Disclaimer: this might be the longest post yet. It is the account of our North Carolina trip, and was written throughout the entire week. It is also not, in its entirety, as dog-related as my usual posts, though of course there is dog talk sprinkled throughout. I realized after this posted that for some reason it did not include apostrophes and dashes. I have gone back and tried editing this, so if you see any typos, just pretend you didn’t. *smile*
Wow! I can’t believe we’re actually on our way. Casey and I have been counting months, weeks, and finally days. We are headed to North Carolina, to the outer Banks. We are flying into Norfolk, VA, and hopefully taking Uber to Hatteras Island, to the Inn on Pamlico Sound. Keats is sleeping contentedly at my feet. This is our first flight together since that flight from NY last year. Oh wait, that’s not true. I flew back from Miami one time last year. He does great on flights, and guiding around the airport. I love that he just goes with the flow, not getting flustered by all the craziness of security or some of the confusion that is almost inevitable when someone is giving me directions, turning a little too early, too late, too much, not enough—you get the idea. He just regroups and continues on like everything is just fine. I think the bag I packed for him added at least 5 lbs to our suitcase—not that I ever spoil him. I packed a few bones, a couple of toys, his food of course, foldable bowls, his little boots, and his grooming tools—I was going to groom him this morning but things got a little too crazy with last minute packing, which those of you who know us will be very surprised by. *wink wink* I brushed him just a few days ago, so he’s not bad. I just want him to be extra pretty for our trip. I was going to bathe him, but then Case reminded me we were going to be around sand and salt water, so I thought it would be smarter to hold off and bathe him when we get back. He doesn’t have a bit of doggie smell even though it’s been months since his last bath. Continuous brushing helps with that.
This is our first trip together without Andy. I miss him. I jokingly told Casey today that I’ll bet he really missed Andy going through security. That, is one of the things he won’t miss. Many other things, of course, are greatly missed, but most of all, he is. I don’t think I’ve talked about his retirement here. Rather than rewriting everything, I’ll include a message we wrote to Lighthouse staff, with a few minor edits:
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2015 9:21 PM
Subject: From Andy
Woof woof everyone,
As of last Thursday morning, I am officially retired. I am writing to tell you all this because it is hard for my dad to talk about right now. I know you will wonder when you do not see me around the office, wagging and being my happy self. I am writing this from the Oregon campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind. A nice lady came on Thursday to pick me up, and I hear that I will probably be going to my first family, my puppy raisers. My dad knows me better than anyone, and he has been noticing how I have not been so excited to work. I feel bad that I have been walking pretty slow these days, and making mistakes more often than usual. Sometimes he gets frustrated, but I have just been getting more tired. It has nothing to do with my old age–God knows I am not old! I am just a hippie at heart, and just want to chill and relax. The other day on our way back from our last walk together, I missed our house. In a way I was glad it happened, because it confirmed to us both that this is indeed the right time. This has been hard for me too. I love my dad, and I am going to miss him. But, I know, as he knows, that this is the best thing and the right time. I also know that we will remember each other forever! Do me a favor and don’t ask him questions about me right now. He is a guy and does not like to show his feelings–these humans are so complicated! If you really want to say something to him about me, it’s better to send an e-mail. Thanks for the favor. Stay warm everybody, And be glad you’re not in Oregon. *wink*
So, that first weekend was extremely hard for Case. We both took Thursday off. Alison Halverson (sp?), from the GDB Oregon campus, came to take Andy back with her. He stayed on campus for a week or two, and then his raiser Cheryl came to get him. She tells us he remembered her right away and got really excited. When they got home, the first thing he did was run in and jump up on the bed where he used to sleep. These dogs have pretty darn good memories!! We know he is happy and much loved, and that helped us deal with the sadness of seeing him go. Case is not getting another dog for now. He does great with his cane—he is a much better cane user than I am. I’m not bad with the cane, just don’t feel very coordinated with it these days. I’m sure it’s the lack of practice. I try to keep my skills up, though, because one never knows when the cane will be needed.
I will probably post this later tonight. I wonder if Keats has been to the beach before. Can’t wait to see what he does.
We are now on the flight back home, and as usual, the time went way too fast. It was great to be able to disconnect from the real world for a few days. We had some much needed R&R, as well as lots of quality time. Let me tell you a little about our trip.
We arrived in Norfolk right on time, and decided to find a local place to have lunch. I wanted to be able to add Virginia to the list of states I’ve visited, so we needed to make it count. Just setting foot in the airport doesn’t qualify as visiting the state in my book. The lady who sat next to me on the plane recommended a place called The Leapin’ Lizard—keats’s kind of place, though as far as I know there weren’t any actual lizards. *wink* We took Uber there and had a nice lunch. We then requested Uber once again, and contacted the driver to let her know of our destination, to make sure she wanted to take such a long trip—it was about 3 and a half hours. She said she was cool with it, and off we went. The fare ended up being much less than a cab or shuttle would’ve been. The same driver was willing to come back for us for our return trip. They don’t have Uber there, so she just did it on her own and we paid her cash.
I really enjoyed our drive there. I was giddy with excitement, the ride was comfortable, the conversation was good, it was kind of fun looking at all the city names on the GPS, and to top it all off, we went by a Sonic drive-in—we’d had a small lunch and were starting to get hungry for a snack. Their fries were soooo yummy! Not sure if I was just hungry, was craving fries, or both. Since I couldn’t decide what shake to get, I got two minis—coconut cream pie and banana cream pie. Though they were small, they were pretty filling. Case got an Oreo cheesecake shake.
To keep this dog-related, my boy was, as usual, a wonderful travel companion. He settled right down everywhere and guided expertly. He was also his usual finicky reliever self, so he hadn’t gone since around 6 in the morning. I had given him several opportunities, but he didn’t end up going until we actually got to our place, almost 11 hours later. Talk about a steel bladder!!
Meredith, one of the employees who checked us in, gave us a nice tour of the place. To our disappointment, especially Casey’s, we soon learned that The AC was centrally controlled, so we did not have a thermostat in our room. AC is veeeeeery important to him! Thankfully it was not really hot in the room, but had it not been for the ceiling fan, it might have been. We could’ve called the office to turn it down, but it was manageable. We went to our room to unpack, get settled, and grab a shower. We had dinner reservations at 7, and we enjoyed our first meal there. We had some kind of mozzarella and fennel salad as an appetizer. Casey had a steak, and I had a dish with cheese grits and shrimp. It was really good, and kind of a specialty of theirs, so I was glad I tried it. We had three little mini desserts, including a little chocolate cake type dessert with a name that I can’t remember. Since it was Casey’s birthday, that was his treat. We relieved Keats and practically fell into bed—we were exhausted! We hadn’t slept much the night before and it had been a long day.
Tuesday morning, we had breakfast at the same restaurant. There was nothing really convenient to get to for meals, so it’s a good thing we liked the restaurant. There was no sidewalk and the Inn is on a Highway—not conducive to walking. Case had the Country Breakfast, which consisted of biscuits and gravy, potatoes, and eggs (he left the eggs out). He raved about those biscuits and gravy the entire time, and all 3 days he had that same breakfast. I, on the other hand, had to vary it up. That morning I had an omelet and an English muffin, Wednesday I had French Toast and a fried egg, and this morning I had a ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top—all delicious! I discovered that I really like mixing pineapple and orange juice. Oh, and they had homemade muffins that were out of this world! The coffee was ok, and come to find out, the nearest Starbucks was 70 miles away. They have an agreement that there cannot be any franchises–everything is locally owned, which is kind of cool actually–even in spite of the Starbucks deprivation. *wink*
After breakfast, we headed over to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, where they have the tallest Lighthouse in the country. Casey had contacted the visitors Center and requested accommodations. We were to meet Dexter, one of the rangers, at 9 that morning, and he would be with us for the next few hours. Chris, the supervisor with whom Case had spoken, was also there to meet us. They presented us with a braille booklet about the cape, which was a nice touch. We proceeded to climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, all 257 steps, 198 feet. I am including a couple of nice pictures of us up there, one with our new friend Dexter. Keats was a trooper. He did great guiding me up, showing me each set of stairs, and being careful where needed. There were 9 steps initially, and then 8 sets of 31 steps each. It was a good thing they had those landings so we could take breaks. Casey wanted to know if the gift shop had anything that said, instead of “I climbed the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse,” “I almost passed out while climbing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.” *wink* Once we made it to the top, it was nice and breezy. Keats seemed to enjoy looking out and around. I took his harness off and the rangers got to love on him. A couple of people even asked to take a picture with him or of him. One cute thing he did was that when one of the rangers called his name to get his attention so she could take a picture, she told me he looked at me for confirmation. That’s my boy! On the way down, he was being reeeeeally cautious. The stairs were steep and kind of narrow. So, I decided to heel him instead of working him down.
Believe it or not, our legs did not give out, and we still found the energy to go on a nature walk. It was nice to be in nature, with the birds and the trees—but not the bugs! We encountered a snake, but were able to pass by quickly without him noticing us. Keats definitely noticed him though, but he just kept on going like the good little worker he is. We also saw a frog, and no, he did not try to chase it. He did chase the flies though. I don’t blame him—they were annoying! One other thing we encountered along the way, which we weren’t warned about, were the infamous ticks. Boy, they were everywhere! They got on Keats, on us, and somehow managed to crawl in through my jeans–I found some on my legs later on. Yuck!! I really did not want to identify with my dog this much, Ok? Thankfully, the Nexgard Keats is on seems to be doing its job, because the ones that had started attaching to him were dead. There were many on him though, so we had to check him when we were done. In conversation with Dexter, we discovered he had a degree in animal science and had worked at a vet clinic. After our nature walk, he graciously volunteered to put that knowledge and training to use, checking Keats for ticks several times, very thoroughly I might add. This was way beyond the call of duty. WE were so very thankful for that act of kindness, especially Keats. How amazingly God provides for us. What are the chances of that happening?! Oh yes, and he made several comments about how well cared for Keats is. Made me feel like a proud mama.
We went to the gift shop and spent way too much on souvenirs. We did not, in fact, find anything that said we had almost passed out while climbing the Lighthouse, to Casey’s disappointment. *smile* We took the Island Hopper Shuttle back to the inn, and relaxed on the dock by the water, which, by the way, has no railings. Can we say trust your dog?!
Let me take a moment to tell you about another one of those angels we encountered on our trip. His name is Mitch and he is 13 years old. When we arrived on Monday, he offered to help take our bag to the room. He came along on our tour and guided Casey. He seemed to be a natural at human guide, and was great at giving all kinds of helpful cues. He offered to take us out on a kayak, which sounded like much fun. While we were sitting at the dock the next day, he came over and we chatted for a while. I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a few nice pictures of the scenery, and he was happy to do that for us. He told us he lived a couple of houses away and that he came after school to help pull weeds and help around the place. We thought it was great of his mom to encourage that kind of responsibility so early on.
Case and I had talked about watching a movie that night. They have a 14-seat theater with surround sound. The idea of going to the movies for free was too good to pass up—at least for me—and I have an amazing husband who does things like that just to make me happy. *smile* So, we were told there was a book with all the movies they had available, and we were going to have to scan the pages to look through it. I mean, we could have asked someone at the office to help us go through it, but we have KNFB Reader, so we thought we’d give it a shot. However, Mitch offered to help us, and we took him up on it. We also agreed that he would meet us the next day around 3:15 to go kayaking.
I fed Keats and took him out, then decided to give him a little practice staying by himself in the room. He does not like to stay by himself, and to be honest, I rarely do it. I think it’s good for him to know that it’s ok, and that I’ll be back. Of course, since the restaurant was literally next door to our room, it was easy for me to check in on him every so often. A couple of times I went by and just stood at the door. He seemed to do ok. The two times I went in, he was right at the door and got so happy to see me. I tried not to make a big deal, just matter-of-factly told him I’d be back and to be good. I also gave him a treat one of the times I came back and thanked him for being quiet. There were a couple of times at the school that he barked and carried on when I left him alone. A couple of times at work, he has gone out looking for me when left in the office for more than a few minutes alone, and once or twice he has whined a little for me. Most of the time this is not the case. I will sometimes leave him in the office if I’m teaching in the kitchen and it’s hectic. The kitchen is just a few feet from my office, so he can still hear me. Anyhow, all this to say it’s not something he loves, but its something we need to make sure he is ok with.
For dinner that night, I had mahi with some veggies—it was the catch of the day and was delicious! Case tried something called pig cheeks, which were super tender. We did not have dessert that night, to save room for popcorn and soda. I took a shower and then we headed to the theater. We had let the office know we wanted to watch Miss Congeniality, so they set it up in there. We grabbed popcorn from our room–they had provided us with a little basket with snacks. There was also soda in the community fridge. So, off to the movies we went, well-supplied with movie food, trying to keep the popcorn bag from getting wet and soggy–it was raining. Somehow we managed. We were the only ones in the theater. It, along with the rain showers, was a nice end to the day.
The rest of this account was written from the comfort of our own couch.
Wednesday was a pretty relaxing day. We hung around the Inn, relaxed, played cards, wrote a nice e-mail to compliment the staff at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and in the afternoon, went kayaking. We ended up at the pool, and surprisingly enough, the water was pretty warm, even though a mild cold front had come through that morning.
We decided to splurge a little for our last dinner there. We each had a salad for an appetizer. We tried some sort of curry carrot soup which I thought was pretty good but Case wasn’t too crazy about. We both had steak, and tried some sort of interesting dessert that I’m not sure how to describe or what it’s called. TO me, it’s like really thin butter cookies layered with some type of custard and some raspberries. Casey liked the part that didn’t have the raspberries. *wink* We also had a couple of celebratory drinks. I had never had melon liquor before, and when mixed with pineapple juice and coconut rum, it’s delicious! Casey said they make a darn good Manhattan. I’ll take his word for it—not my kind of drink. We slept with the windows open that night, as the temperature was in the 60’s.
Our last morning there, we actually woke up around 5. For Case, that’s not anything out of the ordinary. For me, it’s pretty surprising. But, I wanted to see the sunrise on our balcony. For those who don’t know, we do have light perception, so though we can’t see the sun itself, we can see its light. We had breakfast out there, listening to the birds, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Sometimes, it was just nice to stop and listen to the quiet.
We loved our little balcony, which looked out onto the Pamlico Sound. There was just a chain between the balconies, and I hadn’t noticed that initially. My little boy just hung out with us out there and never tried to go exploring to the other balconies—well, that is, until that very last day when there was another dog out there and he decided it would be interesting to go check him out. I let him sniff around for a minute or two, and as soon as I called him back, he came bounding over. He always sat at the door and waited for the ok before going outside—he’s the best! During that last morning, I groomed him and trimmed his nails. I am always thankful for his trust in me while doing this, and don’t ever take it for granted. He behaves beautifully!
After breakfast, we went out to the dock and read out there for a while. This is when we decided to leave a little piece of our technology in the Pamlico Sound. I had my BookSense in my pocket, and it slipped out, landing on the deck. Thankfully it did not slip between the wooden planks … but the impact caused the SD card to shoot out and it was not seen again. Thank God I had backed it up before I left. Some fish down there got really smart reading all those books from the SD card. *wink*
We packed, checked out, and waited for our Uber driver, with whom we had been in contact by text messages. Our ride back was uneventful. We grabbed a quick bite on the way, and made it to the airport with plenty of time. The temperature had dropped to 61 degrees, and the wind made it feel a lot cooler. It was also raining. Too bad we couldn’t bring the cool weather down with us!
We flew Southwest both ways, and both were direct flights. Go Case for finding great ones! On the flight up, the lady who sat next to us told us about a coworker who also has a service dog. She said she was going to give her the link to this blog. I was so glad to see she has already visited and left a comment. Yay for new connections! *smile*
After we landed at OIA, we walked to baggage claim with our neighbor from the flight. She said her fiancé was picking her up and offered to give us a ride home when she found out how close we live to the airport—another unexpected kindness for which we were very appreciative. After traipsing around the airport trying to locate where he had parked, we were on our way back home. It seemed hard to believe that we were coming back already! ON the plane, our new friend had mentioned that she was looking for a good pair of headphones. So, when we pulled up in our driveway, rather than trying to give her gas money, I gave her my headphones. We encountered so many giving and helpful people on this trip. The least thing we could do was pay it forward a little. She was super appreciative, and I could tell it meant a lot. They are nice headphones and they will serve her well on the plane ride home and beyond.
Exactly one week ago, I began writing this entry. It’s gone on long enough so I will post it now, just as soon as I finish this paragraph. *smile* Though we were a bit sad to leave the Outer Banks behind, with its natural beauty, nice weather, and most of all, the opportunity to disconnect for a few days, as the saying goes, there is no place like home. We were glad to get home at last and sleep in our own bed, with AC that we could control! *wink* We were also very happy to leave behind the mosquitoes and ticks. After finding one more tick on Keats Friday morning (guess it wanted free passage to Orlando), I called the vet, and they said that in the event that there were any left, they would shrivel up and fall off because the Nexgard would kill them. I did not see anymore and think we’re home free. I brushed him again and also bathed him this weekend. I just love the way he feels right after a bath—all squeaky clean, silky and fluffy. If you’re still with us, thanks for coming along on our journey. Until next time, be well, and don’t ever underestimate the need for getting away from the routine. It can do wonders for your mental health!