Top Ten Worst Christmas Gifts in 2016

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.

sarah-palin-gunThe 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

handrapants10.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.

wowwee9. 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.

unicorn-farts-cotton-candy-38. 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.

 

poop7. 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.

small_chihuahuas6.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.

cockroach5.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.

toliet-bowl3: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.

creamed-possum2.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.

 

Home

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.

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Pete and I on vacation in Wyoming

Peter: 

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.

Cats:

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.

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Violet in repose

Violet:

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:

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Shani, a mini-me Lassie

 

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.

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Kayla this summer

Kayla:

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.
  • Mom?????

 

At the concert she texts:

  • Here now.
  • Can I stay until 10:30?
  • Leaving now. Taking Emma home.

10:50 p.m. I hear the garage door open.

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Scott, home this summer using his room.

Scott:

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.

Me:

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.

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Pete and I on our 27th wedding anniversary this summer.

 I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  My family has much to be thankful for.

Another Criminal Act

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.

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Evidence pulled from jaws of criminal

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.

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Behind this sweet face is a snatch and grab artist.
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?

Repeat Offender

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Shani, second offense, misdeameanor for destruction of personal property

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

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Remnants of paper mache hands found in yard.

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.

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Violet, accomplice to crime. Armed with sharp teeth to annihilate  almost anything.

 

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.

 

All this has led me to develop the Pinocchio Theorem:

If you have a long nose, be careful it doesn’t lead you astray.

.

Does this dog look like a criminal to you?

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Shani, the guilty party!

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.

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The accusers

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.

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A single bite is all ShopKo panties is worth

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.

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Ginger, my first dog and constant companion

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.”

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Sparky with Kayla, Scott and I. Training dogs with young children is more difficult.

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.

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Kayla and Shani.Forgiveness and Reconciliation are words to live by

Violet, our rat terrier stolen

Violet
Violet

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.

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Shani, lost without friend, searching all Violet’s haunts.

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!

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. Have ownership tags on your dogs collars.  That is how we received the first phone call.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

I am so thankful to have Violet returned.

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Violet at home on her fake sheep skin blanket

Father’s Day gift reminds me of my father’s skill with dogs

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.

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Bumper looked like this when I brought her home. She quickly grew to the size of a golden retriever.

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.

Barney the Beagle–Paper Mache Replica of My Childhood pet

Papier Mache: French for chewed paper

Recently, I joined a women’s organization that hosts an annual Christmas bazaar to raise funds for education.   We are all supposed to make something to sell. I was born with very few arts and craft genes.   Since the first recorded cave art is over 500,000 years old, some of our early ancestors definitely had these genes and passed them on to a few lucky souls.  You and I all know the person who shows up  and can fashion a felt hat from a knit sweater or a gorgeous quilt from a rag bag, or takes home the hodge podge of objects contributed by parents to the school auction and produces a world class auction basket.  I stand in awe of these people.  I am not one of these people.

My freshman year in college, I took up knitting. I made dozens of extremely-long, odd- shaped scarves using the basic knit one/pearl one stitches.  Everyone I knew ended up with one of these slinky reptilian beasts.  As a child, my mother did her best to endow me with some homemaking skills.  I was enrolled in 4-H for a few years. I turned out passable aprons and gathered skirts, resulting in blue, red and white ribbons at fair.  My muffins had tunnels, little holes made by too much air–no ribbon at the county fair.  I did win the purple ribbon and best in class, one year for my meal plan.  In retrospect, this award is extremely ironic because I don’t cook much at all.

While suffering angst over the bazaar challenge, my sister, Jane, reminded me that as a child, I was a whiz at paper mache. My skill wasn’t because I wanted to produce great art.  I was fascinated by puppetry.  I’d make a variety of puppet heads with died cotton ball hair and whip up their outfits on our sewing machine. Then I would write elaborate plays for my friends and I to produce.

My first thought was there wasn’t much interest in paper mache anymore. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. When I looked up a paper mache refresher course on YouTube (source of all things educational),one sweet-looking elderly lady, Joni Good at http://www.ultimatepapermache.com  has a blog, numerous books and dozens of YouTubes.  Her recipe for paste has over a quarter of a million views. A second teenage girl has over 200,000 views demonstrating Joni’s recipe.  One man has over two million views on how to make a piñata. An attractive lady making a paper mache bowl has over 1 million views.

Apparently, there are a lot folks out there making craft items out of paper and paste. My sixteen year old daughter, Kayla, says there are just lots of people who like to watch YouTube and aren’t making anything. Surely these high numbers of viewers reflect some papery product being produced somewhere and not just viral surfers and paper stalkers. Given this huge viewing volume, I thought why not give it a try again? After all in the scope of human affairs (homo sapiens as we know them have  been around for more than 200,000 years), 52 years of not touching anything related to paper mache isn’t that long a time.

Paper mache originated in China during the Han Dynasty (BC 202 to 220). The Chinese made paper mache helmets that they hardened with lacquer. From China, the craft spread to Japan and Persia.  Those elaborate oriental masks, you see when you travel  are  paper mache.  When the art of paper mache reached France, the French, always unique, decided to create their art by chewing up the scraps of paper. Chewing paper would, of course, give you small pieces of sticky, damp paper to work with but sounds disgusting to me.  When I began my paper mache project, I rejected the French approach and used the yellow pages approach, “let your fingers do the shredding”.

After reviewing some of the videos on new approaches to paste (joint compound, linseed oil, and Elmer’s glue), I elected to go traditional. My first project is made of paste from flour, salt and water (recipe below).  A an empty toilet paper roll  and Styrofoam round ball provided the infra structure. I used newspaper for the coating.  Using household products did result in the bumps in odd places that led Joni Good to make up a more elaborate paste recipe.  But I am still taken with the more modest approach to paper mache because as a child, I remember we could just go to the kitchen, whip up paste without the hassle of gathering together a lot special stuff and have our theater cast underway in no time.  I think there is something to be said about being able to create when the urge strikes you, especially when children are involved.  In addition, the flour and water is easy to clean up with soap and water, inexpensive and very forgiving when you make errors.  Finally, it is not fast drying—a plus for joint compound and glue but a negative if you want to rip off some error you have made.

I am also taking a pottery class. In pottery, our teacher is always telling us that the clay speaks to us.  I was originally going to make a reindeer (remember this project started for the Christmas bazaar in 9 months). When I got started on the reindeer, he morphed into a beagle.

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Barney, before he got a coat of varnish, eyes and collar

I am very familiar with beagles, we had one when I was child.  For those art critics out there, I know the snout on my paper beagle is too long and his feet too big (blame the reindeer).  My sister, Jane, and I called our beagle, Barney the Beagle with the goo-goo-googlie eyes.  The entire time I was crafting my paper dog, I was thinking about Barney.  As you can see, Barney the Beagle has goo-goo-googlie eyes.

 

Barney was finished off with acrylic paints, spray-on shiny varnish, and repurposed eyes, nose and tongue from the reindeer I was trying to clone.  I found an unused cat harness in my pet drawer.  Any of you, who have read my blogs on my pets know that Satchel, the big gray Tom Cat wouldn’t be caught dead in a whoosie harness (one has to question my sanity for buying it at some point in time).  I cut up the offending harness and made a realistic collar for Barney.  Satchel was pleased.

I am proud of Barney for a first effort.

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Barney, with the goo, goo, googlie eyes!

He obviously isn’t good enough to sell at a bazaar, too many nasty little dings and bumps.  But he is good enough to give to my husband, Pete, for Father’s Day.  Pete has an office full of items the kids and I have made and seems delighted with whatever we give him no matter how low quality.

 

I have roughed out an angel and cat to see if I can’t still produce something that someone might buy. I may try the joint compound bending to the will of the masses to have a saleable product. Also from my pottery instructor, art takes time and patience.  I have nine months but at my age I’m not sure I will every produce a financially viable product.  That’s the beauty of paper mache. There isn’t much of an investment if the outcome is poor and you can also toss it in the recycling bin.

Simple Paper Mache Paste Recipe

1 cup flour

1 cup water

3 teaspoons salt

Mix together and start gluing

Most important–Have Fun!

McCall Winter Carnival–Family fun in tons of snow!

Do you have a hard time finding activities that young children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents can all enjoy together?  Carnival Posterr McCall Winter Carnival is one of those rare events providing family fun for all age groups and the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors by escaping the constant demands of social media and screen time.  All of this and it’s free!

As I write, the 51st Winter Carnival is in full swing.  Kicking off Friday, January 29th with a children’s torch light parade and fireworks, the festival  runs through February 7th , 2016  with a variety of activities all week. This year’s theme is Beyond Tomorrow, boasting 40 futuristic snow sculptures scattered all over town.

snow outside kitchen window
Snow outside our kitchen window

The necessary ingredients for a great winter celebration are snow (lots of it) and cold weather. This year McCall has had plenty of both.  We own a place in McCall and we’ve had enough snow to knock down a tree in our front yard and require us to dig a path way for our dogs out to the backyard.  I like to think the path out back as our own little interactive snow tunnel for dogs.

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Snow outside our kitchen window

 

 

 

 

The kickoff event for the carnival is a children’s torch light parade to the shores of Payette Lake for a fireworks display.

children's torchlight parade
Glowing lights are signature feature of Torch Light Parade.

This year it was so icy everyone joined the torch light parade to walk in the streets and avoid the slick sidewalks.  There is an indescribable joy, marching in the crisp, cold dark with children waving light wands and parents wearing glowing multicolored necklaces on a cold night.  Since it gets dark early this time of year, fireworks start at 7, still early enough for young children. For those who like to party, the fireworks provide  fabulous festive start to a night on the town.

This year, the fireworks were shot from the shore of the lake. 20160129_194725The viewers lined up along the snow banks just above the launching point. The dazzling bursts of color  burst right over our heads.  Some explosions were so close, I felt like it could reach out and touch them. My feet reverberated on the ground when the big boomers went off, sprinkling a few harmless ashes among us. The area near the lake was covered with a light dusting of smoke,  like English fog.  As my 16 year old daughter said, “The smaller the burst, the larger the boom.”  Once the fireworks were over we headed home for board games around the table in front of a blazing wood stove.  We have internet but no regular TV in our cabin.  But since we tend to gather as a group, we have found cards  and games to be a good social activity at least one night of the weekend.

 

The next morning my crowd of teenagers were up early to catch the first chair up Brundage Mountain. The ski hill tends to be empty during Winter Carnival because of all the activities in town. The kids’ ski report that afternoon was the “hill was uncrowded” and there was lots of new snow.

Meanwhile back in town, the crowds were huge for the annual Mardi Gras Parade. Replicating New Orleans, McCall’s pageant  is  resplendent with purple, green and gold beads for partiers, lively music and an array of local floats.parade

Parade viewers are lined up  three or four deep in sloshing snow.  I heard one mom tell her toddler not to get wet. With all the snow and slush, this order was like trying to stop a locomotive when the brakes go out. He promptly jumped in a puddle splashing water half way up his legs and on everyone standing near him. This  total disobedience made me laugh out loud.

Snow and kids are a magical mixture, assuming the kids are dressed for the cold weather. In McCall this weekend, I saw kids of all sizes sliding down snow hills  on butts, sleds or whatever other device would move.  During Winter Carnival, McCall balloons from a sleepy mountain town of 3,000 to over 60,000 visitors so believe me there are lots of interesting people and activities all around you.  One man fighting his way through the slush on the way to the car was overheard describing the crowds on his phone with, “I’m in the guts of this thing right now!”  The downtown on the first Saturday of Winter Carnival is not for the faint heart.  The pulsating energy of so many people is also part of the appeal of the festival.

Other events throughout the week are pancake breakfasts, gourmet dinners, bike races (motorcycles), Nordic racing, snowmobile fun run, theater, and continuous live music on an outdoor stage, hockey games in the town’s fabulous indoor rink, ice shows, beer garden, and food trucks.

snow biking
Glowing lights are signature feature of Torch Light Parade.

There are also the McCall regular activities including skiing on a great hill, tubing at the Activity Barn, soaking at one of three hot springs, or just hanging out in front of a warm fire and watching it snow.

 

My favorite event because I’m an animal lover is the Monster Dog Pull. Sponsored by McPaws Animal Shelter, regular people showcase their every day dogs pulling appropriate weighted sleds on a short course.

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This lab shows that even an old dog can learn new tricks!

Competition and sled size is determined by the size of the dog.  While some dogs were born to run, others take the race as the opportunity to meet and greet all the by-standers along the way as if they were beauty queens in a parade, and other canines take on the role of victim and  just sit down refusing to transform  from pets to working dogs.  You can see by their expressions these dogs think their  owners  who are calling them loudly, waving treats, and otherwise making a fool of themselves are just plain nuts.  Maybe during Winter Carnival, similar to New Orleans, happiness and fun may make us all just a little nuts (in a good way).

Pull 1
This German Shepard was perplexed by his owner’s behavior–“You want me to do what?”

 

If you didn’t get to McCall this weekend, don’t despair. There is still time to spend a day in McCall and see the snow sculptures which this year should stay in pretty good shape throughout the week. In warm winters, the snow sculptures melt right before  viewers’ eyes.

If you are from out of state, consider putting the Carnival on your travel bucket list.  If you are a couple with money, try out the Hotel McCall which is right in the thick of the action so you won’t have to use your car.  The next closest  high end choice is the Shore Lodge, great for couples and families but further from the action.  The lodge does run regular shuttles throughout the event.  For families with fewer resources and a weekend to spare, America’s Best Value Inn, while a little run down, has reasonable rates, a swimming pool, and breakfast each morning.  The biggest draw is it’s within walking distance of everything.  McCall has some great new hotels including the Holiday Inn and Best Western but they are on the outskirts of town and require you either take the shuttle, walk longer distances or fight the traffic.  If you are coming to spend the week and get in some high quality skiing and relaxing, I would recommend you look into renting a cabin.  McCall has gorgeous rentals at reasonable prices.   Since McCall does sell out, don’t wait until the last minute to make your travel plans for next year.  Under any circumstances, I would plan my trip to take advantage of the community shuttles or to stay within walking distance events. Hassling with traffic jams and no parking in a small town really detracts from the overall joy and carnival spirit.

 

Two Dogs before Christmas!

Two days before Christmas, upstairs in the house

The teenager was sleeping just like a mouse.

At precisely 9 am, the mistress to exercise went

Leaving two dogs in the house to follow their scent.Two Shelties

 

Dash-away, dash-away, dash-away all

With the mistress gone, we’re hav’in a ball!

 

Left to their wandering noses, the dogs went wild,

Like leaving an unwatched 5 year old child!

They ran through the main floor without making a clatter,Teenage Girl sleeping

The teenager slept on not knowing anything was the matter.

 

Dash-away, dash-away, dash-away all

With the mistress gone, we’re hav’in a ball!

 

They nosed opened a vanity drawer, throwing tissue and plastic around,

Then into the master bath they went with a bound.

They yanked the toilet paper off of the spindle

They tossed the washrags on the floor in a bundle.

 

Dash-away, dash-away, dash-away all

With the mistress gone, we’re hav’in a ball!

 

Next to the master closet they did scout

The master’s dirty underwear they then routed out.

They tugged and pulled all manner of man clothes

Who knows what tantalizing smells came to their noses.

 

Dash-away, dash-away, dash-away all

With the mistress gone, we’re hav’in a ball!

 

An hour later the garage door arose,Christmas House

The mistress found the mischievous canines in calm repose,

And the teenager remained snuggled asleep in her bed,

As visions of sexy dudes danced in her head.

 

The mistress was heard to exclaim as she saw the dogs’ mess,

“Merry Christmas my scoundrels, with you two I am blessed!”

Christmas Tree