Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday for Mari

Excerpted from Healing Dogs with Love

Dogs on the Periphery

I have a confession to make; I’m really a cat person. Or was. I would now describe myself as an animal lover. Growing up, you could say my mother was an animal tolerator. We were allowed to have cats—outside cats. We didn’t actively seek them out, they were strays we adopted. Or, to be more accurate, adopted us. They lived very comfortably under the front porch, where they were out of the way and didn’t require too much attention. No litter boxes, no cat hair, no interruptions to our household life.

I had limited experience with dogs for the first half of my life, and sporadic, not-particularly-pleasant memories of various interactions with dogs as I was growing up. My first real memory is of a summer evening when I was eight years old. I’m running down a path to The Chalet, where my parents were visiting their friends. It’s that just-before-completely-dark time where I can still sort of see. The path stretched along the woods, and as I was running, I felt the sudden grab of a dog’s mouth on my leg. It was Duke, a German shepherd and neighborhood dog who roamed around the old boy scout camp where we lived. I screamed and kept running and made it to the house. “I was attacked!” I yelled as I pounded my way in. Crying and frantic, my wound was wiped cleaned with a washcloth. “I’m bleeeeeeeeeeeeeding!” I wailed. Now, truth be told, it was more of a tooth grazing than an actual bite. And one of the well-meaning adults had tried to explain that I had probably frightened Duke. But when you’re a child and get a surprise leg grab from a dog in the dark, it might as well be a mauling from the neighborhood wolf.

Thus began my fear of dogs.

Duke was allegedly given away to a family down the hill from us, except that he still roamed, so it didn’t really matter which family had him. When I was ten, I was walking home from a friend’s house. At the time, we were living in a dome and were drilling our well. There was a massive ditch that had been built to catch the flow of thick, oozing mud. I was wearing my new favourite dress, which I’d gotten for my birthday. It was a warm spring day as I walked along the path. And there came my old nemesis, Duke, trotting along side me. I was cautious and nervous and just wanted to make it home. “I don’t want any trouble, here, Duke.” The path narrowed to single-file as I made my way along side the sludgy ditch. There wasn’t room for me and the dog, and as he was staying at my side, I lost my footing and fell into the ditch. Fortunately it was only about three feet deep— but enough to get completely submerged when I fell. Have you ever seen those fancy foreign mud baths, the consistency of cake batter? Imagine that, only in the bright red of Virginia clay. Duke continued on his merry way, I suppose. At that point I was less concerned with him, and more concerned with clawing my way out. I walked up to the house, wailing. My younger brother was the first to see me, and ran into the house calling me the Mud Monster. The whole family came out to greet me. Surprised. And then laughing. Hysterically. Which made me cry even harder, sending streaks down my face to expose skin underneath. Now the question was how was I going to get de-mudded? We had been going to the main lodge across the street to take our nightly baths, while we were waiting for the well to hit water. My very British mother was very practical about the whole thing. “Well,” she said, standing there eying me with hands on hips. “You cahn’t get in the car like that. You’ll just have to walk over.” It was about a mile walk, which I had just made before the unfortunate Ditch Incident. I think my sister took pity on me and walked with me, as Mum drove over to meet us on the other side of the camp. That part is hazy. What I do remember is having a further dislike for German Shepherds, which really translated to dogs in general, and this would not change for several years.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Little Hummers

Crossword Puzzle Mel sent me the most amazing link to a live hummingbird cam!  World of Hummingbirds. AND not only that, but this mama hummingbird, sitting on her own little nest of tic tacs, gets introduced to two baby orphans and takes care of them!  You can read more about it HERE.  It's fascinating to watch.

I managed to take screen shots which I just learned to do. [Press down alt (to the left of the space bar) & prt sc (on the top row of the key board to the right-ish)]  Look at the top right image. See the baby's little foot???  SO CUTE!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday for Mari

Look at those sweet puppy-dog eyes. Circa 1988.
Shortly after my father died, I moved back home with my mother to an old farmhouse in the Virginia countryside. A friend of Mum’s had a dog she needed to find a home for. Enter Dinky, a Springer spaniel with long soft ears and sad, puppy eyes. She changed his name to Brinkley. “I’m not calling a dog Dinky! It’s undignified,” exclaimed my very-proper-English mother. Growing up, “dinky” was a euphemism for a male body part. So Brinkley became a part of the household and quickly earned the name Stinkley. It didn’t matter what his name was, he didn’t come when we called him. He was a sweet dog, except that the smells coming from his nether regions could peel paint. I have one particular image of my sister and I sitting on the sofa, listening to George Winston’s The Greatest Love, having a sort of meditation together. And then Stinkley padded in and sat at our feet. As I’m thinking, He really is a sweet dog, he let one rip; a silent stink bomb that made our eyes water and left us gasping for air. He made his escape one day and trotted down the road where he was picked up by a woman. Her kids fell in love with him. “He’s yours,” I said. “Really? Are you sure?” Oh, yes. I think he came to our home so he could go to his forever home. No one in the family was too upset when he left.

~Excerpted from Healing Dogs with Love

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday for Mari

I've spent the last 2 years with M&M Mondays and, following Millie's death, the last 7 months with Maggie on Mondays. So even tho Maggie is gone, I still think of her & Millie every Monday. It's bittersweet.

 In the meantime, I have been back to working on the book:

So I thought that I would honour their memories by posting a little something from the book each Monday. First a bit about how the book came to be. I had originally intended to do a book of M&M Mondays where I would upload the blog posts to Blurb & voila, you have a book. But then there was a HARO query from Jennifer Skiff asking for dog stories for her awesome new book The Divinity of Dogs, coming out this October. While M&M's story ultimately didn't make the cut, I'd read it to John Morgan. The next morning he called & told me to check my email. He had sent me the cover of the book. He said, "I did the book cover for you, now YOU just have to write the book." And so I started writing & quickly realized that I had to start at the beginning. I would never have been able to take on M&M if my other dogs, Barkley & Remi hadn't taught me what to do for them. I wrote a bit everyday and then I moved from the River House to my little Lake House and didn't touch it for several months. Now I'm back on track!  I'm a couple months away from completion, I think. In the meantime, here's the story that sparked the cover:

Maggie & Millie, two senior sisters, came to me via AARF, a rescue organization in Richmond, VA. It had taken a year and a half to be able to even think of getting new dogs after my mother-son duo died within 6 weeks of each other. I’d had Barkley for almost 16 years, and Remi, her son for almost 14. I was astonished at how my grief could bubble up at inopportune times so long after their deaths. But I missed the companionship and the petting and all of everything that goes with having a dog. I had looked at a few lab-mixed dogs, but I would just crumple when they were so glaringly unlike Barkley and Remi. And then I saw these two labweiler girls on Petfinder, and I just knew I was taking them home with me.

Not much was known about them. They were older, estimated to be 7-8 years old, and had been dumped on a busy Richmond highway. When I got them, they came with a host of health issues; some age-related—arthritic and unable to walk up stairs (which made me think they’re way older than 8), and some others like allergies, an infection, and skin problems. Millie in particular, seemed the worst with itchy skin that she had scratched her fur off and had bald patches.

Friends and family members, some more vocal than others, questioned my adopting two aging dogs. Why was I putting myself thru the pain of the inevitable?  Even I was expecting that they were coming home to hospice care with me. “What are you getting out of this?” a friend asked. “I’m not doing this to get anything, I’m doing this to give. These two need to have a quiet, loving home where someone cares for them before they die. I don’t want them to have been abandoned and left to slowly die away the rest of their lives.”

Because I got these girls late in their life, I didn’t know their personalities, likes, dislikes. I had to surrender and be quiet, and pay attention to them and their behavior. I had to learn from them, vs. trying to teach to them.

 They were already on a grain-free diet. I continued that and added wild Alaskan salmon oil, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. And then every night, I would settle in to watch TV, and I would sit on the floor and massage and Reiki both girls. More than the physical ailments, I was acutely aware of their emotional well-being. It broke my heart to think that someone could abandon two elderly dogs on a highway. Who could do such a thing?!

They look so similar, that it was hard to tell them apart at first. But I soon discovered not just physical differences, but personality differences, as well. Maggie is a cheerful girl who wags her tail if you look at her. Thump, thump, thump! Goes her tail!  She was much more approachable and attached herself to me very quickly.  Millie, on the other hand, was . . . for lack of a better word, grouchy. She never wagged her tail and was cautious around me. I continued to massage and Reiki them daily. They were both in pain, but I surmised that Millie must’ve had some sort of injury because her lower back was so restricted and her tail hung down limp. I continued to work on her and finally was able to release some restrictions around that area. Low & behold, she regained her range of motion with her tail! It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy, it was that she was in so much pain. She couldn’t wag her tail. By continuing to work with her, and giving her consistent, caring touch, she began to respond. One of the sweetest things to see is when she’s asleep and she wags her tail in her sleep!

Chloe Wordsworth, creator of Resonance Repatterning, tells a story about a friend who was helping Mother Theresa with some orphans in Bosnia. She kept asking why Mother Theresa wouldn’t let her go to the front lines to help get the children. Finally Mother Theresa replied, “Do you notice your face? You are so sad when you see these children. They don’t need your sadness. They need to know that their sadness is over, and that they are coming to a safe and loving place.”

I kept that story in the back of my mind as I received these two dogs. They’ve lived a whole lifetime before me, and who knows what they’ve experienced. Because I didn’t know, they taught me what they knew. I could tell by their response that someone had loved these girls. They weren’t aggressive with their food, they weren’t skittish when I brought a hand to them. They lay on the floor and let me step around them and over them. It didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t be house-trained. They are. Their first owner must have been right-handed, because I discovered that they are leash-trained. I am left-handed, but they correct and position themselves over to my right side. When I first got them, they would not enter a doorway before me. Someone also taught them good manners; they don’t beg for food, and any food bits that gets dropped on the floor, stay there. 

When I travel, I take the girls to Mystic Pet Resort, owned by my friends Lena and Gareth. The girls are in love with Gareth. They respond to him in a way that makes us both think that their first owner must have been a man. Lena said that she thinks their first owner died and they got passed on from there. I think that’s very possible.  Gareth said, “All dogs want is to be devoted to a master.” They really do have a devotion, and I often say that dogs put the “un” in unconditional love.

Reading this story is a more condensed version of the blog. And it is not in the book like this--but you'll see! LOTS of photos for you in the book, Mari! I'm forever grateful to you & AARF for M&M. THANK YOU! And THANKS to John Morgan for the kick in the ass encouragement to get back to writing.  :-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

HAPPY Mother's Day

This is the card that chiro-sis & I got for Mum this year:

One of those GIANT cards. You know the kind; 2' X 1' with extra-extra postage.

Brother Atlasta missed out on signing it!  Haha
HAPPY Mother's Day, Mum!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Estate Sale

Last weekend Chiro-sis & I stopped by an estate sale in the neighborhood. Of course I fell in love. Look at this looooooong driveway!

Reminds me of the River House.

The house was not for sale & I didn't get a pic of the front, but here's the back:


Little guest cottage. So sweet!

Entrance to back yard.

Dobson Frog!

Nephew Ro coming into the garden . . . 

And finding the ONE puddle!
He LOVES to jump!
Go frolic!

And back out again.

I know. Why am I posting pix from some random house I'll prolly never go to again?  I dunno. I love my little house on the little lake, but heading up that driveway made me a little misty for the River House. It was so quiet and secluded off a busy road. Just a sweet little house with lots of trees.  :-)  Plus, of course, pix of my nephew!

Friday, May 11, 2012

HaPpY BirThDaY, MeL!

Mel's cake from Mum, last year. Mum did the writing & the sun.  I did the flowers, but wasn't trusted to do the 3 lines together--also known as "grass."

Last summer at the River House, fishin' on the Shenandoah.

Today I send birthday wishes to family friend Mel. She is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. She is the kind of person who makes the world better for the people who are fortunate enough to be in her world.

I sometimes refer to her as Crossword Puzzle Mel because she is a wiz at them!  Mum moved here last week, but until then, almost every Sunday, Mum & Mel did the Washington Post crossword puzzle together for years. I'm sure Mum will figure out Brother Atlasta will set Mum up to video chat with Mel so they can continue their Sunday Crossword Puzzle Fests. I admire Mel for her cleverness with Crosswords because it's a skill & talent I don't own. I don't get the clues unless it's some sort of obvious Seinfeld or Beatles trivia, and then! Sometimes all the clues make up some sort of special clue to an extra part of the puzzle, for extra-fun. If my life depended on finishing a crossword puzzle, I would be prepared to meet my maker. So this is just one of the things I admire about Mel, she's just smart that way.

Hubby John with Mel on my Lake House moving day. 

But perhaps I can try my hand at writing a crossword puzzle clue: 3 letter word that represents kindness, compassion, patience, devotion, friendliness, loyalty, & hugs.


HaPpY BirThDaY, MeL!

May today bring you much luck & may your wishes come true! 
Sending you much LOVE on this day, and always!  :-) Hal

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Memories of Maggie

I think I'm having an easier time of Maggie's passing because I didn't have to make any decision about euthanasia. She decided for me. Here are a few photos of our time together:

At the river house, nestled in by the wood shed, one of her favourite spots.

Lying on top of my shoes.  So cute.

Look at that face. 

This was shortly after I got her. 

Coming up the dog ramp at the River House. 

Another favourite spot: under the forsythia bush.
Forsythia bush in the fall. 

This was when she had vertigo. See the head tilt? Chiro & laser to the rescue & she was with me for another year & a half! 

Eye dots!  

'member this? We didn't have a lot of visitors at the River House. This was one of  the well repair guys. Melted my heart when I saw this; fellow dog lover.  :-) 

Foggy day at the River House, Maggie heading to the ramp.

At the new house, on the front porch. Eye dots!

Up the ramp with Tabby in the way.

On the side walk.


Exploring the yard.

My sweet Maggie, around last Christmas (I can tell because of her Christmassy bandana). 
And here are a few pix of Maggie & Millie together:
'member this? They woke me up barking at 3 AM & I found that Maggie had taken my slipper & is guarding it from Millie.  Hahahaha

Millie leads the way down the ramp. Step-step-step  Stop 'n' look over at the railroad tracks & mountains.

Last Spring at the River House, near the clothes line. Red buds in bloom!

In my office. I had dog beds everywhere! Maggie's in her thunder shirt, Millie's sacked out.

On the back porch, over looking their domain.

Another favourite photo. Ever vigilant. 

Watching deer in the front field. Or wild turkeys, squirrels, & the occasional bear.

They adored Fisherman Willie!

This was a sleep-over with Pioneer Sister's kids. Maggie plopped on top of pillows & blankets.  Mari pointed out that M&M were not kid-friendly to begin with. When the kids first met them at Mystic Pet in their kennel, they BARKED & were v. scary!  I think they must have been teased by kids at some point when they were behind a fence. Once we were at home, they were really sweet with the kids & we didn't have any problems.  :-)

Vizzies with Mum. Millie in her favourite spot by the window.

First week at the new house, in the back yard.  You can click HERE for more M&M pix.