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Chasing the sun: Photos from the road with Zooey-Roo

1 Nov

Nov. 1, 2015 — As I sit here typing, Zooey is in the yard barking at squirrels. Some things never change.

We’ve actually had a couple good days. Yesterday and today she ate all her regular food plus a couple scrambled eggs. She took her pills (cheese!). And went for two walks in the woods and actually ran around a bit. The end may be soon, but it’s not quite here yet.

Times like these often lead to reflections of days gone by. Those fleeting moments lodged in the crevasses of our memory. We’ve been fortunate to share many memorable experiences with Zooey over the years, and she’s gone on quite the adventures!

I read recently that the average American adult has visited 20 states. Zooey traveled to 13. Not bad for a dog.

Veronika and I were going through photos of some of those travels — both near and far — from the past few years last night, so I wanted to share a few of our favorites here.

On the Road(trip)

Photo: Zooey’s “cockpit” on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to the hill country of Northeast Iowa.

Photo: The night we “tried to go camping”. You can read the rest of that story here.

Photo: One of many trips to Northern Minnesota.

Photo: On the shores of Lake Superior. I remember the wind was howling on this occasion.

Photo: Devils Tower, Wyoming. This was a massive road trip — five adults, two kids and one dog in a motor-home for 10 days! By the end, Zooey had chewed threw her mesh travel crate. I think we were all going a bit stir crazy, but what an amazing experience.

Photo: Zooey and Todd hanging out on the shore of Lake Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park. Aforementioned motor-home in the distance.

Photo: Zooey and Veronika on the shore of Lake Yellowstone at sunset.

Photo: Lamar Valley, Yellowstone. I think Zooey caught the scent of wolves. Or maybe bison. OK, it was probably just prairie dogs since they sound like squeaky toys!

Photo: Sunset on the North Dakota prairie.

Photo: On this road trip we spent two weeks driving across the desert Southwest. Here Zooey poses in the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Photo: A gorgeous day for hiking outside Moab, Utah.

Photo: Dogs standing on National Park signs probably isn’t legal, but hey, the photo turned out great!

Photo: Taking a break in St. George, Utah.

Photo: Scanning the horizon on a hike in St. George, Utah. Overall this trip covered 4,000+ miles. The biggest challenge? Getting Zooey to pee in the sand and dirt — not a lot of grass in that part of the country. 🙂

Photo: Hiking in the foothills high above Salt Lake City, Utah. Zooey was such a great travel dog! She loved going new places and exploring countless wilderness trails.

Closer to Home

Not all of our outings were epic road trips. A lot of our adventures were a little closer to home.

Photo: Zooey loved to run! Most of the time this meant heading out with Veronika, but on a couple occasions she and Todd competed in 5-Ks. And she was such a good “runner dog”. Always pointing straight ahead like she was leading a team of sled dogs — or in this case, us!

Photo: Zooey loved boating. She wasn’t a water dog like Jasper, but she still enjoyed cruising the St. Croix River on Todd’s dad’s boat.

Photo: A rare calm moment onboard.

Photo: Enjoying the sunset over the water on a beautiful autumn evening.

Photo: Did we mention how much Zooey loved people? Especially our nephews. She was always so happy with the boys.

Photo: We had adventures in colder seasons, too. And as you can see, that didn’t slow down Zooey.

Photo: Winter hiking in Southeastern Minnesota.

Photo: A cold winter day along the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Photo: Exploring bluff country in Southeastern Minnesota late last fall.

Photo: A quiet moment on the wooded trails high above the Mississippi River near our home.


How to Disappear Without Really Trying

19 Sep

A day without deadlines. A day without lists. Without responsibilities or places to be.

Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you see?

If you stripped away all the things you should and shouldn’t be doing, what would be left? My wife and I decided to find out – for three days in a row. No work. No to-do lists. No schedule. A “stay-cation” right here in our own backyard. Each morning we’d wake up, browse through the paper or look at a map and go (with the dogs of course)!

Guess what? It was amazing!

Here are a few photos from day three of our getaway.

Photo: Hitting the trail and J is ready to go!

Photo: Peace and tranquility in Lake Maria State Park

Photo: Fall is on the way in Minnesota

Photo: J enjoying a moment in the sun

Photo: The prize at the end of the hike – swimming!

Photo: Happy together at the trail’s end

Questions I Stopped Asking

5 Sep

I’m sitting down to type tonight while U2 plays on the stereo in the background.

“Hold me now, oh hold me now
Till this hour has gone around
And I’m gone on the rising tide…”

Just about a year ago, Veronika and I were traveling through the desert Southwest on our way to see U2 in Las Vegas. During the first five days of the trip I was a bundle of nerves as we anxiously waited for the results from Jasper’s first needle biopsy.

Outside the entrance to the Grand Canyon, we received a call from our vet. “Inconclusive.” I remember thinking, “Well, that’s better than ‘conclusive’.” On we drove… Veronika, me and my worries.

Grand Canyon
Photo: Calm on the outside. Stormy on the inside.

You see, I’ve always been a worrier. I mean a hardcore, teeth-grinding, stomach-churning kind of worrier. So, I was surprised – shocked actually – to realize that there were things I recently stopped fretting over. Questions I’ve stopped asking. Such as…

Question 1: Why did this happen to our dog?

This was one of the first questions I kept asking myself. Probably asked this question over a thousand times. After a while acceptance starts to creep in, and then you switch to survival mode. Thankfully Jasper has been up for the fight. For a shy and reserved dog, he is stronger than I could have imagined. We’ll keep going as long as he wants.

Question 2: Was it something we did?

The food we fed him? The city where we live? The water he drank? This one can really drive a person crazy because there’s just no way of knowing. Could be genetics or the environment or a combination or something else. That’s the bitch about cancer. A lot of times you just don’t know what causes it. There’s nothing I can do to change that.

Question 3: How much time does he have left?

One of the vets gave him one to six months to live. That was two and half months ago. We asked another one of our vets the same question two weeks ago. He responded, “Could be weeks or months. It’s hard to know because there are so many variables.”

The last three weeks have been great, though. If it wasn’t for the tumor on his side, you’d think he was a normal dog. Playing, swimming in the river and jumping on the bed.

I’m learning to live in the moment more and more each day. This morning I took J out to swim in the St. Croix River. The temperature was perfect. The setting was perfect. The moment was perfect. I remember thinking to myself, “There’s no place I’d rather be than right here right now.” A second later, I looked up and saw a bald eagle land on a tree branch thirty feet above us. Was it a sign? I don’t know, but it made the moment even more special.

Question 4: Why doesn’t Jasper get to live to be an old dog?

I don’t know why, but I always hoped Jasper would live to be at least 10 years old. He just turned 9. I don’t know what’s so special about 10. I must have read somewhere that the Vizsla’s average lifespan is ten to twelve.

Now when I catch this thought creeping into my head, I’m reminded of one of my best friends. His beloved black lab passed away at the age of three. I’m sure he would’ve given the world for six more years together.

Question 5: How much have we spent on Jasper’s care?

I made the mistake of asking the cashier at the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital this question the other day, and the answer was double what I expected.

That’s when I realized it really didn’t matter because we would have spent double that to help J.

It made me sad, though, knowing there are families and individuals out there who can’t afford cancer treatment for their pets. Just breaks my heart, but I’m starting to form a plan in my head to help others in the future. More on that later.

To end on a positive note, this has been a great weekend with the dogs. Hiking off-leash in Battle Creek Park with both dogs on Friday, going for a run with Zooey on Saturday and taking Jasper out to swim in the St. Croix River today. I wish every weekend could be this great, but right now I’m not thinking about the future or the past. I’m just sitting here listening to my favorite band – and the sound of two snoring dogs – with a smile on my face. Perfect.

Black Hills Adventure (Our little “Make a Wish” trip)

20 Jul

Veronika and I have been fortunate to travel to some pretty amazing places during our lifetimes, but a little ol’ road trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota just might be the best trip we’ve ever taken.

Why? Because it meant the world to us to be able to go on this trip with our two dogs at this point in time. In a way, this vacation was kind of like a “Make a Wish” trip for J. I knew we had to go while we still could. Plus all I’ve ever wanted to do was be out in the woods hiking and exploring with him. The Black Hills were the perfect place to do this as a family.

The Hills are about an 11 hour drive from Minneapolis (depending on potty breaks – for dogs and people!), so this was by far the longest trip we’d ever taken with Jasper and Zooey. In the past we wondered if we could even make a trip like this work with two dogs. Now we’re wondering why we didn’t do this sooner!

Photo: Packed up and ready to go!

After packing the car, we all hopped in and headed west. Jasper has this really funny habit whenever we’re on a road trip. Even when he lies down, he still keeps his head propped up so he can look out the window and watch the clouds and landscapes pass by. It’s almost as if he’s thinking, “I may never be this way again, so I don’t want to miss a thing.”

On night one, we stopped a little over halfway in Chamberlain, South Dakota. After dinner, J went for a dip in the Missouri River, while Zooey took a crap in the river. Bad dog!

On the way back to our hotel, a deer walked right in front of our car. Zooey loves to chase rabbits back in Minneapolis, but I don’t think she’s seen a deer before. She was just frozen in the back of the car with a look on her face like, “Holy s***, that’s a REALLY big rabbit!”

Day two we made it to our friend’s perfect little cabin in Custer State Park. The location couldn’t have been more beautiful… ponderosa pine all around, rock cliffs above us and a stream down below. Just the perfect escape from work, the hustle of the city and worries about cancer.

Over the next week we created a lifetime of memories with our dear Jasper and Zooey. Each day seemed even better than the last. We hiked mile after mile of backcountry trails (J really liked his “doggy hiking sandwich” – two pieces of bread with peanut butter and dog food in the middle… yum!). Jasper swam in more lakes and streams than we could count. Zooey ran up and down and up and down and up and down the hillsides and then she ran some more. We all went swimming in Angostura Reservoir – a gorgeous lake on the southern edge of the hills where I spent many happy days as a youth. We drove through mile upon mile of breathtaking scenery and at night we all cuddled around the warm fireplace. Ohh, and we were almost hit by lighting while out hiking… like I said, good fun!

Probably the best part was that through it all, J was just a “normal” dog. Sure, he was a little more tired at night and he did sleep until 2PM the first day back in the cities, but throughout the trip he was running and swimming just like the old J. For a few days we were able to feel like he wasn’t even sick.

Well, enough of me blabbering on. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Photo: You see a lot of strange things in South Dakota

Photo: Zooey checking out the prairie

Photo: Ready to head off on a backcountry trail

Photo: The Needles in the beautiful Black Hills

Photo: What a great day for a swim in Pactola Reservoir

Photo: Jasper and Todd enjoying a dip on a super hot day

Photo: Gotta stop for ice cream!

Photo: Resting back at the cabin

Photo: Zooey zonked out after another big day of hiking

Photo: Stopping for a break near a Black Hills stream

Photo: Zooey and V near Sylvan – most beautiful lake in the Hills

Photo: J does his super model pose

Todd and J watching the sun go down over Sheridan Lake