Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Hoppsy keeps on hoppin' along

Our Hopps is slowing down these days. She's grown finicky about her regular food in recent months and won't even take a doggy biscuit, so we've resorted to indulging her by lacing her kibble with goodies, like chicken or salmon. She still tries to sneak the kitty food any chance she gets. Last night, we played catch for a few minutes in the living room, something we haven't done in weeks. She can still catch the ball out of the air if I toss it well. She loves that. We travel her speed wherever we go. It takes half an hour to walk four driveways down the road, stopping at every tree, fern, bush and rock, sniffing, sniffing, sniffing. Doc goes along too, and he is quite patient with our plodding strolls. I sneak him out for long, faster walks when she's napping. The past two days she's perked up, with more energy than she's had in a few weeks. I even found a dirty sock in the middle of the living room floor this afternoon. That was a heartening sign. We've been finding socks in places we don't remember leaving them -- the hallway, the bathroom, the living room, the lanai, one here and one there -- for years. It's common in our house for one of us to come upon one and ask, "What's this doing here?" and the other of us to answer, "I don't know. You'll have to ask Hoppsy." I've caught her many time nosing through the pile of clothes I leave on the floor when I'm in the shower. (She thinks I'm not looking, but I can hear her come in, so I peak around the curtain.) She pushes all the other clothes aside until she finds a sock, picks it up, then trots away with it in her mouth. I find it in Ron's office or in the kitchen. She sometimes goes through the laundry basket, or picks up socks we've left by the side of the bed. She seems to like my socks best, though Ron's socks will do in a pinch. She's 15 years old with Cushing's Disease, a tumor on her pituitary that causes it to signal her adrenal glands to produce wanton amounts of cortisol, a.k.a adrenaline. It makes her pant and pace and drink gobs of water. We give her medication to quell the negative symptoms of that, but the tumor is inoperable. It also effects her motor skills somewhat, and has causes seizures, so she gets medicine to prevent that, too. She has developed a funky hop (Hoppsy) when she walks, but overall has adapted well to her condition. We spend lots of time on tummy rubs and ear scratches, and she gets good treats. Hoppsy still can't resist goosing the kitties and likes to bury her chewy bones in the yard. She also torments Doc, saving her treats until he has finished his, then laying next to him to eat hers, taunting him until he starts to whimper. As long as she maintains her passion for orneriness, we know she's feeling OK.

I went to the library yesterday to check out a couple of books, one of which they had (a miracle) and the other available via inter-library loan (also a miracle) that will arrive in a few days. The plan was to check them out, spend an hour writing, pick up a few sundries in town and head home. My butt hit the chair in a quiet corner. I flipped open the laptop to a story I've been wrestling with for days, (as I do all my stories). When I looked up next, three hours had passed. Three focused, productive hours, with no potty break, no drink of water, no dog wanting to be let out or in, no cat jumping on my keyboard, no refrigerator beckoning, "Open me. Stare inside," no husband wanting to chat or ask me to help him with something that he promises will only take a second but takes two hours, no Facebook (I don't get Internet access at the library), no emails to answer, no phone calls. The library. What a great place!

A hui hou. Malama Pono. Aloha.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fruity booty

It was a long drive from Glenwood to the northern tip of the island -- three hours -- so for sustenance, we stopped at Baker Tom's for malasadas on the way. My pal Kathy and I were headed to Kapa'au for a hike, one we'd read about in the local newspaper. The couple who run Baker Tom's (not sure if the husband is actually Tom or not) are delightful, with enduring stamina. They're as old as radio, yet they're always on duty, ready to serve behind the counter, as they have for many years, frying, baking, brewing and smiling, there in Papaikou, gateway to the Hamakua Coast. The malasadas are enormous, cheap and delicious, the coffee OK, the tourists all happy to have discovered this place, buzzing with sugar and caffeine. They make a killer pumpkin cheesecake at Baker Tom's, too. It's always a pleasant stop.

Ahapua'a. It's a Hawaiian land division, usually a strip or wedge, stretching from mountain to sea. Hawaiians lived in villages within the ahapua'a, gatherers up high, farmers in the middle, canoe-makers and fisherman near the shore. Our destination was a place called I'ole Ahapua'a, an acreage in beautiful North Kohala. I'ole, as a quirky aside, means rat in Hawaiian. As the caretaker told us, the land was slated for development some 15 years ago, subdivided and ready to rip, when "The Campbell's Soup Guy" as she called him, a man who had earned his fortune on Chicken Noodle and Cream of Mushroom, stepped in to buy it all, then turned it over to a Buddhist-affiliated non-profit foundation to preserve for public use and education. The land was one of the first areas settled by Christian missionaries on The Big Island. Adjacent to the visitors center stand a dilapidated school house, home and cottage, circa 1840s. The land itself is an impressive parcel. There are three hikes, one, two and three miles each, the two longer ones not strolls like you'd expect, but pali and gulch treks through rainforest and across streams. Ours was the two mile jaunt. It led across a macadamia nut orchard, down, down, down into a gulch, across a stream three times, then back up, up, up through the thicket. We were pleased with ourselves for remembering to douse with a generous squirt of Deep Woods Off before we began. I walked away with only three bites on the tender, inside of my arm. I musta missed misting there.
Along the way, we scavenge some nuts, sour lilikoi (passion fruit) and a couple avocados. It was a great place to be on sunny day. After hiking, we ate a tasty lunch at a tiny place called Pico's Bistro in Kapa'au, then drove to the Pololu lookout, since Kathy had never been and since I never tire of that view (a photo of it is featured behind the title banner of this blog). Maui loomed to the northwest. We caught glimpses of the Valley Isle along highway 270 as we ventured home, Haleakala gigantic upon the shimmering sea. A wispy string of clouds stretched across her like a cotton-candy bra. So close was the mountain, it seemed you could swim, if you were Duke Kahanamoku accompanied by his aumakua (guardian) shark, or maybe the shark herself, or a dolphin, or a turtle when the sharks are napping or busy escorting Duke.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mechanical aptitude and a close call

I returned home from an obligatory shopping trip yesterday afternoon to find Ron's tired fingers bruised and bleeding in his near futile attempt to put the coil spring back into the plastic circle thingy (that's the technical term for it) on our busted lawn mower. The day before, I had pulled the cord to start the motor and it ripped completely away. So yesterday we disassembled it, took a look and thought we could fix it. We always think we can fix stuff. Or at least Ron always thinks we can fix stuff. While it sat in pieces awaiting our attention, the coil spring, neatly tucked into the circle thingy, which is also the pully, leapt out, thwacked and clanged to the ground. The end that catches against a small, metal prong designed to keep it there had snapping off, freeing the spring from its confines. So when I arrived home, Ron had spent the better part of two hours trying to rewind it tight and cram it back in. Tough work with stubborn, thick, flat elastic metal that doesn't want to be rewound. The poor man's eyes had blurred. Half an hour later, however, he'd done it. Ta da! Ah, but now what? Which way to bend the end in the center of the coil to get it to again catch on the metal prong? The direction the pully would travel when tugged into action by the cord mattered. Which way would it turn?
"I think we should bend it this way," he said. I looked closely.
"Nope," I say. "This way. We bend it this way. I tried to explain why.
"I'm not seeing that," he said. This may sound like disagreement but I assure you, it was not. Over the years, Ron has learned and come to accept that I have a knack for these things. I see things, not dead people, but the way things work. I'm not always right, but I often am. So he agreed to try it my way and... Voila! We were feeling pretty smug as the engine roared to life, him for his tenacity and patience with getting the coil spring in place and me for my mechanical inclination.

Doc and I strode up the road on our walk today, happily cruising and sniffing (I was cruising, he was sniffing) when, from out of nowhere, an angry dog, teeth bared and dripping, ripped toward us. It circled snapping hard, trying to bite the backs of Doc's legs. I shouted and kicked at the offending beast.
"Here Laser. Laser!" A voice yelled. The owner. She was right there in her own driveway.
I launched a barrage of expletives. I can be profane when I'm pissed. Or scared. Or both.
You might expect, when a vicious animal charges after someone with full intent to rip flesh from bones, that the owner of said beast would be alarmed over such an incident, take some hasty action, feel remorse, maybe say something like, "Oh gee, I'm so sorry," as she holds the crazed canine back with all her might to keep it from attaching you. You might think that, but if you did, in this case, you'd be wrong. She just stood there.
"He's just a puppy," she said.
"Pretty mean for a puppy," I said. In my experience, puppies, like children, are not born mean. Dogs become mean when encouraged to be so, or after they have been antagonized and ill-treated by humans. This was a pit bull "puppy," maybe eight months old and close to 40 pounds of solid, angry muscle coming right at my larger, but much older, now-a-lover-not-a-fighter dog. The woman was young too, though not a kid and able-bodied. The dog was close enough to her that had she chosen to move her lazy ass with the slightest sense of urgency, she could have grabbed him by the collar and drug his snarling ass away. Instead, she just stood there and called to him. He ignored her. I lunged at him, shouted, kicked and finally spooked him back toward her, until finally she made a move to nab him and he ran the other direction, which allowed us to get far enough away that he stopped following.

Thankfully, the remainder of our walk was peaceful. Whew. I don't like that neighbor.

A hui hou. Malama pono. Aloha.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lumps, birds, dumb people and blog posts

My big boy (the four-legged, furry one, not the two-legged annoying one) had a recurrence of a bump on his face a day or two after I arrived home from Alaska. This weekend, it got huge, like a golf ball under his left eye, so I scurried him to the vet today. It's not a tumor, nor a tooth abscess, which is good news. Doctor thinks it's an infection, as white cell counts and t-cells are raging in the aspiration sample she took. Poor baby! This photo, taken just before we left home, shows him drunk on tranquilizers and ready to travel the 20 miles to Hilo. Now, as I type this, he's still pretty wasted and the lump has been shaved. Yikes! I hope the antibiotics work their magic soon.

There's someone in my neighborhood who I can't figure. This person leaves bread crumbs out for the birds every day, ON THE ROAD. They were there again today. Here's my dilemma. I can't decide whether this person is a kind, bird-loving soul who just also happens to be a complete idiot, or someone who hates birds. I'm inclined to believe the former, since I like to think the best of people and, in my experience, humans are more inclined to be stupid than malicious. Still, I don't really know...

The birds, I know, aren't so bright. They don't have the sense to get out of the way when a car is speeding toward them. Dumb birds, bread crumbs in the middle of the road and cars with careless drivers are not a happy mix.

I recently posted a writerly essay on 49 Writers, a blog dedicated to writing in general and Alaska writers in particular. I know I don't live in Alaska (except, corny as it sounds, in my heart), but I have a legitimate connection to the place. I spend lots of money there, for one thing. To find my essay, scroll down once you arrive at the site. There's also a fine post today by my classmate, Erin. If you are inclined to read such things, check it out.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Monday, August 02, 2010


He was scrawny, ragged and soaked, a tiny, pathetic black and white kitten, hunched in the grass at the side of the road. My neighbor had called me a week earlier about a baby she'd seen hanging around her house. She was sure he'd been abandoned. I've only known this neighbor for a few months, but she's already got me pegged for a sucker. She called to ask, "If I can catch it, will you take it?" The moment I mentioned the kitten to Ron, I got the, NO MORE CATS speech. I ignored it, of course, and went to see anyway. No kitty. The neighbor called to ask if I could assume feeding duty for a few days while she was away. The food I left was eaten after the first night, but not the second, by which time I had still not seen the little orphan. The neighbor returned. No kitten. We figured he was a goner. Then yesterday morning, on my way home from the farmers' market, I spotted the adorable little wretch, a quarter mile down from the neighbor's place. I pulled over and approached. When I got close, he darted into the thicket. I heard him crying from the bushed, like he wanted help, but he wouldn't come out. I took the car home, then walked back to the spot. There he was again, at the road's edge. I bent and reached to lift him, but again, he bulleted into the ferns. I returned once more, this time with food. Score! He came out, famished. The skinny fellow rode my palm and continued to eat from the small paper plate I held in front of him as we trudged up the road, willing to suspend all distrust of me for a meal. Tucked into a cozy spare bedroom, dry and warm, his tummy full, he purred like a well-tuned engine. We cuddled. We fell in love. I knew if I couldn't find him a home within days, or maybe hours, I'd give up and keep him. I called my friend Janet, the first, best cat person I know. It just so happens that Janet recently lost one of her kitties, and she was excited about the prospect of being a new kitty mom again, rescuing a lost soul. I delivered him to her and her son Carson last night. They were surprised at how small he was, but delighted! Janet called today to assure me that our darling survivor has since pooped and peed. He continues to eat well. She too has fallen fast in love with him. Some might say he's the luckiest stray kitten in the islands. I say he's gotten the loving, happy, forever home he deserves. It's what they all deserve.