Monday, December 31, 2012

Before 2012 Leaves Me...

I want to thank you all for being part of the last year with me.  For reading about the love that sums up what caregiving requires for both human and animal.  Your comments have uplifted me throughout this time.  I thank you and appreciate the time you've invested in reading these blog posts.

Will I miss 2012?  It's a bittersweet question.  We miss my father terribly every day. We miss the medical support.  I don't miss the decision-making-on-a-dime.  I miss spending time with friends.  There are other things that I don't miss and other people that tear me to shreds because they're gone.

The moments I treasure most came from friends.  Friends who never forgot my birthday.  Friends who supported us with love unconditionally.  Friends who cried with me on the phone or in person.  Friends who listened even when I knew I was too tired to make sense even when the endless stream of consciousness kept flowing.  I love/treasure/cherish these wonderful souls who saw something in me that I can't see for myself.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I am so blessed and grateful to have you in my life. 

As for 2013, I'm looking forward to creating a livelihood.  My mother, my family, my friends, and yes, even a little dog named "Dickens" have encouraged me to pursue my passion.  It'll take time, planning, and a bunch of sweat equity, but I believe my dream of life as a caregiver & artist can fly (and as my banner says, "everything else in between").

So here's to the New Year!  Stay close.  There are more adventures to share.  Miracles happen right in front of us everyday.  I pray 2013 is no different in that respect.

Now raise a glass and let's get to it!  Happy New Year! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Cairn: First Christmas Eve

Dickens proves to be a complicated soul, but a tender one at times.  He's still battling his inner dog and the trainer doesn't want to move forward until we know what triggers him.  I drove home in tears yesterday because down deep this dog is NOT a bad dog.  He's a young dog who needs experience, security, and time to, well, be a dog.

The doggy park doesn't rate high on my list because, well, to revert to my neurotic ways, I don't trust that the owners have kept up with their dogs medically.  Unfortunately doggie daycare rates up there with doggy parks.  The risk of a sick dog and the added expense of treating a sick dog are not my idea of merry.

My research has led to one thing (and my friends agree) - the dog needs to run.  Run hard.  Get the bugs out!  So, replete with a 30-ft. lead, we headed out to a park close by that did not proclaim to be canine unfriendly (didn't claim to be friendly, either, but I digress).

Upon arrival we were alone in the park.  It contained everything Dickens loves.  Trees, sticks, pine cones, hills, asphalt (he loves dry ground) adorned the park.  Strangely, he didn't run around.  He walked cautiously.  He stood 30-ft away from me, but eyed me the entire time waiting for something to happen.

We walked, he explored, and then we found a staircase leading to someplace.  As we descended, a huge baseball field opened up before us.  Now, I thought this little creature would think he'd struck gold.  Nope.  He sniffed.  He walked.  He watched.  I encouraged him to trot a little, but he was too insecure, so he came running at me mouth wide open.  I barked for him to sit in that threatening Darth Vader tone I've cultivated.  He sat.

OK, let's see how he does chasing a stick.  Toss the stick.  Dickens grabs the stick and then presents the same behavior.  Runs right at me wanting to take a chunk out of your truly.  Could it be the over-stimulation of being in a new place sets him off his pins?  Does he want to play?   Could it be that he leans on me for security and the minute I introduce him to something new in a new place, he can't catch up fast enough and his aggression is his way of saying, "Slow down, lady.  I can't keep with this new stuff!"
Now, I realize I'm anthropomorphizing his behavior, but taking him to the park allowed me to observe him in a new environment.  To see what pushes his buttons.  What triggers him from 30 feet away. 

My Christmas wish for all of you is that you hold your animals close, your families closer, and be open to all the miracles that happen right before your very eyes.

Guess you know my Christmas wish.

Merry Christmas from Rocksalot Cottage!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rocksalot Cottage: A Time of Reflection

Thoughts of the last Friday invade my brain.  How?  Why?  Questions that everyone has voiced lately.  Shock.  Horror.  Grief.  All rolled into one.

One question surfaced,"What was I thinking when I attended school as first grader?  What were the promises of my generation?"  Pursue your passions.  Get good grades.  Try to be good.  Play.  Respect your elders.  Figure out where Jack and Jill lived and why didn't they turn on the faucet?  Life seemed simple.  Life seemed to be encouraging.  No where on the curriculum did the school offer a class on "duck and cover". 

Today's children have to be so much wiser at a much earlier age.  It's amazing how modern day parents survive parenthood.  Teachers cram as much knowledge into these minds as they can and when the day is done, parents need to round out with extracurricular studies, such as, music, sports, Scouts, and learn safety skills.  There's so much competition out there that at times life feels like a race to an education, rather than a right to an education.

Our safety  skills involved natural disaster drills.  The basic hurricane, tornado, lightning, and fire drills that have been in  place for a long time.  Now our children have added bomb scare drills and assault evacuations to the list.  In my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined such.  We never thought of bomb scares and certainly couldn't pronounced, let alone understand, assault evacuations to the list.  Our big no-nos focused upon talking to strangers or being offered candy by a stranger.

Sitting at my little desk with my oversized #2 pencil from its shiny shoe box, the world offered a promise.  Study hard, get a good job.  The world will be a better place as you age.  Things would get better.

What do we have to do to make this happen all these years later?  How do we provide the safety and security a child needs to grow and thrive?  How will be address the evil stranger who no longer carries candy, but a few assault weapons.

I'm glad I'm not in first grade any more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Daily Dickens: An Honest Dog

As I researched a breed to invite into my home, I offered a prayer asking whatever four-paws graced our doorstep that that little someone be a willing dog.  The thought of dealing with a sneaky dog did not appeal to me.  Cairn terriers, while living with the moniker "Cairn Terrors", have their issues.  With all the poking around AKC information, speaking with people, breeders, websites, and books ad infinitum finished, this breed appealed to me.  Cairns rose to the top for their longivity.  The breed worked hard back in the day.  They are smart dogs.  The attributes that might be the best kept secrets in the canine world is that the Cairn terrier is a sensitive and honest dog.

Whether the root cause of Dickens's recent behavior problems stemmed from being neutered too soon, the result of undergoing anesethia, entering adolescence or a matter of genetics, he has been honest with his struggles. 

This past Sunday Dickens and I resumed training sessions.  Dickens was Dickens in his truest form.  Despite the fact he had been walked and played with before we entered the training ring.  Despite the fact the session opened with some play as part of his assessment, he showed the trainer that he shared his anxiety freely with everyone.  He didn't reserve the nips for me.  He shared them willingly and honestly.  Despite his anxiety he did well.   He obeyed every command.  Throughout the session his body told me how he felt, especially his eyes. 

When he couldn't fathom what the trainer wanted he give a confused, whites of his eyes look.  Something didn't connect and he knew it.  Once he understood, his whole body relaxed.  At one point his teenage insolence rose as I told him not to jump at which point he stomped back to floor and went into the down position as if to say, "OK.  Fine.  [paw stomping]  I know you're going to tell me lay down next, so let's just get it over with now."  Canine teenage behavior at its best.

I'm lucky in that I have an honest dog.  His issues are treatable and trainable.  He loves and is loveable.  He attracts people because of his innocence and amazes people when he gets wound up because of the intensity of his anxiety.  He'll do what's asked and punish you later for putting him through his paces.  His anxiety level can be monitored.  He's changing all the time. 

And time is what we'll give him.  He needs room to grow from the inside.  Time to adjust.  Time to absorb the outside learning stuff with the inside growing stuff.  He requires the security of structure to keep him balanced. 

Prayers are answered throughout every moment in time.  Tonight I'm grateful that my prayer had been heard - I got an honest dog. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Attitude Adjustment

So, here's the story  now that I have the energy to tell it.

Mr. Dickens has developed a problem after his surgery.  He's developed an anxiety problem.  One that I can attribute to his being too immature to have the surgery or it had been lying beneath the surface only to manifest itself after the surgery.  The problem may also be a dominance-aggression issue or something to do with his adolescence that crop up in dogs.  It's a chicken-egg quandry that I'm facing head-on.

He's not an aggressive dog in the true curled lip, teeth baring ilk one sees on TV.  Most of the time he's a gentleman, but something disconnects.  I've noticed it and his trainer validated my observations last Sunday.  So, off to the vet we go.

Now usually Dickens turns on the charm when he hits the waiting room.  One of those "I don't know why she brought me here, I'm just a puppy" smiles.  Not this time.  This time he decided to dump a load in the middle of the waiting room (after having just gone) and launched into a fit of barking, et al.  We were immediately invited into a secluded room.  He paced, whined, and made nail-biting look like a leisure sport.

The vet tech entered, took the information, and didn't need to be convinced that Dickens indeed had a problem.  The vet, who witnessed his fit in the waiting room, didn't waste any time taking blood work and accepting the morning's "deposit" for parasitic testing.  She gave me lots of information, including a phone number for Tufts Small Animal Hospital.  Tufts has a great reputation for animal care and Dr. Nicholas Dodman has written many books on canine behavior.

Yesterday, the vet called with the test results.  All A-OK.  Now we work on behavior with a little help from a calmer-downer.  I balked at the notion of medicating Dickens.  I believed he could be "trained" out of it, but as I thought long and hard leaving this unchecked could result in internal damage as his blood pressure red-lines when he gets anxious.  He can get anxious quite a bit.

My mother has been a rock for me through this situation.  She speaks to Dickens each evening (separated by a baby gate).  She says "this too shall pass." We believe Dickens can grow out of this anxious state.  She longs for the day when she can hold him.  I think these two have a future together. 

So, we'll continue to train, continue to exercise, continue to grow and continue the medication, but I'm beginning to think that Mom's chats with him might be the best medicine of all.   

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Back from the Abyss

I've been away from this blog for awhile.  Unintentionally.  Thanksgiving hit me like a ton of bricks.  Emotionally I went somewhere else.  Deep inside.  Way deep.  The holiday known for the gathering of family cut me to the quick as our family, as we knew it, is no longer with the passing of my father.

Thankfully, my wonderful friends came by with turkey, ham, and all the fixins'.  Mom and I were so glad to see them, but once they left the sorrow that the day brought lingered with me for weeks.  Compound that with the fact that Dickens has developed some issues and I have a recipe for the blues.  It has been a learning experience.

It is clear that I don't roll as some folks do.  I don't react immediately to my feelings.  I stuff them somewhere like a emotional suitcase.  Eventually my baggage springs open unleashing its contents forcing me to deal with what's going on inside.  I'd rather not even bother with it all until I come up with a game plan.  It's imperative  to sort things out and determine what "stuff" bears repacking and what to leave behind. 

As Dickens enters his "teenage" years, his aggression has grown.  At the risk of anthropomorphizing the situation perhaps this world overwhelms or overstimulates this little guy to the point where he feels the only way to get through it is to become his own Alpha.  I know that can happen.  Perhaps he's just a little bully.  That can be turned around.  I'm sure of it.  In the meantime, he needs to learn who runs this cottage.  I need to help him repack his suitcase.  Help him get rid of those dark emotions that he cannot take with him.

In a way we are both in the same place. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Daily Dickens: A Room with A View...

and a nice bone to pass the time.

When can I chase squirrels?

The Daily Dickens: Let. Me. Out!

Ladies and Gentleman and Canines, May I present, straight from Scotland, via Idaho, Mr. Dickens.  Mr. Dickens recuperates from an operation "down there" so please excuse his moodiness.

And now without further hesitation:

The Daily Dickens: My Little Stoner

Wow, it's Friday and TGIF!  Actually my relief comes next Friday as we come closer to Dickens Restriction-free Recuperation.  All, in all, he's been pretty good, but this no-running, no-jumping, no-chasing, no-walks lifestyle does not suit him at all.  He gets pretty confused when we go out for a potty-break that doesn't result in a walk around the block, but then again he's stoned.

The vet placed him  on an anti-inflammatory, pain medication that he gets every 12 hours.  His mornings are high energy until the pill kicks in, when I hear the "thump," I know he's down for the count.  He hasn't tried to lick or bite the surgical site, yet.  I tell him to leave it alone, or else it's hello cone!

His walks are downright hysterical as he goes for anything that moves moreso than the non-medicated days.  He's wearing a collar, rather than a harness, so steering has been an issue.  Usually he stays pretty much by my side, now he floats from left to right and right to left wherever the wind takes him. 

Compliance is not his strong suit.  He has to work at growing this skillset.  Even in the house, he's jumped on a chair, tried to jump on me, and decided he can climb any old damn set of stairs he pleases despite my protests thank you very much.

Through all of this Dickens and Mom have started to bond.  Before she'd extend her hand for a lick, now he slobbers all over her, which delights her, and she rewards him with a pat on the head.

As for me, well, I'm the just the caregiver, the push-over, and they both know it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Ruff, Rough, Ruff

OMG!  It's been a little rugged here at Rocksalot Cottage.  This is a new chapter in caregiving of the canine persuasion. 

Dickens came home yesterday afternoon.  He reminded me a noodle, all floppy and whimpering.  His latest accessory:  an Elizabethan cone or e-cone to bring it into the 21st Century modernism.  This poor creature could not sleep.  I tried to build a nest around him to support his coned head.  Every single time he lowered  his head to sleep the crackle of the cone woke him.  At one point he propped his nose on the rail of the crate and tried to sleep that way.  Um, no, he'd fall over.  My heart broke.  Really broke. 

Also, sweet Dickens hadn't been to the bathroom since 6 AM Tuesday morning.  After being pumped full of fluids for the surgery I at least expected him to squirt sometime last night.  Nothing.  Not a drop.  He had to be uncomfortable.  The incision, the dental extraction, and now the bladder caused me to have some genuine second thoughts about subjecting the poor pup-boy to so much.

Dickens being Dickens did not miss a meal last night.  The vet instructed me to give him 25% of what I normally fed him, which when you only get 1/3 cup, twice a day ain't much.  The kibble had to be moistened (let's add more fluid to a fluid filled body, ugh), it turned out to be a mixed blessing because he needs hydration.

I've mentioned these folks before, but my primary resource for all things Cairn is the Cairn Terrier Association of America.  These folks are THE BEST.  I reread the "Neutering" section and picked up some pointers, but none mentioned delayed bathroom stuff.  I knew he'd go if only he could sniff a spot.  The cone did not allow for his nose to reach the ground because of the plastic noise against the ground.

This morning I dashed out to buy (wait for it) a baby onesie.  Seems that has been successful for other owners.  Dickens initially protested the garment, but when the cone came off, he made a dash for the door!  Success!  Yes!  This pup sniffed and did what came naturally.  All of a sudden my lively pup emerged as happy as a young pup can be.

My eyes are peeled for any licking/scratching/itching action.  If I have to, he'll need to wear the cone, especially as I sleep.

Right now he's sleeping like a baby.  I'm going to let him make up for lost time.  He deserves the rest.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Today's Grind

With Dickens under the knife, I had these grand plans for organizing our kitchen.  Cleaning up.  Improving.  The Betty Crocker, Good Housekeeping, Martha Steward deep cleaning routine.

Instead I wrote, worried, and let the anxiety pour over me waiting for the phone call containing the his surgery results.  I designed a banner for this site.  I wandered over and worked on my book.  I reflected and meditated on questions from author Jon Katz over on Facebook.  Mom had her lunch.  If I weren't so wrung out, I would have tried pacing; however, writing helps me organize my thoughts, calm me down, and give me the space I need to get sorted. 

Jon asked the following:
Do we get the dogs we need?
Are they reflections of us? 

Just as I flipped Mom's grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, the phone rang.  The cheery voice of the vet at the other end.  Dickens came through the surgery well with one complication not associated with his "equipment."  The doctor noticed that he had an embedded baby tooth that should have fallen out last month.  She pulled the tooth much to my relief.  Dickens had a weird habit of grinding his teeth that no chew toy or treat could calm.  I had read that it could be anxiety, so I've been very low key around him so he feels safe.

The vet reported that Dickens sat in his crate awake and alert.  He'll be restricted for the couple of weeks (ever try to keep a Cairn Terrier out of circulation?), but otherwise he'll be fine.  True to his heritage he'll sport an Elizabethan collar during his recuperation, so neighbors can expect a cone head on a leash.  He'll take anti-inflammatory drugs and moist dog food until he heals.  It'll be a challenge as he does every day.

Now back to the answers to the questions Jon Katz posed.  I have no answers.  None.  Zilch.  I know that I've endured a lot of loss over the past 10 years, stuff that sends a soul reeling. He is not a reflection of me.  He might be a reflection of the care I provide; however, too many people have remarked that his eyes contain the inner wisdom of an old soul.  There's something.  I've seen it as well.  I know that  I had shut down over these past few months. I'd like to thinks Dickens sniffed out that last glimmer of light remaining in my heart.  He's got the challenge.

At the end of it all, the worry, the anxiety, and the cost brings my pup-boy back to me.  Where it will lead?  I don't know, but I'm grateful to have the chance to see.

The Daily Dickens: Pup and Circumstance

Dickens woke this morning with an air of apprehension.  He did his business and I returned him to his crate.  He senses something's going on as his breakfast didn't arrive as promised.  Dickens didn't fuss, but instead seemed quietly resigned to what the day holds.

Armed with a cup of caffeine and just about presentable to go out, I led Dickens outside for another chance to empty his little self (although, since he hadn't had anything since 8 PM last night, there couldn't be too much in there.)  He'd heard Brady across the street barking, so he joined the chorus as menacing as he could muster. 

The joy of Sunday's graduation from puppy school has led to another milestone - neutering.  This issue has plagued me since Dickens entered my life.  He's a cute pup.  He'd probably sire cute pups with the right dam.  In fact, I entered the notion of breeding him, but stopped short after he mounted the love of his young life, a poodle named "Lily."  Thankfully, Lily had her right of passage, but I could only imagine Dickens raising his right paw in Puppy Paternity Court.  He'd answer the question, "Why did you do it?" with the response, "I felt like it." 

Aside from the social implications of a puppy au naturel, there's are far greater health concerns.  Dickens might be the only pup I'll ever own.  I can't imagine walking around in the later years chasing pups (even though such a scene would bring me joy.)  Neutered dogs do not suffer the complications that their unaltered counterparts  experience.  Some reports suggest that Dickens might mellow a tad, but I accept this as an uncertainty.

Yes, I'm a neurotic pup-mom.  I admit this freely.  My heart tore as I handled him over to the vet tech.  Incredibly, I couldn't believe the questions pouring from me, such as "He's a double dumper.  He's only gone once this morning.  He doesn't go in the evening after 6 PM, even though I have him out multiple times at night.  What about this evening's meal?  Can he attend training this Sunday?  How will you administer the anesthetic?"  For some reason, I sounded more someone interrogating a prisoner of war, than quiet, gentle interrogatories.  At least, that's how it sounded to me.  Stress.

The vet tech's kindness and Dickens's willingness to jump in her arms gave me a bit of comfort.  He's a good dog.  I'll busy myself with housework until the call arrives to take him home.  The house feels empty to me.  I'm doing this for the right reasons, but my heart can't wrap itself around the fact that the little pups I wanted  will not come to pass.  But I'll have this pup - this bundle of fierceness and love, that in itself has to be the greatest gift.

Until then, I'm waiting for the phone call.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Snow Encounters of a Nor'eastern Kind

Well, Dickens went ballistic when I tried to put on his snow coat (replete with hood), so we ventured out in his waistcoat.  This happened to be a short trip out into the wind.  Dickens had never seen snow before this afternoon.  May this be the first and last time he sees it again!  Wishful thinking!

Our thoughts and prayers go to our friends to the south in New York & New Jersey.  A Nor'easter they didn't need.

And, get ready Snow Encounters of a Nor'eastern Kind...

Rocksalot Cottage: A Letter to Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature:

Knock it off.  Really.  What are you thinking? 

First, you sent us a summer with unbearable heat, followed by a small, yet discernable earthquake in Maine.  Then to really get the juices flowing, a hurricane we named "Sandy" brought incredible destruction to parts of the East Coast.  Epic. (And trust me, unless you count the sand in folks' basements, there was nothing sandy about that mess.)   Now we're on the edge of a Nor'easter that's producing snow.

Please get your pretty little head out of the Southern Hemisphere and quiet things down around here.  These poor folks in Jersey have to evaculate again!

Let's try for a nice picturesque winter, rather than an artic armwrestling match, OK?

All the best,


P.S.  Thanks for last winter's reprieve.  Much appreciated.

The Daily Dickens: Small Dog Warnings

This fall has not lived up to its advertising.  Sure, Dickens and I strolled through some gorgeous foliage, but Mother Nature must be experiencing a bit of indigestion in the past week as yet another storm has been promised for today - a Nor'easter.  Nor'easters pack quite a punch so I'll be ever vigilant today.  High winds, rain, oh, and did I mention snow?  Up to an inch predicted for today.  Not a lot, but this caregiver and her pupster are NOT ready for the white stuff.  At least I'm not and I know the folks in New Jersey & New York City dread this storm's arrival.  So what can we do?

Here's what we can do:  Grab your coffee, fire up your computer, go to, and make a donation.  Large or small, it doesn't matter.  You'll receive a dual benefit:  you'll have given to a very good cause and the act of giving will warm your heart all the day long.

Today, Dickens encounters his first snowfall.  I'll record the moment and post it here.  Should be fun!

Please and thank you!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Tuesday Tension Tamer

My nerves are on edge today:  Mercury enters retrograde, Superstorm Recovery, prep for a n'oreaster, and Election Day, so I thought I'd share something that makes me smile (and a tad proud) of Mr. Dickens. 

I admit my voice sounded shrill as I gave the command.  Neurotic pup-mom speak for I was afraid he'd chuck me the bird and go for the ball!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rocksalot Cottage: Turn Back Time?

The meteorological event has passed, but the storm certainly isn't over, not by a longshot.  The preparations leading up to and during the event were well worth it, but the after-storm fatigue caught up to me. 

Mom and Dickens are fine.  That's all that matters.  They are with me in this little space.  I am beyond grateful.  Over-the-moon grateful.

The source of my sleeplessness came from two darn trees that aren't mine that I've written about in an earlier post.  I've asked my neighbor to please cut them down.  The trees are dead.  The day of the storm the "popping" of the breaking branches set my nerves on edge.  My thoughts ran to "if these trees go, they'll take out the kitchen."  I should have grabbed some sleep, but those trees kept me awake, wide awake (that and an insane amount of coffee)

As I looked at the devastation along the New Jersey coast, the inland flooding, and the shots of the partially illuminated New York City skyline my heart broke for those who suffered losses of the humankind as well as coverage of my own state's coastline.  To have life up-ended in one live through that horror of howling winds, drenching rain, firestorms taking homes and a sea driven into one's own living room mercilessly... unspeakable. 

Obviously, a storm of this power and magnitude changes things.  The coastline has changed.  The vegetation drowned.  Trees that won't see next spring.  But it's the residents whose memories of Hurricane Sandy are altered...different...changed.  That night forever burned in their consciousness as they truly live day to day in places not their homes.  Those survivors of Hurricane Sandy are changed.  They are not the people they were last week, yesterday, or an hour ago.  Their time means finding a way to live.  Finding a home to call their own.  Waiting for gasoline.  Waiting for food.  Waiting for the power to be restored.  Fighting insurance companies.  Time mired knee-deep in forms.  Watching the clock tick as they await an answer.  Their time no longer their own.

We can help them by being there for them in the form our time, talent and treasure.  How?  It's easy.  Stop what you're doing right now.  Go online to and make a donation.  Go through your closets and donate "I never liked this anyway" clothing to the Salvation Army.  Or, sign up for Red Cross classes and volunteer to help with the clean-up.  It's a good use of time to make survivors time better.  Truly, this works!  And, volunteering has a boomerang effect, what you put out there comes back to you.

This morning the Internet offered reminders of the upcoming time change, such as " Don't forget to turn your clocks back!"  I wish it were that simple.  I wish making this all go away could be rectified by turning our clocks back one week.  I'll bet those hardest hit wish the same.

Until next time...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Daily Dickens: Facing the Storm

When I was little girl my mother and father would pack me up to take weekend roadtrips.  The destination didn't matter.  We enjoyed the togetherness.  We knew there were discoveries to be made.  On more than one trip the weather turned from glorious to ugly.  To calm themselves (and me) they'd sing.  The song brought a new energy to what we were facing.  An energy called strength.

That memory popped into my head this morning as I readied Dickens for his morning constitutional.  I don't know why my mind wandered back to this memory.  It had never surfaced before now.  I've faced other weather phenomena without this memory.

Today's promise of a powerful hurricane named Sandy has me a bit rattled.  It's not the media hype.  It's not the sound of the wind gaining his own strength.  It's not the threat of an indoor water feature.  I can't quite pinpoint the uneasiness I'm feeling, but when I recall that memory of Dad's hands on wheel and Mom next to him both singing with such love and passion, I feel better.

There's another energy that I often times neglect.  It's called faith.  There has to be a purpose connected to this storm.  There has to be something good that emerges from this stress.  Faith has gotten me through this last twelve months as I cared for both Mom and Dad in his final time with us.  Faith has guided me to take care of what I need to do.  Faith.  That belief there is someone who knows better than I that's it's going to be alright.  It's where I place my trust.

Dickens has been unsettled these past few days.  He and his classmates looked for any distraction they could find to ignore yesterday's lessons.  He's usually the one dying to go out and play, yet he now "does his business" and runs back into the house.  I don't know if dogs have a faith group.  A place in their hearts where they put their trust in something or someone unseen.  In this world, if he does have such a belief system that trust rests with me. 

So my soul tells me to call upon my faith for strength and reassurance.  To be there for Mom and Dickens and any neighbors who might need my help.  I hope Sandy passes swiftly into this good night.  I hope all in the line of fire had the good sense to get out of the way and let this weather system go by.  I hope everyone impacted calls upon their faith, whatever that may be,  to keep them and the creatures they have stewardship over fighting the good fight. 

In the meantime, here's the song Mom and Dad used to sing:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rocksalot Farm: A Put Away Day

Yesterday's theme focused on putting everything in the gardens to bed as well as a little gutter action.  By gutter action, I mean cleaning the gutters and checking to ensure the downspouts aren't clogged and the water can go somewhere other than into the foundation. 

Before I did all that, Dickens and I made a quick trip to Lowe's.  As I entered there appeared an extensive line.  Perhaps a noted DIY expert coming for a book signing?  A demonstration of a new fangled power tool for the gadget addicted?  No and No.  This line had one goal and one goal only - to be one of the lucky to take home a generator.  Watching folks stand in line anxious and impatient, on their cell phones searching for the next vendor should the supply run out at this store.  These folks appeared weary even before the storm began.

Once home, I grabbed the ladder (I'm not a fan of ladder-work, BTW), but I needed to check those gutters.  Upon closer inspection (as I reached the top), the gutters overflowed with tree debris.  I doubled checked the downspouts and installed extenders to the bottoms to direct (re-direct) the runoff should things get uber soggy.  It's done.  I'm glad.  It's annual project that can save in the longrun.

Here's the latest from The National Hurricane Center.  The smart thing for everyone might be to say "I really don't know about this thing" and just prepare.  To be prepared brings a calmness that can't be beat. 

Today, I'll finish laundry, bring Dickens to obediance class, double check the grounds, and read a book (hopefully).  Today I'll think about all the positive things that can happen, such as reading that book, observing the power of nature, and finally getting some housework out of the way.  I won't stand in line fretting.  Today will be awesome and I hope yours will be as well!

So, what are you doing today?

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rocksalot cottage: Who Knows?

It always amazes me how awesome nature can be and how we, despite our technological advances, can't pinpoint the track of a storm.  A storm's energy can shift due to fronts, lows, hi-s, and wind, so many variables that algebraic formulae or plain old simple match can't master.  We still have to send hurricane hunters to look out the window to see the storm.  Still have interact with it to determine its true nature.  Amazing!

Here's the latest update from the National Hurricane Center:

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rocksalot Cottage: Hurricane Sandy's Path

The latest as reported by The National Hurricane Center.

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

Rocksalot Cottage: Mother Nature

Good morning,

I'm spending the next few days battening down the hatches.  Really battening down the hatches.  Surveying the gardens for items that could morph themselves into projectiles during a very high wind.  Saying prayers that the trees in my neighbor's yard stay upright instead of the alternative.  Making certain that gutters are secure.  These activities are usual and customary.  Part of putting the farm to bed for the winter, but in this instance the tasks carry a sense of urgency because they are compounded by something else demanding equal attention.

The reason for my angst you might ask?  Well, see for yourself.

Image from NESDIS

That's an image of Hurricane Sandy passing over Cuba.  Hurricanes are infrequent in New England, but when they do make their way here, it ain't a teddy bears' picnic.  We've had infamous storms:  the Hurricane of '38, the 1954 Hurricane, and last year's visit from Hurricane Irene, which took a great deal of time to recover as the trees fell from neighborhood to neighborhood.

So, instead of gently putting my gardens to sleep for a long winter's nap, I need to prepare  Mom, Dickens, the cottage and myself for what might happen come All Hallows Eve.  Compounding the work ahead of me.  Fortunately, there's help.  Checklists from some pretty smart folks at Be Ready.  Additionally, Mom's registered with our state's Department of Health's Emergency Roster.

Twice a day I check the projected path of this rumored visitor.  This morning's news looks ominous for New England, although it could change at moment's notice.  Have a looky.

Sandy just might take a left instead of a right.  The photo comes from The National Hurricane Center.  Looks can be deceiving.  While some might breathe of sigh of relief up here, I know from experience that the northeast part of a hurricane isn't where you want to be.  That quadrant contains the heavy rains.  If this photo had us on the west side of the storm, I'd feel better.  The west side has a lot of wind, but not the deluge.  Another nightmare in the making.

So with an eye on the weather models, another on the wildlife (trust me, they know when something's brewing) and another cup of coffee, let the preparations begin (or continue). 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Daily Dickens: The Tall & The Short

Dickens continues to make new friends during his walks of the human and canine kind.  He sends squirrels scampering. 

In this past week, he rescued two dogs who escaped their owners.  The rescues weren't deliberate, just a matter of good timing.  One dog slipped his lead and came tearing down the street his master giving chase.  Dickens let out a sharp bark beckoning the escapee into the yard.  We began to walk up the street toward their home in order to calm the situation.  Dickens proved his friendship to this little dog by playing him into submission until the leash clicked in place.  We continued our walk until we reached their destination.

The second rescue involved a miniature dachshund who went "under the fence."  He just appeared in front of us and Dickens let out that sound causing the little one to sprint  home.  Later I discovered his human had been searching for him for over two hours.  She expressed how heartbroken she had been.  She told me her husband said he'd check their backyard again.  He came back and asked if she felt well as he found the dog playing safely.  When I told what happened she regained her composure and I think her sanity.

In being Dickens steward, I've learned how important socializing him to various humans and canines.  He loves it.  Truly the tail engages and the fun begins.

This morning he took a walk with one of good friends.  Brady's a ten-year old Norwegian Elk hound and a real sweetie.  When they first got together to play, my heart leaped into my mouth as I saw Dickens head disappear into Brady's mouth, but I discovered Brady has a gentleness that I treasure.  We walked together this morning-his master, Chris, Brady, Dickens and I.  The walk made my heart sing.  Dickens learns from me and his own kind.  Here are some shots of our walk taken courtesy of his Lady, Jodi S-C.  I look at them often and compare Dickens to the wee pup of two months ago.  Time marches on...

The assembly.

 And they're off!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Evening Stroll

The video is a tad shaky because I'm watch Dickens, watching what's ahead of him, and what's in front of me, but it's a piece of our routine that we want to share.  And, yes, Dickens wears his gentleman's coat proudly. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Second Time's the Charm

Well, yesterday's grooming session did not go well.  Whether Dickens felt full of himself or the whole session lacked rapport, it left me worried and concerned.

Thanks to my dear friends who hooked us up with a fabulous groomer named Linda D.  Linda understood Dickens's puppyhood, loved him, hugged him, and interacted with him.  These ingredients added up to my pup-son's face being trimmed and styled.  Dickens had a hard time staying still because he wanted to slobber kisses all over her.  Linda D. can call herself my pup's official groomer.  I love my friends.  They are my family.  They have my back.  I love them and so does Dickens.

And now, without further adieu, here's the new stylin' Dickens:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Grooming Virgin

In the event this post's title leaves you scratching your head, I'm not talking about a woman who spends her days in front of the mirror.  No, my friends, my dear boy-pup has been taken for his first foray at the Puppy Parlor, aka Petsmart and I am a wreck.

Dickens and I have spent almost every waking moment together.  To those of you who think how silly the premise of this post might be let me just say I agree with you.  Or, so I thought I agreed with you.

This Cairn Terrier has finally realized that:

      1. I am the Alpha.
      2. My hand holds the treats and he likes the treats..
      3. He likes the affection he receives from me.
When I had my first dog all those years ago, "going to the groomer" meant taking the dog out to the backyard, filling a tub, washing him, and essentially letting him "drip dry."  Today, there's an entire list of tasks that comprise grooming (not including brushing).  Tasks such as, ear cleaning, rear transmission valve (you know what I mean) work, tooth brushing, nail clipping, etc., etc.  I also requested that Dickens get a good conditioning treatment to protect him and his skin.

For some reason which escapes me, I thought the entire session might take a couple of hours.  Imagine my shock when the groomer, aka Elyce, told me three to four hours.  Now that's total care.

They told me they'd call me when he completed pampering.  They slipped a leash on him and whisked him away.  That's when I noticed something deep happening within me.  I didn't want to leave the store without him.  My buddy (and sometimes my challenge) would not be sitting next to me as I drove home.  The sensation felt hollow...empty...sad.  Guess my little "Jaws" has embedded himself into my heart. 

After all this time training him and caring for him, I guess that wall that surrounds my heart got penetrated.  Ha, knowing Dickens he probably tunneled under the wall rather than over it.  Cairns are smart that way.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

71 Years Later: Mom Reconnects

It's been seventy-one years since my mother was graduated from her high school.  A place that holds her heart even to this day.  A place she felt nurtured, loved, and challenged.  Seventy-one years holding good memories, for the most part.  Seventy-one years of holding another type of memory - the loss of her father just three months before she left a place she called home.  A nun who took her under her wing after her mother fell apart with grief at the loss of her husband.

On Friday, Mom reluctantly kept her doctor's appointment.  All checked out well.  I told him about the next day's reunion.  The doctor asked Mom if she wanted to go.  She said she did.  He told me he saw no reason why she couldn't attend, so I called the Alumni Association and reserved our seats.  Mom seemed happy that the wheels had been set in motion.

Yesterday morning, Mom told me she couldn't go because no one would watch Dickens.  (Dickens would be fine in his crate I told her.)  She appeared to anxious, out of sorts, hell, downright cranky.  She vehemently stated she would not leave the dog.  My reasurrance fell on deaf ears.  I told her the day had been paid for and did she really want to lose the money.  In the blink of an eye, she began to dress (it's got to be her Scottish heretage speaking).

Once we got there, Mom morphed into the bell of the ball.  At our table sat younger graduating years, but two stood out brilliantly - Mom, from the class of 1941, and another woman from the Class of 1940.  Mom met another classmate who she hadn't seen in years.  The event swept her up so much that she didn't want to eat, just socialize and take it all in.

Mom couldn't attend any event without bring something.  She had her band photo from 1940, her 1941 Commencement Program, and her father's picture in the event those "Just older" alum remembered his store. 

I am deeply indebted to a teacher who helped me to tend to Mom - Mrs. C.  Mrs. C. taught business at the school (now closed).  She has the sweetness demeanor I've ever met in a teacher.  Her smile radiates compassion.  I heard she had been a tough teacher, yet fair. Kinda made me want to turn back time and pursue a business track.  Mrs. C. definitely deserved a place on my hero shelf.  I can't thank her enough.

As the awards program began, Mom had already shown signs of fatigue.  It had indeed been a very long day.  I told the coordinator I needed to get her home.  She asked me if I could wait a few minutes.  I agreed, but she knew I was concerned.  At the bottom of the program, the Association presented Mom with a half-dozen beautiful roses.  Her smile lit up the room.

Mom told me she enjoyed her day once we got home.  It certainly had its moments, but that reconnection, that being part of a long-ago lifetime has to be the best medicine she's taken to date.

Today's gray weather gives Mom a chance to catch up by sleeping and recharging her batteries.  The connections now a little fresher.  Fresh with present day memories of her school years.  Fresh with memories from her neighborhood.

I'd go through yesterday morning's battle a hundred times over just to see that smile beam brightly again.  It's another kind of reconnection.  It's the reconnection of a mother and daughter.  It's a different type of stepping back.  It's a look at my mother before she married.  At the end of the day, it was well worth it. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Shhhhhhh!!!

Yesterday's weather was wet and dreary - typical October. 

I don't know what my pup got hold of, but let's just say the rear transmission problem returned, then nothing.  I took him out hourly, dried him off hourly, and he did not like it one darn bit.  In fact, he decided he'd take control of the situation, which means grabbing everything he could find, some good, some bad, some not human (aka, stuffed animal), some human (aka, me). 

The rear transmission issue sent me to my favorite Cairn Terrier site.  Folks, if you own a Cairn you need these people more than you know.  They are friendly, supportive, and, most importantly, loaded with knowledge.  Loaded.  Overflowing.  The forum site deals with every issue a human faces with a Cairn.  Best of all, the ultimate saving grace, they do not make you feel like an idiot for asking questions as some other site "experts" do.

A post dealing with the issue recommended a bit of poached chicken with some boiled white rice and some pumpkin.  Giving a dog "human food" always sends mixed signals.  I've always thought dog food good, human food bad.  I continued to read the appropriate posts as I mixed the meal, gave the pup-boy about 1/3 cup of the gruel, and held my breath.  Nothing.  Nada.  No deposit.  Arghhhhhhhhhhh!

By 4 PM, my nerves had fried, so I called the vet and scheduled an appointment for today.  They were very nice, but cautioned me to keep an eye on him overnight.  Something could be stuck.  Great. I can take care of humans, but dogs not-so-much.

At 5 PM, I gave him straight pumpkin with a small amount of kibble mixed in (I'm talking a tablespoon) as I didn't think he'd like it.  Wow, did he gobble that down!  Incredible!  Despite the mouthing, grabbing nonsense, he seemed to settle down a bit.

5:45 PM I decided to try to walk him again as the sun had emerged.  To my great relief (and I bet Dickens's too) he made a poo-bag deposit.  The stress rolled off me.  OK, he's going to be fine.  Whew!

This morning offered the same result!  Yes, I love pumpkin!

Now, he needs to normalize, to regroup.  In the meantime, shhhh!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Discoveries

It never amazes me what Dickens finds on our fair streets.  As good as the neighborhood looks, deep down there are hazards that a puppy uncovers in a heatbeat causing the neurotic mom to bribe, cajole, scream "DROP IT!" at the top of her lungs on a calm Monday morning.  Here's an short list of Dickens' Discoveries this morning:

a small ball of wire
a coffee-to-go lid and straw
old kleenex (ditto paper towel)
small bits of a blue, plastic don't-know-what
Every morning it's a new list of "junk" that folks have tossed out the window only to be found by a six-month old puppy.  Stuff, that if swallowed, can lead to an emergency vet visit, tears, and expense. 
So, the next time the great outdoors looks like a suitable wastebin, think twice.  You might be creating a hazard for an animal.  I keep small, plastic doggie doo bags in the car for small waste.  They are great!  Once full, I place them in the trash.  No muss, no fuss.
Thank you.
The Neurotic Mom

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Super Saturday

Yesterday held something special in the air.  Something wonderful and glorious. 

Dickens had a great day.  No biting.  Just a lovely walk with his friend, a Great Pyrenees, named Sammy in the morning, lots of training during the day, and ended the day with a stroll around the block with his friend, an Elkhound, named Brady.  [Will post video later.]

Fall cleaning continued, Mom got up early to enjoy the air, and we ended the day with an amazing recliner gifted to us by my sweet friend Katie.  [If you've been keeping up you might remember I tossed the living room furniture to accomodate Dad's hospital bed a year ago.]

The recliner sits in the living room as if it's offering a huge hug.  I needed that and will always be grateful to have my "Katie Chair".  The universe can be pretty frickin' wonderful!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Just Passin' Through

Dickens had a wee problem lately.  It seems that what he ate made a hasty exit.  Just passin' through his tummy.  He also had a bit of gas.  Everytime I picked him up, I could hear the air moving.  Ugh! 

Since I believe this pup deserves the best, I attempted to switch him to a better food.  Blue Buffalo, no way!  Wellness?  Ah, no.  These foods are just too rich for his blood.  Really rich. 

Thankfully, Dickens had a vet appointment yesterday at which point this frantic woman explained the problem.  The vet replied that I just had to find the right food.  One that did give his system a protein explosion, but actually nourished him without distress.  She also said that once we found the magic morsel his nipping and biting should diminish.  Also, the wrong foods cause itching and, wait for it, biting.  Who wants a human messing with a dog when the dog has gas pains?  It all makes sense.

Now, I find myself surfing (or is that serfing) the web trying to get a handle on a Cairn terrier's nutritional needs.  Cairns do not tolerate grains well.  They need protein, but what's the magic number?  25%?  30%?  Fat content?  What's the source of the fat?  How much?  Now onto the carbs.  Carbs are good.  Too many carbs, not so much.

So, after returning the Blue, after ditching the Wellness earlier, we're trying Natural Balance.  Hopefully, this works.  If not, I'm making the darn stuff myself.  I cook enough, what's one more?
Dickens did not have a rear transmission problem this morning.  Hopefully, we are on the right path.  If you have any insight into this breed's nutritional requirements, or if you are a Cairn owner who has overcome this obstacle, please share your story by leaving a comment.

Dickens thanks you and so do I.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Update

The Daily Dickens shall return on Wednesday. 

It seems that the new food I tried to switch him to had too much "octane" causing a little gastric upset.  He was getting 25% new/75% old. 

We'll be back on Wednesday when things "firm up."  (If ya know what I mean.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Daily Dickens: This Just In!!!!

I have repeatedly tried to scale this thing that my Lady and Her Lady sit.  I have tried running jumps, only to fall short (hey, it's not easy with 6 inch legs!).  I have smacked my noggin' as a result of dashing to climb onto this thing.  Heck, my Lady even picked me up to give me a good belly scratch and I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to get down.

Then, this morning in a fit of determination and force, I surveyed the height, calculated the distance for a suitable start, and raised my tail.

Tada!  (Sorry for the blurry picture, by my Lady caught it as I landed!)

See ya! Time for my nap!


The Daily Dickens: Drenched

Last night's weather involved water, lotsa water. 

Dickens stayed true to house training the first two times out the door, but the third time he put his paws down.  "Not goin'.  Not doin' this."  He immediately turned to go back inside.  I placed a "wee wee" pad down in the bathroom and he performed beautifully.  His defiance actually made me feel good for once. He recognized this house as his den. A place that's warm and cozy. 

Mom offered to hold Dickens as I toweled him off.  Bless her heart the last thing she needed was a squirming wet puppy in her lap.  That rain led to his first encounter with a blow dryer.  He barked at it and ran around making shriek sounds that I'd never heard. 

After, I wrapped him a blanket to ensure a warm puppy.  He eventually attempted to shred the blanket, but it was a foiled attempt.

He balked a little at bedtime, but eventually he gave in for the night.

Friday, September 28, 2012

My Sentiments Exactly!

This just in from a friend of mine:

This photo captures the essence of 1) being a caregiver, and 2) being a dog steward (I hate the word "owner" in this context for some reason.)

"The Little Doggie" as my mother calls him never ceases to show his feelings, good or bad.  Having stewardship over a dog does have its fair share of responsibilites, usually cost-attached, but the spirit of Dickens being here has helped my mother in some small measure and helps me get through each day.  His energy abounds until it runs out and then watching him sleep reminds me that the world can be a beautiful place. 

My dog's mind doesn't fret about elections, connive evil ways to throw out votes, doesn't delve in ways to make the world worse.  Dickens reminds me of the newness of each day.  The awesomeness of chasing a falling leaf, of finding that perfect stick, of meeting people for the first time with joy and exhuberance. 

If only we humans did that imagine the transformation?

The Daily Dickens: Meeting Katie

My dear friend Katie stopped by last night so I could present her with a very belated birthday gift - Dancing Dogs by Jon Katz.  She, too, has a dog and an incredible insight into animals. 

Although socialization is a HUGE aspect of bringing up a puppy, Dickens can be too social as he expresses his excitement a la mouth, rather than licks of hello.  He also shows his delight  in another way, being male, which can be off-putting.  (If ya know what I mean!).

I needn't have worried.  Dickens showed himself in fine form by kissing Katie and showing his exhuberance.  He should.  She returned his greeting  with back and belly scratches.  The scene pleased me to no end.  Katie's an amazing lady as is her mother.  I'm lucky they've included me in their family.  Truly blessed.

Katie took a few shots of Dickens in action.  Here they are:

Photos above and below courtesy Katie D.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Willing

A Fine Young Pup


The Daily Dickens: Training

As Dickens sits in "Puppy Prison," aka the bathroom for getting mouthy (no he didn't talk back, he used me as a bully bone), I have a moment to post this morning's training session.  It's from noted Positive Training Guru Pat Miller.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dickens Digest: Pup Stuff

I haven't had this pup for even a month, but as I look back on our relationship I've realized some very important lessons:

Lesson #1-Toys:  The dog toy manufacturers are going to hate me for this, but nothing makes my dog happier than a stick.  He'll carry a stick around for hours while ignoring those expensive "guaranteed your dog loves it" products.

Lesson #2 - Rest:  This little guy has the heart of a lion (or a Scotsman, but I digress).  In our early days he'd go and go until he got whacky bitey and running near empty.  Anything for his human to a point, then he bit back.  I've learned that living this life entails the same kind of willingness; however, we humans also have to "bite back" when our health declines or our mental state requires sleep.  I've "biten back" for my mother and father, but this little guy's teaching me to do so for myself.

Lesson #3-Challenges:  Dickens looks for challenges.  He bores easily.  He wants to know the next hill (chair) to climb.  He likes to be engaged in life.  If a toy doesn't amuse him, he'll find something that does.

Lesson #4-Socialize:  Folks have remarked to me that they've never seen an animal go so over the top at meeting strangers...human and canine.  He's not afraid to show he cares.

Lesson #5-Don't Overindulge:  Too many treats spoil the stomach.  Savor each morsel as if it were your last.

Lesson #6-Pay Attention:  There might be something special right in front of you.

Lesson#7-Explore:  Leave no stick, rock, or leaf unexplored.  Live.

Lesson#8-Play Nicely with Others:  Yesterday, Dickens had a mini-playdate with a Norwegian Elkhound named Brady.  Dickens came to the meeting at full throttle nipping, biting, and trying to climb up on Brady.  The Elkhound turned his back on him in a "Forget it, kid, your outta your leagu stance."   Canine mothers usually subdue bratty behavior with a paw, packs ignore the offending dog until he comes around. 

Lesson #9-Ask and Listen:  Dickens now asks for a snack, to go to the bathroom, or for his stuffed rabbit.  He always pauses during his rant to listen to see if I'll respond to his plea.

Lesson #10-No matter what don't forget to lick someone you love.  Throw you paws around the human and look up longingly, when she picks you up lick like there's no tomorrow. 

Rocksalot Urban Farm: Fall Preparation

Fall's official arrival date is fast approaching, but winter prep has been underway for a few weeks.

Kale still stands proudly in the garden waiting to be baked or blanced and frozen.  Beans dry.  Sage, Rosemary, Lemon Thyme and Mint await their time on the drying rack.  Tomatoes processed and frozen.  Winter storm windows came down.  The furnace cranks to keep Mom warm and toasty (not an easy thing to do when medications drive you to a sweater in 100 degree weather). 

High on my list is pruning.  The back yard has "jungle" written all over it.  Taking care of Mom and Dad over the summer has put me way behind.  Now I need to catch up and fast.  The blackberry bushes, honeysuckle, and currents all require my attention.  The yard itself longs for a good, old-fashioned weedwhack.  The sheds need to be reorganized and doors replaced to diswayed unwanted varmints.

It sounds so very overwhelming, but when I'm out there, covered in dirt, smelling the sweet earth, I feel a oneness with the earth.  It's done its job all summer, but I'm tasked with keeping the soil sweet with compost and laying the straw to protect tender roots for the spring to come.

The hardest task emotionally for me has to be cleaning out the sheds.  Dad built them a number of years ago.  Painted on the walls are heraldic shields that he took hours upon hours to craft.  They, too, are a part of this land.  A part of home that says, "I was and am here."  Perhaps it is good to launch into this cleanup, not to get it over and done with, but to face my loss head-on.  To admit to myself that no matter what I did in the last few months the battle could never be won.  Never save him from passing.  That time also led up to a season of eternal rest. 

All in all I believe I'm afraid of another form of shedding...of tears that sit right at the edge that I bat back telling myself there are important things to do.  That I do not have time to mourn.  Fall brings many revelations to me.  It always happens.  Winter preparation has a deeper meaning to me this year.  Ecclesiastes had it right, it just feels that everything has happened within the same timeframe; nonetheless this verse speaks to me of Fall. 
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Starting to Stroll

Unfortunately, the batteries on my camera gave up, but here's a little snippet of Dickens in action.


The Daily Dickens: Sittin' Pretty

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today marks my mother's 89th birthday!  It's a hard birthday because it's her first without my father.  When I wished her a great day, she had a hard time acknowledging the beginning of her 89th year.  My heart broke for her.

Mom loves politics.  She listens to the radio or watches the news channels for the latest turns in this election year.  She's undecided whether she going to vote this time which is totally unlike her.  I think I know why she feels this way - she feeding into political tactics.

Lately there's been alot on the radio about voter registration...about negating votes...about treating fellow citizens as aliens, rather than citizens.  A local political situation arose as a candidate charged the incumbent with voter fraud (but didn't make the charge until the challenger decided to run for office).  A man in Ohio plans to negate over 730,000 votes.  A mid-western attorney general making up his own laws to turn voters away.

Is this really the way to win an election?  Can this party be so insecure that the only way they feel they have a shot is to minimize voting.  In my humble opinion, it's a cheap way to win.  It's the sign of a very weak platform.  I'd rather win because my vision demonstrates my strength, not on a technicality.  I'd rather win because I've convinced the American people, all the American people, that I'll work for a better way, not because everyone going to the polls will be treated like an illegal alien. 
Such recent action by the party-in-question excludes entire segments of our society.  What about the elderly in nursing homes?  What about those who don't drive?  The message I'm hearing in all this reads like "If we eliminate people's right to vote, we'll win."  That's a really sideways message.  It's not a solid way to win.  It's scary. 

So, in November I'll take my mother to the polls to cast her ballot.  No one from either party has the right to take away her vote.  She's voted in every election during her 89 years and no one, no way, no how has the right to rob her of her right to vote.  She's earned the right, she's entitled to it, and has (and is) a good citizen.

Happy Birthday, Mom, I've got your back.  

The Daily Dickens: My Little Man!

Could it be that Dickens and I have formed a truce of the non-chewable kind?  Could it be that more naps, training, and hugs outweighed his Cujo personna?

Yesterday proved to be a first great day with Dickens.  Truly memorable.  He gave his "bathroom" whine at 5:45 AM, did his business promptly, and settled in his crate for breakfast.  In 45 minutes, the bathroom whine sounded, he had his morning constitutional and snoozed for another hour.  When he woke, another bathroom break followed by some play and training.  That cycle continued through dinner.

We expected a storm with strong winds.  The winds picked up around 5 PM just as we enjoyed a post-dinner walk.  I didn't know how this little man would react to such weather.  He amazed me as he sat under a tree trying to catch the wind in his mouth (and, for once, not looking for my hand to chomp).  He'd open his mouth and bite down at the wind gusts.  I swear he smiled into the wind.  Maybe the weather equated to more leaves to chase.

This morning wasn't too bad either.  He got mouthy earlier, but now he sleeps peacefully in his crate.  After that we'll play and train.

Happy human, happy puppy!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Training

Training a dog can be complicated.  Really complicated.  It's not only the sit, stay, come here, and other commands to keep one's dog safe and secure.  Training is much more than that.  Sometimes, I'm not too certain that we're getting to that magical place where the dog senses what I need him to do versus the Pavlovian "have treat, will behave" mentality. 

Teaching a dog means sharing the love.  Letting go of what I hoped this dog could do, but living in constant amazement as his personality emerges.  What makes Dickens Dickens?  Learning that I have to dig deep to be open to what this little working wonder can do.  By our trainer's assessment, this is one smart puppy, he can go further in his training.  The operative question being, can I?

Cairn terriers are a feisty bunch.  If they don't get what they want when they want it, they resort to teeth.  Feeling like I had hit upon a dog with behavior problems, I turned to friends, relatives, and others to determine where I had gone wrong.  Dickens' fang fetish felt like a defeat.  How had I failed myself and my dog?  Wasn't he supposed to walk out of the crate equiped with all the canine social graces people love?

The answers to my questions turned out to be moot.  This little bundle resorts to what he knows, just as I do.  That's why we (and I do mean "we") are in training.  We are learning from each other as well as the trainer.  We are setting boundaries, i.e., if you go to bite, I'm going to growl at you, give you a time out, or start wearing a bitter apple sprayed glove.  My boundaries are if you sit when asked, keep your fangs away from me, and  remember that I love you, we'll be fine.

On this beautiful early Fall morning, Dickens took his first walk around the block as part of his "loose leash training."  He did well.  Converselly, he decided to yank his blanket from his crate upending his water dish.  One task received praise, the other, well, guess the water dish taught him a lesson.

We are also learning to trust each other.  Dickens is a willing pup, but he doesn't understand that he needs rest as well as reward.  Late this morning he threw up and sent this PupMom into despair.  I'm learning his limits.  We think we can keep going ad infinitum, but he needs his rest as do I.  Perhaps in the learning, we'll learn to protect each other's health, sanity, and spirit.

We are both still puppies in this story.  Just puppies.

The Daily Dickens: The Day Off

Yesterday, my little Dickens got a workout at obediance school.  He got so excited during class, which included handling skills, sitting greeting, and loose leash training.  He fell sound asleep on the ride home.

Dickens got really nippy/growly by the end of the day.  He's a willing pup, but he needs some down time.  He needs a fair measure of crate time to recuperate from all the changes this little pup has endured.

Today is Dicken's day off.  It's Mom's day off and yours truly might just kick back a tad to rest.

We all need it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Daily Dickens: A Little Pot

I admit I went over the top when Dickens entered our family.  Nylobones for chewing, Greenies for dental health, a fetch ball, organic treats, organic dog food, etc., etc.,

So imagine my dismay when canine contentment boiled down to this:

A flower pot.  A 20-cent flower pot.



Friday, September 14, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Loose Leash?

Thought I'd share one of this morning's walk with you.  Dickens is a 6 AM pup who knows that breakfast comes after the walk.

The downside to this sojourn:  Dickens likes to do his business in the MIDDLE of the road.  Thankfully, I've only had to drag him to the side once (this isn't usually a busy street), but we working on "getting busy" on the SIDE of the road.

Tomorrow's our second round of training.  He hasn't done too badly with "Sit" and "Watch Me."  Truly he thinks he's the pack leader when it comes to the walk.  He's between harness sizes, so we're hoping a proper harness comes our way soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Daily Dickens

As this little one has become such a part of my mother's and my life, I thought I'd share the antics of my scrappy Scottish lad with you all.

Dickens hails from Idaho.  Born on a farm to Martins Buster (no joke) and Martins Daffodil (I can't make this stuff up).  Dickens came to us via a pet store well visited by yours truly and let's just say the boy and I had eyes for each other. 

My list of "musts" included intelligence (his, not mine), a even disposition (again, his, not mine) and size mattered.  Dickens had competition.  A "come hither" stare came from a poodle puppy who desperately ran around the "meeting room" to the point I became very, very dizzy.  Too much pep in the poodle knocked the poor little one out of the running once Dickens strutted his stuff.  After being caged up for who-knows-how-long, he settled.  He checked me out for a while, then decided a rope bone offered more promise.  That's what I wanted, a dog who could be in a relationship with a human, but wasn't afraid to amuse himself.

Mom says he's adorable and I know with age he'll calm even more.  He's teething so Dickens and Mom keep their distance.  In fact, Dickens mistook me for a Milk Bone and off to obedience school we went (first class last week).  House training has been more hit than miss.  He has my heart (which is alot better than my pant leg, which he took particular delight in chomping.  He's been to the vet.  Get's two more shots next month.  He has his flea and tick med.  Gobbled a peanut butter covered heartworm med, so we are good to go!

As of today, Dickens responds to the commands "Sit" and "Watch Me."  When he's in "puppy mind" an atom bomb could explode and he'd ignore it.  We're working on it. 

I leave you now with a pretty poor shots of Dickens at play. Please know it's tough to walk a dog whilst looking through a viewfinder!

Hello, World!
Dickens discovers a stick with a headlight!
Such fun!


The Secret Longing

Sometime in one's life one has to a yield to that secret longing, that tug within that needs to be explored no matter what's going on at the time.  Periods of joy.  Periods of sadness.  Lord, knows I've resisted...ignored...dismissed this idea for a long, long time, but two weeks ago, I gave in to that inner call.   

I'd been researching for what seems like an eternity.  Through sleepless nights.  As I watched television.  Engaging perfect strangers to ask vital questions.  Emailing, texting, or telephoning experts with the questions du jour.  I stalled by telling myself I didn't want to care for anything else.  Not even a goldfish.  Asking myself if after all I've been through if I had finally "slipped a nut." 

On August 30, 2012 the answer became clear to me.  Plain as the nose on my face.  I knew it when I woke up.  A new beginning.  A new energy.  A different, but deep relationship.

So, without further ado, may I present...



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fall 2012

It's here.  Finally.  At least I think it's here. 

Welcome Autumn 2012.  May you enjoy a long, colorful, warm stay.

Last weekend's storm felt as if it'd never leave.  It had summer written all over it.  Rain.  Wind.  Humidity.  Sopping humidity.  A storm that lasted all weekend.  As those clouds swirled above us, who would think it  packed up summer, lock, stock, and barrel; winging it's way to the Southern Hemisphere.

To wake up to the crisp, cool air that signals Autumn's arrival, my soul looks to nights snuggled under quilts, hot cups of tea, and knitting while Mom watches television and our newest family member snoozes at my feet.  (More on that later.)

Autumn.  My winter preparation time.  My technicolor time.  My healing time. 

O sweet Autumn, you've always been my best friend.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's Holding!

As you can see by the radar, we are getting quite a bit of rain.  Scratch that.  It freakin' pouring out there!  Just checked the basement.  It's dry!  Great joy in the morning!  It's blessed dry!

Gratitude!  Gratitude!  Gratitude!


This morning's attire can only be described as "soupy and gloomy."  The humidity weighs me down allowing a flood of memories to resurface while a list of things to do clicks in my head.  It's August weather such as this that tells me the season's transitioning.  The tomato crop has slowed to a crawl and blossoms are beginning to wither.  This summer has been a good one for my little urban farm.  I can't complain.  The freezer's jam packed with cherry tomatoes, kale, and green beens.

Today my prayers go to those along the Gulf coast as Tropical Storm (almost Hurricane) Isaac approaches.  It's unbelievable to me that another storm threatens New Orleans so close to Hurricane Katrina's anniversary.  Hopefully, lessons from her wrath encourage residents to do the right thing and their preparations have been thorough. 

The "Mom Mission" continues.  I need to get her on an earlier schedule.  She's tired, grieving, and, at times, can't make sense of it all.  For some reason on Sunday she insisted I change her room around.  This all stems from radio reports featuring severe thunderstorms as the meteorologist cautions (quite strenuously)  folks to stay away from windows.  Mom insists she needs to get away from the bedroom window.  I comply with the move (although I wanted to do it after the room had been washed and painted), but a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.

Browsing the hardware store had the feel of a European vacation (I don't get out much.)  The paint department offered a vast array of new colors and textures.  The house needs a change.  We need to get away from the colors of what once were to those that offer brightness and hope.  I leave the store with a fistfull of paint swatches, eager for Mom to choose the colors that speak to her.

The building department proved to be a problem.  I don't build much.  A web search informed me about these drip edge thingys.  I finally found them only to discover they were 10 feet long, not too easy to get into a small vehicle.  I asked the salesman if they came any shorter.  His response, "No.  Just pull your car around back and we'll stretch it!"  Wise guy!  In the end he cut the piece in two, which barely fit in the car.  A $5. a strip fix to save a big buck expenditure.  That's the way to roll!

Fingers crossed the "indoor water feature" has been resolved.  Yours truly did her rooftop inspection last Saturday and installed the aforementioned "drip edging."  (Thanks to my neighbor for holding the ladder.  She's a home repair gem!)  I caulked the two 5' pieces back together, so the moisture shouldn't seep through as well as liberally stuffing the stuff around the offending gutter.  Thankfully, the moisture barrier had two days to cure.  It's a temporary measure, but the edging has kept the cellar dry as of this writing.  If we can avoid tropical storms, blizzzards, and ice dams, it'll make it through the winter, next spring I'll get bids on a new roof.  This home management stuff has proven to be new territory for me.

In the meantime, since I don't sleep much, I've signed up for free college courses on Coursera.  Coursera comprises a group of top notch colleges and universities offering open courses, aka free.  Enrollment for me includes a course on "Introduction to Sustainability."  These are non-credit courses, but learning is important to me.  Without education, news hype takes on a life of its own.  I don't know what news accounts to believe any more and what measures to take to be a good steward of the planet.  So far, so good! 

So, what's new in your worlds?