May This Day Hold No Omens

No. Just…no.

First thing this morning, word came down the pike that Kelso the Wonder Cocker had crossed the Bridge. Not sure what happened, but spare a thought, a prayer, a candle for his humans and canine brother Louis, please.

And then there was the weather. We had an unusually cold week last week. Some rain, and then some more, and then this morning brought in a storm that began as rain. Oakley and I both needed a walk, so we went to the forest preserve, walking the circular trail. And then at the halfway point, the wind shifted to the northwest, and the snow came flying at us with knives and switchblades.

So much for our plans today: Hubby wanted to make an Ikea run for some new computer furniture. The nearest one is about 45 minutes away, but in this kind of weather with fog, glazing and snow, more like 90. Not worth it. Still drivable inbound, but on the way back, perhaps not so much. Resentfully, we stayed home.

The weather reporter on WGN hinted at a winter where we would be cycling in and out of icky weather. Hopefully today was not an omen of the icky portions being the long one.

Canine Cultural Enrichment

Dogs do like music. Oakley is partial to Mozart and the “Canine Lullaby” CD that gets played during nap time at day care. Orion liked Bach. Neither were thrilled with CD that had songs written specifically for dogs about topics like snacks, beddy-byes, and adventures at the park. Orion actually left the room in a huff when I played it.

So I stream peaceful music from the internet. Today it’s Celtic. Oakley, Hubby and I are all content with it.

Dogs also love it when you speak to them in French. Especially when you’re telling them what’s for dinner. Tu mangerai de la poulet ce soir. Tu va avoir une bisquette aussi. One of Oakley’s classmates is owned by a native speaker of German. Henry responds to commands in both German and English. Pretty impressive.  

Visual arts are a little tricky unless the dog in question is a sighthound. Otherwise, best to stick to music and language. 


My Furry Valentines


Both Oakley and Orion adopted us around Valentine’s Day. Orion in 1998; Oaks in 2011. 

Orion would have made a great canine cast member on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” He threw himself into the middle of any situation with a wagging tail and confidence bordering on recklessness. Much to our chagrin and the amusement of vet’s office staff, he ate damned near anything offered. Regardless of species, everyone was his friend until proven otherwise, and the top of a picnic table was the best place to sit while he waited patiently for tidbits. He slept on his back and could snore and wag his tail at the same time. Most days, the peace and acceptance over his crossing settle like a cloak; others the pain rebounds as if he’d just left yesterday.

Oakley is more like Michael Palin in the post-Python years: a bit reserved, analytical, willing to wait until the moment is right to jump in with his contributions and observations. He has discriminating tastes in cuisine and with whom he chooses to keep company with, and is protective of me on walks at the park. If he doesn’t like a vibe he’s picking up, he stands in front of me. At 75 pounds, this sends a pretty strong message to squirrels, other dogs, one rather creepy person who chased after us to talk to me, and a giant snowman. Once on the A list, a person will get leaned on and Pyr-patted to no end.

Because of them, chestnut and white have replaced pink and red for Valentine’s, and I am the better person for it.





The Focus on What One is For

Yes, I know that occasionally, one has to shock the populace to rouse them from complacency. The problem is when the shocks come so frequently that they inspire apathy rather than action. Numb is not good when it comes to speaking out on behalf of the vulnerable such as senior citizens, children, and animals. Posting information to raise awareness is one thing, but graphic images are another.

As an antidote, antitoxin to the horrific pictures of mistreated animals, several friends posted a Facebook game where participants like a status that indicates a desire to break the endless chain of pictures of dead, dying, or abused dogs. If you like the status, you’re assigned a breed, then you post a picture of a dog of that breed and the above status on your timeline. 

We need to be aware of the capabilities of the dark side. But we also need to hold onto hope and have faith that good and decent humans are out there somewhere. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a picture of a Scottish wolfhound.



Candles at Dusk

In someways, today has been another wonderfully mundane Monday. Warm-ish, and Oaks and I will head out for another walk in the not too distant future if he’s past being annoyed with me. This morning, I streamed Native American music. One of the tracks featured a coyote chorus. Oakley stopped in the middle of breakfast and stared out the back window, then went to the family room and stared at the speakers. I laughed; I couldn’t help it. 

Later this morning, I was running Oakley through his paces. He was in process of a sit when he, uh, passed gas. He whipped around, unsure of the noise’s origin with a confused look on his face. I started laughing uncontrollably. Hubby came downstairs to see what was happening. Oakley gave me a dirty look and crated himself. 

I don’t blame him. I apologized and gave him some extra goat keifer on his lunch. He’ll get some chicken tonight and another apology with extra snuggles. 

In other ways, the fabric of the day has a few dark threads. My thoughts have been with three friends. One has surgery scheduled later this week to repair damage done in a couple of freak falls; one’s mother is in the hospital; one has an elderly dog with pain issues that required stronger analgesics this week. Outside of my immediate circles, there’s the mess in West Virginia with the contamination of the Elk River and the greedy gutlessness that made the company responsible for it declare bankruptcy to avoid having to pay for damages. 

I can’t make the doggy stop hurting. I can’t teleport myself to the hospitals in question to do what I could to offer comfort and solace. I can’t, even though The Great Mystery knows I would love to, make the suits from the mess at the coal washing plant go for a swim in the fouled water or drink it to show how safe it is. 

So I will light a candle at dusk. I hold the match in my fingers–a wooden one. As I hold it, I set the intention that all will be resolved for the highest good of everyone concerned. Then I light it, and the candle, and imagine the light pushing back the darkness.

Is it a prayer, an intention, an incantation? I don’t know what it’s called, but I feel more peaceful when I’m done.


Let’s Do the Sweet Potato Boogie!

Five, four, three, two, one, BEEP!

Orion knew that was the cue that he was just seconds from dinner, and to celebrate, he would do a little dance in a circle while I made up a song about the sweet potato boogie. The freshly nuked sweet potato would be squashed free of its jacket and mashed with some kind of protein and a vegetable of some sort with a garnish of some kind of cheese. 

Oakley doesn’t really do much of a dance. He sits or lies down next to his crate in the kitchen and pats the floor, making his grunt-grr sound to tell me he wants his dindin.

I don’t blame them. I like sweet potatoes, too. You can make them mashed, into oven fries, dehydrated for dog treats, substituted for pumpkin in baked goods, you get the idea. I’ve even seen recipes for them as a substitute for corn chips in nachos and noodles in lasagne. I’ve also used them as an alternative to rice with curries. They have tons of fiber and vitamin A and are low on the glycemic scale.

Please do not confuse them with yams, however. While the darker red variety is commonly referred to as such in some parts of the US, they are still sweet potatoes. Yams are another root veg grown in Mexico and the Carribean.

Unless I’m making oven fries, I just poke a bunch of holes and use the baked potato setting on the microwave oven. The skin doesn’t have the same charms as that of a well-scrubbed russet, so no damage done if you pitch the skin.

I made a grocery run this morning and likely will make a curry tonight. Oakley and I will be doing the Sweet Potato Boogie, and we hope that you will join us.  

It’s Time for Day Care! It’s Time for Fun! Time for Day Care for Everyone!

Wednesdays start with me singing that. 

For two years now, Oakley has gone to day boarding, or day care, on Wednesday. At first, it was a way to help him catch up on his socialization and wear him out playing with other dogs. 

Now that he’s older and grown into a gentle companion, it’s just to wear him out. A day of running, playing games like bounce and chase, and snuggling the day care teachers will do that to a guy. He usually falls asleep before I hit the main road.

Is it an extravagance? Some might think so. It’s an investment. Oakley gets to play dog games for the better part of the day under the supervision of a staff that’s better trained than that at many day care centers for humans. When Hubby and I go to the Ren Faire, we know he’s in a secure place getting plenty of love and having lots of fun. 

On my side of the ledger, I get a free day to run errands, network, and experiment in the kitchen without help (cough). 

And the tail wagging greeting I get at the end of the day can’t be beat.


The Price of a Green Lawn

She’d been holding her own, and had a good day on Saturday. She participated in a fundraising walk for cancer in dogs, then went home and took a nap. 

Sunday found her hiding in the shower. The side of her face was swollen, and there was blood in her saliva and nasal discharge.

Monday found her at the vet’s. The cancer was in her nasal cavity. Nothing more to be done. Take her home, keep her comfortable. Chicken, mashed potatoes, ice cream.

On Tuesday, she and her guardian took the walk to the Rainbow Bridge. The vet released her at her home. She was only eight, or about 56 in dog years.

Her guardian lives in a town that carries on the tradition of Hemingway’s Oak Park, one of “broad lawns and narrow minds,” or in this case, green lawns at any cost. What’s a few companions and kids when one feels compelled to have an emerald swath unfolding from the front door to the sidewalk or road? 

It’s been said that the quest for a green lawn generates more agricultural research than any other crop. Unfortunately, it’s geared towards the “better living through chemistry” school of thought rather than encouraging homeowners to consider planting their yards with ground covers that don’t need to be spoon fed toxins to look their best. The main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, glyphosphate, has been linked to more ecological disruption than any other chemical polluter.

Other lawn chemicals have been linked to cancer in animals and humans. That’s why groundskeepers and the people who do the spraying for lawn care companies wear haz-mat suits and respirators while they work.

Two big changes need to be made: 1. if you must have a lawn, explore ecologically friendly alternatives to keep it green and 2. if you live someplace where grass wasn’t intended to grow, why are you trying to fight with nature? You can do a lot with alternatives such as xeriscaping, growing organic vegetables, alternatives to grass–you get the picture.

We have, and will continue to pay a heavy price for the damage. In addition to cancer, exposure to these toxins has been linked to neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and to autism spectrum disorders. Treatment of any of these is not cheap, nor can the cost of the heartbreak involved be calculated. Prevention is always better. 

(With love for Georgia, Gids, Toby, Walter, Stanley, and Orion)