Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Caption this!

I had a fun idea, I think.

In the comment section below, caption this photo:

(Sam I Am on the left, Lindy Loo on the right)

Then, I'll choose one and write a story based on the premise of the caption.

I like it!

hug your hounds

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Humble as Humble

I'm not a person blessed with oodles of self esteem. Okay, I've been known to call myself an undeserving worm. And that was on a good day. It drives Bill nuts.

I think the positive side of this is that I can make other people feel good about themselves in two ways. One, they look at me and feel instantly better about themselves. (I aim to please.) And two, I believe I am sensitive to other people's insecurities and can help.

When folks meet me, I like to put my best foot forward. And when they come to our house, I like to have it looking decent. (So why don't I keep it tidy all the time, you ask? Because I'm a worm, silly!) And when we invite people for dinner, I like it to be special.

Bill had a fun promotion going through his gallery. If you bought artwork valued over a certain amount, you got a fancy pasta dinner for two, fixed by the artist himself. So we've gotten to meet, or to know better, some great people.

Okay. Stage is set.

New folks come for dinner. House is spotless. Dogs are settled. They've been walked, fed, let out just before guests arrive, and tucked in with delectable chewies in the dog room just off the kitchen. They know the scoop: company of the non-dog sort for dinner. They don't mind. They have special treats, and they know we'll save the dishes for them to lick.

We're casual. Khakis, jeans. I have on a nice little sweater, handed down by a friend's fancy friend, and flattering earrings which were a lovely gift. Since it is a big deal night for me, I even have on some mascara and a little blush. Big deal night. I think I'm not looking too bad.

The evening goes well. The guests are gracious, interesting, and fun. Bill's pasta is delicious. The bread from Kirchhoff's is heavenly as always and my coconut chess pie pleases. We avoid discussions of politics and religion and some great belly buster jokes are shared.

After the guests leave, Bill and I congratulate ourselves on an evening gone well. High fives! The whippets delight in doing their best pre-rinse duties, and we head up to bed. I figure I'll wear my khakis again tomorrow for walking dogs, so I lay them out after peeling them off my full-of-pasta-and-pie self.


(Swede William examines his handy work)

I had walked around all night, feeling a little fancy and worthy ... with a paw print exactly on my right buttock.


Hug your hounds and bless their hearts

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Artiste!

A behind the scenes look at the heroic life of a modern day artist, starring William.

First, there is the conceptual design. The spark of a thought which ignites the creative brain! The furious sketching before the fleeting idea disappears into a poof of ordinariness.

Then, the painstaking laborious attention to detail. The vision explodes onto the canvas. Days go by without food or water or basic hygiene. The painting! Only the painting!

Clean up time... Whose nasty sink is this?

Then, the agonizing wait for customers. "Somebody? Anybody! All this work, my heart is in each painting, and yet, must I starve?"

A customer! A fine patron of the Arts! "Look, lovely lady! Such grace, such power, so peaceful..."

"So much more in your price range? Art is for everyone!"

And after the sale, the Artiste has money for more art supplies! Easy come, easy go!

"Give me five new canvasses, two gallons of acrylic, and ..."

After a hard day of self sacrifice, the trusty Gallery Dog is there, giving hope, companionship, love, and meaning to life.

Yet another reason to ...
hug your hounds

Sunday, February 15, 2009

PASTA! A home made recipe for fun

Assemble your ingredients:
1 generous portion of Grampa
1 dollop of Sparkling Daughter Amy
1 (and this is crucial, do NOT skimp on this particularly important ingredient) groovy grandson William
2 C unbleached flour
7 organic eggs

Now, let's get started!
Form two volcanoes of the flour.
Break your eggs into a bowl.

Pour the goopy eggs into the flour volcanoes.
Laugh when Grampa's volcano erupts, or, sort of leaks.

Give up on the whole mix with a fork thing, and get those hands involved!

Pasta making is NOT for the weak of heart!
(Or the weak of arms!)

Pasta making IS for Fat Charlie, Sam I Am and Swede William!

Stay neat and tidy at all times, and do NOT dissolve into fits of laughter, aimed exclusively at Grandpa and his pile of gooey, sticky, messy dough, when YOUR batch is working perfectly!

Help poor old weak Gramma. This dough is ornery!

Break into O! Sole Mio! Life is too good not to!
And get the "geetar" - Great Gramma's thingy that makes the flattened dough into linguine - ready for action.

We need Grampa muscles for this.

It's PASTA!!!! Only Three hours later! We are geniuses!

The sauce is smelling mighty good.


One more because they're just so cute!

The proof is in the mmmmmmmmmm!

Hug your hounds (and ALWAYS share the leftovers, and the plate/pan licking duties with them!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blog Sharks! part three

(that poor tree hanging over the studio is mostly gone now, due to the ice storm)

Bill arrived for good, two months later. Those two months were challenging. A very young man arrived to install a land line after about three weeks. Oh! phone and Internet!

"Bless his heart," as we say here, he worked from 8 AM to 5 PM. Then he knocked on the door. "I feel really bad," he shared. "I know they charge you $80 an hour, but I just couldn't figure how to get this to work. I called my boss and they're going to send someone who's done it before. Might be a couple of days."

I loaded the dogs into the van and drove out to the county where my cell phone would work. I needed to tell Bill "never mind"; I wouldn't have a phone after all.

I walked and walked and walked the dogs. And I picked up mountains of poop. Not many people in my new town knew to pick up after their dogs. So, I figured while I was at it... I would end up with grocery bags full of the stuff. It was my own Neighborhood Beautification Program. One time a fellow in a pick up truck pulled over to ask if the dogs were rescued Greyhounds. "Man," he said, looking at my huge bulging bags of community crap. "Them skinny dogs sure do produce a lot of ****!"

I was appointed by the Mayor to serve on a Dog Ordinance Committee. When we were thinking about moving here, we met with the Mayor and two City Council members, and were guaranteed that there were no ordinances limiting the number of dogs in Paducah. Two weeks before we arrived, an emergency measure had passed, limiting the number of dogs per household to three. Of course there was a huge public outcry so the City Council decided to appoint a committee to work it all out.

I met good people on that committee. Wonderful people.

And that's the thing about Paducah. It is full of warm, friendly, supportive, energetic, socially responsible, bright people. Getting to know them has been a joy. A privilege. More artists did move to the Lowertown Arts District, as part of the city's Artist Relocation Program. The city won many national awards as the neighborhood transformed.

And then local people, non artists, started rehabbing homes and building in Lowertown. The good folks who had lived in the neighborhood all along were genuinely happy with the miracle that was happening all around them. The slumlords who wouldn't get their buildings up to code - not so much. Although even they didn't mind the increase in their property's value.

When I was alone here, feeling so out of place and so far from everyone I loved, someone knocked on the gallery's glass door. It was one of those good people who had been living in Lowertown in a gorgeous home they had rehabbed long before there was any Artist Relocation Program

"Hi," she said, handing me a Gerber daisy in a pot. Her smile was so warm. And honest. "Welcome to the neighborhood. We're so glad you are here. If you ever need anything, you just ask. I live in that white house, in the middle of the next block."

And that is how we've been treated, warmly, with a genuine mutual respect and mutual gratitude. So the Blog Shark comment took me aback.

I have since heard by email from the man who made the original statement on the conservative website. He assured me that someone else copied his words and posted them here anonymously.

It was very gracious of him to reach out and let me know that.

The conservative website is one where insults and name-calling are the rule, rather than the exception, so the comments weren't unusual, there.

I am so grateful for my wonderful dear readers and my talented fellow dog bloggers. A civilized discourse, a caring community, a laugh or a tear. A safe place.

Thank you.


Hug your hounds

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blog Sharks! part two

There was a demolition notice on the front plywood. There wasn't any front door. When I showed the pictures of the house to my dearest friends, they put a hand firmly on each of my shoulders, looked into my eyes, and said, "We love Bill. But no man is worth this. No man."
the kitchen
We arrived. I in the van with the dogs and Bill in the car, pulling a u-Haul trailer. We set me up in the unfinished studio/gallery addition. A mattress on the floor for my bed, and the dog crates stacked and draped to make a 'wall' for privacy. Bill cleverly discovered that if you stuck a flashlight in the hole for the future doorknob in the powder room door you could have privacy and light. Only the light would shine right in your eyes as you sat, since the toilet is opposite the door.
Bill got ready to leave. We were repacking him and unpacking me. Since there were no tables, shelves, closets, or laundry room, things were in tidy little piles, temporarily. The Mayor stopped by after church to welcome us to Paducah. He is a great good sport. We looked, well, remember: no shower, no mirror, no closet to hang clothes - you get the picture. It wasn't pretty. But the Mayor and the Head of City Planning shook our hands and gave us a warm Southern howdy do. I looked down. One of the good Mayor's feet was placed smack on my bra, and the other on Bill's tighty whiteys.
Oh dear God. Don't look down! Don't look down! Please don't look down!
Sam I Am was the world's most adorable thirteen week old puppy. He wandered over to Mr. Mayor.
Don't look down! Ignore the world's most adorable puppy!
"Oh look at this cute little guy," said the Mayor, looking down.
I was sweating in parts of my body which should be incapable of producing sweat. I thrust my pasty palm to the Mayor, thanking him for stopping by. "We better get Bill on the road. He's got a fifteen hour drive ahead of him. So nice of you to come."
There was no fence. I had nine dogs who were used to having a two acre fenced yard right out their living room door, chock full of country squirrels for the dogs' murderous pleasures. And the gallery door was glass, affording them a constant view of stupid city squirrels. I took them out in groups of three to do their business. And I walked them.
The locals thought I was nuts on so many levels. Why would anyone move into that wreck of a house? In fact, when we tried to get the first appraisal for the building loan, the appraiser was stumped. His report said that if we invested the amount of money it would take to make the building habitable, given the location the house would never be worth that amount. We found another appraiser. I walked the dogs, three at a time, three times a day. Folks thought I was walking the same three skinny dogs to death! But they were used to free runs in our neighbor's 450 acres of farm land that surrounded our little farm. Used to that big yard for long games of tag and squirrel massacres. I felt so bad for them.
On the second night alone, at midnight, sweet old Caruso whined. He was no false alarmer. I put his lead on, only to have the rest of the crew jump up and cry, "Me too!" I was too tired to consider the notion of three trips outside in the scary dark, so I leashed up all nine. "Come on. We're having a quick pee. That's it."
I opened the door and out we went. There was a drunk leaning on the stop sign. I had been a country girl my whole life, so that was a concern. My city friends would say things like 'harmless drunk' but I would lean more to 'brutal rapist' in my mind. But before I could work myself up into a blind panic, I was floating in the air. Had I been shot? Was I dead, winging my way to my Creator?
No. There were two opossums at the base of the oak tree across the street. (Perhaps bereaved kin to the floaters in the basement.) I was flying, whippet speed (zero to 30 in under two seconds) toward the quarry. I forgot all about the drunk, who no doubt entered rehab the next morning, after seeing a vision of a middle aged woman in jammies flying out of some construction project, propelled by a whole herd of ghost skinny dogs! I finally got the dogs back into the studio and used the flashlight to wash all the road rash I had sustained. The studio utility sink worked fine. The dogs forgot that they ever had to pee.
I thought, "What have I gotten into?"
to be continued
hug your hounds

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blog Sharks! part one

If you are older than dirt, as I am, you remember the silly Saturday Night Live skits called (cue Jaws tuba... dah dmp dah dmp dah dmp) Land Shark.

[AOL Video]

Well, recently we had a rare (for this blog) sighting of (dah dmp dah dmp dah dmp) Blog Sharks.

I accept full responsibility. I unwittingly dangled the bait. Here's part one of the Rest of the Story.

In telling about my experience with this unprecedented natural disaster, I said,

"But most of the stories are of the heroic efforts of the people working twenty-four hours to get the power back up. And of neighbors helping each other. Of the rapidity and effectiveness of this President's response, in stark contrast to the Katrina victims who are still waiting."

A website of political commentary had linked to my blog, (unbeknownst to me) to share the photos and stories of the ice storm that I had posted. The author of this website writes a weekly syndicated column which appears in nearly 200 newspapers and websites. According to Wikipedia, the website is "at most times residing among the top five conservative political blogs."

And there was a link from that website to Patience-please, Days of Dog Poop and Stories.

So an army of folks got offended. (If you think the comments are bad here, you should see what they say about me there!) The anonymous commenter here thought I was taking a "cheap shot at President Bush" though on that other site he isn't anonymous, he is 'Tim from Paducah'.

He went on to say, in the comments here, and on the political website:

"The excellent response to this disaster has everything to do wih the character and the spirit of Western Kentuckians and nothing to do with anyone in Washington; but how would a Northeastern liberal artist relocation program transplant know anything about character and spirit."

First, I want to reassure my Northeastern liberal (and conservative and politically uncommitted) readers that those are Tim from Paducah's words, not mine. I am well aware that folks in the northeastern parts of this country (as well as people in other countries altogether, other continents, even) know a whole lot about character and spirit, and have frequently demonstrated both.

Some of you might be confused by the "artist relocation program transplant" name calling. My husband and I moved here, six and a half years ago, as part of an innovative program initiated by the City of Paducah. The city had an idea to revitalize a blighted, drug infested, decaying section of Paducah, by encouraging artists to move in and fix up the homes. When we bought our burned out shell for $17,000 from a private citizen, we became the first out of town artists to sign up. There was no guarantee that any other artists would come, ever, but we loved the city so much that we were willing to take the risk. We especially loved the people.

The house was amazing. The people we bought it from had purchased it after a fire had destroyed the interior. They had gutted it, mostly, and then had abandoned the project, leaving it to sit vacant for two years. There were no interior walls, just the inside of the exterior brick, and no windows. Where our dining room table now sits, there was a 6' by 9' hole. Peering over the edge of this hole one could see the two dead possums floating in four feet of standing water which was the basement. All of the original woodwork, fireplaces, staircase, fixtures, everything had been removed. It was our dream shell.

We had a nice little eighteen acre horse farm in Maryland. We sold that for Bill to be part of the exciting dream which was Paducah's Artist Relocation Program. We put all of our resources into rebuilding this house, at way more cost than we planned. (Anyone who has ever rehabbed a home will draw in their breath and roll their eyes and nod, I'm sure.) We left family and friends, and I placed the kids' ancient ponies who, I feared, would not survive the move, with my generous stepdaughter.

The whippets, nine of them in those days, and I moved here two months before Bill did. He was making sure the transfer of his medical practice went smoothly, and that his patients were cared for. I knew no one. The house wasn't yet finished so the dogs and I lived in the new addition: Bill's studio and gallery. No shower, no kitchen, no light in the powder room! No fence for the dogs, no computer, no phone, no cell phone service unless I drove out of town.

No friends, and at this point the neighborhood was still a little dicey.

too be continued...

hug your hounds

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Come on Along

Just some quick photos. I'll write a story when it isn't so gorgeous out. (And explain the exciting comments from the last post.)

Mama Pajama, who is eleven and Very Old Dog, who will be fifteen in two months, cordially invite you to go on their walk around the block.

Very Old Dog say, "Coming?"

Mama Pajama ignores pee mail; Very Old Dog reads every message.

He amazes me.

Whee! Hurry up, Mama Pajama!

A bonus! We meet a favorite friend.

And then, sweet dog dreams.
hug your hounds, especially the very old ones

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Paducah Ice Storm Update and a Challenge from Sweden

First the update. This storm is the biggest natural disaster in Kentucky's history, involving the largest National Guard call up ever.

It was cold last night. Single digits cold. And still 4,000 people in my (relatively urban and high tech) county are without power. In the state, they are a small part of the 271,460 who are powerless. These houses aren't designed for this. Under our hardwood floors there is nothing. Not a second layer, no plywood, no insulation. Just the fir and then the great outdoors.

Our local NPR station, WKMS, (without hyperbole the best NPR station in the world), has done a herculean job of keeping us informed during this disaster. These facts are from their website, which was helpfully updated just minutes before this writing.

59 districts in Kentucky are still under boil water advisories. This is an improvement; at least they have water.

It is probably a miracle that only twenty-five deaths have been confirmed as storm related, so far. People have died from hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires, and ambulance delays. WKMS reports that several deaths have been caused by heart attacks that resulted from strenuous activities related to the storm. A couple of days ago, I came downstairs to let a dog out, and thought I was about to witness one. Bill walked into the kitchen, his face a pasty, blotchy, sweaty mess.

"What in God's name have you been doing?" I asked in a calm, composed voice, which didn't approach hysteria no matter what Bill would tell you.

"Just moving a few branches," he wheezed.

"If you have a heart attack, I'll kill you," I shared, in a moment of enlightened spiritual generosity.

The Kentucky National Guard has provided 320,000 meals to individuals and shelters and expects another 210,000 to be delivered soon, and has delivered 650,000 bottles of water so far with an additional 300,000 coming.

There are still folks in our downtown block who have been without power since January 27. Four of the homes pictured above are dark. But it looks a lot better than it did at this time last week:

And they did a fine job getting this pole straightened up and the wires re-strung:

(This morning.)

We have to tackle the dogs' side potty yard. (above) But that large limb is hanging on the neighbor's main electrical supply line, and then touching the chain link fence and all the other branches. Soooooo. No. We'll wait for the electric company guys to do their thing.
There have been reports of increased domestic violence. I suppose if you are the type to beat on your spouse and/or kids, you are smart enough to think that beating on them when they are cold will get your power turned on faster. Well, West Kentucky's two jails are on lock down, running on generators and using kerosene heaters, so if that sounds good...
But most of the stories are of the heroic efforts of the people working twenty-four hours to get the power back up. And of neighbors helping each other. Of the rapidity and effectiveness of this President's response, in stark contrast to the Katrina victims who are still waiting. WKMS interviewed a woman who had been displaced to Murray, KY, from New Orleans during Katrina. She loved life in Western Kentucky, so she stayed. She was singing the Red Cross's praise, in a shelter where her neighbor had brought her after days without power.

Now for the challenge from Sweden!
My friend Henrik, of the famous Play A While Whippets at http://henrikharling.blogspot.com/ said:
"Jag blev utmanad att publicera en bild under Mina Bilder på datorn och här kommer den bild som blev resultatet av det."
Or, in English, "I was challenged to publish a photo from my computer by taking the sixth photo in the sixth folder on my computer and above you can see the result." (You'll need to go to Henrik's blog to see his fun photo.) He challenged me to do the same, and since my desktop blew up from one of the power surges, here's the laptop photo:

This is one of my favorite pictures ever. It's Lindy Loo's siblings, Proper (now Topper), Leslie (now Rex), and Francis (now Elijah) on one of their early days in the great outdoors. How could that possibly be two and a half years ago.
Now I get to tag someone. Maybe I can introduce you to some great bloggers!
- Jenn, who is also writing her first novel and is a fine writer: http://fast-dogs.blogspot.com/
- Laurie, who is a professional writer in MN and has a beautifully crafted blog: http://lifewiththreedogs.blogspot.com/
- Barry, whose blog was recently featured as a Blog of Note, after I had found him, and now his 545 followers are enjoying what I had been: http://anexplorers.blogspot.com/
- my Bill, who doesn't promote his outstanding blog, so I will: http://williamfrenzullimd.blogspot.com/

If you haven't visited these blogs, pour some coffee, or tea, or adult beverage and enjoy. Oh, and while you're at it...
hug your hounds

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Three Dog Nights – personal reflections of a natural disaster from a pet owner’s perspective

[Click on the images to get the full effect, then use your browser's back button to return.]

They said it was going to be the “Storm of the Decade”. We had a half-gallon of milk, plenty of toilet paper, and a third of a bag of dog food. I know how Western Kentucky winters go; it would be warm again in three days. My raised-in-New England self scoffed, and I refused to join the long lines at Krogers.

When the power went off, we moved the eight whippets and ourselves to our front guest room, which has a gas fireplace. I put every dog bed in the house on the floor in a semicircle in front of the fireplace. I piled blankets on top of the beds. Very Old Dog, who will be fifteen in April, was nestled in with us. Our dear young friends, Heather and Jason, were in our other front guest bedroom, also conveniently outfitted with another gas fireplace. With them were their own two whippets and their most adorable toddler, Ben. Their whippets, Edgar and Emmett, consider this a second home, since Emmett was born here, and both are frequent guests. And you haven’t experienced cute until you hear Ben pronounce “Patience”.

At first, our dogs experienced an understandable confusion. Clearly the Big Bed was for them, and the Rags on the Floor were for humans. I explained their error to them as I chased them off the bed, gave them their bedtime biscuit, and covered each one in a toasty blanket. Their puzzled expressions made me wonder what were they thinking.

Even from my limited human perspective, with my laughably inferior senses, life was upside down. It was so dark. No streetlamps glaring behind the curtains. No moon or stars. No passing headlights casting shadow cartoons on the ceilings. And before we had blown them out, the warm light from our candles had softened our features. The constant heart stopping ‘crack!’ of huge limbs tearing off the tops of friendly old trees, followed by the whooshing shower of dislodged ice. We squeezed our eyes, put our fingers in our ears, buried our heads in our covers, but nothing dulled the BOOM as those limbs dropped sixty, eighty feet and landed on the ground or the roof or the lower branches.

The transformers all around the city were detonating, making the sky look like a lightening storm in blue. And then the huge pole at the corner fell. (Later we learned that this pole carried the main line that takes power from the 3rd St. power station to all points west.) The transformers on the shorter poles all along our street exploded, one after another. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. Huge showers of brilliant electric blue sparks filled our window view. And then the quiet of the storm. No traffic hum, no distant music from Fat Moe’s, no TV, just ice, sirens, crashing trees. I wondered what it smelled like to the dogs. All of that disaster.

Neighbors without gas logs hugged with their pets for warmth. Dogs who had never been allowed in bed snuggled under the covers and heated their grateful owners. People refused to go to shelters or even to neighbors’ houses, because they couldn’t leave their animals. Loving owners will willingly put themselves in harm's way, rather than abandon their pets.

My dogs applauded my silly decision to avoid the lines at the grocery store before the storm. They thoroughly enjoyed their meals of rice, veggies, and expired meat from our emptied freezers, when their dog food ran out.

They didn’t complain when we went the longest time in our little history without a walk: five days. All but two stayed on their spots on the floor in front of the fireplace. Young, foolish Swede William would periodically launch onto our bed, landing on a grumpy human stomach or head and get immediately launched right back onto the floor. Not unlike a pitch down the middle meeting Babe Ruth’s sweet spot. But Sam, our Registered Therapy Dog, was smarter. He would ease onto the bed, smooth as lava, and melt into the circle of my stomach. I would wake with a smile, hugging my personal canine hot water bottle. Except that the guest room bed is only a double, and poor Bill was clinging to the six inches of bed that remained for him. Reluctantly, I would encourage Sam back to his spot on the floor, covering him with a kiss, and then I would pull Bill back onto the mattress.

And now that the power is back, the sun is shining, and in typical Western Kentucky fashion, it is in the fifties out, I send out a prayer. I know the good people did - and are still doing - everything they possibly could for their families, their neighbors, their friends, and their animals during this disaster. I pray that they are all well. That they are seeing the daffodils pushing up under the broken trees, and are hearing the songbirds trying to find each other. That their Labradors are helping with the stick cleanup, by removing each branch tossed on the pile and trying to bring it back. That the lap dogs are licking the tears when their owners survey the mess. That the horses are whinnying warm welcomes as the barn doors creak open. That the cats are leading by example, saying, “Oh who cares? I have a sunny spot by the window. Life is good.”

hug your hounds

Monday, February 2, 2009

If you haven't seen this...

you might want to.

Pour a cup of coffee or tea, get comfy, and

hug your hounds

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Woody, the Three Legged Wonder

In all the excitement, I forgot to share our iPet of the Week with you.

Meet Woody! Click on his photo to read his story.

hug your hounds