Category Archives: Dogs

Why Didn’t I Leave Brooklyn Sooner?

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Why didn’t I leave the City sooner? This is a question I often ask myself. I’ve been living in the Hudson Valley for two years after living in Brooklyn for fifteen. My last few years in Brooklyn were like being in a bad relationship, it held so much promise but really couldn’t deliver. Like somehow if I stayed there maybe my dreams of being a writer-musician-wunderkind would come true, but in reality I was working so much I had nothing left at the end of the day to pursue my creativity.

I stayed because of my business. I just didn’t know how I would make money somewhere else. I stayed because of my ego. There’s some kind of identity of being a New Yorker that I wanted to hang onto. I had worked so hard to carve out my little niche that I was reluctant to give it up.

But I was so stressed out from the noise, crowds, constant stimulation, and work that my adrenals were shot, my system was inflamed and I became depressed. Everything looked great on paper- I had the business, husband, apartment but then I couldn’t get out of bed. The suicidal thoughts came and wouldn’t stop which led to shrinks, more and more meds, hospitalizations, and eventually ECT (electroshock therapy), which affected my memory and left me a shell of my former self.

We couldn’t keep going in the city. I somehow sold my business during all this, and while I was on my psych hospital tour of 2015, my husband moved all our stuff into storage upstate. We moved into the tiny weekend cottage in Catskill that we had been renting for a few years. No jobs and no guarantees that we were going to be ok. Nothing.

I wouldn’t have ever left if I hadn’t gotten so sick, that I am certain of. I would’ve worked myself literally to death. But now what would become of us?

The same day my husband moved our stuff into storage he got a job interview in his field up in Albany and he actually got the job. It was a 45-minute commute, but some people do that or more in the City crushed in a subway car with half of humanity. A typical NYC kid he’d only gotten his license in the past year after a lot of prodding from me. Now he had to buy a car and drive to Albany every day. Thankfully, the thruway between Catskill & Albany traffic really isn’t all that bad. His commute would be air conditioning, music, and mountains on either side, not riding in a subway car with a pair of discarded shit filled underwear across the aisle like he did his last few weeks in NYC.

I, on the other hand, was a mess. The depression was better, but I wasn’t totally out of the woods. I struggled with the trauma of the past year in hospitals and losing my life in the city, my business, etc. I worried the only job I could get would be working a Target at the depressed Hudson Valley Mall. But at least I’d have a nice view of the mountains. If I had to work at Lowes the same was true. And if I worked at Stewarts at least I’d probably get free ice cream.

One thing we held onto in this transition was the fact that none of our friends who had left the City and moved upstate said they regretted it and wished they could go back. They had vibrant lives and families and time to enjoy them.

For work I boarded and trained dogs and I opened a small gift and pet related shop in Saugerties called Dogerties. I had always wanted to have a little shop and the rent was so reasonable. I couldn’t have afforded to do it in the City. I started sewing and making dog coats, pillows, and bandanas. I had always wanted to learn to sew but never had time. While I was sitting in the slow shop I wrote and played music a little, but mainly I just recovered from the past year or years it had taken to get me to this place.

We were able to buy a house, a simple ranch on 7 acres, with a creek and mountain views. Our mortgage is less than a studio apartment in the City. We could sit out on the back deck and watch the pink and orange sunset over the mountains.

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I took my dog for walks on the different trails nearby, the Comeau in Woodstock, the Lighthouse & Falling waters in Saugerties, some of the easy hikes in the mountains near Tannersville. I read. I listened to music. I slept. I ate and gained weight from the psych meds and not walking everywhere in the City. I went to the gym.

Sometimes, I got frustrated about my weight and tried to go down on my meds or switch and wound up feeling like shit again and going back up. Some days I cried and was scared I was falling back down the hole again, but usually the next day would be a little better. I just had to be patient, which has never been my strong suit.

I met other writers, artists, musicians, and instead of them being competitive as they were in the City, they were oddly nice and supportive. They weren’t worried about who your agent was or how many books or records you’ve sold. There are a lot of sharp elbows in the City. Upstate people are just excited to meet and experience another creative.

Dogerties was losing money despite my best efforts and I knew I would close when my lease was up at the end of the year. I’m glad I got to try having a shop, but honestly, sitting around waiting for someone to come in is not for me. But I value the experience as something I wouldn’t have had in the City. I made friends with the other shop owners in town and met a lot of nice people.

I didn’t know what I would do next, but I got more and more interested in real estate since I had been looking at Hudson Valley & Catskill Real Estate for so many years in the City. The real estate agent who had sold us our house became a friend and encouraged me to study for my real estate license. I passed and got a job at her company. I really enjoy it, but it is a lot of work and you’re never sure if you’ll actually make money. I’ve done pretty well so far selling a few houses in my first year and I hope with the hustle I learned in NYC I’ll be able to make my business grow to sustain me.

I went back to Brooklyn recently for the first time in two years. A lot of friends have moved away and the few we have left there are anxiously hanging on or planning their exit. Brooklyn has become a caricature of itself. Everything is “Brooklyn” loft or “Brooklyn” coffee or “Brooklyn” mayonnaise. I don’t even think Brooklyn is in Brooklyn anymore.

When I moved there in 2000 Brooklyn was creative, rough around the edges, rife with possibility. I see all that more in Catskill and Kingston than in Brooklyn these days. It’s exciting to be a part of a community again where regular not wealthy people are starting out shops, galleries, restaurants, doing their art, and finding their way.

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I think it’s possible upstate because it’s more affordable and there is more down time, which is what Brooklyn used to be. Now Brooklyn is more expensive—the art space that used to be around the corner from me is now a gym, the tattoo shop an insurance firm, the record shop a bank.

I’ll never be grateful for the sickness that drove me out of the city, but I am grateful for the life I have today. It’s quiet, but not boring, there’s actually so much going on in the Hudson Valley & Catskills that I can’t do everything. From music shows, to literary readings, to gallery openings, to hiking, swimming, and farming. I thought I would feel isolated, but I’m always running into someone in town that I know, always meeting yet another City expat or weekender that wishes they could be here full time.

I think the best gift that this move has given me is that now I know I can hustle anywhere. NYC gave me the gift of making me tough, creative, and resourceful and now I get to do that in a beautiful place where I actually have time to enjoy it.

If I could’ve told myself anything a few years ago it would’ve been just to leave. Leave before it gets so bad you have to leave. Life is too short to be miserably hanging onto what you think you are and where you think you need to be. Just fucking leap, you will land and it may be even better than you’d thought it would be.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Catskills, depression, Dogs, Hudson Valley, Moving, Music, NY, Poetry, Spirituality, Upstate, weight loss, Writing

A Simple Heart- My Struggles with Insanity

No one ever really sets out to lose their mind. The hardest part is trying to piece it back together, particularly after ECT. Yeah shock therapy, yeah they still do that. It helps a lot of people but it didn’t really help me. It just made me confused and depressed instead of just depressed. I had 14 of those motherfuckers, so you can imagine it left me pretty confused afterwards. It makes you lose your memory which you’re supposed to get back over time or at least that’s what everyone tells you. I’m still waiting.

I’m not really sure what happened. I’d lived in Brooklyn fifteen years running a successful dog walking, training, and pet sitting service, which I loved. But managing people as it grew was a constant source of stress. As you can imagine the turnover rate is pretty high and people drawn to the profession aren’t always the most responsible. I had one guy lose a whole set of keys twice and then quit and then try to claim unemployment so I’m getting audited by the department of labor which is a nightmare of paperwork.

I was (am) happily married, we had an apartment in a nice neighborhood, Park Slope, until they built the fucking Barclay Center which totally ruined things. They started throwing up high rises left and right and every rich douche from Manhattan started moving in. It became crowded, expensive, and unbearable. I started wearing earplugs just to leave the apartment, sometimes in the apartment along with the fucking white noise machine so you can attempt to sleep through neighbors and sirens and the like.

So we moved to Clinton Hill, a little quieter neighborhood which it turned out was kind of a transportation nightmare with the old neighborhood and work. The G train isn’t the best line to be on. And when you work from home and your business is based in another neighborhood, and parking subway are pretty much ridiculous what do you do? If you are me you have a nervous breakdown apparently.

It wasn’t just that, it was like life was this giant game of Jenga and the pieces kept getting pulled out until the whole thing just fucking toppled. You’ll have to excuse my use of the F-word, I’m hoping at some point this whole thing becomes a spiritual experience but right now it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and there is no other word to adequately express myself.

So one of the biggest Jenga pieces happened that February. We had been renting a cottage upstate a few hours to get away near Saugerties and Woodstock. We paid for it by bringing dogs up for a country get away. We’d sometimes throw 5 dogs in the car and take them up. It was ridiculous. Some of my happiest memories (that I can remember) were there. The dogs loved it and we did too, the simplicity, the nature, the small town.

One time we went to the movies in Saugerties and we got their 30 minutes early to make sure we could get seats like you do in the city. The theater wasn’t even open yet. Turns out they don’t open until like ten minutes before the movie starts because unlike the city doing a normal activity isn’t a shit show you have to plan for as if you’re going to battle. After the movies we’d go get pie at the local diner or visit our friend Rae who runs a kick as chocolate shop/ café that she lets us bring our dog into. We’d take the dogs on nature hikes and send pictures to their owners who were ecstatic because their dogs seemed so joyful in nature.

The cottage we rented from a really great artistic couple of NYC ex-pats who lived in a bigger house on the property. The cottage was small but the land was big, we had a few fenced in areas but were also surrounded but a hill, woods, and a creek. We tested the dogs on a long line always to make sure they would stay close and listed if we let them off leash. They’d swim in the creek chase each other around and basically have a blast. The cottage this place was our safe place our sanctuary from the cares of NYC until February 2015.

norms rock

Norman king of the creek

Norman running free Norman creek

We took my dog, Phoebe, and another terrier mix Norman upstate for the weekend. Norman had been up several times and listened really well so we had no reason to not let him off leash. Phoebe is a smart somewhat mischievous dog who kept testing the boundaries of how far she could go from us. She particularly liked going up the hill on one side of the property to try to find deer poop to roll in which was it’s own joy to deal with. She took off that day up the hill and Norman followed her. We followed them immediately not liking any of the dogs to be out of eyesight. We kept calling for Norman. Phoebe finally came back without him and I knew then something was wrong. I heard a hawk screech above us. I got in my car and started driving up the road to look for him to see if he’d just gotten lost or something. Dennis kept searching the woods. I rounded the corner and there he was dead on the side of the road. Some motherfucker had hit him and didn’t even stop. I screamed and burst into tears. I put him into the car and drove back to the house honking the horn and yelling for Dennis.

Harry and Catherine our landlords came out to see what all the commotion was I was sobbing so hard there was snot running down my face. I could barely speak. I love animals more than people because they have a simple heart unlike people who always have their hearts covered and cloaked by the things they’ve had to live through. There’s none of that with dogs. They just love you. I called Norman’s owners hysterical they couldn’t have been more understanding of the accident. I asked if they wanted me to bring him back to the city or bury him up there. They told me to bury him up there. Harry got a shovel and helped us dig a hole. I wrapped Norman in my favorite Walt Whitman T Shirt and said some prayers. I can’t stop blaming myself.

I was in shock, this couldn’t have happened in our one safe place to one of the dogs I had loved and cared for for years. But it did happen. I haven’t been the same since. If you told me I would lose my mind over a dog dying I would’ve told you to fuck off. I’m from Brooklyn I can handle that. But like dogs I have a gentle heart as much as I try to act tough.

The depression started soon after. First I didn’t want to go up to the cottage, then I didn’t want to be in the city. I started having trouble getting out of bed, leaving the house, basically functioning and showing up for life. Then the suicidal thoughts started coming. I’ve been on meds and in therapy most of my adult life for depression but it had never been like this, it had always been manageable. The hospitalizations started and endless series of doctors in the city and upstate. The darkness came and went but was always there. My mom came up and stayed with me for a while upstate since Dennis was working in the city. I put one of my trusted employees in charge of things for the most part and attended about a month long partial hospitalization program. That helped and the people of Kingston/ Benedictine hospital are very kind.

I decided I couldn’t go back to the city. And even got a receptionist job at the local SPCA. I decided to sell my business. I worked out a deal with another dog walking company I knew. But then after a few weeks I started to feel better and I also started to get scared. How could I let go of the business I had worked so hard to build for a part time job in a city my husband wasn’t even in yet. I went back to Brooklyn and that’s when it got really bad. I asked for the business back and the buyer obliged but I couldn’t run in I could barely function yet again. So I wound up selling it to her again for a smaller percentage. I didn’t feel like I had a choice I was painted into a corner and didn’t exactly have the time or energy or sanity to go looking for another buyer who would keep my employees and customers in tact and happy.

I went back upstate, my mom came back. They put me in the hospital again. They changed my meds again. Nothing but darkness, an empty hole where I used to be able to feel things. I kept asking my mom to kill me. We didn’t know what to do so I drove back to Florida with her. We were scared if she left me alone up there I’d try to kill myself.

A day after we got to Florida they put me back in hospital. Psyche wards are just not a place you ever want to be more on that later. I can’t remember much about that hospitalization because that’s where they gave me ECT. They would put me under 3 times a week and shock me. I’d wake up confused, but I guess they thought I was getting better because they kept doing it. Then they released me on like six different medicines I needed a chart to keep track of. They enrolled me in a Partial Hospitalization Program. On the third day I told them I was having suicidal thought and they kicked me out. They said I had to go back to the emergency room. Fuck that the first time I waited 28 hours to get help there and so far I was still fucked up. They referred me to a shrink who referred me to Wakiva another behavioral treatment hospital.

At this point I had what I know now is called Akathisia which is an inability to stop moving. I was pacing, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still. Apparently, this was a side effect from all the medicines I was on. They admitted me at Wachiva to a ward where a woman wouldn’t stop screaming cuss words all day and night which I can tell you doesn’t do a whole lot for your depression. They took me off all the meds then called me bipolar (which no one ever had before) and put me on lithium. I thought it was working cause the shaking and pacing stopped so they discharged me. But then seven nights went by without me being able to sleep. I stayed up all night pacing. (Add More about hospital homeless and starting an AA meeting)

This time they put me in the hospital at River Point (which is nowhere near a river I can assure you). There they took me off lithium and put me on prozac. They eventually, discharged me to their Partial Hospitalization program even though I kept asking if they thought I was ready because I was still crying and having suicidal thoughts. They told me to let the meds kick in. They didn’t so the new doctor I started seeing put me on Brintellex. Which mad me nauseous and gave me diarrhea. I’ve been on it 3 weeks, with lamictal, and kolonopin. I had a good week when I was going down on the prozac and up on the Brintellex but then he tool me off the Prozac. Suicidal thoughts again.

Meanwhile my husband Dennis up in NY and I guess I (don’t remember) decided to sell our apartment and move upstate. He got a job and moved everything. Himself with the help of some of our friends. I want to go back but I have to get stable enough. I had a dream the other night that I hung myself at the cottage which was enough to scare the shit out of me. I don’t know what to do at this point. I’m sleeping on my parents couch and going to partial. I’m scared sometimes to leave the house or drive but I’m making myself.

I’m in AA for 18 years so I go to meetings and call people. I do step work. I’m trying to change my belief in God to something more positive working the second step “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” but I’m so fucking mad at God right now. All I’ve done for the past 18 years of my sobriety is try to help other people get sober, do service work, even in my job I just wanted to help people and when I really, really need and am begging God for help it feels like he’s nowhere to be found. I suppose he’s in the people who have helped keep me alive until now. But I just keep begging for this depression to lift. I want what’s left of my life back. I miss my husband. I’ve been in Florida for four months trying to get well. My poor fucking parents. They are saints of patience. I just keeping praying for God to heal me. There are days I feel like I can’t go on but I can’t just kill myself. It would hurt too many people, and I know this is just my diseased mind.

NYC pissed me off a lot but I don’t know if I was ready to leave my business, apartment, and friends. Not in this way. It didn’t feel like much of a choice. It seemed like survival. Sometimes, I wish I could’ve stayed there and gotten the help I needed and gotten through it. Maybe I could have but that isn’t what happened. When I get well I don’t know what I’m going to do in rural NY. I suppose I can do some pet sitting, I want to learn dog grooming, and I can still train dogs. That part of my memory seems to be coming back. I don’t know when this will lift. I’m hanging on by a thread, hopefully someday I’ll be able to help someone else with this experience. If I make it through. I’m a goddamn warrior though, I’m not going down with out a fight.

normanface

Here’s a poem I wrote for Norman and his folks

Pay Attention!
for Norman

You had so much to say when I met you barking, Look a dog!
A pigeon!
Look a lady smiling!

Would you look?!
Do you see?!
Barreling breathlessly along with an occasional hop Your short legs struggling to keep up
With your riotous exuberance for every creature Under the wide open sky. Shiny under-bite smile Electric shock of white hair and brown eyes beg Pay attention!
Do you see that hawk over the hill?!
River rock juts up and out, a perfect perch
for you to survey all of God’s creation.
Pay attention!
Don’t worry, just run through green fields
Chase me or I’ll chase you!
Pay Attention!
Remember to play, and jump, and tease despite The cold November freeze and chest aching.
Cold has come and grey has settled into winter.
I will always remember what you taught me
to delight in the trees and wonder at the flowers, insects buzzing. The Spring must come again
with new life blooming, and we will pay attention.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, God, NY, Poetry, Spirituality, Upstate

Leroy Found a Home!

leroy smiling

Thank you all for your support, I just wanted to update everyone that Leroy has found a forever home! After posting the blog, we were contacted by a few interested people. Leroy went on some “dates” with potential adopters and they were all really kind people. We felt the best match was with some of my dog walking clients, Abby & Mike, who already have 10-year-old female shepherd mix named Max.

Abby, Mike, Max, & Leroy

Abby, Mike, Max, & Leroy

Abby & Mike live on the 2nd floor of an elevator building in Prospect Heights. I felt they understood the needs and responsibilities an older dog can present. Stairs are an issue for senior dogs, especial large ones that can’t be carried so their living situation is ideal. It is also wonderful that Max who is sometimes anxious will now have a calm companion dog her own age. They can nap & chew on squeaky toys together and enjoy their retirement. Abby & Mike promise to spoil the hell out of both of them.

Our dog Phoebe begging for bagels with Leroy

Our dog Phoebe begging for bagels with Leroy

My husband and I are sad to see Leroy go as he’s become a goofy part of our family but our cat and dog couldn’t be happier to their house and our attention back on them. I’m grateful I’ll still get to walk and visit Leroy since he’s so close by.

If anyone is still interested in adopting a pit mix, I do know a wonderful female named Loretta who is being fostered by a friend of mine. She’s a bit younger and loves to play fetch, snuggle, and is great with other dogs. I’ve posted her info below.

LorettaFlier

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs

Sweet Found Dog Needs a Good Home!

On Monday 8/4/2014 I took my dog, Phoebe, up to Fort Greene Park for off leash hours around 8:30am. When I arrived at the park, I saw my friend Anna Holmes sitting by a large brindle pit bull mix who was tied by a thin yellow rope to the bench. I asked what was going on and she said she and others had been sitting with him since 6:30am that morning. People brought him water and food and someone went to get an old collar to put on him so the rope wouldn’t hurt his neck. He was panting and nervous but friendly. He had a cough and was pretty dirty, with lots of loose shed hair on his smooth coat. Anna Holmes was calling the no kill shelters to see if they could take him but none opened until 11am. She said she’d take him there in a car service. I didn’t have to start work until 1130 so I offered to take them in my car.

Leroy en route to vet on his first day.

Leroy en route to vet on his first day.

We took him to Sean Casey but they had 30 pit mixes they were trying to adopt out already and couldn’t take him. They scanned him for a microchip but of course he didn’t have one. We took him to the vet to get him checked out and get medicine for his cough. I had to run to work for a while so Anna Holmes stayed with him. She wanted to take him home after but her dog T-bone doesn’t do well with intact male dogs.

photo 2-2

I called my husband to see if the dog could come to our house for a few days until we could figure out what to do with him. If the dog wound up at a kill shelter he would certainly be put down due to his breed, the cough, and the fact that he was probably between 9-10 years old. My husband agreed that we could bring him home temporarily. I called one of my dog walking clients who has large dogs and asked to borrow his crate. He agreed so I ran by to pick it up en route to get Anna Holmes and the dog we were now calling “Leroy.”

panting

Leroy could’ve been scared and aggressive towards me, Anna Holmes, the vet, or any of the people or dogs we’d encountered that morning but he was sweet and goofy with all of us. He was probably nicer than my little terrier Phoebe who sometimes meets strange dogs and people showing her teeth or growling if they are too forward with her.

walking

It’s been a week and a half and Leroy is still at my house. Lots of people volunteered to help out with vet bills but no one could take him to their house. We have a few leads on homes but because of his possible kennel cough we’re waiting to introduce him in case he’s contagious. We plan on getting him neutered as soon as his lungs have healed from the cough and he can handle anesthesia.

leroy napping

Leroy mostly wants to lie around and be with people and dogs. He’s housebroken and loves squeaky toys. In fact we got him a few and now he tries to carry them both around in his mouth, which is ridiculous. He’s a bit dopey, sees his reflection and thinks it’s another dog to say hello to. We did a full senior panel on him at the vet and he’s parasite & heartworm free. His cough is starting to get better and I’m working on training him the basics. He has a lot of calluses on his arms so the vet thought he might have laid on concrete a lot. We gave him a bed but he mostly lies on the floor.

He gets along well with my dog despite her sulking about not being the center of attention. Phoebe occasionally growls at him when he crowds her space and he just walks away apologetically like he can’t help that he’s a big oaf. I actually used him in a training session with a small reactive (barky) dog, and he handled it beautifully. He simply moved away from the dog and turned away so we could work with him. He didn’t get nasty back at all.

toys

I wonder often what his story is, someone must have cared for him at one point because he’s so friendly and he’s a little overweight. Perhaps his owner died and the family or neighbors watching him couldn’t afford to care for him.

We are hoping someone will want to adopt this sweet old timer. He doesn’t need much just a few walks a day and some squeaky toys. He’s so mellow that he’d be an easy dog to care for. We can’t keep him due to our building’s pet policy. Please pass this post along to anyone who might be able to foster or adopt him. Leroy and I greatly appreciate it. Anyone interested in helping please contact me, Susie DeFord at Susie’s Pet Care 718-415-7880 susiespetcare<AT>gmail.com

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs

Hudson Valley Dog Boarding

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Since November 2012, we’ve been bringing dogs up to our cottage near the Catskills on weekends and occasionally weekdays depending on our availability/ability to get away! Here are some highlights!

3 stooges

Mo, Qwerty, and Phoebe walk by the lake

country

Hike at Falling Waters on the Hudson River Susie with Penny, Zeke, Phoebe

field

Qwerty & Mo enjoying the back yard

goob comet

Comet & Phoebe frolicking

mo & qwerty creek

Mo & Qwerty in the Kaaterskill Creek behind our cottage

pile on

Christmas weekend pile on Susie Phoebe, Oscar, Willis, Sampson

Falling waters hike

Hike at Falling Waters with Zeke, Penny, Phoebe

For more fun photos please check our facebook page!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Upstate

Cidiots take Saugerties/Catskill!

Our new rental cottage in Catskill, near Saugerties!

We finally did it! After years of browsing, dreaming, and scheming on Craigslist and Upstater we finally rented a cottage upstate from a nice couple in Catskill, NY near our favorite upstate town Saugerties! Catskill is about 30 minutes from the great towns of Hudson & Kingston, NY. 20 Minutes from Woodstock, and 40 minutes to Phoenicia. I have been treking 2-3 hours upstate from Brooklyn for the past 5 years on occasional weekends and loving everything about it except the ticks! I’d love to move up there full time but unfortunately the job situation isn’t is good up there as in the city. So for now we are weekenders.

Cottage from road

After sitting out Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn last week on Friday we packed our car full of stuff and drove up to move in. Sleepy’s Kingston (highly recommend they were great!) delivered our bed and a futon for guests/couch and we were set. I was having a ton of financial fear after losing a week of income due to the storm but, I’ve always worked hard and been okay at the end of the day so why lose faith now?

Bedroom

Living Room with new Quilt and Rug from Ronnie at Saugerties Antique Center

Kitchen

We took a break from moving and drove a few miles away to Palenville, NY where we grabbed a sandwich at the great general store/eatery the Circle W Market.

First meal by the propane fire!

I hope to bring Brooklyn dogs up there on weekends in the near future to help pay for the cottage and give them some country time. I also hope to do some writing and making music up there without the distraction of the busy city.

View from Writing Nook/Back Porch of the Yard

Yard

The large property leads down to the Kaaterskill creek.

Kaatersill Creek/ summer swimming

Over this weekend in addition to moving in we went to Saugerties First Friday and said hello to our friend Raye at Lucky Chocolates and Bill at Rock Star Rodeo. This month First Friday had a Day of the Dead theme since it was so close to Halloween. Lucky Chocolates had free hot chocolate and sugar skull decorating! I’d love to open a pet store/ dog training/ boarding place up there someday….

We saw Argo for $8 (Instead of $12-14 in the city) at the cute old Orpheum Theater downtown Saugerties. We purchased a rug and quilt at the Saugerties Antique Center which has great stuff for reasonable prices.

On Sunday we took a long walk near the new cottage and saw this:

Nearby walk

Fields Nearby

We feel so lucky to be able to do this and can’t wait to head back up this Friday! I’m so grateful to have an escape from crazy NYC. We truly are living the dream….

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Filed under Dogs, NY, Travel, Upstate

Puerto Rican Odessey- Cats, Dogs, Horses, and Beaches- Oh My!

A few weeks later I’m finally sharing my Puerto Rican travel journal! Enjoy our adventures attracting animals wherever we go!

El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

5/26/12

We flew to San Juan Puerto Rico and took a cab to The Gallery Inn, which may just be the strangest and best hotel I’ve ever been to. It is run by this artist woman and her sculptures, paintings, and parrots decorate the maze like halls and stairwells.

Guard Parrots, courtyard of Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

Sculptures, Nooks, and Crannies, Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

When we found our room up a spiral staircase, we opened the door to the patio and a cat ran inside to greet us. Apparently, we were staying in her room. We nicknamed her Rosalita and started buying her cans of Friskies.

Rosalita going through my suitcase at The Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

We walked around sweating in the afternoon sun and went and got dinner at La Fonda El Jabarito. Very unassuming but the locals eat there and its probably the best Mufungo I ever had.  The next day we visited the forts and got more sun burnt walking around. I bought a National Parks Passport in the gift shop and am now determined to get a stamp from as many National Parks as possible.

5/28/12

We took a puddle jumper plane to Vieques from San Juan, Puerto Rico. There were only 6 people on it including the pilot. It was scary but beautiful flying over Puerto Rico’s lush green hills and turquoise beaches.

Flying to Vieques!

When we got to Vieques’ tiny airport we got a ride from a chatty cabbie named Ruben who was a cook for 15 years but got sick of it, “Too much work.” He talked about how much his Chihuahua liked to eat grilled onions but not a certain kind of Alpo. He said his dog actually peed in his food when he tried to change it, “Little monster.” I seem to bring the animal talk out in everyone so we listened politely as we looked out the window at the wild horses roaming around on the sides of the roads.

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

We arrived at our hotel, Malecon House, in the small town of Esperanza. Malecon House is very sparse, white, and clean.

Esperanza Malecon, Vieques, PR

We took a swim in their small warm pool then had dinner at Duffy’s. Dogs roamed in and out of the outdoor bars and restaurants sniffing for scraps. Afterwards, we headed to the Green Store (which is one of the two convenience stores in the town) to meet up with our guides for a Bioluminescent Bay tour. We were early so we sat outside and ate ice cream and petted and talked to some of the dogs hanging out nearby. Most have collars, but not tags, I guess people just let their dogs roam around town all day. Finally, Vieques Adventures picked us up in a van for the Biobay tour at 7pm. We crammed into a van with a bunch of people and drove through the bumpy back roads to Mosquito Bay. There we waded through the dark and got into clear canoes. We paddled out to the middle of the bay. As it got darker and we were further from the shore, the stars shone brightly and the water started to glow around our moving paddles and canoe. Every once in a while we saw a streak of light through the water as a fish swam by. Bioluminescence is such a strange and surreal phenomena. We roped up our boats together and talked about the biobay and the constellations above. I felt the peace I can’t seem to find in the city out there on the water. I could’ve drifted out there forever but soon we headed back to shore. Thumping over the bumps along the dirt road back to town I tried to imprint the bay in my memory so I could go back in times of stress.

5/29/12

We tried to walk along the trails of Cayo de Terra a small (but bigger than it seems) strip of land off Esperanza’s Malecon. Lonely Planet’s guidebook described the trails as rambling. Next thing we know we’re off the barely marked trails in the woods and can’t find our way out until we hit a cliff. We sort of find another trail and follow it thinking it’s headed to Sun Bay beach but we hit a lagoon we didn’t even know was there. After an hour and some scrapes and swearing my Floridian girl scout roots kick in and I find the trail back. We head to Sun Bay finally and dive in to the warm blue water. I’m not really relaxing and doing nothing on my “do-nothing vacation.”

5/30/12

After having a family from New Jersey take over breakfast loudly at Malecon House we got a rental Jeep and drove to the Green beach. It was so peaceful, beautiful, and calm. Then some family with a kid came over which kind of bummed us out. We really just wanted some peace alone on a secluded beach but whatever.

Green Beach, Vieques, PR

We went to Isabella Segunda and were floored by how different it seemed from Esperanza.  We got lunch at a good place but it took forever to get the food. Afterwards, we did a two-hour horseback ride on the hills and beaches of town. The hills were so steep it turned out to be super-stressful. Dennis wasn’t sure his old horse was going to make it. Mine kept eating plants and drinking salt water.  After two hours my ass was killing me. Finally, we went back to the stable.

We hauled ass back to Esperanza vowing not to go back to Isabella Segunda while on Vieques.

5/31/12

Our last full day on Vieques we were happy, but sunburned and sore from hiking, riding, and canoeing. We drove forever in the Old US Millitary/now nature reserve until we found Playa La Plata (I think?). It was deserted and beautiful.

Playa la Plata, Vieques, PR

There was even a little wood hut someone had made for shade. We hung around there for a while then drove around looking at the creepy old abandoned military bunkers. It was like a scene from some horror movie, a couple on vacation goes to explore abandoned bunkers and finds some crazy predator like a giant rabid mongoose who hunts them. We had an amazing dinner of shrimp and lobster stuffed mofungo and roasted chicken and grapes at El Quenepo. All the restaurants in Esperanza were pretty good, Duffy’s and Banana’s had reasonably priced burgers and sandwiches and Tradewinds had great food and a great view out over the water.

Me and a 300+ year old tree, Vieques

6/1/12

We headed back to the little airport and ate at the little café outside. You can check in and then go back outside and eat there! Security is pretty lax. We flew back to San Juan and took a cab to Ocean Park to the Numero Uno Guest House.

Ocean Park, San Juan, PR

Ocean Park is the beach most of the locals go to in San Juan and it isn’t as touristy as Condado. We went to the beach for a while then got dinner at La B de Burro which had great burritos and awesome Luchadora artwork everywhere.

6/2/12

We got picked up by this guy Manny from Eco Action Tours to go to El Yunque which is a national park/ rainforest. Manny was a stresswad about all the traffic and kept saying, “Oh no, this is a crisis!” We could tell he spent some years in NYC from his accent so we tried to joke around with him a bit. After picking up some other tourists and driving about an hour we finally got there.

Me and Dennis in El Yunque

We stopped at various points of interest. One was a lookout tower, another an older gentleman’s house and farm within the park. Apparently, he had a Salvia plant that Manny was trying to get all of us to eat and get high.

Manny and Salvia plant, El Yunque, PR

Next we parked and hiked up and down hills to a series of waterfalls and pools you could swim in. It was pretty crowded but if you hiked up above the main pools beyond a barrier you could find pools with no one in them. Dennis and I found one and jumped in then realized it was freezing which felt pretty good on a hot day.

Waterfalls and pools of El Yunque, PR

When we got back to Ocean Park later that afternoon we went back to the beach for a while then had dinner at the local, awesome diner/ bakery Kasalta’s. I drooled over the pastry case as I ate my Cuban sandwich then ordered the best Tres Leches I’ve ever eaten.

6/3/12

After our last beach morning, we headed to the airport and back to NYC relaxed and ready to face it. That lasted about a week for me and now I’m ready to get out of here again! So I finally after 12 years without a car, I looked at and bought one! Perhaps, getting out of the city more even for day trips might make it more bearable. Hopefully, I can afford it….

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