V versus the Volcano- Mt. Meru Part 1

Three years ago, when my youngest was still a baby and I was just starting out writing the blog, if you had told me I would be writing about climbing a 15,000 foot volcano I’d have laughed, and laughed some more. That’s just crazy talk, I’d have told you. It was as much as I could muster to take a walk around the neighborhood with the dogs and the double stroller. Life was busy, and I had a lot of priorities, none of which were me.

That was around the time Emmett and Mulan died within six months of each other. That was kind of a crummy time. Shortly thereafter, my husband acknowledged that life without a dog was making me utterly miserable, and Brody came home.

Now, life with a puppy was something I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. Exercising him wasn’t just something he kind of sort of really liked, it was an absolute necessity. Without it, he destroyed. He conquered. Furniture, shoes, clothing, all fell down before his mighty toothing jaws, and the only way to mitigate it somewhat was to keep him too tired to go into Captain Destructo mode.

He loved it. And I loved it too. And although it was done for him more than for me, it reminded me of how much I missed being active, and how much better I felt when I did it. So he got his walks and I went back to spin class, and then Bikram yoga, and then hiking, and TRX, and all of a sudden I was doing all of this stuff that wasn’t about Brody but about me, and it was great and I loved it and I couldn’t imagine not doing it.

So when the opportunity to climb Mt. Meru came about when I was planning my trip to Tanzania, I said, “But of course!” Because that is what life is all about. I had been running and hiking for a good amount of time by that point, though I hadn’t been camping for at least ten years, and my experience in actual backcountry hiking was nil. I decided not to tell anyone and just wing it.

At just shy of 15,000 feet, Mt .Meru is the second highest peak in Tanzania (after Kilimanjaro) and the fifth highest in Africa. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful hike through multiple climate zones during the 10,000 feet of ascent. Having had zero experience with this sort of thing, I relied on extensive Googling of Mt Meru packing lists and looking with little success for accounts of Mt Meru climbs to decide what to bring. Overall, I lucked out: the weather was great and everything I brought ended up being sufficient.

The night before we began our trip, I was met at Ahadi Lodge with Margrette- a woman I had just met but already decided was amazing- bu our guide Julius, a 6 foot 4 guide from Maasai wanderings who could best be described as Jack Skellington brought to life, a spindly, long limbed stick insect of a man who would be in charge of ushering me safely to the tip of the universe. Teri, the World Vets team leader who was the common denominator in our little group, had yet to arrive. I hadn’t met her at this point but based on our email correspondence I had already decided she was just a bit goofy and therefore likely to be someone I would like very much (I was right.)

The Maasai Wanderings Land Cruiser picked us up from Ahadi Lodge promptly at 9 am. One doesn’t require a guide to ascend Meru (this is one of the differences between Meru and Kilimanjaro), but trust me, it helps a lot. We climbed with a 3:1 ratio of porter/cook/guide per climber. We drove through Arusha National Park, taking in the sights of the wandering giraffe, before arriving at the base of the trail.


At least they let you know what you are in for.

The one person you are required to take with you, like it or not, is a park ranger. This is to protect you against the cape buffalo, who are responsible for more injuries than any other type of animal in Africa. They get cranky. Although our particular group was comprised of just three individuals, the park ranger service decided to consolidate so we found ourselves ascending with a group of recently graduated medical students from the UK, and a married couple from Vancouver who were right in the middle of a one year round the world pilgrimage. I know the rangers were being somewhat stingy, but it was really cool getting to climb with these fantastic people.


The first day was a four hour climb. First we traversed the plains at the bottom of the mountain, but this quickly gave way to the sharp ascent of the base of the volcano. The steepness did not deter the wildlife in the area; we found bones all over the place.


I was surprised at how much rainforest we were in for much of this climb, damp and cloudy. Although the guides say you can climb the lower reaches of Mt. Meru in hiking shorts, our guide raised his eyebrows at Teri’s hiking skort and suggested she put on her gaiters to protect her calves. Teri scoffed, until she accidentally brushed up against the stinging nettle that is generously sprinkled throughout the hiking path. Stinging nettles are brutal. Wear pants.


The other danger, one our guides glossed over but was one I remembered from my last trip to Tanzania, were the hordes of fire ants. I found myself constantly looking down, jumping straight up whenever I spotted a telltale column of fast-moving red ants. The woman from Vancouver was not so fortunate. She made the mistake of standing a little too closely to an ant fountain, and despite her best attempts to minimize bug damage ended up with multiple ants in and around areas that you DO NOT WANT FIRE ANTS TO BE AROUND.


Once you hit the ascent, you found yourselves gaining altitude fairly rapidly. I felt kind of bad ass until the porters ran by us with 40 pounds of supplies on their head. Then I just felt lazy.


But no matter! 4 hours later and zero cape buffalo attacks to show for it, we arrived at our first camp, Miriakamba Hut, 2500 meters (8200 feet) above the ocean.


It’s not exactly roughing it there. With three cabins, each with 8 rooms capable of holding 4 people, Miriakamba Hut can accomodate up to 96 people at a time, plus porters. There were maybe 18 there when we were climbing.


We had the mess almost entirely to ourselves. I mentioned we had a cook, right? They treated us like kings. I have never had so much amazing soup as I did on this climb.


There was no hot water there, but they did boil water for us to wash with every night. Not enough to bathe with, but you could at least splash your face with it. We had those lovely African squat lavatories, which you get used to surprisingly quickly, and cold running water. Each room had two bunk beds with a mattress, so once you spread your sleeping bag on it ended up being perfectly warm and cozy.

I was a little nervous about climbing with Teri and Margrette- Margrette was a Rainier alum, and Teri had also done quite a bit of climbing in the Washington area. Plus, they were buddies. Would I feel like the third wheel? Would I feel like a total jerk?

Here you go, two of the most welcoming, fantastic women I’ve ever had the pleasure of climbing a volcano with. I couldn’t have asked for a better duo to be with. As you’ll find out, they took me under their wing and saved my butt on more than one occasion as my inexperience got me into trouble on several occasions.


Did I mention they also had plenty of coffee? It wasn’t amazing coffee, mind you, but when you’re over 8000 feet and craving caffeine, Africafe will do just fine. I was just happy that I was there, I made it, and so far, I was feeling just great.

How the remainder of the trip would play out remained to be seen.

Pawcurious Vet Blog: With Pet Blogger and Veterinarian Dr. V

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How to write a mindless dog blog

Here are some hints if you want to write a mindless dog blog that will get lots of attention within one’s chosen clique.

  1. Make sure you know who the bad guys are.
  2. Make sure you know the good guys are.
  3. Maintain a Manichaean woldview.
  4. Continually smear the bad guys.
  5. Continually praise the good guys.
  6. Do not deviate from the party line:  The AKC is either all evil or all good. Same goes with pit bulls.
  7. Make sure get outraged in the same way at exactly the same story as all the people in your clique.
  8. Oh. And make sure you cover only the stories of the day. Otherwise, you might have to do some analysis and actually think through what you’re writing.
  9. Because you’re on the side of good, it is morally justified to be the biggest asshole possible to people on the side of evil.
  10. Make sure you know how to stay as outraged as possible in your writing. Make outrage your entire voice and focus.
  11. The only two dog experts who matter are Raymond Coppinger and Cesar Millan. Choose one or the other. Quote them regularly.

If you follow these steps, you’ll have a blog that will make all you will-respected in the community of dog bloggers.

Well, it will definitely make you well-respected in your clique.

Until you accidentally deviate from the party line.

Then you’re the effing enemy!


The Retriever, Dog, & Wildlife Blog

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Going rate for the blond one: 20 cows, plus shillings.

This post is part of a series documenting a trip undertaken by a team of volunteers with World Vets who traveled to Arusha, Tanzania in June 2012 to provide veterinary care for the under (or should be say un-) served donkey population. For the full series of posts covering World Vets, please click here.

 I think genuine smiles are much more interesting than canned ones. You can tell. You can always tell. And as much as posed photos work in certain circumstances, I tried to avoid overly directing picture opportunities because I wanted the snapshots you all saw to reflect something real. Over the course of the week, as I learned my teammates and what makes them tick, it became easier to spot scenarios when I’d be able to catch someone smiling or laughing or just looking happy, a universal emotion across culture and language that speaks volumes. These are my favorite pictures to take.

Teri: Just add people

Dr W working her magic: She learned his fascinating life story in about 5 minutes.

It’s impossible to catch Teri not smiling, really. Usually she was either laughing or in the process of making someone else laugh, usually with a story involving putrid milky products in Mongolia, purple bordellos of ill repute in Africa, or asking a wizened old porter how to say “crazy white lady” in Swahili (mzungu kichaa, by the way) while pointing to herself, all while doing a jig.

Janet: Just add animals

Janet is sort of how I view the archetypal veterinarian: calm, understated, sharp, and efficient. Even in a team of animal lovers who as a whole are quick to swoop in on something cute and furry, she was always the first one on her knee to greet a nervous dog or calm a skittish donkey.

Toccoa: Just add camera

Toccoa is such a poser. I had to try and sneak around her because every single time she saw the lens, she posed. And posed again. And I can’t complain, because it was hysterical every time, but my protests that I wanted genuine emotional reactions were quickly rebuffed as she went back to making silly faces with giggling kids. But you know, that is Toccoa being Toccoa, so it works.

Alana: Just add kids

No matter where we went, Alana was surrounded by kids like a Pied Piper of peanuts. They can sense a mum when they see one. If kids are anything like dogs, if they can tell you’ve been around other kids while you were away, Alana’s in trouble because she was cuddled by no less than 4,356 children over the course of the four days. Or was it 4,357.

Kyle: Just add Vetericyn

"If you spray Vetericyn on a pile of lead chunks…"

You don't even want to know what he just said.

I normally consider myself somewhat of an arbiter of funny things, but this team put me to shame. Kyle had an inspired running bit over the course of the trip about the myriad things Vetericyn could do, from solving morning breath to turning water into wine, and EVERY SINGLE TIME I turned the video camera off he popped off another one. And I’d be laughing too hard to get the camera back on in time.

Rachel: Just add Kyle

These two are so stinkin’ cute together, two fast moving peas in a pod, running hither and fro all around the world. And that’s all it took for Rachel: one glimpse at her hubby and she would break into a grin, every time.

Rudy: Just add….well, I’ll get back to this.

This guy was a tough nut to crack. I think it’s a British thing. I know he can laugh, I saw it more than one time, but every time I tried to catch him doing it- boom, he’d bust out this stoic stern mug. He called it his “concentrating face”, but I called it a sourpuss.

I was beginning to think it was never going to happen, that catching Rudy smiling would be like seeing the big 5 on your first safari- an elusive and difficult task. (But hey, I managed to pull that off too, so never give up hope.) But then, then we had this conversation on the last day. You have to imagine him saying this in the right tone too, kind of like Snape when he catches Harry hiding under the Cloak of Invisibility.

Rudy: Why have you been sitting in the pickup for the last 45 minutes?

And he was right, I hadn’t left the truck for close to an hour by that point. I spent the second half of the last day in the pickup bed or climbing up on top of the cab. From my eyrie on the roof, I had a perfect eagle’s eye view of the vast market spreading before us.

In addition, I could shoot away somewhat removed from the distrustful eyes of those who didn’t care for my big camera lens.

Which you can see if you zoom in, didn’t always work. Busted.

But that wasn’t the sole reason I was there. I was also hiding. From this guy.

Earlier in the day, he made a beeline over to us under some pretense of offering friendly advice, and immediately after that asked if could purchase Janet to be his wife. Janet said, politely, hapana, asante. No, thank you. Undeterred, he found his way over to Alana, intuiting that they were close, and tried to barter with her for Janet’s hand.

“I have many cows,” he said, hopefully.

“Hapana,” Alana replied. No. ”She’s married.”

Nice try: Alana refuses to sell Janet to this guy.

He looked around and raised his eyebrow. I don’t see any husband. So Alana dragged Rudy over from his punda station and made him pretend that Janet was his wife and tell the guy to please stop harassing her. Her jilted suitor sighed. “She is very tall,” he said wistfully.

He wandered off, much to everyone’s relief. A local woman came by and snorted in disgust. “He’s always drunk,” she said conspiratorially. “She wouldn’t want him.” She angled her head. “But he is also very wealthy. He has many, many cows.” She peered at me sharply, motioning for me to take off my buff, which had been keeping my hair out of my face all week. Confused, I did. Then she pulled my ponytail out of the elastic, arranging my hair around my shoulders. She nodded, satisfied, and walked off.

I stood there with my elastic band and my buff in hand, confused as to why she would do that. Then I heard a hiss behind me, a sharp intake of air, and turned to find HIM back again, leering at me this time, sticking his fingers out like the witch in the gingerbread house when she was assessing Hansel’s arms for fat content. I guess he got over his heartbreak pretty quickly and decided that, although inferior, the blond would do.

“Come to my hut,” he said.

“Hapana,” I said, hurriedly pulling my hair back into a ponytail.

He pressed his lips together and wandered off to find my keeper. A minute later, I head Toccoa saying, “Hapana.” I found myself grateful I got along with my roommate. He was offering a good number of cows, I was told. At least 20.

“The price is 10,000 cows,” she said, leaning over to whisper into my horrified ear, “Don’t worry, he only has 800.”

“Shillinges?” he asked hopefully, rubbing his thumb against his fingers in the universal sign for cold hard cash.

“She’s married,” Toccoa said. He looked around and shook his head. I don’t see any husband. Well, Kyle’s wife was right there with him and we had already married Rudy off to Janet, so I was stuck.

“In America,” I said. “He’s in America.” My would-be suitor shrugged, a what happens in Arusha stays in Arusha sort of shrug, then went back to haggling with Toccoa. I guess being married only counts if the husband is right there to object. It was at this point that I jumped into the relative safety of the pickup bed, and tried to bury myself in a duffle bag of syringes. Although not enclosed like the pope-mobile or anything, it would be much harder to separate me from the group in that thing, and besides, I knew where the truck key was if I needed to make a speedy exit. Soon enough I discovered it was also a good vantage point for photography, and this is how Rudy found me, an hour later.

So I told him all of this, and apparently the image of me getting dragged off kicking and screaming by some alcoholic 6 foot bowler hat wearing pimped out Maasai to live the Real Housewives of Arusha dream while Toccoa divvied up the shillings was enough to make even Rudy the Stoic crack a smile.

Rudy: Just add schadenfreude. But this time, I was ready. CLICK.

Just like last time in Tarangire. I always get my shot. Even if it’s at my expense.


Oh, and in case you’re wondering about me…. just add Africa. Works every time.

Doctor, Doctor: The dynamic duo on our last day.

Pawcurious Vet Blog: With Pet Blogger and Veterinarian Dr. V

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Question by Don’t read this: TICKs!!!!!!!!!!?
my dog has a tick (first one)
and i was an idiot and tryed to remove it with tweezers. but it was feeding and bit down and now it wont let goits on his belly. i need a way to make it let go so i can remove it without crushing it and tearing it into little pices like i REALY want to.
how do you make it let go?
i have tryed tweezers but he is feeding and wont let go and i REALY cant grip his head so how to i get him to LET GO!

Best answer:

Answer by Marie :)
Pull it off, kill it, throw it away. KILL IT so it won’t multiply and put more on your dog…. You have to makesure you pull out the head as well!

(squeeze it with your nails, it’ll do the job)

What do you think? Answer below!

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An Interview With Nermal

I never knew I was a feral cat until I wasn’t one any more.

Itchmo: News For Dogs & Cats

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Feb 19, Dog Digestion Differences to Chew On | Best Dog Food Guide

Chew on some important differences in human versus dog digestion systems. An understanding of these can help you making a difference from surviving to thriving of your canine companion.
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide

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Flea Control : Using Borax to Kill Fleas

Borax comes as a dry product, and it can be raked into the carpet to help kill fleas by drying them out. Take care of fleas without using harmful chemicals with help from a pest control operator in this free video on flea control and extermination. Expert: Mark Govan Contact: www.ABC-Pestcontrol.com Bio: Mark Govan has more than 20 years of pest control experience in central Florida. Filmmaker: Christopher Rokosz
Video Rating: 4 / 5

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I passed down a simply old individuals fitness tre…

I passed down a simply old individuals fitness treadmill machine from a companion and just trained my Billy how to hop up on it and trot along.

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Feb 19, Dog Esophagus – Where the Dog Digestion Story Continues | Best Dog Food Guide

The dog esophagus gets its job done in just seconds. It transports the food from the mouth to the stomach via peristaltic waves.
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide

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Review: Soggy Doggy Super Shammy

Product: Soggy Doggy Super Shammy Review What it is: Super absorbent microfiber drying towel Manufacturer: Soggy Doggy Productions, LLC, Larchmont NY DogTipper Review: From the makers of the Soggy…

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