Field Day 2020

This panorama shows my Dry Lake camp, the 80m OCFD antenna, and a good portion of the area surrounding my camp.

The plans for a Field Day 2020 expedition started a couple of months ago. Greg, KG7D, was (and is) our fearless leader, as always. The plan was to head out to camp at Smith’s Creek Dry Lake on Thursday, set up camp, relax Thursday evening, set up radio stations and test on Friday, rest Friday evening, and commence operations Saturday morning, running through Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon would be an opportunity to rest and socialize a little and then tear down stations in preparation for a Monday morning departure.

I started my preparation for FD2020 a couple of months ago. There was some new equipment I wanted to bring online after my experience last year. So, the equipment was bought and was delivered over the course of a couple of weeks. Then followed several rounds of assembly, testing, and adjustment over the period of a few weeks.

Work intensified during the two weeks before FD2020. I repaired a lot of power and coaxial cables, assembled the power systems (solar panels, charge controllers, batteries, and cabling), and tested everything. I deployed and tested a new antenna a couple of times because of an issue with coupling of the antenna and the new mast.

Then there was food preparation, loading everything into the camper and 4Runner, and making sure that I did not forget some important component. It was all done Wednesday evening, with the exception of loading my personal kit.

Thursday morning I woke, made some coffee and a little breakfast, and puttered around a little bit. Then I hooked up the camper, loaded the dog, and we headed east from Carson City on US50 toward Middlegate, Nevada.

On the way out, I listened to some chatter on the SNARS repeater system. The Mt. Rose machine was available to me all the way past Fallon, Nevada. I heard KG7D call so I called him when he finished his conversation. He was about a half-hour behind me.

I made a brief stop in Fallon to pick up some iced tea (bottled) and a sandwich. I got Sera out for a brief walk and then we passed through Fallon and east past Sand Mountain. After a couple more basins and ranges, we arrived at Middlegate Station, Nevada. I pulled into the lot of the bar and grill, went inside, and ordered myself a bar burger and a beer.

Then I went back to the rig and retrieved Sera. We sat down at an outside table and looked at the surrounding terrain and did a little people watching. A small group of cruiser-riders was gathered at the station, which is common as it has quite a reputation as a great way-stop.

One of the riders wandered over with a beer. He asked (which I really appreciate) to pet my dog. Of course, Sera was all about that. She is such a people person, like all of the APBTs I have known. He asked to sit down as my food arrived and I invited Rick to sit and visit a bit. It was one of those pleasant interactions I often have on the road.

Greg arrived shortly thereafter and came over to visit. Rick asked if he should leave, but we both said “no, that’s not necessary.”

My burger was great, of course, and I shared my fries with Sera. She loves fries and got the last bite of my burger as well.

This is the view of Smith Creek Dry Lake from NV722. It doesn’t look like much.
We saddled up and headed east the short distance to NV722. I think that is the old US50 and it runs through Eastgate, then up into the mountains again. After a few more miles, we arrived at the entrance to Smith Creek Ranch and shortly after that the turn off to the Dry Lake. As one turns onto the access road for the playa it does not look like much. However, there is a group of “islands” that I called “hummocks” near the middle of the playa that provides an excellent area to camp and set up radio stations. Because of the hummocks, it is unlikely that vehicles will be driving out there and that they will be running fast. That is a good thing.

Two other members of our party were already on-site and set up. Wes and Eric had their camps established and I saw antenna masts as were approach the camp area. Greg pulled in to a likely location and I moved on toward where I camped last year. It did not take me long to set up my camper and deploy the solar panel to keep the house battery charged.

I climbed into my camper and moved the equipment stowed inside my “house” outside to make my space livable. Once that was done, Sera and I walked over to the other camps to check in with our compadres. We had a short visit as everyone was busy getting organized and then returned home to our camp.

I set up my solar panels so that the batteries would charge. The house battery is charged by a single 160W Renogy panel through a Genasun GV10 configured for lead-acid battery chemistry. The station battery is charged by a pair of Bioenno 60W panels through a Buddipole Mini that was part of my new equipment acquisition. The Mini will display the input voltage, current, and power from the panel and the battery voltage, current, and power used by whatever is attached to it. I am an engineer and I want to know these data so I can evaluate how well my system is working and whether adjustments are needed to improve the performance of the power system.

I also pulled out my radio equipment and station computer. It did not take long to set up the station inside the camper. I had time to deploy the vertical antenna so I could play a little radio in the evening after sunset. The remaining equipment — a military mast and 80m off-center-fed-dipole — would have to wait until Friday morning for setup.

For this deployment I brought the Elecraft KX3 with the PX3 panadapter and the KXPA100 amplifier. This system is completely integrated and operates as a signal unit. It can produce up to 100w of radio frequency energy and the radio operates in all modes and on all the standard amateur bands. The radio has an excellent receiver as well.

Even old men deployed on Field Day have to eat! This is my station and operating position for Field Day 2020.
All that done, I warmed a little supper of chicken and rice and sat down at my operating position to listen to the radio while I ate supper. Supper was cooked before departure, the chicken in the slow-cooker and the rice in my relatively new rice cooker. I recently bought a Japanese rice cooker and it does such a great job with the rice. There are a few appliances in my inventory that I consider essentials — a slow-cooker (crockpot), a toaster oven, and a rice cooker. The remainder might be useful, but they are not essential. While I ate, Sera ate her kibbles (seasoned with a little chicken and rice from my supper, of course), then climbed onto the bed to watch me eat (and hope I might drop something).

I tuned the bands a little while eating my supper. I heard a ZL station (New Zealand) calling and talking to other operators. He was working the pile-up well. During a pause in the action, I answered his call and he heard me! So, I worked my first New Zealand station the first night out.

After supper, I stepped outside to look at the sunset and stretch. This also gave Sera a chance to exercise a little and relieve herself before we settled in for the evening.

Friday morning started early. I woke with the opening of morning twilight and stepped outside to look at the morning sky. It was cool, so I was happy I brought a heavy sweatshirt. Sera looked up at me as I opened the door and went back to sleep. I can only imagine what she must have thought.

I made some coffee to help me wake and listened to the radio a little. There was not much traffic, but I heard a few stations chatting, particularly on the 80m band. That is a noisy band much of the day, but it is often quiet in the morning. I heard the usual Asian broadcast stations on the upper part of the 40m band. I cannot tell if they are Chinese or Japanese from the language. I do not know the differences well enough to identify them.

We had a bite of breakfast and then I started the last of my setup. I put up the military mast, which is a repurposed support for military camouflage. My kit is about 32ft tall and is raised by pivoting on a spike driven into the ground. I guy off two of the three lines, walk up the mast (with additional guys and a pulley to raise the wire antenna), then walk out the third guy line and tie it off. I can then walk the three guy points to tension and straighten up the mast.

With the mast erected and secure, I raised the 80m OFCD antenna. I checked the antenna for resonance and it was not working correctly. I made a couple of adjustments but could not get it working. So I did what any intelligent operator would do. Sera and I walked down to Greg’s place to confer with my smarter brother.

Wes and Eric were already there, visiting a little. When I described my problem, Wes said “it is your coaxial cable.” I was fortunate that Greg had a 100ft run of spare cable along, so I took that and Sera and returned to camp for me to try again.

Sera enjoyed hunting these hummocks all around the campsite. She ranged over the entire group of them and only once ventured out into the open area of the lake.
That fixed my problem. The antenna does not have great SWR, but it is certainly good enough to operate.

The remainder of Friday was spent playing a little radio, resting, walking Sera through the hummocks, and visiting with our friends. In the late afternoon, a meeting was called to partake of some QSO-enhancing elixir made by and provided by Greg. We also spent time relaxing and shooting the bull.

Sufficiently elixed, Sera and I headed back to camp to make a little supper and settle in for the evening. I walked her to the north edge of the hummocky-area so she could exercise and burn of some energy. The walk is always good for me as well. I had done a lot of heavy lifting the last few days in preparation for the trip and in the morning wrangling the military mast and antenna.

As the afternoon waned into evening, I stepped back for a few moments to reflect on the beauty of the location. Sera continued her hunt for the local rodents while I ruminated a bit. I also just enjoyed the view and listening to her chuff and run about.

This is my campsite Friday evening before Field Day. I really like the Dry Lake area. The moon is visible in the upper left.

I decided to test the tiny shower in my camper, so I turned on the water heater and assembled the shower curtain. There is not much room in the latrine and it feels even more claustrophobic with the curtain installed.

Unfortunately, I did not wait long enough for hot water, but it was not well-water cold. I was able to get wet, soapy, and rinsed without using much water. I am really spooky about water use in the desert, but it was so good to be clean.

The shower works.

This is the view of our campsite in the middle of Dry Lake. My camp is almost directly below the drone.

Saturday morning came, with much the same routine as Friday morning only without the work. I rose, started water for coffee, and stepped outside to greet the morning Sun. I made some breakfast and poured most of my bacon fat over Sera’s kibbles. Yes, she is spoiled — just a little. We got out of the camper and walked the hummocks, giving Sera a chance to hunt and burn off her morning energy. We visited our fellow operators’ camps and enjoyed the companionship.

A little before 1100h local, I started listening for calls. I worked CW mode for quite a while. I am not very fast, but given enough repetitions I can get a callsign and exchange. Then I can send my callsign and see if I can make the exchange.

I do not make a lot of contacts this way because it takes time to get the information before making the call. But it is a way for me to learn Morse Code and so it is worth the investment.

I worked CW until my brain rebelled and switched over to phone. I could have set up on a frequency and ran the frequency, but I was having fun just searching-and-pouncing. I worked phone until I broke for a bite of lunch.

The wind was coming up, as forecast. I knew it was going to be windy. I did not know how windy it might be. Well… it got WINDY… and DUSTY. The wind blew so I stepped out of the camper to check the guy lines on the mast. I walked the anchors and tightened up the taut-line hitches I had tied. I also made sure (I thought) that the solar panels and other equipment outside were properly lashed down. Then I went back to operating.

I cannot remember if it was lunch or supper, but I received an invite to share a meal with the group at Greg’s Place. I had not expected a communal meal, but I did have an extra bottle of Cabernet along with me so that was my contribution to the event. Again, it was good food and fellowship.

It was also hot, particularly in the small camper. I decided to fire up the generator and run the air conditioner a little to keep my camper cool. Sera was panting and I was sweating, so it seemed the thing to do.

But the generator would not start. Fortunately, Greg came up and gave me hand diagnosing the problem. After futzing about for a bit, he suggested I check the oil. I had changed the oil before the trip and was fairly sure I had put enough in it, but we had eliminated everything else and the Honda does have an oil sensor.

It was a D’Oh moment for me. The oil level was just low enough to trigger to the low oil sensor and prevent the engine from starting. With the oil topped off (yes, I had some), the engine started and so did the air conditioner. I was grateful for my friend and for the cool air. So I went back to operating.

I worked until about 2300h local then called it a night. With the falling of the Sun, the wind fell as well. I slept well as did Sera.

I flew the Mavic Mini once over Dry Lake. The altitude was too much for the little drone, but I managed a few captures before it decided to land.

I woke early Sunday, again. When the light rises, so do I. As before, I started water for coffee and stepped outdoors to greet the day. Although the image was made early Monday, this was my view each morning on Dry Lake.

I turned on the radio, enjoyed my coffee, and made a couple of contacts. I made breakfast for us again and got Sera out for a short walk and some exercise. I knew it was going to be windy again Sunday, perhaps worse than Saturday. So I check my equipment again to be sure it was secure.

I operated a combination of phone and CW the remainder of the morning. About 1030h local I was tired and done. I shut down the radio and Sera and I got out for a walk and a visit. The others were gathered at Greg’s Place and the wind was UP!

It was a good visit. Eric and Wes were mostly torn down and getting ready to leave for home. Greg and I were not about to wrangle out camps in the wind and dust so were prepared to stay over until Monday. I contemplated staying and extra day and enjoying camping. I was not really ready to go home.

Sunday afternoon was pretty rough. The trailer rocked and buffeted in the wind. There was a lot of dust blowing in great clouds as well. My part of the event ended at 1100h local, so I turned on the generator, ran the air conditioner a little, took a nap, listened to music, and read.

One of the solar panels blew over, even though it was lashed to the camper. The second set of panels blew over as well, damaging the props a little. Everything still functioned, but I laid them flat on the ground to prevent them falling again.

Greg came up for a visit, bringing cookies! I shared some of my treats with him and we visited about the weekend and things. It was a good visit, again, and one of the reasons I continue to go out on expeditions with these friends. They are good people and good operators.

The wind fell a little with the Sun, so I got Sera out and we made another pass through the hummocks for some exercise. The sunset was gorgeous again and I saw a smear of smoke to the northwest, at a high altitude. That meant there was a fire out there somewhere.

Fire is a big hazard in the west. I remember them from my childhood in California. There have been several since I came to Nevada. It is a danger of living here and one to take seriously.

I listened to the radio a little more Sunday evening. I heard an Australian station calling and taking calls. After he worked a big pileup, I called and he answered. We had a nice chat for a few minutes. He asked a lot of questions about Nevada. It was fun.

I turned in, satisfied with the Field Day operations and thinking about whether to stay another day or go home.

As Sera and I made our last circuit around the camp area for this trip, I stopped and made this capture of the area and my rig, all ready to go.

Monday morning came and there was little wind. I made coffee and breakfast and then dressed to go take down the military mast and wire antenna. I decided to go home while sleeping Sunday night. I could tell that Greg was ahead of me and sure enough he came by about 0930h to check on me. After confirming that my 4Runner would start, he headed out for home.

Sera puttered about the hummocks while I finished taking down the equipment. In the process of lowering the mast, it got away from me and split two of the fiberglass segments. They will have to be repaired or replaced. But everything else went fairly well, if a little slowly.

These old bones were at the camp area last year. They are a little more scattered this year. Sera enjoyed them.
With everything loaded up and the camper hooked up to the 4Runner, I decided to make one last walk around the campsite. Given we were alone, I took off my shirt to get a little sun on this old white body and started my tracker. Sera was so excited. We started off toward the south and walked along the perimeter of the hummocky-area. She darted from hummock to hummock, returning on call. She is such a happy dog and a joy to have in my life.

With the work done, I could relax and just enjoy the site. So, that is what I did. The weather was about perfect. The sun was warm, but the air temperature was about 55F. Without the sun I would have been cold without a shirt. With the sun shining so brightly, it was wonderful.

I noticed this “monument” last year. I do not know what the significance might be.
After the boneyard, we came across this monument. It was there last year when we camped here at Dry Lake. I do not know what the significance might be. But it is certainly interesting and worth a photograph. I actually think this would be a good site for a geocache.

Sera ran all over the hummocks. I followed along, keeping an eye on her and enjoying watching her run to and fro. When called in, she got a little scratch or pat on the head or butt (or both), then ran away again to go back to the hunt.

I enjoyed walking the perimeter. I stopped and made a few photographs with my iPhone as we walked. The sky was just gorgeous and the contrast of the white clay with the blue sky was striking.

I also thought about the lessons I learned from the trip. There are always lessons to be learned. Here are some lessons I learned:

  • Be sure that the generator has enough oil in it after an oil change.
  • Bring extra oil for the generator (I did).
  • Bring spares for the generator. (I have them; put them in the kit.)
  • Assemble a small mechanics toolkit for the camper. It should include both SAE and metric wrenches and sockets. Some appropriate screwdrivers and maybe some simple test equipment would be useful.
  • Work on my technique for lowering the mast. I think it was more operator error than anything else. I also think I can do better on lowering the mast.
  • Bring spare charge controllers for the camper and the station. I had a spare for the station and that was a good thing.
  • Have a set of jumper cables in the 4Runner.

The failure of the Buddipole Mini was not expected. I knew I would have to call about that. I also knew I would want that unit or a similar unit in my inventory so I can track my station power usage and determine if I have enough battery and charge capacity for my application.

As we drew back to the 4Runner and camper, I knew this trip was about over. Sera was ready for some water and to get into the rig. I was ready for some water and to head home. I would not be satisfied until the rig was unloaded, or mostly unloaded when we got home. I also wanted a shower and some downtime after all the busy-ness of the last few weeks. But, I was (and am) a happy old man.

After Greg’s departure and me finishing the loadout, Sera and I walked around the campsite one last time. The sun was warm and no one was around, so I went shirtless.

Welcome, Sera

This beautiful young woman came to live with me this week. She is an absolute babe in all possible ways. I already love her.

My beloved Ki died four weeks ago. The brain tumor got her. I grieved my dog months before she died, knowing that she would most likely not survive but electing to move forward with the surgery just in case. In the end, though, I was right and she did not survive.

Several good friends who are dog people counseled me to wait months before adopting a new pup. But I did not want to go very long with some canine energy in my life. I began a light search a couple week after Ki died, but did not know how far I would pursue the search.

I found a couple of likely candidates. One, in particular, caught my eye. She is called Serendipity and is a young dog. I sent a request asking about Serendipity. I then moved on with other things, which included missing Ki.

By the end of a couple of weeks my grief abated. I know griefwork and I knew that I was healing. However, I had a hole in my heart that asked for another dog to be in my life. I filled out the adoption application for Serendipity and filed it. It took me a couple of tries to get it completely filled out (I do not do well with forms) and then waited.

Last week a call came from the rescue and we chatted a few minutes about dogs and things. The call terminated with my understanding that my application would continue to be reviewed.

On Friday I received another call and my application was approved and I was selected as the potential adopter of Serendipity. So I made arrangements to travel to a location near Fresno to meet her and potentially to bring her home with me.

I will admit some trepidation at taking on a new canine friend. It is a significant commitment to take care of an animal. But the rewards are also significant and I think I was just second-guessing myself.

Older Son and I rose early Monday and drove over to the rescue. It was a couple-hundred miles over and back. We arrived shortly after noon and met the lady who runs the rescue. She took us to the backyard and we waited for Sera to come out.

Sera immediately play-bowed and then ran around crazy for a few minutes, interacting with us and enjoying the outdoors. She is bigger than Ki and is not quite two years-old. It did not take me long to sign the foster contract and prepare to head home.

Cindy, who runs the rescue, told me she stopped traffic in Fresno when she saw Sera running on the highway. She was able to coax her into the vehicle and take her home. No one claimed Sera.

Older Son and I cannot fathom what would make someone let Sera go. She is a very sweet girl and very attentive. She wants to please.

Sera got into the 4Runner with a little help and we headed home, leaving a tearful rescuer behind. Shortly after we left, a text message arrived that Cindy had not gotten an adoption photograph. So we turned around and returned for a couple of photographs. There was no reason not to.

She did well enough on the way home. I think she was a little carsick in the mountain twisties because she drooled a little. We made a couple of pee-stops, gave her water, and enjoyed the company. Sera spent the return trip either in Older Son’s lap or stretched over the console from the back so she could interact with us. It was so cute.

In the few days she has been here, she is readily settling in to my home and routine. I do not know if she slept with her previous owner, but she learned how to sleep with a human easily. She is very snuggly and wants to be close. She will bark at the noisy neighbors, but is learning the sounds of her new home and is less likely to bark when they move around.

She had her first day in the desert yesterday. I think her paws were a little sore, so I checked them, put a little paw-tector salve on them, and trimmed her nails a little. She permitted me to do this without a lot of protest.

I was really tired and hit the rack about 2100h. She had gotten a second-wind, though, and was a little playful. So we had a little light play before lights out. She likes a rubbery chew-toy in my inventory and the old tug-rope that I also have. She chewed her bone a little as well. Then she was a little playful and mouthy when I went lights out. She will stop her mouthiness if I demand it, but I play a fine line there between permitting the puppy-play and correcting the behavior. It is not serious and she is paying attention.

We both slept better last night. That is partly because she is learning the sounds of her new home and partly because she is learning the ways of her new partner. I know that she enjoys the touch of me reaching out to stroke her side or hip and ruffling her ears when I wake. I know that I enjoy having her there within reach.

This morning we went out back for her morning outside time. She immediately checked to see if the buttholes next door were out and at the fence. She has a line of hair that rises on the back of her neck, just like Ki had. But they were not out, so she relieved herself and we had a play with a toy. We went back indoors so I could have some coffee, but there was also some play with the tug-rope.

I love to get on the floor with her and play with one of her toys. She is so engaged and loves to pursue her toys.

In the end, I was ready for a new companion to come live with me. I will miss Ki forever because she was a great dog and a best friend. Sera will not replace her, because Sera is her own person. She is different and I like that difference. We will forge another partnership and be team, not just like Ki and I were a team, but a different team with different strengths. But, we will be a team and are well on our way.

Welcome home, Sera. God willing, this will be your forever home.

News Coming Soon

This Girl came home with me on 20 April 2020. Her given name is Serendipity, but she is and will be called Sera. She is a rescue dog that I found at a shelter near Fresno, California.

Serendipity, who will be called Sera, came home with Older Son and I on 20 April 2020. After Ki died, I gave myself a few weeks before I started a serious search for another companion. Much of my griefwork was done by the time Ki died, but I needed a little time to celebrate her life with me before adopting a new companion.

I could tell last week that I was ready for some canine energy in my life and had an outstanding application with a rescue near Fresno, California. Everything was approved and arranged, so Older Son and I did a day-trip to the rescue, met Sera, finished the paperwork, and returned home.

So, the big news is that Sera is now in my life. I am under a three-month foster/adoption contract, but I am almost certain the adoption will be finalized. She has only lived with me about a day, but I already can tell that this is the one.

I will have a story to tell and more photographs coming in the next days. So, please stand by…

Prison Hill SOTA Activation

Although this image was a couple of days earlier than my SOTA activation, I am setup on Prison Hill with the KX1 radio and the AX1/AXE1 antenna for a noon-net check-in.

Last Saturday Older Son and I drove the 4Runner up to the Prison Hill summit to setup and activate Prison Hill for Summits on the Air. SOTA is a game played by amateur radio operators who operate from designated mountain/hill tops for chasers to contact and make a pre-defined exchange. Both activators and chasers receive points for the contacts.

But the real fun is getting outdoors, setting up for portable operations, and making a few contacts with other radio operators. I enjoy the activation part of the game and try to get a few activations in whenever I can.

The image is one from our hike up Prison Hill (and helluva hike, by the way) where I setup the Elecraft KX1 radio and the Elecraft AX1/AXE1 antenna and checked in to the 40m noon net using Morse code. That was a good day. On Saturday, we setup my KX3 portable station a few tens of feet from this location and put up a proper wire antenna. I listened to the 40m band for awhile and picked out a couple of CW stations callsigns. But I was too chicken to respond. I am still learning Morse, so am not up-to-speed (literally) yet. But I can copy and send a basic exchange if the other operator is patient.

So I moved to the phone portion of the band, found a quiet frequency, and asked if it was in use three times. That is good operating policy. Hearing nothing, I started calling “CQ” and then spotted myself on the SOTAwatch website.

In just a few minutes I was working a pile-up. A pile-up occurs when there are multiple stations calling a running stations to make a contact. It is difficult to separate out the calls and get callsigns. So, one has to work a pile-up. This was my first time working a pile-up, but I have heard them worked plenty of times so I knew the basic procedure.

In less than half an hour I had almost a dozen contacts, including three summit-to-summit contacts, which are highly desirable. After a few more calls, I heard no more stations. I thought for a moment about switching bands to 20m and doing it again, but decided that I had achieved my objective and would tear down and go hike a bit and search for a geocache.

Older Son and I had one in mind. We hiked the few hundred yards to the site and searched for almost an hour before deciding that it was no longer there. The last log was four-years earlier. So we were not particularly surprised that the cache had gone missing.

The hike back up to the rig was strenuous, given it was a big climb. But that was good for me too and I don’t mind the exercise.

We put away our things and started back on the trail out when a good friend and amateur operator pulled up in his rig. So, we practiced social distancing and visited from our respective vehicles for an hour before calling it a day and heading back down the trail.

It was a really, really good day. I am so very thankful and grateful for it.

Prison Hill Hike

Older Son taking a break by the operation point on Prison Hill.

Older Son and I hiked up Prison Hill yesterday. We parked the 4Runner at the staging area, donned our packs, and headed up the hill. The summit is about 1.7 miles from the staging area and the elevation gain is about 1,000 feet. The hike took us a bit and we were pretty hot and winded by the time we made the summit.

It was about noon, so I put up the Elecraft AXE1 and AXT1 antenna and coil for the 40 meter band. I brought the Elecraft KX1 transceiver along with me and hooked it up. The little radio was featured on my Instagram feed some time ago, but it is a Morse Code only transceiver and makes about four watts of power.

I tuned the band and found the frequency for the noon net. I heard the net control station calling for any check-ins. So, I sent my callsign.

“Who’s the CW station? Come again.” came the direction from net control. So I sent my call again. The operator got part of it, “I heard ‘TX’… is that a thanks?”

I sent my call again, twice. “A something TX, you’re fading old man. Come again.” So, I sent my call again.

“AG something TX, is that AG7TX? Send a roger if so.” I sent two ‘R’s to indicate ‘Roger, roger.’”

“I didn’t get it. Did anyone get that?” Another station came in (one of the relay stations) “He rogered! That’s the only code I know.”

“You’re in the log Dave. Next station…”

I was so pumped up that I could get into the noon net using Morse Code and a four-watt radio. My study of Morse Code is beginning to pay off. I can send a few important bits of information with some confidence. I am learning to copy Morse by listening to it. I hope to be a proficient code operator in a few more months. It is a useful skill to know.

Older Son and I puttered around the summit for a few more minutes. We found several locations that would make good places to hide a geocache. I think the next time we go up there (maybe Saturday) we will take some materials and make a hide. The area deserves to have a geocache.

After drinking some water, we started back down. I chattered quite a lot, being excited to be heard using Morse Code.

As we walked down the hill, I remarked “There’s only one thing that would make the day better… The Girl would have loved poking around up there. ‘What’s this? What’s this?‘ She would have been all over the place and had a blast.”

Yes, I still miss The Girl. Her cremains were returned last Friday and have a memorial on my bookcase next to Wife’s memorial.

It was still a good day and I am thankful for it.

Healing

I don’t remember who made this capture. The composition is not the best, but it is one of my favorite shots of us together.

The Girl has been gone for a week. Her death was a big hit and I was unprepared. I honestly expected her to return to me alive and ready to get on with life after she healed. I knew there were risks associated with the surgery, but I thought they were manageable.

I was completely and deadly wrong. I think that was as big of a blow as her departure. I was simply caught off-guard. The suddenness of her departure shocked me. I am still shaking my head as I think about it.

But, the hole in my heart is healing. I still miss her and there will be tears yet to come. I have lots and lots of good memories and am confident I did the best I could for her and by her all these years.

Older Son and I have been telling Ki stories all week. We are remembering all the funny things that she did, some of the idiot stunts she pulled, and how interactive with all of us she was. We are celebrating her life and our life together.

My how The Girl loved French fries and tater tots! Whenever I stopped for a quick sandwich, she would watch over me as I ate. I always shared my fries or tots, taking one or two for myself and offering her a couple. When we were traveling alone, she sat shotgun and would patiently wait for her treat.

She loved ice cream, too. I shared many cones, blizzards, and shakes with her over the years. If there was a little left at the bottom of the cup, she would stick her jaw into the cup and lick out the bottom. This was a never-ending source of levity for me and those around me.

I remarked to Older Son this afternoon, as we sat in the parking lot near Dairy Queen on the way home from a long walk, that I always held back a bite or two of my sandwich for her. She would wait patiently for me to finish, then *munch* the remainder.

She learned quickly to be gentle. If she was grabby, then I would palm whatever it was and make her try again. She had a very soft mouth, such that I could put a fry in my mouth and she would gently take it from me.

She was such a great companion. I miss her warmth next to me at night. I miss waking with her next to me and giving her a little pat or a stroke when I woke. She will be missed, but I have no regrets about our life together, save that it was not long enough. I did my best for her and she had a great life, much better than she would have had if she had not come to live with me.

I do not have a lot of images of Ki and me together. The image above is not a good composition, but it is good enough. She had lived with us for a little more than a year. We were learning to work together. I love the image.

Soon it will be time to begin the process of finding another, not to replace her for that cannot be done. But there is another dog out there who needs me and who will be my companion in his/her forever home. We will do everything together and learn each other’s ways. It will be a good thing.

The Girl is Gone

This is one of my favorite captures of The Girl. She was very happy that afternoon and grinned for us when Older Son dropped his hat on her head.

On the way home from Davis Saturday afternoon, I realized I had not written on my weblog in quite a while. After I got home, I was just too heartsick to even think about writing anything. I was, and am, in need of just processing the loss of The Girl and all that means to my world.

Last night, or this morning — I cannot remember — I looked at my weblog and realized it has been more than two months since I last wrote anything. The last thing I wrote was about Wife’s death seven years before and my fear that The Girl’s life was coming to an end. The first seizure was in December of last year. It was followed in January by another and then came February and there were several.

Near the end of February, Older Son and I drove The Girl over the hill to the U.C. Davis Veterinary Hospital for imaging and a workup. What we learned confirmed what the local vets told us — Ki had a brain tumor. However, the tumor was on the surface of her brain and the morphology was consistent with one of the less severe possibilities, a meningioma.

What this meant is that I had hope that with surgery and possibly some radiotherapy, The Girl might live another year or two. So, against my previous decision, I elected to move forward with surgery with the hope that I might get some more time.

Over the course of February and March, there were more seizures and a general deterioration of her condition. She had trouble walking, dragging her feet and losing balance, not aware of her space, and a continued loss of interest in our daily walks. It was clear to me that the surgery needed to happen sooner, rather than later.

Although it was scheduled for the first week of April, they moved it to last week. We drove over the hill again and pulled into the client parking lot. After I called the main number, a vet technician came to the rig and took Ki from me.

As they walked toward the hospital, Ki paused once and looked over her shoulder at me, making eye contact. She was asking two things: “Is this OK? Are you going to be there when I come back?”

It did not cross my mind until later that it would be the last time I saw her alive.

The resident called me in the morning before surgery and apprised me that, as expected, her liver enzymes were much higher. With the phenobarbital and prednisone I was not surprised. They did the surgery, which took six hours, and the resident called afterward with the after action report. The tumor was worse and had shifted a bit to the back. But they got it out, or most of it, and Ki was recovering well.

Friday I got a call that Ki was not waking, despite them giving her drugs to counteract any remaining sedation from the surgery and post-op recovery period. The did an MRI and found that evidence of bleeding. So she went back to surgery for some cleanup. There was some brain swelling that was treated and was acceptable.

Friday evening I got a call that, although she had woken briefly post-op, she had still not woken and stayed awake. The resident advised me that she was going off-duty and that Ki’s surgeon would be watching over her Friday night. The medical team was providing supportive care, but had done everything they could and it was up to Ki to recover.

The surgeon called me about 0500h Saturday morning. Ki was no longer breathing on her own. Her prognosis had declined to the point where she was not going to recover. Older Son and I dressed quickly and headed to the hospital, only a few minutes away.

She had died in the few minutes before we got there. We stood there next to her body for a few minutes, saying goodbye. I got to pet her a few last times before it was time to go. I wept for The Girl and for all the time I hoped we would have, walking, playing, eating, snuggling, and just spending our time together like we had for nearly nine years.

I made arrangements for a service to retrieve her body and cremate her remains. I will take them to one of our beloved spots and scatter her ashes, returning her to the earth from which we all come. I will say a prayer, be quiet, and weep for my lost love.

Now I am in the bereaved space once again. I knew this was coming. I suspected it back in December. I wrote about it in January. I watched all of February and March. I had a glimmer of hope that the surgeons could get us a little more time. I was just wrong.

It will take awhile to recover from this. The Girl and I were so close. I have always been close to the animals who live with me. This one was different because she watched over Wife during Wife’s terminal illness. Then she watched over me as I grieved Wife. Then we lived and loved for seven years.

Now The Girl is gone too. I miss you Ki. You will always have space in my heart. There is nothing left to say, except goodbye.

Seven Years

We are at Asilomar State Park for an annual conference. As I walked away to go get coffee, Wife looked at me out the window of our cabin. I got the shot.
Yesterday was a long day, not because anything particularly difficult occurred, but because I had too many engagements. But, I am ahead of myself.

During the holiday period, I generally write several articles and talk about the season, they reason, and how I am thankful. This season, however, I was distracted by my concern for The Girl. After her seizure in early December, I was in a bit of a panic. I do not want to lose The Girl. She has been at my side for more than eight years. She is my constant companion and keeps me centered in the moment.

But the simple truth is that I am losing her. She had a second seizure a couple of weeks ago. It was worse than the first in some ways, although I was better prepared for this one. Her recovery, once she recovered consciousness, took about two hours. She was then ready to settle down. We both slept hard that night. I have more to say about her condition in a moment.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of Wife’s death. I woke about 0500h this morning, asked Siri about the time, and then took a few minutes to remember Wife, her life, our lives together, and her departure.

As I reflected on that time, I realized that no grief came to me this morning. What I had was a sense of loss, a wishing that things had gone better, and a realization that nothing is permanent. Today I will spend several times remembering Wife, being thankful for the time we had together, all those fun, crazy times we had, and praying that her spirit lives on in the bosom of God. She deserves that.

As I laid in bed one recent morning, The Girl slept snuggled close to me. I love these snuggles.
After talking the her vet several times over the last few weeks, it is clear that The Girl’s departure is coming. I do not think it is imminent, but her time with me is limited probably to a month or two.

I believe the vet when he says she has a brain tumor. He does not know with certainty and I plan to take her to the research vet hospital in Davis to have a workup and imaging of her done. I want clarity and closure, even if treatment is not possible. If, as I suspect, she does have a brain tumor and it is diagnosed, then the local vet will be released to treat her medically. That means mitigation of brain swelling, seizures, and palliative treatment to make her comfortable the remainder of her life.

When her time comes, I intend her life to end here at the house. There is no reason for her to feel the anxiety of the vet’s office, deal with the clinical aspects of that location, and deal with all the other animals there for treatment. She can die here at home, in her space, with her things, and with her loved ones.

It would be a lie to say I have not grieved my dog already. Unlike her, I have the ability to anticipate the future. When I do, I imagine life without this wonderful creature and weep. Then she comes to check on me and brings me back to the moment, which is all we really ever have or know.

I am treating her with CBD oil. Based on my research, it will not hurt her and has every possibility of increasing her comfort, reducing inflammation, and reducing the probability of another seizure. I am not sure I have the buy-in of the vet, but I am not sure I care. As I wrote, I do not see anything in the literature that the drugs will hurt her. It seems reasonable that CBDs are not as harsh as some of the other medications.

It is cold and cloudy today. I am not looking forward to being out in the cold. But The Girl wants an outing and I am going to give it to her. The exercise will be good for both of us. The cold will likely make her frisky and that is always fun. She will exude joy at being alive and outdoors. It will be good.

Then we will return home. She will sleep most of the afternoon until she wakes and starts begging for supper. I will work on a few things and spend time remembering Wife. Remembering is a way of keeping her alive. She will never be truly gone so long as she is remembered.

Enjoy Every Sandwich

When it’s warm in the 4Runner, many times The Girl falls asleep sitting up.

One of my favorite musicians, Warren Zevon, said some time before he died, “enjoy every sandwich.” Those words struck true to me when I read them (and saw the interview in which he shared them).

I cannot say that I am always successful at being so into the moment. But I am, sometimes.

Nearly a year ago, The Girl had a seizure which scared the poop out of me. I wrote about it back then, here. She recovered, mostly, and we have been living happily together and enjoying life. We walk, play, eat, love, and sleep together. It is a wonderful relationship.

Her idiopathic vestibular event frightened me — not the fear-for-my-life kind of scare, but the I’m-not-ready-for-this kind of scare.

I knew, when she came to live with us about 8-1/2 years ago, that there was a significant probability that she will die before I do. Intellectually, I am prepared for that.

As it turns out, I am not so sure I am emotionally prepared.

Last night, a little after 1900h, we had eaten and I was watching a little Netflix at my computer. I had a small cup of chocolate ice cream and a Cognac that I was enjoying for dessert. The Girl was sleeping on her bed under my worktable, as she often does in the evening. We are generally not very far apart.

I was startled by a “BLAM” and then she tumbled out of her bed onto the carpet protector under my office chair, convulsing. I kicked the chair away from us and knelt by her side. She was in a full-on seizure, paddling and foaming at the mouth.

I put my right hand on her side and began talking to her in a calm voice, projecting love and positive energy toward her as she fought herself. With my left hand, I reached up to the keyboard and stopped the stream. Then I got my phone and dialed the vet clinic, putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the table. Her rapid breathing and paddling had diminished. For a moment, I thought she was dying.

I continued to comfort her while I talked to the vet tech on the phone. She suddenly came to, as he said she would and was confused and disoriented. I simply wrapped my arms around her and held her to me while she flailed.

Once she regained her composure a little, I released her and quickly dressed. While I dressed, she bumbled about, still confused and uncoordinated. I moved the rig to the front door and carried her to the waiting, warming 4Runner.

The drive down and back was uneventful. The vet examined her, took a blood sample, and told me that if there was no metabolic abnormality it was most likely a brain tumor or lesion.

She was regaining her balance and awareness, but had some residual effect from the seizure. He indicated it should clear up in a few hours or maybe a day. He told me to be watchful for another event and to keep track. So I am now on seizure watch.

I am having a mental block on that word, “seizure.” Several times today I could not remember the word. I think it is so distasteful to me that my mind refuses to recognize the word.

I closed the bedroom door once we returned home and made a bed on the sofa. After pacing around the house (a normal post-seizure behavior) for about an hour, she hopped onto the sofa-bed and settled in.

There was no settling for me. I slept a little, but every time she moved I woke to check on her. I was in a hyper-vigilant state and did not rest much.

She slept until almost 1100h this morning. After going out and eating a little breakfast, she started asking for an outing. To be honest, sitting in the house was not doing me any good. So I drove us over to the Station 51 park and we made a couple of loops. She seemed fine, sniffing and playing like she always does.

I took advantage of the outing to reprovision the house. She seemed to tire at the grocery store, so I kept the trip as short as I could. Once home again, she stayed by me while I made a bite of lunch.

I was very tired, so I laid on the bed. It took only a few minutes before she hopped up next to me and snuggled. I put on a little music and we both slept. I slept an hour or so, she is still snoozing as I write.

I love those snuggles with The Girl. It is a wonderful thing to be so close to another being that we can share the heat our bodies generate and just enjoy being near one another. There is great comfort in that relationship. Dogs are wonderful creatures who are so intricately linked to humans that the connection baffles me.

It is unclear what the near future holds for her. I suspect the vet will adopt a watch and wait position to see if another seizure occurs. If one does, then there will be additional tests to run (probably a scan) to determine the cause and whether it can be treated. The vet suggested palliative care could be very useful and that brain tumors are generally slow growers.

In the meantime, I am reminded for Warren Zevon’s words — “Enjoy every sandwich.” I enjoy every moment I have with this wonderful creature that God brought into my life nearly nine-years ago. Last night was another reminder that life is short and it is wise to pay attention.

N.B. The image is one I captured of her a few days ago. Over the last few months, I have caught her falling asleep sitting up. She has FOMO and does not want to miss something. So she will continue to sit up even while falling asleep, much like a small human child will fall asleep sitting up and then… face-plant. She is such a hoot.