Sunday, May 31, 2015

Guess Abby's Date!

I have a date for the dance!

I'll let you all guess who my handsome date is and I'll be BRIEF.

He is very smart, which is part of his APPEAL We can talk BEAGLE-ESE.  After the dance (EX-PARTE) we can go for a walk and talk some more.

I do LIEN towards a night of fun with good friends and I can't wait for this one.

Now, no LEADING QUESTIONS , just see if you can figure out who wonderful Ruby fixed me up with for the big event.  I had such a good time at the last dance with her help and I was hopeful she'd come through for me again.

For the venue and other info check out the link at Sarge's and join in some Birthday fun for a dear friend.  I'm going to ask Mom to bake a TORT  to celebrate and help get ready for the big day this Tuesday.

Join us in Blogville for the dance to celebrate Recuit a Pal! Click on the link below for Sarge's post with the information and the prizes.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Welcome Home!

We made it home.  It's been a month since we've been here due to Mom's on call schedule and a move to a new condo  in the city where she works, though Dad spent two 3 day weekends with us.

I missed it.  I know Mom did too.  Thanks for keeping us company on all the nights she was on her own and Dad was in another state working. Blogville is my kind of town.

Abby Lab


Thursday, May 28, 2015

And Always - Give The Dog an Extra Biscuit

An Excerpt From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption (and some new photos)

I've heard so many people say: "I'll do that when I'm older, when I lose 20 pounds, when I'm retired." We go through life saying, "I would, but it probably wouldn't work out," or, " I'd like to but. . ." We too often base our actions on an artificial future, painting a life picture based on an expectancy that time is more than sweat, tears, heat, and mirage.

You can't count on anything. For out of the blue fate can come calling. My husband and I had recently lost our beloved black Lab Barkley after a brief but valiant battle against bone cancer and a weekend of pain we couldn't keep at bay for him. In a flash life robbed even of the power to grieve for what is ending. I think back to when my brother Allen and I were kids: going down a turbulent little river with little more than an inner tube and youth, risking rocks and rapids and earth just to see what was around the bend of that forest we'd already mapped out like Lewis and Clark. The water was black and silver, fading swirls of deep current rising to the surface like a slap, fleeting and gravely significant---as if something stirred beneath, unhappy to be disturbed from its slumber, making its presence known. A fish, perhaps; or simply fate.


I think of the true story of the woman whose parachute didn't open on her first jump and she fell more than a mile, and lived---to change her whole life to pursue her dreams. Did she sense something as she boarded that plane, looking into the sky at a danger that she could not articulate, that she could not see? Or was she unaware until that moment when she pulled the cord and nothing happened, as her life rushed up to her with a deep groaning sound? What was it like in that moment, that perception of her final minutes, what taste, what color, what sound defined her soul as it prepared to leave? 

I was in the paint section of a hardware store the other weekend, looking for a brick-colored paint to spruce up a backdrop in the crash pad’s kitchen. I noticed the yellows, a color I had painted my room as a teen. I noticed the greens, so many of them---some resembling the green of my parents’ house in the sixties and seventies, yet not being exactly the same color. The original was one that you'd not see in a landscape, only in a kitchen with avocado appliances while my Mom sang as she made cookies. I remember Allen and I racing through the house, one of us soldier, the other spy, friends forever; stopping only long enough for some of those cookies, still warm. Holding that funky green paint sample I can see it as if it were yesterday. Memories only hinted at held there in small squares of color.


What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? For some it’s a favorite photo; a piece of clothing worn to a special event; a particular meal. Things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture the memory it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of empty air, the color of wind.

One morning while out in a hangar checking out a pilot friend’s home-built project, I had one of those moments. It was an old turboprop lumbering down the taxiway with all the grace of a water buffalo. It wasn't the aircraft that caught my eye, it being one of those planes that carries neither speed nor sleek beauty but rather serves as the embodiment of inertia overcome by sufficient horsepower. No, it was the smell of jet fuel that took me back---to years of pushing the limits, not really caring if I came home, only that the work was done without my breaking beyond re-use something I was trusted with.


Until one day, while my heart was beating despite being broken unseen beneath starched white cotton, my aircraft made a decided effort to kill me. It was not the "Well, I'll make a weird sound and flash some red lights at you and see what you do," an aircraft's equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the North cackling: "Care for a little FIRE, scarecrow?" No, it was a severe vibration that shook the yoke right out of my hand as we accelerated through 180 knots on the initial climb, as unknown to me, a small piece of metal on the aircraft's tail had come loose and was flapping in the breeze.

In that moment, as I heard the silent groaning of the earth below, I thought "I do not wish to die," and I fought back---in that moment of slow and quiet amazement that can come at the edge of sound, finding in myself a renewed desire to live, recognizing the extent and depth of that desire to draw another breath and share that soft warm breath with another.


Today is a memory that months from now could be one of those memories---not of fear but of triumph. You may look back and see this day, the friends you were with, the smile on your face, the simple tasks you were doing together. Things, so basic in their form to at this time simply be another chore: cleaning, fixing, an ordinary day while children played with a paper plane fueled by laughter and the hangar cat drowsed in the sunlight. It might be a day you didn't even capture on film---no small squares of color left to retain what you felt as you worked and laughed together, there in those small strokes of color, those small brushes of hope as you wait for your best friend to join you.

Twenty years from now you may look at yourself in the mirror, at the wrinkles formed from dust, time, and tears around your eyes, at the gray in your hair; and you will think back to this day, the trivial things that contain the sublime. On that day, so far beyond here, you may look around you, that person you were waiting for no longer present, and you want it all back. Want it as bad as the yearning for a color that is not found in nature, in the taste of something for which you search and ache, acting on the delusion that you can recreate it, those things that haunt the borders of almost knowing.


You touch the mirror, touch your face and wish you'd laughed more, cared less of what others thought, dove into those feelings that lapped at the safe little edges of your life, leaped into the astonishing uncertainty.
Allen spent years running silent and deep under the ocean, visiting places I can only guess at as he will not speak of it, a code about certain things I share with him. But I knew the name. Operation Ivy Bells. He understood testing the boundaries of might and the deep, cold depths to which we travel in search of ourselves.


On his last nights, Allen and I talked, but not of that, being aware of grave matters of honor but not speaking of them, not even with each other. I'd sit as he talked about Dad and how he hoped Dad would live to be a hundred; how he hoped he would be there to take care of him, even as I watched 120 pounds leave Allen’s frame as he went through that second round of chemo and radiation.

He talked until his eyes closed, only his labored breath letting me know he was still with me; the rise and fall of his chest as he were trying to push up from the waters of the sea, unfathomed flesh still so buoyant if only in spirit as the cold water lapped against him.

I too have had more than one day where I stood outside on a pale crescent of beaten earth and breathed deeply of that cold. On those days I felt every ache in my muscles; my skin hot under the sun; the savage, fecund smell of loss in the air, lying heavily in the loud silence. Somewhere in the distance would come a soft clap of thunder; overhead clouds strayed deliberately across the earth, disconnected from mechanical time. I'd rather be elsewhere; the smell simply that of kitchen and comfort: the sounds only that of laughter. But I knew how lucky I was to simply be, in that moment, and alive.

I'd go home on such nights and pour a drink, prepare a small meal. I'd eat it slowly, letting the sweet and salt stay upon my tongue. For me there would be no quick microwaved meal eaten with all the detachment of someone at a bar, tossing back a handful of stale nuts with their beer. No, I wished to taste and savor the day, the warm layers of it, this day that had been someone's last.

You can't control fate but you can make choices. You can continue your day and do nothing, standing in brooding and irretrievable calculation as if casting in a game already lost. Or you can seize the moment, the days, wringing every last drop from them. Tell the ones you love that you love them. Hug your family; call an old friend you've not spoken to for months; forgive an enemy; salute your flag---and always, always give the dog an extra biscuit. Then step outside into the sharp and unbending import of spring, a dying winter flaring up like fading flame, one last taste, one last memory, never knowing how long it will remain. 

 - L. B. Johnson


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Where's Abby?

If I hide behind this potted plant Mom can't see me and won't try and trim my toenails again.

Abby Lab

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dating Disasters - Dogs and Dates

Blind dates from hell.  Admit it, you've had one.  In the Barkley book there is a story of my personal shortest blind date, which fortunately, I can laugh at now.

Tonight, I think I want to laugh again, if only to myself.

 So for you, some adult Classic Dating Disclaimers.  Feel Free to add your own.

There are good dates and bad ones.  The good ones hold in close and smile. But the bad ones? The statute of limitations has run out on some of those.

Dates from Hell. We've all had one, or will. My worst, a couple of years before I met my husband, was a fellow that came over for a fancy dinner I cooked, then proceeded to pull out a little hand held video game and play it for an hour, totally ignoring me on the couch next to him. I finally said "uh, what are you doing? and he said "I'm getting so and so to the next level!"  This was NOT some kid, this was a 40 something year old neurobiologist.

He did NOT get to the next level.

When I was just a pup, one of the mechanics that worked on the airplanes I flew, asked out a lady that was on the city council. She was attractive, educated and well dressed. He liked the attractive part enough to ignore that they might not have a lot in common as he was sort of a country boy and she was more designer clothes and politics.  They went to dinner, and did not have anything in common, so he just told her he enjoyed meeting her and they could remain friends but there wouldn't be a second date. She seemed to take that well and thanked him for the friendship.

That night he started getting phone calls from different people with different voices, but not QUITE different, telling him what a jerk he was and how wonderful this lady was and he should see her again.  It turns out his date had multiple personalities and all of them started to stalk him. He said the one named "Oscar" creeped him out the most. He ended up moving and changing his phone number. She was probably elected to Congress.

But still, we  open ourselves up there in the dating world, which can be a wonderful adventure, or simply that giant rock rolling down the hill at you.

Love can make us do things we normally wouldn't consider. It can lead to a buddy asking a vegan to go turkey hunting, only to have the girl jump up at the first sight of a trio of young turkeys yelling "Run Mr. Turkey, Run for your Life!" It made one young lady from a friends workplace, flushed with happy anticipation of her first  serious date with her long time crush, spend $100 for top of the line lift and firm undergarments.  Love made her glad she did, disappointment made her set her new lingerie on fire. In his office. During a meeting with his biggest client.
Chasing it was more fun than catching it.

But we still get out there, we get our hearts ripped out, stomped on and set on fire and eventually we put on our brave faces and get back to living, and if we're lucky, find someone special we can laugh with.

So, for those of you new to the dating scene, stuck in it or getting back into it, here is some Barkly Memories and Dating Disclaimers.

Disclaimer: Dating is for entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. All models over 18 years of age. Void where prohibited. Some assembly required. No other warranty expressed or implied. Apply only to affected area. May be too intense for some viewers.  Subject to change without notice.

Terms subject to change without notice.  Times approximate. Simulated picture. Do not attempt to put in pants.  Don't try in your living room, these are trained professionals.. Use only as directed  Breaking seal constitutes acceptance of agreement

May contain nuts.

One size fits all. Edited for television. Keep cool, process promptly. Return to sender. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform. Penalty for private use. See label for sequence. Add toner. Your canceled check is your receipt. Sanitized for your protection. Sign here without admitting guilt. Limited time offer, call now to ensure prompt delivery. Not actual size.

You must be present to win.
Approved for veterans. Some equipment shown is optional. Price does not include taxes. Reproduction strictly prohibited. List at least two alternate dates. First pull up, then pull down. Call toll free before digging. Driver does not carry cash. No user serviceable parts installed.

You must be this tall to ride the ride.
No transfers issued until the ride comes to a complete stop. Package sold by weight, not volume. Your mileage may vary. For external use only. Tumble dry on low heat. Do not spindle, fold or mutilate.

Safety goggles may be required during use.

Use only in a well-ventilated are. Keep away from fire or flames. Replace with same type. Not liable for damages arising from use or misuse. No substitutions allowed. For a limited time only. Action figures sold separately. If ingested, do not induce vomiting. Substantial  penalty for early withdrawal
Slightly higher west of the Rockies.
Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball!

Disclaimer does not cover misuse, accident, lightning, flood, tornado, pestilence or projectile (including but not limited to bullets, arrows, BB's, lasers, sharks with frikin lasers, shrapnel, torpedoes rock/paper/scissors, and Alpha, Beta or Gamma rays), neglect, incorrect line voltage, customer adjustments that are not covered in this list, and incidents owing to vehicular accident or snake bite. Detonation of nuclear weapons will void this policy. Other restrictions may apply.

Lastly, for those of us who are no longer youngsters.

Contents may have settled.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Moving On - A Chapter From "Saving Grace


Chapter 47- Moving On


My husband and I had retrieved the rest of my things to be moved from my home to his. There was a box of dog toys on the porch which I couldn't bear to open. We had talked about getting another dog, looking at reputable breeders, checking ads; but I didn't think I was ready, waiting for a sign perhaps.

That night as we went to sleep I dreamed of my old dog Barkley, something I’d not done in several months.

* * *

In my dream life hadn't changed; my brother and Barkley were still with me and it was just a normal day of prayer and reflection.

On the wall is a crucifix, symbol of blood and wind, strength that follows me through my day.

As I enter the building the light shines on those small testaments of ritual, those things that bring peace and beauty to what could otherwise be chaos. A drape of white cloth upon which lies a cup; a candle there, unlit for now but soon to be anointed by flame.

I know he's waiting for me so that I can unburden myself. He's probably thinking as well, it's been so long since I've been back. I wait outside the door for just a moment, taking in the tranquil quiet, the peaceful shadow.

But first I will light the candle, for me, for souls unlit. For the ones I could save and those I could not, all merging now into one sustained breath that ignites this small candle into flame. The flame swirls up unto the heavens as the stars bow and draw backwards.

In my pocket are implements forgotten. I gently finger them like beads, uttering the words that came from my mouth as I worked with them, words that strung out like coronals of roses as I disturbed another’s solemn remains, bent and bowed to my duties. Forgive me. Forgive them.

I pull those tools of my day from my pocket and lay them upon the white cloth. In the candlelight they gleam like the nicked and scuffed chain mail armor of angels.

From behind the door I hear the murmur of movement as my arrival is sensed. I stand outside, as silent as I did not long before, tongues of ash and flakes of fire raining on down, anointing the bones of men. How I wish they would stir, awakening to the fire, but they sometimes do not. I make the sign of the cross, peace to their ashes.

I open the door but it is not the door to penance and confession, not at this hour, this place. But it is a door to one that still, with heart untouched by either sin or evil, will listen to me even if he cannot speak.

He will listen as liquid words flow from weary brain, symbols that are not of a periodical but of the elements of mystery, questions asked, and reasoning answered. He will listen without asking and he will forgive without penance, though he can be stirred to almost evangelical zeal by a small nugget of biscuit.

From the distance, a church bell---a sound that does more than note one more hour, one more increment of time and grief that's ticked since Genesis. It's the sound of hope and faith, one that cleaves the air with a sharp instrument of promise as a dog joyously barks.

For it is not a man of a cloth I was unburdening myself to, but my best friend Barkley the Labrador retriever.

When he has eaten first I will go out to sit at that cloth covered table. I will take the meat, the bread, and the wine and I will pause, bent with sin but saved by grace, there as I bow my head in thanks. It is thanks not just for the company of friends and the reminder of hope but for a small furred creature who blessed me with the wag of a tail.

* * *

I awoke with tears on my face and the comfort of words in my head.


I think it is time to add another dog to this home. This time it's going to be a rescue, a dog who needs a home as much as we need him.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

And now a word from our sponsor. . .

I'm sorry there won't be much in the way of posting this morning.  Mom's head got stuck in the door.

But I bet the folks over at Waldo's Muttley Crew are happy as they get all the sales proceeds this month for their new pole barn so they can take in more animals from the death row shelters. And #1 Sci Fi Author Marko Kloos, author of the Frontlines Series and esteemed wiener dog Dad, is matching EVERY dollar this month that is raised.

Abby Lab



Friday, May 15, 2015

Problems in the End Zone


This is a story written for friends that ended up being crafted into a chapter for The Book of Barkley.  It still makes me laugh but I thought it might be more fun for all of you with some photos of Barkley. The other little dog with Barkley pictured below is G-Dog, who belonged to someone I know personally and professionally, who was a regular playdate with Barkley. She too was a great dog and is sorely missed. 

From The Book of Barkley - Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever

Problems in the End Zone

There aren't many dogs in my little neighborhood of the crash pad.  There's a large dog in a home behind me that has what is either a great lumbering dog or a Shetland pony which I only see when I am out the door before 5 am., the owner walking him on a lead out into the mist.  A couple doors down is a little yappy dog  of mixed heritage that looks like a big Twinkie with legs. The owners just let it out to do it's business sans leash and sometimes it wanders around the neighborhood, though it knows to stay out of the street.  Barkley mostly ignores her and they have a relationship of distrust and mutual avoidance except when there's a camera out, much like many Hollywood marriages.
Barkley IS the king of the block, however, this morning he's simply sleeping on the twin bed in my office after an interesting night of "guess what I ate".

He rarely gets people food as it tends to upset his stomach. The occasional little piece of plain roast chicken, bits of cheddar, frozen peas (he loves them, nibbling them from your bare fingers like little ball bearings). But he's not particular. I've seen him chew on my old slipper, a lemon and Styrofoam packing peanuts, all with the same gusto. But he'll seek out the smallest crumb if left unattended.
Last night he snagged something off the counter when I was out of the room briefly, licking his lips as I returned  while my piece of pizza looked clearly disturbed and rather lacking in sausage.  Later, I caught him in the garbage looking for more (once they've had a taste).

But spicy or greasy food and Barkley have never seen eye to eye.  He did pretty well though other than a couple delicate sage scented burps and one episode where he came in while I was taking my bath.

I had my camera with me as I was hoping to get a shot of him trying to steel my socks, like he did the night before. But instead, he just sat down with this LOOK on his face

"OMG Mom, what's that SMELL!  He then turns around and looks at his butt as if it was suddenly possessed.
No, Barkley, you can't put Vicks Vaporub in your nostrils.
 That's Mommy's Vicks.

Well that emptied me out of the tub faster than realizing NCIS starts in 30 seconds. A quick spray of air freshener and an open window and he settled down for the night after leaving a quick calling card on the tree by the garage for the neighbor dog.
I knew the night wasn't going to go as planned when I woke up after midnight and realized I'd not closed the garage door. The back door into the crash pad is heavy and well secured, but I've got a bike and a few tools in the garage I wouldn't want stolen.

With only the hall light on, I stepped out into the garage, only to have some furred creature rush out at me from under the truck.

Holy *(#*!!!!

Seeing just a soundless flash of fur and tooth, my foot instinctively went out in a kick, catching the creature under the rib cage with the top of my slipper and punting it OUT the garage door like some sort of overtime field goal. Georgia against UT couldn't have done any better!

At which point I heard "YIP!    YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP"

Oh, crap, I just dropped kicked the neighbors yappy dog. How am I going to explain THAT? I look out, the dogs not out there injured, he headed straight back towards home, the garage door being up a foot or two for him to go in and out.  I'll go see to him in the morning to make sure he's OK and explain what happened. My pulse is still racing like Speed Racer.

Back to bed where I tossed and turned, heart still racing, hoping the rest of the night and weekend would go better.
All was well until about 4, when Barkley stuck his nose in my face (and not to say hello). "I gotta go! I gotta go!"   I know that panting and that dance and it means NOW.  I threw on something over my jammies and headed out the garage with him. He made a beeline for the corner of the property, 82 pounds of muscle pulling me like a Nantucket sleigh ride through the dark, realizing I'm standing out there in a tiny Victoria's Secret polka dot number covered with a day glo yellow first responders coat. Somewhere there's probably a calender composed of women in outfits like that, but it was not a look I wanted my neighbors to see. (Officer, not only did she drop kick our dog but she goes around dressed like the Village People but half naked).

Barkley wasn't kidding. He didn't just have to GO. . . .
Remember the Darwin Award where the guy allegedly attached a JATO bottle to the back of a car and it launched him into a cliff?

There are certain circumstances when there is not much difference between a JATO assisted 1967 Chevy Impala, and a Labrador retriever digestive tract.

Just saying

Once emptied, he seemed OK , drank some water and just went back to sleep. At least HE could get back to sleep.

In the morning, I checked on him while I was making some corn muffins for breakfast.   He still wasn't too perky.
Mom, I think I'd feel better if you made me a bacon omelet.

By late morning, the bat phone was still quiet, a half priced book finished, and the little yappy dog was happily running around in it's front yard none the worse for wear, though it was steering quite clear of my driveway. Barkley also ate some breakfast and wanted to play with his toy without any further detonation. Hooray!

I think this calls for a little celebration. So after lunch, Barkley and I took a little road trip, not too far, as I have to be ready to go to work if needed, but for one of his favorite treats..

Barkley huddles with some frozen yogurt and all is well in the world.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Abby - Please Don't Eat Your. . . . .

Well, it lasted a month before she did the Michael Jackson treatment on the nose. Barkley would have disemboweled it in a minute.

Monday, May 11, 2015

For Michelle - In Memory of Goose

"When I as 18, and lost my lifelong companion, Sally - with me since birth, a small black and white cocker mix... my best and sometimes only friend, my soul-mate... She loved me, I believe more perfectly than I could ever have loved her in my inexperience. When she was 18 she died and I grieved and I cried and I still get tears in my eyes when I think of that sweet little soul who gave me so much. 

So, no, you never get over it, I do not know anyone who has loved a dog and has said goodbye that gets over it. The pain? As you know, it eases, it becomes sweet memory with time, you still get tears in your eyes, but the smiles and laughter at the remembered fun and antics of your 4-legged Pal returns to you.

My mother is part Iroquois, and although a lifelong Catholic carried with her some of the mythology handed down in her family. She knew my grief was raw and painful and that only time would help heal the wound in my heart. She said to me "Sally walks with you, and with time, she will allow you to feel her there beside you. During the first time of grief, you are blind to her, and that is as it should be, so she will know she is no longer in This World, but now walks in the Spirit World. When you are ready, she will help ease your pain by showing you memories, and helping you laugh again when you are ready to see that she is not lost to you, but always remains a part of you. Your tears will then be tears of joy at your good fortune at having known such a one."

 - From "The Book of Barkley - Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever".
Our sunset as Abby and I went out back behind our little home and raised a toast to Goose.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

For Dad - who with the help of his nurse - reads my Blog.

Barkley on the "doggie love seat".

Today's a hard day for the family.  Dad has lost two wives and two children, and he's terminally ill himself, though his age (94) may take him before the mass in his colon. I've lost my "moms" and also two children, the one I gave up and one that just didn't make it full term, though it was close, as well as  my only brother and Barkley both my best friends, within weeks of each other last year..

I rushed to write Saving Grace - to have it published while Dad  was still with us, with lots of caffeine and the support of a very understanding husband.  It's a story for my daughter but it's also a tribute to my parents who adopted us from foster care (with issues) and loved us unconditionally.  It's sold well but as an author, you know your friends will write nice  things about it, but what of the world at large?   I did't write it for them, but like anyone that writes, I wondered if the story would bear meaning for someone other than my family.  I wanted this message to touch someone and make them appreciate the family they have, imperfect as they may be. For each day is a gift.

I finally got my first "verified purchase"  Amazon review from someone that's not family or personal friend, but had read and reviewed The Book of Barkley.  It just made a day that's very difficult bright, and will make my Dad smile when someone reads it to him later.

So please humor me and then as we say in the business "move along - nothing to see here"



.Barkley - Dad is not going to give you another treat.

L. B. Johnson uses words to weave her story with more skill than a master weaver ever used to weave the finest silk.

I finished reading Saving Grace yesterday. If I could write with a fraction of the skill of L. B. Johnson, I would have a different career and a different day job. I did force myself to stop reading several times when I was starting to go faster and faster. You do not stuff a gourmet chocolate bar into your mouth and gulp it down, you savor each bite and with Saving Grace you will enjoy the trip if you take a little time to appreciate just how well she writes.


I grew up in Philadelphia, very far from where she grew up, and yet when she wrote of the feeling of community, the neighbors, the bikes, the playing outdoors, the aches and pains, scrapes and scars, and the joy and sorrow in our hearts, I could do more than see it, I could hear it, and feel it.


The book begins with the day when she and her brother are adopted, and flows to where she is in life today. The journey has happiness and pain, and discovery and loss, and mistakes and success, and does not dwell on the “I wish I would have,” it tells us what happens with both good and poor choices, and how the people we are today are the result of those choices.


She tells of her life, her adopted parents, her brother, her family, the undemanding love of animals, and the intertwining of relationships and life events with a natural feel for people. And she has the rare gift to make the reader see her, and those other people in her novel, as the real, imperfect humans that we all are.


Enjoy the journey.


John in Philly

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Story of Miss Piggy the Lab - a Fight Against the High Kill Shelters

My friend Miss Piggy the Lab and one of her "stuffies".

Abby the Lab here - now that I snooted Mom awake at 8 a.m. after she ended up working very late, and had my food, it's time for a message while Mom does her "Walking Dead" impersonation and crawls back into bed soon.

For my fur-ends here - you know my story.  I was saved, just hours from death, at a high kill shelter where I'd been left heartworm positive.  I still miss my old family and whine and wag my tail when I see and smell a dark haired man smoking a cigarette as my owner smoked.  But they didn't have the money for the medicine that would save me, which makes my Mom very sad as Senior dogs have so much love to gift you with.
I'm just glad I was rescued and my Mom cared enough to take  on an older dog who had been so sick.

That's why she writes and gives book sales money to a number of animal non-profits like this Month's Waldo's Muttley Crew fundraiser (Kindles of Saving Grace just 99 cents this weekend for Waldo!)

She's also made some really good friends, not just here in Blogville but among the rescue folks.

One of those is Carol Lagundo and her Lab rescue (pictured here) Miss Piggy.t.

As a key part of Lab Rescue of the LRCP in Maryland, Carol is part of a Lab Walk to raise money for Lab Rescue on June 14 at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis Maryland.  If any members of Blogville life in the area go say hello and give a pat to Miss Piggy for me.  There will be all kinds of fun and you can even sponsor some of the individual walkers.


Here is the story, as told by Carol, of her high kill rescue - a dog Mom and I just love - Miss Piggy.

Here are a few pics of my girl.  She came to Lab Rescue when she was 10 years old.  Her owners brought her into a high-kill shelter and said they wanted to surrender her because “they wanted to travel more”.  The shelter staff told her “family” that she’d be euthanized before they pulled out of the parking lot because they were full and owner surrenders are the first to be put to sleep.  They didn’t care.  She was covered in fleas and ticks and had lived most of her life outside.  Lucky for her, a Lab Rescue volunteer was evaluating another dog and saw Piggy being brought in.  That volunteer immediately arranged transport and got her safely into Lab Rescue.  We fostered her, and knew immediately she was meant to stay.  I love what Lab Rescue does for these dogs – especially the seniors who get to live out their golden years with families who will love and appreciate them. - Carol
For those of you that support adoption of seniors and other animals - I thank you.  It's because of people like you that Miss Piggy and I have our fur-ever homes and all the love and stuffies we want.

Abby the Lab

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Squeeky Wheels

Saturday morning involved a trip to the BigDogMart to get Abby's nails clipped. While there, I saw some dog toys on clearance. Most  had squeakers, but those can be pretty annoying.  Not as annoying as the one Barkley had that was a soccer ball that when squeezed played a recording of the Spanish guy who yells '"GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL !!" at the soccer games.   Barkley would bring that into the bedroom at 2 a.m. and set that thing off a couple of times, which probably made the neighbors who shared the wall in the other half of the unit seriously wonder about my love life.

No soccer balls today, (Sorry Blogville Barkers).  The sale items were various Island of Dr. Moreau toys.  This one had not just one but TEN really loud high pitched squeakers in it. It wasn't just painfully annoying it was painfully annoying times ten.

That's not going to be fun for anyone with two legs.

But sometimes it's worth it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bleeding Red - An Important Message About Donating Blood

I'm going to check in on the Blogville Barkers over at Murphy and Stanley's (with links to the coach and team) and then get some much needed sleep as Abby is already snoozing on the couch.

For tonight, something more serious to read as we thing of those in Blogville with illness and injury.  None of us know when illness or disaster will strike, or how.  But we do know, there are ways we can ease the burden for others.


There is one word which may serve as a rule of
 practice for all one's life - reciprocity. 
 ~Confucius

They were in the kitchen, Pepper, my dog from childhood, asleep on a rug in the living room.  Mom was drying the last of the dishes while Dad sipped at a cup of coffee as he helped, talking that talk of parents that for kids is equally without interest and yet comforting.  It's not what they are talking about or who (though our ears are always perked up for words like "inoculation" "liver and onions" and "parent-teacher").  It was  simply that steady hum that is life continuing as we know it.  It was where Big Bro and I could  play on the floor with our small cars and legos under the sheltering shadow of much taller people, listening to their voices without hearing, not knowing that they would give their lives for us, but perhaps sensing it somehow.

Evenings were pretty much always the same, after dinner, we kids would clear the table, Dad would help Mom get things ready to wash and then they'd chat and laugh while the chores were done and we had a little quiet playtime or finished a homework assignment. It was simply an evening at home, the routine of chores, the tick of the clock, the sound of the chime that indicated bedtime, as if the clock cleared its throat like a parent's not so subtle reminder.  All of these simple actions being part of the the  foundation of family that helped us to hold and protect each other.

Then the phone rang. "It's the hospital",  Mom says, but no one looks anxious.  For it is a call for my Dad, who has a fairly rare blood type, of which some is needed.  He washes up, kisses my Mom and leaves.  He doesn't talk much about it, but over a course of a life, there were many such calls, and pins he proudly wore that showed how many gallons of blood from his veins that found their way to someone in need.  Later, when his medications were such he couldn't donate, he volunteered to be a driver for the local blood bank, collecting the blood they packed in special coolers at this rural gathering point and driving it into the city an hour or so away in his own car to be delivered to the hospital.  He got some sort of small stipend for it, enough to cover gas and a meal,  but that was all.  But that's not why he did it.

It was giving up something of himself, something we all have to give.
I'd like to say I took up the cause but I did not. As  kid I thought about being a medical doctor.  I loved science; had no problems dissecting Mr. Toad (though the teacher did NOT buy in on the slightly eaten, glossy lemon drop placed in the abdominal cavity as a "new organ!").  Then came the day I actually had to stick a classmate's finger with a sterilized need in a junior high science class.  Couldn't do it.  I could NOT stick a sharp object into a living thing. I couldn't watch someone else do it. Yet, a lifetime later, I'm reading the barbaric language of injury and affronts, the sights of which would sear the eyeballs of the naive and I regularly work up close and personal with the empty forms of those who have departed this mortal plane, with great violence.

But I still hate needles in living flesh of any kind, and adulthood didn't cure my fear of that. I hate shots.  I'd had enough of them to go visit strange places where the local insects might carry me off.  Then I was not able to donate for some time as I'd visited such places.  As for blood, well, I'd seen way too much of it spilled and I sort of wanted to keep all of mine.

It was just something I knew I should do, but couldn't get past my fear.  I recognized that sort of thinking in some  people-- afraid of things without even experiencing it.  Like my fear of needles, they create a sort space around their fear, a "blasted heath" like that in Shakespeare's Macbeth, where nothing lives but toads, and ghostly warnings.  It takes a life changing event, or perhaps just someone you trust, to get you past that zone to face your fear, where you often find yourself embracing it.
For me it was some folks I trusted with my back, some Marines I worked with.  They'd been stateside long enough they could donate blood again and asked me to go with them.  I thought about it. I could check all the boxes "no" on the form regarding certain jungle filled countries and angry cows.  I've been dissed by a CF700 engine, been shot at, eaten fried bugs, had my underwear stolen out of a tent in Africa (don't ask) and been around sploody things that could turn me into a flesh and bone hula skirt.  But I was afraid of needles.

It didn't help that one of the biggest of my posse, a large wall of muscle on legs with a buzz cut, damn near fainted at the start of the procedure.  He said later it didn't hurt, but when the needle went in he went all Tactical Raggedy Andy on us.

But everyone else was fine and he was right, it didn't really hurt, and after they would give me cookies AND juice.  As always I was treated with the utmost of warmth and care and genuinely thanked.  I've got O positive blood.  Folks like me can only receive O blood, where other blood types have more options.  So if it's in short supply someone is going to have a bad day.  So I go back, three or four times a year.
Not everyone can donate, a few (though not many) healthy individuals, can have reactions to it that make them briefly very dizzy and sick.  Others have disqualifying conditions, medications or exposure to people and places that have put them at risk to donate for now. The screening you get with your little mini physical prior to donating will make it quite clear if you can donate or not now, and even if you can't, you will be thanked for trying and sent on your way with a smile and some cookies.

But I urge you, if you have not donated, consider it.  With the increased numbers of complex treatment such as chemotherapy, organ transplants and heart surgeries, which require large amounts of blood, supplies can get dangerously low.  They may have to fetch 120 units of blood for one liver transplant.
I don't even look away now on the days that bag fills up with that pint. To my eyes,  it's not blood in the sense of bloodshed, of loss.  It's simply the shape of a need being met, filling the bag with a movement like warm molasses, flowing out of my body into that vessel, til it lays full and motionless, a compelling shape, completely without life, yet profoundly full of it. 

Somewhere soon, there will be another form, a parent, spouse, daughter, brother, laying in the shadow of a hospital room, listening to the comforting talk of their family around them, without hearing the words.  They wait for that gift of healing. Fighting for that chance to receive it.  Even the most egregiously injured fight, veins coursing with the blood that remains, from which they ARE, and without which, emptied of all but dark sleep, they are NOT.
Any of us could, one day, need blood. We think that as we go about our routine lives that we'll be safe.  We take our vitamins, drive cars with air bags, and don't have an attack of selective Tourettes with the guy with 12  skull and dagger tattoos and the chainsaw that decided he wanted one of our trees for firewood.  But we're not.  Safety, viewed as such, is a lie. The things that we think are safe just those things that we've repeated so many times, so many days, over and over again that the sharp margins have worn away and there's nothing in the conduct of them that says "you know, just because I've done this a hundred times doesn't mean I won't die doing it today."

You may one day be that person in that hospital that needs blood.  So think about it and make that call, bloodmobiles can visit even the smallest of communities and a quick search engine query can find your nearest donation facility.

In my wallet is my Blood Donor Card,  showing my O positive status should I need to be a recipient.  Like my sidearm, it's something I bear, not as a burden, but as a way I can protect a life, one small action at a time.

Be safe out there.

 - Abby's Mom