Category Archives: Recreation

Amusing Monday: Stories of surf dogs and their human companions

Some dogs take to the water more than others, but it’s always great to see the stories behind dogs who excel at surfing — or other feats of athletic skill, agility or mental competence.

One such story involves a surfer dog named Sugar and her human companion Ryan Rustan, who says his dog changed his life in many positive ways. In the first video on this page, Ryan talks about being a surfer who was always quick to anger, an attitude that held him back in school and other endeavors. Things changed for Ryan when he found a hungry dog on the street in need of help. Ryan rescued Sugar, who in turn rescued him.

Sugar is this year’s winner in the Large Surfing Dog Division at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Championship in Ryan’s hometown of Huntington Beach (second video).

The Incredible Dog Challenge, which has been around 20 years, also features a small dog surfing event along with other challenges — both on and off the water. On YouTube, Purina features both a brief overview of the competition as well as a more complete version of the events, lasting an hour and a half.

The full list of videos for this year’s Incredible Dog Challenge can be found on Purina’s YouTube page, but I would like to call your attention to the water-related events. By the way, the winning team in the Fetch It Competition is from Olympia.

Another influential dog-surfing competition is the World Dog Surfing Championships in Pacifica near San Francisco. The third video on this page offers a quick review of the competition. Winners, photos and a video from the Bay Area’s KPIX-5 TV can be found on the Surfer Today website.

Gidget, a 5-year-old pug, has her own story to tell after overcoming an inherited disease and being named the overall winner in the Aug. 5 surf competition in Pacifica as well as an Imperial Beach competition on July 28.

According to a story by Rachel Baerchen, Gidget’s owner Alecia Nelson became worried following the young dog’s first year of surfing competition three years ago. Gidget had won third-place for small dogs in the Surf-A-Thon competition at Del Mar Dog Beach in San Diego, but something was wrong.

Gidget was looking skinny, and everything she ate went through her. Several veterinarians were stumped as to a cause, despite extensive blood tests. The young dog grew emaciated and was headed for a certain death.

“It was devastating,” Alecia told the reporter. “I love Gidget, yet I felt helpless. I knew I couldn’t give up and had to keep trying to find a solution.”

Eventually, Alecia found a vet who recalled a rare case he had treated previously. He wasn’t sure it would work, but he prescribed an expensive enzyme powder that Gidget would need to take twice a day for the rest of her life.

The treatment worked, and in time Gidget was given the go-ahead for further surfing ventures. Her disease was diagnosed as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, a progressive disease that results in a shortage of enzymes essential for digestion.

Rachel goes on to report in her story about Gidget’s many successes since her diagnosis and treatment, and she quotes Alecia as saying:

“It’s amazing, considering what we went through, that Gidget is healthy again, competing against amazing surf dogs, raising money for charity, and sweeping the 2018 Events thus far. I feel blessed and honored each day I have with Gidget.”

Amusing Monday: This southern lady has a funny story for everyone

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Get out and enjoy the cool rivers in our region.” It was during the heat of the summer, and I was thinking back to some past rafting trips. I related what I called the “feelings of calm while traveling across flat water, followed by the invigoration of roiling rapids.”

Humorist Jeanne Robertson has her own memories of a rafting adventure but with an entirely different frame of mind. Jeanne’s way of telling stories — with colorful details and surprising twists — kept me laughing through her eight-minute video titled, “Don’t go rafting without a Baptist in the boat.” Check out the first video on this page.

The sequel to the story comes from the sleeping arrangements on her rafting trip, as you can see in the second video, called “Don’t get frisky in a tent.”

The third and fourth videos were posted earlier this year. One is about a misunderstanding about the rain. The other is about her visit to Spokane, where she learned about a critter native to the Northwest. If that’s not enough — and it probably won’t be — check out 53 more on Jeanne’s YouTube video page.

At 74, Jeanne has collected lots of stories about the oddities of family life, and she is attracting what appears to be millions of fans from from all age groups. I usually go with the flow of life, but after watching her videos, I find myself even less annoyed and more amused when things don’t go as planned.

The former Jeanne Swanner was born in Graham, N.C., and makes the most of her southern accent. She was 6-foot-2 by the age of 13, according to the bio on her website, and she played basketball up through college at Auburn University in Alabama. At age 19, she was selected as Miss North Carolina and went on to be named Miss Congeniality in the Miss America Pageant. Through the Miss America experience, she learned that she has an ability to speak on stage and make people laugh.

With a degree in physical education, Jeanne taught high school and college P.E. classes for eight years before becoming a successful humorist and motivational speaker. Her husband Jerry Robertson, an educator in North Carolina, was dubbed “Left Brain” in Jeanne’s stories. Through the years, she has received multiple speaking awards and has written three books about making humor a part of one’s life — including one book titled “Don’t Let the Funny Stuff Get Away” (1998).

Jeanne is active on Facebook, where she wrote just this morning: “Happy Labor Day. They got my attention! Several FB Buddies sent link. First glance, scared me. Bet it would have made y’all nervous if your name had been in headline as mine was. ‘Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Hilarious Jeanne Robertson.’

“My stomach took a leap,” Jeanne continued. “Uh oh. What did someone know? Gulp. Maybe that time at Graham H. S. when ten of us ‘snuck’ out of study hall, crept along hall & out back door of school to slip to n’hood grocery store for snacks. Seemed good idea at the time. Teacher Mrs. Walker standing in classroom doorway, arms crossed, when we tried to sneak back in, sacks in hand. Did someone find out about that?”

This was all in reference to a new blog post by Kingsley, a self-described “busy mom of two ballet-loving girls” on, where Kingsley revealed some important aspects of Jeanne’s life and humor — including this Robertson quote borrowed from a 2012 blog by Susan Tardanico:

“Humor is not about one-liners or being able to tell jokes. It’s about accepting things about yourself that can’t be changed and finding the humor in situations around you. Things happen on a daily basis that are really funny, but people often let the funny stuff get away, either because they don’t notice it as funny, or they don’t make it a priority to look for it.”

Less boater pollution allows more shellfish harvesting near marinas

State health officials have reduced shellfish-closure areas around 20 marinas in Puget Sound, allowing more commercial shellfish harvesting while inching toward a goal of upgrading 10,800 acres of shellfish beds by 2020.

In all, 661 acres of shellfish beds were removed from a long-standing “prohibited” classification that has been applied around marinas, based on assumptions about the dumping of sewage from boats confined to small areas.

Poulsbo Marina // Photo: Nick Hoke via Wikimedia

“We have seen pretty significant changes in boat-waste management,” said Scott Berbells, shellfish growing area manager for the Washington Department of Health, explaining how the upgrades came about.

New calculations of discharges from boats in marinas and the resulting risks of eating nearby shellfish have allowed health authorities to reduce, but not eliminate, the closure zones around the marinas.

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Amusing Monday: Finding new ways to ride a bike across the water

When a man rides a bicycle across the River Thames in London, people stop and stare — and that’s exactly what 35-year-old Dhruv Boruah wants them to do, as he picks up trash floating on the river.

His message is about plastic pollution. He wants people to know that when plastic gets into the environment, it tends to stay there, breaking into tiny pieces that contaminate the food web.

“I like to be on the water for the adventure,” he said in an interview this month in the London Evening Standard, “and the bike is so unique that it’s a good conversation starter to talk to people and raise awareness about the dangers of plastics, micro-plastics and toxic chemicals to stop these ending up in the ocean.”

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Impassioned task force faces the challenge of saving endangered orcas

Passion for saving Puget Sound’s killer whales is driving an exhaustive search for ways to restore the whales to health and rebuild their population, but hard science must contribute to the search for workable answers.

I recently updated readers on the efforts of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, appointed by the governor to change the course of a population headed toward extinction. Read the story I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound or the version reprinted in the Kitsap Sun.

I began the story by mentioning the term “no silver bullet,” a term I have heard numerous times from folks involved in the task force. They are emphasizing how difficult it is to restore a damaged ecosystem, while orcas wait for food at the top of a complex food web. All sorts of people are looking for a quick fix, something that will increase the number of Chinook salmon — the orcas’ primary prey — within their range, which includes the Salish Sea and Pacific Ocean from Vancouver Island to Northern California.

The quickest and simplest answers:

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Amusing Monday: Get out and enjoy the cool rivers in our region

Given the heat wave of the past few days, I realize that I should have been floating down a river. I’m envisioning cool water splashing people on a boat as the sun beats down from above. I recall feelings of calm while traveling across flat water, followed by the invigoration of roiling rapids.

To get you started, Seattle Magazine offers a few suggestions, and there are numerous rafting companies advertising online to help you tackle more challenging waters.

This year happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and I’ve been watching some videos that I would like to share. The law was designed to preserve the free-flowing nature of rivers that contain outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values.

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Amusing Monday: Sand sculptors continue to shape offbeat creations

We’re near the peak of sand sculpture season, and the works being created this year by artistic sand masters seems to be as good or better than ever.

“Muse” by Pavel Mylnikov, first place at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival.
Photo: Revere Beach Partnership

The latest event this past weekend was the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival in Revere, Mass., billed as America’s first public beach.

The first photo on this page shows the top prize winner in the contest titled “Vanishing Muse,” and the artist is Pavel Mylnikov. The second photo shows the People’s Choice Award, titled “A Nouveau Love” by Rachel Stubbs.

See all the winning photos on the Facebook page of the Revere Beach Partnership. Photographer Joe Siciliano of posted some nice photos on the website Meanwhile, WBZ-TV in Boston produced a video of the event.

Another recent event, held in June, was the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic in New Hampshire. Photographer Matt Parker of Seacoast Online put together a nice photo gallery of the sculptures along with the artists at work. (If necessary, scroll down to June 18.)

In Cannon Beach, Ore., the annual Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest attracted large teams of sculptors at various skill levels. The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt visited the festival and produced a national story, shown in the video on this page. Results of the contest along with pictures can be seen on the festival’s website.

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Starfish continue to baffle researchers with mysterious disease

Five years after a mysterious disease began killing millions of starfish and turning their tissues to mush, the decimated population has yet to recover. Meanwhile, researchers continue to struggle to identify a cause for the disease, which appears to have uncertain ties to viruses and possibly environmental conditions.

In Puget Sound, it’s not as easy as it once was to find a diseased sea star, which seems to be a promising sign until you consider how many have died. As I learned last week during an outing to Lofall in North Kitsap, the total number of starfish remains low compared to four years ago, and recovery has been minimal, if at all.

Under the Lofall dock, volunteers have observed that the number of sea stars is still low, but sick ones are no longer common.
Photo: Christopher Dunagan

Local volunteers have been observing sea stars at Lofall since the beginning of 2014. I first visited the site the following summer with three retired women who lead the monitoring effort there. (See Water Ways , June 17, 2014.) They are still making regular trips at low tide, counting and measuring the starfish and looking for signs of disease.

“The numbers are way down,” noted volunteer Barb Erickson as we stood beneath the Lofall dock last Friday, “but we haven’t seen many sick ones. We also aren’t seeing the little ones.”

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Amusing Monday: Salish Sea photo contest shows diversity of local species

Nearly 900 photographs highlighting the diversity and biodiversity of our inland waterways were submitted to the “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest, which just announced the winners yesterday.

“One Fish, Two Fish” by Nirupam Nigam of Hoquiam
First place in Fish category, “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest

“We’re thrilled with the quality and diversity of the photos — not only the winners but throughout the whole contest,” said Justin Cox, communications director for The SeaDoc Society, which sponsored the contest. “They capture the Salish Sea beautifully, which is everything we hoped for when we envisioned ‘Salish Sea In Focus.’”

The Grand Prize in the contest was awarded to Bruce Kerwin of Bainbridge Island, whose photo shows the furled tentacles of a giant Pacific octopus at Sund Rock on Hood Canal. Other winners were named in five categories plus an additional award for photographers under age 18.

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Amusing Monday: Vancouver, B.C., youth takes three photo awards

Liron Gertsman, 17, of Vancouver, British Columbia, surprised even the judges in Audubon’s annual photo contest. Liron submitted the best photo among youth entries, according to the judges. But beyond that, he was awarded the only two honorable mentions given in his division. The judges themselves were unaware of the trifecta until the winners were tallied.

Grand prize winner: Great gray owl by Steve Mattheis, 2018 Audubon Photography Awards

“Judging is anonymous, so we had no idea that Liron swept the entire youth category, not only the winning image but also two honorable mentions,” Sabine Meyer, one of six judges in the contest, said in an email. “His photos exhibit quite a sophisticated and mature eye, and he is very deliberate in his image making – blurs, extreme close up, monochromatic palette with a backlit bird.

“He is not afraid to push the conventions of classical bird photography aside and invent his own visual vocabulary,” she said. “It’s rare, at any age! I look forward to seeing what he produces in the years to come and hope that other young photographers get inspired and pick up an interest in birds and bird conservation.”

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