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Attack of the Ten Foot Sea Spider

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Cedar Island – Day 1

Ow! I cry.  Gosh darn, it Micron!  You idjit!*

In Dog Training 101, one of the first bullet points to be emphasized is the need for consistency.  Our relationship with our dog is at its best when expectations are clear, right?. Like, Ok Miss Puppy Dog, you can jump on the sofa when invited. See, it’s understood that a command is always given to provide this privilege.

But not so good is relying on vague understandings such as, Alrighty then Mister Spotted Dog, you can sit in my lap anytime you feel like, except when you smell like you rolled around in a rotting raccoon carcass. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Jager.



Let us out! We want to come back in again.

I’m fully aware of this canine mindset on Sunday evening as we settle down for our first overnight in the vacation rental. At home, the mighty Micron has full approval to be on our bed. Anytime and for any reason, no questions asked.  He’s a beloved pet and we enjoy his company.

Two problems with the suite rental at Cedar Island, however.  The primary issue at hand is respecting the owner’s request for no dogs on the bed and furniture.  That is difficult to explain to Micron. 

Here’s your dog bed, I tell him, pointing to the fluffy mat on the floor. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed fleas bite.**  The big dog lies down and relaxes.  All is well.

Until the crack of dawn shines through the curtains.

Hey Food Lady! Micron says. It’s morning again! I LOVE new days, don’t you? Hey, I need to go outside! Wake up wake up wake up!

And he jumps on the bed. This is the second of the two issues. It’s different than our bed at home; sitting much higher*** and I’m in a different spot than the dog brain’s Consistency Requirement allows to process.  This realization hits me like a brick as a baseball mitt paw lands right on me.

By right on me, I mean he smacks me right in the tender eyeball. Yowza. This seeing-stars experience is enhanced as he tries to gain purchase on me while sliding back off the bed.

At the bathroom mirror, I’m assessing the damage to the money maker**** with a surprising amount of vanity that I usually don’t possess.

Are you ok? asks The Husband. 

I think so, I call back.  Just don’t be wearing a stained sleeveless t-shirt today, cuz folk will think I sassed you real good last night.

That’s not funny, he says.

It kinda is, I say.

And we begin Day One of vacation with dogs.

Pelican’s Rest

We rolled into the Pelican’s Rest vacation rental late on Sunday night, all of us road weary and exhausted from the long drive.  Cedar Island is rather remote, so more stars in the sky than street lights by the quiet roads.  I thought I saw water as we neared the suite, but couldn’t be sure.  So, Monday morning I was ready to set my remaining eye on the local sights.



Drawing the line in the sand, so to speak. Jager will not get
any closer to the water. This is him being brave. He wants
you to know that.

This place is just one wonderful surprise after another.  The generous deck overlooks the bay, cool enough.  But even better is that it’s gated so we can let the dogs roam and sun themselves without worrying about that random canine roaming that they are wont to do.

A large pool, a hot tub, a gas grill. Check, check and check. All private and just for us. And oh so quiet here. Laughing seagulls, lapping waves, the wind in the tops of the trees and some weird bird with a trill that sounds a little like an old fashioned ringing phone.

None of the golf carts of Myrtle Beach campgrounds or screaming kids. Or moms hollering for their kids. (A lingering memory of a campground is a love-lorn adolescent fella vigorously calling for his crush, Anastasia, in the deepest southern accent I’ve heard to date. That’s a full three . . . second. . . name, now.) No, we just had that one chick here cursing at her big yellow dog, but was only for a minute or two and then it stopped.

The price of this sans tourist environment?  Well, the nearest grocery is about a half hour drive and it apparently took most of the restaurants with it.  We’re gonna have to head out to get some basic essentials.  The island’s convenience store nets us coffee, cereal and such miscellaneous and sundry items. And somehow we get out of there with about forty bucks hitting the credit card. So we decide to drive to neighboring Beaufort where rumor has it there’s a Piggly Wiggly.

But lunch first 

We rely on the GPS to help us make the completely random decision of Snapperz Restaurant in Morehead City for lunch.


Euka poses by the custom mosaic fireplace at
Snapperz.

The server is looking at me funny, I say. I know I’m just being sensitive about this I-walked-into-a-door shiner I’m sporting , but still. I can see her watching us from the bar, obviously wondering if she should offer up the wine menu or if perhaps it was a reckless affair with a mango margarita that brought me to this state in the first place.  I gotta come up with a better story than my dog stepped on my face.

We could get you an eyepatch, says My Favorite Kid. You could go with a pirate theme this week.

Say arrrr, says The Husband.

R, I say, not really feeling it. I need a parrot or a mojito or something. Although I’m kinda liking the eyepatch idea. That sounds just a little awesome. Yeah, I could growl my r’s effectively with a macaw, an eyepatch and a mojito, I think. 

I dunno, maybe it requires rum.

But sadly none to be had this fine afternoon. So, later fortified with non-Yankee sweet tea, crab and shrimp cake burgers, all local seafood, we’re ready to see what’s what with this sea town of Morehead City.

Greeting a young admirer as we depart
the restaurant.
 

Attack of the 10 Foot Sea Spider

The Husband pulls into a parking lot near some piers.  Whatcha got in mind for this stop? I ask.  

You said you wanted a photo of Euka with the giant crab, he says. 

Heh. Did I actually say that out loud? I wonder. I’ve been working from home some lately and it has me concerned that I’m turning somewhat feral, talking to myself and all. So yeah, time to switch on the internal filter, girl.

It’s true that I did want to introduce Euka to the giant Spider of the Sea, the inflatable version. We saw this eye-catching advertisement for an aquarium as we were driving to the restaurant earlier. This is a training opportunity, y’all — The Novel Object Exposure.

I’ve seen dogs raise their hackles and bark at a trash bag stuck to a chain link fence. And step back when encountering a helium-filled balloon floating at their eye level. There are some unnatural things that don’t make a clean process through a dog’s instinct driven noggin.  A service pup in training needs some early exposure to help things along here.

This air infused bug is not only making an odd hissing sound brought on by the generator inflating the thing, but it’s swaying in the wind as well.  Has Euka seen such a creature in her eight months of life?  Of course not.  I’ve been around a lot longer than her and I’ve never encountered a ten foot balloon crab either.

But we stroll to the sea monster like this is just another walk on a sunny day.  No hint of confrontation, just la-la-la normal stuff here. My Favorite Kid has the leash so I can observe and direct if the puppy neurons click to a fight or flight response.

Or if this is just another photo op to satisfy the Food Lady. Which is where we end up.  Euka barely gives the crab a sniff, can I chew on this?, and does a solid Sit between the slowly waving crab claws.

This event does not ruffle the courageous Euka one little bit. She’s more interested in the onlookers at our photo shoot.  Two older gentlemen are waiting on the sidewalk for me to finish, like this is something that they see every day. I don’t know, maybe they do around here.

And we take it one step further. Well done, little girl.



No prob. I can take this thing down.

Down by the water, I know there’s an official seaworthy word for those things in the background sticking up from the pier. But I’m from landlocked Ohio and we don’t have such fancy stuff.  But I do want to draw your attention to the fact that there’s a seagull sitting atop each one.  And they’re each of them watching the dog with ill intent.

Imagine thought balloons over them with “Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.” like in Finding Nemo.***** 

More salty dog adventures coming up. A stormy day, an enraged mud turtle, and I’m considering posting a photo of me on a horse. Still thinking that one through.

________________________________________________________
*Paraphrased. 
**A manner of speech, that.  Micron doesn’t have fleas.
***I’m a tenuous five foot, three inches. Each night, I’m climbing into this behemoth bed in a manner reminiscent of a chubby Gollum scaling Mt. Doom.  It’s not becoming.
****My face, the money maker.  Sarcasm, folks.
*****Finding Nemo (2003). The scene is pretty much like Seagulls: Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. [repeatedlyNigel: Oh would you just shut up? You’re rats with wings!

_________________________________________________________

ADDENDUM:

It was after writing this post, I recalled a dream I had that starred, for-real, a menacing giant crab. The fact that this dream occurred before vacation was more than a little interesting to me.  So per usual, I brought it up with my Psychology/Sociology double major college grad and favorite kid for evaluation.

I like to think that my vivid, and sometimes disturbing, dreams are filled to brimming with symbolism.  Elevators that are difficult to operate and never take me to my destination are obviously a clue that I should stop eating Chinese take-out so close to bedtime. But when consulting with my college grad, the usual response is something like That’s really messed up, Ma.

But I try again. So I’m at a beach, I tell him. with a friend, but I don’t remember who it was now. We’re wading out of the water and back to the beach when the surf rises and a two-story tall slow-motion wave appears behind us. I look back and through the water I see a giant crab, not walking towards us, but being pushed by the water our way.

My friend and I start to run, but the giant crab reaches out a claw and grabs me.  The thing is pulling me towards his maw when I wake up.  I can still feel my fear even thinking about it now. What d’ya think it means?

I see your problem, Ma, he says.

Really, I say.  What?

You need slower friends, he says.

True story, y’all.

Question: What does dog food and powered flight have in common?

They’re all looking at me, aren’t they?

Say what you will about the City of Dayton, Ohio. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s not like we haven’t heard it all before. Sure, like any aging city in these great states we’ve seen the place go from boom town to some very troubling problems. And sadly, much of it has taken root in our historical sections of the city.

Which saddens me as I drive through our humble downtown and surrounding areas now. I have history here too having walked our city blocks as a gainfully employed young woman of the 1980’s.  Lunchtime then was an event of changing out of them fancy heels into sneakers to spend an hour shopping at Elder-Beerman’s before grabbing a burger from the food court at the Arcade. We had the Rike’s building then, where I worked at E.F. MacDonald on the eight floor. And the upscale Metropolitan clothing store was across the street, next to Frisch’s Big Boy with their cherry cokes. The sidewalk hot dog vendor guy, striped umbrella shading his steaming cart on Second Street. All are gone now.

The artful rotunda (yep, those are really turkey gargoyles up there) atop the Arcade will likely never be appreciated by another generation of Daytonians. But the Rike’s building, which would bring families downtown to view the annual Christmas window decorations, was replaced by the Schuster Performing Arts Center. A definite plus for Dayton and redeeming cultural center that brings Dayton’s street cred up by several notches.

Dayton has so much to be proud of, historically speaking. If we can just be reminded of it all.  And if we can continue to preserve it for our children, so they can pass this heritage of information on to their own.  We want it remembered that our gem city was built on a foundation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

We Daytonians are proud of our pioneers of creativity.  Deeds with the self-starter, technology that is used today in our modern vehicles. And of course Patterson who built a little company called NCR on the wings of the success of his electric cash register. And that fellow so important to my career, Paul Iams*, who founded The Iams Company with his concept that a high-quality protein based dog food will improve the health and well-being of our faithful friends.

Oh, but what are we really famous for, people? Do you know?

Dayton can crow her pride as the birthplace of aviation. In spite of that other state that attempts to stake claim to this first-in-flight stuff (yeah, I’m looking at you North Carolina and your annoying license plate logo.) it is within the boundaries of our fair city that the Wright Brothers were lovingly reared. It was here, right in our West Side, that Orville and Wilbur stewed their creative juices to design a flying machine. The first one that actually could leave the ground and stay up there for more than a few seconds.

The Wright Family lived in what is our West Side in the late 1800’s, then a beautiful middle-class neighborhood of large frame homes and well tended gardens. And an area infamous now for its slow decay. But tucked within this shameful blight, we have a pocket of preserved history as the Wright Brothers National Memorial. To walk through this restored neighborhood, it feels a little like being in a bubble. We’re safe here, inside our shimmering walls. All that stuff on the other side of the opalescence is too blurry to be seen from here. Squint your eyes and you can imagine what once was.

In celebration of Euka’s six month birthday we took her to see the Wright Memorial museum. Well, that’s what we told her.  We were actually on tour with our fellow members of the AACA, The Antique Automobile Club of America. Because we apparently have a visceral need to steep ourselves history of all kinds, even cars it seems.


In hindsight, I should have spent a
minute to adjust that cape. [sigh]

So how’d our girl do, you ask?  Quite well, I think. At work we have some trouble with the happy Euka trying to jump on people. Usually the same people, so there’s a pattern there that makes it tougher to fix. At the Wright Brothers’ museum, her greetings were professional [whew].  Even with small children, she would hold a sit for a head pat when what she really wanted to do was sloppily lick their little faces. Good girl, good girl.

Euka gave no response to the manikins in their period garb, which frankly creep me out a little bit. I have to just walk quietly past these things. So long as I don’t look ’em in the eye, I won’t be sending creep-out vibes down the leash to the puppy. Hey, that stuff happens, you know.

Euka respected the displays with nary a sniff. Stairs were handled with the ease of a pup who’s done this stuff before. Just a little trouble with confidence going from carpet to slick floor, so we kept that event to a minimum. 

And her reward at the end of the tour was naptime during the thirty minute movie of the Wrights. My reward was learning so much more about the Wright Family than the FAQ’s that we’re fed over and over in the usual info tidbits. Did you know that it wasn’t just Orville, Wilbur and Katherine that we always hear about? There were seven kids in the family, one son was a city commissioner. Another sib was estranged from his famous brothers. Who knew?  And dogs! They had family dogs.  Must learn more . . .

And hey, North Carolina. Are you still here?  I have two words for you. Well, besides Orville and Wilbur because those are proper nouns. Huffman Prairie, y’all. We take your twelve second glide at Kitty Hawk and trump you with the invention of full powered flight in Dayton. Who’s got your birthplace of aviation now? Put that in your bowler hat and well, you know. Booyah or something, y’all.

A memorial bench to the Wright Brothers at
Woodland Cemetery. In Dayton. 

And the Wright Family plot at Woodland Cemetery. It’s
traditional to toss a penny on Wilbur and Orville’s markers
when you visit. And by the way, these guys are buried in
Dayton, the Birthplace of Aviation.

____________________________________________
*Euka sends a shout out to Paul Iams, the developer of the original Eukanuba formula. Eukanuba was a term popular during the Jazz Era.  It means “something supreme”.  Euka would agree that her name fits perfectly.

Wordless Wednesday: A time in history

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Alrighty my Dayton peeps, who recognizes this
blue clock tower in the background?

One year ago in May 2011, the mighty Micron matriculated into the advanced training program at Canine Companions for Independence.  Or as we refer to it, three months at CCI summer camp.  Micron was released before the second semester due to a high distraction (squirrel!) personality style not suited to an assistance dog career.

The weekend before matriculation, we visited Dayton’s historical Carillon Park for a final photo shoot of Micron in his yellow training cape. Here’s a never before published photo from the Black-Sword photo archives. Our handsome yeller dog is posing in front of a landmark that may be familiar to many a Gem City native.

Heads up trivia geeks as I share a brief history lesson of the Callahan Building Clock. From Dale Huffman’s column in the Dayton Daily News, November 15, 2006:

The clock, which originally topped the Callahan Building at Third and Main in 1892, became the Gem City Clock after Gem City Savings took over the building in 1955. Reynolds and Reynolds saved it and placed it on its Germantown Street building in 1978. 

At the demolition of the Reynolds and Reynolds building in 2006, the 35 foot tall clock was gently moved to its current location at Carillon Park.  And this is the very spot we captured its image in the bokeh of  Micron’s historical moment.

And keeping in the spirit of historical events, I’ve given a warm nostalgic tweak to the photo’s tones. But as Micron would tell you, there’s no tweaking out the handsome.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went (Will Rogers)

Imagine this. You’re exploring an old city cemetery during the early evening hours. You like this time of day because of the softly muted light. You’re taking photos of an interesting monument and thinking intellectually deep thoughts about macro shots, f-stops and ISO settings — you’re in the zone. If you lean at this angle, is the depth of field too shallow or should you maybe bump it up to . . . and suddenly from behind you comes a deep bass “EXCUSE ME.”

What do you do?  Turn around smoothly with an air of cool authority that says clearly, you wouldn’t DARE accost me?  Or instead make a weird little strangling sob sound that is shorthand for, my purse is on the front seat of the car?

What did I do?  Oh as if.  Option B, naturally.  Just about dropped my stupid camera, I did.  Much to my relief the interruption to my artsy musings was merely a young college student from the adjacent University of Dayton who was taking his evening constitutional through Woodland Cemetery. Although I did make clear that I HAVE MY DOG IN THE CAR.  Perhaps a little too loudly. Thinking this may thwart any untoward thoughts against my chubby, middle-aged person.

Hey Fella, she left the keys in the ignition
Right. Oh, never mind.
The young man was merely curious, he heard stories about a haunting at Woodland. Something about a boy and his dog. He couldn’t help but notice that I was taking photos of a monument of the same. Taking photos is right. I was trying to get a macro shot of the stone dog’s nostrils (f-stop, depth of field . . .) when he caused me to jump out of my skin. But more on dog nostrils later in the post. 
So, what’s the story on the boy and his dog; did I know? Are you kidding me?  Heck yes, I know.  Just give me a sec here to swallow first so I can get my heart out of my Adam’s apple, though. Have a seat, young man and I’ll tell you a story.

In the late summer of 1860, 5 year old Johnny Morehouse was playing with his dog near his father’s cobbler shop in downtown Dayton, Ohio. Dayton was still a young city then and relied on the nearby river and the Miami & Erie Canal system for commerce with other Ohio cities. This was all before the Great Flood of 1913 when folk still had a tentative trust in the Great Miami River. Johnny went against his mother’s warnings and was playing too close to the canal, when he fell into the dark water. His dog jumped in after him and tried in vain to save him. But Johnny Morehouse drowned on that summer day of August 14, 1860.

Johnny was laid to rest later that week in Woodland Cemetery. Legend has it that his dog stayed at the gravesite, refusing to leave. People would come by to bring food and water to the dog.

Then one day, the dog was gone and never seen again.

It’s said that in late summer, at the last light of the day when the cemetery gates have been locked, you can hear a boy laughing and playing with his happily barking dog.

But really

Johnny’s father was a cobbler, not a rich man by anyone’s standards. The family could not afford a grave marker, even a modest one, for their only son. But a local businessman, Daniel La Dow, had heard the story of Johnny’s valorous dog.  La Dow was a stonecutter and owner of a prosperous marble works in the city. He designed and created the remarkable monument that is at Johnny’s gravesite. ‘Tis truly a work of art that is not duplicated anywhere else within our fair city.

Take a break, hero dog. I got this.
The monument has no dates on it – no date of birth nor death. The only inscriptions are Johnny’s name and the words Slumber Sweet. We see that after 150 years, the dog remains vigilant with a protective paw over the young boy as he sleeps. Forever to be alert and watchful in stone. At their feet are Johnny’s cap and the toys found in his pocket that sad day. His ball, a top and harmonica.
Slumber Sweet
Woodland Cemetery states this is their most visited gravesite – and the most decorated. The site changes daily as families come by to pay their respects to this lost boy by leaving toys, trinkets and clothing. These items are later collected and donated to charitable organizations.



Now about those dog nostrils



To avoid cracks in the stone due to temperature changes, La Dow included an air vent inside the monument. This is a rather clever design as the air is released through the dog’s nose. It is true that if you hold your hand near the dog’s nostrils, you can feel it “breathe.”  In cooler weather you can see steam coming from the nose.
What’s really surprising to me though, in that in spite of the legends of this boy and his dog (I’ve only shared one story), we don’t know the dog’s name. This is lost to history as well as the dog’s breed. I don’t know, it seems disrespectful to me to even nickname this boy’s dog. But what kind of dog is it? 
Isn’t it obvious? Love, responsibility and never ending devotion? It’s got to be a Golden/Lab cross, don’t you think?

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