Pet Tracker

Pet Tracker

Unfortunately, when a pet goes missing, the perception that it’s a bona fide family member doesn’t hold up. When a child disappears, the community throws all its resources into bringing him or her safely home. When a beloved dog or cat disappears, it’s just that: LOST DOG, two words on a poster that most people won’t even notice.

Somebody ought to train a search dog to find lost pets, I thought.

Guess which somebody it turned out to be . . .

-Kat Albrecht, Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel the K-9 Pet Detective

Do you love animals? Are you a dog parent/owner? Do you work in the criminal justice or psychology fields? Have you ever wondered what your dog or cat is truly capable of? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are among the many who will be blessed by this fascinating foray into the life of a woman whose dogged determination– pun intended– led her to a career as a pet detective.

Kat Albrecht is one woman you should never say “that can’t be done” to. Years ago I became aware of Kat’s work finding missing pets and have referred concerned pet owners to her Missing Pet Partnership website and Pet Detective Blog. Kat offers Lost Pet Recovery training on her website at Katalbrecht.com and has an informative Facebook page.

Additionally, Kat’s Mercy Paws ministry trains teens in her field of expertise and helps them discover their life’s purpose through service and love for God’s creatures. Her journey from disillusioned dispatcher to passionate police officer to preeminent pet detective can and should inspire others to fight for their dreams. A major theme in Pet Tracker is finding your true calling and leaving behind the soul-sucking jobs that cage your talents and authentic self.

So how does a woman named Kat become an expert on search dogs? Kat began her career as a law enforcement employee in the not too distant past. Simply by virtue of her gender she ran smack into the brick wall of sexism so prominent in policing at the time (and still present in all too many agencies today). As a young, female go-getter, the male-dominated culture in her agency found her work ethic, innovative methods, and intelligence threatening. She was told to do menial “female” tasks and harassed, like when trying to build rapport with victims and suspects. Kat was forced to confront pervasive stereotypes and bias in the policing profession as she worked hard to show that she was not only a capable cop, but one with particular gifts.

On this point, as a former civilian law enforcement employee, I identify with Kat’s struggles. I joined policing later that same decade and was appalled that female employees, particularly civilian ones, were more highly regarded when they acted perky, giggled a lot, and made coffee, in my words at the time. Being sexually available to certain figures was sure to score major prom queen points and a prominent place on the popularity ladder as well.

I also remember the department-wide shock wave caused when I used the words “crappy report writing” about an officer’s narrative and it was overheard; you’d think I’d threatened the life of the president. It became clear that as a female– and a civilian– I was stepping outside my tiny culturally-defined box. They could say it, but I didn’t have the same freedoms. I learned, as Kat did, that being an intelligent female who challenges the status quo by trying to improve processes and procedures was often met with hate and derision. This was especially true for Kat as a sworn police officer because she was working in a traditionally male role alongside men who didn’t want her there.

Furthermore, Kat stepped WAY out of her box when she suggested that her agency utilize trained search dogs for their work. Kat wanted to be a K9 officer but again– gasp– she was female, and police dogs weren’t trained to perform the tasks she had started teaching her own dogs to do. Her department told her not to use a trained bloodhound to search for a missing girl. Even in a volunteer capacity, police departments were not receptive to the idea of using trained dogs to save lives, enhance public safety, and recover victims. Full-fledged Officer Albrecht was actually told to go work elsewhere if she wanted to work with a bloodhound!

This barrier is also familiar to me– law enforcement agencies sometimes feel threatened by outside help. They might believe they’ll do better without a pet detective or forensic psychologist or behavioral expert even though cops don’t usually have such training. Some also tend to do things the way they’ve always been done rather than act in the best interest of the public they’re sworn to protect. While I know many open-minded, intelligent, and creative minds in the business, there are also those, particularly those in charge, who are set in their ways and feel that change undermines their authority. They may seem attempts at positive change as insubordination or subversion.

In retrospect, Kat realized that “my passion for working search dogs was viewed as arrogance.” She just wanted to help. So she began to plan how she could develop her passion for working with her dogs instead of how to adapt to a police department that was never going to let her– or her dogs– do what they were best at. The time and effort she put into discovering her dogs’ individual gifts– aided by a very gifted and patient cat– is nothing short of remarkable.

With her dogs at her side she took what she learned in law enforcement and translated that into pet detective work– while continuing her career as a law enforcement officer at another agency who welcomed their skills (having had people at the same agency, I appreciate its open-mindedness). This much-needed positive change came about as she renewed her relationship with God and started seeking His way instead of her own. Woven into Pet Tracker is the discipline of learning to hear from God and trusting Him. As Kat can attest to, even when your own plans seem perfect, He sometimes has a better way. And literally stop her in her tracks a couple of times He did.

It was when her own police bloodhound went missing that Kat realized just how much of a need there is for canines trained to find pets. A volunteer dog located her beloved partner but that dog was one of very few conditioned to do so. As she points out, police dogs are trained to ignore other animals, not find them, so the average K9 officer can’t do this. She noted striking similarities between lost people and lost pet cases and built upon that, founding the National Center for Missing Pets on the way. Then life threw her another curve ball with a life-changing freak injury suffered as a cop but even then she found ways to continue and expand her mission.

Besides being a refreshingly honest look at the barriers she had to break in policing in order to use dogs in this line of work, Pet Tracker offers a very realistic look at certain dog breeds and also delves into the priceless value of rescue pets. It gives proper credit to the uniqueness of each dog and the depths of their intelligence. I was fascinated to learn how Kat determines what makes a good search dog and allows the dog’s natural gifts determine what type of search dog they will be. Like people, they can be trained for different purposes. As she won over law enforcement officials with her methods and victories, one detective noted, “I’ve yet to see a police dog around here that could find a simple hole in the ground… but your dog has made a believer out of me.”

Pet Tracker also runs the gamut of emotions and it details Kat’s relationships with her original search dogs and feline assistants including their aging and loss. I felt the latter deeply because I read the book less than a week before unexpectedly losing my own copilot of 15 years, my faithful hound who went through hell and back with me and his kitties. Kat’s descriptions of hound dog behavior and the endearing quirks they can develop rang true. If you’ve ever had a hound, you know that they will follow their nose even if it leads to pronounced peril or it means dragging you along behind them. They follow their noses, point blank, period.

There are other laugh out loud funny moments in Pet Tracker like when you meet characters such as Barry the Boa Constrictor and Bret the Bearded Dragon, a real life rock star. There are also invaluable tips on how to properly search for missing pets. I am convinced that many feline lives could be saved if shelter workers understood how lost cats behave and shared that information with the public. It’s from Kat’s blog that I learned how cats, when sick or injured, usually hide nearby in familiar places, even inside the house they’re thought to have escaped from. She also offers wonderful pointers about the types of posters you should create when looking for a lost pet and how to conduct outreach. I feel even more strongly that cats should not be allowed to roam freely outside after reading this, for their own sake as well as that of other pets and wildlife.

Our nation euthanizes millions of adoptable pets each year because no one claims or adopts them. This is abhorrent. I’m sickened by thinking of how terrified those innocent, loving dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets are when placed in a stark gas chamber to die. Others are given lethal injections like serial killers just because their owner didn’t properly contain them, come looking for them, abandoned them, or cared enough to spay and neuter, creating thousands more like them. Or because they sat in a cage for a few days with people passing by and not giving them a second thought. This is particularly true for older pets, who are, ironically, usually house trained and more calm and disciplined than puppies and kittens. Every year King County, where Seattle is, puts several thousand adoptable pets to death. And this in a county of more than two million people.

Kat emphasized the importance of finding missing pets and the horrific outcomes for many of them:

Animal shelters, for example, would hold a “stray” dog or cat for seventy-two hours, after which time they either adopted the animal out to a new family or destroyed it. So if a pet owner was not able to get to the shelter within seventy-two hours, their chances of a happy reunion were slim to none. The national “Return to Owner” (RTO) rate for lost dogs reclaimed by their families at animal shelters was sixteen percent. For cats, the rate is much worse—just two percent of stray cats held at shelters have someone show up to reclaim them.

Ultimately Pet Tracker was many things to me:

-An honest look at policing and the challenges women, canines, and innovators face in that profession

-A deeply emotional story about the bonds between pets and their people

-A journey through Kat’s relationships with her own four-legged family members

-The development of each pet’s individual gifts and traits

-A testimony to the power of perseverance and going forward no matter what the odds

-An eye-opening look into the importance of search dogs and their various functions

-The importance of volunteer search dog handlers (the next one could be you!)

-A call to treat our pets and other animals humanely and lovingly

-An insider’s view of missing people and pet cases

-A sobering look at the realities of shelter pets and the fate of many missing or abandoned animals

Pet Tracker is available on Amazon and as an ebook. More information about Pet Tracker and her training manual Dog Detectives are available on the Books page of her blog.

Thank you, Kat Albrecht, and your amazing animals, for never giving up and making the world a brighter and safer place for so many people and their furry loved ones. I highly encourage others to become familiar with Kat’s work and to share her knowledge and expertise liberally.

Who knows? You might be the next great pet detective, and it’s clear that those skills are sorely needed.


Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. He can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes. -Gene Hill


©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Help Nepal

From CNN

From CNN

By now the whole world has heard about the catastrophic 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal. Powerful aftershocks are still shaking the region. The power’s out, many historic buildings have collapsed, many people are in shock, and there is death everywhere. It is mostly the dead who are being pulled from the rubble, but pray that those buried alive would be rescued in time. Food, water, health, sanitation, and homelessness will now become critical issues. Public safety personnel and medical teams are being stretched to their limits.

We can all help. Every one of us can pray for the survivors even if we can’t afford to give. If you have been blessed with the ability to give, here are some organizations that have already hit the ground running (with excerpts from their websites).

World Vision, Nepal Earthquake:

World Vision is responding with relief efforts after a deadly earthquake struck Kathmandu and surrounding areas in Nepal on April 25, 2015. According to government reports, the 7.8 quake killed at least 1,000 people.

That number is expected to rise. Hundreds more were injured and left homeless by the massive earthquake that has caused deaths and destruction across three other countries – China, Bangladesh and India – in the region.

  • Kathmandu area hardest hit suffers massive damage
  • Searches underway for survivors
  • Nepal officials asking for international relief help
  • Communications disrupted; airport closed
  • Powerful aftershocks
  • World Vision teams are responding to the crisis

Survivors say that many buildings and homes have been destroyed and in some areas entire villages have been wiped out by the quake and the people who live in them left homeless.

This devastating earthquake has hit vulnerable families who now depend on relief efforts for survival.The children and families of Nepal desperately need your help. Click here to donate.

Samaritan’s Purse, Deadly Earthquake in Nepal:

Samaritan’s Purse is responding to the disastrous quake (Donate)

A catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, killing hundreds of people and destroying numerous houses and buildings.

More than 1,000 people are known to have died, and the death toll is expected to rise as officials dig through the rubble.

The quake struck an area between the capital, Kathmandu, and the city of Pokhara, the US Geological Survey said. Tremors were felt across the region, with further loss of life in India, Bangladesh and on Mount Everest.

Samaritan’s Purse is deploying a team of 16 disaster response experts, including six medical personnel.

We will be helping victims with emergency shelter, water, hygiene kits, and other emergency supplies. We are sending initial supplies for 15,000 households, and anticipate doing more as the response continues.

The medical team and supplies will support mission hospitals that are Samaritan’s Purse partners.

Samaritan’s Purse ministry partners are in Nepal, assessing the damage.

The earthquake collapsed houses, leveled centuries-old temples and triggered avalanches in the Himalayas. It was the worst temblor to hit the poor South Asian nation in over 80 years.

The quake struck before noon time and was most severely felt in the capital as well as the densely populated Kathmandu Valley. A magnitude-6.6 aftershock hit about an hour later, and smaller aftershocks continued to ripple through the region for hours.

Please pray for everyone affected by the earthquake, for those who have lost loved ones, and for families whose homes have been destroyed. Pray that God will grant wisdom as Samaritan’s Purse determines how to respond, and that our work will convey the love of Christ.

UNICEF, Earthquake in Nepal: Children Need Your Help Now:

A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake near Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu has claimed nearly 1,000 lives, caused thousands of injuries, and destroyed homes and infrastructure. While the full impact is still being evaluated, UNICEF is on the ground working to provide critical emergency aid to children and families. 

When it comes to emergency and disaster relief, UNICEF is there for children—before, during and after a crisis.

Christian Aid, Nepal Earthquake:

Christian Aid has made an initial £50,000 available to help victims of the Nepal earthquake and will launch an appeal to supporters for further funding.

Several partner agencies are on their way to the worst hit areas.

These include PGVS, which works on the Nepal/India border on disaster preparedness relating to events such as floods and cyclones, humanitarian response experts RedR, and Aquaplus, which provides water purification systems.

We will also work with partners in the ACT Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organisations working to alleviate poverty and respond to humanitarian needs.

Christian Aid’s regional emergency manager, Ram Kishan, said yesterday: ‘Rural areas were hit particularly hard by the earthquake, but little information has so far emerged as travel is difficult, not least because of damaged infrastructure.

‘We fear, therefore, that the death count could be much higher, as well as the loss of buildings and property.

‘Our partners are en route to establish where need is greatest, so that we can respond quickly and effectively.

‘It’s clear from what has emerged so far that there is an urgent need for emergency shelters, food and clean drinking water, warm clothing, blankets and hygiene kits.

‘The provision of civic and essential services in Nepal is weak, and hospitals and other medical services are under strain.

‘The last major earthquake to strike Nepal was in 1934, which had a magnitude of 8.3 on the Richter scale. It caused great loss of life and considerable damage to buildings.

‘Since then, the population of the country has skyrocketed, along with urban development.’

(India has also been affected by the earthquake, so money donated to this appeal may be used to help people there.)

From Fox News

From Fox News

Save the Children, Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund:

A deadly earthquake has devastated children and families in Nepal. In response, Save the Children has launched a disaster response on the ground in Nepal with emergency assistance during this difficult time. Save the Children has worked in Nepal since 1976 and have extensive programs throughout the country. This is the worst earthquake in Nepal in the last 81 years.

We need your generous gift to support our efforts. Your support will help us protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.Ten percent of your contribution will be used to help us prepare for the next emergency. Nobody knows when the next crisis will strike, but your support helps Save the Children provide assistance in the critical first hours and days of an emergency when children need us most.

Donate now to the Nepal Children’s Relief Fund to support Save the Children’s responses to ongoing and urgent needs as a result of the earthquake.

Thanks to CNN for suggesting these next three organizations:

Nepal Red Cross Society (no summary was available as their website appeared to be overwhelmed)

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Nepal Earthquake Relief:

In the wake of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, JDC is collecting funds for emerging relief efforts. Amid a quickly rising death toll and widespread destruction in Kathmandu and the surrounding region, JDC’s staff experts in India are consulting with the local authorities, Nepali and Indian governments, and global partners to assess the unfolding situation on the ground and ensure survivor’s immediate needs are addressed.

AmeriCares, Responding to Massive Nepal Earthquake:

AmeriCares is responding to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal earlier today, causing buildings to collapse, setting off avalanches on Mount Everest and catapulting the region into chaos. The massive quake struck shortly before noon local time, centered about 50 miles from Kathmandu and could be felt as far away as New Delhi. Strong aftershocks have been felt throughout the region. 

More than 1,800 people are reported to have died in Nepal and the death toll is quickly rising. Hospitals are overflowing with patients and medical personnel are treating the injured in the streets, according to news reports. The Nepali government has requested international assistance.

An emergency response team from the AmeriCares India office in Mumbai is headed to the impact zone and relief workers are preparing shipments of medical aid and relief supplies for survivors. AmeriCares stocks emergency medicine and relief supplies in its warehouses in the U.S., Europe and India that can be delivered quickly in times of crisis, and launches comprehensive recovery programs that restore health services for disaster survivors.

“Our emergency response team is en route to Nepal and we are prepared to help any way that we can,” said AmeriCares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis. “This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the families suffering.”

AmeriCares has been aiding survivors of natural disasters, political conflict and extreme poverty around the world for more than 30 years, saving lives and restoring health and hope.

Nepal had many challenges before this tragedy. The CIA World Factbook says:

Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with about one-quarter of its population living below the poverty line. Nepal is heavily dependent on remittances, which amount to as much as 22-25% of GDP. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for more than 70% of the population and accounting for a little over one-third of GDP. Industrial activity mainly involves the processing of agricultural products, including pulses, jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Nepal has considerable scope for exploiting its potential in hydropower, with an estimated 42,000 MW of commercially feasible capacity, but political uncertainty and a difficult business climate have hampered foreign investment. Additional challenges to Nepal’s growth include its landlocked geographic location, persistent power shortages, underdeveloped transportation infrastructure, civil strife and labor unrest, and its susceptibility to natural disaster. The lack of political consensus in the past several years has delayed national budgets and prevented much-needed economic reform, although the government passed a full budget in 2013 and 2014. Nepal and India signed trade and investment agreements in 2014 that will amp up Nepal’s hydropower potential.

Unfortunately, given where we’re at in world history, we can expect to see more of the same. This means we need to be more prepared and more willing to help as these disasters strike. Here in the Seattle area, we are overdue for a major quake like this and yet most of us, in a region so prosperous, are woefully unprepared for such an event. This is a good time to remind others about the resources available to us.

Ready.gov, Earthquakes

American Red Cross: Earthquake Preparedness

The Seattle Times, Get ready to rumble: A guide to earthquake preparedness

USGS Earthquake Hazards Program (they have some excellent links)

FEMA, Earthquake Safety at Home

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network Recent Events (interactive map of earthquakes in this area)

USGS World Earthquakes Map

USGS World Earthquakes List (with daily historical event listing and fact as well as numerous maps)

Livescience’s earthquakes page has a variety of fascinating articles on the topic

Nepal’s National Seismological Centre continuously updates its data

IRIS has a special event page devoted to data on the Nepal earthquakes with many pertinent links. This is where you can get deep into the scientific data. Here’s one example– go to this page to actually play the animation– it won’t embed properly.

Pengscreenshot.pngA seissound animation with speed-up sound of seismic data of the magnitude 7.8 Nepal earthquake sequence recorded at station IC.LSA that are about 650 km away. The mainshock trace was clipped, and numerous aftershocks and likely triggered earthquakes could be heard throughout the entire ~4 hour recording. (Zhigang Peng, Georgia Tech)


How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. -Anne Frank


©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

It was nearly two years ago that I wrote The Kirkland Cannery in hopes that this grand old building in Kirkland, Washington could be saved. A local nonprofit organization has purchased the building and work is going on…


On the same street just a couple of blocks away, I noticed a sign advertising free bay laurel… and then realized I was looking at a free library. What a wonderful idea (although given the rain in this area I wonder how well the books hold up). I admire the kindness this chef/librarian is showing their neighbors.



Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. -Scott Adams


©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Native American Tribes

Today I shared this powerful editorial from the Native Sun News Editorial Board in Rapid City, South Dakota, with a group concerned about Indian affairs. Yes, many Americans and organizations still use the term Indian even though it’s not politically correct.

In recent years there has been increased pressure from the NCAA and others to remove references to Indians from sports and other venues. The very Native Americans these politically correct Pharisees seek to protect sometimes don’t want things changed. You might remember my related discussion of the University of North Dakota’s mascot in my 2011 post The Fighting Sioux.

To date, we still don’t have a new name, and school uniforms have looked sadly blank and generic since the removal of the traditional Native/Indian logo. This sanitizing of modern culture is wiping time-honored Native/Indian references out, and as this wonderfully sharp-tongued opinion piece asks, is it the predominantly white media that’s done that, or Indians themselves?

As I said to the group I was speaking to, as someone with Native American roots among my many European ancestors, I read this and said, “oh yeah!”


Native American vs. American Indian: Political correctness dishonors traditional chiefs of old

Who decided for us that we should be called “Native Americans?”

It was the mainstream media of course. One day a reporter was interviewing an East Coast Indian and the reporter said, “Indian” and the East Coast Indian said, “No, we don’t like to be called Indians because we got that name when Columbus thought he landed in India: We prefer to be called Native Americans.”

“Well,” the reporter replied, “I am of Irish descent but I was born in America so therefore I also am a Native American.” And so when the story was published the Indian people were labeled as Native Americans. The white media had finally pulled one over the indigenous people.

The Lee Enterprise newspapers, and there are several of them in Indian Country, decided to cut this down even further and they told all of their reporters, editors and publishers to just use the word “Native” when referring to Indians, or to be politically correct, Native Americans. So when you read an article that goes, “He was a Native Rapid City guy” that doesn’t mean he was Native, it just means that he was native. In fact everyone who lives in Rapid City is a native.

The activist Russell Means preferred the name American Indian. He would say that just as you have Mexican Americans, African Americans, or Asian Americans, you should have American Indians.

During the activist days of the 1960s and 70s the U. S. Government responded to the activists’ protests by proposing the term “Native American.” And so the anti-government activists decided to accept the name Native American, a name suggested by the United States Government, a government that they despised. Say what?

The other arguable explanation was Columbus’s use of the term “una gest in Dios” or “a people in God” which was reduced to “Indios” for every day usage by the Spaniards and later was further changed to “Indian” as the word moved north. And what’s more we hear that in 1492 Columbus could not have thought he had reached the Indies because at that time there was no Indies, but they instead were called Hindustan.

That sad part of this entire fiasco is that so many of the so-called “elitist Indians” have allowed themselves to be bullied into using the name “Native Americans” and even “Native” by a white media that seems to have set the agenda for what we should be called.

One elderly Lakota man from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation said recently, “If some Indians want to be called Native Americans or Natives, let them be called that, but I was born an Indian and I shall die an Indian.

So if you travel to any Indian reservation out west you will soon discover that nearly all of the indigenous people refer to themselves as “Indian,” especially the elders who are still fluent in their Indian language. As Chief Oliver Red Cloud said a few years before he died, “I am Lakota and I am Indian.”

As an Indian newspaper we must be very careful that what we call ourselves is not dictated to us by the white media. We have been Indians for a few hundred years and the name carries our history. Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Little Wound (Read their quotes) all called themselves “Indian” and they said it with pride. Should we dishonor them by saying they were wrong?

Political correctness be damned: We will use “Indian” if and when we choose. We will not be intimidated by the politically correct bunch or the white media.

The Native Sun News Editorial Board can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com

The Native Sun News is based in Rapid City, S.D.

Copyright permission Native Sun News


©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.


You know it’s springtime in Washington State when you are seized by an overwhelming urge to battle tourists and traffic in the fertile farmland of Skagit County.

Much of the year, this rural area about an hour north of Seattle is fairly calm and civilized. But the when the daffodils and tulips come out to play, we all head towards the burgeoning bulb fields like moths towards light.

We go by car, by bike, by trike, by bus. We intermingle with tourists from all over the world, particularly Japan. We stop to take pictures of everything in our REI sombreros and high tech windbreakers. In a way, it’s hilarious, but it is a glorious backyard to have, and you’ll soon see why. (Click on any photo to get the full effect.)

When you arrive in the valley, you immediately start scanning for fields in bloom. You first find fascinating old barns and gorgeous vistas.


Oh, what’s that? Look, a bright band of yellow! You’re getting closer.


A view to the east, towards the Cascade foothills, down an endless path.


Patriotic donkeys! These are some of the absolutely adorable miniature donkeys of JF Ranch. You can read more about this breed on their website, Miniature Donkey Information. These guys are so cute and evidently are native to Sicily and Sardinia.


Aaahhhh… daffodils… billions and billions of fluffy bursts of joyous sunshine…


The area’s Tulip Route is clearly denoted by road signs. One of the more popular places to traipse around the tulips is at Roozengaarde on Beaver Marsh Road. The colors make you ooh and aah before you even get around the hedge and in the front gate. Tulip Town is another popular stop.


Roozengaarde provides a taste of Holland and a little Dr. Seuss as well. Looks like the windmill and tree had a stern chat one night. Also, I don’t know who that guy is, but he was in a lot of people’s photos… Roozengaarde Man.


I will look at them in a box, I will look at them with a fox, I will look at them with a mouse, I took some home to put in our house…


Two bluegrass musicians provided atmosphere as flower lovers followed the winding bands of color. Roozengaarde changes up the layout every year and is the largest bulb producer in the U.S., with a thousand acres of daffodils, tulips, and irises.


Many people posed by this angular tree that stretched out its arms like a protective mother hen over its multihued neighbors.


Mm hmm. I saw Fabio (again, joke for those who know about the other Fabio incident). Roozengaarde has a display of their many varieties of tulips in alphabetical order. This fiery, fringed fellow was one of many with colorful monikers.


When you snatch the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave… -Master Po

Roozengaarde also has a Ninja tulip.


The wonders of tulips planted in perfect OCD order (right to left). Although, as I have been told, if you’re truly OCD, you’d call it CDO.


Beyond the gardens, the real treasure, the fields…


Look what magnificence springs up from the ground… Around the time I took this photo, I saw a little girl who was about 2 1/2 walking down a row nearby. Boof. Suddenly she was gone. Thankfully her mom quickly snatched her from the mud.



There was a whole field of daffodils, and then these renegades, happily growing right on the beaten path. “Bloom where you’re planted,” they said.


Coming back into the formal gardens, you find yourself at The Edge. Now I can say I’ve been to the edge and back. This called for some U2, Until the End of the World.


Happy, happy, happy people on a 70 degree day under a marshmallow sky…


More bounteous beauty…



Here I was trying to capture the plants growing on this unusual tree just before the exit. I wound up with something very Lothlorien. But that’s okay; Tolkien Reading Day was just March 25th.


More roadside scenery. In places like this cars park all over the sides of the road and we scamper like locusts on the edges of the fields.


It is said that twelve Highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion. Here we have just two Bò Ghàidhealach who calmly surveyed their audience while chewing their cud. Click here to learn more about Highland Cattle.


On a sharp curve I was delighted to find artist Christine Sharp (C. Sharp), a founding member of the Kirkland, Washington arts community, spreading her thoughts out on canvas. You can view more of Christine’s unique landscapes on the Sharp Art Gallery Facebook page.



It was interesting to watch tourists not dressed for the occasion trying to navigate these deep, slippery ruts in order to have their picture taken in the tulips.


People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. -Iris Murdoch


You will find stands like this selling flowers all over the valley.


Further down the road I found members of the Russian invasion. Swans and snow geese come to north Snohomish and Skagit Counties every winter to feed in the farmland. Tens of thousands of them can be seen both on land and in the air. See Swans and snow geese are here for the winter (The Herald), as well as the official website for the Port Susan Snow Goose & Birding Festival.


When you visit Skagit County, you usually visit La Conner as well. It’s a favorite weekend getaway for Washingtonians, full of interesting shops like Nasty Jack’s, below. Their art galleries, antique shops, home decor stores, brewery, museums, and restaurants are all easy to walk to and they have some nice lodging options.


La Conner sits on the Swinomish Channel, an 11-mile band of saltwater that divides Fidalgo Island from the mainland. Ever caught a ferry in Anacortes? Anacortes, another wonderful place to hang out, where my great-great-grandfather built a hotel in 1915, sits on the northern part of the island. It’s a gateway to Guemes and other islands, including the San Juans.

On the other side of the channel from La Conner is the Swinomish Reservation. You can see some of the tribe’s pavilions, built to resemble traditional cedar hats, in the background.


Northwest Coastal-type art on a building for rent. The nearby Swinomish are Coast Salish.


Swans and geese and… some other cute guy (fifth from the left) enjoying food and fellowship. If you are in a fairly quiet place, you can turn off your engine and listen to them talking to each other. It’s fascinating.


Up Valentine Road on the south side of the valley is the Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, the oldest in Skagit County. It is beautifully cared for and some of the headstones have been painstakingly repaired. It is a place for quiet contemplation and respect, not somewhere to let the dogs out of the car or for kids to run around.


In these plots you will find graves ranging from those of well-known Skagit County pioneers like the Andersons and Chilbergs right up to the present day. Visit Magnus Anderson, carpenter, farmer and host at Fir (Skagit River Journal) for their stories.


In keeping with the agricultural theme, I noted this marker for a well-loved man, Russell Nelson, who evidently was an excellent farmer (see the emphatic last line).  What a fitting memorial!


She’s still there. The plight of this history-rich old building makes me sick. Some might remember my detailed post on the Pleasant Ridge School from last year. The schoolhouse was built in 1891 and in service until 1930. Since then efforts to save her have fallen through, and she’s been slowly rotting away in this field. There’s now even more clutter, including a dilapidated travel trailer, encroaching upon her from the house next door, which is likely part of the same parcel.

It will soon be too late for this grand dame, and I sincerely hope that she can be saved from the ravages of time. It is shameful that this iconic piece of Skagit County history is in this condition. She needs a champion.


The view north from the corner of Pleasant Ridge where it rejoins the main road.


Stopping at the Snow Goose for seafood, vegetables, wine, yard art, flowers, and a whopper of an ice cream cone is a tradition for area residents and visitors alike. Almost 50 flavors, from both the Lopez Island Creamery and Cascade Glacier, are served in huge handmade waffle cones. Many people pose for photos with their monster treats along the roadside. There are other farm stands to stop at too, including Pleasant Ridge Farm, which has awesome local cider.


Avian aerial acrobatics! These shots represent just a portion of how many birds were actually present. It was amazing to watch against the swirling cerulean sky.



You will find many old barns and farmhouses in Skagit County. Undoubtedly each has many stories to tell. You can even go on a tour of historic barns in the area– check out this Historic Barn Tour guide.


Just west of I-5 is the small town of Conway, in which the Fir-Conway Lutheran Church has been serving the community since 1888. The current building was dedicated in 1916. It’s kept in beautiful shape and there were men outside working on it as I took this shot.


Going through Conway means stopping and seeing what Tony Stinson’s up to. You might remember his giant hammer from my 2012 post. Tony is a carpenter who can make… just about anything.


Conway is well-known for its Pub and Eatery, the Conway Muse, and its antique shops as well. Be sure to stop into Kitty Jean’s Antiques behind the post office as well. Her compassion for animals is remarkable and unless you stop by you won’t see why.

You can find more information on the Skagit County Tulip Festival’s official website. For us locals the festival is about flowers, farms, food, art, animals, birds, supporting area businesses– many things. But the crowning glory of springtime in the Skagit Valley is the menagerie of daffodils and tulips that blanket the earth like broad sweeps of the Master Painter’s brush.


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

-William Wordsworth, I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud


©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

From Slooh.com

From Slooh.com

Do you Slooh? Mr. Brown can Slooh, can you?

St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to get to know Slooh, an online community observatory, because they’re featuring a very green event:

On his journey to the total solar eclipse at the ends of the Earth, Slooh Observatory Engineer Paul Cox will be making a stop in Iceland to marvel at the Northern Lights. Slooh will be putting on a live show, letting you see Paul’s experience through incredible imagery being broadcast in real time throughout the show.

Click on The St. Patty’s Day Icelandic Aurorae to learn more or watch live.

I should also take this opportunity to plug two of my favorite Irish blogs, The Irish Aesthete, which showcases vintage Irish art and architecture, meticulously documenting the stories behind it, and Ed Mooney Photography. Eddie’s a dedicated ruin hunter who documents old castles and historical sites, often in striking black and white shots. Feast your eyes on the riches of Ireland at both sites.

Éire Go Brách!

Dunluce Castle


If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized. –Oscar Wilde


©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.


Originally posted 3/14/14. For 3/14/15, especially at 9:26:53, check out Celebrate Pi Day At 5 Of Seattle’s Best Spots For Pie and Going full circle for math and pastries on a special Pi Day. Vegan and gluten-free Flying Apron in Fremont and Redmond is offering $3.14 slices of pie all day, including mixed berry, apple, chocolate mint cream, and pecan.


March 14th is Pi Day. Get it? 3/14– 3.14? Next year it gets even better– it will be 3/14/15– the first few digits of pi are 3.1415. Awesome, right?

What is pi? Math.com says:

Pi is a name given to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter. That means, for any circle, you can divide the circumference (the distance around the circle) by the diameter and always get exactly the same number. It doesn’t matter how big or small the circle is, Pi remains the same. Pi is often written using the symbol π and is pronounced “pie”, just like the dessert.

Pi Savage Chickens

Wherever a circle is, there is pi. Pi is important. Pi is a mathematical constant. As Scott Sabol’s blog states:

PI is used in most calculations in the fundamental development of all infrastructure, communications, quantum physics, music theory, medical procedures, DNA; propulsion systems for air travel, space and military aircraft.

Let’s not forget that pi was used in King Solomon’s time, is Einstein’s birthday (3/14– so cool considering pi is used in the theory of relativity), and came in handy when Spock defeated a diabolical computer by telling it to compute to the last digit of pi. You can find these and 47 other great facts about pi at 50 Interesting Facts About Pi.

(Wouldn’t that be a great child discipline tool? Kid, don’t you even think about coming out of that corner until you’ve recited the thousandth digit of pi!! Next time you apply copious amounts of glitter nail polish to your baby brother’s eyebrows, it’ll be ten thousand. Got it?!) 

Pi Circles

Pi has been calculated to over 10 trillion digits in recent years. You can view a million digits of pi at the Pi Day website (ooooh, ahhhh). Some mathematically minded people like to memorize pi– Chao Lu of China has recited nearly 68,000 of pi’s digits from memory.

Are you up to the challenge? See who else you’re competing against at the Pi World Ranking List. Here’s a screen shot:

Pi World Ranking List

Here in the Seattle area, you should keep an eye out for $3.14 pie specials. All PCC Markets, for example, are featuring 5 inch pies for $3.14. In the past the 3.14 Bakery in White Center has had them, and Pie in Fremont is offering deals from noon to 3:14 P.M. That’s appropriate considering Pi Day officially starts at 1:59 P.M. (3.14159).

Pi Octopi

If you really want to geek out (isn’t it glorious?), join me in listening to what the first few dozen digits of pi sound like. Yes, Kate Bush sang about pi and there are other pieces out there, but I like how this guy thinks. Happy Pi Day all!


Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.

-Galileo Galilei


©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.


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