbound.

Anyway, enough bitching.  When I stopped writing last night to go sit in the hot tub, I had just mentioned taking Ralphie out to play with his new toy.  He’s been seeming a little bored lately (I guess he’s just not into “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me”), so we stopped at a pet store in Salt Lake City yesterday and got him two new toys.  Here’s Ralphie playing fetch near the lake; see if you can resist the cuteness:

It’s a combination chew, fetch, and tug toy made by Kong.  We can only get him super durable toys because he’s a destruction machine.  (Luckily for us he only destroys his toys; he doesn’t chew on our stuff.)  Here he’s shaking the crap out of it–probably to make sure it’s dead.

We had another mostly uneventful night in the Holiday Inn Express (thank God for the ocean sounds coming from the Android) and woke up at a leisurely 7:20 when Ralphie decided it was time to get up.  He’s generally the first one up; once he’s done sleeping, he’s not interested in lounging around.  So Dave, being the best husband in the world, got up and took him for a longish walk.  We were in no hurry to return to Battle Mountain, so after breakfast we took another walk.  Soon enough, however, we had to face the inevitable.  Besides if we want to get home within the next two days, we have to go through Nevada.

But we still had a lot of Utah to cross, including the Bonneville Salt Flats. There’s a convenient rest stop where we got out and wandered around a little.  The area is beautiful. If you saw the movie The World’s Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins you know that the World of Speed happens there every year.  If you didn’t see that movie, you know it now.

I looked up the salt flat’s history on the Google, which told me that it used to be part of a massive lake the size of Lake Michigan.  The Great Salt Lake is all that is left of it.  Dave took some great pictures; here’s another one:

We next stopped in Wells, Nevada (former home of our new tires) to eat lunch.  The Google told Dave that Wells has a park where we could eat the lunch we bought at Whole Foods the day before (we thought ahead this time!).  The Google was right.  It was a nice little park with a picnic table under a shady tree.  A strong wind kept us from getting hot, which was nice.

Once back on the road, we listened to several more Wait Waits while Ralphie slept in the back seat.  We made a little nest for him that you can’t really see, but it includes his favorite pillow.  Why he’s sprawled on our computer bags, I don’t know.

Because sometimes he won’t sit down in the car, he has a harness to keep him from flying through the windshield.  He seems to have learned to relax in the car on this trip, though, so maybe he won’t need it so much in the future.

Wait Wait makes a great road trip soundtrack.  We’ve learned a lot about the news from the past six months and started a list of books to read and movies to see based on their celebrity guests playing “Not My Job.”  In case you are interested, Paula Poundstone is our favorite Wait Wait panel member, but there weren’t many episodes featuring her.  There should be more Wait Waits with Paula Poundstone.  I’m just saying.

And then we got here, where it is currently 97 degrees.  It’s cooled off a bit since we arrived.  Tonight we’re going to take advantage of the tv in our room to watch the NBA finals.  The last time I watched tv in our room we were in Green River on the way to Denver and I saw “Dance Moms” for the first and last time.  I still shudder at the thought.

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Maybe once we get out of the desert heat and into the mountain cool I’ll have more energy and more to say.


Denver with Family

We’ve been in the Denver area since Thursday and have discovered something curious about the mile high city and its environs. The Denverites seem to make as much use of individual street names as possible.  In other words, Denver is host to a Franklin Street, Franklin Ave, Franklin Blvd, and Franklin Circle.  Whenever we program information into Samatha to get directions, she returns many different options, and if we don’t know which one we want, we can’t get there.  Dave gets frustrated (which is unusual) because the similar street names get confusing.  I think it’s because the lack of oxygen at this altitude translates to a lack of creativity.  But that might be a big jump.  At any rate, since discovering the street naming thing, whenever we encounter something we can’t explain, something that seems to defy logic and / or common sense, I suggest that it’s the lack of oxygen.  Because I’m just that funny.

But Denver more than makes up for its confusing street naming system with an abundance of walking, biking, and running paths.  I’m pretty sure you can get just about everywhere here on foot or by bike without worrying about cars.  That is really impressive.

Denver also has thunderstorms.  Exciting ones.  Oh how I miss good thunderstorms!  We don’t really get them often in Northern California.  I remember one time waking up in the middle of the night, hearing a thunderstorm, and not knowing what it was. I woke Dave up to tell him that we were under attack.  He told me it was just a thunderstorm and asked how I, who grew up in Southern Indiana, land of frequent thunderstorms, could not know what was going on.  It was just that I hadn’t heard one in a long time.  Anyway, Friday afternoon we were wandering around a lovely area near a nature center where Dave’s dad volunteers and the skies kind of suddenly grew very dark.  Then the thunder and lightning started.  The temperature must have dropped twenty degrees in the few minutes we were walking.  It was actually very lovely.

We were lucky because we avoided hail, but apparently other areas of Denver got pummeled.  The thunder and lighting were nice, though.  And the smell of wet pavement in summertime brought back some wonderful memories of playing in the rain with Leslie Remien and Jennifer Keeping about a hundred years ago.

The storm on Friday forced us back to Dave’s parents’ house before we got a chance to explore the trail we had begun.  So instead we spent the afternoon reading, talking, eating, and playing video games.

Clark is really good at these games and provides helpful direction to those of us less fortunate.  He’s also a four-year-old who can read and count to three hundred.  Despite not having children of my own and not spending much time with others’ kids, I still know that that is unusual.  On the other hand, he’s mad about anything Star Wars, which is not unusual for kids his age.  His generation keeps Dave employed.  So, go Clark!

I will admit that I’ve become attached to the Wii swordplay games.  I like to wave the control around and pretend that I can actually do damage (okay, I’m really pretending that I’m the Slayer.  There, I admitted it.).  There’s one game that we call “smashing nerds” (neither Dave nor I can remember its actual name) that is particularly satisfying.  Dave plays wisely, using defensive strategies to survive the nerd onslaught.  Clark and I both play savagely, swinging away and smashing the crap out of all the nerds that approach us.  Guess who scores higher.

On Saturday Dave and I did what needed to be done for the return trip: laundry and cooking for Ralphie.  Yep, I cook for my dog.  He eats brown rice (cooked until it resembles porridge), sweet potatoes, red potatoes (purple if I can get them), kale (dino), parsley, and chicken.  To this mixture I add calcium powder that I buy from the vet and a pinch of salt.  He loves it.  One of these days I’ll post the recipe that I devised after a lot of trial and error.

Ralphie also got a bath in the backyard on Saturday.  He was a trooper, only attempting to escape a few times.  Once free from the towels, he resumed his favorite backyard activity: hunting squirrels.  The squirrels that live around my in-laws’ backyard are cheeky little bastards who seem to enjoy taunting him. (If I’m repeating myself, it’s because of the altitude.)

He loves being in the back yard, which means we’re going to have to get a house with a nice back yard one of these days, just like we bought a new couch after we adopted him so we’d all have room to relax.

And naturally since he’d just had a bath, Ralphie had to find something stinky to roll around in.

That brings us to Sunday, Father’s Day.  This morning we went into Denver to hang out with Dave’s brother Greg and his boyfriend Jack.  (I LOVE Jack.  Love, love, love him.)  We met them at the Gay Pride Parade, which was a lot of fun.  Then the four of us and Ralphie went to lunch at a Greek restaurant.  The Greek omelette was delicious.  I’d say as good as the one in Glenwood Springs and that was a damn fine omelette.

After lunch we went back to the hotel so that Ralphie could nap and I could start writing this post.  We needed a little quiet time today because it was so hot.

Soon enough it was time to return to Dave’s parents’ for a delicious Father’s Day dinner of grilled salmon, asparagus, and fruit salad.  I’m going to be sore tomorrow from playing so much Wii, again with coaching by the inimitable Clark.

After dinner I was thoroughly trounced by my other nephew, Cory, in a few games of doubles solitaire.  But it was fun and that’s what matters, right?

Now we’re just back from a final walk with Ralphie.  He was hunting rabbits while we were trying to get him to do his business so we could return to the hotel.  As usual he was unsuccessful–with the rabbits, not the business.  I wonder how he’d do off the leash; he’s pretty fast and agile.  Maybe he’d catch one.  I don’t really want to find out.

Tomorrow we begin the return trek.  I’m looking forward to re-tracing our steps.  But first I have to pack.



Battle Mountain, Nevada

Day two on the road and we’re in the middle of nowhere, staying in a hotel near the freeway in Battle Mountain, Nevada, which is apparently half way to nearly everywhere.  At least that’s what the billboard said.  And if a billboard says it’s so, well, then I guess it must be so, especially since the one I saw featured a picture of the Sphinx.

We left Truckee this morning around 9:30.  But we were up really early because Ralphie seems to think that wherever we sleep is home, and since his self-appointed job at home involves barking at things outside to keep us safe inside, he was busy.  We woke up many times to a low rumble that turned out to be Ralphie growling.  We finally had to get up  when Captain Vigilance started pacing and barking.

It was a really, really cold morning.  I mean, ice on the roof of our car cold.  Seeing your breath cold.  Freaking. Cold.  I did a fair amount of bitching about this cold as we hiked in the lovely Truckee wilderness.  So Dave, who was wearing short sleeves, told me that I would never have survived 100 years ago, and I said well, I probably would have died from asthma.  But, I continued, asthma is more prevalent now so maybe I wouldn’t have had it then.  So I would have died from the cold.  By then we had stepped into the sun, which was seriously warm.  So I stopped bitching and looked at the snow-capped mountains.  It really was lovely and worth braving the cold to see.

By the time we finished breakfast and checked out of the hotel, the ice had disappeared from the car.  When we were loaded up and ready, we headed out for Reno.  Dave found a food co-op there through the Google and we wanted to load up with some healthy deli stuff for lunch and dinner, knowing as we did, that there’s nothing but a McDonald’s in Battle Mountain.  (To be fair, there seems to be a pizza and steak house, but they don’t look terribly great.)  Unfortunately, despite the many wonderful things to be found in the little co-op (that we thought was closed because the parking lot was empty), they didn’t have a prepared foods section, so our dreams of fresh carrot and celery root salad or roasted beet salad were dashed.

That’s how we ended up, briefly, in Fernly, Nevada, a place so wretched neither of our electronic devices could tell us how to get to the grocery store, Scolari’s, we had discovered on the Google.  Samantha (our new GPS thingy) told us to turn left when we got off 80, but Google maps said we should go right, which turned out to be the correct option.  But then Google maps took us to a dead end in a sad little neighborhood and said we’d arrived at our destination.  Since there was nothing even vaguely resembling a grocery store in this dead end, the human at the wheel decided to turn the car around and see if the generic shopping center we had passed earlier might have anything useful.

I guess our robot friends just wanted us to avoid Scolari’s because, well, we are spoiled food snobs who live in Marin County, home to Good Earth Grocery Store, Mighty Leaf Tea, and lots of other fabulous things (like the company in Mill Valley that makes artisanal gluten-free granola using organic quinoa and a host of other organic ingredients–delicious with almond milk–see what I mean about the food snobbery?).  Scolari’s proved to be disappointing.  And I’ll leave it at that.

Once the car had gas, the coolers had ice, and we had lots of water, we hit the road again.  There’s not a lot to look at on the drive from Fernly to Battle Mountain besides the occasional rock formation.  But there’s so much empty space.  Both Dave and I keep remarking on how big our country is.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in this part of the country, but I can’t get over how much room there is to spread out.

We passed the time on the drive listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, which makes great road trip listening.  (Or sitting and knitting listening in case you wondered.)  We made it to our hotel by around 4:30, took the Ralphster for a little walk into “downtown” Battle Mountain, then returned to our room for some dinner (which included that lovely quinoa granola).

And now I’m starting to doze, like the mister and the puppy on the other side of the giant bed in our hotel room.  I think that means it’s time to say good night as it is a really late 7:30.  Who knows what time Ralphie will be up tomorrow?  There’s a group of people cycling across America staying here, too, and they’ll probably be out at first light, which means we will, too.

Tomorrow we leave Nevada and her slot machines in grocery stores behind and make it to Utah.  I’m looking forward to seeing the salt flats again.



On the Road with Ralphie

We’re in Truckee, California, our first stop on our first road trip with Ralphie.  Eventually we’ll end up in Denver, but we’re taking it slow and easy.  No more than four hours of driving a day and plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

I love road trips because we get to make our own schedule and because we can take whatever fits into the car.  No getting up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport and no worrying about the size of our shampoo bottles.

We left San Rafael this morning at around 11:00 and headed to Davis, land of the bicycles and home of the aggies, to visit our friends Alex and Candace and their twin girls, Maya and Zoe (who turned 10 yesterday).  We hung out at their house for a while and met their dog, Sacha, an enthusiastic elk hound.  Then we went to Dos Coyotes for lunch.  It occurs to me now that we really should have taken a look at their chickens and rabbits, but at least we saw Maya and Zoe’s super cool playhouse with a stone tower in the backyard.

After lunch we drove to our old neighborhood near the Davis Food Co-Op and took a walk past our first apartment before heading downtown.  Neither of us had been in Davis in a long time so it was a little weird.  Everything seemed so much bigger–more space between houses, wider roads, bigger lawns.  Most of our old haunts were there but they didn’t feel even remotely ours any more.

Ralphie, unburdened by nostalgia, seemed to like Davis.  But then any time there’s new stuff to sniff, he’s pretty happy.  He also handled the long ride in the car really well.  I was worried that he might get stir crazy, but he just curled himself into a dog ball and went to sleep, waking up only whenever he heard the turn signal.

The drive toward Tahoe was uneventful, and we pulled into Truckee around 5:30.  After a quick dinner in the hotel, we went for what was supposed to be a short hike.  But we got lost and ended up wandering around for a while.  Now, even when there’s plenty of time, I’m not a big fan of being lost.  So imagine my panic when we got lost near sunset.  I tried to keep it together, but I don’t know how well I did.  Dave and his Android came to the rescue, however, and we made it back to the car well before dark, putting my fears of being mauled by wild animals to rest.  For now anyway.

And now I think it’s time to turn in.  The boys are already sound asleep next to me, Ralphie sprawled between us, twitching from time to time with his doggie dreams.





I fell in love last Sunday afternoon.  Truly, madly, deeply, head over heels, and at first sight.  His name is Ralphie and he is a boxer mix about a year old.

Dave and I started talking about getting a dog about a year ago–probably around the same time that Ralphie was born.  I spend a lot of time home alone during the day and I thought it would be nice to have a companion.  But our conversations about dogs usually went like this:

Beth: let’s get a dog!

Dave: You know you’d have to pick up his poop, right?

Beth: Oh. Right.  Never mind.

Then this fall I spent some time at my sister Stephanie’s house just after her son Brayden was born and I grew extremely attached to her dog, Joey.  Joey and I spent a lot of time just sitting together, me reading or doing my Rosetta Stone exercises while Joey curled up next to me.  I loved having that warm little body pressing against mine and his big wet eyes looking up at me when I spoke to him.  Since I had never really warmed to him before that visit, I was just as surprised as Stephanie by my budding relationship with Joey.

Those quiet moments with Joey showed me why I really wanted a dog: he was so happy just to sit with me and I was so comforted by his presence.  No, I think it goes even deeper than comfort; I felt pure love for him and from him.  When I came home I missed him and our companionship.  Joey also showed me that I am up to the ickier parts of dog ownership.  While I was there Joey was even more anxious than usual because of the change in his house, change that naturally accompanies the arrival of a new baby.  Unfortunately for my sister, Joey’s anxiety makes him throw up a lot.  One evening while I was there, Joey threw up while my sister and the rest of her family were too busy to deal with it.  To save Stephanie from insanity, I mopped up Joey’s barf.  And it didn’t gross me out, which, simple though it may sound, was a big deal.  It was the moment that changed everything.

That night while we were Skyping, Dave and I decided to get a dog.  We spent several weeks talking about what kind of dog we wanted and where would we get it.  We even had a name picked out: Douglas.  Last Sunday afternoon we finally had a chance to go to the Milo Foundation in San Rafael to have a look at the dogs available for adoption not actually thinking that we would be taking a dog home with us that day.  The first dog we saw was a sweet basset hound and both of us thought that she might be nice.  But then we saw Ralphie and that was it.  He was sitting at the front of his cage looking so handsome but very sad.  My heart opened all the way and I was a goner.  We only needed a quick walk down the block to know for sure that we wanted Ralphie, so we returned to Milo, adopted him, and took him home.

Ralphie, who is definitely not a Douglas, is adapting quickly to life outside the shelter, and we are learning more about him–and about dog ownership–every day.  He loves to go for walks because he is so interested in the world, and while he is learning not to pull on the leash, he gets stubborn when he’s picked up a particularly compelling scent.  We’ve taken him for a drive a few times and he seems to enjoy it, standing at attention with his front paws on the arm rest between my seat and the passenger seat and leaning his body against mine for balance, which I love.  We’re still figuring out what he wants to eat and when he wants to poop.  And because we are probably over-protective, we’re reluctant to leave him alone in the house for fear of traumatizing him.  But we will get over that.  For now we want him to be as comfortable and happy as possible.

For years I believed that I was not really a pet person.  I didn’t understand why people would allow animals indoors.  They pee, the poop, they shed, they drool, and they chew on things.  In fact, when we brought Ralphie home last Sunday afternoon, Dave and I both felt a little strange when we saw a dog walking around in our house.  But now I understand.  In the week that we have lived with Ralphie, Dave and I have fallen deeper in love with him every day.  When he wags not just his tail but also his whole body because he is so excited to see Dave or me, my heart melts and I don’t care about the dog hair on the couch or the time he pooped in the house.  I don’t even mind picking up his poop outside.  Although it’s been just a week, I already can’t imagine life without Ralphie any more than I can imagine life without Dave.  There may be only three of us, but our pack is complete.

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