Have a Lip Smacking Valentine’s Day!

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Happy Valentine’s Day — whether that means chocolate, candy hearts, champagne or a bah humbug attitude toward this “Hallmark holiday,” as my ex dismissed it.

For me, the best part of the day is that it is the birthday of my two kitties, Jackson and Lizzie, now (unbelievably!!!) three years old. We’ll celebrate with fresh shrimp for their dinner tonight.

As my Valentine’s Day gift to you, I give you adorable kitten pics of my two fur babies:

IMG_0132IMG_0133You’re welcome!

Dev: Week One

We are one week in with our new best friend, Dev, the Australian Terrier.

IMG_1167The transition has gone much more smoothly than I had dared to hope. Mr. D and I flew to Milwaukee to meet Dev and his Temora Australian Terrier family of at least three generations of pooches and their human mom Julie. All of the dogs were super excited to see us, and little Dev seemed to know that this was his big moment. (he’s the one with the green collar).

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The flight home went more smoothly than we feared, with a breeze through security and a half-full flight, enabling us to spread out over three seats. Dev had to stay in his bag on the floor, but we did let him sneak his head out for a peek around.

By the time we arrived back at the house we were all a bit overtired, over-stimulated and hungry. Addie took things in stride, greeting Dev calmly if not particularly enthusiastically. Both cats hightailed it under our bed.

It only took Dev one day to figure out that the inside of the house was not a pet relief area, and after one week I can reliably say that he is mostly housebroken, assuming that he is given the appropriate chance to be a good boy. Unfortunately this involves me getting up at 5am each morning. At least I get to see this:

The kitties are slowly realizing that he does not have a prey drive (at least toward them). They seem to view him as an endlessly fascinating object of observation. He is not yet in the friend zone, but the distance is diminishing.

As for Mr. D and me, smitten might be too mild a characterization. Dev barely ever leaves my side, and when he does I follow him to make sure that potty mistakes or untoward inter-species encounters are not sabotaging the progress we have made.

All house projects are on hold, and I am so brain dead from getting up every morning at 5am that my writing is also on hold. I will give it one more week, and then I will feel secure enough to just let what happens happen.

It’s a new year, and a new love, and a new challenge. May 2015 continue to be as rich and full as it feels right now!

Our Newest Family Member

Now that that the holidays are over and the tree is down, the ornaments are put away, the parties are fond memories and the first snow of the winter has arrived — it’s time to settle into the New Year.

Mr. D and I celebrated the start of 2015 by arranging to get a new family member, a five-month-old pup named Devil on Horseback, “Dev” for short.

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pic by Julie at Temora.net

Like my beloved Sydney (who passed away at a ripe old age in March) and his younger admirer Addie (who is now a senior citizen herself) Dev is an Australian terrier. Known for their indefatigability, intelligence and large personality in a small body, Aussies aren’t that common in the U.S. In fact, we are going to Wisconsin to pick him up next week, which in many ways is absolutely crazy!

Sometimes, when contemplating the logistics –and the cost– of acquiring Dev, I ask myself why we didn’t just adopt a shelter dog in need of a good home. We did try. Despite being smitten every time I checked my Facebook feed and saw an adorable face begging for a second chance, I remained faithful to a few criteria:

1) We knew we wanted a terrier, on the small side, to insure portability,  to prevent exuberant and potentially damaging body slams, as we are “fit but over fifty” dog parents, and to be good companions for our “grandpuppies,” both of whom are under 20 lbs.

2) We have two cats, which we do not desire to become prey.

3) We didn’t want to deal with a dog with aggression issues toward other dogs, strangers or small children, whether from insecurity, former abuse/neglect or lack of training.

4) With one dog already, we couldn’t adopt a bonded pair or a dog who needed to be an “only.”

A friend suggested fostering, and Mr. D and I thought about it, but decided that the potential stress on our cats Jackson and Lizzie was not acceptable.

These restrictions really narrowed the field. After finding and inquiring about three good prospects only to find them quickly snapped up, we realized that the kind of dogs we could provide a good home for were the least likely to need us.

I wish I could be the new mom for a pit bull mix or an anxious older poodle, but I’m just not the right fit at this point in my life. Despite my guilt each time I think about buying a purebred dog instead of rescuing a mutt, I have to be honest about my circumstances and my priorities.

So, it’s off to Muskego, Wisconsin we go to pick up our boy from our wonderful breeder Julie at Temora Australian Terriers. We’ve been like new parents picking out the right travel bag for the only direct flight, which happens to be on Southwest Airlines (we settled on the large Sturdibag after research on this wonderful site).

No doubt there will be many more pictures to follow as Mr. D and I train this pup together! Wish us luck, and Happy New Year to all of you, dog lovers or not!

Holiday Greetings

Happy Winter Solstice to all! No matter your faith or lack thereof, the official start of winter (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere) brings a chance to regroup and become grounded in preparation for a burst of new growth as the hours of daylight increase day by day.

With Christmas only three days away, I know many of you are becoming

IMG_1094and instead of feeling like IMG_1089
you are feeling like

IMG_1088because you have been decorating the tree

IMG_1092cleaning up the yard in preparation for lights, camera and Santa action

IMG_1086Wrapping presents

IMG_1090and baking lots of goodies.

2013-06-16 20.42.05But take a deep breath, and remember, that the greatest holiday gift of all is

PEACE

PEACE

To my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah and to all of my readers, I wish you health, happiness and peace in the New Year.

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Today is National Dog Day (I know, every dog has his day…).

Life without our four-legged canine friends would be infinitely less. Dogs live in the moment, but they also never forget their people. When family members return home, even after an absence of several years, dogs can go absolutely bat shit — as all of those returning veteran YouTube videos have shown us. Dogs don’t care whether we meet our specie’s standards of beauty (even if some of us hold them to their breed standard). Dogs have a range of emotions, including jealousy, as a recent New York Times article affirmed, although anyone with more than one pet already knows that. Dogs can be the shoehorn that gets us off the couch and out the door to enjoy the natural world, rain or shine. They can be the vehicles for meeting new people or talking to people we already know as we stroll through the neighborhood. In tough times, they can be the glue that holds us together, not just as individuals but as a family — snuggling us, kissing us, or just sharing those wise knowing stares that say, “I know you are hurting, but I’m here for you.” They can make us laugh at their antics, cry at their passing, bark at their misbehavior, marvel at their bravery and stoicism, wish for their simple joy in life. They have inspired poets for centuries. While cat videos have become an Internet meme, it is our canine friends who most teach us to be human through the poignant brevity of their time with us, the depth of our mutual respect and affection, and the knowledge of mortality that our sometimes brief togetherness bestows on us, if not them.

Three of my favorite poems follow. They are sad, but capture so well what is so special about the canine/human bond. Moral of the story: live each day trying to be as wise and good as your dog.

 Dog’s Death

 She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, “Good dog! Good dog!”

We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.

Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest’s bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet’s, on my lap, she tried

To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there.  Good dog.

                                                            John Updike

 

Another Dog’s Death

 For days the good old bitch had been dying, her back
pinched down to the spine and arched to ease the pain,
her kidneys dry, her muzzle white. At last
I took a shovel into the woods and dug her grave

in preparation for the certain. She came along,
which I had not expected. Still, the children gone,
such expeditions were rare, and the dog,
spayed early, knew no nonhuman word for love.

She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag.
We found a spot we liked, where the pines met the field.
The sun warmed her fur as she dozed and I dug;
I carved her a safe place while she protected me.

I measured her length with the shovel’s long handle;
she perked in amusement, and sniffed the heaped-up earth.
Back down at the house, she seemed friskier,
but gagged, eating. We called the vet a few days later.

They were old friends. She held up a paw, and he
injected a violet fluid. She swooned on the lawn;
we watched her breathing quickly slow and cease.
In a wheelbarrow up to the hole, her warm fur shone.

 John Updike

 

A Dog Has Died

By Pablo Neruda
Translated By Alfred Yankauer

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.

RIP Sydney, my sweet furever boy.

Milestones and Memories

Today is my Dad’s 93rd birthday. He has his mind, and his body is (relatively) healthy, if a bit frail. I live several hundred miles away and due to work don’t visit as often as I should. Over the Christmas holidays he gave me some precious items as part of his passing of the torch to the next generation.  On the one hand, this was a lovely gesture, but on the other it was a bit sad to see him not decluttering (one of my favorite topics on this blog), but in some way preparing for the day when he is not around to make the decisions. Admirable, but poignant as well.

We had a lovely time going through an old photo album and he expressed delight that I recognized so many of the people and could reminisce with him about folks long gone. It made him so happy to know that I would be able to recount these stories to my children.

Aging is hard.

I am on the cusp of it myself, observing the wrinkles as they decorate my face, working ever harder to preserve my fitness as an insurance policy against old age disability as much as in vain desire to fit into my size 27 skinny jeans.

I have hung my Dad’s medical school diploma and a fun original cartoon given to him at a surprise 40th birthday party in my home office. I only have images in this space that remind me of who I am and where I have come from and who I love. Instead of a mood board or a “decorated” room it is my identity space, inspiring me to be my best and truest self.

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Like so many men of his generation, my dad  is not given to many words of praise or outward expressions of love and affection. At times I have felt the sting of his critical temperament, and at times I have checked that tendency in myself — remembering what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a sarcastic comment or a cutting remark.

But there is much to admire in my father, and much to be grateful for. He had the kind of inseparable, loving sibling relationship with his two – years – younger brother that most of us could only wish for. He instilled in me a work ethic that not only contributed to my own success, but made me respect and acknowledge hard work in others, be they custodians or astronauts or students or drywall hangers. “All work is noble” he always said, and he really believed it, and so do I. He was his best self in his own work.  As a physician he had patience for the human foibles that lead to obesity, addiction or failure to comply. He was revered by his patients and his colleagues.

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Happy Birthday, Dad, and thanks for the life and the values you have given me. While I don’t expect you to say it, I know you are as proud of me as I am of you.