Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Rusty Does Dagny

Driving to Fort Lauderdale the obvious stop was Dagney Johnson State Park to let the dog out and take a break in a the  four hour drive. Rusty has probably never done so much driving in his life but he has adapted like a champ, lying down on the back seat and snoozing quietly.
I like Dagney Johnson, all it's wide trails and it's peculiar history that essentially comes down to over reaching developers who failed and left behind empty land and a few odd pieces of infrastructure as we shall see.
You need copious amounts of mosquito repellent here even in winter. And I mean copious as any square inch of skin left uncovered will be the target for some mosquito or other. 
One other odd feature of this park is that it is actually quite close to the ocean even though you feel as though you could be in a wood anywhere on the east coast.
And as we strolled alongside one of the excavations that has filled with rainwater here's a piece of the history  from Abandoned Florida.

The plans were extensive as you can see wedged between the straight line of Card Sound Road (State Road 905) and the beach  on the south side of Key Largo:
1988 aerial

Dredging and filling was rampant in the Keys in the early-1970s. In order to control the local government’s lack of ability or desire to control development, on April 15, 1975, the Florida Keys became an Area of Critical State Concern(ACSC), which was supposed to prevent the Keys from becoming a ‘concrete jungle’.
In 1982, the Department of Community Affairs(DCA) had a consultant prepare the “Inpact Analysis of Florida Keys Critical Area Designation” study, a 300-page report that provided information that everyone already know. As in the 1930s prohibition days, the Keys ignored it.
In 1983 the DCA threatened a state take-over for all new development and it developed a management plan. The county countered that the state had not provided the necessary funds to develop a land use map. Slowly but surely, both sides began to compromise. Regardless of their efforts, it was not very effective since by 1984, at least 51 new developments were in process but not approved. The Miami Herald did a series of exposes on the rapid growth, estimating that North Key Largo alone would house 25,000 to 45,000 people.
From the State Parks website:  

The park is named for Dagny Johnson, a local environmental activist, approximately a year before her death in 2003. Through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, Dagny led the Upper Keys Citizens Association and several other organizations that fought to stop the development that was planned for much of north Key Largo. Preservation of onshore communities was not the only purpose for protecting north Key Largo. The reefs offshore of developed areas in the Keys have been declining rapidly, and those off undeveloped north Key Largo remain in far better condition than most.

Somehow the developments failed and  at least some of the land is now preserved for public use with extensive networks of trails. Not all are open:

Rusty had fun though I noticed he suffers from a  lot of nerves in the woods. Any rustle or strange noise sets him off and he suddenly alerts with his ears up and his eyes flashing left and right. I let him off the leash for a little while on the main trail, no one was around and I wanted to test his ability to come when called. He actually did quite well because he really wants to oblige, he just has to know how to figure it out.
The irony was later when he spotted some innocent walkers through the bushes he jerked back and got away from me - was I surprised!- but I discovered if I let him trot to a "safe" spot he would let me corral him and approach the perceived danger close alongside me. It's a pain in the butt but I its to be expected from a  dog that has been a stray and doubtless abused by anyone with range. Time will cure his nerves.
He is not, however a runner and he always wanted to stay close to me.
He does not have a lot of stamina so we took the short loop, a mile and that was plenty for Rusty.
As with so many of these walks, all of them perhaps, I am reminded of Cheyenne. Oddly enough this picture from 2011 (LINK) depicts me in the same shirt I was wearing last Saturday. 
It was a good walk and even though Rusty  freaked out when he saw a large friendly  dog near the entrance I was ready for him and swept him into my arms to remind him where he's safe. He's supposed to weigh 56 pounds but he feels like a featherweight compared to Cheyenne who always hovered near 100 pounds.
Rusty is a great little dog and I am very happy with him. He can't erase my sadness at the loss of Cheyenne  but he sure does help. Like her he too is freaked by elevators and I expect given time he like Cheyenne will get over that. My wife spends a lot of time reminding me how much work we had to put into training Cheyenne to be the laid back companion she rapidly became.
Rusty is well on his way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Middle Torch Key Walk

I think it's been five years since I last came out here. Cheyenne walked with me a couple of times and then found it boring. Rusty was totally into it. In fact a couple of times he pranced off into the bushes and didn't come when I called an whistled. We had a conversation about coming when called. More accurately I had a whiny monologue and he looked repentant. Blah blah blah.

It was a good evening to be alone with a dog in the wilderness.

Rusty trotted back and forth being busy, I paused and enjoyed the sound of the wind in my ears and the views across the mangroves.

I have missed these open dances but without a dog to drive me to it I don't get out here. So I was glad to see Rusty was so busy enjoying himself.
The last time I came here there was a trailer tipped on its side, abandoned and slowly decomposing. As you can see above it's all gone. Nice.
And the widespread dumping of assorted household and construction garbage has been cleaned. This place was practically paved with shards of glass.

Rusty got busy and disappeared for a few minutes.

Leaving me to play with the camera.





It was a good walk. He gulped a bowl of water back at the car and passed out once we got home after a full dinner.

The dog is back!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Mallory Sunset

I have never managed to grasp the essence of Sunset in Mallory Square in all the years since I started posting photos here in 2007. I don't think this effort from last Fruday evening does any better. I came by to get a dog collar to my wife's specifications and as a further extenuating circumstances I was on my way to work but there is an absence of ease in this place that gets to me at this time of day.
It is said in Key West that Tennessee Williams came by the old decrepit Mallory Square armed with alcohol and toasted the Suns performance in setting so beautifully before him. The concept of sunset as performance art took off and now the daily sunset is a staple of tourist literature. Come to Key West - watch the sunset. An hour or so before the appointed time the earth tilts ever so slightly and like loose change the tourists wandering Lower Duval find themselves impelled to slide west moving ever faster like supplicants for a revival meeting at the waterfront, an act of devotion to thank the sun and admire the eccentrics who make Key West into Key Weird for their edification.
And that's where it goes wrong for me. There are all these people standing around waiting to be entertained and into their midst I wander. The acts are variously entertaining or breathtaking or amusing because nowadays a waterfront martini would not only be illegal it would also be inadequate entertainment for the television generations. So people perform. They swallow swords, walk high wires, set light to things and make cats jump through hoops. And they make a very living wage doing it.
The hangers-on sell stuff. Food and trinkets collars.
And all of it is controlled and regulated by a not for profit organization that rents spaces on Mallory Square and supervises the evening event every day. Except when smaller cruise ships tie up at the dock and block Appolo's performance.
Meanwhile the sunset is also big business on the water and people pay to see the sun setting while afloat.
A bit of banter and...let me reverse that thought. A lot of banter and a little action is the way to get tips as I discovered when I worked as a boat captain.
These are the vacation memories taken home to the snowfields of Iowa and Indiana and Michigan.
And coconuts. Don't forget that imported symbol of Key Westness...the coconut. The city authorities have wrestled and do wrestle with the fecund imported tree that produces tons of foliage and lots of nuts and was imported to the Keys to make the islands look right. And they do a very good impression of it too. The city wanted to replace the coconuts lining North Roosevelt Boulevard with trees native to the state and a lot less work to maintain. That plan caused an uproar and any idea of civic parsimony was tossed out by the tax payers who demanded expensive nut-dropping trees be maintained above the sidewalk.
I met this dog from Indiana enjoying a 65 degree evening and as I was in the throes of dog loss I stopped by. Rather than the joys of ownership I got an unnecessarily lengthy discussion of dog death for my troubles but I got to feel dog fur again.
And just to prove how untropical Key West can and will be from time to time the workers at El Meson de Pepe were putting out gas heaters to render the atmosphere more properly bearable.
And so to work. Mallory Square sunset celebration still escapes me. I like it, I just can't photograph it. Yet.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Meet Rusty

The past ten days have been agony, pure and simple. It started by saying goodbye to Cheyenne and it ended by bringing home a funny little dog who bears the burden of being asked to fill the hole in my heart left by the departure of the most extraordinary dog I have known. Oddly enough I think this little bundle of love is up to the challenge.

Rusty's life, all four years of it approximately, has sucked. This picture is from October last year when a Homestead woman who feeds strays in her neighborhood spotted this street dog. From what can be gleaned Rusty, formerly known as Bobo lived on the streets of an area known as Redlands, the agricultural heart of South Florida. Also where you go to dump your dog, apparently. Yet this little reddish-brown dog is astonishingly even tempered, loving and ready to fit in to a "normal" suburban life. Why people buy dogs beats me. Found dogs live out their lives in gratitude and make the best companions. You too can pick up a cat or dog that could light up your home. LINK.

I was rather nervous making my way alone to a giant mainland mall to find a dog. My wife got in touch with this woman representing a group of volunteers who madly enough find and rescue and foster hopeless dogs and cats and they make them whole. After my hopeless sadness at the Key West and Marathon SPCA and dealing with the rejectionists walking into Petco at noon yesterday was like nothing really.

I knew it was him immediately. He was smaller and thinner than I expected but he sat there in the crowd, serene as though he knew that today was the day. I lost the ability to take photographs for a while as I juggled paper pen, leash, emotions and strangers which as we all know give me hives. Bobo was fine in the middle of it all.

I signed, Lissa injected a microchip - no really, right in front of me- and I was officially driving home with a completely unfamiliar dog.

I don't think Rusty had ever spent three hours in the car- and that only got us as far as the Publix in Marathon where I completely lost my head and forgot to buy milk. But the entire week has been like that and taking 911 calls has been a trial in the Cheyenne fog I have been stuck in. Traffic on a Saturday afternoon sucked of course but Rusty only got up and protested mewling a couple of times. Mostly he just laid down on the back seat and let me drive.


At Publix he was ready to get out of the car and I put him on my (Cheyenne's) extenda-leash and off we went. There's a crazy old guy who hangs out behind Publix, a stray human as it were...Rusty is just sweet. Look at him with a stranger. He sat down and said pet me but the old guy was off on cloud nine:

Rusty is full of curiosity. Arriving home he trotted back and forth checking stuff out, and getting him up the stairs was a trial as he could see the void through the stairs. It took a couple of trips but he got the stairs down pat. The dog door through the sliding door held him up for 15 seconds but then he had the run of the house and the deck and when he gets reliable he'll have the yard as well. Only after we feel safe taking down the dog gate that closes off the stairs. He found the spot where Cheyenne died and his attention to it inspired me, the curmudgeon, to imagine the baton was being passed between dog generations.

I miss her so much and have to guard against my memories of perfection interfering with my expectations of what is a remarkable dog. Rusty is on his way and finding his place, and the more I see of him the more I like him. I hate to think how many other wonderful animals are bring abandoned. I want them all.

If he doesn't get used to her bed we'll replace it but it is the most comfortable dog bed I've ever seen.


JW says Rusty won the lottery, but I feel like I did.

Thanks to these good people for the chance LINK.