Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another dog blog

For the nonce 't'would seem that this blog has gone to the dogs. The blogger is writing other non-bloggy things this summer, and when she is not writing, she is definitely out playing with the dog.

Last night, we tried agility training for the first time -- what fun! There is a place in Sharon township (Medina County) on Route 94 called the Medina Swarm Agility Club. They have two complete agility courses set up, and an ongoing series of classes for teaching humans and dogs how to negotiate all the thrilling obstacles and challenges. Hamlet had a great time and so did I! We are signing up for beginner's agility and look forward to the weekly classes. On weekends, the club hosts competitions, so if you are into observing or participating in Agility, check out this group.

I didn't think to take a camera last night, but I will definitely be taking some agility photos soon. Instead, here are some at-home shots. Ophelia the cat has taken a fancy to curling up on the top of Hamlet's crate. It is a very convenient spot for one of her favorite sports: tail snagging!

A shot showing Hamlet's unusual blue merle markings:

And finally, to get a sense of Hamlet's size -- here he is next to an exercise ball. That's a Kong squeaky toy holding the ball in place.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Walking the towpath by Summit Lake

At long last, city and county leaders have decided to take a look at the Summit Lake area, no doubt due to the recent extension of the towpath corridor along the eastern edge of the lake. A Beacon Journal article announced a public gathering and walk along the towpath from Wilbeth Rd to the Summit Lake Community Center. An impressive collection of politicians and community leaders from the city and the county were there to see first hand what towpath walkers and bikers will be viewing as the towpath nears completion.

The walk attracted a large crowd of people from both sides of the lake. We met in a room in the center, where we were given impressive packets of research submitted by Cazzell M Smith of the East Akron Community House and a Summit County Council member. Entitled "Reclaiming Vacant Properties, Building Leadership to Restore Communities: Transforming distressed neighborhoods into healthy communities of choice and opportunity -- good places to work, do business and raise children," it provides examples of ways other communities have tackled the problems of unstable and grossly neglected neighborhoods.

I have blogged about the problems associated with living next to a toxic lake before. In today's ABJ, Mark Price gives a history of how swimming in the lake was banned in the early decades of the 20th century. (Here and here, for example.) A dumping ground for the rubber factories and an outlet for city sewers, the lake is still a place that nobody swims in.

So what will the passing hiker or biker see as they travel along this section of the towpath trail? Here are some photos from today's walk, with a few comments:

The walk from Wilbeth Rd to Kenmore Blvd was rather like traveling along a narrow strip of scenic pathway with glimpses of a Mordor-like industrial landscape hidden beyond tall fencing and other strategically placed screening.

We are walking through an area framed by industries still belching smoke and who knows what kinds of pollutants.

Who knew that another kind of landscape existed underneath the Kenmore Blvd Bridge? The towpath gives a splendid view of this obviously much-used area, a place for kids to create art, and perhaps a dwelling place for homeless folks. It had a kind of museum-exhibit feeling to it -- it just needed a placard detailing the history of graffiti art of the 20th century and some wax figures dressed in raggedy clothes sitting around a fire.

Trash could be seen everywhere along the walk. Beautiful water lilies and liquor bottles float above a sea of lily pads. I counted exactly one trash bin along the walk, which is one more than can be found on the western shore of the lake.

The lake attracts a large number of ducks, geese and blue heron. Swans usually swim on this lake, but I haven't seen any this year. It is an odd situation, living next to a toxic lake that has been ignored for so long. We can walk along it and observe the wild life, the plant life, and the ripples of the waves bearing plastic detritus to the shoreline, but we dare not participate by swimming in the lake. An occasional boater takes a risk and can be seen out on the lake, and many people fish along the shores. I wouldn't eat a fish from this lake, but there are some people taking buckets full of fish home for family dinners.

Perhaps they are the people who live along the lake. The eastern side is a mix of public housing, decaying cottages from Summit Lake's glory days, and other rotting buildings.

Heading north up the east side of the Lake, the hiker/biker can observe the wonders of nature to her left and with glimpses of a decaying urban neighborhood
to the right. A mighty mullein plant sends its yellow spike toward the sun:

The towpath trail itself is beautifully constructed. The floating dock-like section is wide enough to hold bikers and hikers traveling in opposite directions. Here we see a section of the towpath that edges right along the lake leading toward the community center to the north:

The group arrived back at the center, but there was no formal sit down and respond to what we saw session afterward. More meetings will take place. Stimulus money will be sought and discussion about the quality of neighborhood life issues must take place. This is a high crime area, naturally. To be honest, I have been a bit nervous about testing out the new trail. Today's gathering was my first look at life on the eastern edge of the lake.

The main problem remains the lake itself. It was polluted by people long since dead, and abandoned by city, county and state officials. The state has no money to clean it up properly. Everybody is afraid of stirring up the sediment on the lake's bottom. Meanwhile, it is no surprise that the communities to the east and west of the lake house the city's poorest white and black neighborhoods. The opening of this new section of towpath is an opportunity to reclaim and rebuild. I was very pleased to find other people thinking this way as well. Let's hope today's inspires the pols and the community leaders to take some positive actions. Hell, if we can get some trash cans on both shores out of this, I'll count it a victory!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Akron Dog Park

School is finally out and Akron's Dog Park is where we are headed for summer human and canine fun! This is a wonderful fenced facility for dogs to run off leash and play with other canine pals. There's a water fountain for both dogs and humans, and ample supplies of plastic bags for waste removal.

Some people don't pick up after their dogs, which is a crying shame. You'd think that pet owners who go to the trouble of packing up their dog and taking them to this special park could give back in this one small way.

But that's my only quibble after four days of using the park. We've met some really nice folks and their dogs.

Yesterday, we met a very nice family,with two dogs and two kids, a young girl and her brother who were very knowledgeable about dogs. The girl tries to guess the type for each dog she meets. She guessed that Hamlet was a cross between a dalmatian and a collie. Not a bad guess! She told me all about their dog, a very large shepherd mix named Panzer, after a German tank.

We did run into a way too boisterous dog that bowled over Hamlet upon arrival. It looked like a boxer-rottie mix. I moved quickly to calm the dogs and let them sniff and go through the rituals of dog greetings. Hamlet trotted off and the big dog jumped on him again, knocking him to the ground. Hamlet yelped his dismay and got up limping. The boxer dog's owners, a man and a woman, finally got up off their bench and leashed up the dog to take him away. They sort of apologized by saying their dog was overly hyper. Yeah, right -- so why not do something about that -- like finding a trainer to work with them, rather than taking the dog to a public dog park where it can continue knocking over smaller dogs. At least they followed the park rules and took their dog away since they couldn't control it.

Hamlet really likes the two pugs that show up every morning. He thinks they are Shetland sheep, and he tries very hard to herd them. However, they don't care to be herded and look at him like he is some kind of crazy mutt!

I found a website that lists many of Ohio's dog parks. Some of these parks have pools and fountains to cool your dog off on a hot day. Many of them have separate areas for small and large dogs. It strikes me that one could have a very fun summer, checking out dog parks around the state. Here's the site -- maybe we'll see you at one of these parks this summer!

Leaving you with an image of a happy dog who has had his exercise and now just wants to hang out in the shade!

Friday, June 05, 2009

First Harvest and other growing things

Lettuce, basil leaves, three cherry tomatoes and the first strawberry of the season -- harvested from the garden this past Monday. The lettuce, basil and tomato plants came from Dunkler's Farm on Collier Rd. The cherry tomato plant is in a hanging basket and was full of green tomatoes and yellow blossoms when I bought it two weeks ago. All the recent rain and cooler temps have brought the lettuce along at a very fast clip. It's salad time in the city!

The strawberry plants were here when I moved in. They have migrated to the other side of the garden patch over the course of the past ten years, but they never seem to diminish in their spectacular juicy red abundance. Tomorrow, there should be enough ripe ones to fill a good sized bowl.

Vegetables are not the only things thriving in my garden. Check out the electric purple and blue stars blooming on this clematis I planted only last year. It is three times the size of last year already.

The garden isn't the only thing that is growing fast. Hamlet is now four and a half months old and a graduate of puppy class already. We work on the training every day, and the results are very gratifying. He is very quick to learn and enjoys new challenges in between bouts of intense chewing, as his adult teeth are in full erupt mode. I've been giving him ice cubes when his gums look red and swollen -- the ice brings him some relief and he happily licks and noses the ice around the floor until it has melted.

So far, Hamlet's been very good about chewing appropriate items, such as bully sticks, Kongs and various fleece toys. I quickly learned not to leave my shoes and socks lying about, and he has been very good about all the books. Shortly after he arrived, he pulled "There's No People Like Show People" off a shelf and gave it a few licks and nibbles before I caught him in the act. A loud "Uh Oh" stopped him cold and he hasn't gone after a book since.