Monday, February 28, 2011

Lucy Wants

Lucy wants
to go inside
to come back out
to go inside again
to come back out again
a lick of butter off my finger
a dab of whipped cream
the door to remain open
someone to let the dog in
the faucet turned on
the lap to be still
ice cream
to go outside
to come back in.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chance Encounters

If you stop to think about it, life is a strange thing. We weave through the tapestry of existence, our journey a single thread crisscrossing countless other journeys and lives. And we often never know which encounters hold greater significance than any others until much later. A conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop, like the infamous flutter of those butterfly wings across the sea, can set into motion a sequence of events that would never have happened had you decided to skip coffee that day. Even encounters with books and movies can alter the color of the tapestry and shape our lives. 

Lady is a member of this family because of an American author and ecologist I've never met. Anne LaBastille wrote the book Woodswoman as a memoir of her experience building a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains and living completely devoid of modern conveniences such as electricity, running water, or telephone. In it and her next book Beyond Black Bear Lake, she chronicles her friendships, romances, her close bond with her German Shepherd dogs, the ebb and flow of nature, and her conservation efforts. I was in my 20s when I read these books, and I was captivated. I wanted to build a cabin in the wilderness and live there with my German Shepherd dogs. Never mind that I had a perfectly good job in the city, and no dog at all. But the seed was planted. 

I never built that cabin, but I did fall head over heels in love with the German Shepherd breed. I felt like I knew Dr. LaBastille's shepherds Pitzi and Condor. When I was finally at a place in my life where having a dog made sense, I knew exactly the type of dog I wanted. 

Jessie turned out to be everything I'd imagined a German Shepherd to be. Her intelligence astonished me. Growing up, we had what I'd considered smart dogs, but Jessie was way beyond "dog-smart." She was "people-smart." She understood English, and was perceptive in a way that amazed me. Lady is a completely different dog than Jessie, but she has many of the same characteristics I've come to love in this breed. She's beautiful, sensitive, and loyal beyond all reason. I love the way she watches out for every member of the family, human and furry alike. She seems to sense that kitties and children need a higher level of supervision, and acts accordingly. I am grateful that the thread of Annie LaBastille's life touched mine through her writing. My journey has been richer because of the German Shepherds sharing it. 


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ladies and Gentleman May I Proudly Present...

...Rijnveld's Early Sensation, the first daffodil!!! Yaaaaaaaaay!!!!

It opened up completely yesterday afternoon, and has been singing a song of springtime ever since. It's the first one blooming in my garden, and the first one I've seen thus far in the neighborhood. I was surprised not to notice any in Greensboro on my quick trip over there Monday. That's a warmer part of the state, and I expected to see lots of them. This happy little bloom outside my kitchen window, as early as it is, doesn't get the honor of being the very first bloom, however. That distinction goes to a scrawny little dandelion that I spotted tightly tucked into a mat of grass several weeks ago. I was astonished to see it, and had to pluck it and carry it home, where it sat on a windowsill making me happy until it wilted.

That was the same day I took a photo of turkey tracks in the snow down by the garage. Dandelions and snow - not something you expect to encounter on the same day!

I put the bag of ice melt back in the garage this morning. Hope that doesn't bring on a blizzard next week.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bedtime Drama

Time for bed, and all is cozy, calm, and good with the world... right?


Lucky is in the wrong bed. Lady prefers the round bed, and Lucky knows it. Look again at the top photo and notice the put upon expression on Lady's face, and the sheepish look on Lucky's. In Lady's opinion, this sleeping arrangement is wrong, wrong, wrong.

This doesn't happen every  night; most of the time Lucky sticks with the program and uses the square bed. When it does happen though, it just amuses me to no end. I don't know what could possibly be so wrong with the square bed. It's actually three beds piled on top of each other to make it extra soft and cushy. And if you look closely, you'll see that I even prop the back of it against the dresser, in case the issue is having something soft to lean against. But no go - it's still the "yucky" bed.

If Lucky is already in the round bed when Lady comes to bed, she will stand in the doorway and stare at him, and he will try to pretend he doesn't notice her. It's too bad I don't have a video clip of this, because then you could hear her dramatic sigh of resignation as she drops into the "wrong" bed.

It can play out in different ways, all of which involve lots of quiet drama. On this particular night, Lady laid there unhappily for awhile. Then she stood up and walked to the other side of the bedroom, stopped, and stared at me. I feigned ignorance, my head ducked into the book I'm reading, Cutting for Stone. When she realized I was not going to intervene on her behalf, she returned to the dog beds, but just stood there miserably. Finally Lucky couldn't take it anymore, got up and gave her the bed she wanted.

What a dog. I can't figure out why he gives her everything she wants, but he does. Interestingly, in groups of dogs out in the community, Lucky tends to be the more dominant of the two, and Lady more submissive. But at home, it's all about what Lady wants.

NOW things are right.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

No Furry Friends Today

Just two things that made me smile this weekend. 
The beautiful sky and clouds yesterday, 
and my Rijnveld's Early Sensation daffodil slowly 
unfurling its petals to say "Shoo Winter! Shoo!"
Hope you all had a great weekend!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Time Flies

Looking through some old photos, I was surprised to find this shot of Lucky standing by a patch of daffodils in the front yard. The bright yellow trumpet blooms snagged my attention as I glanced over the rows and rows of thumbnails. I clicked to enlarge it. Ahhh, sweet springtime. It won't be long now.

And then I noticed something else. Lucky looks so young!  I can't say I've visibly noticed him getting older, although I'm certainly aware of his advancing age (hence the ramp). But on walks and hikes he outpaces all of us, seeming never to tire. But the inky black of his face in this photo, along with those youthful bright eyes really surprised me. How different he looks now! That black fur still shines, only now with the addition of salty white accents and bushy white "eyebrows." I realized I love his mature look. His face has so much character now. In fact, I think those eyebrows lend him a somewhat distinguished air. Take a look. Doesn't he favor Sean Connery just a bit?

C'mon, admit it - you know I do!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Message From Lady

I have been very good this week. I have not eaten butter, or raw chicken, or cake, or anything made out of aluminum (there was that one turkey tootsie roll I snagged off the driveway, but heck, it's not like the people want those - so they shouldn't count). I have not broken anything either. I never mean for anything to break, but you should try getting things off the counter with no hands. It's not easy. But I'm not going to do that anymore, so we'll not worry about that. I also did better walking past other dogs this week, with only a single bark or two. Not a single full blown psycho-dog episode. Yaaaaaay me!! I am a good dog.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fabulous February Sunshine

The weather in western North Carolina has been freakishly beautiful all week, and according to The Weather Channel we'll get to enjoy this for another week to come. What a treat. I LOVE IT. March can be a snowy month in this area, so about the time we get used to temps in the 60s, the rug of springtime delight may get yanked out from under us. But who knows, maybe we'll get lucky this year. Either way, it's beautiful now, and I'm enjoying every second of it. After months of cold, gray, dreary weather, the warm rays of the sun make me want to play hooky from work and bask like a lizard. Or roll around in sunshiny joy, like Lucy.

Lady, whose personal mission in life is to watch over and take care of everyone in the family, can only stand this rolling and convulsing for so long before checking in.

"Are you okay?"
I'm betting on a daffodil bloom by the weekend. About five years ago I planted a very early variety called Rijnveld's Early Sensation, however it's so early that I've only seen it bloom once. Most years the buds appear, teasing me with the promise of winter banishing blooms - only to get zapped by a sudden return to temperatures in the teens or single digits. But this year they're going to bloom, I just know it. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award!

Last Sunday while I was supposed to be taking the weekend off from my computer and from blogging (ha!), my new friend Bailey over at BaileyBeGood surprised me with the "Stylish Blogger Award!" What fun! I love awards. I still vividly remember winning the "Yellowest Canary" award in kindergarten. I'd borrowed my grandmother's canary for the occasion. Actually, truth be told, I can't recall exactly what the occasion was...did my class have a "canary contest?" Whatever the event, winning that blue ribbon was the highlight of my fledgling educational career. I'm hopelessly sentimental and tend to save silly stuff like that. I bet if I searched, I could find that yellowest canary award in a box somewhere. But all this is to say, I was pretty psyched about my Stylish Blogger Award! Yaaaay! Here it is:

So as I understand the process, there are a few things I need to do in order to fully accept this prestigious award. I need to link to the blog that awarded me (done!), share 7 things about myself that you may not know, award 7 other blogs that I think are stylish, and contact those bloggers and tell them about the award. Whew, the pressure! But I'm up for it, not to worry.

Okay, let's start with those 7 things you may not know about me.

  1. One time I won an award for Yellowest Canary!  Oops, I already told you that one.
  2. I absolutely despise raw celery. It gives me the shivers.
  3. I've tasted dog biscuits (okay, 'fess up - I bet some of you have too!)
  4. I love going to movies and splurging on the gallon-sized popcorn bucket.
  5. I'm a closet Star Trek fan.
  6. The first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was "a writer."
  7. My favorite book of the past year was The Help.
  8. I'm a black belt in Tang Soo Do (ha - bet you didn't expect that one!) 
Now it's time to choose 7 blogs I feel to be deserving of the Stylish Blogger Award! This is going to be harder. In my opinion, all the ones I've added to my blog list this past year deserve this award. I'm picky about blogs, and won't visit or follow unless I am truly interested. But if I had to narrow it down to seven, I suppose these would be my choices:         (drum roll please ......)

  1. Three Dog Blog  love love love this one - great writing, sweet sweet dogs, and she lives in my favorite state, MN, so I get to read all about the insane cold without actually have to live there - LOL! 
  2. Vicki Lane Mysteries daily slices of life in the Appalachian mountains mixed in with gems of wisdom about writing (and the occasional phallic rock formation) - wonderful! 
  3. Jennerally Speaking she has a "secret cat," and the best header I've ever seen on a blog - need I say more? 
  4. Two Pitties in the City just what it says, urban living with two pit bulls - intriguing blog to visit because I know nothing about either, because Ms. M has the cutest face ever, and because their apartment looks awesome, like something off HGTV
  5. Three Dogs and a Couch my blogging soul sister who understands both what it means to love a German Shepherd with all your heart and soul, and what it's like to live with a stubborn, lovable rescue dog that you want to kiss one minute and strangle the next (I still think we need to start a support group).
  6. from kitsnk9s to puspavat  the most unique blog I visit, completely different from all the others - daily doses of insightful spiritual musings peppered with the occasional adorable dog or cat - and you've got to love a woman with a cat draped over her shoulders.
  7. Doggy Days - normally I'm not fond of blogs BY dogs, but this is an exception. Benny and Lily are two adorable French bulldogs whose short and sweet daily posts always bring a smile to my face! 
So that's it. Congratulations to all the winners! And if you've already received this award - congrats again! You can either ignore it, or pass it on to someone you think is deserving. Thanks again, Bailey, for awarding my site. :)  Have a great Sunday everyone!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bad Dog

Ever since that cake tin eating incident back in December, it's as if Lady has discovered this entire new world of food and fun that can only take place when she's left alone. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around a dog's behavior changing so drastically, in the middle of adulthood. For the past four years, food has been perfectly safe on the counter. Of course you'd never have to worry about Lucky. Why just the thought of such an offense would make him shrink in shame. This is what the face of innocence looks like:

But even Lady, who admittedly has a rascally side to her personality, has never bothered food left on the counter. Entire cakes or pies, steaks thawing...anything could be left on the counter. Garbage sack in the corner waiting to be taken to the garage? No problem. That was then.

This is now.

Yes, she has even figured out how to open the cabinet door to get the trash can out from under the sink! It strikes me that the door knobs look like a pair of crazed eyes, nervously watching out for the furry intruder. Now whenever Lady is left alone, there's an entire process to go through of making sure the doors are secured, trash put up, and all food secured. But still, she figures out a way to wreak havoc.

When I left for the gym at 8 am, this butter dish had a lid.

That's before it went crashing to the tile floor and shattered into a zillion pieces.

Butter???? Thank goodness no one was hurt.

Ugh. Guess it's time to retrieve the crate from the garage. What a bummer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wake Me For The Weekend

Weekdays are boring. My people are all busy and working. 
When is the weekend? Wake me for the weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Love Those Rescue Pets

I have a soft spot for abandoned and homeless animals. I'm drawn to the cast off, unwanted pets in our society, as well as the ones who have been loved but find themselves homeless due to economic reasons, natural disasters, or other circumstances beyond their control. Lady and Lucky are both rescues, and I volunteer as a photographer with a local rescue organization, Animal Compassion Network. The second Wednesday of each month is Intake, the day when new dogs and cats are brought into the rescue network. My job is to photograph the newcomers for the website. Most of these photos will eventually show up on, the national website for rescued pets.

It's always a fun challenge to try to capture a pet's unique personality and spirit with my camera. But the challenge is significantly magnified when you're in a strange clinic environment. The mix of smells and sights tends to provoke a mood and facial expression ranging from confused to terrified.

Patience almost always pays off though. I strive to maintain a happy and relaxed demeanor throughout the photo session. And it helps if the owner or rescuer with the pet projects calm energy. If he or she gets too anxious about how long it's taking the dog or cat to pose for a nice photo, this stress gets transmitted right to the pet. However, if we all stay calm and think happy thoughts, the moment usually presents itself.

It's a common misperception that only mixed breed pets end up in shelters. Not so. Almost every month we have purebred dogs, both large and small. This month we had a quite a few of the little guys. They are always adorable, and my personal favorite to photograph, even though I consider myself a "big dog" person. But how could you not love faces like these?

Only one cat was represented at this Intake, a big orange cat named Mighty Mouse for his bulky upper body, which isn't readily apparent in these photos. MM was with a colony of feral cats, but singled out for rescue when he began showing an interest in people. What a striking coat, and the most beautiful amber eyes!

I know many of you are like-minded; I've seen your great photos overflowing with dogs and cats. Just thought I'd take you all along with me this time on my monthly journey into the world of rescued pets. There are wonderful dogs and cats waiting for homes at shelters and rescue organizations all over the country - spread the word!

That's all, folks!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Ramp Is Here!

After months - no, years - of grappling with the decision about whether to order a vehicle ramp, here it is! Lucky is getting older (11 now, if the shelter's estimate of "4 years" was correct back in 2004), and the new truck bed is even higher than the last one. He's still jumping with no difficulty, although I usually help him get a running start. But the height makes me nervous. More than one dog owning friend has had to deal with the dreaded "torn ACL" injury, and I know we don't want to go there.

I never needed a vehicle ramp for Jessie in her elder years, although I did build a handicap ramp for the front porch. I was so proud of that ramp. I'm not exactly what you'd call the "handy" type, but I couldn't stand to watch her struggle with the 3 or 4 steps to the front door. Covered with indoor/outdoor carpet, that ramp worked like a charm, and I could tell she appreciated it. Accessibility was never an issue with the car, however. The Subaru wagon I had then was fairly low anyway, and Jessie developed a method of putting her front paws on the threshold and waiting for me to gently lift her back end up into the hatch area.

But Lucky would never do that. If I tried to teach him such a thing, he'd be convinced I was trying to kill him. Different dog. So, we've almost ordered the ramp a dozen times, but always stopped short. Would it be worth the cost? Would it be too heavy and unwieldy to be practical? Would he even use it if we got it? This is a dog that approaches every new experience with suspicion and dread.

Finally though, we took the plunge and ordered the XL heavy duty ramp from Foster and Smith. When it comes right down to it, what's $150 compared to the cost of orthopedic surgery? A little dose of prevention just seemed worth the gamble.

So finally, the big moment was at hand. I was surprised how easy it was to handle, and pleased with the wide, non-skid surface. Not surprisingly, Lady scrambled right up the ramp with just a little encouragement. Lucky...well, we got him up, but it took some doing.

Here you can see Lady eagerly awaiting the next bit of adventure ("shall I came down now? would you like me to come down?"), and Lucky huddled in the farthest recesses of the truck, hoping we'll forget he's there.

So, a little practice was in order.

When facing any challenge, it's important to have the right mindset. For Lucky, this involves shifting his mindset from "this is a horrible experience that's going to kill me" to "oh boy, this is fun!" Lots of smiles, clapping and happy voices are involved. Come on Lucky, you can do it!

Yaaaaaaaaaay!!! Good boy!!! Yaaaaay!! 

All ready for the next adventure!! A bit safer now for the old guy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011