Smart People Ride Seattle Metro Buses

[My mom wrote this before I took over the blog]

Downtown in the ride-free zone, I hop on a bus for the library. The hill from Third to Fourth Avenue is dauntingly steep. If I’m on on the #2 — which stops right there — I’ve learned to get off earlier and walk or grab the first bus heading south on Fifth Avenue.

Today I’m on a bus with one of those mysterious three-digit numbers, which means he’s headed to an outlying area I’ve never heard of.

“Do you stop at Spring or Seneca?” I ask the driver.

“I stop at Spring.” He’s a tall, slim man with glasses, very friendly.

“Well, your sign says express, so I wondered…”

“The word express is a misnomer,” he says. “Downtown everybody’s a local.”

“Misnomer? Did you say misnomer? Are you a moonlighting graduate student?”

He laughs. Earlier he did indeed get a graduate degree in one of the language study areas, but he’s been driving for sixteen years, he tells me. He likes the job. It’s a bad job to hate, he says. You have to like it.

“I’d be a truck driver myself,” I say, “if I were a better driver. But I don’t like driving in the rain, or on bridges or tunnels.”

“Truck driving? Too much time away from home,” he says, and we wave good-by as I get off, right in front of the Fifth Avenue entrance to the library.

Seattle Metro to Sea-Tac Airport Seattle

Even people who have lived here for years often miss this one. You can get to Sea-Tac Airport for $1.25 ($1.50 in rush hour). From downtown, it’s a fast, pleasant trip.

From Downtown Seattle: Pick up the 194 at 2d and University (and other points along 2nd) – 30 minutes from boarding downtown to getting off at the airport. No need to make small talk with a cab driver or get stuck at the drawbridge! And you can’t beat the price of $1.25 off-peak. Buses come about every half hour, more often during weekdays.

The 174 runs the same route – slower but gets you there.

Dogs are allowed and it’s rarely crowded.

You get dropped off at the far end of the terminal so there’s a bit of a walk to the check-in area.

Returning buses move along 4th Avenue. When I come back from a rare plane trip, I sometimes stop at the library to pick up the books on hold and return the books I carried to read on long, dreary plane rides (aren’t they all?).

And from 4th Avenue it’s a quick ride to the Downtown Dog Lounge to pick up Gracie. She’s been having such a good time she doesn’t want to go home!

Look up Metro’s home page for more.

Bus Drivers: Unsung heroes?

I must admit I get really annoyed when people criticize our bus drivers. Sure, some are grouchy. Some have days when they’re especially grouchy.

Most welcome Gracie. A few ask if she bites. Gimme a break.

But compared to other places, we’re lucky. And some of these drivers deserve to be recognized for conduct way above and beyond the call of duty.

For example:

On October 30th, I was leaving a function downtown, so I boarded a #2 bus at 3rd and Pine, sometime between 8 and 8:30 PM.

After getting on, I noticed what appeared to be a woman in a wheelchair, completely covered in a sheet. It was almost like a Halloween costume. Even the woman’s drooping head was covered completely in gauze. Was she still alive? Was this some kind of joke?

Somewhere in Belltown, the bus stopped. The driver went over to the woman (I believe they are allowed to leave their seats for wheelchair passengers) and said, “We are at your stop.” She sort of nodded.

I was sitting up front and I asked, “Shouldn’t we call 911? She looks pretty bad.”

“No, you don’t understand,” the driver said. “She got on at Harborview. She wanted to get off here.”

So the driver wheeled this person, completely swathed in white, looking like a corpse, off the bus, out into a cold, dark night. I couldn’t believe anyone would leave her on the street.

The driver asked a stranger to wheel the woman to a nearby entryway, and the stranger did — a man who’d been waiting, presumably for a different bus. We then continued on our way.

This scene haunts me. On the one hand, I wonder why we don’t have resources to provide an escort (as well as a less public form of transportation) for someone in this condition. On the other, it’s a tribute to the bus system and the driver’s concern.

I wonder if a taxi would have offered the same type of thoughtful assistance, let alone easy wheelchair access.

Why We Ride Seattle Metro

[My mom Cathy wrote this entry before I took over the blog.]

When I tell people I don’t drive, they first assume I can’t afford a car.

Actually, up to August 2005, I had a wonderful Toyota Corolla. I sold it four days after moving here, through Craigslist.

Why? I really don’t like to drive through rain, traffic, bridges and tunnels. I’m a cowardly driver: in traffic, everyone else gets to go ahead of me. I brake a lot on bridges and tunnels.

Once I was braver. I learned to drive in San Francisco and drove a VW there for years. When I moved back, years later, to attend grad school at UC Berkeley, I had a little 5-speed Nissan Sentra – a 1985 box. I drove across the Bay Bridge almost every day and later drove back and forth to Chico, California, where I taught for three semesters while finishing my PhD.

I kept it for 11 years and sold it in Canada. The locks broke and I was moving to Philadelphia, a bad place for an unlocked car. The Nissan’s new owner, a woman pilot who lived in the bush, she had no need for locks (and she could repair the car herself). For all I know, the car still runs around the Canadian wilderness.

When I moved to Florida in 1998 I bought a Toyota Corolla with air conditioning, automatic transmission and 4 doors. It seemed so luxurious! Four doors seemed excessive till I got Keesha, my very first dog. Forty-five pounds with extra fur on top.

I drove all up and down I-95 which was terrifying. Lots of tailgating drivers who made interesting gestures when I pointed to the rearview mirror.

I drove to New Mexico, where I lived for four years. Almost every month I went to Tucson, Arizona, which is one of the most beautiful drives in the entire country and maybe the world. Southwest drivers are kind. They signal for lane changes. They rarely tailgate. They pull over during thunderstorms, which is good, because the roads flood easily and even SUV’s can hydroplane.

I drove to Santa Fe where my car was rear-ended by a driver who admitted she wasn’t paying attention. Amazingly, the insurance paid everything and her company paid my deductible.

But I couldn’t wait to stop driving. Hence my move to Seattle. Driving four days in a car packed with 2 cats and a 40-pound dog convinced me: I don’t want to do this anymore.

And I haven’t.

Downtown Dog Lounge: The Reality Show

The Downtown Dog Lounge hosts a new Reality Show. I imagine this script with Gracie.

Scene opens with Gracie in Downtown Dog Lounge, relaxing on couch, eating treats.

Phone rings.

Employee: “Oh no – that’s Gracie’s owner! She’s coming to pick up Gracie. She specifically wanted Gracie to get lots of exercise. Gracie! Quick! Over here!”

Pan to Gracie, who yawns and stretches.

Employee: “Gracie, you better get in the play area and run around.”

Gracie puts head between front paws.

Employee picks up Gracie, who begins to catch on as a cute little Pug comes up for a sniff.

Door bell chimes. Cathy walks in, laden with shopping bags from Public Library, Macys (she had to use up her gift certificate) and Dahlia Bakery, (yum – her favorite).

Cathy; “So did Gracie get a lot of exercise? I hope she’s tired today! I don’t have time to take her for a long walk.”

Employee: “She’s playing now. I think she’ll be tired tonight.”

Cathy: “Oh good! She just loves coming here to play. Gracie! Your tail is wagging! You better be tired tonight…”

OK, just kidding! We love the Dog Lounge.

When I told a REAL employee this story, she laughed and said, “Oh no. When Gracie gets tired of running around, she lets us know. We bring her up front and let her take a nap. She’s really good about telling us what she wants.”

Yeah, I know. Is that dog spoiled or what?!

Keesha: My Very First Dog

Cathy wrote this post right after Keesha died,  just after Halloween, 2005. When we posted this entry, she wrote, “I think about her every day. Sometimes I think she’s looking down from Dog Heaven and shaking her beautiful head when she sees how spoiled Gracie has become. Keesha never sat on furniture. She never chewed.”

Okay, Mom, let’s get on with it… Here’s what she wrote:

Keesha was my first dog ever. When I found myself alone in a house in Florida, I wanted a protector and companion. So right after Christmas, 1998, I headed for the Broward County Humane Society “just to look.” Now, bear in mind, I knew nothing about dogs. I just found myself attracted to a sad-eyed, long-nosed brown female, sharing a cage and looking absolutely miserable.

To my amazement, the folks at the shelter assumed I would be a competent owner. They brought Keesha to a glassed-in “get-acquainted” area. She put her paws up on the wall and looked out the window, eager to see everything and everybody. After passing some kind of “test” to be sure she wouldn’t eat one of my two resident cats, she joined me for a ride to our new home. I still remember her sitting on the table at the vet’s office, waiting for her first exam. “What have I done?” I thought, giving her a hug.

“She’s probably older than four,” the vet warned. “Everybody lies when they turn in their pets.”

We went to obedience class. Both of us were clueless. “Keep practicing,” the trainers said. “She’s very smart.” Sure enough, she was soon getting compliments on “such a well-behaved dog” while I happily took all the credit.

I had no idea how much fun a dog could be. We walked at least an hour a day. We discovered dog parks. When I spent time visiting Gainesville, we joined a wonderful dog park, where she went swimming for the first time. I turned down holiday invitations to spend a day there: I could read while she wandered peacefully and played with other dogs.

She loved our home in New Mexico. Every morning I’d open the gate of my little house and she’d zip across the street to Noble Park. We’d walk at least thirty or forty minutes before breakfast. She’d run around a nearby field.

We’d go downtown together. She was welcomed in the bank, the video store, the bookstore and most of the art galleries. She’d wait for me outside food stores and coffee shops, barking. The Co-op people always forgave her and sometimes they even came out to say, “It’s okay, Keesha! Mom’s coming.” And if I’d been gone too long, she had a special scolding bark, just for me.

When I went to the gym, I’d drive over and leave Keesha in the car. Fortunately, Silver City didn’t have a busy night life. And when I took ceramics, she went to the workshop and snoozed happily while I finished my crumbly, misshapen pots.

At first we’d go out to the country where I’d let her run loose off-leash. She chased deer and rabbits a few times (and thankfully never caught anything). Later I was nervous about releasing an old dog into the wild areas, so we stayed near fields where she could run as much as she liked, safely.

We had a cute ritual. Whenever I left her in the car, she’d work her way to the front. Sometimes she’d sit in the driver’s seat, prompting jokes about wanting to drive us home. She’d look at me innocently after I returned, and I would say, “Keesha, you know better! Get in back.”

With a look of “The jig is up,” she’d crawl to the back seat. Sometimes she’d sit up straight, looking out the window, but often she slept as we drove to Deming. We had rituals there too: I’d walk her around the block and then go to the library. If I was running late and the library was getting ready to close, sometimes I’d go in first. She’d tell the whole neighborhood what she thought.

In fact, that was her only fault. She loved to bark. At first she’d bark whenever the UPS truck drove by. (She could tell the difference.) Then she barked when the driver came to deliver a package. I knew the end was near when she slept while he left a package right at my front door.

She started to slow down after awhile. I didn’t recognize the first signs of arthritis, but I knew she no longer bounced into the car. She walked more and ran less.

We moved to Seattle partly because I really needed to return to the stimulation of a large city and Seattle is the most dog-friendly city in the US. I think I knew she’d be leaving me soon and I wanted lots of distractions available.

We chose this building because they welcomed her. We began new rituals: stop by the recycle bin or the garbage dumpster on our way out for her walk. Ride to the nearest dog park in Belltown. Visit nearby Kinnear Park. Once I let her play with another dog and she scared me, racing off into the bushes. We spent a day at Magnuson Park with our friends; she went wading and introduced herself to half a dozen humans and their dogs.

She wasn’t crazy about bus riding. I always followed the rules and paid her fare, but she didn’t like to curl up tight under a seat. She lounged in the aisle. People usually smiled and patted her (and if they didn’t, she walked up to them and asked.) One grouch complained and was silenced by other passengers: “She’s being so good!”

She walked more slowly. She had cataracts, kidney disease and almost total hearing loss. I got her a little stroller so we could keep going places. But soon we realized we couldn’t continue. She needed drugs for pain and they were hurting her kidneys. She caught a bladder infection. She started to get better and then she got over-enthused: she jumped down a step and fell, crying in pain. We thought she might have sprained something, but apparently she was really hurt. And she wasn’t in shape to handle an operation.

I wheeled her to Kinnear Park so she could have one last outing with the trees and smell the fall leaves she used to chase in her younger days. She made an extra effort to limp around so I know she enjoyed being outside. She sniffed the fresh air appreciatively but already her mind was elsewhere. Dr Clare Morris at Urban Vet let me stay with her to the end as she slipped away peacefully to the Great Dog Park in the sky.

“Maybe she’s letting you make room for another dog who needs you,” said Christopher Aust, a wonderful trainer and dog owner coach who gave me valuable advice throughout.

I thought I would recover quickly…two cats remain and I have so much to do here. But that evening I caught myself thinking, “I’m sleepy — got to take the dog out first,” and realized I didn’t. I started to put the cat food on a high shelf…and realized they can eat off the floor.

I am adamant that she will be my last dog, ever, but surprisingly I feel so much happier when I consider getting another dog…a different smaller breed, fully grown and female, non-yappy but intelligent…more suited to apartment living and better able to cope if I’m gone more often. Not right away, of course.

Keesha wouldn’t mind. She trained me well.

[Post Script: Gracie was adopted January 2, 2006, almost exactly 2 months after Keesha left us. She’s almost the exact opposite of Keesha in looks and temperament, except she’s also very sweet. It’s almost eerie: people always compliment us on Gracie’s good behavior and looks, just as they did for Keesha.]

Perfect Job for a Dog

Here’s an article I found in today’s New York Times.
Dogs and Their Fine Noses Find New Career Paths
By Jennifer Lee
Published: June 13, 2006Click here.I’d like to get a job sniffing out food. I can sniff anything even remotely edible and some things that aren’t.

My mom has a career website for humans…like, why bother? Taking care of me could be a full-time job.

In the Dog House

Hi everybody,

Arf!

Gracie here. My mom says I have to work for a living now. So I’m helping her with this blog.

Last week I got bored while Mom was talking on the phone. See, this is really all her fault! She left my leash attached to my color…a nice leather leash, the same consistency as rawhide.

So my mom finally gets off her long, boring phone call and gets ready to take me out. Ah, at last! I’ve been crusading for a walk for the past hour.

Mom goes to my collar and sees the metal clasp that holds the leash…and no leash! Well, I was chewing on a tiny piece of leather and she got suspicious. Sure enough, she found the top end of the leash, the braided end where the owner holds on. Several inches of leash were unaccounted for.

Well, I had no trouble accounting for the missing inches. They were sitting in my tummy.

Mom freaked. She called the vet. The vet said, “Wait a few days. If she shows signs of distress (too ghastly to mention in a g-rated journal), call the Vet Emergency service. And cut back on her food.”

Oh no! I hadn’t counted on that. I was one hungry pooch, happy to spend the day in my crate, looking sad.

Mom was furious. She took me in a cab to get a new leash from a pet shop. We also got a new chew toy, but I’d rather work on socks. When will she learn?

By the next day I was scampering around. And three days later, the danger period was officially over.

Mom hides my leash now. She vacuums all the time. I can’t even find a crumb to nibble anymore.

And she’s making me work. (Sigh.)

Fondly,

Gracie
a/k/a Amazing Gracie
a/k/a Princess Gracie

[originally posted June 6, 2006 – re-posted to new blog]

Dog Rescue: From Country to City With Love

Arf!

Gracie here.

When Cathy became my new mom, I had to make a major adjustment. See, Cathy’s a very urban person, and my previous home was in Bellingham, Washington. My previous owners left me in a yard most of the time. Being a sociable dog, I was very lonely.

Luckily, my first owner lived next door to a rescue group volunteer! The volunteer noticed I was unhappy and offered to find me a new home.

Well, of course I knew I’d love living with Cathy. I immediately saw possibilities: the bed, the couch…but I didn’t count on the buses and the coffee shops. At first I had no idea what to do and I wanted to play with everybody. But now I sit quietly and realize I’m not getting any food.

Believe me, it’s tough. Half the people on the bus are traveling with yummy-smellling bags from Safeway and Larry’s Market. Cooked chicken! Ribs! Hamburger meat!

None for me.

So…who’s the good dog here?

Arf! Gracie here.

A few months ago Mom was sitting in her favorite coffee shop, Uptown Espresso in Belltown. She was working on her laptop. I was sleeping off a hard morning: we walked all the way from Lower Queen Anne (about 25 minutes) and then I played with a nice Rottweiler in the dog park for another ten minutes.

Woof.

A nice lady came up to Cathy, my mom, holding out a napkin. Mom was so caught up in her computer she almost jumped out of her comfy chair (they have cool armchairs at the Uptown).

“Can I give your dog a muffin?” asked the nice lady. “She’s being so good. And she’s so beautiful.”

“You want her?” my mom asked. She always does that. I don’t think she’s serious. “And I’m afraid Gracie isn’t allowed to have muffins. She’s on a special diet.”

Hmmph. My mom can be so unreasonable! My “special diet” is premium dog food and dog treats (if I sit), and absolutely no people food unless I steal it from the kitchen counter. Who wouldn’t want a nice muffin now and then?

As my mom turned back to her computer, I heard her mutter, “Don’t they realize I’m the reason she’s such a good dog? It’s always the owner. How come they’re not offering me a muffin?”

A lot of good responses came to my sleepy canine mind. But, realizing Mom holds the scissors to my dog food bag, I decided it would be better to maintain silence and go back to dreaming about that cute Pomeranian I chased last week.