Friday, June 29, 2007

Fait Accompli

June 28, 2007

Today was a day that could just about define the word "stressful."

Today was the day that Adult Protective Services was to get the court order in hand to remove my sister from my mother's care. They wanted me to be there when they took Jan away. (Hence me being in Pennsylvania. Though I've been here a day and a half, I didn't call my mother and let her know -- I was afraid she'd find some way to bully Jan into her car and take off with her. )

We had breakfast at a local restaurant, then decided to go let Bernie's mother know we were in town. We knocked on her door, got no answer. Bernie had to call her on the phone to tell her to come answer her door. When she did, she was quite surprised to find us there.

We filled her in on the situation, and she was glad to hear that Jan was going to a care facility -- she'd thought Jan should be removed some time ago when my mother told her that she tied Jan into her chair so she wouldn't roam through the house while Ma worked outside. God, I hadn't known about that. And then Mother-in-Law offered to go with us when we went to witness Jan's removal. It was perfect. While my mother still believes on a deep level that I am a child who must be dominated, she sees Bernie's mother as a friend.

While we were talking, Mom's lawyer finally returned my call. He gave us the scary news that if Mom told any agency to ignore my power of attorney, it would negate my ability to use it. He advised me to get her bills paid secretly, and set up a payment schedule for them before she could get to the bank and yank my POA.

Off we went to the bank,(in my mother's town) where the teller we spoke with turned out to be a high school classmate of mine -- one who had thought I was crazy but didn't actively dislike me. She set up an impromptu meeting for us with a trust officer to see if a trust for Mom would meet our concerns.

After yet another rendition of my woes, we set up a real appointment for next week. Then I went back to my teller friend and asked her for some checks so that I can pay for some stuff of Mom's out of her account. Before that was done, the case worker from Adult Protective Services called me and let me know she had the court order, but was waiting for one more signature before they went to get Jan.

Back to the teller again, my hands shaking. We got the checks and then, armed with my POA papers, I went to the other two banks where Mom has money squirreled away, and got account numbers and balances -- information the trust dude will need.

Then it was back up the road to the town where we're staying, to wait for more news. Bernie took me to a restaurant for a glass of wine. Just as we placed our order, the APS caseworker called and gave us a time for the intervention. We had time to finish our wine, and then went to get Bernie's mother.

We arrived at my mother's house while the caseworkers were still trying to get my sister to get out of her chair. When we came to the door, Mom didn't know who I was, or Bernie. She did, however, recognize Bernie's mother, who hasn't really changed her looks much in the past 30 years. Bernie's mother, Regina, managed to convince my mother that the specter in her doorway was me. It took about 10 full minutes before my mother believed her. Or at least until she said she did. I'm not sure she really accepted the introduction.

The caseworkers brought in four people to get Jan out. The house was hellishly hot, all closed up. Jan was freaked and refused to get out of the chair that has been her mode of existence for years and years. You have to understand that the chair (a recliner that has seen better days) has been Jan's environment except for bathroom trips, and bedtime, and meals in the kitchen. That's all. Sounds like abuse? Damn right, it is. Blame my mother's decreasing mental state. The dementia that is claiming my mother's brain doesn't want Jan moving around.

Jan refused to budge, and they called a bigass burly police officer to help. After another 20 minutes of Jan's standoff, the policeman picked her up bodily and took her out. She cried, which was pitiful and hurt my heart, but even then I noticed that she didn't cry out for her mother. She just said, "Put me down!"

I followed them to the group home where Jan will actually have 24 hour care, and no one will tie her into a chair or tell her to shut up or call her names -- dear God, how I wanted something like this for her 20 years ago. She was upset, of course. She's blind, and this is the first new environment she's been in since she broke her ankle about 5 years ago. Or was it 6? And that was just for a couple weeks.

Suddenly, from sitting in a damned reclining chair in a stiflingly hot house with a semi-deranged caregiver, Jan was transported to a bright, light house with air conditioning and people dedicated to taking care of her. She looked very young, in spite of her graying hair, like she was nine years old. "I'm scared," she said, and the caregivers surrounded her and assured her that everything would be fine. Before I left her, I took her hand and rubbed her legs and told her we'd be there soon to visit. She stopped crying at that point. I think I'll be back East to visit more often now that she's not trapped in my mother's house, sad as that is to say. Seeing her isolation (okay, let's be up front and call it abuse) was too much for me to bear. I've been trying to get her out of my mother's care since the broken ankle incident.

Once I left Jan in good hands, I went back to Mom's house. She asked the same questions over and over again: "Why did they do this? Will Jan have to stay over night? When are they going to bring her back? They're not going to ruin her, are they? I just got her settled down!"

Deep in the throes of dementia, be it Alzheimers or whatever, my mother can't really understand processes not of her own routine, and the dementia has her paranoid and quite delusional as to her own capabilities and condition. She is so incredibly emaciated that I can hardly believe she still gets around. Her arms look like broomsticks with skin and veins as upholstery.

When it was time for us to get Bernie's mother back home, I asked Mom if she was going to be okay. She said that she would be, and no, she didn't want any food for her evening meal because she wasn't hungry.

Suddenly I wasn't, either.

More Oddly-Interlocked Things Than You Can Shake a Stick At

June 27, 2007

So we made the leap, and shot off in the dark morning air, shivering in the Vibe in spite of our jackets. Full of trepidation, we headed north on Highway 99 to meet the transcontinental Interstate 80, which would take us from California to Pennsylvania.

2673 miles, two adults and a Howie, a tent, bedding, and two scanty bags with just enough clothes to get by. Yes, off we went, and in Reno, Nevada (read into this that we only traveled two hours or less before we had to stop and buy the things I'd forgotten to pack: paper towels, doggie poop bags, doggie treats, and something else that was the most essential on the list but which I have already forgotten again) after we stopped to let Howie do his morning thing, I was bitten twice on the face by mosquitoes. Nothing like traveling while sporting pimple-like structures on the face. Serves me right, I should have been keeping up with my grape seed extract, the taste of which mosquitoes seem to hate.

We stopped for lunch in Winnemucca, where I was bitten on the leg by a fly. Yes, a fly. My skin swelled in a patch about four inches across and burned like fire. Damn flies.

After that, however, it was clear sailing across the empty expanses of Nevada, for hours and hours and hours. Thrills. Highlights? Nightingale Hot Springs. When I once again have unlimited internet access, I must investigate them. The steam rising from them looked like smoke. Got to figure out how to work that into a story somehow.

Hours and hours and hours. I wondered if we would camp for the night in Elko, Nevada, or push on towards Salt Lake; the desire to see the white sea of the Utah salt flats again was irresistible, and we did indeed push on.

We stopped at a rest stop on the far side of Salt Lake City, and when we let Howie out, we were arrested by a sign that said, "Watch for snakes and scorpions". Suddenly camping out didn't seem like a very good idea at all. Instead of looking for campgrounds, we opted to drive for another couple hours to Green River, Wyoming, where there was an affordable small hotel that allowed pets. Pets, no scorpions. It was good.

Remembering that we had once driven from Des Moines, Iowa to Cheyenne, Wyoming in a day's jaunt, we set off in the morning with the goal of getting to Des Moines, to spend the night with Filthy Pikers Cheryl and Terry Haimann. We forgot that the time change works against the traveler who goes from West to East, and we utterly underestimated how much of the busiest parts of the interstate would be messed up due to construction. We missed our ETA in Des Moines by two hours, though along the way, in Wyoming, we did see more pronghorn antelope than we could count. And a moose, grazing in a small pond!

We thought we could get to Pennsylvania in one more day. The miles were right. We were hyped. We got up early and set off ... and then hit so much damn roadwork that we lost three full hours of driving time. And then there was the reduction of speed: west, the limit was 75 mph. East, the best pace was 65. Remember those math questions from junior high about speed and distance traveled? No lie, you can't get as far as fast at 65 mph. Or at 55. Or at 45. Or at "Road Work: 15 MPH."

Exhausted and brain-fried, we stopped in Elysia, Ohio, at a scrumptious little hotel that allowed us to have Howie and only charged $60. We slept there the sleep of the emotionally and physically exhausted, but that was where the coincidences kicked in.

We had free Wi-Fi, and wanted to book our stay at a hotel in Pennsylvania that was in the right town and allowed pets. Bernie called up the hotel's website -- and found that they no longer allowed any pets. Campgrounds in the area did not allow pets. "We're screwed," he said to me.

"Coincidentally" I had just emailed my friend of 47 years, Bill, to let him know we would be in the area. He replied in seconds, because he was on his computer, too. Bill owns an apartment building, and though my next step in the "screwed traveler" occupation was to try to book a hotel some 40 minutes away from where we wanted to be, I flippantly asked if he had an empty apartment we could rent for a week.

The answer was within seconds again. Bill did have an empty apartment. And although we didn't camp out at all as intended, we did have an inflatable air mattress and bedding in the car.

I nominated Bill as Landlord of the Year, and thus, here we are, in an apartment, saving major amounts of dollars, our dog with us, and just spent an hour standing on the porch, cooling off to the feel of a thunderstorm's rain. The apartment is lovely ... and COINCIDENTALLY ... just happens to be three houses up from where we lived when we were still in Pennsylvania. Familiar street, familiar sounds. Too bad all the neighbors are different from 20 years ago.

The houses are the same, though. And so is the beguiling sound of thunder as the evening storms roll in.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Good and Ick

Cleveland. Six hours short of goal.

The cross-country road trip has been both good and bad. We had intended to find campsites and throw up the tent and giggle under the stars, but our first night found us in terrain in which signs exhorted us to check for rattlesnakes and scorpions. Scorpions! Scorpions are funny in comics, but loathsome in any other setting. And they are bugs. They crawl into shit just because they can. Neither of us was happy about the rattlesnake thing, either, but a snake would just as soon avoid something as big as a person; who knows what scorpions would do?

So we pushed on until after dark on the road, and traveled from Ripon, California to Green River, Wyoming, and took a hotel room.

From Green River we made it to Des Moines, Iowa, to spend an all-too-brief visit with Cheryl, Poetry Editor for the Piker Press. (it felt like coming home, but that's a subject for a future post)

Today we basically halved our journey output, due to @#!!#&! (please add your very worst epithets to that symbolic array) construction delays, and thus are brain-fried and ready to rest for a night.

The bad is that we are delayed for a day in reaching our destination.

The good is that these days have allowed us to talk at length about what things need to be done, what things can be done, and what things we actually expect will be done. Had we flown back east, we would have gone from anxiety to panic to turmoil; driving allowed us to go from anxiety to wonder to irritation to wonder to deep discussion to wonder to hating roadwork to wonder to more discussion to ... acceptance of the hard choices we are going to have to make.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ready to Roll

Today I bought a big-ass tent, big enough for two people and a dog.

We're leaving Sunday morning, probably before the sun is up. I have a veritable library of AAA travel guides, a pump that will plug into my dashboard outlet for the air mattress, and an ugly bag that Bernie can call his own.

The dog food and water are already in the car, though not yet properly stowed. Howie's vaccination record is in the glove box, and he, with a dog's ESP, keeps me in sight every possible minute.

I took Lillian's dad John with us to swim lessons this morning; Lil swam the whole way across the pool first thing, and at the last thing, held her breath well enough to get a toy from the bottom of the pool. Of all the reasons I'm NOT looking forward to this road trip, missing out on the last week of Lil's swim lessons is tops. I've enjoyed them far more than I had expected. After the lesson, John introduced himself to the instructor so that she would not be alarmed at a big strange hairy man picking up one of her students. He's good at that kind of stuff. I wouldn't have thought of that. But then part of me is in denial about making this trip.

Still, I keep on preparing. Tomorrow I'll mow the yards and Alex and I will go give the horse his vaccines, I'll pack the car, and we'll be poised for the adventure.

Tonight when Bernie comes home, we should put up the new tent so that we're not figuring out how to do that after 12 hours on the road. And make sure that the pump works! Extension cord, can't forget the extension cord. I did forget to buy a good flashlight today, dammit. (Tomorrow, I'll buy one tomorrow, put that on the list.)

Temps back in Pennsylvania are supposed to be in the merciful 80's; with the usual humidity, it will seem hotter than 95 degrees out here. I'm taking a cotton gauze outfit for "formal" attire. It's as baggy as a burkah but is about as cool as one can get. And since it's black, it won't show the dirt. The rest of the time I plan on wearing cutoffs and a sausage-shirt (one of those tight spaghetti-strapped deals that doesn't require support garments). It won't be pretty, but they can shut their eyes.

We've talked about what we hope to accomplish, and mostly it's just a fact-finding trip, although we want to at least get Mom's bills on automatic payment so she doesn't have the phone or the electricity shut off. I woke with an adrenaline start this morning realizing that I haven't seen any activity in her checking account for water and garbage pickup for the past three months.

Reading glasses, don't let me forget my reading glasses -- the whole checking the map thing could be nasty without them.

I'll pack two flat sheets that will fold up neatly rather than use a fitted sheet; no problem there with space taken up because the dog will sleep on them while we drive no matter what. One ruglike blanket for How in the tent. Minimal pillows, I'll have to tough it out not having my body pillow. But I suspect I'll be tired enough that I won't give a shit anyway.

I'm surprised that Bernie agreed to the tent thing. Heh. Wait till he sees this monster I bought today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I want my own damn jet.

There was a time when I enjoyed flying.

That time, however, is long past, and I now absolutely hate it, for a number of reasons.

Number one is the pain. Too many past incidents of back injury have left me uncomfortable with staying in one position for hours at a time. A cross-country trip in an airplane is agonizing. The seats are not comfortable; the fronts are too high for my short legs, and the width of the seat is too small. Hunching my shoulders in and having the circulation cut off in my legs results in a lot of pain.

Number two, the crowding. Obese America loves to be seated next to me and overflow their armrests into my personal space. We decry slaver ships where people were packed into holds, made to be still, with no room to move -- but it's okay for airlines.

The third reason would be airline assholes. They are the ones who overbook flights, treat passengers like they are an unwelcome commodity, and beat up customers' luggage. (And let's not forget the ones who open luggage and steal shit).

Fourth, passenger assholes. People with five carry-ons that push the limits of size restrictions, people who wear enough cologne or perfume to kill half the other passengers, people that decide to make the ticket counter a war zone (when they're only going to lose anyway), and people who can't respect personal space and keep bumping into me. Bumping into me is gross, and makes me very, very irritable. Too bad my mother ingrained in me at an early age that it is not acceptable to say, "Quit bumping into me, you fucking asshole pervert."

Reason number five: the uncertainty. Buy tickets, maybe you will have a seat. Have a connecting flight? Maybe you will have enough time to get from one arriving gate to the next departing gate. (I can't remember how many times I've had to sprint through O'Hare in Chicago to make sure I got on the plane that was to take me home.) Maybe you will have enough room for your carry-on, maybe you will get through the flight without catching some sick traveler's disease, maybe the person in the seat next to you won't be a nightmare.

Six. The smells and tastes. The stink of perfumes is the worst, but the smell and taste of airline "food" is atrocious, also. Airport facilities and food suppliers all use some odiferous rancid oil to cook food. It's horrid -- it all smells and tastes the same: DISGUSTING. And if it isn't that pookey oil, the offerings are saturated with sugar. No wonder the seats are all supplied with barf bags. Okay, so you decline the icky food and breeze past the sugary sodas to an alcoholic beverage ... forget it for a wine drinker. Chardonnay (oakey indigestion inducer), cabernet (the cheaper and more acid the better for the airline), or God help us, white zin -- again the sugar content of soda pop. Blech, ugh, och. Oh, well, of course you can ask for water, and then go stand in a line at the back of the plane and hope that the person in front of you knows how to use the facility without leaving a smelly mess for you to clean up when it comes your turn.

Reason number seven: $$$$$$ Air travel is like health insurance. You pay a lot, and while it may solve your problem, misery is the medium you have to wade through.

I don't want to do it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Background Noise

The first step is the premise: Two adults will drive 2667-odd miles in a Pontiac Vibe with a big dog.

The second: Admitting the trip has to be made.

Step Three: Turn on brain.

That's where I am right now, just letting the puzzle run in the background of my thoughts. I'm not pushing it to a conscious problem-solving mode -- that's for figuring out how many pairs of underwear to pack. This process is more spatially-oriented ... I have a visual of the cargo area of the Vibe and a clear idea how much room a dog is going to need to be comfortable. Now, how does it all fit?

Part of the puzzle snapped together yesterday while I was out shopping for a kickboard for Lillian to use in the pool. An ugly orange bag caught my eye and the background process highlighted it. Ugly though it is, it has enough room for a week's worth of simple clothes, a laptop, and what toiletries I need -- and it is an absolutely perfect match for the space behind the front seats of the car and in front of the cargo area. It fits like it was made for it, and will still leave plenty of room under the front seats for a full case of water in easily handled bottles. Water, clothes, computer, check.

I also believe that a bag of dog food will fit in that area, between two of those bags. This is important because Howie eats only Canidae dog food. Because it's a quality food, he needs only a cup (8 oz) of food in the morning, and another cup at night to keep him in prime condition. The greater digestibility also means he poops less, therefore, fewer doggie doo-doo stops along the way. I don't see any way around taking a bag of the food, because there is no guarantee that we'll find any sold in very rural Pennsylvania.

We have to carry some sort of ice chest, I think, but we have some tiny ones that ought to serve. The decision has not yet been made about whether or not we are doing this going from cheap motel to cheap motel or campground to campground, so the tent is not definite. If we tent, we need not only the tent, but the mattress, some pillows (forget blankets, it's going to be in the summer) and a little pump.

(Electricity is no problem, I have a 115v outlet on the dashboard of the Vibe.)

A flashlight.

Jack In The Box is going to cater this trip, so I'm not worried about food. Hell, maybe I'll lose some weight.

Makers of the Vibe thoughtfully provided lots of storage compartments in the front seat area, enough for cell phone chargers, camera, pencils, and CD's.

Bernie has asked for a week's notice in advance. I think I'll probably know by the end of this week about when we have to go. Probably, but not positively.

Mom had an MRI this morning, and an EEG. As I understand it, the MRI will show if her dementia is Alzheimer's or not.

I was looking at the stages of the disease, and was saddened to see how far along Mom appears to be. The other day when I called her, she said that she thought I had called earlier in the day. "At least I thought it was you on the phone," she told me. "But it must have been someone else. Or maybe it was yesterday."

I keep wondering how long it will take before she doesn't remember who I am anymore.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Summery Day

It actually felt like a day in June this morning.

It was cool, as it should be, but the house was about 65 degrees instead of shivering in the 50's when we got up.

By 9 am, it was t-shirt weather and the sun felt nicely hot. By afternoon I was in a tank top and shorts, and standing in the shade to catch a photo of this year's red dragonfly who manfully tries to hang around the front fish pond. (The wasps keep pestering him.)

I want to hang around the fish pond today too, and see if I can identify the cat who has killed two of our two new big fish and left them lying side by side on the grass. I figure it has to be a cat, because a raccoon would have eaten the fish. A domestic cat wouldn't know what to do with its lively prize except walk away when it stopped being entertaining.

No, it couldn't be Fourmyle. He has no front claws.

We walked by the river this morning, and of course took the dogs, both of whom took one look at my visor and sunglasses and leaped to follow me around, puffing on my heels. It was hot enough and they ran hard enough that they've been napping the rest of the day so far.

I got this photo in before Howie took off in disgust at having Sebastian lie down so close to him. Both of them got a good belly rub.

Off to guard my fish, who -- oddly -- are quite traumatized and not coming up to the surface to mooch food. Do goldfish have that much of a memory? I didn't think fish cared about each other much one way or another.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Lillian embarked upon a new symbol today -- wait, actually two new symbols.

The first image is her version of a sunset. "When a sunset touches the water, it changes its colors," she told me.

She did one sunset around the margin of an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper, and then this one, at the bottom of a page.

Yesterday she drew me a picture of herself, grown up, bringing me flowers when I'm "really old." In the picture, along with the flowers, is a striped heart. "I think you should try drawing one of these," she told me.

I think she's right. The time has come for simplicity and color for the sake of color. A heart in stripes of color. Yes, I can just about do that.

I was surprised at the image she drew at the top of the paper with the sunset, though.

Lil explained to me, "This is God, with his crown."

I don't think God would be at all displeased.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Day's Work

What if I had just merely continued to send letters to my mother when she replied to mine? What if I had decided to out-chin her and wait for her to call me?

Would anyone have called me and said, "Pardon me, your mother is getting feeble in the head?"

The last time Mom made any attempt to write was a hastily-scrawled Christmas card that got here in January. I think the last actual letter she wrote was early last spring. I know that last July she complained bitterly that no one had sent her a birthday card, even though I had done so.

I made a commitment to call her every day last fall when I downloaded Skype, which allowed me to talk to her for free. I hadn't been calling her, because dammit, in 20 years, she only called me when my father died, when my sister was hurt in a fall, and when she got sucked into some scam and needed help in getting bailed out of it. But after a couple months of no communication, I caved, and called, and have tried to call ever since.

In recent months, alarmed by the increasing vagueness of her conversation, I called her local Agency on Aging and sicked them on her. They're trying to help her, and failing, because she gets so nasty about having any help.

Yesterday, after talking to a friend about Mom's phone being out of service, the friend stopped by her house to check the phone. It wasn't working, and it wasn't that she had just left it off the hook. He took her to a store to buy a new phone, and was appalled at the disgusting odor of her truck -- so bad he had to drive with the windows down. Mom's explanation was that she didn't know what the smell was from, but it had been like that for weeks.

When they got back from buying a new phone, the friend set to find the source of the smell. He thought maybe a bird had flown in and died in there ... but instead of a bird, he found rotting groceries still in the bag that Mom had bought and forgot for at least a month.

Sad news.

But he did determine that the phone was not the problem, because even with a new phone, the line didn't work. He tried to talk to a phone rep, but they wouldn't talk to him, and when he handed the phone to Mom, she couldn't understand what they were asking her. (She doesn't understand much but basic rustic Pennsylvanianese at this point, if that.)

So I called her neighbor, and asked her to go over and see if she could find an old bill with an account number. She did, and called me this morning, very upset, because Mom hadn't paid her phone bill in three months.

I called the phone company, and paid the bill with my credit card. Then I talked to customer service and found out her phone wasn't working due to nonpayment. I called the Area Agency on Aging and someone is going to visit Mom and go through and get her account numbers for utilities -- I'll set up an automatic payment that I can monitor, which I would have done months ago but Mom was adamant she wanted to see what all bills were coming in.

The picture at the top of this entry reminds me that spring comes every year, and locust leaves are beautiful in morning sun, and the world will go on, in joy and filled with the Spirit of God, no matter what. No matter what.

Mom's phone line is working again. However, she still chooses not to answer my call.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Morning Walk

This morning Bernie and I took the dogs for a walk down on the levee road by the river.

Elderberries are blossoming, and when I saw this cluster peeking into the sunshine from the shade, I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures of it. It's not the most colorful plant in the world, but perfection of this bloom serves to accent the surprising lights and shadows of the morning sun.

The riparian habitat is loaded with elderberries along with the blackberry thickets and cottonwood trees. I know that elderberry extract is supposed to be good for boosting the immune system, but I don't know how to process the berries. Maybe this year I'll figure that out.

Howie and Sebastian enjoyed the outing, although Sebastian still thinks it's all about chasing Howie and trying to herd him. Still, he's starting to follow Howie and sniff what Howie thinks is interesting, though he plainly does not understand why Howie feels compelled to mark every tree and grass clump.

Speaking of marking, some hog left a plastic soft drink cup (one of those quart-sized abominations) lying on the dirt road. Either a coyote or a raccoon took the time to take a big shit on it. I was truly impressed.

A bird was chirping alarms and hopping from branch to branch, but we couldn't see what it was. I started snapping pictures up into the branches of a cottonwood tree, in hopes of being able to pick out the bird in the photos later. The sky was bright with high haze, and the photos looked like black silhouettes on white until I used Photoshop and lightened the whole picture.

Presto, a rufous-sided towhee was revealed. Later on, I had a clear shot of a towhee in full sun, out in the open, but do you think I could get my camera out of the belt pouch in time? Hell, no. Bernie helpfully told me that REAL photographers NEVER put their cameras down.

I missed a great shot of a hummingbird later on, the same stupid way. @!!##!!

Along with the box elder trees, the water willows, and the nettles, there are stands of wild roses. They're plain little flowers, but the huge rose hips they set keep the riparian animals munching all winter and spring until the wild grapes (the larger leaves in the photo) ripen.

Babe used to love to poke around in the hedges along the levee for ripe grapes. I have heard that grapes are dangerous for dogs, but Babe didn't care, and neither do the coyotes.

Our walk was about two hours long, and it really was wonderful. We even found the local kids' favorite river spot, and spent some time there watching the Stanislaus River flow by.

Life can be good.