Luke the Boxer

Why do Boxers always look worried? Even when happy they still seem to be concerned.


We were talking about our old Boxer, Luke, a couple nights ago. His full name was Skywalker von Stowe because he came into our lives as a very fat puppy with a heart condition, when our small son was so heavily into Star Wars that he would only answer to ‘Luke’.


Luke (the dog, not the kid) wasn’t expected to live long. We were told he could drop dead at any moment because of his heart. But really, he had an incredible heart.

The medication he spent his long life on caused blurred vision, which might have contributed to his worried look. After all, when my glasses are off, I squint and probably look worried, too. Sometimes those heart pills would get stuck up in those floppy Boxer lips and he’d foam at the mouth like he had rabies. Poor thing.

Luke miserable

He hated camping, even with his bed and blanket and a fire

He loved the kid, unconditionally, and played with him tirelessly. The two Lukes would chase each other around and around the dishwasher until the whole world tilted in dizziness. Luke would trot slowly, careful to not get too far ahead of the gleeful little kid chasing him. When Arthur, thinking he was being clever, would change direction, Luke would patiently turn around, pause, and wait for Arthur to catch up before trotting off again. Over and over and over, as long as that little child wanted to run.

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Arthur also played with matchbox cars in the long hallway. He would send the cars flying and Luke would run after them. Luke would then pounce on them with both front paws and send the cars skittering back to Arthur. A matchbox game of fetch.

Speaking of cars, Luke loved them and he wasn’t picky. If a car door was open, he would be found inside. It also didn’t matter if the car moved. He was just as happy to simply sit and watch the world out the windshield in all its blurry wonder.

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So he was a happy, gentle soul. But he always looked worried. I’d never been around Boxers before, so this then worried me. Was he in pain? Was it his heart? Was he actually unhappy?

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My husband grew up with Boxers. I saw old photos of him as a baby with Boxer puppies. I saw photos of Boxers owned by friends.

Eventually I came to realize, they all look worried. I guess it’s just a Boxer trait. Along with their incredible sweetness and devotion to their kids.

Arthur Luke 5

River Solitude

Recently I warned locals about the high number of deer on the highway. I gave the location as the area around Eagle Falls, Boulder Drop, and Split Rock. It dawned on me later that I used the river for highway locations rather than mile markers.

Boulder Drop and Split Rock are specific spots on the Skykomish River that are well known to anyone who lives near the river. And it’s nothing new to use landscape as maps or guidance or to center someone on where they are in their world.

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The husband at Boulder Drop

The 13th of April was Sam Grafton’s 29th birthday. Those who read this blog know he is gone from our lives, lost to a kayaking accident. For his birthday we went out on a sunny and cool spring day to visit some of his favorite kayaking spots. There was still snow on the ground in areas and the old back roads were empty of people in these days of social distancing and self-quarantine. Empty except for us, on our river pilgrimage.


Sam’s mother, when she invited me, didn’t give me directions by saying we were going up highway 2 and turning on a specific road. Instead, she simply said we were going to Top Tye.

From there we followed the river and streams to Log Trap and the Spout and Box Top. I had never heard of these places before as they are kayak routes most kayakers don’t attempt. But Sam did. He was one of only five to ever run Log Trap. A second is Rob McKibben, also known in the kayaking world.


The Spout. Use the rocks on the far side for perspective how high and sharp the drop is. 

Not only is Rob an amazing kayaker, he was also our gentle guide on Sam’s birthday, leading us through the woods from one spot to another, telling us stories and bringing those runs to life for us.


Log Trap to the right and Box Top to the left. Photo doesn’t show drop well.


It was a beautiful day that will become one of those gems in my memory. I am grateful Sam’s family included me, and so glad I gave the day to sunshine and woods and river and stories and friendship.

I came home and pulled up a YouTube video called ‘Tumwater Solitude: Sam Grafton Kayaks Wenatchee River Class V’ (link below). There’s a scene in the five-minute video, right about 2:25, that is framed from above so that nothing is visible except water and Sam. The river is a living force in that frame, whitewater foaming and rushing, and this little spot of green in the midst of all that power. The video is heartbreaking to watch, but it’s also beautiful.


Log Trap. Again, the photo doesn’t give a good perspective for the size of the drop. 

Those few brief seconds encapsulate all that the river is and how it impacts us and forms our lives and marks our landscape. And how it forms our memorials, not just for Sam, but also for my sister, who loved the Columbia River in its wide-reaching depths. This coming weekend should have been her memorial, but it was canceled because of the limit on gatherings. We were to release her ashes to the river on that day.

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The Columbia

Two people important in my life, both deeply tied to rivers.

Those few brief seconds in that video encapsulate how Sam was part of the river. Not ‘fighting’ the rapids or ‘beating’ the run or any other phrase commonly used to show that someone ‘wins’ against nature.

He was just there, with the river.

We will reschedule my sister’s memorial and release her ashes and she, too, will be with the river.

And then both Jani and Sam will be with their rivers, forever.

Tumwater Solitude


Just A Funny Story

We were sitting at the table recently talking about a hike I went on with my sister and her family to Mt. Pilchuck, many years ago. I was telling my husband and son about the boulder field where you had to find yellow paint marks on rocks to know which direction to go. And that gave me a sudden flashback.

Beth & family

Above the clouds on Mt. Pilchuck

Years ago dad and I were scouting a trail through the woods up this ridge, to figure out a route for laying pipe. The pipe was going to run water to a wheel to generate electricity.

I hadn’t lived in the woods before or done anything like this. Dad gave me a can of red spray paint and told me to paint arrows on the trees so we’d know where we’d been and could find our way back.

And off into the woods we went.

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The ridge we went up

I carefully painted big arrows on each tree trunk.

Hours later we finally turned to go back down the ridge.

And dad says ‘where are the arrows?’.

They were gone. We couldn’t see any. Just woods surrounding us.

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Because of course I’d painted them as we moved up hill, not thinking to paint arrows on both sides of the trees.

So we made our way home slowly. Very slowly.

Walking circles around all the trees.