Saturday, January 31, 2009

From Crashing Branches to Chainsaws

And still the sirens.

Well, today's report will be much more personal. I no longer feel the burden of reporting the situation here to faraway frantic family members; the New York Times, MSNBC, and CNN are doing a fine job. But it is amazing - estimates are between 500,000 and 600,000 customers in Western Kentucky are still without power. The thing is, I think there are only 600,030 people in Western Kentucky!

I feel a little guilty that we have power. A lot of our neighbors are still without.

It was a beautiful day today. I took the dogs for their first walk since either Sunday or Monday, I can't remember. Things were still falling randomly out of the sky, but if you picked and chose where you walked, it was okay. First some photos for some friends.

Mary, here are your pretty trees. I'm sorry. The good news is your building looks fine.

Jean, here's the tree HARK wouldn't let you take down. I don't think it's a problem now.

I tried to volunteer my services as a not-quite-legal RN today. (I'm an RN, but not licensed in KY, and I'm currently taking the refresher course mandated to get my KY license.) I thought I could help - work under - other RNs, with vital signs, assessments, whatever, as long as I wasn't working independently.

Only the Red Cross office was closed. They had the Red Cross flag just a-flying, with a sign on the door: office hours are Monday - Friday only. I went to the library and to City Hall, to no avail. So I gave up and walked the dogs, thinking, "charity does begin at home." I found out later that the National Guard Armory, down by the airport was sheltering more than 500 people, but my neighbor who is a real RN, in fact a Nurse Practitioner, was told that they had enough help. So I felt better.

I heard on the radio that no animal shelters are open. This just breaks my heart. I hope that is not correct. I know friends who are staying in their cold homes, ahem, Karen and Steve, because they don't want to leave their pets, or upset them by uprooting them. Even when their neighbors offer warm beds and hot showers and private rooms for Cooper.

And I would do the exact same thing.

I heard something else on the radio, honest, I am not making this up. In these parts we pay our property taxes at the sheriff's offices. And the radio made the announcement that the sheriff's office in Murray did NOT want anyone coming in to pay their taxes which were due today. They begged folks to stay off the roads and let the National Guard and power companies do their work.

Then, five minutes later, the radio announcer said, "Murray Electric Company just called and said that if your electric bill is due today, you must pay it."

Now, at that particular point all of Murray was without power.

So what were they going to do if you didn't pay your bill on time? Turn your power off? Hello??? Power company people? The sheriff is begging people to stay off the roads. There IS no power. The banks are all closed. Roads are impassible. We are under a state of emergency.

Well, it gave me a good chuckle.

My neighbors went to Home Depot, and there were 600 people in line to buy generators. The grocery store is out of eggs, bread, lunch meat, D and C batteries, and toilet paper, but miraculously had milk. I got the last bag of my brand of dog food, much to the whippets' disappointment. They sure enjoyed last night's rice and London broil and spinach.

The neighborhood still sounds so different. The background noises are wrong. The "boop, boop, boop" of backing up power trucks. Chainsaws zzzzzzzzz-ing. Songbirds calling constantly; like us, I suppose they're trying to call home.
Sirens, off in the distance, mostly, but sometimes they zoom by on the main loop. A helicopter lifting up from the downtown hospital. That always sets me off in a prayer for the occupant and the family.
Thanks to our gas fireplaces and the guilty early return of power, we've been warm as toast. I've so enjoyed playing Uno with Lee and Dee and Bill, and oh my good lord I beat Bill in Scrabble!
hug your hounds

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ice Storm Paducah, Kentucky update

The ice is melting.

This should be nothing but good news. Well, it is good news, but it's bad news, too. 30,000 customers that had power are now out. The falling ice is so heavy that it is bringing branches and power lines with it. More than 650,000 customers in Western Kentucky are without power.

Courtney, Karen U. saw Andy and the dogs, and they and your Mom are fine. No power yet, but fine.

For those of you who are worried about the safety of elderly relatives, the Salvation Army is taking calls. They are at (270)443-8231. I know no one would abuse this service.

There are plenty of warming centers. Several counties (including, but certainly not limited to Graves, Carlisle, Calloway - now, they did have power, but the falling ice shorted out all of TVA's main power lines and the Murray Calloway Hospital is back on generators) are completely cut off from any power. All JPEC customers in Paducah, which had been able to restore power to 6000 customers, are now again without power, from the melting ice problem.

They are announcing stores which expect shipments of generators on the TV and radio. Paducah's two hospitals are at full capacity. The National Guard troops arrived. There are fights breaking out at the few gas stations that have both power and fuel. Cars are streaming into Paducah from surrounding counties looking for food and fuel.

AT & T got its tower back up and running. But they are imploring people not to use their cellphones or land lines except for emergencies. They are not at full capacity, and the circuits stay jammed.


It sounds like an earthquake in a crystal factory here. The ice comes crashing down from trees, and those spiky rows of icicles soar down from the power lines. It's truly dangerous to walk outside, so the photos today are from just around our house.

The whippets are getting outdated meat from the freezer tonight, with rice and veggies. We're out of dog food and milk, but I don't feel right going to the grocery store for that. We have PLENTY to eat, and can do just fine without. (The dogs will be beyond thrilled!) Folks are lining up for hours to get diapers and baby formula and prescriptions filled; we don't need to add to that.

I do worry for the animals of Western Kentucky.

hug your hounds

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some Photos, Ice Storm Paducah, KY

(click to enlarge; use your back button to return)

To folks worried about family here, I will post any news I get. I have not heard of any deaths, although we have been totally incommunicado. We just got TV service back, so I will post anything relevant. There are warming centers and folks are really trying to look out for neighbors. There is a 5:15 curfew in the region. Both hospitals are up and running.
A light wind is supposed to come tonight and that is not good, since there are so many, many limbs just hanging.
We are FINE, and so fortunate!
hug your hounds

Paducah, Kentucky Ice Storm Thursday

Thank you all!
It is stunning to hear a city without power. All of the background noise is gone. But there is relentless cracking of trees, followed by the sickening impact CRASH. And then the sirens. And the transformers exploding, like the kettle drums in Peter and the Wolf. Boom. Boom. Boom.
We have power as of this morning, but no Internet or cell phone service. (I am at our dear friends' house, Lee and Dee, as they can access the Internet.)
We are unable to make long distance calls on our land line, but have received two. Jake, Sara, Beth, and Amy - we are FINE!
You would not BELIEVE the devastation here, and I can't wait to share photos with you. For the reader who asked about their mom at Jackson House, I heard on the radio that they have it running on generators, and the residents are in good care. The hospital where I will be working has been without power since Monday, but they closed I-24 in both directions to get a line back up, and my understanding is that the hospital now has power. They got power to the other hospital yesterday.
Apparently over 90% of the area is still without power, and some of the rural areas aren't predicted to be restored until mid-February. Gas stations are without gas, or without power to pump it, and so folks are unable to run their generators too.
There is not a tree with its top limbs. And this was a city of big, beautiful old trees. The power poles in front of our house are at 60 to 70 degree angles, so I doubt that we'll have power forever. Oh but that shower felt good this morning! We have gas logs in our front guest room, so Bill and the dogs and I moved in there. Heather, Jason, baby Ben, Lindy Loo's brother Emmett and his old whippet buddy, Edgar spent the night with us. Because the other front room also has a gas fireplace. Last night it was 42 degrees downstairs! That is NOT whippet friendly.
I also have photos of Bill making pasta by candlelight, wearing a hat and gloves! Pasta will prevail! I beat him in Scrabble.
The dogs are having a hard time peeing. Imagine every blade of grass covered with 3/4" of ice. It's like walking on stalagtites or mites or whichever points up. The neighbor's cable line is luing on our front yard, and the big tree which was over Bill's studio is now lying on the roof or in the back potty yard. But OHH oh oh I am grateful for those gas logs!
They are saying we need to start boiling water, as the water treatment plant is down.
If I never ever hear the sound of branches cracking, ice showering down and then the sickening boom, it will be too soon. And though it is beautiful to see the shower of blue sparks lighting the sky as transformer after transformer blows, I can live without that sight as well.

hug your hounds

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Paducah, Kentucky Ice Storm Photos

The Internet connection comes and goes, so while it's here...

All those wires. The Comcast store is 3.5 blocks away. I didn't know my lens was so good.

out the front door

No walks today

Winter Rose of Sharon

Every two to ten minutes we hear a crack followed by the hiss and sizzle of ice and then a BOOM, as the branch hits the ground. The branches of that tree over Bill's gallery are usually about 20 feet above the roof.

Stay safe and warm

So far

One of the things that is very different about living in Western Kentucky is that the weather forecasts are most often correct. This was a revelation. In Maryland, I scoffed at weather reports. If the weatherperson said, "Rain, heavy at times, with temps dipping into the low 40's," and you thought you shouldn't take the dogs to a field trial to stand outside getting drenched to the skin, the weekend would unfailingly dawn sunny, bright, and pleasant, and you would be home with dogs casting disgusted, accusatory, "we could be coursing" looks your way.

I learned.

Pay no mind to the silly weatherpeople. Just wake up and go.

But here, they get it right. My scoffing days are done.

This was at ten o'clock last night. It is looking out the east foyer window. If you click to enlarge (use your back button to return, please don't get lost out there!) You will see the ice on the window sill.

Again at ten. Isn't it strange how the ice collected at the base of the flower pots? The sidewalk was ice, smooth as glass, but much more treacherous.

This morning at seven.

Our arbor benches which got shmooshed when the tree fell on them in the wind storm.

The power went out somewhere around three this morning. We woke up because the bedroom was chilly, and the clock on my bedside table (which so happens to be Fat Charlie's crate) was dark. Each dog has four or five blankets in their crate this time of year. I cover each of them up after they get their bedtime biscuit. I checked, and they were all invisible. Only Sam I Am had his head out of the covers. His sire was from Massachusetts; that explains it. I recovered Very Old Dog, who lay between Bill and me. His ears felt chilly.

Oh that sweet soft sigh.

I'm listening to our NPR station, WKMS, online. That comfortable space on the radio is only rude static. Something about no power for their main transmitter.

Our power came back on at around 5:30. We woke to the sound of the furnace revving up. As I snuggled up to Bill, I thought of the poor people who were outside in this freezing rain and sleet, in high bucket lifts handling electricity. So that our heat would come on.


How do you thank the nameless folks who do that?
They're saying that there's lots more ice to come. It is scary for Very Old Dog.
hug your hounds

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Ice Storm Cometh

(clockwise from TOP: Luciano, Fat Charlie, Giacomino aka Very Old Dog, Sam I Am)

Oh brother. Looks like a doozy. We're going to hunker down and hope the power stays on.

Hug your hounds and stay safe

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Walking the Waggle

Walking in the city doesn't rival the beauty and adventures of walking in the country, but we do have some fun.

Yesterday it was cold. The temperature was in the high 20's, but the humidity was over 60%, making the bonechill factor somewhere in the miserable range. I know, I know, I'm a wimp, but this is supposed to be the South. Capital S.

I put two coats on Very Old Dog, and Mama Pajama's warmest coat on, and off we started. Or, more accurately, off we startled. As we arrived at the corner of our fence, up flew a ginormous red tail hawk. Lordy they grow them big in these parts! He flew up from behind the other corner of our fence, on the neighbor's side, not fifty feet from us. I looked where he had been, and I saw some horrid bloody carcass. We looked closer:

Our neighbor had recently removed the other part of the tree that fell on our house, and there was a pile of shavings from the stump grinding, next to our fence. Thereon lay the bloody carcass.

Very Old Dog, Mama Pajama and I crept closer and saw:

Oh it was too gruesome to look. But wait! It was none but our own Sssssnake toy! Eviscerated months ago by the whippets. It had been inside our fence. The hawk must have suffered a bitter disappointment. Like biting into a chocolate and expecting [insert your favorite filling - mine would be marshmallow with caramel] only to find [insert your least favorite filling - like, say, okay, I don't have a least favorite]. The big old raptor must have braved dropping into our yard to make the grab, and then must have spit the thing out just as fast as I would a chocolate covered cat turd.

I grabbed my camera and on the next walk I took a photo of Delia smelling Mr. Redtail on her Ssssnake.

And then, since I had my camera, I took some photos of (drum roll) Francie the Wonder Corkie! Here are Francie and Tracey coming out of their house.
Tracey is tall and beautiful. She is a PROFESSIONAL writer and has just started a VERY funny and highly recommended blog: Tracey Buchanan Studio. You can read more about Francie and our walks there. If she looks a little like a bag lady in this picture, remember, I look like this:

It's cold and we are walking far and wide, on our mission to pick up our dogs' poop. This mode of dress is not only appropriate to the task, we feel we are stylin'!
Here is living proof that the whippets are walking with a Hairy Dog. Granted, this is the Shark Group, consisting of Delia, Fat Charlie, and Luciano. They do attempt mini attacks if Francie Invades Their Space at any point during the walk. Invading Their Space includes, but is not limited to:
  1. making eye contact with a Whippet or its Servant
  2. being on the same sidewalk at the same time
  3. brazenly daring to breathe the air, which everyone knows is for Whippets only.

In the photo above, do you see that brown lead, which is stretched so tight? That is Luciano, who is Special in his Head. He exercised his right to refuse to be held by the same human what was holding a Hairy Dog, photo be damned, and plastered himself to my leg.

Francie is a good sport about it all. She does an occasional fly by, breaking all of the Rules. She stares into Delia's furious eyes, zips up to her and breathes her air, and then darts out of harm's way. "Take that you snotty skinny dog! Ha! My warm hairiness laughs at you! Ha! Ha!"

The whippets on the final walk, the young 'uns, Sam I Am, Swede William, and Lindy Loo, grew up in the city and aren't so snotty. They figure since Francie walks with us, she is part of the pack, and they even are glad to see her! After only two or three months or six, they can be trusted not to eat her in our house. Good young 'uns! I wouldn't trust the three of them out in the yard with her, but they've come along way.

hug your hounds and enjoy the beautiful day

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It is a great day

Thank you to fellow blogger Gussie, Teka, and their Muzzer for starting this good, historic day by posting this on your blog.

I just wanted to share it for you dear readers, who hadn't had the same opportunity. Watch the whole way through; you'll be glad!

This is a great country.

Hug your hounds.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm Only Human

Right. I got it. Beating myself up for Very Old Dog's skinned up nose was a little over the edge. I'm not God. Thank you, dear commenters, for giving me a little perspective!

Yesterday was more typical of Western Kentucky's January weather than what we've been suffering, errr.. experiencing lately. It was mostly sunny and in the upper 30's. Which felt like the mid 50's in juxtaposition with the freaking, freaky minus ten wind chill of the day before. (Shudder.) I can't make myself imagine what the two Lauries in Minnesota are dealing with. No, it's like imagining being a victim of water boarding, which we can now finally say is torture. Again. Minus twenty? Torture. You betcha.

But enjoying yesterday's (relative) warmth, the three youngsters - Sam I Am, Swede William, and Lindy Loo - joined me after everyone had walked, while I did poo duties in the yard. I'll admit to shirking these duties during the torture time. When it's minus ten, the scooping can wait. The dogs won't stay out long enough at those temperatures to savor poopsicles, so, it can wait. Thus, yesterday's scooping took longer than usual.

And Very Old Dog, toasty in his fleecy housecoat, joined us in the sunshine, too. Lindy Loo ran and ran and ran like ... well, like a whippet. Sammy ran after her, with Swede William in not so hot pursuit. (He tends to wait at the corners and ambush, being the clever fellow he is.) I tried to place myself between the running missiles and Very Old Dog. If a scraped nose had undone me, imagine a collision with a 30 mph whippet. Oh lordy.

Very Old Dog had been an outstanding runner in his youth, in his prime. We had driven from our farm in Maryland all the way to San Diego, California in 1998 for the American Whippet Club National Specialty. And at that National Field Trial, Very Old Dog outran and out-coursed 115 talented whippets to win Best In Field. And he did it with breathtaking ease.

So when the youngsters were careening around the yard yesterday, I saw my Very Old Dog get a look in his eyes. It was a look totally unburdened by the human silliness of worry, regret, wistfulness, caution, responsibility, or self pity. The look in Very Old Dog's eyes said only one thing:


And off he tottered. Full tilt, in both meanings of the word. He scampered after the speeding pocket rockets, only to be directly in their paths after they had reached the end of the yard, and had turned around and continued their game of chase.

My heart.

The projectiles that were the young whippets zipped on either side of him, miraculously avoiding the nightmare pile up. Very Old Dog turned around without tipping over and chased after them. He let out a yip.

Now, that took me back. And it took me to the place where he was at that very moment. He was a quiet dog when he was young. But when the "bunny" (the white plastic bags which acted as the lure at the lure trials) would whip around a pulley, suddenly turning, my quiet dog would "yip" in the joy of the chase. "YIP" (translation: "I'll get you, crafty bunny! You can turn, but I'm gaining on you! Woopeeeeeeeee!") When he yipped in the yard yesterday, I realized he was having the most fun.

He "ran" along with the other three until they wore all the way out. If they had knocked him down, I would have felt like the stupidest excuse for a servant on Earth. But they didn't. And as I carried his protesting self up the three stairs to the breezeway, feeling his enlarged heart pounding for all it was worth, I kissed his scabby nose.

I wish I could fill every minute of his every day left with such joy.

I can't help it. I'm only human.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Very Old Dog is only three months shy of his fifteenth birthday. He is doing well. He eats everything offered, and charges along on his daily walk around the block, carefully reading all the pee mail, doing modified leapies of unmodified joy. Giacomino, in his youth, would leap straight up off all fours, a capriole of canine enthusiasm, way up in the air, equal in height to my shoulder.

Now he does these precious modified leapies. They're sort of a little jump, bounce and expression of glee. And they make my toes smile.

He does have spinal stenosis, the result of catching too many squirrels while travelling at a speed of 35 mph. Diving for the varmint, grabbing it and rolling, like a wide receiver. Without the padding. The spinal stenosis causes a disconnect between his legs and his brain.

Brain to legs, "Jump up those stairs."
Legs, "Huh?"

So I help him with stairs. He's learned to wait at the top and bottom of our twisting, treacherous staircase in the house. It's an old house, and the downstairs ceilings are twelve-footers, so the stairway is steep.

Outside, there are three steps down from the breezeway to the yard. His preference is to leap straight off the top step and land plunk on all fours. This causes my heart to fibrillate. My preference is to help him up and down, but it is his time to fly and he tries his best to avoid my assistance.

I must be vigilant.

Yesterday I failed. I led him down the steps, and ran back in to preheat the oven. We were having dinner guests, and I needed to get the pie in. How long does it take to light an oven? Thirty seconds? It usually takes Very Old Dog a good sixty seconds to pee. But it was cold yesterday. Really cold.

When I turned to go back and retrieve him, he was already at the door.

"Oh! You did the steps by yourself! How about that!"
And then my heart fell out of my chest and landed right on the bloody spot on my dear, sweet, Very Old Dog's nose.

He had fallen, obviously, and struggled to get up. He had another scrape on his paw.

The only way my socks could get me over this one, is if I wrapped one really tight around my neck until my eyeballs popped out of their unworthy sockets and dribbled down my blue, lifeless cheeks.

hug your hounds

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Party for a Great Lady

We have the best Kennel Club in the world right here in Paducah. And one of the reasons it's the best Kennel Club in the world, is because we have the Best President in the world. Mrs. Mary Lee King has been the President of the Paducah Kennel Club since 1991. She says this is her last year, but we don't want to believe it.

We threw a little surprise party at our regularly scheduled monthly meeting to celebrate her eightieth birthday. It takes some serious planning to surprise Lee. But we pulled it off.

My job was to get her there late. I am a specialist at being late, but Lee and Dee are always oh so prompt. They get to the club early to make the coffee, turn the heat up, get their papers copied, welcome members as they arrive. I called early during the day and asked if I could hitch a ride.

"The only thing," I lied, "is that I've been having some intestinal issues. I hope I can go. I'm going to take some Pepto Bismal."

I was setting the stage for my Grand Plan.

Newsletter editor Martha had sneakily notified the membership. Lee and Dee's issue had one glaring omission. Alice decorated the meeting room. Ginia ordered and brought the gorgeous cake. (And it wasn't only pretty, it was delicious!) And our awesome members all brought food.

We picked up Carol, another member who lives in town, and she was a little late coming out her door, as planned.

Lee was just itching. We had a very important meeting scheduled, with lots of crucial issues to discuss. I had been out in the yard with Very Old Dog when they arrived for me, (I'm so devious as you'll soon read), and I had slowly sauntered back in the house, put him away, and fumbled with my keys as I locked the door.

About half way to the Kennel Club, I said, "Uh-oh. My stomach is a little... We might have to stop." Carol worried that I had Spastic Colon.

As we approached the BP station, I said, "Oh, please. I do have to stop here. I'm so sorry."

Lee, who was by now freaking out over the time, kindly sympathised, "When you gotta go, you gotta go."

It's amazing what you can do to amuse yourself, sitting alone in a BP station rest room stall with nothing to do for ten minutes. La la la.


Okay, who put the poop candle on the pretty cake?

Dru is going to be a responsible dog owner and pick up the pooh????

We are serious about our snacking!!! That's Alice on the left who decorated.

Newsletter editor Martha checks with her beautiful agility star, Jamie, to see if the snacks she got are acceptable to him.

Kitchen queens, Debbie, Ginia (who got the marvellous cake) and Carol (a different one, not the Carol we picked up).

Sisters Ruby and Tina got their plaque for doing such a great job organizing our first Responsible Dog Ownership Fair. (This doesn't have anything to do with the surprise, but I wanted to show you how much fun we have.)

And I admitted that there was nothing wrong with my intestines.

Lee got a basketful of fun birthday cards, and we all got a chance to show how much we appreciate this good soul.

Happy Birthday Lee!!!

hug your hounds