MID-NIGHT SERENADE

Moon and Venus

2 a.m.

I gently arouse Leia from her puppy slumber, and we head into the yard for a mid-night toilet.

The late winter blackness envelops us.

Venus is brilliant in the south-western sky.

Orion, the hunter, stands guard as Leia and I meander slowly in the darkness.

There is something inherently peaceful about being outdoors in the middle of a warm February night. 

The foibles of life fade into the blackness.

Tiny bits of light pollution from the street bleed into our orbit, falling upon dew-laden blades of grass.

Leia finally squats, and the serenade of her waterfall is like a lullaby. 

She explores mid-night scents while I breathe in deeply of the star dust.

We’re in no hurry to return indoors.

Suddenly Leia’s tiny puppy nose snuffs and twitches with excitement.

She has come upon two earthworms copulating, totally oblivious to their alien audience.   

A moonlit night serenading invertebrate sex.

Leia and I retreat quietly, leaving the hermaphrodites to their romantic intercourse.

LIFE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA

Author’s note: This was a hard post for me to write. The internet and social media are drowning in negativity, drama, prejudice, and self-absorption. I’ve been working on this for nearly a week and have not felt comfortable hitting the publish button. The content is so mundane and too much about me. I assume most of us who have the option to stay home are facing similar challenges and changes to our routine during the enforced quarantine. So if blogging means being transparent and authentic, then I need to share. All photos are mine.

Life in the time of cholera. Apologies to Garcia Marquez. The Spanish word cólera can refer to both the disease cholera, but also to extreme anger or rage. It’s related to the little-used English word choleric, which means wrathful.

Life these days is impacted by the coronavirus which has disease-like manifestations. It is life in the midst of calamity.  “Cholera” alludes both to the plague that is ravaging the Earth’s people as well as to the provocation of societal wrath, frustration, and despair.

My life in the time of cholera has taken on a new routine centered around my existence at home. We, as individuals, have been forced to exercise our coping mechanisms by the restrictions imposed upon us.

How am I coping?

CLEANING — cleaning out, re-organizing, and de-cluttering which also serves to clean my internal house. Clutter, external or internal, has always tended to increase my level of stress – for me it’s about ridding my life of so much unnecessary “stuff!” 

BIRD WATCHING — I fill my bird feeders and enjoy bird activity. The goldfinches are starting to turn yellow, and I’m waiting to spot my first bluebird.  Ever the optimist, I made my sugar water solution and filled my hummingbird feeder.  I live in anticipation of spotting the first hummer.  https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migration-spring-2020-map.htm

a lucky capture last summer

I WRITE — I’ve enjoyed chronicling Leia’s growth and development on my blog, and it feels good to be back to a semblance of regular writing.  My mind constantly mulls over possible prompts for topics to share with my readers and finding (or taking) appropriate photos or images to use with a post.

PHOTOGRAPHY – one of my passions. There’s a deep stirring in my creative center that is nudging me to pull out my Canon and also to experiment with my recently converted infra-red camera.  I’m grateful for the freedom to get in the car and take off with the dogs on one of my photo jaunts, exploring new territory and delightfully getting lost on back roads where no one minds if I poke along at 15 mph.

hydrangea

CREATIVITY AND COLLAGE – Free time to be creative is always a bonus.  Last week I started a “limited edition” coronavirus card series. Humor does help to maintain sanity and perspective during challenging times. 

One of my cards

WALKING – I love to walk, and especially in the company of my dogs.  Leia and Heidi are a joy to have as walking companions, each of us enjoying nature in our own way.  I’m lucky to have access to many beautiful venues which are usually isolated, open, and very safe to allow the “girls” beneficial off-leash time. 

Tyler Park: one of my favorite places to walk

THE GIRLS (my dogs) – How fortunate I am to have the company of Heidi and Leia.  Living alone, and being somewhat of a loner, I am well acquainted with solitude. However, unending solitude can eventually become unhealthy. Heidi and Leia are companions in the truest sense of the word. They do communicate with me in their own way.  Caring for them fills the days, especially since puppy needs are frequent and often unpredictable. 

Leia – 4 1/2 months

READING – Just finished a delightful and imaginative YA novel by author Brandon Sanderson titled THE RITHMATIST. Luckily, just before the quarantine was imposed, I’d collected a pile of freebie discards from my public library.

Life in the time of cholera – predictable, yet sometimes unpredictable.

How are YOU, my friends and readers, coping with the days of quarantine? How are you FEELING?  What are your THOUGHTS? 

LEIA UPDATE — Many of you have asked me how Leia’s housebreaking is progressing.  She finally recovered from her UTI, which enabled me to start positive steps towards re-establishing a housebreaking routine and trying to break the unfortunate habit she’d formed of soiling in her crate. When she’s out of the crate indoors, she has been consistent in asking to go out when she needs to toilet.  She goes for days without an accident, and then will unexpectedly relapse. But I see a definite improvement, and I just keep my fingers crossed that she doesn’t get another UTI.  There is HOPE in the time of cholera.

MUCH ADO ABOUT . . .

One morning last week Leia came out of her crate limping on her right foreleg. I figured it was either a soft tissue strain or perhaps a touch of panosteitis. Often abbreviated as PANO, panosteitis is a painful inflammation of the outer surface or shaft of one or more long bones of the legs. It is sometimes called growing pains. It is a condition that sometimes occurs in young, rapidly growing dogs. Heidi experienced it when she was a puppy.

Because I was uncertain of the nature of the lameness, I was taking Leia out for fresh air and to toilet on leash to keep her from excessive running and jumping.  One afternoon while we were ambling about the yard Leia pooped. I pulled out a bag from my pocket and picked it up. Because I have a landscape service and Heidi sometimes is tempted to eat stools, I am in the habit of picking up immediately. I also like knowing that I can freely walk about my yard and not worry about stepping on a turd.

Since I had my fence installed, I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing the “bag” over the fence to the special poop disposal can.  I have very good hand eye coordination, and my bags usually land right beside the can or within 6 inches. 

the special disposal can with white plastic liner

Leia was busy investigating under a shrub and going in all directions, entangling me in the leash. I was off balance but took a swing and heaved the fully loaded bag. It arced gracefully and sailed skyward, making a perfect landing on the porch roof. 

I just stood there, momentarily dumbfounded. Was that bag destined to disintegrate on the roof?

Then I started to laugh at myself.

I went upstairs and poked my head out the window nearest to where the bag had landed.  I quickly did some rough calculations and decided that my 15 foot leash would reach.  I grabbed a fence flag, bent it into the shape of a hook and snapped the end of the leash to it. 

Meanwhile I’d texted my neighbor Fran because I knew she’d get a huge kick out of my ineptitude. She enthusiastically said she wanted to be a spectator when I tried to retrieve the bag and would gleefully watch my failed attempts from her dining room window.

I proceeded upstairs with my line and hook and stuck my head and torso out the window.  I looped the end of the leash around my wrist so I wouldn’t lose it and need to retrieve that in addition to the bag!  I gathered the leash and hook and threw it towards the bag; it took about 10 tries before the hook finally snagged my target.  I pulled it very slowly until the hook slipped off. The bag was now about 6 feet from the window, and it took another 10-12 tries to hook it again and pull it within grabbing distance.  Success!

I then threw the bag down to the lawn below.  I went downstairs, out to the yard, grabbed the bag, and took my bow while Fran applauded me in person and via text message. 

This time the bag hit its target and landed right beside the disposal can. 

All those years of casting a fly rod finally paid off. . .

A TWIZZLE TALE

Author’s Note:  My parents loved word play, and I grew up listening to my dad prounce words phonetically, reverse initial consonants, and to my mother reciting alliteration.  Those of you who went to school with me may remember my Dad reversing initial consonants on the names of my classmates and cracking everyone up. There were Ran Doddick, Hancy Noke, Fronny Janklin, Hean Jowland, Baty Kollinger, and I was Glebbie Dessner. So it’s kind of natural that I still succumb to idiotic wordplay, and usually the only ones to hear me jabbering away are my dogs!

So here’s a goofy one for you. Just blame docial sistancing. . .

Twonce upon a twime the puppy had a twizzle at the end of her tail. But the twizzle got twaggled, and the pup twisted and twomped. So the twizzle got twimmed, and the twaggle twisted into a waggle. So much for twabberwocky and twibbles . . . This pup now has a twusty twagger.

(I set this up to appear as verse, but WordPress wouldn’t keep the formatting. Use your imagination.)

THE NAYSAYERS

Are you telling me it’s too dangerous?!

When I made the decision to chronicle Leia’s puppy-hood, I vowed to be transparent and honest.  When one enters the blogosphere, it is unavoidable that you open yourself to the “naysayers,” people who can only make negative comments and argue points made. 

Have I ever been a naysayer? Absolutely!  When one gets into the senior years with lots of experiences under one’s belt, it’s not uncommon to be a bit opinionated. But there’s a difference between being downright negative and pessimistic as opposed to expressing an opinion tactfully with intent to share or to help.

I consider myself fairly dog savvy, having owned dogs, cats, and horses for over 60 years. Over these many years, my animals have been amazing teachers. Fortunately, I learned how to “listen” to them and accept their teachings.  Observations of animal behavior has led me to read more to better my understanding of behavior, body language, and how animals think. 

Social media has done much damage in portraying animals as “fur babies” with videos being broadcast of pets displaying mis-interpreted CUTE human-like behavior.  One video in mind, which has gone viral, shows a dog sitting with a Down Syndrome child.  The dog is putting its leg around the child and its paw on the child’s shoulder while the child tries to hug and interact with the dog.  “Awwwww,” viewers are saying. Those who understand animal behavior immediately see all the red flags being raised:  the dog’s stiffened body, hard eyes, ears back, all avoidance tactics . . . this is a bite waiting to happen. And if the bite occurs, the dog is blamed, not the person who allowed the interaction to progress to this point. 

Experiences like these are when my naysayer tendency appears.

But, I digress . . .

As a responsible dog owner, I make decisions daily regarding the welfare of my dogs.  Those decisions include, feeding, vet care, exercise, training, bonding, and mental wellness. Owning a pet is all about establishing balance.  I truly believe that if we work hard to set balance in our own lives that we better understand how to extend it to our dogs. 

When I write my posts, they reflect my PERSONAL approach to being an informed custodian of my dogs based on 60 plus years of experiences with animals. I DO step outside the boundaries at times, especially when it comes to my strong belief that dogs need time and freedom to BE dogs. They need time to run and romp, sniff new odors, and interact in the natural environment.  Are there risks? Certainly. But as a dog owner, I conscientiously work to minimize those risks by making sensible judgment calls where to allow my dogs to have the joy of being able to sniff and run to their heart’s content.  I have found my dogs to be intuitive and sensible about interacting in the natural world because they have had the opportunity to learn how to deal with freedom from an early age. 

But in the blogosphere, the ever present naysayers are like a broken record.

Don’t . . . shouldn’t . . . too dangerous . . . irresponsible . . . the negativity flows ceaselessly.  The naysayers are certainly entitled to their opinions based on their own experiences, but the expression of those opinions would be more readily welcomed and accepted if stated in a positive, sharing, and caring manner.

“One of the keys to success is an unflinching belief that there are no rules. Anyone who’s ever succeeded has gone on that premise, not buying into established procedures, business or otherwise. The naysayers are inevitably left behind amid their shouts of ‘it cannot be done’ and ‘should not be done’.”    Anton Szandor LaVey 

AND NOW A WORD FROM HEIDI

Heidi

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I am not a person that subscribes human emotions and behavior to my dogs, but this morning while watching Heidi and Leia play, I couldn’t help but hear an imaginary monologue from Heidi running through my head.  Definitely stream of consciousness. . .

“She’s a stinker!  I should be canonized as a saint!

I am working hard to teach her the concept of fair play! She’s slowly starting to understand, BUT she still insists on walking under me and between my hind legs!  She must think it’s a safe zone. . . I give her the benefit of my submission, but she takes advantage of my generosity.  She pulls my ears and grabs my ruff . . . no question about it, she plays ruff!

So I give her the gift of hair balls. Makes me chuckle when she coughs up a wad of my hair. Serves her right for trying to make a meal out of me!

She then resorts to stalking me – just like a cat!  I pretend not to see her which fills her little puppy heart with glee.

Then she goes into tail attack which I absolutely HATE with a passion.  I am so proud of my ‘wagger’.  When I feel her grab my tail, I give her HELL. I growl and show my teeth and chase her.  As soon as I think she’s gotten my firm message, she just comes back and attacks again! I deliver my ultimatum over and over, and she just sasses me with her yappy puppy bark. Good Grief! 

the tail attack

But I do have to say, that her grabs are carrying less bite these days because she is losing her teeth! Glory Hallelujah!  Pretty soon all she’ll be able to do is ‘gum me”.  <chortle> The tooth fairy is going to be busy.

Miss Leia also thinks she’s in the Blue Haven Band. She grabs her stainless steel dish and plays the cymbals. Heaven Forbid. . . my poor ears! Just so she doesn’t advance to the glockenspiel!

I repeatedly have to lay down the law to the little stinker. I’d better frame my canine PhD diploma in puppy discipline and hang it over her crate. Then perhaps she will accord me the respect I deserve. 

I tell ya, life ain’t boring with Miss Leia around. She’s no cherub; she’s a royal pain in the ass!”

Signing off . . . Saint Heidi, PhD

LEIA UPDATE

16 weeks

A grateful thank you to those of you who responded with thoughts and suggestions to my last post of frustration. The support really helped me jump start my coping mechanisms.  Last Monday, I made a spontaneous appointment to take Leia to my vet. I sensed a potential relapse in her UTI infection based on her drastic change in toileting after having five great days.  Dr. Jackie is such a good listener and so supportive. She ultimately decided to change Leia’s antibiotic to one slightly stronger than the amoxicillin. She said we would re-evaluate Leia this coming Monday when she goes in for her last round of vaccinations. Hopefully Leia’s follow up diagnostics shows the infection to be cleared up.

In the meantime, my new black chain link fence was installed. The fence guys were great and so meticulous. It took them two days (puppy fixes included), and we were blessed with gorgeous weather.  A physical fence is giving me such peace of mind. It is such a joy to now allow Heidi and Leia the freedom to run and romp without worrying that Leia will take off towards New Road or to visit with the neighbor’s children.

In conjunction with the physical fence, I had my existing Invisible Fence reconfigured to keep the dogs out of my shade garden, away from the generator, propane tanks, and cables, and to deny them access to bird seed on the ground. 

Leia also started her KPT (Kindergarten Puppy Training) class.  It was a bit boring because there was only one other puppy in the class; it’s so much more enjoyable and entertaining with multiple dogs and owners and better for the puppies. KPT is now on hold, like almost everything else, due to the COVID 19 pandemic. 

Thursday, Heidi, Leia, and I had a fantastic walk in Tyler State Park with our dear friends Sharon and Tom. It was Leia’s first time in the park, and our walk took us through a corn field where visibility is so open that it was safe to allow Leia some off-leash fun.  She enjoyed chewing on corn cobs, thinking about sampling fresh horse poop, and romping with Heidi.  Sharon took this wonderful photo of us which really captures the joy we feel when spending time in nature. 

This morning Leia and I went to visit our good friends Nan and Bob so Leia could meet their dogs April and Penny.  She had a great time romping with April and Penny but also took time to dive into Nan’s fish pond – total immersion.  I think the cold water was a bit of a shock to her, but after I quickly pulled her out, she just shook herself off and went back to playing.  She’s going to be a real water dog.

Sometimes I think Leia is Hannah reincarnated. So many of her shenanigans and her joie de’vivre are pages taken out of Hannah’s book. These smart dogs who have a mind of their own are often challenging to train. It’s an effort to constantly stay one step ahead of her so Leia doesn’t turn the tables and try to train me!

Leia has now had five great crate and housebreaking days, and I finally have a good feeling about her progress and recovery.

Obviously, the coronavirus social-distancing recommendations throws a monkey wrench into continued socialization. When restrictions are lifted, we will resume visiting new venues and meeting new people.

Warmest wishes from Heidi, Leia, and me as we all negotiate these challenging medical restrictions and sold out toilet paper.  Stay healthy and stay tuned!