Return to Hardberger Park

Return to Hardberger Park

by Celia Hayes

So it has been a good many months since last we ventured into Hardberger Park, on Blanco just a titch north of where the Wurzbach Parkway runs between Blanco and IH-10. Our hopes are high, incidentally, that soon, very soon indeed, the link in the parkway between Wetmore and Blanco will be completed and we will be able to waft swiftly and without traffic lights halfway across the north side of town.

Our first clue that the main part of the park is finished and consequently enormously popular is that we had to circle the parking lot three times before finding a parking place. Yes, the park – the dog park, the play-ground and the hiking and biking trails are very, very popular on weekend mornings, especially as the weather has turned coolish, and it is smack in the middle of a number of upscale neighborhoods of condos, townhouses and apartments, along with the usual single-family houses. We snagged a parking place as my exasperated daughter was about to give up and drive back to McAllister Park, and the dogs were about to turn themselves inside out with impatience. Well, that, and the urge to pee. This was Nemo’s first trip to a dog park, now that he has been neutered, vaccinated and more or less socialized. He is an odd but appealing little dog, intelligent and fearless, barely fifteen-pound mix of wirehaired terrier, possibly Chihuahua and who knows what else. We called him Nemo because we found him. We think someone moved out of the neighborhood and left him behind. He followed us home one day, and has stayed ever since. The vet said he is about a year old – still very much a puppy and inclined to be playful. He will try and get the cats to play with him, which they will do, up to a point.

We turned the dogs loose inside the enclosure, and let the two little ones romp in the big-dog section, which Nemo enjoyed very much at first, until he realized that in the resulting multi-dog grand chase which developed, he was the rabbit – that is, the chasee, not the chaser. So, off to the small-dog area, which I think he enjoyed rather more, since there were dogs even smaller than him. When they all had run off some of their energy, we went for a walk as far as the old Voelcker Farm, where the path crosses the Salado and meanders north for a good few miles. The pavilion at the park, with bathrooms and water fountains and some kind of office in it – is now entirely finished, and the trail-head for that section of the Salado Creek Greenway goes straight through it.

We did not much farther than the old farm, noting that another parking lot is under construction adjacent to it. The scenic overlook, jutting out from the steep bank a good way over the dry creek-bed, is also finished. The margins of the concrete trails are lined with heavy timber benches. We did not spot any cows, out behind the old farm – but we did see some deer at a relatively close distance. Yes, deer are well-adapted to the tangle of the light woods and rather hard to spot. If they hadn’t been moving, I don’t think that anyone on the path would have seen them at all.

And that was my weekend – the first day of autumn. And yours?

Downtown San Antonio Spanish Governors Palace

The Spanish Governor’s Palace

by Celia Hayes

The single-story adobe ramble on the corner of Military Plaza (or that which is left, with Town Hall plunked down in the middle of it) is the oldest existing domestic structure in San Antonio, It dates from the 1700s; that period when Texas was a far-flung outpost of Spain, and the entire town was a huddle of similar houses around the margins of Military and Main Plazas. So – the Spanish part of the description is justified. It definitely wasn’t a palace by any stretch of the imagination. But it was a vast improvement, living-situation-wise over a windowless, dirt-floored jacale-hut made by planting upright timbers in a trench and plastering them inside and out with mud, so on that basis it certainly looked enough like a palace to warrant a touch of exaggeration. Finally, it was a governor’s residence only by extending the term to gossamer-thinness; it was originally built as the residence and place of business for whomever was captain of the local garrison.

That captain of the garrison was the highest authority-figure around, year in and year out … and long after Mexico won independence from Spain, and Texas won independence from Mexico, the sturdy adobe building survived, as the home of the family of the last garrison captain. When it was no longer a residence – as the area around became a lively commercial district – the rooms housed various enterprises; a pawn shop, a grocery store, a couple of saloons and a haberdashers. Little by little, similar colonial-era structures crumbled, or were demolished and replaced by newer and bigger shops and houses. The nearby Veramendi mansion on Soledad, from the same era and general plan, but built of stone, also followed the same arc. Once the home of the aristocratic family whose daughter married James Bowie, it descending from a grand residence to a variety of shabby businesses before being demolished in the first decade of the 20th century in order to facilitate the widening of Soledad Street.

The Governor’s Palace was luckier – in that it didn’t stand in the way of any plans to widen streets, and that the conservation bug had settled in, well and truly. The city bought the place entire, and commissioned architect Harvey Partridge Smith to restore it to what it would have been like in its glory days. Smith used his knowledge of other similar buildings across the length and breadth of the Hispanic settlements in the Southwest, and so arrived at a romantic approximation rather than a strict interpretation. But it is a charming building even so, with thick walls and tall ceilings (as a sort of heat sink), long narrow windows opening into a Spanish-style courtyard and garden. In the old days, the garden and outbuildings would have reached to San Pedro Creek. The floors are of tile, which would have been cool to walk on, and there are numerous niches cut into the walls and set with shelves for various ornamental items. Before the invention of air conditioning, this kind of building would have been about as comfortable as you could get, in the heat of a Texas summer. The Spanish Governor’s Palace is open to the public various hours on every day but Monday, and is well worth a visit to gain an idea of how the upper elite would have lived in early San Antonio.


Halloween for Dogs

Halloween for Dogs

by Celia Hayes

Since our household does not contain any small children, we normally make an effort to dress up the dogs in costumes instead. Cats are normally reluctant to cooperate in this kind of amusement, although I do wish that we could get some of the black cats to pose fetchingly with pumpkins, cauldrons, brooms and witch’s pointy hats. This would so take care of decorating the front porch for tricker-treating. A couple of years ago we did borrow the grandson of our next-door neighbor when he wanted to dress up like the Prince of Persia and our neighbor confessed herself quite unequal to that particular challenge. We fitted him out in a tunic and sword-belt and turban, and I roughed out a sword and dagger from thin plywood, and he was so pleased with the whole effect that his grandmother had the greatest trouble in getting him to take it off and put on his pajamas to go to bed. This is not a problem we have noticed with the dogs.

They don’t seem to care one way or the other, although Spike the Shi Tzu – who craved attention from anyone at any time and for any reason – seemed to like a costume for the attention it gained. She had a whole collection of costumes, hats and accessories, mostly because there are a lot available and on sale at reasonable prices in small-dog sizes. Connor the Malti-poo has inherited the gender-neutral costumes from Spike, and wears them with panache. This year we will dress him up in a purple cloak and fabric-sculpture crown, I think. He’s not particular – he likes everybody and everybody likes him, costume or not.

The Lesser Weevil is a large and rawboned boxer mix, and her costume wardrobe is not as extensive. The bigger sizes in dog costumes are rarer and more expensive … and compounding that is the fact that she is a dog who is as sensitive to being laughed at as your average thirteen year old girl. Given the wrong sort of costume, and the wrong public reaction to it, the Weevil would be hiding under the bed and crying her eyes out. My daughter sometimes amuses herself by dressing the Weevil in a ballet tutu skirt and gauzy fairy wings, but I believe the Weevil has begun to figure out how comic this appears. I think that she probably prefers to just appear as a dog. We’ll probably just dig out the enormous black spider costume for her again; better to be slightly scary than totally ridiculous.

We have seen some very clever dog costumes in past Halloweens and at the Buda Wiener-dog races this spring, where many of those who brought their dogs had made an effort to dress them up – some even as hot-dogs, with fabric ‘buns’ strapped to their sides like long saddle-bags. There were some very clever costumes on display at the yearly dog costume parade at the Christmas celebration at Goliad on the Square, including one white standard poodle who was colored green – to be the Grinch, of course, and a pair of Pekinese dogs dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
So, that’s our costume epic for this year – how is yours?

Woof Wednesdays

Woof Wednesdays at the Animal Defense League

by Celia Hayes

… At the Animal Defense League; every Wednesday until the end of this month, the adoption fees for dogs over the age of puppy are reduced … which is a very generous concession indeed, considering that the dogs available have been spayed or neutered, chipped, and up to date on things like rabies vaccinations and heartworm medication. We are not in any particular need of another dog at present, as the pair that we have are completely satisfactory, fairly young and in good health. But if we were looking for another dog, and the fates that dictate these matters didn’t present us with a suitable candidate straight off the streets of our own San Antonio neighborhood (as was the story with Connor, who was found running loose, and the charming little Pom, also found running loose) we would certainly consider adopting from the Animal Defense League. They have a sprawling compound off Nacogdoches Road, near the Wurzbach Expressway; a dozen buildings, an animal hospital facility, and a large area set up as a dog park.

So, hearing about this – and my daughter also heard that there is a thrift shop involved – we decided to stop by the place and actually go inside, and see if I could take some cute pictures of the cats and dogs and do a blog post about it. I had only been driving past the place for nearly fifteen years, so it was about time. We did explain that we weren’t interested so much in adoption, as we were encouraging other people to do so. The management in the adoption center were perfectly amenable to this, so we circled through two of the small dog buildings … but first, my daughter had to look at the kittens. There is nothing cuter than a basket of kittens, and there were some terribly appealing ones on hand in the so-called ‘Kitten Room’- including a little all-black one suitably named “Salem” who kept reaching out with his paw through the wire as I was taking pictures of the infant flame-point Siamese brother and sister in the adjacent cage. “Me!” it was as if he was commanding, “Me! Pay attention to me!”

Anyway – on to the small dogs and puppies; there were not very many puppies. The uncrowned king of the puppy area was a small poodle, who was introduced to us as “Patriot” – a special, special-needs dog. Patriot is almost nine years old, and completely blind. In spite of that, he is friendly and outgoing. He gets around all right, but absolutely hates the confinement of the cage. He is actually most content, sitting in a lap or in a basket by a chair – and appears also to be allergic to grass. He’d be a perfect pet for someone working from home in a small place; his demand for walkies would be absolutely minimal.

Then we walked around to a larger building housing a number of small to medium dogs, and the attendant suggested that if we wanted to get some good pictures, just tell her which dog took our fancy. We could go out into the dog park area, and get some good pictures. Our interest alighted on a medium-small tan-colored dog named “Piglet” mostly because of her pleading eyes, and the way her ears stuck out to the sides of her head. Piglet is half Chihuahua … and pit bull. However that worked out, the mating itself must have been comic to behold. In any case, it resulted in a sweet-tempered and appealing little dog, which came along readily on the leash. She was described as being rather shy, but we didn’t find her so. My daughter is still rather surprised that she didn’t wind up coming hope with us anyway. So – that was our Wednesday. And if you are considering adding a dog to your family, consider the Animal Defense League. On Wednesday or any other day.

Found Another Dog

Lost Dog

by Celia Hayes

Over the years that we have lived in our San Antonio home, we’ve lost track of the number of all the lost dogs we have found and managed to either returned to their owners, or found them new owners. Almost always it’s been a case of ‘return to owner’, and in one instance we kept the dog. My mother thinks we must display some kind of invisible sign which sends lost dogs scampering in our direction. She might be right about that. In any case, upon being met with a stray dog, we have worked out the most efficient series of steps for reuniting them with their person.

If the dog has a tag on the collar with a current address and telephone number of the owner – that will be about 90% of the situation sorted out right there. Secure the dog and call the number. Sometimes the owner will come right away, and sometimes they can’t come until after work. Quite often the dog will have done a runner from the back yard during the workday, and they will not even have noticed that Fido is gone.

A current rabies tag is almost as good as a name/address/telephone number tag. Call the veterinary clinic which issued the tag, and give them the rabies tag number. They can look it up in their registry and provide the dogs name, the owners’ name and telephone number. Should you find the dog on a Saturday afternoon, you will probably be keeping the dog until Monday morning.

Without a collar, or anything on the collar offering information, one can always hope for a chip. Any veterinary clinic can and will scan a lost dog for free. Even if they do not find a chip, they can always give you a good idea of the breed, age, general health and if it has been neutered or not. In the absence of a collar, rabies tag or chip, this is good information to use in the next step – registering the dog as ‘found’ on lost pet websites, and with local organizations such as Man & Beast*. If possible also take a picture of the dog, and upload it with the general description. Don’t forget about posting at the office of any nearby apartments or gated Dog Friendly Condos Communities.

But keep back one vital bit of information about the dog. Does it have a distinctive scar or marking? Ask anyone claiming to be the owner to describe it; sometimes people will try and claim a dog which doesn’t really belong to them for various reasons of their own.

We actually haven’t returned any dogs through the on-line lost pet registries, or through placing a free advertisement in the newspaper. It’s good to do this, just so that you can say you’ve covered all the bases.

Papering the neighborhood with flyers has proved to be the most effective method of restoring a stray dog to the owner; either our own flyers, or seeing that the owner of the missing animal has posted theirs. This does have limitations; a large dog can have come from a good way away. The first dog we ever found and returned had come from a home several miles up Stahl Road, and had been missing for two weeks. Another dog had come from the Feather Ridge subdivision, two miles up Nacogdoches Road from our home. (Coincidentally, both had been panicked by noise – a massive thunderstorm and 4th of July fireworks.) Even a small dog can cover a good distance; this summer, we found a tiny, fast-moving Pomeranian clear the other end of the subdivision from its home, a distance of more than a mile.

Besides papering, there is one more effective step: put the dog on a leash and walk around during the hours of the day that everyone will be out and about, asking anyone you meet if they recognize it. Very often, if it is truly lost, a neighbor will recognize a dog that lives close by … and of course, the owners will very likely be searching for their dog at that time.

* Man & Beast Inc., 3918 Naco Perrin Blvd # 109, San Antonio, TX 78217, (210) 590-7387

The Cibolo Creek Flows Through Boerne

A River Flows Through It

Click photos to enlarge


As the Riverwalk of San Antonio is such an ornament to the city and such a popular tourist attraction (only second after the Alamo) that one of the nicknames for our fair town is ‘The River City’ you’d think that any municipal organization possessing the necessary attribute – a permanent body of water deeper than a puddle in, or flowing through downtown – would have been been seen as a gift and an opportunity to do something like it. Maybe not cheek by cheek eateries and boutiques – but at least a pleasant string park, paralleling the river bank can this be created, for the benefit of the residents, the enriching of those retail establishments lucky to overlook it, and the sheer aesthetic pleasure of visitors to such a blessed community.

And so has the community of Boerne done, for a number of blocks paralleling River Road, on either side of Main Street. There is a generous paved trail, some added landscaping and stone work, paralleling the northern bank of Cibolo Creek as it runs through town. It seems that back in the day, Cibolo Creek was just as prone to overflow its banks and flood out parts of Boerne – just as the San Antonio River did, although on a much grander scale. We had noticed the new construction being done on the park, once we discovered Route 46/River Road; the back way between San Antonio and Boerne. So, last weekend we took advantage of slightly cooler temperatures to make a return trip to Boerne, as my daughter had her eye on certain items at the Squirrel’s Nest Resale Shop. The Squirrel’s Nest benefits Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation – an organization that everyone in this part of Texas ought to know about and support, since they are the go-to people when you find an injured, distressed and otherwise out-of-place wild animal or bird.

We had lunch at the Bear Moon Café – which was quite good; everything is made in-house and the servings are generous. Then we walked around a bit, and checked out some of the shops. This was not so much for what was in them, a lot of which was terribly high-end and pricy, but rather to look at the buildings themselves, many of which are historic old houses and business premises, and enormously charming in that respect. They were built for Texas, in the days before air conditioning, and some of them even before electrification: small rooms which opened into other rooms, or a central hall, with high ceilings, and tall windows. Usually there was a wide, shaded porch across the front, and if two-storied, those rooms on the upper floor also opened onto a verandah..

The Riverside Park already seems to be popular; we saw one family eating a picnic lunch, and a number of others settled in with fishing gear, sending their hooks into the lazy green water. The ducks and geese had all sought out shady places, on the opposite bank, though. The only other water critters we saw were turtles; and we didn’t realize at first that they were turtles. I thought their heads sticking up above the surface were just lengths of broken branch, until the heads vanished below the water, and there was a soup-bowl sized turtle, just dimly seen, diving down into deeper water.

All in all, a lovely afternoon in the Hill Country. That was my Saturday – and yours?

San Antonio Dog Friendly Condos for Sale

A Dog-Friendly List of San Antonio Condos for Sale

Check out my new San Antonio dog-friendly Condo list.

by Randy Watson

Hi, my name is Randy Watson and I am a self-confessed dog lover. I am also a real estate agent with Mission Realty, in San Antonio.

Texans love their dogs and cats… and here in San Antonio we are no exception. Dogs and cats are loved everywhere, except it gets a little tricky when it comes to buying real estate that accepts your pets. Especially when looking to buy: condominiums, townhomes and villas; since each may have its own rules and regulations regarding pets. Single family homes have fewer, if no restrictions regarding pets. (A word of caution, some HOA’s, even towns/cities may have dog restrictions.)

Moving to a new area, whether across town or across the country is stressful enough, especially, if you have pets. It can be frustrating to fall in love with the perfect home, only to learn that your fur-baby is too big or weighs over the condo complex limit. As a lifelong dog owner, I enjoy helping buyers and sellers who have pets with all their real estate needs. (I don’t want you to think we’re just limited to dogs and cats… if you have other animals, we can help with them too. Not many condos allow Longhorns, though… How about a nice farm or ranch for sale? ) My team of agents and I can help you find a dog friendly condo community that will welcome you and your dogs.


Many condominiums for sale in San Antonio allow pets, but, even so, it may not be exact the right condo for you and your furry friend. I happen to think that dogs need to have lots of green space. Just because the Condo board rules allow pets, doesn’t mean that is the right place for you and your dog. A condo that is a building in the middle of a parking lot with little to no grass or trees, doesn’t have a lot to offer for your dog, unless there are some nature trails or they are next to a park.

Some condos allow pets, but what they really mean is that they don’t really want pets. So you find out the rule is you must carry your dog through the lobby. (That’s pure craziness.) Or they only allow cats or non-shedding dogs under 12lbs. Don’t get frustrated, there are many San Antonio pet-friendly condos complexes that not only allow big dogs, but maybe allow 2 or 3 dogs, too.

Me and my hound, Milo (actually he’s an Australian Shepherd) are hunting down San Antonio condos for sale that not only allow pets, but welcome them with pet-centered amenities such as dog runs, dog wash tubs, and poop-bag dispensers near the potty areas. Maybe the condo complex has a nice dog park or trails nearby. We’ll check it out and see if we get the 2 paws up from my dog, Milo.

I’ve started creating a list of San Antonio dog-friendly condos for sale. It is by far, not a complete list and I’ll add to it as I find out more. If you happen to live in or know about a San Antonio dog-friendly condo please let me and Milo know and we will add your condo to our list.


Put us to work to find you a San Antonio condo for sale that fits you, your pets and your lifestyle. We are condo specialists, we specialize in Medical Center condos for sale, Alamo Heights condos, New Braunfels condos or downtown San Antonio condos for sale.

Call Team Randy Watson at 210-319-4960 to help find you a San Antonio Dog-Friendly Condo.

Water in the Creek

Water in the Creek, Progress in the Garden

by Celia Hayes

Search online for all your San Antonio Real Estate Needs

Well, it’s been another quiet week in Spring Creek Forest, the little suburb that time forgot… I am improving my little patch of it as fast as I can and as the growing season allows. We were assisted last week by rain… lots and lots of rain. There actually was running water in Salado Creek. And since it was running over the path, we needed to wade through it – up to our shins, and with a perceptible current, too. Yes, we like to walk on the wild side, what with the mad risk-taking and all. The Weevil thoroughly enjoyed a romp through the water, and when she flushed a couple of ducks from the wetlands by the Morningstar boardwalk, her doggy heart overflowed with pure contentment. She didn’t come anywhere near actually catching a duck, though – that would have been a miracle of practically biblical dimensions.

The garden is doing very well, what with the rain, and the unseasonable warmth. The citrus in pots are blooming, and so is the wisteria – which only blooms for one week out of the year, and then sulks for the other fifty-one. The pot that my daughter thought to plant with an assortment of specially flavored mint plants has – as expected – thrived so thoroughly that there is very little of the pot itself actually visible. The artichoke, burdock and cardoons that I planted in pots some weeks ago are also thriving … There is a bare patch in the yard, where I’d love to have a patch of artichokes. I love artichokes, and to be able to pop out to the garden and pick them fresh would be fantastic. All they are is big, edible thistles, after all. We started this last weekend with some small artichoke plants, along with a blue-flowered salvia for variety, and some lambs’ ears for luck and hopefully to spread along the edge of the bed. Should they all grow and thrive, the bigger ones in pots will join them.

This week, we ventured out to the Antique Rose Emporium to see what they had for vegetable starts. It’s almost too late now for the lettuces and such, too early for beans and eggplant … but the right time for the exotic heirloom tomatoes, of which they had plenty and an amazing variety. I knew that tomatoes came in yellow, but brown, and purple? Oh my. Now to get some more topsy-turvys … we have space on the hanging frame for at least another three or four. The dozen tomato plants that we started some weeks ago are just now shyly putting out blooms. They are the ordinary sort of early tomatoes, and this time we got them in better condition than last year’s … which were priced half-off and nearly dead when we put them in the topys-turvys, but still did well.

Last week, HEB had cucumber and zucchini starts for $1.00 each – so here we go with starting six of them in the last earth-box. Zucchini plants are supposed to produce in overwhelming quantities, which has never been my personal experience, but I’m an optimist. I live in hope of bulging bags of zucchini that I will be able to leave on neighbors’ doorsteps, after ringing the doorbell and running away. And this morning … we had an idea to build a raised bed from treated timbers, and expand the vegetable-growing area. There is a place around the back of the house where the soil is so full of little chunks of rock and concrete rubble from when the house was built that a raised bed full of good soil is the only hope. Next year, maybe…


Critters Living in Our San Antonio Neighborhoods

Nature’s Critters

by Celia Hayes

We were walking the dog this morning, when we noticed two of our neighbors deep in conversation in the driveway. The object of conversation seemed to be an occupied Hava-Hart trap, and naturally being terribly curious about anything going on in our neighborhood, we went over and joined the conversation, discovering that the occupant of the trap was a mature and deeply unhappy opossum. This was not entirely unexpected around here, actually. Possums turn up all the time – in fact, before we acquired the dogs, there were several of them that hung out in my back yard, going so far as to help themselves to the cat food that I put out for the outdoor cat. The cat, by the way, was perfectly amiable towards the opossum, as she very well might be, as the opossum had way more and very much sharper teeth than she did.

The neighbor in question was a trifle freaked about her catch, as she had actually set the trap for squirrels. This year, between the drought and a bumper crop of acorns on the numerous oak trees, the squirrels are being a particular pest. They are everywhere, digging holes in the flowerbeds, in the potted plants, and eating the roots of certain ornamental plants, and sending our dogs into noisy frenzies of excitement. The Lesser Weevil surprised one particularly unwary and slow-moving squirrel at the bird feeder the other day, and came as close to actually catching it as she has ever come . . . although I am not certain she would actually know what to do with it if she did. My daughter entertains a lively fantasy of the Weevil being so enthused by close pursuit that she actually follows the squirrel up into the tree branches . . . and then we would have to call the fire department to extract a 90 pound dog from out of the tree . . .

Anyway, wildlife abounds in our little patch of San Antonio home paradise; plenty of the usual suburban small mammals and rodents, and a nice selection of birds. We planted various flowering shrubs to attract humming birds, and put out feeders which draw in cardinals, wrens, sparrows and doves. One of our other neighbors has actually induced several families of woodpeckers to take up residence in their yard; most amusing to watch, they tell us. I think the most colorful yard critters are the small anole lizards. They are everywhere in the spring and summer months, bright lime green in color with delicate pink throats that they will show off by inflating them. They always seemed to hang out in the wisteria, very possibly because the lizards and the wisteria leaves are the same color.

All this wildlife is about par, for a small yard in a city neighborhood – a bigger yard and one adjacent to a greenway or open fields can count on wider assortment. Like deer: Hill Country Village – well within the 1604 Loop – supports a herd of deer and has for years. McAllister Park has deer in it, best seen in the early morning, and I spotted some deer wanderers at the corner of Thousand Oaks and Naco-Perrin one morning, several years ago, meandering towards the open golf course at Northern Hills. Even the campus of USAA has it’s very own herd, which to my mind increases the likeness of the place to a stately fortified demesne on a high hill with an enclosed park around it. We might be in the city, or at least the suburbs . . . but the critters are always with us.