Posts filed under ‘Animals’

On Lube and Love

This morning I was melting some butter on the stove. I lifted the frying pan and angled it to distribute the butter more evenly. There was one lone pat of butter that had yet to melt, so it traveled around pan, leaving a trail of “lube” in its wake. And I started to snicker.

Many years ago, back in the days where I was prone to anxiety bouts, I was having trouble sleeping on a family vacation at the beach. Eventually I gave up the futile strategy of lying in bed and went outside for some fresh air.

My father, always the night owl, was outside sitting on a bench. He was overlooking a long wooden patio. I sat down next to him.

He took a drag off a cigarette. “See that slug over there?”

I didn’t see it at first. But then I caught the street lights glistening in a small sliver of slime. I followed its squiggly path until it dead ended at a small slug right smack in the middle of the patio. The slug was still and with its contracted antenna, it was looking rather dejected.

“He hasn’t moved in 10 minutes.” Dad’s voice started to get more animated, “Maybe he went all that way and ran out of lube! He’s stuck!” And then my father started to laugh, “He’s sitting there thinking, ‘Christ! I’m outta lube!‘”

Before I knew it my father was cackling speculating on this poor slug’s predicament, stranded in the middle of no where, out of lube.

And maybe it’s because “lube” is an inherently funny word. Or maybe it’s because I always found my father’s laugh to be infectious. But before I knew it, I was cackling too.

When the conversation ended (with the slug still in the same spot), I had no trouble going inside and falling asleep, though my chest did ache from all the laughing.

All over a slug.

So thanks Dad, thanks Slug, thanks Butter Slime on a Frying Pan. Thank you for a happy memory to kick off my day!

The High Hurdles in Slug World
(Photo By Andrew E. Larsen)

March 24, 2015 at 9:53 am 1 comment

Surprise Family Hike with Surprise Finds – Ballywhack Creek

This morning Sagan, Ryan, and I were intending on doing some yard work over at my grandmother’s old house, but we ran into some mechanical difficulties.

Memorial Day 2013 - Sagan Supervises Lawn Mower Repairs

So instead, we decided to explore the nearby woods and get some recordings and photos of cicadas. We ended up walking along a nice fireroad that paralleled the Ballywhack Creek and eventually we found ourselves in the River Ridge section of Lake Ridge and made our way back to the broken lawn mower. It was a good outing and we had plenty of opportunities to hear and see cicadas.

Memorial Day 2013 - Cicada on Beech
Cicada on American Beech

Memorial Day 2013 - Cicada Shells and Sweet Gum Leaves
Cicada Shells Left on Sweet Gum Leaves

Memorial Day 2013 - Cicada Shell on Tulip Poplar
Cicada Shell on Tulip Poplar Leaf

We also had a cute little bit of cicada-related dialog with 22-month old Sagan.

Vicky: Sagan, do you want the cicada on your head?
Sagan: (matter-of-factly) No.
Vicky: Sagan, do you want the cicada on your hand?
Sagan: (matter-of-factly) Yes.

Memorial Day 2013 - Daddy and Sagan Smile at Cicada
Sagan Holds His First Cicada

Sagan had a little bit of dialogue of his own with the cicada including telling it “Bye Bye”

Our mission was simple– we wanted to see cicadas. But we ended up with a lot of surprise finds as well. First off, we got to see an unfortunate cicada who never successfully molted being devoured (albeit slowly) by red ants.

Memorial Day 2013 - Ants Eat Cicada 1 - Cropped

We got to see a number of water insects and large tadpoles in the creek.

Memorial Day 2013 - Water Insect and Tadpoles
Water Insect and Tadpoles

Even though it hadn’t rained recently, there was a large amount of earthworms out. Here again, we had an opportunity to converse with Sagan.

Vicky: Sagan, do you want the worm on your hand?
Sagan: (matter-of-factly) No.

Memorial Day 2013 - Sagan Meets Worm
Sagan Does Not Hold the Earthworm

Our biggest surprise was right behind the River Ridge houses on Farversham. We came across a little white-tail deer fawn waiting for its Momma.

Memorial Day 2013 - Fawn
Awww….Cute Enough to Make Forget Deer Eat My Chestnut Trees

One last surprise– shortly after we made our way back home, Ryan uncovered the problem with the mower and it resumed working better than ever. Apparently sometimes it pays to step away from a problem for a while. : )

More pictures of our Memorial Day Family Walk can be found on my Flickr site.

May 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm 1 comment

Farewell, Jimmie Dog

My most steadfast hiking buddy passed away this morning. His name was Jimmie (after the band Jimmie’s Chicken Shack). He spent 15 years and 4.5 months on this beautiful earth.

I have written before how adopting this small puppy from the Montgomery County Humane Society in 1997 impacted my life (See Happy 10th Birthday, Jimmie Dog). Jimmie’s adoption led to an active lifestyle. Finding adventures for my dog introduced me to my love of hiking and the mountains. His mere presence meant I was never really “alone” on any endeavor so he gave me the confidence (placebo?) to head into the woods alone and find my independence. He is a dog I will remember with gratitude.

The trails Jimmie has hiked over the years can be measured in “hundreds of miles”. Along the way, he has seen some amazing views. The slideshow below is an excerpt of some of the scenery we shared together. (You don’t have to have the attention span for all the slides, but do please note at how many slides there are. Epic!)

Last night, Ryan, Sagan and I took Jimmie across the river to Occoquan Regional Park. Jimmie was too weak to walk, so we drove to the park and we carried him to the shoreline. We sat under a sycamore tree. We watched ducks commute and ospreys tend to their young. We listened to the summer buzz of cicadas and people splashing on the west shore of the river. The sun set and together Jimmie and I took in one final view.

Jimmie's Last Outing - Jimmie and Vicky Take In One Last View (By Ryan Somma)
One Last View (Photo by Ryan Somma)

I love you, Jimmie Dog. I wish you happy trails.

More pictures of Jimmie’s Last Outing can be found on my Flickr site.

August 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm 9 comments

What I’m Known For – Revisited

In my May of 2010 post, What I’m Known For I described how my teenage neighbor Khaliya was reminded of me.

… Khaliya said, “I was walking [my dog] and she took a doodie in the street and I cleaned it up…and I thought, ‘This reminds me of Vicky Somma.’”

Yesterday, Khaliya messaged me on Facebook. Something else made her think of me… and this time it wasn’t at all related to dog poop! 🙂

What I'm Known For - Take II

Awww, running! She thought of me with running!

And for the record, Khaliya’s sentiment is mutual. Ryan and I miss the neighborhood kids terribly.

September 30, 2011 at 7:53 am Leave a comment

Henry <3 Playmats

Henry is still indifferent to the baby…but he LOVES the baby’s playmats.  He has taken to sleeping on them whenever there is a vacancy.

Henry Takes Over Playmat (By Anne Sawyer)
Henry Napping on a Playmat (Photo by Anne Sawyer)

Henry On ANOTHER Playmat
Henry Napping on ANOTHER Playmat

And what does he do if, pray tell, the baby is actually using his own play mat? Well, Henry waits his turn, of course! : )

Henry Waits for Playmat (By Anne Sawyer)
Henry Waits While Sagan Does His Wiggle Mode (Photo by Anne Sawyer)

September 8, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

The Silver Lining of a Feces Encrusted Foot

Our 14 year old dog Jimmie has an unfortunately side effect of old age.  He has very little consciousness of his bowels.  He can surprise himself (and us) with a dump at any place and any time.  In front of guests even.  Sometimes this surprise occurs in the middle of the night while he is dead asleep.  You have to wake him up and show him.  “Dude!  You took a dump!”

With little Sagan in our lives, I’m a light sleeper at the moment.  Last night in the wee hours, I became aware of Jimmie getting up and rushing down the stairs.  That means either he is about to have an accident… or he already did.  My nose told me it was the latter.  So I grabbed some toilet paper and went on patrol.  I found two rather small pieces on the stairs which I picked up.  I returned to my room and headed to the bathroom to dispose of them. 

I was just thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe all that smell came all the way from the stairs from just this” when I became aware of the most unpleasant of sensations on my right foot.  My BARE right foot.

It was such a large deposit I had practically molded myself a brand new shoe.  I let out an involuntary sound of distinct displeasure.  Sagan stirred, but luckily didn’t wake up.

We sleep on the floor and to walk to the bathroom would have poop pass by my bed much closer than I’d be comfortable with.  Irritated, I hopped down to the bathroom on the third floor.  I tried my best to rinse off my foot in the bathtub, but the pressure of the water alone was not enough.  I had to use my hands to scrub the remainder off.  And then I discovered– THERE WAS NO SOAP.

Even more irritated, I hopped down to the half bath on the second floor.  I kicked my foot up onto the sink and used that soap and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed my foot (and hands) like there was no tomorrow.

When I came out of the bathroom, Jimmie was slinking back upstairs from the dog door on the first floor.  When he saw me, he froze.  He just stood there with his head low and his tail between his legs.

I was tired and I was incredibly angry.  Incredibly angry.  I wanted to yell and scream.  I wanted him to be punished.  Instead I found myself kneeling down and giving the poor old dog some pets and trying to calm his nerves.

My forgiveness benefitted more than just Jimmie.

Well this should put your mind at ease,” I thought.

A few nights before, little Sagan had a rough night.  Instead of sleeping, he opted for fussing.  All night long.

Sagan - Day Sixteen -  Loves ZJ's Towel Sagan - August 7 - Crying Sagan - August 25 - Crying

Crying (July 28th, August 7, August 25)

Circa 4 AM, I felt emotions I didn’t want to feel. Frustration. Exasperation. Anger.

Rationally I know those emotions are normal, particularly with sleep deprivation.  But, you still feel guilty and you still worry.  “What if [my temperament] gets worse?!?  What if I turn into one of those people that shakes babies?!?!

Well after last night, those particular fears are squelched (I still get to fret about SIDS though).  If I can be THAT angry and still be so instinctively gentle with an old incontinent dog, I most certainly will do the same for my son.

Jimmie may have given me a rude awakening last night, but I’ll rest easier in return.  🙂

September 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm 4 comments

Stretch and Sage

In late February, Ryan and I moved in with my parents in their luxury townhouse.  We brought with us our pets, including our orange cat, Stench.  Now Stench is fourteen years old… and for fourteen years he has gone by his name… “Stench”.


Shortly after we moved in, my mother decided she didn’t like the name “Stench”.  She started calling him “Stretch”.  Not only that, she started enforcing her new nomenclature on everyone else.  So we would have conversations such as this one:

Vicky: Is Stench outside?
Mom: You mean Stretch!
Vicky: Stench.
Mom: Stretch!

This irked me. I didn’t name the cat, so I’m not particularly vested in “Stench”.  It has no emotional significance to me.  But the cat has had his name for fourteen years…nearly a decade and a half.  For goodness sake, he already has an established Flickr tag. Do we really need to rename him this late in the game? 

Laid-back Ryan wasn’t phased by the name change one bit… which prompted this conversation:

Vicky: Oh yeah? Well what if she doesn’t like the baby’s name?!?  Is she just going to rename him too?
Ryan: Don’t be ridiculous, sweetie.

At our twenty week ultrasound, Ryan and I found out the sex of our baby and shortly afterwards we decided on the name.  We were diligently keeping the name to ourselves, but one day driving to my grandmother’s, my mother implored us to share our secret with her.   “I really want to know the name,” she said.  So we told her… and guess what!  She didn’t hate it!!! I was so relieved.

Vicky: Oh good!  There were people on the Internet who said they would never name their baby Sagan because it is only one letter away from Satan.

Gah!  I said that!  Me! I planted that seed.

All seemed well and then a week or so later I was eating breakfast in the kitchen when my mother dropped this line on me:

Mom: I’ve been telling everyone that I’m going to call him “Sage”.  The more I think about it the more I don’t like “Sagan”.

Two things stuck out to me. First off, I noted she started with “I’ve been telling everyone” which indicated our secret wasn’t so secret anymore. Secondly, I noted that she did in fact, change the name of our unborn son.

What turned my mother’s opinion of “Sagan”?  One of the reasons she cited was “It is too close to Satan.”  Me and my big mouth!

Luckily now Sagan is born and the birth certificate has been filled out, we are seeing a great deal more acceptance of his name.

There doesn’t seem to be any hope for “Stench” though. 🙂

July 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm 2 comments

Sagan and the Dogs

Someone asked me yesterday how the dogs were adjusting to our new arrival. Our first night home, the dogs slept with my mother and father. Since then we’ve introduced them back into our bedroom. I was pleasantly, pleasantly, pleasantly surprised with how easily the dogs accepted having to share a dog bed instead of sleeping with us. I really thought that adjustment was going to be a frustrating ordeal filled with beligerent barks and entitled yipes, but they caught on right away.

One time Jimmie ran into a Timber Rattlesnake on a hike. When I heard the rattle and called him back, there was no hesistation and he immediately pulled back from the snake. I didn’t have to call him repeatedly with escalating intensity like normal and he didn’t try to play with it like he had in the past with Black Rat Snakes. I suspect the dogs can tell when something is really important.

Henry the Beagle seems completely indifferent, maybe even oblivious, to the baby. He’s been going about life as normal, arooing at nothing and spending a lot of time in the kitchen in hopes that someone drops or forgets food.

Jimmie, meanwhile, is definitely curious about the new critter. When he’s permitted, he lays down near Sagan and stares.

Sagan - Day Four - New Baby, Old Baby
Aww— Poor Jimmie Overshadowed by New Baby

Sagan - Day Six - Jimmie Meet Sagan, Sagan Meet Jimmie
Jimmie and Sagan Size Each Other Up

Sagan - One Week - Jimmie Stalks Bassinette (Close)
Jimmie Stares

Jimmie has always been really attached to me, but this week I learned even he has his limits. Late one night, Sagan was crying. Jimmie got up off his dog bed and without fanfare, silently moseyed downstairs. He curled up all by himself two floors down on the living room couch and he spent the rest of the night there. This marks the very first time in our fourteen years together that Jimmie WILLINGLY chose to sleep in a different room than me. 🙂

July 23, 2011 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Cougar Mountain – Overview

In mid-May, Ryan and I attended a wedding in beautiful Washington state. We took a few extra days and had a mini vacation in the Bellevue area before the baby arrives.

Our first full day in Washington state was a lovely sunny day that definitely warranted a hike. Since we weren’t too familiar with the area, I did some web searches and uncovered an excellent blog to help our cause. Weekend Hike covers “Great hikes around the Pacific Northwest and the San Francisco Bay Area.” The blog highlighted a number hikes in the nearby 3000 acre Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. With 36 miles of hiking trails, Cougar Mountain had a lot of choose from. I perused a number of Weekend Hike’s posts and Ryan and I decided to try the Licorice Fern Trail -> Indian Trail to see the Far Country Falls. We figured we would also do a diversion up the Far Country Trail to see a view. Once we finished those two destinations, however, we were up for more hiking!

Spying the word “Wall” in the “De Leo Wall Trail” and knowing how beautiful Southwest Virginia’s Barney’s Wall is, we continued down the Indian Trail and took the De Leo Wall Trail. It did not disappoint and offered some of the best views of the day! After De Leo Wall, we headed down the Cross Town Trail to the Terrace Trail. We saw a neighborhood terrace and then quaint little Boulder Grove before turning around and heading back home.

Although it had the word “Lookout” in its name, the Far Country Lookout was far from my favorite. I did, however, absolutely adore the moss and fern embellished Far Country Falls. The view from a New Castle neighborhood off the Terrace Trail was a change of pace. It was the views of the De Leo Wall Trail that were the real gem of the day. From there, you could even see larger, snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Cougar Mountain - Far Country Trail - View (Portrait)
Far Country Lookout

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Far Country Falls View
Far Country Falls off the Indian Trail

Cougar Mountain - De Leo Wall Trail - Panaroma View 1
Lake View from the De Leo Wall Trail

Cougar Mountain - De Leo Wall Trail - View of Mountains
View From the De Leo Wall Trail (The light blue band on the horizon are LARGER mountains)

Cougar Mountain - Cross Town Trail - Terrace View (Far)
And For Something Completed Different – View from Terrace Trail

Flora – General
In September 2007, I had the privilege of another hike in Washington State – Twin Falls. Just like the hike four years ago, I was smitten with the prevalence of my favorite color. The trees, dead or alive, sported ferns and moss along their bark. We were in an Emerald Wonderland! So much did I enjoy being enveloped in green, I decided the Licorice Fern Trail was my favorite portion of the day even though it lacks flashy views or waterfalls. It was just plain beautiful.

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Trees and Greenery From Below
Licorice Fern Trail – Greenery From Below

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Little Ryan on Trail
For Perspective – Look how little Ryan is in the left hand corner!

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Ferns on Tree
Ferns Growing on a Tree Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Moss Branches and Trail
Moss Covered Trees Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Worm Like Fern Fronds
New Ferns in the Making

Flora – Wildflowers
We were hiking at an excellent time and got to see a number of blooming wildflowers. Most of them I didn’t recognize. But we saw a couple we were familiar with from the east coast, namely trillium…. and dandelion. : )

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Pink Flower
Pink Flower Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Arched Flower, Arched Fern
Light Purple Flower Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Far Country Trail - Yellow Holly Flowers
Yellow Holly Flowers Off the Far Country Trail

Cougar Mountain - Cross Town Trail - White Flower
White Flower on the Cross Town Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Trillium
Trillium Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Dandelions
Good Ole Dandelions Off the Indian Trail

When Ryan and I started our hike, the day was still young and misty. We didn’t see any birds or mammals, but we did see plenty of mollusks! We spied a snail, black slugs (Arion ater) and what I believe to be an impressive variety of Pacific banana slugs (Ariolimax columbianus).

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Black, Two Textured Slug
Black Slug Off the Indian Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Spotted Slug
A Spotted Banana Slug Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Tan Slug
A Tan Banana Slug Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Snail
A Snail on the Indian Trail. (I wonder if it thinks it’s better than the slugs because it has a shell)

As the day warmed up, the moisture in the forest disappeared and so did all the slugs and snails. It was then we started to notice the mammals and the birds. We ran across a squirrel, birds and a number of deer who seemed as fond of the trails as we were.

The fauna highlight of the day was seeing not one but TWO green hummingbirds out in the wild (One off the Cross Town Trail and one off the Licorice Fern Trail). Alas, those little buggers were so fleeting and fast, we had no hope of pictures. Nonetheless, those surprise sightings will stick with us. Both of the hummingbirds we saw were green… so perhaps they were female Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna)?

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Deer on Path 1
One of Many Deer on the Indian Trail

All in all, we were hiking for five gorgeous, invigorating hours. It looks tedious to add up the mileage from the Trail Map. I typically hike 2 miles an hour, so I suspect our total outing was between 8-10 miles. Not too bad for 27 weeks. : )

Cougar Mountain - Terrace Trail - Vicky's Belly at Boulder Grove (By Ryan Somma)
My Belly at Boulder Grove (Photo by Ryan Somma)

More pictures of Cougar Mountain can be found on my Flickr site. For more detailed trail descriptions of Cougar Mountain hikes, I highly recommend the Weekend Hike blog.

Cougar Mountain Via the Licorice Fern TrailheadTrail Map

Length: Varied – 36 miles of trail to choose from!

Elevation Gain: Varied

Directions from Bellevue, Washington

From I-405 S, Take Exit 10 on Coal Creek Parkway toward Factoria

Turn left on SE May Valley Road

Turn left to stay on SE May Valley Road

Take the first left onto SE 112th Street

Licorice Fern Trailhead will be on the right after a sharp bend left.

Parking is along the street.

June 1, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

Henry’s Valley Forge

A few years ago, my boss Larry and I were on a business trip in Pennsylvania with some extra time. We decided to stop by Valley Forge on our way to the airport. As we made our way to the National Park, Larry and I rambled on as we tend to do and we both talked about all the things we remembered about Valley Forge. When we arrived, we were dumbfounded at how consistently inaccurate our recollections were. For example, the men did not in fact leave Valley Forge to sail across the Delaware River to win the war.

But, one thing I DID remember correctly was the bloody footprints. During the winter to 1777-1778, the men were ill-clothed and if they had shoes, they weren’t up to the winter weather. Ice and snow were not kind to the soldier’s exposed feet. They cracked and bled and left souvenirs in the snow. In a letter to Congress, George Washington wrote, “marches might be tracked by the blood from their feet.”

The most treacherous part for the humans on our snowy Kelly’s Knob hike was our drive back down icy VA-601. For Henry, it was the snow itself. All seemed well at first. Henry was having a good ole time and was as happy as I was to be reunited with the Appalachian Trail.

Kelly's Knob - Henry the Trailblazer
Happy Henry

Then suddenly, history in action. We started to notice blood in the snow. The footprints got bloodier and bloodier. We didn’t have a Martha Washington on hand to knit some socks for Henry. But we did have a Ryan Somma. Henry soldiered on for as long as he could. Finally, he acquiesced and let Ryan carry him the rest of the way.

Kelly's Knob - Henry's Paws (Cropped)
Bloody footed Henry is carried down by Ryan

In a few days, Henry’s paws were as good as new.

At least, that’s how I recall it now.

January 11, 2011 at 1:00 am 3 comments

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