Friday, November 30, 2007

My note to Google

Here is my feedback to Google.
  • I removed my AdSense from my blog. Google allows the puppymillers to advertise. This is EXTREMELY bad business (as eBay found out). I tried to block the ad from as soon as I saw it, but I got HOWLING MAD at the notion that my readers thought I would allow those purveyors of mysery on my blog. I know it takes hours to remove the ad. But it is simply unacceptable for five minutes, much less five hours.You would win fans the WORLD over if you follow eBay's policy of no sales of live animals - or advertising of such. Really, it's got to be a tiny share of your advertising market, and if you made a Press Release that you were doing that you would do more positive promoting of Google than ten thousand paid advertisements.

Only I included the real URL for the puppy mill scammer. Should I try to start an Internet campaign to pressure Google to stop advertising live pets? eBay stopped, and no one thought they would.

I've seen ads for puppy mill puppies occasionally in my GMail, and it made me sick, but oh this was so personal, like I was personally condoning the creeps.

Ranting and freaking and needing to do something about it.


Need photos of (Christ)mass destruction! CONTEST!

I am writing an online article (for about why it is a Bad Idea to give a puppy or dog as a Christmas present. Does anyone have a photo of a dog caught in the act of mass destruction you could email to me? If Christmas trees or decorations are sacrificed, even better! But any big mess made by a creative canine will be most appreciated. You could email them to me.

The best photo will win its dog a custom made beauteemous Holiday collar!!! WOW! How fun is that! Here are some examples of the trim we could choose, and the style of flat, side release collar I am talking about.
Thank you in advance!


In my Google Ad box on this blog this morning I find an ad for

It will take up to a couple of hours for the ad to go away after I blocked it, so if it is still there, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND DOGS, do NOT click on it. And, please if you ever, ever, ever see an ad for puppies on my blog, please leave me a comment (which will send me an email) and I will get rid of it. Now I must search for all the online puppy miller websites and block them one by one from Google Adsense. I've written a complaint for what that's worth.

Hmmmm. Better idea. Bye bye Google ads.

Internet puppy brokers get their puppies from puppy mills.




Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Lady Maria

Maria will be thirteen on February 7th. Unimaginable! She is ageless.

Maria was the fourth whippet in as many years to join our family. First came Gracious who was going to be my only whippet ever. A year and a half later Caruso flew across the country to keep Gracious company. The next year Giacomino came, in Operation Rescue. Then Maria. She was the baby. A dear friend who helped out at a large show kennel fell in love with her and conspired to get her in a loving home. "There is something about her expression," she said to me. "You have to have her."

I went to the kennel. Because of the sheer number of whippets there, I was horrified. All of the dogs were happy and all of the runs were clean. But there were three litters with only a few weeks separating them in the "puppy building." My friend led me by my appalled elbow to the front of the run which housed Maria, her mother, and her litter mates. The litter was seven weeks old. The mom stood and wagged at us, waking her sleeping brood. The puppies tumbled over each other, yawning and stretching and running to meet us. Maria stayed out of the scrum, but her eyes never left mine as she play-bowed and did a little twinkling "ah-roooo."

My friend got her out of the run. At seven weeks, she already stacked (the legs parallel, head up show pose) perfectly, but she was uncomfortable being held. She was friendly and engaging, but stiff as a board when you held her in your arms. I imagined with this many puppies, the only time they got held was to do toenails and vaccinations and wormer. So I put her down and played with her. "Woo ah-roooo!" she said. Such a mouthy little one.

Show breeders like to keep their puppies to "grow them out." It's much easier to see if a five month old pup is likely to make it in the show ring than a nine week old. My friend kept nagging at the breeder to "give" the red and white bitch to Patience. Finally at a show, I was in the ring with the breeder. We were both in line waiting for our ribbons after a large class was judged. She was a Big Deal in the dog show world and I was a Newbie. I was intimidated. I said, "See, if you let me buy that red and white puppy I will get her out and show her. I'm still learning, but I'm getting better at handling."

"Oh, you want to buy her? Your friend was trying to get me to give her to you. If you want to buy her, I'll bring her to the show tomorrow and you can take her home." All righty then. I had no idea my friend had been trying to get me the puppy for free. And I was so new "In Dogs". I had dogs all of my life, but the Dog World was a novelty with unfamiliar rules and customs. I am now ashamed of having supported a breeder who churned out litter after litter after litter after litter.

But I just didn't know back then.

So the next day Maria came home. She was five months old.

I named her Maria to appease Bill. He had wanted to name his oldest daughter Maria, but his waspy first wife thought that Maria Renzulli sounded too Italian. I'm waspier by double than his first wife, but I thought Maria was a lovely name, and how could Bill mind another whippet if it bore his first choice name?

She was a darling puppy. So full of spit and spirit. And mouthy! What a talker. She never, ever challenged Queen Gracious's authority. I could not get her over her dislike of being held, and Lord knows I tried. She would tremble and hold herself at arm's length, pushing with all her little might. And when I would put her down she would shake herself off and bounce grateful "woo-woo's" at me and run and find a toy to kill. Glad to have escaped the torturous lap time alive.

And now, when she'll be thirteen in a couple of months, she has finally had a change of heart. For all of these years she has been the House Clown. If I had a nickle for every time I have exclaimed, "Oh, Maria you make me laugh," I would be able to buy a nice motor home, free and clear. And her mouth! She has even gotten mouthier in her dotage, as impossible as that seems. I borrowed a trick I saw from another whippet person. I can ask Maria, "What does a cheerleader say?" "Rah, rah, rah!" she says, bouncing her forelegs off the ground with every rah. I need ear plugs to fix their dinners. She starts when I move the bowls from the sink to the counter. "Whine, rooo, rah-rah, don't forget me! Hurry up human. Oh, the help is terrible these days. A mature whippet could starve to death by the time you get the bowls down. How hard is it to scoop the dinner in the bowl? Are you still at it? What is taking so long? Hellooooooooooo? Yahooooooooo! Here it is!" Then she daintily eats, one kibble at a time, staring daggers at any dog who finishes before her and saunters over to see if she's going to eat all of hers. "RRhhhrrrrrr," she warns, keeping one eye on the interloper and one eye on her dish, refraining to take another bite until the curious backs off. "Oh Maria you make me laugh! Eat your silly dinner."

But back to that change of heart. In Maria's contract it clearly states that she must be covered. Any time, day or night, she will woof to summon her Humble Servant to tuck her under her blanket. Now, she is perfectly capable of doing this herself, and when I come back from running errands, I will find her all tucked in. She pulls and bites the blanket, and circles and moans, and finally she is completely invisible in her shroud of warmth. But if I'm in ear shot, downstairs, upstairs, in the middle of a dinner party for twelve, in the shower, whatever, I will be mustered to her Ladyship's bedside.

Her change of heart? Lately she has stood by my chair and whined. Being a limited and dumb Servant I try several different tacks to appease her. I move her great granddaughter off of Maria's favorite chair. "Is that what you want?" No. I go and open the door. "Do you need to go out?" No. "Are you chilly?" I put her jammies on. That's nice but no. I let her lick my oatmeal bowl. "Is that what you wanted?" Yum, no. "What ever is it, Sweetheart?" Whine, whine, sad eyes, whine. "Oh, Honey, I'm sorry. I'm so slow. Humans are just so hard to re-train. Here you go."

I scoop her up and hold her in my lap. She stiffens for the lift up and for an awkward moment until I settle her just right in my arms. Then she nuzzles in, and sigh-moans in contentment. And relaxes and melts into my heart.

Oh Maria you make me laugh. After twelve and a half years you are my lapdog. What a lucky human am I.


And now for a little excitement! There is a group of wonderful bloggers called Dogs With Blogs. The whippets are making lots of new friends there from all over the world. They met an unreservedly delightful little Wire Fox Terrier named Asta from NYC that has taken the waggle under her sweet paw. She does not talk baby-talk, being a clever and precocious litter terrier, but she does have a bit of trouble pronouncing her "r's" - probably part of that New Yowk accent.
She is so kind and sweet and her secretary helps her to have just the nicest blog, so we made her this award to show our appreciation:

The Blog With Heart Award
  • For consistently using compassion, humor and intelligence to create a blog worthy of the dogs who inspire us.

Do visit Asta's blog, and you'll see what I mean!

(The whippets are a little embarrassed by my lack of graphics skills, but they think that Asta will understand.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Reason to Live

I used Phyllis as a basis for the fictional character in my story, Time for a Little Fiction. In real life, Phyllis is eighty-six years old. She is a widow whose only son passed away several years ago. And her beloved fifteen year old whippet died this past summer.

Phyllis hadn't been without a whippet for at least twenty-five years. Possibly longer. (There are more stories for me to hear.) I had met Phyllis on two occasions during the last five years, when friends of hers brought her by my husband's gallery to see "the whippets." A lovely lady, soon forgotten among the hubbub of my everyday craziness.

She called me this summer. At fifteen, her Zipper had succumbed to renal failure, and she couldn't bear to be without a whippet. Could I help her find one? She said she understood that many breeders would be worried that she was too old, but perhaps since I was involved with Whippet Rescue I might hear of an older whippet who needed a home. Yes, I said, I might. I would get the word out.

I posted a note to the Rescue List, and looked through the available rescues. There was an eleven year old in Texas, but her foster mom did not want her to travel out of state. And there were no other older whippets in rescue. Good for whippets. Bad for Phyllis.

A friend of Phyllis' called me a few weeks later. No, I hadn't found a dog yet. Yes, I was looking, but it might take a little while to find the right match. I asked Pam to email me. I kept the email message in my "unfilled orders" folder, to keep me on task. But I really didn't need the daily reminder; Phyllis stayed on my mind.

My summer went busily on, filled with the magic of whippet beauty and grace and silliness and unstuffed stuffies and show wins and tender curled up moments on the couch and zoomies and wags and ah-wooooos. I got another phone call from Pam. She was worried about her friend, who was getting too sad. "She just wants a whippet to love, surely you can understand that." Surely I could. And I thought about outliving my husband after years of our precious marriage, and my only son, and finally my whippet, and I felt my heart start to twist into a fisted ball. I put out another plea, but there just weren't any whippets in rescue which would suit.

And autumn came, and Sammy and I were training for our Agility Trial, and I was going to Marketing meetings, and Mainstreet Board meetings, and I was sewing orders, and sitting on the porch in the evenings with my Very Old Dog in my lap and my husband in another chair and the young dogs playing tug with a toy and amusing us all. And friends stopped by for a glass of wine and a dish of pasta and we laughed and I begged them not to give the dogs any more cheese and they did anyway.

And one morning while I was so busy, out of the blue I thought of Phyllis. And then I found I wasn't so busy after all. I thought, "There has got to be a whippet for that woman." All I could do was post another request to the Rescue List. I clicked on the Yahoo Groups page and signed in. I clicked on the Rescue group and posted my message.

  • I still have a wonderful home for an older bitch. A woman in my town lost her fifteen year old whippet this summer and is devastated. She is eighty-six, but would be a perfect home for a senior needing love. If there are no rescues, does anyone know of a breeder who wants to place an older bitch? thanks - Patience

Within minutes, my own message came to my Inbox. What? I don't get the rescue list messages, I read them on the web. Oh no! I had clicked on the wrong group and sent the request to the general whippet group where it is against the rules to post "whippet wanted" and "whippet available". Oh, I almost died. I immediately posted an apology and an explanation that I had clicked on the wrong group and wished I could melt.

And then another message came to my Inbox. "I think I have the perfect bitch for your lady. Her name is Maddie."

Pam took over and arranged with Maddie's generous breeder to get her to Phyllis. In talking about the how's and when's Pam mentioned to me that Phyllis had recently prayed that if she couldn't ever have another whippet to please let her accept that and to help her stop aching and feeling so empty. "When did she pray that?" I asked. "Um, I think just a couple of weeks ago," said Pam. I realized then and there that it wasn't my fault that I clicked on the wrong group.

And today, I went to visit Phyllis and her new whippet. They've been together for just over a week. "Oh, she just snuggles so close in bed and we keep each other warm," beamed Phyllis. Maddie wagged and smiled and circled adoringly around Phyllis. "And you know, when I get my cane, she waits for me to get the door open and she lets me go through first. And she tells me when it's time for her dinner!" I sat on the couch, listening to Phyllis talk about going off to college ("my parents wanted me to be able to take care of myself if something happened to them") in New York, and seeing her first whippet. And I watched Maddie lying under her new human's chair, listening as intently as I was to every word. "She's perfect, you know. She gives me sweet kisses and isn't she so beautiful?"

Yes, she is indeed beautiful. I looked at this lady's beautiful face, so animated and happy. Radiant. And I saw the same radiance mirrored in Maddie's expression. I was completely satisfied that this was a perfect match, and I thanked Phyllis for the lovely visit. I needed to get on with my busy day. As I was putting on my coat, I remarked how wonderfully I thought everything had turned out. With her hand resting on Maddie's head, Phyllis said "Well, you see, I really didn't have anything to live for. And now I do. I'm Maddie's Mommy, and I can't stop smiling."


Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Lovely Visit

It truly was a lovely visit.

I tend to get just a wee bit stressed before any overnight guests arrive. I'm not one of those Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, Martha Stewart, Home and Garden, Southern Living types. I would dearly love to be, and sometimes I try to fool myself into thinking that I am, but I am so not. If you had to correlate my housekeeping skills to a magazine, it would have to be Mad Magazine.

Amy and Bob were coming with our grandchildren, William and Abigail. Abigail is desperately allergic to dogs, but is such a good sport about it that I feel terrible. So I try to sterilize the house to lessen her symptoms. Floors, walls, slipcovers, window treatments, dogs - nothing escapes my crazed cleaning frenzy. But of course, if I do all that a week before they arrive, it's useless when there are nine dogs in the house. (It is really useless no matter what, but it makes me feel better, and the house needs cleaning anyway: there are nine dogs in the house.)

So Bill started on Sunday and Monday, tidying and cleaning out the junk drawers, while I finished up my orders and started laundering dog bedding. I bought two new dog beds for the kitchen/dining room, but didn't put them down yet. We bought new pillows for the guest rooms. Then on Tuesday, I went into Psycho Cleaning Woman mode. The dogs hate Psycho Cleaning Woman mode. First I dusted, vacuumed, and washed all the rooms which could be closed off from the beasties. Still doing load after load of dog blankets.

(You have to lie somewhere while the Crazy Woman washes the floor!)

On Wednesday, I bathed all nine dogs. I scrubbed them silly and even Very Old Dog was not exempt. It was rainy but warm outside in the morning. Substituting baths for walks was not a popular move. Then I began to sterilize the parts of the house which have unlimited doggy access. Bill came in to help and let Swede William and Lindy Loo out. Did I mention that it was warm and wet outside? I called them back in and re-bathed the little mudboggins, re-washed the floor where they had deposited their muddy footprints and mopped up the bucketful of dirt they sprayed the kitchen with when they shook. Then I went out in the yard with a shovel and did my best to fill in the three foot deep hole they had dug.

All the while, I was doing dog blanket laundering. I chucked the old dog beds and brought in the pretty new fresh ones. I noticed that the wind had really picked up and the temperature was dropping. I know I had heard the Emergency Alert going off on the radio every so often. Something about severe thunderstorms and hail. No time for that! I did notice that it wasn't north of us, so the travellers would be fine,

Mind you, I now have nine peeved dogs. Except dear Very Old Dog who is worried. I also do mega cleanings before leaving on a trip, and I know he was concerned about the possibility of a Dog Sitter in the near future. I took a moment to stroke his wrinkly brow. "I'm not going anywhere, Sweetheart. Lie down now and relax."

[Oh, yeah, Idiot Human! Just relax when you are firing up the Monsterous Evil Electrolux which has been known to suck up unsuspecting innocent sleeping whippets who have never been seen again. I think not.]

He stood, facing the vaccuum, one ear up all akimbo, worry wrinkles galore, pleading with me to stop the insanity. But I couldn't. So God did.

That pesky electrical storm knocked out the power. Want to see a post menopausal woman in full blown Psycho Cleaning Mode go crackers? Turn off her electricity. The vacuum went quiet (much to the relief and delight of a certain Very Old Dog). The washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher stopped. So did my heart. This was not good. I had already done all the dusting and counter top cleaning and things which didn't require electricity. I couldn't mop until I had vacuumed. I had more dog blankets to wash! Why, oh why were there so many infernal dog freaking blankets? Eight multiple-blanketed crates in the dog room, eight multiple-blanketed crates in our bedroom, blankets on every couch and chair in the house, blankets on the dog beds, we wouldn't want a whippet to suffer a chill, now would we?

I decided to let the dogs out, blocking their access to the mud pit formerly known as our yard, forcing them into the gravel potty area. Another most unpopular move. Humph they sighed, but their bladders were bursting. Then I went ahead and fed them which was met with unanimous canine approval. Early dinner - finally I had done something worthwhile.

OK, blah, blah, blah the power came back on and I mopped and polished and the whole house sparkled. (Except this little computer room, which can be closed off, and which was the repository for all the mess for which I couldn't find another place. There are now piles of stuff on every surface, and it is impossible to walk across the floor. Oh well.)

At nine o'clock I put the dogs to bed, and at 9:15 our guests arrived! Perfect timing. The dogs were so exhausted from watching my frenetic cleaning zoomies that they didn't make a peep from up in the bedroom. Oh how the kids had grown! They are our grandchildren, but I'm being completely objective when I say they are the most beautiful, charming, intelligent children ever born. We had a wonderful snack of prosciutto and Asiago cheese which Amy and Bob brought from Chicago, and bruschetta which Bill had prepared. Ah, heaven.

Abigail and William don't live with dogs. My dogs don't live with kids. Usually I keep them pretty well segregated, just to err on the side of safety. And then there's Luciano, who's special in his head because he didn't have quite enough oxygen during his birth. I kept him way separated. Except the time years ago during another visit when I came home from a walk with Amy, to find that Bill had thought I was being silly ("Oh, the dogs will be fine") and had let the dogs out loose with the kids, and five year old Abigail had backed Luciano into a corner, and Abigail was screaming with her hands waving in the air and Looch was backed as far as he could melt into the woodwork and every tooth in his head was showing. I have still not recovered from that and it was four years ago.

Abigail is a star!

But a miracle happened this visit. Nine year old Abigail and seven year old William were not seen as alien beings by the dogs. They were just little people! And Abigail had new prescription allergy medicine and wasn't sneezing, and William and his namesake Swede William became instant buddies. And we cooked together and we walked together and the neighborhood kids came over and it was just the best of visits ever.

Morning snuggle with William, Amy and Sam I Am

the two Williams

Bob and beautiful Abigail
I hope they can come for Christmas, too. The house will need another good cleaning by then anyway.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How (Not) To Walk Seven Dogs

(Images copyright 2007, Mama Pajama Tells A Story, 2nd edition, W F Renzulli, MD illustrator.)

The following is an excerpt (copyright protected, of course) from a story in my book.

Terrie was right.

She said it wouldn't work. But it seemed like it should work.

I came up with this Great Idea. The dogs were pulling me down. Literally. We’d be out walking, enjoying life, and some stinking squirrel, or rabbit, deer, groundhog, fox, figment of Opie’s imagination, whatever would take off down the path ahead of us, and the six whippets would simultaneously accelerate. It is hard to stay upright and hold on to six leads when one hundred and eighty pounds of Whippets go from two to thirty mph and you’re not expecting it. Shoot, it’s hard to do it when you are expecting it, but at least you can sit down.

I had started wearing a hefty belt outside of my coat, and affixing Giacomino’s lead to it. He was recovering from orthopedic surgery, and he simply could not run loose. So my Great Idea was to make special three to four foot long leads that would snap to heavy brass rings on the hefty belt. That way, the dogs couldn’t pull the leads out of my hands when they took off. And because the leads would be attached to my waist, my center of gravity would be lower. It was a Great Idea!

I told Terrie about it the next day at work. She looked up from her computer at me with disbelief. She didn’t think my Great Idea was so great. “I think you’ll be in trouble if some critter takes off and your dogs go after it,” she said. I explained the beauty of the Great Idea was that, what with my lower center of gravity and all, they wouldn’t be able to get me going. I could dig in my heels, quite literally, and all would be well. Terrie shook her head in her quiet way. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea,” she said, turning back to her computer.

I walked that way for about a week. There were a few close calls, but I remained on my feet, and no dogs got loose. I arrived at the office fairly beaming. “This is the Best Idea I’ve ever had,” I crowed. “I need to find a way to market this so everyone can walk all their dogs at once.”
I heard Terrie muttering that she just didn’t think it was a good idea at all.

So I’m walking all the dogs, on a lovely morning before work, congratulating myself for my Brilliant Idea. I turned the corner at the edge of the woods. There is a slight decline there, as the tractor road dips down for about a hundred yards until it turns gradually left into the woods.

I felt the speed even before I saw the rabbit. I was somehow flying. Or, not quite. I was running like the Six Million Dollar Woman: going about twenty or twenty-five miles per hour, with each stride getting longer and longer until each foot would only touch down every fifteen feet or more. I was screaming, “No, no, no, no, oh stop, no, no, no, ahhhhhhhhhh,” but the Whippets didn’t hear any of it. They were six dogs who were one. Because of the belt, I couldn’t fall down. It was like I was water-skiing or on one of those flying kites behind a boat. And we kept increasing in speed.

We had already covered the hundred yards and were turning into the woods. The stupid bunny just kept running straight down the tractor road ahead of us. It could have turned into the woods and disappeared, but noooooooooooo, it just kept running straight in front of the six Whippets and the Six Million Dollar Woman, and I swear to you, dear readers, I swear to you, at this point we were going at least, at least thirty miles an hour.

Now I’m not a particularly religious person. It’s been years since I set foot in a church. But as we entered the woods, I felt my both hands waving way up above my head. Every finger wiggling like so much wheat on a windy day. And I heard a humble little Patience voice, crying out loud, “Oh, Sweet Jesus, help me!”
The next thing I remember is wondering why on Earth I had decided to take a nap in a wild rose bush. I was lying about five feet into the woods, with my face smack up against a multiflora rose. For those lucky readers who’ve never been up close and personal with a wild rose bush, well, that’s what they use in Ireland to keep bulls away from the cows. They make barbed wire look like dental floss. There were six contrite little Whippets looking down at me, each one saying, “It wasn’t me.
No ma’am. It wasn’t me at all. I wasn’t even here. I just got here to see if I could help you. Could you move away from the roses, though?” Only dear Giacomino, who was licking the blood from the rose stickers in my chin, Giacomino with the worry wrinkles said, “Oh boy, are you all right?”

When I got to the office that morning, I was about twenty minutes late. But I had some Show And Tell as an excuse. I said, “Terrie. I have something to show you. You know how you said that the Whippet Attachment Belt was a Bad Idea? Terrie, you were right.” And I showed them my pants. There was dirt and grass stain from the back of the calves to the waist. And I showed them my shirt. There was dirt and grass and leaves and rose stickers from the back clear up to the collar, and inside the right sleeve. And I showed them my bra. There was dirt and grass and leaves and stickers and holes and blood just all over it.

“Oh, my,” exclaimed Terrie and Cheryl and husband Bill.

And then, I pulled down my scrub pants. I carefully, gingerly, pulled down the right side of my white cotton bikini briefs. I had a hematoma the size of Toledo, Ohio on my butt.

“Oh, my!” cried Terrie, Cheryl and Bill.

Terrie was right.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Dream

Sweet is the dream, divinely sweet, when absent souls in fancy meet.

-Sir Thomas Moore

I had a dream last night. Most likely sparked by a friend who spoke of a dream he had of his dog who had died last year. I felt a twinge of envy at his dreaming fortune. I used to have a rich dream life; now my dreams are sparse, vague, and melt into fog sooner than my head leaves its pillow.

But this morning I woke with a dream enveloping me, wrapping me in baby blanket clouds of comfort. I was holding Gracious, my first whippet, who died in 2004 at age thirteen.

In life Gracious was a strong spirit. She communicated with my dogdumb disadvantaged self with a shattering eloquence. I knew when Gracious was pleased with me, disappointed in me, when her life was good. She was not called Her Royal Highness for naught.

Not that she couldn't be silly. She could do "woozles" with the best of them. Butt high in the air, head poking, retreating, snaking at a squeak toy, then she would grab the toy, spin in dizzying, repetitive circles and then take off in butt tucked zoomies only to throw the toy, pounce on it, and start the game again. And then she would look at me, eyes afire with fun, and wag her joy my way. And in its purity, in its honesty, that joy was infectious. A person who could resist the spell of Gracious's joy was, well, this will sound judgemental, but a human who was not affected by Gracious's generosity of spirit was, quite simply, unworthy. Undeserving. Pitiable in their selfishness.

Gracious had the best memory of any dog - or human for that matter - I've ever encountered. I nearly lost her at a dog event when she saw a person she had lived with for a few weeks back when she was eleven weeks old. She was a yearling at the time, and she saw her old friend and bolted to greet her. She hadn't seen her for nine months, and had lived with her as a three month old puppy for a couple of weeks, but she was a Special Person to Gracious for her entire life. And I learned to hold on to Gracious's lead extra tight whenever we were somewhere that Lesley might be.

I got Gracious when she was six months old. I was her fifth home. After she had been with me for three months, I went to see a faraway friend for a week. When I returned, Gracious was nearly bald. Her hair had fallen out. I promised her I wouldn't leave her again. And I didn't.

And then there was Linda. All of my dogs adore Linda. Well, so do I! Gracious bestowed the highest honor to Linda: she gave my dearest friend her one and only puppy, Willow. And there was absolutely no question of her gift, or of her pleasure and satisfaction at Linda's acceptance.
And there came reunions of the highest order! Throughout Willow's life, at least once a week Linda would drive the hour to our farm to visit and walk, and Gracious and Willow would revel in the fantasticness of their reunification. Gracious would greet her daughter, and thank Linda and share her glee and light would shine in our small kitchen and we would every one benefit. It was a delicious contagion; a warm smile erupts as I remember.

But my dream this morning was of the quiet times with Her Highness. In life, when Gracious curled next to me, that is, when it was her idea and I was deemed deserving, she shared her deepest heart. Those of us who have completely loved an animal know this sharing. If you haven't experienced this, if your dog is tied to a tree out back, I could write a million words, yet you would not understand, and I am sorry for you. And it was this, exactly this, in my dream.

I held her in my sleep as I had held her for thirteen years. There is nothing quite so soft as a whippet's ear. Dreaming, I absently nuzzled her ear with my fingers. I felt the warmth of her body in my arms. I felt her breathing. It was so very real. I shared her heartbeat again. I embraced her spirit, and I loved her. Finally. Again.

I woke with a feeling of that contagious joy. I had tears, but they were tears of great good fortune. It was a good dream.

Gracious at age twelve, candid photo by Steve Surfman


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sam I Am checking in...

Here is the van, all loaded and ready to go:

I'm driving, and then there's Mitch, and Scruffy, and our buddies Buster and Nearly from Washington State (I went and got them Thursday. I'm fast, but not that fast!), and Koobussss and Maggie.
If you're wondering where Buster and Nearly's buddy Skeezix and our own Luciano are, they're in the way back:

Looch is Special.
You will NOT believe what happened. You will NOT believe it.

But I cannot tell you now, because the manservant is having a snart show and we have to get ready for our special treats. I will tell you tomorrow, but I will let you know that I made it home in time for my Therapy Dog Test and I passed!

till later-
Sam I Am

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blogging fun

We've made friends with a wonderful little dog who is a fellow blogger. Her name is Asta, and her blog is HERE. She is the sweetest little Wire Fox Terrier, and even though she is hairy, we are ever so fond of her. She is teaching us to get over our hairydogophobia! This will make our Servant so pleased, as she thinks we will stop barking at all the hirsute dogs who trot by our fence. (Actually we bark at the dogs who trot by our fence because it's fun. But we'll let the Servant think whatever she wants as long as she gives us bones like last night, but wait we haven't told you about that yet!) If you check out her blog, you'll see that Asta and her humans are Doers of Kind Acts and Eaters of Good Food and we're proud to get to know them.

And on top of that they gave us our own award!

This award is presented to a successful blogger, one who can “be the blog” - making it their own, staying with it, interacting with the readers, and just plain having fun.

Thank you Asta!

And, if that weren't exciting enough we have been invited out for a wild night of poker! Scruffy of Scruffy and Lacie is planning a poker party Friday night before the Michigan/Penn State game on Saturday. The photo below my gorgeous signature shot shows Sammy Goodypants, I mean Sam I Am, in the Whippet Wagon all ready to roll. He's going to drive us to the party, then to the game on Saturday, where he'll drop us off and do zoomies back to Paducah to get his Therapy Dog test. Then he'll zoom back to Michigan to pick us Fun Dogs back up and take us home. He is such a suck up.

Do NOT let my mother, the Lady Maria, hear about this. She is the Fun Police. And Swede William is NOT allowed to go. He still has his boy parts. Enough said. So it will be me, my half brother Fat Charlie (get LOTS of pizza), and Sam I Am. Maybe my sister Delia, but she does not like to travel without her manservant so I doubt it. I have to say, that I for one am glad there are going to be ladydogs there, if you know what I mean. (Even though they all say I should have auditioned for Broke Back Mountain. Just because I got a little confused when Lindy Loo was that way and I tried to get romantic with Fat Charlie. Geesh, one little mistake like that and they never let you forget it. No I wasn't the least bit interested in Lindy Loo, she's not my type. But I'm just sayin' ... Just one look at my picture there and you can tell I am all DAWG.)
Yeah, it just looks like I have eyeliner on. It's a whippet thing. That's all.

For Scruffy and Lacie!

We're ready and waiting... That's Sam I Am at the wheel.
(For everyone else, I'll be right back with a story. The whippets have been summoned for an adventure!)

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Wild Dinner Party

This is from the book, and I have it listed on eBay with a copyright link to here, so here it is!

Image copyright WF Renzulli, 2007

The Wild Dinner Party

I had been debating whether to take the dogs out to the country to let them run on that lazy Sunday. I was thinking not. We had a dinner party the night before. It had been a late night, after a long day of cooking and cleaning, and I was thinking of a day watching football, catching up on correspondence, maybe reading Southern Living for some holiday decorating ideas. But when the two oldest of my eight dogs are bouncing up and down, tails up and wagging, ears at full point, voices at full cry over a squirrel on a telephone pole just outside the upstairs bedroom window, it’s time to load everyone up for a trip to the country for a little run.

After moving to this small southern city, things just kept on being different in our new home. My dogs have always been so well behaved, a great source of personal pride and delight. Since I was a ten-year-old child, with my very first dog, a wonderful pound rescue named Rex, folks have always remarked at how well trained my dogs are. “Your dogs are so quiet, so calm,” people said about the whippets. “Your eight dogs are better behaved than our one!” they’d exclaim. I would humbly say, “Oh, they’re just good dogs,” while inside I would beam. What a great dog trainer I was.

But that night, as the guests were politely seated at our dining room table, new people that didn’t really know us yet, city people that have a pug and a Lhassa Apso, as we made quaint small talk about the recent elections, the political eccentricities of this old Southern city, my guests were looking anxiously over my shoulder into the kitchen.

Mid-sentence, I casually turned my head in the direction of their concerned glances. “I don’t understand how we’ve let Bush and Cheney off Scott free with their involvement, no entrenchment, in ...” Enron, I was about to say. I was going to be really impressive, quoting a recent interview I heard on NPR about Bush being Governor of Texas while Enron was doing all its dirty dealings, and the personal meeting Kenny-boy had with Cheney after he became the Veep, but instead, I turned my head to see Fat Charlie standing up on the counter just snacking merrily away on the apple enchiladas that were going to be dessert.

Now, a more composed hostess might have handled this situation by continuing on with her thought, casually getting up from the table, correcting the situation, and deciding to serve just the ice cream for dessert. But, alas, composure has never been my strong suit. "CHARLIEEEEEEEEE, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I leapt up from my chair, knocking into the table with such force that I spilled five of the six glasses of wine in the process. Into the guests’ laps. My glass of course is the only one to remain upright. The wine is a nice, crisp Merlot. The guests’ laps were sodden. Deep ruby.

Fat Charlie gulped faster, with gusto, wagging his tail guiltily, not even budging from his counter perch. And since I was franticly grabbing towels, napkins, anything to get the wine off the formally dressed laps, Fat Charlie was not only free to finish the home baked treats, but he was joined on the counter by his nephew Sam I Am.

In my haste, I grabbed the dog towel that I had earlier used to clean the excrement off of Giacomino’s neck. I don’t know from which animal it had been eliminated. Raccoon maybe, or skunk. Some omnivore. It was way too stinky to have been a squirrel or even a cat. Giacomino had rolled and rolled until his entire body was thick with the stuff. Never had I smelled such a eye watering, gut gagging horror. And it had been so thick that I had wiped off as much as I could with a towel before throwing the dog in the tub. And, sadly, this was the very towel with which I found myself wiping the lap of my proper city guest.

Yup, things were different for me there in the city. And, come to think of it, I bet our new friends had never been to a dinner party like that before the Whippets and I moved south, either!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Magical Art of Pooper Scooping

Bunny Slippers, while amusing to bored dogs, are not proper poop-scooping attire

I am the self-ordained High Priestess of the Pooper Scooper. That's a fact. If this is your first visit, you do need to know that I have nine dogs and I live in a big old house on a small corner city lot. I am the Goddess of the Poop. Poop is my life. I am all about Poop.

And with nine dogs, it is indeed Poop. Not poop.

I was not always so talented. The fine art of Poopy Pickup is a learned skill. I am nothing if not generous, so I will share everything I have learned over the years with you, my Dear Readers.

There are two basic methods of Ca ca Compilation:
  1. The Bag and Shag It, and
  2. The Poop, Scoop, and Bucket.

I subscribed solely to the Baggy Method for years. This has its benefits, as each collection is self contained. If the bag du jour is a Ziplock sandwich bag, there is a markedly diminished cumulative olfactory effect. During the bagging process I would assiduously remove all blades of grass that had been in contact with every turd, thus ensuring a totally poop-free yard. Unfortunately, it also eventually ensures a totally grass-free yard owing to the diminutive dimensions of the yard and the generous proportions of the poop.

And it's not so ecologically responsible. I have graduated to using a corn-based, biodegradable, vanilla scented baggy. I don't know which genius thought that adding vanilla would improve the smell of dog poop. It doesn't. It does have the unexpected benefit of being a diet aid: I haven't had vanilla ice cream in months. No sirree, not going there.

Another drawback to baggies. We had to summon a local law enforcement officer once to investigate an act of vandalism. As he was interviewing us, he spied a collection of Ziploc baggies in the flower bed. "Were those there before you were vandalised? Do you know about them? What are they? Exactly what do they contain?" He was quite excited with the notion that someone had planted a stash of something highly illegal in our day lilies. He was quite mortified when he learned the truth.

I use the Bag It and Shag It method exclusively for Nonresident Poopage now. The yard is patrolled with the Poop, Scoop, and Bucket method. I can thank Lindy Loo's granddaddyhuman for that. Jim and Sue came for a visit, and Jim watched me bending down bagging poop after poop, along with the few brave surviving blades of grass, and he grabbed me mid swipe and he and Sue drove me to the pet supply store and bought me a deluxe Scooper Set. Rake and flat scooper receiver device with sporty matching yellow handles. State of the Scooping Art.

"You were going to ruin your back with all that bending," kind Jim said. Deftly demonstrating the New Apparatus he said, "It's all in the wrist; you'll get the hang of it in no time."

I have no hand/eye coordination, Dear Readers. I cannot catch a baseball, and I have a very crooked, thrice broken finger to prove it. Do not ask me to hit a tennis ball with a tennis racket. (And duck if you do!) I eyed my New Implements with serious concern. How hard could it be? Into my brain flashed the image of x-pens set up outside of RV's at dog shows, with people leaning over, still in their jammies, deftly flicking turds into the scoop with the rake, all with a cigarette dangling from their lips, while simultaneously discussing the new best food supplement. Surely I could manage without all of that going on.

It took six flicks to get the first turd in the scoop. It flew over the scoop and rolled down my leg. It got stuck between the tines of the rake. It remained exactly where it originally sat. Twice. And then Bazooka! Scoooooore! I did a celebratory dance, which of course caused the poop to fly out of the scoop and I started all over again.

Practice does make perfect, and now, twelve months and three weeks later, I average only four flicks per poop. This would be less if I would dump the scoop into the bucket after every third or fourth turd. But I like the challenge of how many dumpers will stay on the scoop, and so we get many roller-offers. Little turdy avalanches. The grass has regrown, and I can't imagine going back to the old days.

Doo Doo Duty Do's and Dont's

Do wear proper footwear when scooping. Bunny slippers are NOT proper. They can provide much entertainment for bored dogs, but they will not do for poop patrole. Old worn out Krocs or any shoe without treads in the soul is appropriate. Mushed poo in shoe treads is just gross.

Do always carry baggies in your pocket when Out with Dogs.

Don't ever, ever, ever toss your last baggie when you are Out with Dogs. It doesn't matter if your dog has pooped 1000 times. The minute you toss that last bag, the dog will assume the position and produce. And the Animal Control Officer will happen by and write a citation.

Do carry extra baggies so that when you see a Ca Ca Criminal leaving the scene of a crime you can run down the block, frantically waving your extra baggie over your head, screaming, "Here! Here! Do you need a baggie? Or are you a bigger example of what your dog just deposited and you plan to leave it for the kids to play in and tourists to step in?"

Do scoop with panache. If you have to do it, do it with style!

Do not wave to passers by with the hand holding the full baggies. This is tacky. Same goes for gesticulating, and covering your mouth when you cough. Doing so with a full baggie can be off-putting even to a dog lover.

Well, Dear Readers, I hoped these little hints have helped. It's time for me to go... guess what!


Oh I did forget something important! If you have a five year old neighbor, you can build just the best rapport with him while scooping. Five year olds love, love, love the word poop. Usually they are chastised for using the word in public. But my little neighbor would say to me, "Hi Miss Patience. Watcha doing?" "Hi Gavon! I'm Scooping Poop." [giggle] "Poop?" "Yup. I'm scooping Poop!" "Lots of Poop?" "Enormous amounts of Poop." "There's a Poop!" "Thanks, buddy, I would have missed that one."

A five year old boy's dream come true!



Friday, November 9, 2007

Upgrading My Own Star

Looking at the front corner of the dogs' yard, back at the farm

I lived in western Massachusetts, in the Berkshire Mountains until I was ten. Then we moved to Maryland, where I pretty much stayed put for the most part until five years ago. This is where the dogs and I walked when we lived on our farm.

spring and summer


and winter.

OK, those winter walks were a big part of what convinced me to move to Western Kentucky. That, and the fact that Bill fell in love with this town, and with the idea of the Artist Relocation Program. Sounds like the Witness Protection Program or the Wildlife Catch And Release Program, doesn't it?
Well, it's nothing short of a miracle what a magical, caring, close-knit community has formed here, by moving a bunch of artists from all over the country. And on top of that, Paducah has to be the world's friendliest town. People who have lived here forever are so warm and kind and welcoming. But, at first I was terribly homesick.
I made a photo show of our walking route here in Paducah. I don't know how to get it on this page, but here's the LINK. You can appreciate the difference in walking through those photos above, and walking in the photoshow, and I left out the Evil Kitties and Stupid City Squirrels that abound on every block of the walk. So, I am still occasionally homesick.
Yesterday, on the last walk with Luciano, Lindy Loo, and Swede William, we stopped in to see how our Very Good Friends' house was coming along. They are rehabbing a delightful house which was built in the 1850's. It is looking so fantastic, but it is not looking so finished. We wish it would hurry up and get finished, because while it is uninhabitable they and their four German Shepherds (thank you Ariel) and their little Benji rescue are all living in their motor home out at the kennel club property. It is a big, spacious motor home, but still.
I was having another attack of the homesick meanies yesterday. Just some bad juju had gotten me down. I shared my bad day with my Very Good Friends - I'm just so generous that way - and invited them to dinner. Shoot I was feeling better already, just seeing their friendly faces and I wanted to keep feeling better.
Now, one of the things I dearly love about this part of the world is the lyrical southern drawl. You just can't feel bad for too long when the word bad is pronounced with three syllables. "Ba-eee-yad." One time this summer I was hanging around at a dog show with these same Very Good Friends and Vicky. I asked Vicky if she were going to camp on the showgrounds. Simple question. Three blank stares.
"Are you going to camp?"
More blank stares.
"Am I gowen to whut?"
"Camp! Are you going to camp?"
I looked to my Very Good Friends for help. None. Blank faces all around.
"I don't know whut yower askin' me. Kimp? What the Hayel is Kimp?"
The light bulb in my dim little yankee brain went on. Ah.
"Cay-yaamp! Are you going to cay-yaamp here on the show grounds or are you staying in a hotel?"
All three faces lit up like beacons of hope to a shipwrecked crew.
"Cay-yaamp," they all exclaimed! "Whah didn't you say so?"
So yesterday while I was all busy feeling baeeeyad, my Very Good Friend, Lee, replied to my dinner invition by saying, "That would be great. I just have to go and get my own star upgraded first."
"You are getting your own star upgraded?"
"Yah, I've gotta get it upgraded to digital."
"Well, if I had my own star, I'd get it upgraded too! I need my own star. I bet I would never get down in the dumps if I had my own star. How did you get your own star and how ever do you go about getting it upgraded?" I was completely enthralled with the idea of having my own star, upgraded or not.
"It came with the car."
I started laughing hysterically. Laughing too hard. I desperately wanted my own star. ON-STAR would be nice, too, but I had no idea until that moment that we were discussing satellite technology. The dogs started being rowdy because they were bored by now and because I had obviously found a way right out of my funk into the land of hilarity.
Later, back at our house we had a delightful dinner of pasta with mushroom, scallops and artichoke heart cream sauce (doesn't that just sound smiley?) and huge helpings of laughter.
And I felt like I had found my own star. Right in the kitchen, with the begging dogs, the best husband, and the laughing kindness of my Kentucky friends.

We're Famous!

Well, not really. But we were in an article in the Boston Globe!
You can read it HERE.

Back to regular story telling in a bit.

Patience and the whippet waggle

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What We Do While the Servant Works

Our Servant works in a little room in our house.

We do this:

This is in the Servant's little work room. Lindy Loo looks like she is moving, but she is sound asleep. You can just see the casters on the Servant's computer chair. My Great, great Uncle Giacomino is never ever far from the Servant, no matter what. He gets dibs on the nearest space.

This is the next door room to the Servant's Work Closet. If Fat Charlie gets uncovered he goes and stares at the Servant. She is so dense, she can't figure out if it's an "I'm hungry" stare, or an
"I have to go out" stare, or an "I need covers" stare. So after she's given him a biscuit and opened the door for him, as he stares at her going, "Nooooo, that's not it," then she gets it and goes back upstairs and covers him up.

Maria and Looch are really good at barking if a little tiny piece of them gets uncovered. The Servant gets that. Sometimes they uncover a little part on purpose just to see her jump up from whatever she's doing. Plus they get a kiss.

And here I am looking so handsome with my Great Aunt Mama Pajama. This is a rather soggy place to be, because Great Aunty has a Condition and can leak copiously. But I don't mind and it is an honor to be allowed to snuggle with her. She never asks for anything besides food, food, food, and the Servant covers her up just because. I am Tough and I don't need no steenkin' covers.

Hoping all dogs are staying toasty warm out there-

Sam I Am

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

When Nine Are Too Many

I am getting used to the reaction I get when I tell people that I have nine dogs.
"Nine dogs!" Followed by awkward sideways glances. Like I had just divulged the fact that, oh, I don't know, I had a summer home on Mars. Or that I was recently diagnosed with a flesh eating super bacteria. That I had a $5000 a day heroin habit which I supported by ... well, I guess you understand what I'm saying. I don't have any of those things. I just have nine dogs.

The reaction comes from dog-o-phobes, and surprisingly it also comes from some happy dog homes. The dog-o-phobes say "Peeooooweeee, are they outside dogs?" I say no, they live in the house and all sleep in our bedroom. "Oh, PEEEOOOOWEEEE! How very germy and nasty of you!" Well they don't say it so much as step back and wrinkle their noses and roll their eyes. This reaction makes me feel sad for them. I know that they are never greeted when they get home from the grocery store like there is no better human being in the Universe. I know that they never get to lower their finished dinner plate to a wagging happybody who is glad, no, ecstatic, to be offered their leftovers. They have no one who depends on them for everything, and is thrilled with everything they get. No warm heartbeat next to them with silky ears to absentmindedly finger, or those eyes which smooth away the most stubborn of life's wrinkles.

I feel bad for those people.

I do not like when I get the sideways glances from people who have one or two treasured dogs. "Oh," they say. "Do you have a kennel or something?" ("Are you a puppy mill? A for profit back yard breeder? A show person who feeds her own ego off her dogs' wins, and needs more, more, more?") I say no, they live in the house and all sleep in our bedroom. The worried people warm up a little, but remain skeptical. "Oh. How do you love nine dogs?" How do I? Are nine too many?

When it is raining and I have to pick up the yard? Nah, it takes me about fifteen minutes, tops, a couple of times a day. The idea of having to trudge out and scoop on a chilly November rainy morning is not so special, but then I come back in to nine shining faces, wagging for their breakfast, and it turns out it really wasn't so bad.

When I get the vet bill? It is vital, whether you have one dog or you have nine dogs, that you have a vet whom you respect, and whom you trust unreservedly. I see my vet nine times more often than my friend who has one dog. Nine times more routine visits and heartworm medicine, nine times more emergencies. Nine times the bills. But every time I see my vet, I thank my lucky stars. For the vet - "Ol' Poke & Stick" the dogs call him, for the two other vets in the practice, and for the entire delightful staff. Nope, I always feel fortunate when we've been to the vet.

Are nine too many when it's time to do teeth and nails? No, but this old house is too big and Delia and Mama Pajama can play hide and seek way too well. At least they hide well. I swear, I can just think about getting the dremel to do toenails, and there goes Delia slinking up the stairs, or out the door if it's nice outside and the door is open. Silly Luciano begs to be next. And if I'm bathing every dog, Looch will rub and rub himself on the beds when another dog is done with a bath. Luciano won't have a drop of water on him, but he is drying himself for all he's worth! Mama Pajama loves the taste of the doggy toothpaste, but hates the toothbrush, so she butts in line and then bites down on the brush and stares innocently at me: "What?" Nope, these chores are fun.

Are nine dogs too many for me to love? I think that every dog in our house feels spoiled and special. I believe that I was created to enjoy animals; clearly I was that way from the earliest time I was becoming me. I've always understood them, and admired them. (When I was four, I stood outside with birdseed in my hand in the freezing, deep snow Massachusetts cold. I stood there from lunch time until nearly dusk, until a chickadee finally ate from my hand. No wonder I now hate the cold.) And I am blessed with a husband who shares my love of innocent souls, and openly accepts who I am. Encourages me. Helps. I must have been really good in a former life. Or he must have been horrible.

I know my limits, surprising as that sounds coming from a woman with nine dogs. And I know that nine is my limit. I know I can tuck nine dogs in at night. I know that I can walk all nine every day. I know that I can take care of nine, play with nine, cuddle all nine. I can feed them and train them and take them to the country to run.

I know that I love each one. And that for me, nine is not too many.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Working, working, working

Sorry, Dear Readers, I've been busy working so that I can continue to support my dogs in the luxurious style they've come to expect.
I've been uploading a bazillion collars and leads to eBay on sale. They're HERE if you are interested. And my book is HERE.
Ok, I'm going to go walk the beasties, who have been very patient (and the fact that it was freezing this morning didn't hurt).
Then I will be back with another story. Thank you for your kind and generous comments; they mean a great deal to me.

Patience, humble servant to the whippet waggle

Saturday, November 3, 2007

When All Is Right

The early morning autumn sun in Western Kentucky starts out bashful and timid, but by eleven or so, it cheers up. We peel layers, the dogs and I. My skinny sleek-coated built for speed canines have a hard time staying warm when the temperature dips below fifty. So they wear coats. If they are running, the coats are unnecessary, cumbersome, silly. But for leashed walking or getting in a cold van or hanging around outside for human chatter, they are mandatory.
There was a frost this morning, but now I have shed my jacket and sweater and all but the oldest dogs have been relieved of their coats. We drove out to the country to chase toys and each other; to run and run. I can be worried about my world, I can be walking with heavy shoulders and constant sighs. I can feel like I've wasted my life, like I have no talent, like I've done no good. Until my dogs start running and playing on a perfect day in the country and they grin at me as they run past and I am on top of my world.

I've brought my Very Old Dog. He is too fragile at thirteen and a half to rough house with the youngsters. Spinal stenosis divorces his legs from his will. I know he wants to rip and tear and teach those pups just how to run. I know he remembers what it felt like to run like poetry. Eyes shining while legs harmonize with the wind, lungs and heart filling, pumping, smiling and the whole world blurs by in awe.

I keep his leash on while the youngsters cavort. They swoop too close and I yell, "Hey! Watch out!" and they laugh at me and cut even closer on the next pass. I can feel the Very Old Dog's heart beating in the leash in my hand perfectly, as though the leash itself were arterial. His valves are leaky and the big old muscle has to work harder than ever. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. His ears are standing straight up at attention and he barely whines with each exhale: "Let me go, let me go, let me run like I used to, let me go."

I am tempted.

My dear friends arrive, and they offer to hold the young 'uns on leads.

"Sure. Why not."

I leave Sam I Am loose; he's old enough to be sensible, and he's polite by nature. I hold my breath as Very Old Dog and Sam I Am play tug with a de-stuffed toy. "Be careful of your neck, you silly Old Dog." I silently entreat the Old Dog gods to look out for him. It is so beautiful today. I have even taken off his coat. He is smiling as he wins the toy. Sam I Am is so gracious.

And then Very Old Dog takes off. His stride, once the simple picture of ground eating perfection, is all kattywonkus. (Oh Lord, don't fall down.) Sam I Am feels my concern and looks at me, worried. Very Old Dog feels nothing but the grass under his toes and the sun in his great big heart.

He pulls up to me wagging.

And every single thing in my world is right.

Friday, November 2, 2007

And the winner is...

Me! Huh? (No not really, just scroll down to see the real give away winner.)

My reasons for doing this drawing were threefold:

  1. to help spread the word about the blog and my book,

  2. to encourage Dear Readers to comment,

  3. and to have a tangible way to say thank you because you Dear Readers are awesome.

What I did not realize was how affirming you would be in your comments. I am not by nature a super confident person. I am old enough and have enjoyed some small (but to me, enormous) successes with my writing so that I don't need to be all "gosh, I can't write, please argue with that." But Bill constantly encourages me to do more, and I constantly say I'm not ready for prime time. (And it isn't like I've got literary agents banging down the door, so there.)

But now when I'm feeling puny and insignificant and so unworthy, I can read through your ever so kind, generous, encouraging comments and I will feel brave and inspired.

Thank you.


Now, on to the ACTUAL drawing! First I made word document of all of the comment/entries, making each three lines. Then I used my handy dandy paper cutter to make them all the same size. I got Fat Charlie to check for uniformity:

Then I got a second opinion from Maria:

OK, Sam I Am?

Good enough!

Then I had Luciano and Lindy Loo check to see that they were all folded in half, and you couldn't see which entry was whose:

Under close supervision, I mixed and mixed and mixed the entries:

Lindy Loo couldn't wait to see who won!

Can you read it?

The winner is


Congratulations! Please email me with your address, Momma Phoenix. Thank you EVERYONE! We'll have to do this again.