Saturday, April 30, 2016

Animal Natural Defenses - When Danger Approaches

I'm a chameleon - changing color to blend with my background so predators can't find me.

Why are you looking at me and holding nail clippers?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Happy Arbor Day

My human Dad left for the office on Arbor Day with the wooden bow tie (he only wears bow ties), so I'm going to send a  Happy Bark Up the Wrong Tree Day! greetings and a little humor to all of Blogville.

Abby Lab

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

You Were the One for Me

Tell me again how you became my Mom, please?

Abby Lab asked me to tell her the story again of how we adopted her from animal rescue.  After Barkley went to the Bridge we made the decision to adopt an older hard to place rescue, which I wrote about in "Saving Grace" and she just caught my eye, with her shy demeanor and soft coat, even though she was so very thin with  heartworm and several months at a really awful shelter that was closed down.  Her foster Mom had driven 12 hours round trip to snag her before she was put down, and having already been approved to adopt through her Foster Mom's Lab Rescue, she just seemed destined for my home. One reason I selected her over some other senior dogs as she was smaller in size than a purebred lab (easier to walk with my bad knee) and she was very relaxed on car rides, important when for the first year and a half with me she drove back and forth between Indianapolis where I worked and had a small apartment after my house sold and Chicago where my new husband and I lived.

I've been up in Chicago full time since fall, but tonight, in rain which caused some delays, I thought back to one of those last drives.
Abby - quit biting Mr. Lion in the butt and get ready to load up in the truck.

Sometime in  2015

It was going to be  a long drive home with traffic after a long duty shift.  Adding to the fun would be an assortment of truckers who truly believed that because their truck could go point five mph's more than the other semi truck in the right lane truck they should take over the only passing lane and stay there for 15 minutes, while cars back up behind them 10 miles. Usually when I finally get past one of them, I'll speed by like a lizard on a tile floor, full throttle and giving him that friendly Hoosier wave (involves a distal phalanx). Since our kitchen floor is not quite done, and I'm very tired, My husband suggested I just get a good nights sleep while he lays the rest of the tile, and I'll go up in the morning. Sounds like a plan and I have Heidi Pops popcorn (pretzel jalapeno this time)

I can't say I love the commute, but I love my husband and our home, and it just happens to be several hours from where I work.  But sometime it's a pleasant enough drive, listening to music and the news. After all the news of Washington and terrorists and such lately, I'd almost love to go back to the good old news days when the headlines were simply some New York mayor candidate that can't keep from sending  nudie photos of himself to strange women.  All I could think of was, as tired as I was -  "what if politicians were named like the seven dwarfs".  You'd have  (in New York anyway) Hippy, Horny, Sleezy, Gropey, Greedy, Humpy (only six dwarfs, Doc was replaced by Obamacare).

But you know, for every story I read like that, for every relationship that's imploded in the news, I still know dozens and dozens of people, many like family to me, some actual family, that have someone in their life that is their one and only.  Many of us also have had the blessing of parents that weren't just partners in the marriage, but were best friends as well.
Not long ago, a friend shared a picture with friends of he and his not-yet wife in 1971, re-united after he'd been away for four years in the military, two without even seeing one another once. She waited for him, and you can tell by the look in their eyes in that photo, they are both very glad. You look at the picture of them now, forty some years later, and they still look at each other like that and when my husband and I shared a meal with him last, and he talked about her, his face lit up in the same manner. That just makes me smile.

Every family has their stories of when "Mom and Dad" met.  My parents - sixth grade.  Dad mercilessly teased the new girl in school all day. On the way home she wound up and beaned him from a good distance with a milk bottle. I'm surprised it didn't hurt him, but he was certainly impressed by both her throw and her aim. They were pretty much inseparable after that, only being apart during WWII.

Since I work with all guys (my secretary is male and ex Army) no one really talks about "relationships" though (unless it involves a relationship with a buffalo chicken wing), but once in a while someone let's something slip. When leaving for a business lunch with someone that's also a close friend, he  noticed the large tire iron wedged where I could easily grab it from the front seat of my truck (the "drive through Gary road service tool").

He just smiled.  He then told me the story of when he decided he was going to marry his wife of some thirty years. She was a research scientist and I'd  met her several times when we'd all get together for a meal and really liked her, but I had no idea how they had met.
He said "we were in our 20's, in her car, at the mall for something she was supposed to pick up for her Mom.  We came out and though she was well within the lines of her spot, this young jerk pulls in, parking so close to her there is no way she can get IN, let alone OUT, then walks off with a smirk. There was barely enough room on the passenger side for her to get in.  I couldn't fit but she was able to climb in the passenger side, but getting out of the spot was almost impossible, he being an inch from the driver's side door.  After quite a few minutes of  small, but precise maneuvering, she got the car free."

Ahh, I thought to myself, a woman who can handle a vehicle.   Then he continued.

"What I was so surprised with, was how calmly and skillfully she just take of the problem, without asking for help. She just calmly and expertly, got her car free".

So I said "that's when you decided she was the one for you?"

"No". . he said.  "It  was when she had backed out.  She got out of the car, all composed in her pretty little dress, took out the tire iron and busted out his headlights."
Oh, how I laughed But I bet we all have some stories.  Certainly we all have the ones of when we knew someone was NOT the right one for us.  Stories that involve bad manners, crazy relatives, "you have HOW many pet ferrets?", underwear under the bed that's not yours, not work safe yard gnomes, an assortment of 2nd degree felonies and personal computer misdeeds that would make Snowden blush.

Almost all of us have been there, and it usually leaves you wanting nothing more from the world than air to push on through and exhale. Then you meet someone,  Sometimes you come together like two ships, becalmed, floating next to each other until you finally, and softly, touch, and you are captured by that which is the essence of dreams. Sometimes you meet in heat and flame, built up over years of carefully tended embers that survived some rough miles, just needing the right touch and a breath to give spark to it.
Either one is a wondrous journey, one that for me began in a little coffee shop in Indiana where a little train ran on a track along the ceiling inside as the forgotten coffee grew cold and a black dog waited patiently at our feet. We had been the best of friends online for many years, I knew his Dad personally and professionally and we had a couple of mutual geek friends. Neither of us seemed interested in any long term relationships given all of our travel so we'd spend hours on  instant message and Skype telling terrible science puns and jokes or sharing photos of mutual hobbies.  And dogs - always stories of Barkley, as he came from a family that had many beloved dogs.  I had a huge crush on him after a while but never said anything because I was 25 years older and he had just started dating this beautiful ballerina. But we met in person because that long time  friend said "I'm passing through your area today.  Would you and Barkley like to meet me for coffee at an outdoor cafe? and I said "yes" and the ballerina did NOT get a third date. Two years after that VERY LONG cup of coffee we were married.

So - for my four legged friends - tell us a story about how you became part of your forever family or how YOUR two legged family came to be together.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Good Advice From a Canine

Let go of the life that was planned.
 Only then can you see the life that was waiting.
 -  The Book of Barkley

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Black and White - Sun Baths

Soft rug and warm sun = perfect Sunday.

Thanks to our hosts Nola and Sugar

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Walking Dread - Country Life and Zombie Spiders

While visiting a friends farm in Northern Indiana one fall, someone brought over these round green balls that appeared to be some kind of pod or alien fruit. "What the heck are those?". I asked. Apparently they were the fruit off of the Osage Orange tree, otherwise known as Hedge Apples. My friends  said they repel spiders. You put them in a bowl or on a piece of foil and place them around the house. They won't spoil or mold and eventually just shrink to the side of a walnut. I should have brought more of them home.

For I am afraid of spiders. I can watch "Walking Dead" and sleep like a baby, but spot a big hairy spider in the house and I'm tip toeing around with a rolled up newspaper for days.

Snakes, bats in my hair (been there, done that), no problem. When you're out in the wild, sometimes hiking, sometimes working, you run into it all, bears, wolves, coyotes, horny toads, horny tourists, bugs, ants that bite and those little plastic containered, cellophane-covered sandwiches they carbon date for freshness and sell at gas stations.

I lived in the desert after grad school, and woke once to find a tarantula in my bed. My roommate, raised there, heard my shout and got a dust pan and gently picked it up, talking to it softly, and took it back to the yard to be released. "They do more good than harm" she said. I slept on the couch for the next month.
When I too lived out in the country a few years ago, spiders were a constant, short of running them over with your giant Chevy Subdivision, they were pretty indestructible.  The little ones, I left alone, as they do eat bugs and such around the property, letting them be or gently removing them from house to garden. But those large hairy fast moving spiders scared me to no end.  One night I opened the door to let the dog in and in rushes a grasshopper, into the house as fast as he could go.  What the. . ??  He was being chased, by a large spider.  I got the door closed before a spidey security breach, got the grasshopper picked up in a jar, and put him out the back door at the opposite end of the house..  Next time I opened the front door, the spider was waiting, rushing at the door again. . .

 "I Am Sparta!"  SLAM.

 We used the back door for a couple of weeks.

I can handle a lot of things, be it heights, or horror movies. But not giant spiders.

So there I was, staying with some friends who live out in the country, up at 3:30 in the morning to use the bathroom (note to self no Guinness after 8 pm) and as I'm taking care of business, a wolf spider about the size of a Buick runs across the floor towards me. Barefoot, I threw a hand towel on it and proceeded with my rendition of the Grapes of Wrath stomp.

Stomp Stomp Stomp. Die Spider Die!

No movement from under the towel. He didn't escape, the floor around it was clear. I left it there for the morning.

At 5 am, I got up (wearing slippers just in case) and look at the towel, prepared to just shake it outside and then throw it in the wash. But what caught my eye was the large dead spider, legs curled up, a few inches away. He'd managed to crawl out and expire next to the tub, rolled up like a crescent roll. OK. At least he was dead. I went to get a paper towel to dispose of the remains.

This is where the fun started

I came back and Mr. Spider was completely reanimated, and pissed off, on TOP of the towel, ready to pounce on my foot like a Chihuahua on a pork chop.

He'd been dead. I'd been sure of it. I'm kind of trained in those things. Now he's back.

I had the only zombie spider in all of the Midwest.

Fortunately, I was highly trained in zombie spider removal and wearing nothing but tactical bunny slippers, dispatched him with a roll of paper towels.

Zombie Spider Rule # 2
The Double Tap

Thursday, April 21, 2016

In Today's News

I was sitting in the eye doctors office, waiting for the yearly exam, thumbing  some ancient reading material. Oh look, an old news headline. . .

10 killed in bat stampede in South Africa.

Oh wait, I guess that word was "bar".

I hate to admit it , but it appears rebel pilot girl needs reading glasses.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

POTP for Loveable Lily

Residents of Blogville - this has been a sad week - first our friend Mitch going to the Bridge and now

was diagnosed with cancer. Please go give her Mom some support and special Blogville love.
 Abby Lab

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Keep it, or throw it out?

In cleaning out the closest and drawers as winter clothing is cleaned and tucked away in storage, it's sometimes not an easy decision. Some items can be mended, but only if there is enough wear left to make it worth the time and effort.  Some items, that look like someone lost a jousting match with a paint can, are easier to toss away.

Most of us regularly go through our things, to clear space, to create room for new things, sometimes to the point it's almost an obsession.  I've met people that can not function if they don't shop almost daily, often for things they don't need, and can't afford, just because they have a psychological  need to buy something. I once was sent to a home that had belonged to a hoarder. There was barely any light but for the lamps, items piled up over window height; a gloom that  brooded over the clutter, as if angered by the light that came only with the flip of a switch. A single person lived there, with no room for family, for visitors, only for more possessions, most of which were in bags never opened.
I found that unbearably sad; even more so than the reason I was there.

Yet, in some ways, all of us are prone to gather up "things" that take up space.  I certainly have more lathe bits around than are likely allowed by law, and there are pots and pans of every conceivable size in the kitchen. There's also copies of cooking magazines, and oh, so many books. But those are things we use and re-read.

My first home on my own was a showpiece.  Three levels, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, full of beautiful new furniture, art and all the trappings of success.  I spent all of my time and money maintaining itwhich left little time or money for anything else. I liked to say I loved it, yet after another night alone in that place, but for Barkley, I had to admit to myself that there was a visceral response to the terrible loneliness of that open space, and I yearned for the lean days where life was simple and full of hope.

Giving most of it to charity; paring it down to just those things I really cherished, was the most liberating thing I've ever done.
I remember standing out that night in the woods a few weeks after I sold the house, duty having called, finding sense in the senseless, finding my purpose even as sparrows fall to earth. People watching from a distance would think me too quiet, too still, shouldn't this activity be a frenzy of lights and motion, like on TV?  But there is great activity in being the quiet observer, standing in a stillness that smells of silence,  breathing in so many scents in damp cold  air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlaid with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the nights quiet as all I see, smell and feel, forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.
I knew then what my reality was, and it was not that house full of "things" Our reality is held only by us, not by others. They can only see the show, never really knowing what they are truly seeing.

Now my house is tiny, warm, full of the abandoned and reclaimed, almost every bit of wooden furniture rescued from a curb and restored. So much history here, so much laughter as that work was done. I look at it now, not with that quick glance that is a short day, greedily grabbed and then forgotten, but in the sustained light of memories made.

It was a busy weekend of "spring cleaning",  an old broken washing machine left out by the trash where it soon disappeared as planned, by others that look to take what is cast off and make something worthwhile from it. There were also bags of trash and non repairable clothing and such out in the bin to be discarded. The sun was setting, the sky and the horizon welded in one bright spark, soon to be snuffed out.  Everything around me dissolved into that last bit of warmth, bags of trash, heavy in my arms, everything in them at one time, fashioned out of love, duty or desire, which all bear their own weights.
Then, with everything out to be picked up, it was time to call Dad. For Dad is the one, person, more than anyone I know, who understands the importance of letting go and holding on.

I've written of it here before, as it's a journey many a family has been on,   Seventeen years into a happy remarriage after my Mom died from cancer, my stepmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She had long term care insurance, something she and her late husband had policies for. It covered nursing care, but Dad steadfastly refused to put her in a home, caring for her at home, even in his own declining years.
The disease's progression was as predictable as its course was certain.  Mood swings and aggression, words that made no sense, dropping to the floor like marbles, tears as she tried to mentally gather them up, anger at the very air around her. She always was gentle with my Dad though. Only with him would she remain calm, the reasoning that was blind and deaf somehow responding to something in him that her mind could still see.

Dad cared for her at home, no matter how bad it got. We couldn't visit, for we were strangers, and she'd go into a hysterical fury if we tried to enter the home.  Dad was her calm and her constant.  We arranged for someone to come in and lend a hand a few hours a week with the cooking and housework but he refused to let anyone else care for "his girl" or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, was just days.

Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.
We laid her to rest  on tree covered hill top. We visit, we bring flowers, we hug and shed some tears, neither of us immune to having our heart broken.  Then we smile through the tears, sharing their stories as we make the long trip home to photos and a little stuffed bear wearing the colors of the flag.

One of those photos is one of she and  Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people. Not many people could have cared for her by themselves as my Dad did, for so long.  But I understand.  Love is a story that tells itself.

On my couch is a the form of a black dog. Dumped during the holidaysheartworm positive at a high kill shelter. She responds with a heartbreaking and plaintive urgency to the sound of small children laughing as well as men walking while smoking a cigarette.  The first time I witnessed it, I cried. Apparently she was with a family, with a smokermoney for cigarettes but not for the medicine that would have kept her safe.

Rescued, and recovering from a sometimes brutal treatment for the disease; we adopted her.  What was one person's decision to be rid of a burden was a saving grace in a house that had a gaping hole in it.
What we hold on to and what we let go, is as telling as the words we say. It took me years to understand it, but the words of Henry David Thoreau make perfect sense to me now.

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it".

I realized that there were certain things, and in the past, even certain people, that simply violated my sense of thrift, exacting things out of me well beyond their worth. That concept was  lost to me when I was young, but as I got older, with truth stripped of its clock of immortality, it was clear.
As I take out some things to be picked up by AmVets, I look around me. Shadows move like ghosts over the sun, deepening the grass to the color of jewels. The last bit of snow has melted, the dark earth trembling to release spring's flowers.  At the side of a house an old trellis that needs to be repaired before new life grabs onto it yet again.  I gather it close to my chest to take it inside to be mended, rather than tossed away.  This is my home I think, as I bend my face down to it, breathing in the scent of old wood, holding the weight securely as I move inside.  I could bury my face in it, this small thing to be salvaged from this place that I had always been seeking..

Home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward.  Hope and love,  love and desire, can also be merely sounds, that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed, and will not until such time as they forget the words. 
 - LBJ

Monday, April 18, 2016

Paws Raised for Mitch

I blew my knee out again this week so today was setting up MRI and perhaps surgery. But please stop in at the blog for

and see the link he put up for Mitch.  Sadly, Mitch made that long crossing to the bridge today. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Hugs and tail wags of support for his family.

LB and Abby Lab

Saturday, April 16, 2016

On Focus

There is nothing in the world as focused as a dog who has just spied her treat.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Funnies - When Dogs Dream

We've all seen our dogs when they dream. The back legs may twitch, sometimes they give out a soft little woof.

But I wonder - what does Abby dream she is doing? Is she having an adventure? Is she famous? Is she pulling off the great stuffie caper?

I guess I'll never know.