Category: Aspen Blue

All the Pretty Moments

Basil Hayden scared the living shit out of me two days ago. He suddenly refused to eat. All at once everything that happened to Remington came back to me, three years later. Aspen had a seizure the night after.

All the stress.

Basil is fine. He just had a bad case of worms. Aspen is fine, the seizure was a normal and a bit overdue part of his epilepsy.

But it struck me hard once again: we are our pets’ stewards. I held Basil, like I held Remington, and I asked him not to leave me. Remington did. He couldn’t hang on. Basil stayed. He wasn’t suffering from the same problem.

He’s looking at me right now, wondering why I am misty eyed while Aspen barks in the corner, unable to hear himself.

We are their stewards.

On the morrow.

My ride share had to cancel this morning, her son is ill. So I tried to catch the valley shuttle bright and early to get me out to work at HBO in time for our morning Stand Up meeting. I love the work being done there and wish I could talk about it but I cant. Suffice to say they are an amazing team of people doing amazing work on amazing things that are amazing and I’m just really proud to be a part of it.

But their offices are in downtown Seattle, roughly 27 miles as the crow flies from my house. By bus on the best of days that’s an hour and twenty minute commute.

This wasn’t the best of days, weather wise. I let Aspen out for his morning routine and did sign language to him in praise while I gave him his anti-seizure meds. It was cloudy out and raining that classic late-January Seattle rain. Misty and a bit clingy more than pure drops out of the sky. It smelled wonderful outside, and Aspen looked like he was covered in dew from it during his morning constitutional.

I love living in the country. I’ve been here ten years now. If you get the chance, try to spend some time living somewhat remotely. I’m not saying it’s better than living in the city, I’m saying a radically different experience sometimes cleanses the mind.

I tended to my own morning routine and donned my “rain shoes”. Yes in Seattle you usually have to have a pair of shoes dedicated to the purpose of walking in the rain. The shuttle pickup stop is roughly three quarters of a mile down the ridge from my house and my canvas Vans weren’t going to cut it. I have a wonderful new greatcoat I bought for the Child’s Play dinner this year that I trot out for the cold and rainy days. I shrugged my way into it, put on my hat, tucked my ipad into the inside pocket, and began my walk. I paused for a moment at the door and listened. I’m not sure why I did it, but there’s something about the sound of rain lightly hitting the trees and the house in the morning that never, ever gets old. Even a misty rain can be loud in just the right moment.

I walked. All around me commuters passed me by and I was wondering what they were thinking of me. Was it “Oh that poor guy trudging in the rain somewhere” or was it “oh man. I wish I could just walk around in the morning instead of driving to work”?

aaaaannnnnnd I missed the shuttle. I wasn’t walking slowly, there was a slight pause in my walk as a family of deer foraged up the hill halfway the journey by one of the housing subdivisions. I thought about taking a picture, but deer in Duvall are fairly common and I was in a really good mood and although I’m not “that guy” lecturing people about enjoying a moment as opposed to stopping to phone-cam it, I enjoyed the moment instead of phone-camming it. I was probably 30 seconds from the bus stop, and a good 7 minutes ahead of the shuttle’s pickup time, when the shuttle blew right past me.

I went with my first instinct, “Oh no that’s the only shuttle for the morning bus runs!” and realized the best I could hope for to reach work would be late morning. I raised my hand and took a few urgent sprint strides before realizing there was no way this was going to work. I stopped, the rain still making that soft patter in the mist, and continued on to the stop just in case that was perhaps a duplicate shuttle or one running really late.

Suffice to say, that was my ride. I stood at the stop until ten past the pickup time and resigned myself to doing some work from home until I could catch the next run of buses an hour or two hence.

The sky had brightened considerably and the actual droplets of rain had increased. My coat and hat made me feel like Tom Reagan in Miller’s Crossing. I imagined a world where I returned home, put a record on my new turntable I just bought, poured a whisky, and sat like a person in a simpler time until things coalesced back to where the things I had no control over aligned again to get me where I needed to be. I was somewhat amused by this line of thinking when I saw the deer again.

They had moved down the hill and were standing square in the center of the road. The curve at the top of the ridge where I live offers a long line of sight to anyone coming down the road, but to anyone going up it’s a blind turn. And the speed limit, while 35, is routinely broken. My appreciation for them standing stock still in the road, a doe and two very young offspring, was countered almost immediately by considering the likelihood of someone hitting them. Sure enough I turned and around the bend were two cars. I raised my hands up in a waving motion, then my hands pushing down in the road construction crew “slow down” motion. They slowed and I pointed to around the curve. They crawled around the bend and saw the deer.

The deer were nonplussed.

This represented a problem. They were in the road. Two cars, albeit with blinkers on, were on a blind uphill curve. I tried everything I could think of: my phone’s ringtone, shouting, etc. I was even considering quickly downloading a bobcat or cougar roar on my phone when the entire family of deer, with a measure of somewhat aloof disdain, snorted and moved off the road into the brush. The cars passed. I stood for a moment. The entire situation had lasted maybe 60 or 90 seconds.

Living in the country.

I made it back home, hung up my coat and hat. I sent a mail letting work know I’d be delayed and my work item updates. I took a look at the phonograph I just bought (it’s this one by the way) still in its wrapping and debated opening it.

On the morrow, I decided. I’m still waiting for some tiny bookshelf speakers en route to accompany it.

The rain still made noise around the house. Aspen, Eowyn, Adia, and Rochelle were asleep upstairs. A new puppy, Basil Hayden, is asleep up in Canada. We see him soon.

I sit at my desk now, finishing a wiki for work, getting ready to catch the next run downtown. Might have dinner with some friends tonight. Finishing up a long overdue project in the late evening.

And I might see those deer again in the morning.

Meet Aspen Blue Toulouse

Meet the new member of our family, Aspen Blue.


Rochelle and I work with a breeder we’re good friends with for when we get a new dog, but we try to make every other dog that joins our family a rescue dog. Buddy, for instance was a rescue. And technically Eowyn is because her initial family rejected her.

We’ve known Aspen for a couple of months now and have shared foster duties for him. Aspen was dealt a pretty shitty hand of cards genetics wise, he’s a Miniature Australian Shepherd bred double blue merle. If you’re wondering what that means this link gives you all the information.

Aspen is deaf and partially blind in one eye. He’s also mildly epileptic (we believe that his epilepsy is now at the right medication level as he has not had a seizure in a month)

Breeding double merles is an incredibly cruel and irresponsible thing to do. In the genetics lottery you will statistically lose a quarter of the litter being stillborn, and another quarter to half of the litter being born deaf or blind or both. Breeders do it because for those that survive with healthy traits, as you can see from Aspen’s picture his coat is a beautiful marble of white and grey and blue, doesn’t shed, and is the softest fur I have ever felt. So healthy ones fetch a crazy high price.

The rest are culled or abandoned. It’s an absolutely shitty thing to do as a breeder and I hope I never meet Aspen’s. Breeding two merle trait dogs isn’t illegal but is absolutely frowned upon in the dog breeding community, the American Kennel Association refuses to register double merles and dog shows usually do not allow them to be shown. I’m getting pissed off just writing this.

But Aspen? This boy doesn’t have any idea he’s been dealt a shitty hand. He’s a happy one year old that plays in the yard, runs around like a normal puppy, and like most Aussie shepherds is a bit of a mountain goat in terms of climbing on things like couches and tables.


He gets along great with Eowyn and Adia, and one of the fun personal growth challenges with caring for him is learning doggy sign language (there is such a thing!) and making sure that however long he’s with us he has an amazing life. He’s sensitive to vibration so although he cannot “hear” if you thump the floor he knows to look at you and sometimes feel the vibration of your voice.

While the prospects of him having a normal life span grow better every day, he’s still young enough that problems (like the recently developed epilepsy) could impact his quality of life. But dogs like Aspen face a real challenge in being adopted (and in some cases, like the issue with epilepsy if it wasn’t controlled, are deemed “not adoptable” and have to be put down) so we’re glad to step up and help.

With his being deaf he won’t get to enjoy all the things we like to do like our free roam dog park (it’s too big and his vision problem means recalling him is really difficult at a distance) but he will get to see his Flyball friends every week, his wonderful foster parents who gave him this chance at a forever home, He’s happy taking a break in his crate while we take the goldens to the park, and in every other way he’s a normal puppy. He even has a cool bright blue torso harness that says “I’m deaf! AND AWESOME!” for when we walk him or take him places so people know. He’s already a big favorite at our local pet supply store All The Best.

If you’re going to get a puppy, be sure to go through a reputable breeder and not a puppy mill like a pet store or something.

But if you get a chance, consider a rescue. The challenges can be great but the rewards are too. So welcome to the family boy blue*!


*Yes I have already taken to yelling “You’re my boy, Blue!” from Old School at him. He can’t hear me, but it makes me chuckle every time. I’m easily amused.