A Whale of a Time

Last weekend, Team Fakefish headed up the north coast of California and went to the Whale Festival in Fort Bragg.  All four of us (Fakefish, Mrs. Fakefish, The Hobbit and Granny) loaded up in the rental car Fakefish is driving while his car is in the shop and played in the fog and sand.

The Whale Festival is a nice idea, and several towns along the North Coast have them in March to mark the migration of whales along the coast, but some do the festivals better than others.  There was craft and microbrewed beer tasting at the Eagle’s Lodge, Clam Chowder tasting at the Town Hall, a 5k Run/Walk, a Crafts Fair in the old Company Store, and some nature trails with a whale themed scavenger hunt at MacKerricher State Park.  With the events scattered through town like that, it seemed less like a festival and more like a busy weekend.

We skipped the beer tasting, since it was $30 a head, and also skipped the clam chowder tasting, which was $15 per person. Mystery food can always be a bit risky for our group because of that sneaky additive, MSG. We went to the craft fair, which mostly featured jewelry and fiber art.  The highlight of the craft fair for us was actually right outside the building where a woman had a 4-month old Shiba Inu on a leash.

such doge. wow.

Shiba Inu are notoriously stubborn and willful.  But, they make up for that by being so stinking cute!  We hung around the dog as long as we could without seeming weird.  Fakefish would love to have one of these dogs, but he’s worried it’d be the death of him trying to get one trained up.  When the owner started leave, the pup decided it had had enough of walking and sat on the sidewalk refusing to go anywhere.  The owner had to pick the dog up and carry it, a real twist on ‘taking your dog for a walk.’

We had lunch at Denny’s, which is usually a safe bet for us and has a children’s menu that meets with The Hobbit’s approval.  I think Fakefish was cursed at birth by an evil fairy, because when we go out either his order is wrong, he’s the last one served, his order didn’t get communicated to the cook, etc.  Maybe it’s not the work of an evil fairy, just a particularly annoying one.  This meal was no exception to that, and some of it even rubbed off on Granny, who was sitting next to him.  Lucky Granny, her drink was delivered with the glass pre-stained with lipstick!  I bet it costs extra to get a dishwasher that does that trick.   We just about had to beg to get silverware and one of the waitresses had some rather unfortunate neck tattoos, but I think that last bit just goes with the territory.

Fort Bragg’s downtown shopping district is fantastic for a small town.  The Hobbit was pleased with their awesome toy store (ok, all of us liked the toy store) and I added to my extensive funky sock collection with some sushi, fish and guitar patterned socks.

With our shopping concluded, we went beach hopping. Despite the wide variety of experiences I try to give The Hobbit, we don’t get to beaches often.  The first time we took him to one, he was about 18 months old and was most definitely not down with that. He didn’t like walking barefoot in the sand, the waves scared him, and there was crying. I wasn’t exactly eager to repeat the experience, so we haven’t done much beach combing in his lifetime, although he has enjoyed some rocky beaches in Alaska.  This was his first fun, sandy beach experience.  He ran from waves and stomped in wet sand and threw rocks into the water and drew in the sand with a stick.  It was very, very good boy activity.

I enjoyed it, too.  Unlike most people, I prefer my beaches to be cold water, wild, a bit rocky, and not at all enticing for sun bathers.  Fort Bragg’s stretch of coastline is absolutely perfect.

There was a wee bit of train appreciation going on that day, too.  The Skunk Train has a station in Fort Bragg, and The Hobbit got to watch it for a bit as it huffed and chuffed away from the station.  That’s still on our list of things to do with the kiddo, but we’ll get to it.

That night, we had dinner at The Taproom, which is the North Coast Brewing Company’s restaurant.  The place had been hopping all day with all the beer aficionados who had been in town for the beer appreciation event(s), and we had to wait a bit to get a table.  Also, it was Jazz Night in the Sequoia Room, but one did not have to be seated in the Sequoia Room to get the full jazz experience, and the restaurant was LOUD.   The menu I had located online earlier in the day didn’t quite match up with the menu we were given and while the restaurant does allow children, their menu options would probably deter most people with children from eating there.  That, and the jazz.  We all managed to find something that suited us – Clam Chowder for Fakefish & Granny, and a cheese pizza for The Hobbit & yours truly.  I felt like a dork ordering a cheese pizza in a restaurant that had a whole lot of fabulousness going on with the menu, but it was the only thing available that a 5-year-old, even one as cosmopolitan as The Hobbit, would willingly eat. I will say this, though, it was the best cheese pizza I’ve ever eaten.  The clam chowder was fantastic, too.  Naturally, Fakefish’s restaurant curse followed us and we weren’t served any bread until our meal arrived.

The food at The Taproom is quite good, but the service was odd.  The staff was friendly, and they looked busier than a mosquito in a nudist colony, but if you looked closer, they didn’t seem to be actually doing anything.  Most of the staff was empty handed as they went back and forth and in and out of the kitchen and in and out of the drink station. Perhaps it was an elaborate game of hide and seek? Or maybe everyone was trying to get in their 10,000 steps for the day.  Whatever it was, the service left a bit to be desired.  So go for the food, but be prepared to wait.  Maybe take your own bread, since there’s no telling when it will actually make it to your table.

On Sunday morning, we went out to Glass Beach, aka The Old Garbage Dump. This is when I felt it officially turned into Travel with a Capital T, because at the end of the walking path from the parking lot to the beach there’s a cliff, knowledge I would have loved to have been privy to before going there, that gave me a heart attack. (Alright, now that I’m not fearing for my life, perhaps Fakefish mumbled something about a walkway, a tiny cliff and then the beach.  Still, it wasn’t enough information.)  Every trip we take seems to involve some element where I am forced to face my fear of heights, and this surprise cliff face was a doozy.  Once I had stopped yelling at The Hobbit, (“Get away from the edge! You’re giving your mother another heart attack!”) I worked up the courage to find an ever so slightly less fearful pathway down to the beach, and made my way down.  Getting back up was a bit of a challenge and I’m glad Fakefish didn’t have his phone at the ready to snap pictures of me flailing around in the sand.  I left there with a pocket full of beach glass and a couple more gray hairs.

On the way home, we stopped at the Jackson Demonstration Forest.  It’s nice to have those scenic lookouts and picnic areas to stop at on Hwy 128 between Willits and Fort Bragg, to either stretch your legs or quiet a roiling stomach after the hairpin curves of that leg of the journey.

When we finally got home, the “adventure” wasn’t quite over. I was the first one into the house and our old dog, Shadow, was laying on the run at the front door when we arrived.  She struggled to stand and still keep her tail wagging with happiness. It had me worried.  Very worried.  I ended up having to carry her out to the garage, which is a bit of a handful with a 43 lb. dog.  I was hoping she’d just gotten stiff from laying on the floor.  She’s almost 15 and in the past couple weeks had quit getting up on the couch or in her cushy chair in the garage. I thought it was just hard on her joints and had been giving her aspirin for the arthritis pain.

Monday morning dawned, and the poor old dog was worse.  When she did manage to stand, she stumbled.  She was holding her head to one side and vomiting and having trouble making it outside to go potty.  I thought for sure she was headed to the Land of Eternal Summer and was an absolute wreck.  Fakefish said his goodbyes to her before leaving for work, just in case.  I waited until 8 am to put a call in to our vet and was lucky enough to get an appointment around 11:30 am.  We use a traveling vet, Dr. Murray and her amazing sidekick, Debbie. They are wonderful.  I was so relieved she was able to come out and I wasn’t going to have to take a vomiting, peeing dog on a car ride to the emergency vet.

I spent the hours between calling the vet and their arrival hanging out with my old girl, sitting on the garage floor with her and trying not to cry. I wanted to soak up every minute of doggy love I could, as well as keep Shadow calm.  I also started looking up things online of what it could be, but I’m a realist and knew that most of what I’d find would be useless and I didn’t want to cling to false hope.

Shadow made it into the house from the garage under her own power, and Dr. Murray examined her.  I held it together.  The diagnosis:  Old Dog Vestibular Disease.  Sounds awful, doesn’t it?  Well, it is serious, but usually not fatal, and I was not going to have to start my week off by euthanizing my dog, so things were starting to look up already.

With each day Shadow has showed slow improvement.  It took two days for the vomiting to stop.  I have been feeding her by hand because looking down into a bowl, even an elevated bowl, makes her dizzy.  At Dr. Murray’s suggestion, I made some dog-friendly chicken noodle soup (no onion or garlic). Shadow loved it.  But then I made a rookie mistake and gave her a dose of new pain meds by hiding the pill in a piece of hot dog and gave her the hot dog right after she ate the soup.  Shadow has always been so easy to pill that in the past I’ve barely had to put anything on/around the pill to get her to take it.  Smart dogs are a blessing and a curse.  Little Miss Smarty Pants put 2 and 2 together and started to refuse the soup, hot dogs, and anything that smelled or looked like a hot dog.  It looks like my MIL’s dog (Granny’s dog, Timmy) is getting some chicken noodle soup.

Thanks to a tip from a friend and dog owner on Facebook, I have been able to administer Shadow’s medicine in cheese balls made from a little bit of cream cheese and grated sharp cheddar cheese.  So far, Shadow hasn’t caught on that she’s still getting the medicine.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

A great weekend followed by a scary Monday left me feeling wrung out emotionally.  But now that things are looking up, it’s time to get swimming again.


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