Thursday, May 26, 2022

A dog's long, lively life : Nicky lives on as a fearless, loving Yorkie

Nick is surrounded by flowers on his 16th birthday. Even though he was virtually blind and had
painful spinal and rear leg issues, he was still game for a walk, a snuggle, a kiss for his people.


Nothing like a Yorkie kiss, and Nicky was a generous
kisser, here with his appreciative mama, Cookie.

FOR THE first time in 17 years, I sit at the computer with no doggie at my feet. Nicky has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He is deeply missed.
His favorite blue bed sits under the desk. He'd wander over for a little lie-down when he heard me there (he had a half-dozen beds around the house, one in each room.)  He'd nestle down and snooze. He liked it when I touched his nose with my bare toe, to signal "I'm here. Love you, little guy."
Lately, he'd been sleeping more. Since his twin sister Nora died two years ago at not quite 15, Nicky declined.  He paced, wandered the house, looked for her. We kept the bed they shared and one of her little coats for him to sniff. He often did, and cuddled with familiar toys and blankets.  He whimpered, he mourned. He cried, yes cried.    I asked three vets about his behavior. They assured me that dogs grieve, to give him time.
Puppies Nora, left, and Nicky, learned to swim
when months old, here drying off in Davis, Calif.
GRADUALLY, HE rebounded from his sister's departure, but his body was failing.  Like old people, he had meds: Rimadyl for osteoporosis and painful spine and back legs, Cosequin to help him move and support his weary joints; fish oil with his kibble; treats fortified with calcium and glucosamine; doggie Xanax for car rides, which had become increasingly difficult. He'd pace and whine in the car. Our once idyllic road trips were no longer the fun they'd been before his anxiety.
His back legs were shaky when he woke up and it took him a couple hours to move without stumbling or collapsing.  He was virtually blind and took his cues from us on walks, around corners, on steps in parks and gardens. 
Bruce Keller, Nora, Cookie and Nicky at Lake Tahoe.
He stopped jumping up on the couch and needed our help getting up and down the stairs, but he still took walks with us twice and day and even ran the last half-block home, leaving us huffing and puffing to keep up. He knew to stop at our house. By magic doggie braille he'd strut through the front door and bound into the house.
NICKY DIED this past weekend, in friends' backyard. I regret that I was not with him but must believe he knows how we love and miss him.
Nick personified the Yorkie profile -- smart, loyal, playful, fearless.  He survived many accidents: a rattlesnake bite, a run-in with a grizzly bear, leaps from second-story decks in two different homes after squirrels and birds. When he was four, he was run over by a 
Keller with Nick, Nora near our California home.  

speeding gravel truck resulting in a serious hematoma on his intrepid Yorkie head. Thanks to our fabulous Montana veterinarian, Rex, he lived to tell the tale.  
He jumped out of the moving Explorer three times, in pursuit of horses, turkeys and deer. 
Cookie sails with Nora and Nick, Mission Bay.
WHEN HE  and Nora were two years old, he took on three off-leash pit bulls who attacked me and his twin sister.  She was nearly killed and was hospitalized for weeks.  I needed two skin grafts on my arm, but Nicky escaped with a bite on his right ear. The nurse and doctor who rescued us in an Arizona park were drawn to the scene by my screams and the sight of Nicky atop the growling dogs, who'd pinned Nora and me down.
Recently, he recovered from serious pancreatitis with the help of a couple antibiotics and our TLC.
Nicky, left, and Nora, at Santa Barbara pier.
endearing, adorable little friends traveled thousands of miles with us. They rode trains, sailed in boats, snoozed in their beds in rental cars visiting San Francisco, New Orleans, Atlanta, New York, Santa Barbara, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Minneapolis, Billings and Ashland, Oregon, for our annual treks to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They took trams to the mountain tops of Palm Desert and Breckenridge.
Nick and Nora logged more than 50,000 airline miles with us in 16 years of travel. When I approached the airlines for doggie frequent flier miles, they thanked me for my "humorous appeal." I wasn't kidding, but alas, no points for the pups.
Favorite times with them were at our country place in Montana where they scampered in 
Nora, left, and Nick, always on alert, ever curious.
  the woods, luxuriated with us under the aspen trees and chased after squirrels, mice and rabbits (catching only voles, of which we had an excess. They were a formidable tag team in their prime.)
They loved our walks on the beach, too, chasing seagulls, sometimes soaking themselves as the tide came in. 
They snoozed beneath tables at my writing workshops, endearing themselves to all.
THE BONDS we humans form with our pets are like no others.  The cliche "unconditional love" is true.  Nick and Nora never quarreled with us.  There were no disagreements, hurtful remarks, and the occasional disobedience and scolding were quickly forgiven and forgotten by both parties.
The Yorkies traversed both east and west coasts, here
in La Jolla, California, sporting fresh haircuts with Cookie. 
Reminders of  him and his sister are everywhere. I put my cereal bowl on the floor for Nicky to lick. I saved part of my chicken breast for him, then caught myself.  The freezer is full of little Tupperware dishes of "Nicky Stew," a special enticement I made
from hamburger, chicken liver, rice, broth and his prescription canned food. This morning I found treats in my shirt pocket, doggie bags in my jacket.  His leashes hang by the doors.  His bed is still on ours.  Others are throughout the house, including the one I'm resting my feet on. It will be the last to go.
 NICKY LIVED in the now.  He taught me kindness, forgiveness, anticipation. As he aged, he did so with peace, a wise, endearing, patient old pal who seemed to know nothing lasts forever.  He  loved being with us, and his adopted aunties -- Sue, in Yorkshire, England, and "Auntie Nannie" in San Diego.  Nannie took care of him many times, keeping a careful log of his antics and activities, loving him deeply as we did and do.
Our last Christmas card with both pups -- Nick, left, and
 Nora, in the lilacs of High Chaparral, near Nye, Montana

She wrote a lovely poem to honor him.
WHEN MY baby brother Patrick died in February, then a friend's ancient pet passed in April, this superstitious Irish girl had a feeling that Nicky would be "the third," -- he might not be with us much longer. We'd hoped to get him back to Montana, to bury him there.  It was not to be. So I grab another tissue, placing his tiny box next to Nora's. Nine pounds of joy now ashes.
The cremation people told me he wouldn't want me to be sad. I'm hanging on to that. He taught me how to live a better life, how to age with acceptance, how to die with grace.
 The house is quiet now. In the sorrow and silence, it comforts me to find Nicky and Nora in my heart.
(Compassionate cremation arrangements for Nicky were made by a lovely couple who helped me choose his favorite blankets, consoled me and gently took him from my shaky hands:

Queen Elizabeth is center stage, at 96,
surrounded by members of the Royal Family.
UP NEXT: We celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's long reign on the throne of England -- a remarkable 70 years.  Cookie saw her coronation as a tot and has followed "The Royals" through her long career as a journalist and travel writer, even meeting members of the family at various state functions. Come along to London with us, during a four-day holiday to celebrate this remarkable woman, now 96. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on family, travel, nature, the arts and more: Do share the links!

Thursday, May 19, 2022

'Taste of Victoria' food tour takes the cake for fun, history, variety


Victoria, British Columbia, is a wonderful place to stroll, look and eat! The top-ranked food tasting
tour in Canada is waiting for you on your next visit to this charming, ethnically varied city. 


Our tasting tour began at Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop,
where we devoured delectable meatballs in a satisfying sauce.

WE ALWAYS look for new, fun things to do when we travel, especially when we return to places we love and have visited before. So when we knew we'd have a long day in Victoria, B.C., we booked something we'd not tried before in this bustling city. We lined up a walking-tasting food tour.

WHAT FUN food tours are. We've munched our way across Amsterdam, Rome, New Orleans, London and Key West --  increasing our pleasure in each city and appreciation of its culinary variety.

Ayo Eat's yummy offering: delicious peanut sauce
to complement a tasty Indonesian spring roll. 
Food in any city is shaped by its residents. A good food tour artfully weaves history and eating, and Andy Olson is one of the best food tour guides in the business.  He owns and manages "A Taste of Victoria Food Tours" which has cultivated a healthy worldwide foodie following.
The amiable Olson takes a "hands on" -- make that "mouth on" -- approach. Since launching his business, he's continued his world travels, munching his way through dozens of food tours.  He knows what makes a good tasting tour fun: variety, local ingredients, history told with enthusiasm.
"I wanted to show off this beautiful city and the eateries that make it appealing," Olson said as he ushered us around downtown Victoria. "I also wanted to emphasize local places serving local stuff."
Mouth-watering candies were devoured with joy at Roger's 
Chocolates, with a delectable Victoria cream vanilla.
First, the Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop, located in a bustling converted warehouse and flanked by a coffee shop, and other small food operations. This was a welcome beginning. We'd eaten a light breakfast and by 1 p.m. were hungry. A pair of mouth-watering meatballs swimming in savory tomato sauce hit the spot -- right out of an Italian grandma's kitchen  

NEXT UP on our award-winning  historic walking and food tour was a stop at Victoria BBQ House and Bakery for a barbecue pork bun, a warm slightly sweet bun with a spoonful of seasoned pork inside. Olson guided us through Chinatown, Old Town and the city's Inner Harbor.

Fan Tan Alley dates back to the mid-19th
Century and is filled with boutiques.
We stopped in Fan Tan Alley, a narrow lane -- only a few feet wide and 240 feet long -- between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue in Victoria's small but colorful Chinatown.
Olson explained that it's the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco. Its beginnings stem from the mid-19th Century's influx of miners from California.
IF WE'D been walking on our own, we might have passed by some of the intriguing places Olson chose. For instance, Ayo Eat, a tiny street-food place with a chef who cooked for the Dalai Lama before leaving Indonesia. The peanut sauce and tasty spring roll it garnished were fabulous -- tangy, rich, but not overpowering. It was a favorite of us both. 
Slim and fit, Olson shared his experience in making macarons, at a stop in the pretty, chandelier-lit French pastry shop, La Roux Patisserie. Its owner greeted us and described her clientele -- from wedding parties to couples celebrating an anniversary, to the retired teacher with an affection for croissants. 
TASTING TOURS have been around for a couple decades -- but they've really taken off in the past decade. "I think people like to feel they're doing something a bit off the grid," Olson said. "And it's fun to be together, learning something new."
Just Matcha's drinks are artfully served in
a peaceful, rejuvenating setting. 
We were a small group in the afternoon, but Olson's morning tour had the full 8 or 9 he likes to tour with.  His knowledge and enthusiasm are part of the fun. He greets everyone by name and they all know and like him. His passion for his adopted home and the food it serves is obvious. He's tried everything the tour offers. Does he cook for himself and his wife? "No, actually, neither of us is a very good cook. That's partly how I came into this business.''
Andy Olson talks about his passion for food,
inspiring his decision to open a tasting tour.

A delectable French macaron from La Roux
Patisserie in Victoria, a charming bakery.

BETWEEN FOOD courses it was nice to get a break at Just Matcha Tea Shop, where we sipped a delightful matcha infused drink and had a Zen moment in the relaxing ambiance of soothing artwork and tea-inspired calm.
Food tours appeal both to seasoned travelers as well as newcomers to a region or city. If you've been there before, you're looking for something different. If you're new, a good tasting tour will give you highlights of places to eat and offer a pleasant overview of the city and its life, history, ethnicity and neighborhoods. Expect a bit of background, anecdotes, personal history as you skip from humble to lavish stops.

ROGER'S Chocolates is dripping with Victorian charm -- an old-fashioned candy shop with a fragrant array of intoxicating chocolates for every taste. And Churchill Pub rounds out the tour -- a real English-feeling drinking house with sturdy wooden booths and a beautiful bar. This was the only time Andy

The Churchill, a traditional English pub, is a stop in
the fast-paced and varied "Taste of Victoria Food Tour."

participated, having a small sample of a local brew. Six or seven stops are offered with a changing repertoire depending on time of year, fresh produce and Olson's whims.  Tours are balanced to provide a filling "meal" in sensible, 
small portions over the allotted time.
OLSON'S foodie orbit embraces his own personal wide-ranging culinary tastes, traditional specialties and time honored treats. He's also on the lookout for new dining options to show off the varied heritage of Victoria. The food tour always includes Asian fare, important because immigrants from the Far East helped build the city.  We enjoyed all seven tastings. Not a clunker in the bunch. "Fantastic food tour with delightful tastings, heaping helpings of world culture, and enthusiasm for Victoria's past and present," Keller said. He pronounced the two-plus hour event "great fun, for first-timers to Victoria, or return guests looking for something new." (250)893-9815

Yorkies Nora, left, and Nick, devoted and beloved by
Cookie and Keller. Nora crossed the Rainbow Bridge
two years ago and a new chapter unfolds May 26.

Animal lovers know that there's nothing more traumatic and sad than losing a beloved pet. We have had dogs all our lives -- 19 between the two of us (Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller.) Our times with Yorkshire terriers Nick and Nora are a huge part of our life together, so we share a recent tragedy with fellow pet owners in our May 26 post. We have a feeling that thousands out there will find comfort in our story.  Remember to explore, learn, live, embrace the moment and catch us each week for a fresh spin on nature, family, pets, the arts, travel and more:

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Hilo's Tsunami Museum packs a powerful punch with frightening exhibits, films, commentary

The dreaded tsunami was the focus of an interesting afternoon for Bruce Keller and Christene
"Cookie" Meyers, who visited the engaging Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawaii
. An extensive
collection of photos, oral histories, videos, artifacts and displays awaits. We recommend staying
at Hilton's Grand Naniloa Hotel, a welcoming Double Tree with gorgeous harbor views. 


The wreckage caused by a tsunami is enormous.
The Hilo museum explores the causes of the killer waves.




Dramatic displays tell the story of how
humanity is affected by tsunami's horrors.
TSUNAMIS are among the planet's most fearsome natural disasters. And nowhere are people more aware of the dangers of this raging act of nature than in the Hawaiian Islands.
In Hilo, Tsunami sirens are on alert and school children are taught to watch for warning signs: tremors, roars from the ocean, receding waters exposing the sea floor. All spell impending doom. Evacuation Zones are marked and families store emergency kits.
Since 1812, more than 160 confirmed tsunamis have been recorded on the islands, causing countless deaths and damage topping $625 million. The April, 1946, tsunami in Hilo alone, killed 159 people and destroyed $26 million in property.  Its cause was an undersea earthquake off the Alaskan coast triggering the massive Big Island tsunami.
IT SEEMS fitting, then, that the world's only museum dedicated entirely to the tsunami is located in Hilo.
Tsunamis around the world are explored in well
designed displays with photographs, news clips.

The fascinating Pacific Tsunami Museum -- a thoughtfully  renovated bank-- tells the fearsome tale of the tsunami, pronounced soo-NAH-mee, and its impact in Japan, Alaska, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. Taken from the Japanese, tsunami means "harbor wave" but is usually a series of waves caused by an underwater disturbance. Earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions are among tsunami's chief causes.
Getting a breath of fresh air
after the intensity of the fine
Pacific Tsunami Museum.
Hilo's small but excellent museum interestingly weaves specific tsunami occurrences with data, photographs and narrative.  It features an interesting mix of scientific exhibits. A favorite with school children is an interactive wave-making model which allows the visitor to make his own miniature tsunami.
Stories of rescues and heroism are also well told.
AN ABSORBING film includes moving personal anecdotes of brave tsunami survivors, interlaced with graphic details of personal brushes with monster waves. The museum is all about stories and tells them well.

Diagrams, maps, newspaper accounts and displays show various horrifying tsunamis over the last 500 years. Visitors learn what caused them and see stories of the human survival spirit. Maps show "runup points" -- measurements of the heights wave reach. 
Positano today is a highlight on Italy's Amalfi coast.
In 1343, it was the scene of a huge tsunami which
destroyed the town, ending the republic's sea power days.
Where tsunamis were caused by earthquakes, the quake's magnitude is analyzed through wave energy creating this fearsome natural disaster. 
TSUNAMIS GO back centuries. The oldest recorded one occurred in 479 BC, destroying a Persian army attacking Potidaea, Greece.
Fast forward to 1958, in a display recounting effects of a huge tsunami triggered by an Alaskan landslide. Its 1,700-foot wave -- the largest ever recorded -- inundated five square miles of land and cleared thousands of trees.

Another catastrophe occurred in Europe on the Amalfi coast, where we've many times visited.  In its maritime republic days, it was a thriving port with a wealthy population of 70,000.
The ocean awaits, with beautifully landscaped
grounds, at Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo, Hawaii.

That was until 1343 when it was wiped out.  A massive earthquake under the Tyrrhenian Sea sparked a devastating tsunami along southern Italy's coast. Amalfi’s harbor and its boats were destroyed; the lower town fell into the sea. A once thriving city shrank to a village of 6,000, ending Amalfi's days as a sea power.
THE LOVELY stretch of coastline from north of Naples to south of the Cilento National Park bore the brunt of the huge killer wave, which wiped out the towns of Bussanto and Blanda, near present-day resorts of Sapri and Maratea. Both Naples and nearby Salerno suffered huge damage, including a death toll of tens of thousands. 
The Hilo museum is a testimony both to the power of the tsunami and the power of the human spirit.
More information on this intriguing museum: 
Best bet for your Hilo stay: Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo,

A refreshing green tea drink is served at Just Matcha Tea Shop, one of
seven varied stops on a highly recommended "Taste of Victoria" food tour.
UP NEXT: Food glorious food! Plus history, exercise, variety, fun.  Victoria, British Columbia, has much to recommend it, and we frequent visitors found a new, delightful, food-sampling, history-telling venue.  We take readers on a "Taste of Victoria" food tour,  Canada's top-rated food tour, with stops at a variety of large and small bars, eateries and food stands.  We found it an engaging way to spend a few hours.  Owner Andy Olson delivers a delightful time showing  his love both of food and his adopted city. Rain or shine, he takes foodies and history lovers around downtown Victoria, from tea and sweets shops to pubs, Indonesian and barbecue eateries and other hidden gems in this lively, historic city where he knows everyone. Remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly. Please share: