Driving Ms. Clover

Dan and I do not have children or at least the 2-legged kind. Our children are furry, have four legs, a tail, and may bark on occasion. Dan and I are the drivers of the bus we call life and these little ones all come along for the ride. This is the story of our little lucky four-leaf Clover whom we recently had to say our final goodbye. Here is her story.

For those that have known me for a while know that I had the pleasure to be owned by many Dachshunds in my life. Each of them were/are special and they can always find a way to put a smile on your face.  For those of you that remember Tindra and Audrey… I raised Tindra as a puppy and bottle fed her; we had that special connection. She was my rock, my soul. Audrey came into our family when we needed her most. She was a rescue out of a neglect case, and was the sweetest little thing ever. We lost Audrey in a tragic accident and Tindra (a senior) was left alone. She became depressed and I knew we needed to find that special one to fill a gaping hole. I searched for months until I ran across this sweet face on a rescue site out of Rhode Island. Daisy (renamed Clover) was 6-8 years old and came from a neglect case where 40 Dachshunds were taken out of a home in New York. Some of those 40 dachshunds (adults and puppies) made it, while others unfortunately did not. From what I was told, the conditions they were living in were horrific. I connected with her beautiful eyes right away, it was almost like I could see into her soul. We reached out to the rescue group with our story and with the details of what we needed to fit into our family. We were told she was shy and feared men. We were also told that she was extremely loveable and took care of the other dogs she was with (we eventually nicknamed her Mama Bear for this very reason). Dan and I started the process of adoption; I just knew she would be the right fit. I flew to Boston and met Clover for the first time at the airport. After a brief meet and greet, Clover and I loaded the plane and headed home. We got home late and the first thing that Dan did to greet her was to lay down on our kitchen floor. Clover instantly crawled on Dan’s belly to love him up. With her being “fearful of men” we were concerned that the first meeting wouldn’t go so well but she knew this was her forever home. It was off to a great start.

What we learned over the years is that Clover was afraid of men when they wore a white T-shirt; she would instantly run the other way or hide (I am not sure she ever got over that, but we accommodated). She had lung issues; radiographs showed scarring in her lungs with minimal breathing airways. The doctors thought the scarring was most likely from some type of allergen/poor air quality from where she was kept and she was on lifelong medication to open her airways. She was kept in a kennel for the first part of her life which caused her back legs to never work right and seemed to be underdeveloped; she mostly bunny hopped when she ran, and her back legs were always wobbly. When we first bought her home, she didn’t know what stairs were, what a toy was, what a squirrel was, or how to walk through a door. She was afraid of the world (because she was never exposed to it).  What we encountered with Clover was that she was loyal, wanted to give and receive love, and never, I mean NEVER, complained. Not a peep, never. Tindra became her courage and Clover learned quite a bit from following her lead.  The transition we saw in Clover was not quick by any means, but she came to know what being a dog and being part of a loving family was all about. She learned that she could trust people and there was more to life than a cage. She amazed me every day as I can only image the trauma/horrible experiences that she went through and yet, she never complained, never showed aggression, she just took all that came her way in and pushed through. She became part of our family instantly.

When we had to say goodbye to Tindra, we were determined to find the right fit for her and our family. Working with another rescue group, we did just that. Enter Little Lucy, aka “Gooseball”, a little blue and tan piebald Dachshund. Clover instantly latched on to her and they became best buds; over the years her courage and love for life grew even more. Throughout Clover’s 8 years with us, she became attached to many other Dachshunds… Tindra, Lucy, Harley, Daisy, Aine, and lastly Duncan. Clover accepted and loved each and every one of them. She was our Mama Bear.

Clover’s life with us was full of cuddles and adventures… We hiked, we walked, we camped, we went on car rides, we kayaked, she went on bike rides in a basket, we traveled, we snuggled, we enjoyed life, and most importantly we loved.

The end is always so hard which is why it took so long for me to write her story (I’m tearing up now). She started to deteriorate years ago with what we called her little Parkinson episodes, her mind went (puppy dementia), and she became anxious, confused and sometimes aggravated by being confined. As time went on, her symptoms got worse; her body and internal organs were failing, and a mass was found in her bladder towards the end. If anyone knows a Dachshund, you know they LOVE to eat above anything else. When she stopped eating, I just knew the time was near. She was so dang stoic and never showed us any sign that she was in pain; she hid any pain she ever experienced from the world or from her failing body. Fast forward to the day we said our goodbye… The worst part about having a furry family member. With her becoming more and more anxious and confused, I had thought this was going to be a horrible experience. It wasn’t. She as ready to go and the end was so peaceful.

I want to thank every Veterinarian (Dr. Jen, Dr. Chris, Dr. Emmy), each Veterinarian Technician (specially Gina and Jamie), and Customer Service Representatives (specially Brianna) that work at Black Dog Animal Hospital here in Red Wing, MN. You understood Clover (and our) needs at the time we needed you most… That day and every day. Thank you for the support, for being there, for the care you give, and for just being the beautiful souls that you are.

Driving Ms. Clover was a privilege and an honor; we created many wonderful memories, and she left a little piece of her that we will treasure until the end of our time here on earth.

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The Little Old Man – A True Story of Love and Animal Rescue

A true story of love and animal rescue

Once upon a time (yes, I just started this story with once upon a time) there was this amazing woman who was so full of life, her name was Liz. She had lost her husband a while back and had always had Dachshunds in her life. Her companion at that time was named Heidi, a beautiful red standard Dachshund. I met Liz at the Veterinary Clinic I used to work at and because we were both Dachshund lovers, we became friends and that friendship lasted for many years. Heidi gave Liz so much comfort and I would see them walking together around town often. Liz loved Heidi and they were inseparable. One day Heidi took her last breath which left Liz alone. Soon after Heidi’s passing, Liz started looking for another companion. She went to the Humane Society in Rochester, MN to adopt a cat but did not find the purrfect fit (I just love a good pun). As she was walking out, a woman and her child came in with this younger Dachshund. Liz was certainly never shy and asked, “Why are you bringing him in here, are you surrendering him? If so, I would love to adopt him”. She instantly fell in love with this 1-2  year old little young man and ended up bringing him home. She named him Harley Davidson; surely a reflection of the spunk she saw in him and perhaps in her as well.  I would see Liz walking with Harley around town; they were instantly inseparable characters.  Our friendship continued and we  gladly watched Harley while Liz was on vacation. Harley got to know our family and would very easily transition into cuddling and playing with our “gang”. He became a second child to us here at Dachshund a.k.a. “Wiener” Camp 😉 One day, Liz started forgetting. She fell victim to that one disease that interferes with daily functioning. That one disease that leaves you with nothing and steals your memories, your actions, your mind. Liz was diagnosed with dementia. It was horrible to see such a beautiful, active life taken away; she loved to play the piano, she loved to dance, she loved to sing, and she loved to drink and be merry with friends and family. She moved out of her home into a senior living apartment, but soon it became evident that she needed additional care. Liz was not able to take care of Harley anymore; I can only imagine how that devastated her. The family was at a loss and reached out to us asking if we could care for Harley. At the time we had a cat (Inga) and two Dachshunds (Clover and Lucy) which Harley knew and loved.  Without a doubt, we said yes and picked him up right away to bring him home to be around people and other animals. Dan and I brought Harley to visit Liz and we saw the effects of Dementia, the confusion, recognition, love, thankfulness, happiness, and sadness. She loved to see him (and we loved to see her) time and time again.

On November 20th, 2016, this is what I wrote on Facebook:

Meet Harley D… This lovable old man will be staying with us for a while until we can find him a fur-ever home. His owner, a wonderful lady who loves him so very much, is suffering from dementia (what a terrible disease) and cannot take care of him any longer.

We had received many comments/remarks of people who are afraid or did not want to take in a senior pet (he was 12-13 at that time). I know many rescue organizations get this remark as well. I am here to say that Harley was just as spry as our youngest who was 2-3 at that time. Yes, as dogs, no – as all species age – we develop issues and certainly older animals can be more costly with daily medications or an out of pocket cost for a yearly dental. You just adjust your life around them and you pay for whatever veterinary care the animal needs. Senior pets deserve to be happy and live out their remainder of their life in a loving home too. These senior pets have been taken away or tossed out from a life they have been accustomed to for a long time. An owner passing, an owner not having the means to properly care for the animal, or just because they are no longer wanted.  No matter the reason, it is traumatic for them. Having been in the Veterinary world, I’ve seen it all.  So please, remember senior animals need love too and if you have an open spot in your home for them, please consider adoption and give them the love they need, the love and care they so deserve. Ok, rant over.

Dan and I quickly decided that Harley would live the rest of his life with us.  He just fit and we knew that we had 5-7 years of unconditional love from him. Harley made us laugh every day. He was the one that made sure the gang was all fed on time. He KNEW that it was 6:30 AM or 5:00 PM no matter the day of the week. The stares of “it’s time to eat, feed me know” or “hey, I’ve got to go and if you don’t let me out right now, I will pee right here.” 😉 He let us know when he wanted to come in by his little bark, bark, bark (I sure do miss that sound). He had his own walk, a prance/trot of sorts (and yes, we called him Prancer Boy).  He was just a happy-go-lucky guy. As he got older, his nickname become the “Ninja Pooper.” Look the other direction for only seconds and upon glancing back, a present was just there.  This happened frequently and most often just after having been outside. When he couldn’t get outside fast enough or when we were not at home to let him outside, we adjusted and used pee pads. He was very much a part of our family.  He would go on bike rides, kayaking, hikes, and traveled in the car so well. He was a gentle soul and won the hearts of all that he encountered; he just loved being around people.

On June 2, 2019, Harley was diagnosed with prostate cancer (pretty rare in neutered dogs) and was given 2 months to live. Working with the Veterinary Team at Black Dog Animal Hospital, we found the right combination of medications that just worked for him. He was like the energizer bunny whose batteries never lost power. He acted normally although after his diagnosis, if he had to go potty, you better be there to let him outside! At the end of July 2020, he started leaking and diapers came into our lives. He wore them well and did not complain at all.

On August 11, 2020, thirteen months after his original diagnosis, we had to make one hard decision.  He woke up and could not urinate or defecate. I was able to give him some extra pain medications which helped relax him and allowed him to urinate and drip in his diaper. He became more comfortable, but I knew he needed to see the doctor. It was confirmed that the cancer had made his prostate so large that it appeared the tumor became one with the bladder. The cancer had engulfed his urethra squeezing the already tiny tubular structure and was pushing up on his colon. As a previous Veterinary Technician, I knew it was time and at any moment, his bladder could have ruptured. He was still so spry, he still wanted to eat, play, and run with Clover and Lucy. He still wanted to eat as much treats as he could. Although he was full of cancer, he just did not appear “sick” but we knew the cancer was taking over and limiting bodily functions. Damn cancer. This is the decision that an animal lover dreads even though you know it is better for them. We hated the decision that we were faced with. Harley passed away peacefully in our arms under the care of his doctor and a very kind technician.

The house just is not the same and at times, I think I hear the pitter-patter of his paws on the hardwood floor.  He is now reunited with his first love, Liz. I am sure they are dancing all around town. I know we will meet him again someday along with those other lost loved ones.

We miss you dearly little buddy – Ma (Cyndie), Paw (Dan), Lucy, Clover. and Inga

Autumn on the North Shore – Part Deux

Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.
~ Danny Kaye

Dan and I spent the next few days in and around Grand Marais, MN. I still remember traveling this area and running into the beauty that Autumn can provide, not to mention the wildlife (still no Moose sightings though) 🙂 The best part, I think, is that the weather cooperated and we were able to capture the sunrise twice during our stay using the Grand Marais Lighthouse as our backdrop. When photographing a sunrise or sunset, I find that a certain peace surrounds me as I watch the colors dance with the sky; each one never the same. Just a little reminder that when we take the time to stop and appreciate your surroundings and the people you are with, we can throw so much color onto that great big canvas we call life.

~Enjoy~

21ST ANNUAL APOSTLE ISLAND SLED DOG RACE – BAYFIELD, WI | #AISDR

According to the Smithsonian website, exactly how long canines have provided companionship just got a revision: Instead of pinning domestication at about 11,000 to 16,000 years ago, new genetic evidence shows that man’s best friend may have split from wolves 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. This new evidence proves dog power has been used for hunting and travel for quite sometime and the human-animal bond travels beyond anything we can measure.

Yearly, we make the trip to photograph the Annual Apostle Island Dog Sled Races in Bayfield WI. The excitement seen and heard during this event is exhilarating, specially at the start of the race. To watch the bond between the dog sled team and musher is beyond any words I can say.

Assembling a dog sled team involves picking leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. The lead dog is crucial, as this fearless leader will lead its team to the success of completing the task. Powerful wheel dogs are also just as important since they are needed to pull the sled out from the snow. Point dogs (optional) are located behind the leader dogs, swing dogs are located between the point and wheel dogs, and team dogs are all other dogs in between. The wheel and swing dogs are selected for their endurance, strength and speed as part of the team.

A team of sled dogs has as many different personalities as a team of co-workers in any business. The musher must know and respect each personality of its team; placing each one in a position where they will give 100% during a race or outing. There are many different factors that go into picking the right sled dog and for what position they will play as part of the team. Qualities include, but are not limited to the following:

Pulling ability
Speed: The right pace at the right time
Endurance
Attitude or determination: a desirable specimen displays a positive mental and emotional attitude towards his work. Attitude is contagious!
Intelligence and Trainability: Responding quickly and positively to a driver’s efforts to teach him commands or procedures and to be aware of encountered obstacles.
Co-operation
Docility: a desirable specimen is easy to handle, manageable and docile. He does not pick fights with other dogs and even turns aside from other dogs’ aggression.
Bonding: A bond to musher and team needs to be strong.
Movement: Both speed and endurance are negatively affected when a sled dog has an inefficient movement.
Courage: They will display awareness of danger on the trail without being fearful.
Temperament: Stability is important; they are neither nervous nor aggressive, but just right.
Climate Hardiness
Health, Viability and Longevity
Leader quality: Once you have a good lead, everyone wants to follow.

Before I go, I thought I would share the story of one musher and his team, “Racey’s Rescues”. This team is a favorite among the crowd, not because they are the best team and win every race, but because these “underdogs” were brought together because they were in need of rescue. All dogs on this team was rescued from poor situations and were trained to work together, maybe not to win, but to live a life filled with fun runs and excitement. I give credit to pack leaders, Sally Hedges and Jim Lynch, as it took patience and a lot of hard work so that these four-legged wonders could overcome whatever situation they came from – enough to enjoy life and come together as a team to push through obstacles that would have otherwise stopped them in their tracks.

I highly recommend this event no matter if you are a spectator, a volunteer, or a participant.  I know we will be there year after year, cheering each team along.

The Long Lost Album

Found… The long lost album.  Over a year old, I still remember this album well; coming across this one was a fun find which brought back wonderful memories.  We ran across a few faces, and a couple of properties left behind on this day.  Both of the furry girls pictured are not with us today, but are still missed, and what we think is a 2-story schoolhouse was a chance find. Driving down the country roads in Wisconsin, I happened to spot the bell tower of this magnificent building; we stopped and captured what we could.  Unfortuately, both Dan and I could not find much information on this building, but I know there is history here. Someday, it would be interesting to find out more about this property, but then again, we would have to find it again 🙂

Custer State Park, SD

Since the early 1900’s, Custer State Park is home to an abundance of wildlife and spectacular views.  Spanning 71,000 acres, the park is rich in history and provides its visitors with countless adventures.  Dan and I traveled the road that encompasses Custer State Park many times during our travels; however, my favorite is an 18-mile stretch called “Wildlife Loop Road” which is rich in wildlife such as Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs, and much, much, more.

Wildlife Loop

Custer State Park “Wildlife Loop Road” Map

One of the most famous attractions in Custer State Park is the free-roaming Bison herds.  Dan and I were in the right area at the right time and were able to observe a round-up as they were moving a herd from one area of the park to another.  The sight of hundreds of Bison coming at you was exhilarating!  Instantly, we parked the car and opened the sunroof where I could poke my camera outside for the wonderful photo opportunity…  Such amazing creatures.

My favorite part of Custer State Park are the “Begging Burros”.  The Burros roaming the park today are descendants of the pack animals once used to trek visitors to Harney Peak Summit.  Full of character, they gain the attention of the visitors that travel in the park (both inside and outside of cars). The Burros mostly inhabit one area of the park where a herd of about 50 will try to obtain food, sometimes even causing traffic jams as they block the road.  Of course, I would always recommend using caution when encountering the herd, but I am amazed and entertained every time I see them.

Custer State Park-DAN_5863-5863

If ever in South Dakota, make sure Custer State Park is on your list of places to visit!

A Time to Love

After leaving the Badlands, Dan and I (along with Tindra) spent the next few days in and around Custer, SD.  This was Tindra’s last trip with us and we were so grateful that we had this time with her. The magical views of the Black Hills National Forest never do get old.  The Black Hills get their name from the Lakota Sioux, “Paha Sapa”, meaning the hills are black. From a distance, the hills of this area do appear black due to the towering Ponderosa Pine forest; however, up close, these forests are teeming with color.

Needles Highway is another favorite of mine. Completed in 1922, the highway is named after the needle-like granite rock formations that were carved over many years by erosion.  Such beauty is found in this area and surprises are noticed around every turn.

We camped out for the week, but decided to move into a log cabin when a snow storm hit the area leaving 3-4” of the fluffy white stuff.  The snow blanketed the Pines in the Black Hills creating a peacefulness that I will never forget…  A Time to Love.

Badlands National Park, SD

Badlands National Park: The Lakota named this land “Mako Sica”, meaning “land bad”;

Badlands National Park

The park consists of roughly 244,000 acres of prairie grass mixed with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.  Looking out over the sometimes lunar landscape, it is desolation at its best… You can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.  Despite the solitude, the land has been so ravaged by the elements it has become quite stunning. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash). These striking geologic deposits also contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds; prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.

I cannot even tell you how many times Dan and I drove the 30-mile Badlands Loop, how many times we stopped to hike the trails to absorb the surrounding beauty, or view the abundance of wildlife that roam the park’s boundaries. We stayed in the area for 2 days and with each entrance into Badlands National Park, we encountered something new and exciting.

If ever in the area, stop in at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center situated near Cedar Pass Lodge to learn more about what the park has to offer.

October Surprise

Watching the leaves float on the wind as they drop one by one to the ground and viewing the beautiful colors that dot the landscape, is just a couple reasons why Autumn is one of my favorite seasons in Minnesota.  It was a beautiful Fall day that pulled us both outside; breathing in the crisp cool air that this season brings is what we both needed. The vibrant colors, the personality of “Mr. Ed”, and the travels to and from Minneapolis was just another day to add in the banks of my mind. Take a journey with us as we show you some highlights of the day.

E.T. Phone Home

About 60 miles east of downtown St. Paul, MN lies a small rural town named Elmwood, WI.  Dan and I have traveled through this small town many times on our photography excursions. As with any small town, there is some story that surrounds the town history.  Elmwood, WI has its own special history and it has to deal with little green men and shiny round discs. The town is the home of several reported UFO sightings since the 1970s and embraces its otherworldly connection. In 1978, the town started celebrating UFO days; at that same time, the UFO sightings stopped.  The annual celebration includes food and beer tents, a UFO medallion hunt, and a parade.  For more information surrounding the UFO sightings in the 1970s, please visit UFO Evidence.  As always, in Elmwood, WI all are welcome (human and aliens alike).

Please enjoy the images from in and around this small rural community.