South Llano River SP, April 2018

Friday April 27, 2018 @South Llano River State Park

Well, I have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. I heard about the 1st Annual Birding Festival in the park and rushed to see if I could get a campsite. I got the last one! I am a novice birder, now that I am a Master Naturalist, so this opportunity to hang out with the experienced birders and learn from them sounded amazing.

As many of you already know, our oldest dog, Nicky, has been dealing with Cushing’s syndrome. On top of that, he had a spinal injury during the process of putting him in and out of my truck during the time he was being diagnosed. That seemed to clear up, but the other disease stayed the same. The vet finally authorized doubling his dose of vetoryl as a last ditch effort to get the syndrome under control. I was thinking it was working, but Nicky suddenly started having problems with his back again. On Thursday morning, we started him on two heavy duty pain meds (one is an anti inflammatory to see if we could get him back on track. Both Rachel and I agreed that if that didn’t work, we would not just sit back and watch our Nicky suffer.

I got up at 5:00 AM to let Nicky out this morning, and he was just laying on his giant pillow bed. He wagged his tail at me, but would not get up to go outside. I put a towel under his hind legs and led him outside. Doing that takes the pressure off his spine. He got outside, tried to pee, sat down to finish, and flopped on the ground. I had to use the towel trick to get him back inside, where he just flopped on the floor and stayed there.

I made up my mind that this was the end. I wrote a text to the vet’s office telling them that Nicky had declined to the point that I was bringing him in at 7:30 to be put down. I didn’t send it, because I wanted to talk to Rachel first.

I went back upstairs and went back upstairs and tried to get another hour of sleep, but couldn’t. I finally got dressed and woke Rachel up to discuss it with her. Her only response was, “We knew this was coming." I went ahead and sent the text to the vet, and went down stairs mentally prepared to put Nicky in the truck and take him in.

I found Nicky laying on the second stair. I hadn’t bothered to put the baby gate up to keep him from climbing up. I obviously didn’t think it was necessary. Nicky had gotten up from the kitchen floor, walked to the front room, and climbed up to his favorite resting spot at that step! When I came down, he followed me out to the kitchen, a little wobbly, but nowhere near death’s door.

I went back up and discussed it with Rachel, and we decided that we needed to give him a few days to see if the pain meds solved the walking issue. Rachel told me to go ahead and go on my trip, and she would deal with whatever happened.

I reluctantly drove over to the storage lot, followed by N2S, to hitch up and head for Junction. N2S went with me to the lot to get my fishing equipment so he and his buddy could go fishing.

I had an uneventful drive to Junction. The whole time, all I could do was think about Nicky. I felt horrible for leaving Rachel to handle the situation, but honestly felt like things would get better. In fact, Rachel texted me later in the day and told me things were looking up. I am only 90 minutes away, and will rush home if necessary. I hope and pray that doesn’t happen. Cancer sucks. Even in dogs!

I got here around 11:00 AM and had the Colby 2.0 set up in site #21 by noon. Coincidently, that is the same site I have had both times before! All I told the ranger at checkin was that I wanted a site that was easy to back in. There were loads of empty sites, as the crowds didn’t come until late afternoon.

I changed clothes, grabbed my binoculars, and headed off on a hike following the trail the goes to the river and then follows it. I wasn’t planning to actually log any bird siting on this walk, but there were so many birds that I just had too. Once again it was frustrating because I didn’t recognize the songs, the birds would stay still long enough for me to see them well, and when they did, I couldn’t always ID them. I did, however, log about 11 different species, 6 of which were new to me. Those six were the Summer Tanager, Vermillion Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Painted Bunting, and Couch’s Kingbird.

When I got back to the Colby 2.0, I cleaned up, dressed, and headed into town for registration and the meet and greet. I stayed there feeling like a fish out of water for about an hour. I am just not good in a room filled with close to 100 strangers. It was nice enough. I did talk to a couple of ladies who sat near me, but it was mostly an uncomfortable “sit and watch the others" kind of thing. As soon as one of the ladies I was talking to said she was leaving, I bailed.

I filled up my tank with gas, bought a few groceries (Rachel, I forgot the damned eggs!), and rewarded myself for passing up on the amazing buffet of snacks at the meet and greet by getting a veggie (no cheese) six inch sub soaked in red wine vinegar at Subway for dinner.

Back at the trailer, I ate dinner and tidied up a bit. I went outside to sit at the picnic table for a few minutes and couldn’t believe how many birds were at my site. I came back in and grabbed my binoculars. Then I realized I needed my field guide, so I went back in for that. Then a Black-throated Sparrow was sitting on a branch singing for so long, that I had to go back in for my camera. Right after that, about four Summer Tanagers started flitting around my site. Some were fully red. Some were red-headed with orange and yellow bodies. It depends on the gender and age of the birds.

When it got dark, and the first bug landed on my face, I came inside. I watched a Netflix movie that I had downloaded to my iPad. It was nothing to write home about. Then, I started watching a series with Regina King called “7 Seconds". It is awesome. I paused it to write this.

Now, I am going to watch the rest of the episode, play my three word games, and hit the hay. I have an alarm set for 6:00. I have to be at the day use parking lot at 8:00 for the Riparian Birdwalk. Laters!