The Icening

(You can just go to the flickr set, if you want.)

Amy, Rufus & I missed the last two Sunday greyhound hikes up in Wawayanda State Park due to headcolds (hers, then mine). She had to miss today’s too, because of a hair appointment, but I decided that Rufus could sure use the exercise and the grey-companionship, so we headed out around 8:30 a.m. to meet up with the regulars.

The park is about 20 minutes away from our house, a lovely drive up through the wooded roads of West Milford, skirting Greenwood Lake. With all the rain we had at the end of last week, the lakes and streams were all swollen. Nothing was spilling up on the roads, so the drive wasn’t hazardous at all, even with Rufus walking back and forth in the back of the car, checking out the view from the windows (and obscuring it by pressing his wet nose against the glass).

About 4 minutes away from the park, I saw an interesting sight on Upper Greenwood Lake (U-G-L-V, you ain’t got no alibee / You UGLV, you UGLV, yeah, you UGLV!). On the other side of the lake, there’s a ridge of tree-covered hills, and I noticed that the trees from midway up the ridge to the top were covered with ice, while the trees below the midway point were clear. The sun was shining from my left side, and the reflection off the top of the ridge was gorgeous. I thought of stopping to take some pix, but didn’t want to get to the park late.

Then the road began its gradual elevation of another 75-100 feet. And that’s when The Icening began.

Suddenly, every tree was coated in ice, dipping down on the roadway. Broken tree-limbs were strewn everywhere. One minute earlier, I’d been driving through clear roads, with no sign of ice. It was gorgeous and bizarre. Was the temperature difference so critical that a few dozen feet of elevation was the difference between heavy rain and a blanket of ice?

We arrived at the entrance to the park, only to discover that the gate was locked. Another car of our group was waiting to see what the backup plan was going to be. I shrugged, parked the car, took Rufus out for a crap, and started shooting some pix. I found myself transfixed by the noise of the ice cracking. It followed the wind, and

Soon, another 4 cars had arrived, and the organizers decided that we should  drive down the road a hundred or so yards to the Applachian Trail segment that leads into the park. There were some misgivings about walking along trails where ice-covered limbs could fall and clock somebody on the head. There were also concerns about the trail being blocked by fallen trees, but the Hiking Greyhounds crew is nothing if not intrepid! (Also, we have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning.) So we drove over to the trail, parked our cars, put our dogs’ coats on, and started marching through the ice-covered woods.

It was an adventure. Stretches of the trail were iced over, and the dogs were surprised to discover that they had zero traction. Fortunately, we didn’t let them build up any speed, so none of them got hurt. Still, the trail was tough. We had to clear a lot of (small) fallen trees; the dogs were not good at improvising their way around the branches. Many of the damaged trees were young, so the branches weren’t brittle and tended to snap back after we pushed them aside. Still, no one lost an eye.


Soon, we made it down to a pond and then arched up the trail toward the ranger station where we meet on other Sundays. Two of us had gone ahead a bit, pushing through ice-covered branches that hung down like beaded curtains, and arrived at the station as a ranger was walking from the station to his patrol truck.

He was carrying a large black shotgun with a side clip of six shells and said to us, “You know the park’s closed, right?”

He advised us to stay off the trails, because of the possibility of getting walloped by falling branches. We let him know that we were just going to walk on the main road through the park for a bit, and that we’d be careful. “Okay,” he said. “Because I never saw you.”

The rest of the group soon arrived, and we took a pleasant walk down the road and back, meandering through this icy wonderland.

As is our wont, we traded grey-stories, asked advice, and wondered whether “all of them do [x],” or if it’s just ours.

Now go check out the slideshow!

Go, Lakers

The weather was really wonderful yesterday morning, so we decided to take Rufus on an extended walk around Skyline Lake. I don’t recall ever walking all the way around the lake when I was growing up here, but I enjoy meandering around with our boy and looking at the environs. I’m sure I won’t in wintertime, but I’ll cut down his food a little so he doesn’t pack on the pounds.

Anyway, in the last third of our walk, we stopped for a few moments at the lakeside and I busted out the iPhone to take some pix. Here’s the best one:

After, we went down to our weekly farmers’ market. It’s the last one till next May, so Rufus made sure to stop by all his regular booths and get lots of affection. In our conversations with other shoppers, we found four different families that have owned greyhounds in the past. Which is freaky, is all.

Anyway, no Wawayanda hike today, as we’ve got tickets for the Cowboys/Giants game, so here’s your cute pic of the week of Rufus Noir, Ace Dogtective:

Low turnout

We didn’t get as many trick-or-treaters as we did last year, so Rufus had an easier evening than I’d anticipated. He barked like a maniac everytime the doorbell rang, of course. I’d put his leash on him and open the door, at which point he’d invariably wag his tail and try to get all the kids to pet him or put their faces close enough for a good lick.

All in all, he had a better day than Jill Rappaport’s dog:

Fear of a Grey Planet

One of the neat aspects of adopting a failed retired racing greyhound is that you become part of a community of grey owners. I’ve never been one for, well, belonging, so I’m surprised by how much I enjoy going to greyhound meet and greets and events like this past weekend’s Greyhound Planet Day picnic. The site was about an hour from our house, in Bridgewater, NJ.

(An hour unless you run into a monstrous accident, as we did on the way home, up Rt. 287. Let me tell you: when you’re on a 4-lane highway and the accident warning sign says that the far left and the far right lanes are closed, you know you’re in for a sight. In this case, a sedan was mushed up against a light pole in the left shoulder, to the point at which its spare tire was poking up out of its trunk. In the right shoulder, an SUV was flipped over, facing the wrong way, and partly flattened. Rufus was not happy with the delay, but he did his best.)

The picnic was a blast. Here are my disjointed impressions, but you may be better off checking out my slideshow and my wife’s slideshow.

To begin, I can’t even guess how many greys were on hand, but I’m going to guess it was far more than a hundred. An adoption area was set up for people to check out some available dogs, read their histories, and take them out for test drives. I stopped at the cage/crate of one of my faves from the website, Jumpin’ Jackson, who unfortunately has medical problems (seizures) but was adorable. And huge. I also checked out a bunch of the females, since we figure that, if we ever get a second grey to keep Rufus company, it won’t be a male (size, territorial issues).

In fact, my coworker/pal Jason and his wife adopted a pair of girls on Sunday; he showed up in my office Monday and asked, “You didn’t sleep the first night either, right?” Later it was, “How long did it take Rufus to go up and down the stairs on his own?” I warned him that the next 7-10 days may be pretty rough.

The first owners we met on Sunday — people frequently stop us to comment on how gorgeous Rufus is — filled us in on their dog, whom they adopted in June. He was on the track till he was nearly five years old, and ran in TWO-HUNDRED-AND-TWENTY-SIX races. Our boy, on the other hand, raced eight times before it was concluded that he was not cut out for that job. On the plus side, all the veteran racers we met were nicked up, scarred, or had other work-related deformities. So I take pride in my dog’s failure. One owner, whom we’d met previously at a meet-and-greet, told us that he was amazed by how perfect Rufus’ overall form is. He thought we were joking when we told him how terrible the boy’s racing record was.

Another neat aspect of greys is that they make virtually no noise. Except for the instances where people brought other breeds along — a few beagles and a labradoodle — the dogs really didn’t stir up at all. That said, there was a Group Roo. Watch this and try to imagine 40+ greys gathered together and getting incited to make this noise. Evidently, it’s a tradition at these events, but it’s pretty creepy.

As was The Group Photo, in which we were all herded together in the grass. It was like a grand march of very skinny soldiers. Once we were all gathered, our boy decided that he didn’t like facing the photographer and started turning around to check out the dogs behind him. We thought it would’ve been great for a group shot of 200 dogs’ faces, and 1 dog’s butt. We’ll see how the final version comes out.

We sort of took an adoptable dog on a test drive ourselves, but only because the organizers were very busy and one of the greys — Bizzy’s Barker — needed to go for a bathroom break. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how Rufus would deal with my walking a second dog alongside him. He didn’t care in the slightest. Neither did BB. They walked in opposite directions a couple of times, and they were pretty oblivious to one another’s presence. That’s a good sign, I think.

We had a good time making the acquaintances of other owners; it’s nice not to have to start a conversation answering, “What sort of dog is that?” I was also glad to be able to ask questions of some of the veterans. They affirmed my suspicions that it’s best to cut their food back a little during winter, since neither they nor we like going on walks in the cold. I also gleaned that most owners do not take they greys on twice-daily mile-plus walks, like I do.

Anyway, there’s a ton more to write about, but I have to get to work. Check out the slideshows (Amy’s and mine) for some pix that’ll make you start thinking about adopting one of these hounds. (If you’re in NJ, visit Greyhound Friends of NJ for more info on that.

Amy, Rufus and Bizzys Barker, Sept. 21, 2008
Amy, Rufus and Bizzy's Barker, Sept. 21, 2008

Which way to the gun show?

Sometimes, I get a little punchy from writing these Top Companies profiles all day. That’s when I blow off steam . . . by dressing my dog in my clothing:

I admit that I consider work-at-home sessions to be “No Pants Days,” but I resent the implication that people and their pets tend to resemble each other!