I awoke to a glorious Easter Sunday in Boise! Always a blessing to get up and greet the sun. We’ve had a winter that didn’t seem to want to end. There was snow just last Thursday.
Our minister told a packed house; “Anyone who likes to garden has faith. It is an act of faith to put a seed in the ground and look forward to it springing forth with new life.” Let’s get out there planting little sprouts to bring hope to ourselves and others.
Five years ago I would never expected to see police in uniform on duty with a bomb sniffing dog at church. Now we are getting to use to it. We had one at the Cathedral of the Rockies at Christmas too. This time the policeman was extremely kind to everyone and the gorgeous German Shepard was very photogenic. Fortunately, their presence was not needed.
We always buy flowers at Easter from the church youth group to help support youth mission trips in the summer. The pink and blue hydrangeas have thrived in my back yard. The one we go this year practically shouts, “Look at me!”
I buy the Calla Lilies in honor of my daughter Kayla, both the lily and Kayla have roots to China but grow well in Idaho. This year I am blessed to have both flowers and daughter grace my house with beauty.
This is the twenty-second year I have hidden Easter baskets, a family tradition. I will miss it when Kayla goes away to college, one more year of baskets. We learned this year with Scott home for a while that you are never too old to bite off the ears of a chocolate bunny.
My son is off to Seattle May first to expand his world and hopefully hunt down a good first job. We are all very excited for him. The purpose of parenthood is to raise children who can float by themselves. I will miss his good humor, beautiful photographs and noise around the house.
Our male tom cat, Satch, had a good Easter. He discovered a box in the house just his size, always a delight. The weather was perfect for cats to lay outside and soak up sun.
Easter is a time of new beginnings. May this year bring out the very best in you and your family. Thanks for reading.
I spent three weeks in January, 2017, traversing Australia with my husband and son. We flew from Boise, Idaho, USA to Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia for 4 nights to Cairns for 3 nights and to Melbourne for 3 nights. My husband left us in Melbourne to return to work. My son and I rented a car and spent three nights driving the Great Ocean Road and Australia’s outback. We ended our trip with 3 nights in Adelaide, considered some of Australia’s best wine country. All totaled we traveled about 3,780 miles in Australia and saw major cities in the East and South along the South Pacific, Tasmanian and Indian Oceans. We moved from sea coasts and rain forests near the equator to beaches where wind from the arctic oceans cooled the air. While we covered vast expanses of land, we saw less than half of the country, none of western or northern Australia and none of the interior. Here are some of my observations:
1.Kangaroos are old hat, quite literally. You can buy men’s hats made from kangaroo. Kangaroo pelts are for sale everywhere. Weird tourists gifts like kangaroo balls made into flasks are on display in tourist shops. Kangaroo filet is on some menus. At the Sydney Zoo, I heard a mom shout to her child, “You don’t want to look at that—it’s just a kangaroo!” We saw only four kangaroos hopping in the wild. The one’s I saw were magical. One was as tall as my son, 6 feet 3″. He turned and glared at those of us who had jumped out of cars to watch. The animal troupe made short work of hopping across the pasture, across the road and into the bush. When we drove the outback, I expected to see lots of kangaroos and emu. We saw lots of warning signs to watch for kangaroos and we saw at least five dead ones by the side of the road. But I only spotted one kangaroo in the bush and no emus outside the zoos. As an animal advocate, I worry that all the tourist items will make the kangaroo, like so many other sought after animals of yore, into a an endangered species.
2. Koalas are as cute in person as in pictures. These fascinating creatures are said to be “punch drunk” because they sleep about 19 hours a day. We paid for pictures with them both at the Sydney Zoo which did not allow you to touch them and in the Kuranda Koala Gardens where we were allowed to hold the Koalas and feed wallabies and Kangaroos. Koala fur is not as soft as kangaroos’ hair. The only way we saw koalas in the wild was when other cars were stopped to view them. We would jump out, ask where the koalas were and people were kind enough to point them out nesting in the high tree branches. Their gray fur blends in with the bark. My old eyes weren’t good enough to spot them from the car as we drove along. The process reminded me of when bears or moose are spotted in Yellowstone National Park. Everyone pulls their cars over and jumps out to spot the animal and if possible capture them on film.
3.Visiting Australia is like falling down Alice’s proverbial rabbit hole. When we left Boise, snow was falling and the plane had to be deiced to make it off the ground. When we arrived in Sydney it was summer and 80 degrees. Christmas decorations were up everywhere we went but it never got colder than about 60. Not only were we visiting in summer, the continent was headed into fall starting in about March. We heard on several tours how gorgeous the fall colors on the trees were in late fall (beginning in March). Australia broke away from Africa over 400 million years ago. The warm climate led to the evolution of an econ-system different than anywhere else in the world. Australia is home to fabulous creatures living on the Great Barrier reef, in rivers such as platypuses and crocodiles (both fresh and sea water) to billibies to emu to wallabies, to koalas, to kangaroos (just naming a few). I had one lady on a bus who wanted to discuss deer with me because she had never seen one in the wild. I, on the other hand, wanted to discuss kangaroos. Apparently, kangaroos are like deer in Idaho. They are pretty to look at but can get in your yard and eat your flowers and trees. Australia was settled in 1788 by the British as a penal colony after the American War of Independence when the U.S. refused to take any more English convicts. As an English colony everything in Australia like England is focused on the left. You drive on the left and walk on the left. Signs are posted on the roads to remind you that you are to drive on the left. While everyone speaks English, we sometimes couldn’t understand what was being said. Australians can understand us because American movies are everywhere at the same time as they are released in the U.S. but Australians have their own unique accent which becomes more pronounced in rural areas.
4. Australia’s diverse and unique ecosystem encompasses vast expanses of mountains, rain forests, beaches and scrub bushes.
Blue Mountains: During our time in Australia, we visited the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. The mountains are named for the blue mist created by oil from the Eucalyptus trees mixing with the environment. While touring the mountains, we saw a burst of white birds rise from the trees far below circle below us and disappear into the rocks. The sight was breathtaking and mystical in its beauty and silence.
Great Barrier Reef: We took a tour boat to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkeling the reef was the first time, I personally realized the power of the ocean. At our first snorkeling site, the crew started shouting “Current!” and throwing out ropes to the divers. When I got in the water, I could barely swim the current was pushing so strong against me. The divers used the ropes to pull themselves down to the reef. Fortunately, the other two snorkeling spots were less strenuous. The Barrier Reef is clearly suffering. There are large expanses of white or dead reef and the colors are not as gorgeous as we saw when snorkeling in November in Hawaii. There may be no reef to see in 20 years from now.
Rainforests: The rainforests flourish throughout Australia’s costal areas. There is beach at the sea and a few miles in major forests where ferns weighing as much as a thousand pounds hitch a ride on the top of a tree to sunlight.
Oceans, the defining boundary: Cairns was so humid my swim suit wouldn’t dry and when we reached the Great Ocean Road, the wind from the arctic was so cold one had to push into it head first to make it to the look-out stations. Along this rugged coast, the twelve apostles, large rock formations carved from limestone stand guard against the crashing waves of the ocean. Beaches in the city are jammed but the beaches near the outback are long, beautiful stretches with almost no visitors.
5.Australian cities are home to amazing architecture. Most people are familiar with the iconic Sydney Opera house, a multi-venue performing arts center at the heart of the Sydney harbor, graced with a roof of sails rising towards the sky. The Sydney Opera house is just one of many architectural symbols of Australia’s technical and creative achievements, we saw during out trip. We were more amazed and delighted by how much creative architecture is found throughout Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. The buildings are multi-shaped, decorated in bright colors. Some feature art, others host glass triangles or pyramids for windows. We visited open-air malls in Melbourne and Adelaide which were full of wonderful sights, sounds and smells and gorgeous to boot. We saw elaborate winding staircases of shiny aluminum and pure wood in the universities. Seemingly weightless bridges soared over harbors and rivers. The city skylines were traversed by huge cranes building new towering edifices. Australia is a country that is growing in a vibrant, creative way we do not see in America.
6.Australia is a good place to call home.
The cities have excellent infra-structure. We were able to get everywhere by mass transit which was either affordably priced or free in certain areas of the city. Some of the cities provided free wifi through the downtown but even when they didn’t, wifi was readily available whereever we went. Walking paths with lots of green spots and benches to take in the moment, clean public restrooms and facilities to fill water bottles were available everywhere tourists might be. Street concerts, modern art displays, and sporting events, including the Australia open meant something was happening all the time.
The food is diverse and we found universally great. We ate everything from dumplings in China town in Sydney to hot curry Tia in Adelaide to pizza covered with greens in Robe, to salads packed with delicious nuts and berries in Cairns–all excellent and different. Our last night in Australia, my son and I treated ourselves at a high end restaurant recommended by our hotel (Blackwood) for a true Australia meal. My son is a vegetarian and had potato gnocchi and I had fish cheeks made into some type of fried cake delicacy over green beans. It was a great ending to our adventures.
The cities are safe. When we were getting off the plane in Sydney, one of the American tourists said he came every year to Australia and he loved everything about it, “except the gun laws. The Australian gun laws are terrible!” This led to extremely odd looks from the Australia citizens on the plane because the gun laws are one reason Australia is so safe. Australia first introduced its gun laws following a tragic mass shooting in April 1996, The government responded by banning all rapid-fire long guns, including those that were already privately owned, and introduced strict punishments for anyone caught in possession of the weapons – including jail time. In the past 20 years, since the passage of this law there have been no mass shootings.
Pay is good. My son visited a friend who he met during a semester abroad in Spain. She was working part-time as Christmas retail assistant making $55 Australian dollars an hour for retail services (holiday pay), a lofty sum in our minds. She told Scott she wouldn’t work for under $17 an hour.
Health care coverage is available for all. Australia provides national health insurance to its residents but encourages higher income families to purchase private insurance by penalizing high income earners using public insurance with additional taxes.
Australia is expensive to visit and to live but the high quality of public services makes up for much of this cost.
Final Reflections: This trip had been on my bucket list since 1984 when I saw an exhibit about Australia at the New Orleans World Fair. Thirty-three years later, I was able to take the trip I had been planning for about half of my life. I could write on for hours about rain forests, riding on trains to the Blue Mountains, women striding through city streets in the shortest skirts and highest heals I’ve every seen, gliding through tree tops in gondolas and watching thousands of bats take flight at sun down in Cairns. But I know there is a limit to what a reader will read and I have far surpassed the usual 800 words. I had a wonderful time on a trip of a life time. I think the best recommendation for those considering a trip to Australia is I would do it again in a heartbeat even though the flight over and back is over 25 hours each way and it took me several years to save the funds to go.
Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can turn my investigatory energies to more important obsessions (other than politics) such as identifying 2016 strangest Christmas gifts. We teach our children that these gifts are made at the North Pole but we all know they come from China. Rather than being produced by happy, elves dressed in green and red felt, paid with nothing but a smattering of magic dust and Christmas cookies, these items are probably produced by abused child workers, violating ever American labor law and paid by the piece rather than by the hour. This is why Americans are squabbling about the renewal of Asian-Pacific trade agreement and not a North Pole agreement combining fines for melting icebergs because of Santa’s unregulated energy use with a tariff on flying sleighs bringing untaxed goods into the country.
The proposed North Pole agreement would be easy to enforce because Sara Palin could be appointed Nordic ambassador and provide enforcement services from her Alaskan front porch, pulverizing those pesky elves with buck shot when they tried to slip into the US in search of our highly coveted minimum wage jobs on dairy farms and in fast food joints.
I waited until after Christmas to release this list because I wanted to save my friends the agony or ecstasy of choosing the appropriate gift for their worst enemy. P.S. I understand from Santa that President-Elect Trump got one of each item on the list in his stocking this year. Trump was hoping for lumps of newly mined coal given his promises to restart America’s coal industry but Santa wanted to reward Obama’s strategy to ban offshore drilling in the Artic and Atlantic so this year Santa handed out pinwheels with blades saying “Support alternative energy” to those who had been naughty. Santa’s failure to leave all the naughty businessmen a sock full of coal may result in a coal shortage among billionaires, which could further the stock market’s zeal for fossil fuel but it is too early to tell.
Top Ten Worst Christmas Gifts in 2016
10.Handrapants: These fingerless gloves (designed to look like men’s tidy-whities) are a perfect gift for anyone with fixation on being touched by real human hands but still wanting to be able to engage in real world activities. I actually own a pair of fingerless gloves that I find quite handy (please excuse the pun) but they are suede with a gorgeous fur muff around the fingers. The men’s brief design for fingers must meet some sexual fantasy of where the hands want to go.
9. WowWee: Chip is an interactive dog robot, programmable to a special watch (included). Chip will greet you at the door, follow you around, play with a programmed plastic ball and has a strange low woof for such a small dog. Chip doesn’t need to go outside, be fed, bark at guests, and tear up panties or the other assorted novel character traits of a real dog. He recharges himself during the night ready for the next day without having to be let outside or taken for a walk.
8. Unicorn Farts: These are bags of cotton candy. As I understand the design concept, while you can’t see human farts but you can see people, in this case you can’t see unicorns but you can see and actually eat their farts. Clever indeed and to provide further incentive for purchasing these tasty treats 10% of the proceeds go to a children’s charity.
7. Poop Like a Champion: This is a cereal for those of us old enough to remember the advertisements for “Breakfast of Champions” Wheaties but now find our digestive system is a little slow. The advertisement for this cereal is “Number 1 high fiber cereal for number 2s”. Imagine going through all the effort to receive a marketing bachelors degree and your first job assignment is to create slogans for a cereal that provides the pinnacle of pooping performance. The cereal is currently sold out after a pre-Christmas rush (please don’t let you mind wander in the direction of that pun). Kudos to that new marketing graduate, you exceeded everyone’s wildest dreams, possibly because of a constipated electorate in all the Blue states. But don’t despair, if you need an extra push in the bathroom, you can load up for the New Year with a 25% off coupon and emailing your name in to be wait listed.
6.Wonderwoof: This is an activity tracker bowtie for your dog. You and your dog can begin a new healthy life style in the New Year. Designed in stylish colors such as baby blue, red, orange, teal, pink, black, grey and for an extra $9.95 you can add designer bands to match your outfits. Before Christmas a tracker was a $100. Unfortunately, these guys didn’t sell out . You can now own one for $65. If you live in a big city and hire a dog walker, these little gizmos are for you. They are particularly helpful if you are paranoid imagining your highly paid dog-walker lazing around your high rise apartment sipping a latte from your cappuccino machine rather than out marching Fido around Central Park. One dog walker in New York reports taking 40 or 50 dogs for walks 5 days a week, spending about 25 hours a week and making about $110,000 a year. Take that you lowly U of I graduate starting out at best around $45,000 as a professional in Idaho. My advice, if you need Wonderwoof for Fido, you should probably consider trading in your dog and getting WowWee for Valentine’s Day.
5.Giant Inflatable Cockroach: Almost 6 feet by 6 feet and a foot deep, this ugly guy can either scare people out of your highly sought after swimming pool or provide a lovely floatation device for someone large enough to cover most of it. The roach’s legs hang out in any possible scenario. I have to admit to an aversion to cockroaches of any size. When my husband went to medical school the only apartment he could afford was roach infested. We had to buy dozens of tiny roach hotels to strategically place around the apartment in hopes one would stop by for a visit and be terminated.The Inflatable cockroach was judged the “best new inflatable toy for summer 2016″ suggesting to me that America needs to find new designers for pool toys.
3:Toilet Bowl Dog and Cat Fountain: If your pets like to drink out of your toilet and this grosses you out, this gift is for you. Shaped just like a toilet only smaller, the tank provides fresh water on as-needed gravity basis. Also works well for improving the self-image of height-challenged dogs, like dachshunds, which have always wanted to drink out of the toilet but couldn’t reach it.
2.Creamed Possum in a can for holiday dinner: This holiday treat is also sold out but may be available in time for the Super Bowl and Presidential Inauguration . A red neck staple, this tasty treat includes Canned Creamed Possum with Coon Fat Gravy, garnished with Sweet Potatoes! Guaranteed to be made with only the freshest road-kill available
1.Trump Matryoshka (Hand-crafter Russian nesting dolls): These dolls were a rush order after the election. On the largest doll is a likeness of Trump wearing a surprised expression and holding a sign “The Apprentice and you’re hired!”. Inside is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson holding his 2013 Russian Friendship award and waving an ExxonMobil flag. Beneath Tillerson is President Trump’s strategic advisor, Stephen Bannon in a Prince of Darkness costume. All three larger dolls cover a tiny replica of Russian President Putin, wearing a Cheshire cat smile and holding a sign “Russia Wins!”. These dolls sold out quickly to the alt-right. Plans are to have them mass produced after the inauguration. Right wing enthusiasts are anticipating a juggernaut in sales in the New Year as part of the new administration’s focus on economic development and new trade alliances.
I have been taking a memoir class that focuses on writing short bursts of memory about your life. This week’s assignment was: Develop a list of things that seem trivial or small but upon reflection are vital. Since it is Thanksgiving week, my list is about my home and family.
Around 6 a.m. each morning my husband noisily scuttles around the end of the bed and kisses me briefly on the mouth, occasionally missing and hitting my cheek in the dark. He rotely says, “Have a nice day!” I’m still dozing, catching the last misty grays of dreams, gauzy thoughts I can’t return to. Sometimes he forgets the first time out the door; then he comes back.
White cat, called Angel but a stinker in a slinky fur coat is carefully washing Satchel, the grey Tom cat’s face. He is preening on her behalf, neck extended, eyes closed in ecstasy, macho man for sure. Angel lunges. Satch takes a surprise bite to the neck. They simultaneously link legs, lego-like, replicating a gyrating hair pillow of intertwined grey and white, rolling off the bed and chasing each other into the floor length curtains, fluttering now like animated ghosts in a fun house. All goes still. Each cat marches out a different side, tails twitching, parallel metronomes, heads held high—a draw.
The rat terrier, bolts through my legs out the front door, across the street, over the berm, hair on her neck raised, resembling an enraged porcupine’s quills, tail pointed rigidly out, barking in a loud, sharp, rat-a-tat-tat, a sergeant leading a non-extent platoon into battle. I am the bugler shouting repeatedly, “Violet Come!” Out of sight, the barking is interrupted by a guttural, primeval, wolverine growl. High pitched screaming and screeching echoes over the hill in response to my call. Head down, whimpering, tail between her legs, all body parts intact; Violet limps home, a vanquished warrior.
Shani,is my giant miniature collie, a mini-me lassie look a-alike with an absurdly fluffy coat resembling caramel-colored pom-poms. Today, she, keeps gently nudging my hand with her long pointed nose, her head is all olfactory lobe. I finally realize I have put her food where Violet’s bowl goes. Shani is either too polite or timid to touch it. I move Shani’s bowl to its proper place and she chows down.
My 17 year-old daughter texts from school:
Can I go to a concert? My homework is done, I have my own money, I’m taking my car.
At the concert she texts:
Can I stay until 10:30?
Leaving now. Taking Emma home.
10:50 p.m. I hear the garage door open.
When we moved into our home 11 years ago, Scott controlled a third of the upstairs; his bedroom, attached bath, a playroom usually filled with teenaged boys playing video games and the best view in the house off his balcony. The balcony has been used for tossing a five foot stuffed Mr. Simpson off regularly, testing rope ladders, a cat escape hatch to the roof and a feline wrangling corral for said cats, but hardly ever for contemplation and viewing. Since Scott has been largely absent for the last four and half years, his sister has stealthy slunk in and helped herself to his sweaters and shirts much to his chagrin. Now, I pass a closed door with a plastic sign reading, Scott Kozisek, Keep Closed.
The night owl. I crate the dogs, walk through the house, turn off the lights, check the dishwasher is set to wash, flip the gas logs off leaving only the blue glow of the pilot light where a warming flame just resided, test the locks on the outside doors. I snuggle under the heated blanked wrapping myself around my husband like a clam shell protecting a pearl. The pesky cats are nesting on my side of the bed, entangling my feet.
I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving! My family has much to be thankful for.
We have experienced another misdemeanor at Ashtree Way. This time the delicious, carefully wrapped, warmed corn bread from Whole Foods was stolen from my daughter’s desk, an off limits area for dogs, even in our permissive home. No crumbs have been found and the criminal would have gotten away without a trace, had I not found Violet, our rat terrier, trotting out of the office with plastic wrap in her jaws. She looked extremely pleased with herself until I told her to “Drop it!” Then she mimicked the guilty, down-cast-eyed looked that seems to be genetically inbred into dogs so owners rather than the dog feel terrible. I believe the plastic wrap in jaws condemns Violet.
The problem with this theory is that the crime was more consistent with our other potential perpetrator, Shani, who was also in the house at the time. Shani, our Sheltie, is the dog who gets on unattended tables. I’ve seen her basking in the sun on the glass patio table outside on numerous occasions. I know Shani is capable of an unthinkable theft of this nature despite her sweet demeanor, snatch and grab from high places is her specialty.
When caught with hard evidence in her jaws, Violet was banished outside to reflect upon her crime while mindlessly chasing squirrels from tree to tree and barking aggressively. The crime of barking led to my husband tossing her back in the house where she smugly took up residence on my blanket while visions of corn bread made her fat and drowsy.
Dogs, even misbehaving dogs, have a way of wheedling their way into your life and ultimately drilling a direct pipeline to your heart. When we got Violet from the Humane Society, she came with a hand-written note that said Violet was not capable of love and was not a lovable animal. Saturday, as Violet dragged her little butt outside, head down, tail between her legs (she is quite the drama queen), I thought about her previous two homes where she had faced complete rejection. Violet is not an easy dog to live with but the same could be said for me, I am not always an easy person to live with.
Over the years, Violet and I have spent many hours curled up together on couches, scrunched under soft blankets watching TV or in bed taking naps. Sometimes, the cats join us, sort of a muti-species event, everyone welcome. Violet acts as a small little heating pad; quiet, soft and warm resting while the house is at peace. The wildl barking, jump-up-on-you-no-matter-what, crazed terrorist vanishes into thin air replaced by the beloved companion. Sunday with the gas fireplace humming, the Denver Broncos playing, and a slight drizzle spewing from gray clouds marking the arrival of fall, Violet had her head nuzzled on my leg while I rested with strep throat (Apparently strep isn’t just for kids). As I stoked her velvety-soft little head, I asked myself how could anyone think this dog was unlovable?
Over Labor Day, my Sheltie, Shani carried out a successful panty raid on my daughter’s slumber party (greatly angering my daughter). Shani’s most recent offense was much closer to home. I have been working on paper mache hands for Ms. Bewitchingly Boo-tiful described in last week’s blog. I placed the hands outside on the three-feet-high fire pit to dry in the sun. The height of the pit provides a convincing alibi for Violet, the rat terrior, nicknamed the Terrorist for her ability to shred anything in a matter of minutes.
When I came home to check on the drying progress, the hands were missing. I was mystified. At first, I thought the wind had blown the hands off the granite ledge. Afterall, what could be appealing to a dog about something made of flour, water, and paper, surely this combination does not emit a wafting odor tantalizing a dog’s olfactory lobes. But alas, the wind was not the culprit. I wasn’t going to be given the gift of finding intact phalanges. My search through the yard uncovered a few small remnants
I was very surprised that both hands were gone. I mean one good chew and yuck! But this is where the accomplice comes in. My rat terrier, Violet, gets great joy in tearing up anything. Shani has been very discriminating in her destructive tendencies, limiting her tastes to extremely expensive Victoria Secret panties. Violet will grab whatever is handy and shake it violently while growling and then shred the with her teeth. I vision the hand dismemberment as a two dog crime. The dog with superior height and extremely long snout identified and retrieved the hands. The terrior gleefully shredded them as the sheltie ran in circles joyfully barking and egging Violet on.
The crime set back the paper mache project three days:
One to recreate both hands. I start with pipe cleaners and cardboard.
Two days for drying.
Two more days for painting and decorating.
Three days for Marine varnish to paint and dry
Final three days for varnish to cure.
cardboard and pipecleaners to start
All this has led me to develop the Pinocchio Theorem:
If you have a long nose, be careful it doesn’t lead you astray.
Over Labor Day, my beloved Sheltie, Shani, raided the teenage girls’ bathroom and bedroom at our cabin. While she is usually sweet and shy, when left to her own devices her nose can get her in trouble. In this case, she destroyed a variety of feminine hygiene products. Five teenage girls and one bathroom provided a wild array of new scents and textures to explore. The pièce de ré·sis·tance of the crime was that when snorting through the bedroom clothing left on the floor, the only underwear Shani chose to destroy was my daughter’s very expensive Victoria Secret panties. My daughter, Kayla, does not like the word “panties” but one must call a spade a spade. In this case, Shani’s panty raid was restricted to her owner. Upon reflection “panty” as a descriptor of the little, tiny swaths of brightly colored lace, nylon, and spandex Kayla wears is generous. When I was a teenager, my mother would have described these itty, bitty pieces of fabric as “obscene” or cut them in half and used them as hankies, no wonder Shani put her nose in it. Victoria Secret has a new term for them “cheekies or cheeckini” presenting in seductive colors such as “purple rapture,””neon nectar” and “Bella Donna Pink.” Cheeky indeed! in all the many senses of the word.But I digress from the action in order that you might better understand the impulses of the perpetrator, just look at that long, soft nose and inquiring eyes designed to hunt out the single most tasteful, skimpiest, fragile, exquisitely expensive garment among many.
I was alerted to the crime when we all came home from dinner and I heard screaming and shouting upstairs. Over the balcony, reverberated, “GROSS!” “SHANI!” “Who left the doors open?” This query was from my daughter searching for the co-conspirator so she wouldn’t have to help clean up the mess. I, of course, was Shani’s defender and blamed the entire incident on the girls. Dogs will be dogs. Leaving attractive nuisances available for sniffing, thus enticing a dog’s olfactory lobe is bound to lead to chewing and wanton destruction.
I must admit that Shani once rooted around in my laundry basket. But I wear cheap cotton panties from ShopKo (the Bridget Jones memorialized as big panties, meaning full coverage in Bridget Jones Diary). One bite was all Shani could muster, though there was plenty of material, probably gave her that dry, cotton mouth taste.
I salute Shani for a valiant effort not to make me feel totally without appeal. The single bite suggests that one taste was all it took for her to take my cheap underwear off her list of chewable delights.
My daughter is always talking about how much better her dogs will be trained than ours when she leaves the house and gets a dog of her own. I am sure this is true.
My first dog when I was single was also a Sheltie, named Ginger Rogers because she loved to dance. I participated in a dog training class with my boss at the time, Dr. Cohen, who owned a big red setter. Ginger would prance gaily around the ring, sit, stand, lay and come when called. Dr. Cohen told me he’d never seen a better trained dog. But of course, since I was single, I had lots of time to work with the dog. We went everywhere together and had a very strong bond.
I have learned over the years that children change everything including dog training. Our next sheltie was Sparky. We got her when Kayla was little and Scott was in second grade. We all loved Sparky. But I remember eating dinner at the kitchen counter and saying to Kayla, “We don’t feed the dog at the table.” Kayla said, “Mommy, I don’t feed dog.” Just then Sparky ran under my feet with what looked like a cup of cooked spaghetti on her head. When I asked Kayla how the spaghetti got there. She said, “Fell off spoon. I don’t feed Sparky.”
Dogs are one of the great joys of my life. Unlike teenage girls, they thrive on your attention and don’t push you away. Shelties are bred to watch sheep, so they love their home and guard their yards, no demands of freedom from them. A homebody when Shani gets out of the back yard (infrequently), she runs around to the front door and waits for us to let us in. Unlike my daughter pushing hard to bust free of the confines of home, Shani is contented to stay with us always.
I don’t like to think of a time when I might not be able to care for a pet of my own. My dogs are not my whole life, but over the years and through a number of dog lives, dogs have certainly helped make my life whole.
“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”
― Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer and I have one thing in common, we like cats. When I am feeling down, I like to lay on my bed with Angel and listen to her purr.
It is not surprising that when I took up paper mache, cats are the first series I worked on. The cats I have created from various materials have some connections to my past. For example, the featured orange cat reminds me of my first cat, Puddy Cat, who we got when I was in first grade. Puddy Cat lived at our family home for 21 years (far longer than I did). Paper mache, Puddy, has a body entirely of newspaper to provide structure.
I wadded up paper into balls in the shape of a cat and then taped the paper in a few places to hold it together.
After I completed, Puddy Cat, I worked on a replica of the Satchel, the lord of the Ashtree Manor. My first effort at Satch was constructed of a toilet paper roll and Styrofoam ball for the head. There was no effort to capture the shape of a cat but rather to express the sleek, stylish nature of a cat through paper. I was pleased with the actual shape which I may try again. But the color was all wrong. I started with a black base coat and instead of creating a grey tiger stripe, I ended up with a brindle cat. I call this cat, “Cat with Coat of Many Colors”. My son told me that you always have to begin with base coat being light and then add on the darker colors later.
My next effort at Satch was a combination of experimenting with glue-based paste which creates a white clay and two toilet paper rolls. The cat structure that evolved from this effort was quite elaborate. I painted the cat all white and then layered on the various tones of gray. I am pleased with the coloring but probably won’t do such an elaborate cat structure in the future. To accurately capture Satch’s beautiful coat, I need to start with a gray base and then layer on.
I am working on paper mache prototypes because I need to have 10 items for a Christmas bazaar, a fundraiser for women’s scholarships. When I took in the cats to the planning committee, they didn’t think that cats would sell well at Christmas. I am now moving on to Christmas angels. I will blog about my angels, wood nymphs, and sprites soon.
I learned when I was visiting one of my good friends in Wyoming that she spends many hours joyfully engaged in adult coloring. She has many beautiful, brightly huged pictures she has produced. Coloring for her provides a grounding effect. Adult coloring has become very popular by providing stress relief and improved fine motor skills.
I told her I got similar joy from working on paper mache. The big different is the coloring books are easy to carry and the pens can be packed in a box. I have paper, paint, and glue strewn all over our upstairs playroom. Fortunately, the kids have outgrown the room so I can leave my objects out to dry and paint for long periods of time.
The distinction between art and craft is that art is a creation from an emotional response that cannot be replicated. Craft usually has a structure and can be replicated by others. Most of the time, I would define paper mache as a craft with structure and the ability for others to copy. However, I think in the case of my crafty kitties they are more art than craft. I will probably not make more cats but the ones I have made have reminded me of my furry feline friends.
Violet, who you have read about on these pages for many months, was stolen on Saturday, June 25 by L.C. and A.T. of Portland formerly of Sandpoint, Idaho. We know who did it because Ms. T. called our home line. We keep the line but don’t use it so did not receive the call in a timely manner. Ms. T. left a voice mail that they had found Violet a substantial distance from our home. Violet was tired and dehydrated. When my son contacted Mr. Camp, he accused us of animal cruelty for allowing Violet to be in a fenced yard, with a covered patio, loads of trees, water, and dog house. The temperature in Boise was in the high seventies at the time. She was also with her dear friend, Shani. While Violet was missing, Shani would wander the house looking for her. At night, she went into Violet’s crate searching for her.
After informing me over the phone that I was an abusive pet owner and my son a potential dog killer, Mr. C. promised to take Violet to the animal shelter on Sunday morning. When we arrived in Boise from a week long trip through Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, Violet was not at the shelter Sunday afternoon. I had cried all the way through Utah because Mr. C had sent me a threatening text message telling me I did not deserve to have animals. I knew intuitively that Mr. C. would not relinquish Violet to us voluntarily.
Upon reviewing the text message, staff at the Humane Society advised us to file a theft report with the Boise Police which we did. Both Mr. C. and Ms. T. were charged with theft. The Boise police, however, would not even contact Mr. C. They left that to us to do.
My husband, being a wonderful person and concerned about my distress, did contact Mr. C who when confronted with the possibility of being charged with theft said he had left the dog at the pound. My husband went out to the Humane Society on Tuesday to verify Mr. C.’s word and once again no Violet. Late Tuesday afternoon, we received a call from the Idaho Humane Society that Violet had been dropped off. We are all so thankful!
I am of the opinion that Mr. C. and Ms. T. felt they were doing the best thing for Violet. Unfortunately, they made a series of judgments about me and my family without knowing the facts of our loving family and long-term emotional relationship with our furry friends. The only way we were able to recover Violet was by aggressive, pro-active actions on our part. Believe me, Mr. C was extremely unpleasant in all of our dealings with him. Of course, as you all know from reading these pages, to know Violet is to love her. I believe Mr. C. and Ms. T. fell under her spell and wanted to keep her.
My suggestions to all of you who have pets you love is as follows:
Make sure your pets have chips and that the chip registration is up to date. This is how we could document for the police that Violet had not been dropped off at any shelter.
Have ownership tags on your dogs collars. That is how we received the first phone call.
Update the tags if you have moved from using your land lines to using cells. This is why we gave the impression of not being concerned. We very seldom check our land line.
Be persistent. Mr. C was abusive to us but we tried a variety of approaches to getting the dog returned. We visited the Humane Society every day, contacted the Oregon Humane Society, contacted the Veterinary Association with picture and chip number.
While law enforcement won’t do much to help, having a theft report in hand does provide leverage if you follow-up with the perpetrator.
Use social media to contact friends. My son was able to identify the perpetrator on Facebook and we were able to provide the police with CHIP number, phone numbers., Facebook accounts, picture of the dog, etc.
Talking with my sister, Jane, reminded both of us what tremendous skill and love our father had for dogs
Ralph (Robbie) Robinson was a shrewd entrepreneur. At one point in time, he leased lady shoe departments from the Sweet briar and Dillard Department Store chains in Cheyenne, Casper, and Laramie Wyoming; Logan, Utah; Greeley, Colorado and Rapid City, South Dakota. He also opened a children’s department in the Cheyenne stored called Robbie ‘ s Zoo, complete with a stuffed animal zoo and six foot tall, electric, nodding giraffe under the stairs.
The majority of his career he managed the Cheyenne stores and he had two male managers in Casper and Rapid City who stayed with him his entire 30 odd years in the business. He always said the managers made the business. He closed the other stores in Utah, Laramie and Greeley finding it difficult to keep his small shoe empire profitable without key managers in place.
With the three locations, he provided us with an upper middle class life style. We belonged to the country club, owned a quarter horse, had lessons in a variety of sports, traveled a little, had cars in high school and went to a private college. My sister and I were both in college at the same time so the private school was not a small bill to pay. When I was young, I didn’t think much about money or life style. We owned a store and when extra hands were needed, for example Christmas and back-to-school we worked at the store. In retrospect, I can see that maintaining our life style through economic ups and downs was no small feat.
This blog, however, is not about dad as a business man but dad’s life as a dog trainer. Knowing his business skills and take no prisoner competitive spirit in cards and golf, it is surprising that he was an expert at training dogs.
The first dog I can remember was Hokey-Dokey, a red-gold cocker spaniel. I remember Hokey as big. Since I was 2 or 3 at the time, it occurred to me writing this blog that Hokey was probably cocker size and I was dimiutive, eye-level with the dog. Dad trained Hokey to jump through a hoop, dance on his hind legs, and sit up. Dad and Hokey would dress up in costumes. Hokey wore a tutu, and dad wore a bow tie. They would go to events to perform. I was always delighted to be included in the audience for the performance. I was in second grade when Hokey died.
Barney, the beagle, was dad’s one failure. The dog was adorable except for his baying voice and the fact that he ran away all the time, even though we had a brick fence. He would run up to my grandmother’s house three blocks away. When the animal control officer would come to her door because of a complaint, Barney woukd stick his head around grandmother’s leg and bark. Dad finally gave Barney to one of his employees.
Along the way, we had two more black cockers, one after the other. Dutchess and Princess. Dutchess was particularly adept at jumping from the ground to the saddle so she could ride on my quarter horse with me.
Probably the best example of dad’s dog training skill was Bumper, an extremely large, absolutely gorgeous, purebred Black and white English springer spaniel. Bumper was the last of dad’s dogs. My family home was dogless when I moved back to Cheyenne for a job after graduate school.
I saw an animal shelter advertisement with Bumper ‘ s picture. Bumper was about six months old and had been relinquished because she was afraid of guns. My family didn’t hunt so this wasn’t a problem. I asked mom and dad if they would like the dog. I wasn’t living with them so it wouldn’t be my dog. When they said yes, I went and got them Bumper.
I am not sure it was love at first sight. Bumper had acquired some annoying habits before joining the family such as jumping up on people. She was large when I got her but she grew to be as large as a small golden retriever, way over-sized for an English springer spaniel. But Bumper certainly had her day when our family found her.
My dad trained her to walk from home to the store every day with him. She and he stopped at the post office each morning where she became well known. She stayed under his desk by his feet but would come out and greet children in the store when the sales clerks asked the kids if they would to pet a dog. Always polite when meeting children, she would sit quietly soaking in the attenton, jumping vanquished to another life time. But her greatest skill and one of my dad’s greatest joys was he trained her to carry the bank bag of deposits to the bank and stand up at the teller’s desk to deliver the cash. All the tellers’ had treats for her. She had her choice of lines. Dad and Bumper were featured in the bank’s print advertising as an example of the bank’s home-town, customer friendly service. Bumper and dad became known all over Cheyenne. They would be greeted as a team where-ever they went.
My dad retired when the Sweet briar stores went bankrupt. He was doing fine in his leased departments but had no base of operation. Fortunately, his business acumen held. He was able to support he and mom for many years on his investments. Bumper lived the life of leisure during this retirement period; going for rides, swimming for sticks in the country club lake, an activity she never tired of.
When my mom died, my dad remarried within six months to a woman who didn’t want Bumper. Dad asked me to take her. I declined because my job required a lot of travel. I had a sheltie, Ginger Rogers, who went with me everywhere. I couldn’t see taking two dogs all over Wyoming for work. With the perspective of age, I can see I could have been more flexible.At the time, I thought Dad’s new wife should have been more flexible. Family dynamics after a death with a quick remarriage are complex. Finally, Dad found a friend who was down on his luck and needed a place to live. Dad let the man stay in our family home rent free as long as he took care of the house and Bumper. Dad and I both regularly visited Bumper who seemed fine with this arrangement but I think missed her owner, my father. Bumper died two years after my mom. At that point, my dad emptied our family home (the family was now all living elsewhere) and sold it.
What did I learn from my dad about dogs. First,patience yields great rewards. Dogs love to meet their owners expectations and in turn a well-trained dog can bring joy to a family and in Bumper ‘ s case an entire community. Second, dogs are pets not children. We gave Barney away when he was disrupting our family’s life style. Dad married his new love even though she didn’t share his passion for dogs. After dad died, she got two cats whom she was fanatical about. Third,there are solutions to complex family dynamics. Bumper had a forever home because she was a great dog with a huge heart.