Followers of my blog will know that last year the Becker household lost one cat and one dog. And while Carson and Sugar will never be replaced, we now have two new members of the family, well actually, we’ve had them for a while now.
In the last week of November last year, Tanya and I adopted a kitten from the local Humane Society. The idea was to get a playmate for our other cat, Patch, who was quite lonely after losing both his sister, Sugar, and his best buddy, Carson. The kitten’s name is Tuck. Well it didn’t get exactly as planned, Patch was not too welcoming of a new male kitten in his house. Things are much better now, at least Patch puts up with Tuck, shaking off Tuck’s flying kamikaze attacks from the top of the furniture rather than clawing and biting the kitten. Sometimes Patch even starts the play. Tuck, now five months old, is much bigger than shown in the photo here (taken about 5 weeks ago) and still as wild as ever. We refer to him as Tuck the Terrible or Tuck the Terror.
And last month, we brought a new Newfoundland home. Her name is Nahla, which means drink of water in Arabic (her paper name is Nakiska’s Drinks Are On Me). Nahla is four years old and a rather large girl. In fact, she is bigger than Carson was, both in weight and height (she can rest her chin on the dining room table without lifting her head). She definitely loves her people, and follows Tanya or I around constantly. She reportedly loves water (like most Newfoundlands, Carson being the exception), but we haven’t taken her to the beach yet to see. She did like being in the snow when we took her up to Hurricane Ridge a couple of weeks ago, where I took the photograph below of her and Tanya. I’m looking forward to many new adventures with Nahla. Interestingly, Patch seems much happier now that there is a dog in the house again, even though he mostly ignores Nahla.
This is an extremely hard and bittersweet post to write. It has been a rough year for animals in the Becker household. As many of you know, earlier this year one of our cats, Sugar, passed away. Now death has struck again. This time, our beloved dog Carson suddenly passed away. Though 10 years old, Carson was generally in good health and had no life-threatening illness that Tanya or I knew about. Early last Sunday morning, he was sleeping when he suddenly yelped. Tanya and I both thought he was having a bad dream and yelled his name (which usually wakes him), but calling him had no effect. The yelps were obviously from pain, and we both ran to his side as they continued. Less than half a minute later, he was dead. We have been in shock since then, and it is only now several days later, that I can write about without tears coming to my eyes.
Carson should be familiar to regular readers of my blog. He accompanied me on many photo excursions and was featured in many of the images I’ve posted. I believe he loved these excursions even more than I did. When out on photo excursions, or out to take a hike, Carson would start whimpering with anticipation whenever we turned off a paved road to a dirt or gravel road. For Carson, gravel roads meant we were almost there.
He loved riding in the car, even if all he got to do was look out the window. Even on trips where he had to stay in the car, he’d rather wait in the car for hours than be left at home. I can still see him hanging his head over the backseat of our SUV, just happy to be along. Or, if in our small car, I can still see that big black head suddenly appear between Tanya and I, gazing contently out the front windshield. He’d get excited when Tanya or I would get out “to-go” coffee cups or when I’d bring my camera bag and tripod into the house because he knew travel was at hand.
We brought Carson home 10 years ago this month. At the time, Tanya needed a companion, and Carson was the perfect dog for it. He took his job of keeping Tanya company very seriously. Tanya was the head of the pack (and I a distant second), and he needed to know where she was all the time. Once, when we lived in Gig Harbor, Tanya went out a second story window to clear some debris off the roof. Carson tried to jump through the window after her, and if we hadn’t shut the window in time, he would have sailed though the window and down to the driveway. In that house, ever after, he didn’t trust that Tanya would stay in the house if she was upstairs, and kept a close eye on her when she did go upstairs. Another time, in the same house, Carson jumped through (and destroyed in the process), not one, but two window screens looking for Tanya.
Carson slept in the bedroom with us (no keeping him out with Tanya in the room). Almost every night he would go over to his blanket, stand on it, and with his front paws work for 3 or 4 minutes on trying to get it fluffed up just right. Of course, since he was standing on it, he could never get it in the right position. Eventually, he’d give up and lay down on it anyway (usually with a content look on his face, ready for bed with his people). Inevitably though, he’d get up after just five minutes, too hot to be on the blanket. He’d spend the night, moving from one place to the next, looking for a cool spot to sleep. Between his moving around at night, his heavy breathing and snores, and habit of chewing bones at night, it is way to quiet in our bedroom now.
For a Newfoundland – dogs breed for water rescue – he was a strange dog when it came to water. Though he could swim very well, Carson didn’t like to go in deeper than he could touch bottom. And while most Newfoundlands are hard to keep out of water, Carson was often content to stay on the beach, or only go in for a drink. Ask him to fetch a stick on land, and he would look at you funny. Ask him to fetch a stick thrown in the water however, he’d go right after it.
Carson had the most expressive eyes, and he spoke with them much more than his voice. He rarely barked, so little in fact that many of our friends were startled when he did bark because they had never heard him do so before. But how he could communicate with those eyes. And if the eyes didn’t work right away, he’d start backing up while staring at you. I’ve never seen a dog that could back up as well as Carson. Without looking, he could back up around furniture and corners.
Carson was also the friendliest dog I’ve ever seen. He loved everyone, people and other dogs alike. One time, we were walking in the neighborhood when two small French bulldogs escaped from a house and ran directly at Carson. They both were jumping at his neck, trying to bite him through his thick fur. He couldn’t figure out why they didn’t want to play. He wanted to play with every dog he came across. But funny dog that he was, he’d usually get tired of playing after about a minute and lay down. Yet, the next dog he saw, he’d want to play again. He was also very much a beta dog around other dogs. He had no idea how much bigger he was than they were, even the smallest dogs could boss him around.
With people, he was a gentle giant, and gladly submitted to small kids pulling his hair or ears. He loved being petted, and would often wedge his head between your legs so he was in the optimum position for you to pet his whole body. I was always worried he was going to knock someone over by doing that, as he’d press into your legs with most his weight. When out and about, he was very quick to notice when someone wanted to pet him, often before Tanya or I did. And of course, being that big, a lot of people noticed him. He brought smiles to many strangers, happy to see such a friendly dog. When going to the hardware store, we usually took Carson with us as all the local hardware stores allowed dogs on leashes in. It always took twice as long to buy things because so many people wanted to say hello to Carson, and he loved every minute of it. In fact, last Saturday we made two trips to the hardware store with Carson and he was his normal self – soaking up pets and a treat from the store employees.
I could write about Carson all day long. He was an amazing dog, truly part of the family, well-loved by everyone who met him. Tanya and I hugely miss him; and though we will likely get another dog someday, that dog will never be replaced. Carson, please rest in peace.
Enjoy these images of one great dog. You can see more images of Carson from some of our photo adventures together from last month, April 2013, March 2013(1), March 2013(2), October 2012, May 2012, and April 2012.
While rain was falling over much of western Washington yesterday, Tanya, Carson and I took a hike in eastern Washington up Umtanum Canyon. It took two hours to drive there from Tacoma, but it was worth it to stretch our legs in a desert canyon. Here’s some quick shots from the trip.
I went with a friend and my trusty dog Carson (just over two weeks ago) to Heather Meadows at the end of the Mount Baker Highway (in a earlier post, I gave a Quick Shot from the trip). The fall colors were fantastic, as I hope these images show. Want to go for the colors? You may be too late. The fall color season was short at Heather Meadows this year (though it’s probably short most years). A trail report on the Washington Trails Association websitedidn’t mention fall colors on September 30th, nor did the accompanying photos show much. And as of October 22nd, according to the US Forest Service website, all the Heather Meadows trails are now snow-covered, the lakes have started freezing over, and the road is gated at the ski area’s upper parking lot – a good distance below Artist Point were about half of these photos were taken. Winter has come to Heather Meadows. Fall lasted about 3 weeks.
Though on the Mount Baker Highway, the real star of the Heather Meadows area is Mount Shuksan. The view of Mt. Shuksan from Picture Lake (the featured image above) is one of the most photographed scenes in Washington State. Unfortunately, when we were there, there was a breeze, ruining the reflection in Picture Lake, but it still made a great scene.
Besides Picture Lake, we drove up to the end of the highway at Artist Point and did the short hike along Artist Ridge. Again, Shuksan is the star here – though the view of Mount Baker is good too. We were there in the afternoon (and later, at sunset), and the light was much better on Shuksan than Baker. I venture that Baker looks better in morning light (but with a 5+ hour drive from Tacoma, I wasn’t about to get there early).
Unlike the northeastern United States, the Northwest is not know for its autumn colors. This is not surprising, considering the primary tree cover in the Pacific Northwest is composed of firs, pines, and other evergreens. But, there are some spots where fall color can be found. The Heather Meadows area is one – you just have to be quick to see it.
Last week Tanya, Carson and I traveled to the Palouse region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho on a photo trip. I had originally planned on spending three nights in the area, but was only able to spend one due to receiving an assignment from American Bungalow magazine to photograph sites in Spokane (look for my photos in the August edition of the magazine). Luckily, the day I spent in the Palouse area was very productive.
The highlight of the trip, for me at least, was a pair of visits to Steptoe Butte, once at sunset and again during the following sunrise (which, I might mention, comes damn early in mid-June; in fact, the sun rose at 4:53 a.m., the earliest time all year for that location). Upon when driving up Steptoe Butte before sunset, we were lucky enough to run into my good friend and fellow photographer Jack Graham, who was leading a photo workshop in the Palouse. We hung out with Jack’s group and witnessed an excellent sunset. The sunrise (a mere 8 hours later), in contrast, was very plain (no clouds), but the early light did wonders with the rolling hills of the Palouse. It would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the wind, which shook my camera and softened up many of my images. I’ll have to go back next year with a bigger tripod.
Following sunrise, I drove some of the many back roads in the area looking for photo opportunities with the eventual goal of photographing the Freeze Community Church outside of Potlatch, Idaho. I shot a lot of pixels at the church and will show some of them in a follow-up blog post soon.
Eventually, I drove back to Colfax, Washington, where we were staying, and picked up Tanya and Carson (both of whom didn’t want to get up at 4:00 a.m. to go photograph the sunrise, imagine that!). Our afternoon goals were to visit Pullman (home of Washington State University, where Tanya went to school) and see Colton, a small town co-founded by my great-grandfather and great great uncle. The afternoon light didn’t offer many good photos, but we had a good time exploring the country side. Perhaps the most surrealistic moment was when we stopped at St. Gall’s Cemetery in Colton and seeing a headstone with my name on it, which belong to some long-lost relative of mine, as well as a headstone with my parents names – actually belonging to by great-grandparents (considering my Dad is still alive and my Mom is buried in Spokane).
While my highlight was Steptoe, Carson’s highlight of the trip was when we stopped to photograph the street sign for Becker Road (which is north of Colton and surrounded by wheat fields). Carson, being a dog of course, didn’t care about the sign, but did find something dead at the edge of a field which he promptly rolled upon. We remembered a pet grooming shop in Colfax, but when we drove by, it was closed with a sign stated “please call for an appointment.” Not very convenient when you have 140 pounds of stinky dog in your car. We called, but there was no answer, so we kept going on our drive to Spokane, where we were to spend the night at my Dad’s house, Carson (I’m sure) enjoying the smell much more than we did. In Spokane, we stopped at PetCo and found a waterless dog shampoo, which worked wonders and left us with a clean smelling end to our quick trip to the Palouse.