Monday, July 6, 2020

SPRING/SUMMER 2020


Dusty Quinn - cmkstudio2@gmail.com

CAT IN THE NIGHT WOODS



 
OWL IN  THE PINE









 "Properly trained a man can be dogs best friend."
                                             Corey Ford                    

That Kind of Wet

We live in the Pacific Northwest.  It rains here. The good news is where we are located, in the rain shadow of the Cascade and Olympic mountains, we’re spared a lot of precipitation.  The not so good news is even a little drizzle upsets a usually well-executed schedule.   



Having owned many dogs over the years, I know firsthand the benefits of getting pups on a regular routine.  Specific meal and yard times are best for dogs and once past house training stages there’s never a puddle or poop gift in the house.  Same deal with Dusty.  Our daily habits are pretty solid and he happily romps to the door when I call him for outie time, except when it’s raining.  Not sure how he knows it’s sprinkling out there, but when it is he slithers instead of romping when I call and needs a little bum push out the door.  Dusty isn’t a fan of getting wet.  So last night for our final yard time in a slight drizzle he descended the deck steps hugging against the house, tiptoed to the grass to pee and then raced back up onto the deck pressing his snout against the door.  Staying dry under the house eave, I called him to come back down.  He didn’t budge.  He always poops last thing in the evening, so I wanted to keep to the schedule and not have an uncomfortable pooch whimpering in the middle of the night.  Fortunately, I had his leash in my pocket.  I climbed the steps.  His fluffy tail wagged wildly anticipating going inside, getting a cookie, curling on a dry bed.  I clipped the leash to his collar and hustled him, with some resistance on his part, back down the steps and through the shower to his favorite spot at the far end of the yard.  He quickly circled in the wet grass, emptying his innards in record time.  Once unleashed he raced like jack rabbit to the house, leaving me dripping in the rain.  Back inside I slid out of soggy shoes and clothing and he was rewarded with his favorite treat.   Although wet and cold I was happy that we kept to our routine.   Wonder what the problem is?  He always seems to enjoy his bath.  How can we work on this rain issue?



I don’t like getting outdoor wet.  Don’t mind my baths with warm water and sudsy soap that makes me smell good, but not a fan of chilly drops of rain on my bod, especially when I’m looking for just the right spot to poop. And tonight was the worst.  I was TETHERED right in my own yard.  My old girl hooked me up and made me walk in the rain. Oh, the humiliation!  In her defense, she did take me to the exact right place under the trees where I didn’t get too drippy.   Kind of sorry she got soaked, she really is so good to me, but she’s flexible and will adjust (she just has to adjust) to carting me through the rain on my leash to the shelter of trees, because I’m never going to like getting that kind of wet.   


 

Monday June 29, 2020
"Don't let aging get you down, it's too hard to get back up."
                                                                                                  John Wagner                                                                       

Aging in Good Spirits in the Company of Critters

 While getting my writing career going, I worked as a certified personal trainer.  Specializing in senior fitness, I became acquainted with several eighty-plus men and women who crossed my path in the wellness exercise classes I taught. The hospital-affiliated classes offered supervised, safe exercise for folks with diabetes, COPD and heart disease.  Although the health issues and individual capabilities were varied, the common denominator with all of my older wellness students could be defined in two simple words – positive attitude.  No matter their personal challenges, they arrived for class sharing joy in the ordinary stuff.  Harriet, a client dealing with diabetes, spoke with palpable glee about play dates with her grandchildren.  Cardiac exerciser Joe had the latest newsy scuttlebutt that always initiated a lively discussion and with oxygen tank in tow, pulmonary patient Annie, a former sailor, talked about the latest boating article she’d written and the art class she was taking.  They were a happy lot.   Knowing this merry band of oldsters made me a student of positive aging, but once I began writing full-time, working from home with only me to deal with, my grades started to slip.  Lately, though, my moaning about aging seems to have accelerated and I’m starting to annoy myself.  Truth be known, I have little to complain about, but accepting the minor annoyances of the aging process is a struggle and I do whine about it some.  Like arthritis flare-ups when I vacuum or slog instead of walk, or after  play on the floor with grandkids having to gawkily crawl to a chair for support to get back on my feet and those pricey hearing aids with that annoying squeal when I hug someone.   There I go again.  Where’s that positive attitude?  What happened to aging in good spirits no matter the terrain?  Where are my mentors?  

I don’t know how old I am, or why I need a long nap after one of our walks.  I sometimes bumble up the stairs, but I don’t know it’s because I only have one eye.  Besides, I do get up those stairs and can still catch my ball and chase the deer and go for jaunts in the park.  Can’t decipher the circumstances that landed me in the care of my old girl, but today, in this moment, I’m happy here curled on my blanket with cats William and Abner.  They’re happy, too, so they tell me.  I don’t know how old any of us are, but life is good in this place with yummy food and treats, a big yard for play and people who love me. 

I look at my little Dusty and his buddies who all seem to know how to live in the now with joyful spirits.  I remember fondly my sweet exercisers with many health issues yet always those wonderful, positive outlooks.  And then don’t I have another ah ha moment.  Like so many clear-cut, often unnoticed, things in life I realize there are wise four-legged mentors right under my nose.  And so I’ll work to age in good spirits in the company of critters, learning to accept the imperfections and appreciate the gift of today, the delight of each moment. There will likely be some bumps in the road, but thanks to old exercisers and sweet animals I’m getting it - the aging journey isn’t about ailments, it’s about attitude.

Best wishes from This Old Girl and company. 





Monday, June 22, 2020


 "The Average dog is nicer than the average person."
                                                                                              Andy Rooney                                                                           
She Cut My Nails, But I Let Her Live

Still in the Covid-19 quarantine and my real groomer hasn’t opened her shop.  I’ve sort of adjusted to my human bathing me and cutting my fur, I know her intentions are good.  She does her best for someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing, but I’ve drawn the line at her cutting my nails.  Oh, she’s tried, but I’ve outfoxed her at every turn.  I sat on my paws, took to my bed, went so far as to lower my standards and hide in the cat crate.  And when she finally did get hold of me I refused to allow her to touch my feet, even let out a pretend growl just to scare her.  Look at those giant clippers.  What if she cuts off a whole nail?  What if she cuts all of them too short and there’s pain and bleeding involved? What if I freak out a bunch and bite her?  There’s just too much at stake, but by now I should realize who I’m dealing with.  She’s sweet, loving, kind and doing really well working on patience, but she’s still way too determined to get things done.  And so today she’s on a nail clipping mission and my paws are in the line of fire. Before I know what hits me, I find myself scrunched under her arm, hauled out on the deck and plopped on top of the picnic table.  Now she’s playing dirty, knows I don’t like to be on tables, knows I’ll acquiesce because of the height.  I’m frightened even though she’s laying over me keeping me safe, but while I’m scared and immobile doesn’t my old girl commence cutting.  And doesn’t she do a pretty good job – no blood, no pain, no major amputations.  Back safely on the deck floor I’m still pretty annoyed, want to howl and whimper and growl all at the same time.  She hands me a treat.  Okay, this is good. I calm down and eat my cookie. She gives me a gentle pat.  I wonder if it occurs to her that I could have transformed into a nasty critter biting her from head to toe.  Between you and me, I wouldn’t know how to be unpleasant. I’m a pretty nice guy.   Paws still attached and my nails look good.   I really like my old girl, so I’ll keep my mean dog persona to myself ending the fantasy proudly knowing I decided to let her live. 


 
Human here who has been granted a reprieve.  That giant weapon I’m accused of wielding was my little nail clipper.  He’s so dramatic.  Don’t know where he gets that from.   He also bounces back pretty quickly from these so called traumas.  Wish I could adopt that trait.  While he munches his cookie treat, I massage my arthritic muscles aching from keeping a squirming dog in check and moan loudly about aging.  I consider myself a positive thinker, but do admit to more than the occasional whine about getting old.  In truth, I’ve always had a goal of aging in good spirits like my little Dusty who’s no spring chicken, but is a pretty happy boy.  Maybe sweet Dusty will be my aging mentor (William and Abner, too), because I’m not doing too well on my own.   
 



June 15, 2020
" Tis mine to be in love with life, And mine to hear the robins sing; Tis mine to live apart from strife, And kneel to flowers blossoming."  
                                                                                                  Alex Posey

 Green Apples in My Bed

I’ve never, ever had a yard with apple trees. Now that I do, I’m happy.   The fruit is small, really small.  My human says it will be a few months before we can pick anything, but I’ve made an important discovery.  Some of the apples have already fallen from the trees and even though they’re tiny and very green, I like them.  I can pick them up in my mouth, toss them high in the air, fetch them as if they were rubber balls.  And so I’ve decided the wee green apples are mine and belong in the house with my other toys.  I put two by my food bowl, but before I even curled up for a nap William and Abner were snooping.  I moved the apples to my blanket in the family room.  Abner was watching and pranced onto my blanket as if it was his. I barked and he scrammed, but William was right behind poking his paw where it didn’t belong.  I grabbed the end of my blanket in my teeth and dragged it over my new fruit toys, covering them completely.  The cats were on it, both approaching low to the ground, tails flailing back and forth.  This called for some serious growling and a good chase around the house, but before long they were back nosing around, they just don’t take me seriously.  I stood guard over my blanket contemplating my options.  It was a given that the cats would be persistent.  If I continued to chase them, I might get into trouble.  If we caused enough of a ruckus, my human would likely get annoyed and put my new toys back in the yard.  So I waited till Will and Abner were napping in the sunbeam.   Slowly I moved first one fruit then the other to my sleeping corner in the master bedroom. Very, very quietly I tucked each one into the folds of white fleece.  Quite leisurely, to be sure not to alert meddling felines, I did my usual pre-curling three circles and  lowered my bod down.  Success. Abner and William still asleep, human engrossed on the computer and no one will ever know.  I’m pleased with myself.  I outsmarted those annoying cats, kept my old writer girl calm and have great new toys, green apples, safe in my bed.       

Dusty's human here.  The two little apples have since been eaten.  Won't elaborate.  I'm no snitch.   
Green Apple in My Bed


June 8, 2020   
"Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there someday."  
                                                                                                           Winnie the Pooh

You Can’t Hurry Up and Poop (or play)

Sometimes in the mental wanderings of a sleepless night I can still hear her.

      “Hurry up and clean your plate.”  

     “Hurry up and get ready for school.”  

     “Hurry up with your homework.”  

     “Hurry up, you’ll be late for mass and don’t scuff those shoes.”

Mother was in constant motion and expected the rest of us to follow suit.  She rushed through life on a mission to reach a self-imposed fastest and best finish line, as if being pursued by a posse of judgmental peers.   As an adult, I fueled this propensity and continually mouthed the “hurry up” mantra, but I started thinking about changing my ways back in 1973.  

     I had just put the baby down after his 6 p.m. feeding.  My two eldest children (eleven and twelve) were at the kitchen table writing their school supply lists for our shopping trip planned for the next day.  Six-year-old Christopher was in the tub.

     “Let’s get you washed and shampooed,” I said to Chris, as I knelt and leaned into the sudsy array of plastic boats and bobbing rubber critters.

     “But Mom, I want to play for a while,” Chris pleaded.

     “Okay,” I replied, “but hurry up.”

He froze.  His blond eyebrows rose.  His forehead furrowed into thin frown lines.  He looked at me with wide, puzzled blue eyes.  Wayward white tufts of Mr. Bubble beard floated from his face.  And then Chris posed the key question.

     “Mom, how do you hurry up and play?”

I froze in the warm water, the washcloth floating away from my hands.  At first I was dumbstruck.  Then I felt just plain dumb that I had never had the chutzpa to question my mother’s idiosyncrasy choosing, instead, to take on the habit myself.    

     “You know what, Chris, I don’t think you can hurry up and play,” I admitted.  And for a long while I made a real effort to erase those two words from my vocabulary.  But like so many good intentions, the application got pushed to the back burner, although not forgotten.  Up until yesterday I couldn’t recall the last time “hurry up” infiltrated my brain.   And yesterday’s incident was just a thought, I didn’t utter a word.



Since the Covid-19 quarantine, I’ve been going to the grocery store at 7 a.m. on Tuesday or Thursday.  Those are the shopping days (6-9 a.m.) designated for old folks.  Being considered an “old folk” is a huge annoyance and a topic for another blog, but does come in handy as a qualifier for shopping early sans crowds.  So last Thursday I’m up at 5 a.m., have a quick cup of coffee, get my list together and get dressed.  By 6 a.m. I’m ready to take Dusty out and then whip up morning meals for him, Will and Abner.  I put on my jacket and yard shoes and we’re off.  The yard is soggy from last night’s rain.  Dusty isn’t fond of getting paws wet, so he’s poky about stepping off the deck.  Once resigned to the dampness, he snoops around picking up bunny scent and peeing on each bush.  He spots deer in the meadow, gives a quick woof and pees some more.  Now it’s nose to the ground finding just the right spot, here’s pretty good, over there might be better, a little circle, but maybe not.  I check my watch thinking let’s “hurry up.”  Remembering a harried parent and my resolve to not be one, my lips are sealed.  I get a sweet look and a definite squat as he leisurely empties his innards.  We strut back to the house, Dusty anxious for food, me proud as a peacock, finding myself wishing Mother could have enjoyed, could have lived the idea - you just can’t hurry up and poop (or play).  



She’s getting it, working hard on the patience thing. If truth be known, she’s really quite patient with all of us, even though sometimes we’re a handful.  And another thing, I’ve noticed a crossword puzzle book in her bathroom.    




 June 1, 2020
"The road to success is always under construction." 
                                                                                          Lily Tomlin

Twenty-Five Hail Marys

I grew up Catholic.  I was taught by scary nuns who held the crucifix dangling from their habits in one hand and a yardstick in the other.  To add to the joys of Catholic school, Monsignor O’Connor was always lurking about reminding five-year-olds that they’d die in their sleep if prayers were skipped.   I received First Communion at age seven.  From there on, going to confession on Saturday in preparation for communion on Sunday was a given.  This ritual caused much angst.  I was a child with little in the way of sin to confess, so I’d kneel in the dark, curtained booth, look at the shadowy form of Father so and so and lie.

     “Bless me Father for I have sinned, I told one lie this week.”

     “I have heard your confession,” he’d say.  “For your penance, recite twenty-five Hail Marys.”



If you’ve been following this blog you know I gave up Catholicism long ago, but kept God - not as a single entity, but rather a loving energy surging through all living things.  I’ve also mentioned that I’m working on my impatience.  As a start, I’ve replaced those twenty-five Hail Marys with twenty-five Ah Ha Moments, times when I see myself getting antsy and do something positive instead. The exercise has required a bit of discipline on my part. It has meant stepping out of the day’s routine, paying attention, being present, appreciating small pleasures.  Bumbling along at a snail’s pace, it may take till the end of my days to recognize and apply twenty-five Ah Ha Moments that guide me away from impatience.  But I have help.  As Richard Rohr writes in The Universal Christ, “Anything that draws you out of yourself in a positive way - for all practical purposes – is operating as God for you at that moment.”   His words reinforce my constant wondering - who is in that Dusty dog outfit?  



I had to let her know.  There were visitors in our yard.  I went right to the desk where she was working.  And I barked.  Scared her a bit cause she jumped, but did stop what she was doing and we went outside so I could show her.  The two does looked at us for a few minutes then jumped the fence to the meadow next door.  She sighed, patted my head, we went back inside and she went back to work.  She didn’t hear the mailman, had to announce someone else on our property, so I barked to alert her.  She huffed and puffed a little and we went out to get the mail.   Wasn’t long before the neighbor dog who yaps for no reason was put out in his yard.  I howled at him as a scolding because he’s noisy for nothing and disturbs her writing.  But my good intentions went unnoticed. She got impatient, told me, ME to quiet down.  


 A barky morning.  I have a story to write and there’s been one disruption after another.  Feeling tense, a bit annoyed, losing patience.  Hmmmm!  That didn’t take long.  A few cleansing breaths and out in the yard we go, me with a cup of chamomile tea, Dusty with his favorite toy.  The sun is warm, the apple trees are showing first buds, purple forsythia alive with fragrance. Two brown rabbits head for the clover patch.  Dusty’s alert, watching the munching.  He runs to me and barks.  I look at his loving face, tail wildly wagging, telling me all about the bunnies.  I inhale the freshness of spring, exhale the day’s angst and experience my first of twenty-five Ah Ha Moments, patient pleasure from sweet surroundings, loving communication.   How many simple delights missed each day?  Can I pay enough attention to recognize and honor every positive moment?  Can I work on creating some?   A ginormous chocolate chip cookie would be good with this tea.  Dusty curls in the sunbeam by my feet.  I think of the Richard Rohr quote.  “Anything that draws you out of yourself in a positive way - for all practical purposes – is operating as God for you at that moment.”    Again I ponder who is in that dog getup? 


I’m exhausted, but she’s coming around.  Out of herself for a glorious moment, seeing our world with joy and fun, and my old girl has some good questions.  Every once in a while she seems to get it, but I know my work is cut out for me. 
 


May 25, 2020
"I honor and nurture my spirit that has chosen this journey."


 New Memories on a Tattered Cushion

Rich oak wood with its lovely grain pattern, spindles in back, plush blue seat cushion with flecks of white stars, the rocking chair has occupied a prominent space in three different homes.  We had just moved cross-country and were renting a temporary place. I bought the chair for a corner in the family room with good light for reading and knitting.   Two years later, we purchased our own home and the chair fit beautifully in the master bedroom. I placed it right by the sliding glass doors with a clear view of slender madrone trees and the booming pink bougainvillea along the fence.   Eventually, we relocated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest.   We’ve been here twenty-five years.  The rocking chair’s current spot is in my writing studio with a window view of tall, green pines, blue sky and cottony clouds.   The wood remains in good shape, but the blue seat cushion is a bit ragged.  I bought a new cushion a while ago, but have resisted making the change.  The frayed, worn seat pillow holds old memories to hang onto and fresh relationships to cultivate.


The core of the chair’s importance began when it was new and so was my granddaughter.  Seeing me warm her bottle, she’d toddle straight to the rocker, look up at me with those glorious brown eyes and tap her little hand on the cushion.  When I approached, she would reach her arms up and I’d scoop her in settling us both into the chair cozy and safe.  Bottle empty and baby asleep in her crib, Sunny, my cherished Cocker Spaniel, would jump onto the rocking chair and look at me with his endless love eyes.  Unable to resist, I’d sidle in beside him and share time and warm feelings with the sweetest dog in the world.   Lovely granddaughter is grown now and Sunny’s ashes enhance a flowering shrub in a pot on the deck.  I hold dear the cherished memories of years gone by and revel in the latest joys sitting in a rocking chair with threadbare cushion.  


Today I watch the nightly news from my rocker.  World events being so depressing, I wonder why I allow my psyche to be assaulted, but halfway through my inner lamenting I’m saved.  Rescue kitty, Abner, rescues me.  Abner loves to rock.  He has two approaches.  He plops in my lap from nowhere, or he rubs back and forth on my feet until I pick him up.  When he plops, I stroke his head and back.  When I pick him up he allows cradling (like a baby) and rubbing of chest and tummy.  Often he has a lot to say, purring and mewing while I pet and chat back and the drudge of the news slowly fades.   Cat William wants no part of this rocking nonsense (I tried, he hissed), so I meet him where he’s willing to meet – in my lap on the couch and beside me in bed, but  newest family member, Dusty, is all in.  Little Dusty Quinn with so many issues to conquer has been comfortable from the get go hopping on my lap for rocking chair sessions.   His body relaxing with the gentle movement, he leans in close, savoring my touch, his trust easing my mind.  I’m sure there are some who’d say this behavior on my part takes away the superior role we humans are supposed to play with pets, but I don’t feel superior, don’t always see man as the higher animal.   Yes, I have rules and schedules I expect my critters to follow, but I also believe there is a sameness that links living beings.  We all respond to and deserve love and respect.  And so I interact with William in ways he allows and sway back and forth with Abner and Dusty creating new rocking chair memories on an old, tattered cushion.   
Sunny

May 18, 2020
"At the end of the day we are Critters All."

Critters All

I was on assignment in the San Juan Islands. Waiting for the ferry to head back to the mainland, I sat on the beach wrapping up my notes on island serenity and simplicity.  A young man walked by with a small beagle on a leash.  His lively, inquisitive companion was a very young pup.  Each time a seagull zoomed in for a landing, the little dog tried to scurry and chase the bird.  Each time his excitement peaked, his paws were tugged out from under him by a harsh tug to the lead.  And with every yank the puppy choked and flipped upside down.  I witnessed this appalling behavior a number of years ago. It was long before everyone and his brother carried a gun, so I wasn’t afraid to say something.  As it turned out, the young man was very nice and didn’t hit me when I lightly commented on his rough behavior.  He explained he’d just gotten the dog and wanted to get him trained as soon as possible.  I said I’d owned several dogs over the years and understood.  I assured the guy I wasn’t a  trainer drumming up business, but did say that control of my pets came easily and without forcefulness once I got to know my dog and they knew me.  He smiled and thanked me as he bent to pet his dog’s head.  “We’re all receptive to love,” I said as he walked away with a kinder stride, a calmer companion. 


There’s a lot to consider with a new dog.  Breed, age, background, family dynamics all play important roles and how these concerns are handled is up to each owner.  But everyone can begin with humanity.  I think getting to know your dog starts with looking at their face, into their eyes, taking in their unconditional love and trust, offering it back.  I look at my little Dusty and can almost weep with the love and loyalty I see, wonder if I’m able to come close to replicating his gifts.  Forming a loyal, trusting bond has always been important for me and my critters as I gently, consistently introduce a schedule and good behavior.  And I do support professional training for many dogs and owners, I used one with good success for my hyper Westie, Brodie, years ago.  But I choose to start every pet relationship with the kindness and understanding every living being deserves.  At the end of the day we are CRITTERS ALL.

HOW HUMBLE THE LINKS

BETWEEN ALL LIVING BEINGS.

BEATING HEARTS, EXPANDING LUNGS,

PAIN FELT AS STRONGLY AS PLEASURE,

FEAR EXPERIENCED AS DEEPLY AS JOY.

TWO-LEGGED, FOUR-LEGGED

RESPONDING TO KINDNESS, DESERVING OF LOVE.

EACH BREATH, EACH WHIMPER ENTWINED AS ONE SPIRIT,

ENHANCING THE ENERGY, PROPELLING OUR UNIVERSE.

A UNITY OF SOULS, A SIMPLICITY OF TRUTH,

AT DAY’S END WE ARE CRITTERS ALL.


Brodie

May 11, 2020

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that the arrival of little Dusty Quinn motivated me to change direction, to move beyond impatience and to devote my work to the well-being of animals.  While this blog is a focus on life with my sweet little dog, I will  veer off the Dusty Road every now and then for stories that are important to the cause. 


                                        OATMEAL WITH WILLIAM
 
I am an aging woman.  Well, all of us are aging, but I’ve just recently started paying attention to being part of the group.   I’ve been a young thinker my whole life and thanks in part to genetics look a bit younger than my years.  Not that these things are bad, it’s just that owning up to the aging process is a new concept for me, a former personal trainer. 

In truth, aging is a bloody challenge.  I’m up for it, but sometimes find it a pain in the rump, literally today because my left sciatic nerve is aching.   And here’s where my annoyance kicks in.   “You’re in great shape, keep up the exercise,” my doctor advises.  And I’m out there walking rain or shine almost every day and lift weights as well, but if I push this aging bod a tad too much it comes back to haunt me in the form of pain.  Now I wouldn’t mind the sore muscles if I saw some light at the end of the tunnel, like my exercise routine bringing cholesterol numbers down.   “Eat more fiber,” the doc says.  So this carbo junkie buys a pricey machine that grinds fruit, veggies and nuts to a pulp and starts having healthy, fibrous shakes for breakfast.  It isn’t long before this morning meal is followed by spending the afternoon in the bathroom.   With the grinding machine tucked to the back of a cabinet, I get into oatmeal for breakfast.  Let me tell you oatmeal, no matter what favorite goodie I put in it, isn’t a New York bagel slathered with cream cheese.  Moving on from grumbling, this morning, instead of standing over the sink to eat my yummy bowl of mush, I sat at the dining room table.  This way I was able to plop my screaming sciatic rear on the heating pad while I ate.  About halfway through my ordeal, nine-year-old William jumped onto the table.  He moved to the bowl and started licking the oatmeal that was stuck to the side.  Purring loudly, he turned, licked my face, washed his and curled into peaceful sleep - my little William always so appreciative of the smallest tidbit. 

    
When William was a kitten he was hurled violently from a moving car.  His little pink nose will always carry the scar of that collision with pavement.  My granddaughter and I came across him at the animal shelter.  When the volunteer told us his story, we were in disbelief.  My teary-eyed granddaughter asked, “How can someone do that?”  I answered as best I could.   “I don’t know, Sweetie, but I do know that often we’re able to pick up the slack for some of the ignorance in the world.”  William became my cat that day and a young girl saw that it was possible to make a difference.   As with the oatmeal, William savors every bite of food, every act of kindness that comes his way.  So, since I always grow some through my association with animals, I’ll let this aging thing grow on me.  Like William, I’ll appreciate the gift of each new day, the warmth of unconditional love, the last nibbles of oatmeal. 
William


May 4, 2020
"It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine."
                                                                                     Eeyore

Who Hit Delete?

Wrote a pretty lengthy blog this morning.  It was all about whining over the sad state of my country.  Read it over, liked it, got ready to publish.  And then it happened.  Tap, tap, tap on the tree by my studio window.  I had to take a look, couldn’t miss a lovely bit of nature gifted to me right under my nose.  Yep, there was our olive and brown neighborhood woodpecker upright on the hardwood diligently pecking his little heart out, tufted feathers on his crown fluttering.   And while I’m at the window two does amble by, in between them a sweet, spotted fawn, a tiny new life right in my yard.  In that moment, the beauty of nature tugged at my heart.  Lovely simplicity in the midst of a world in crisis.  

I strongly believe we are guided by a higher power, a Universal Energy.  Also admit I don't always pay attention to the messages.   Back at my desk I intended to publish my latest blog.  I hit the key.  The blog disappeared.  What did I do?  Where is my #?#!**## blog?  Who hit delete? By this time my sleeping critters were awake.  I looked at those faces; three sweet, happy boys all rescued from bad situations.  I realized my situation was far from bad.  Must have been a reason why my original blog was deleted, perhaps the reason was to give me time - time to appreciate, to regroup and be grateful, to rewrite and share, to stick to the purpose of this blog.   Hope my little ones make you smile. 

Stay well, dear readers.     
 
Abner

William













April 27, 2020

"Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog."  
                                                                                                         Franklin P. Jones

 I'm Worried About That Tarp, a Dusty post

The Covid-19 pandemic so awful for the world hasn't been too bad for me. My family is always home to keep me company and when they do go out it's mostly for walks, and I get to go. There's been a lot more play time in the yard, too.  I'm a bit worried today, though.  There's a big plastic tarp on the floor, scissors and brushes have been placed on the tarp and the bottle of Dawn soap that's usually in the kitchen is by the tub in the bathroom.  The hairdryer is always out, but right now I have a bad feeling about that as well.

Except for the car ride, I've been pretty good about going to the groomer.  The warm bath is nice and my clean, short coat feels good, especially in hot weather. And I look so handsome all spiffed up.  I'm better now about riding in cars, but today being at the mercy of my pseudo groomer has me concerned.  There have been many dogs here before me and we've all been kept beautifully bathed and clipped, but by a PROFESSIONAL GROOMER.  This girl of mine is so good to me and the cats in every way, but grooming????  OMG as you humans would say.  I see her coming.  Stay tuned.

This is the quarantined makeshift groomer speaking.  The kitties are hiding high up in the rafters, there's "caution" tape draped across the demolished bathroom and I look like something the cats dragged in.    Dusty, bathed, clipped, brushed and handsome sits patiently in the kitchen waiting for the promised treat.  Not surprising, he was enormously cooperative although a bit shaky during his ordeal.  Also not surprising, I have a new respect for our professional groomer.  I'll sign off now and attempt to groom myself, or perhaps go directly for my adult beverage treat.

Dusty here - She's a mess, but hallelujah I'm not, look pretty good really. I didn't let her near my nails, too scary, but my fur is clean and short and pretty even, except for my legs, my leg fur is a little jagged here and there, but she did her best  and was extra cautious trimming around my eye.  She's gutsy and I'm proud of her, but I hope we're out of quarantine before too long. I miss my real groomer assuming you can miss someone who assaults your body with suds and scissors. 

From all of us, stay well.



 April 20,2020
"No camel route is long with good company."
                                                                                                                     Turkish proverb

Walk a Mile on My Paws, A Dusty Post

She’s a retired personal trainer.  My wonderful, loving, considerate, patient owner who tops off my meals with little pieces of cheese, brushes my coat and who I really like is a retired PERSONAL TRAINER!  “Let’s go for a walk,” she says.  “We need the exercise,” she says.  “Gotta keep our weight down, bods in shape.”  I’m eight-years-old and my last owner was a sedentary smoker.  I like a casual walk as much as the next guy, but she worked for years as a PERSONAL TRAINER.   Walking with this girl is a whole different animal.

Our routes are super nice.  Towering pines, thick shrubs, winding trails in one direction, tall beach grass, sand and crashing waves in another.  Lots of good peeing and pooping spots, and she exhibits a great deal of patience when I stop.  But the rest of the time we’re moving.  I am thankful for small favors.  She’s no spring chicken anymore.  While she once ran six miles a day, arthritis in her back and knees has changed her workout routine to less miles and walking, but walking with a former runner isn’t just schlepping along. The old girl’s pace is fast.  I’m good for the first mile, staying in front, eagerly pulling on my leash.  By the beginning of mile two I’m beside her and near the end I’m starting to drag.  But I came up with a spectacular idea.  To save myself I tap into both the sympathetic and competitive sides of my trainer person.  As we close in on the end of mile two I shift from dragging to plopping my fluffy rump down on the pavement.  She turns around, takes pity on my sad little face to which I’ve added a drooping tongue and finishes her workout carting me in her arms.  She takes great delight in hefting fifteen extra pounds.  Panting now she tells me she’s burning more calories, building more muscle, bettering her fitness level.  I knew she’d come to that conclusion.  We finish our walk.  She plants a kiss on top of my head, mumbles it was a good three miles, gives me water first. I knew she’d do that, she’s such a mush.   “You’re a good walking buddy,” she says.  I’m glad when I can help.   
  

You should know my personal trainer has written a popular book on safe exercise. One of the chapters even has a blurb about a dog. She can’t help herself, always includes a critter in her writing.   
Books by Carole page


 April 13, 2020 
"A day without laughter is a day wasted."
                                                                                                                                         Charlie Chaplin

Bare Floors and Cat Treats

Dusty isn’t a fan of bare floors.  He navigates the carpeted rooms of the house with ease while ignoring the guest room and hall bathroom.  The big issue for him, and subsequently me who wants her pup happy and her Libra scales balanced, is the uncarpeted kitchen floor.  For Dusty, crossing the kitchen to reach the door that leads to his fenced yard is akin to slipping and sliding on a sheet of ice.  He sways back and forth on the edge of the carpet for an eternity and finally leaps and skids and scurries to the small throw rug by the doorway.  As you’ve probably guessed by now, this glitch in his comfort doesn’t sit well with me.  At first I thought I’d just carry him out the door, “He’s small, no big deal, why not?” I asked myself.  Then I thought about having to ask my husband, Jim, to do this if I wasn’t home and decided on another plan.  Replacing the small door mat with a larger one seemed a good solution and it was for giving Dusty a longer, softer path coming into the house.  But he still had the daunting slip and slide of the main kitchen area to cross. I like our kitchen floor.  It’s an attractive wood, easy to clean and blends well with the tan carpet in the dining room.  I also like a room to have an even, uninterrupted flow, a balance, but my scales were about to be tilted to fix this problem.
      I found them on the bottom shelf of the linen closet, one maroon, one pea green, one faded pink.   I cringed at the mishmash of color as I made a path through the kitchen with old, worn bath rugs.  It wasn’t pretty.  The cats gave me their what weird thing are you doing now looks.  Dusty approached, sniffed the green and stepped on, sniffed the pink, stepped on, sniffed the maroon and pranced gingerly to the mat by the door.  I was elated.  And over the next weeks Dusty padded through the kitchen with bouncy confidence.  I decided I’d improve the ugly color scheme with new matching mats and adjust to a rug path through the kitchen until little bugger Dusty changed my mind. 

Jim and our cats have a morning routine.  He rattles his vitamin bottles, Abner and William arrive in the kitchen.  They sit patiently while he takes his supplements then opens the kitty treat jar and places munchies down on the floor.  Dusty was part of the group now with Jim placing his treat on one of the mats.  The morning I was planning to buy new throw rugs, I was in the kitchen for this ritual.   The cats left a few of their nibbles on the floor.  Dusty finished his goodie, stepped casually off his mat, pranced comfortably along the bare floor and gobbled up the cat treat remains.  I was amazed.  “Ya know, he’s done that before,” Jim said.  “He gets distracted and forgets to be afraid.  I’d hold off on buying new rugs.” 
     It’s annoying when my husband’s calm overrides my OMG, but I decided to relax about the mat thing, give it some time.  The wait was worth it.  Only two throws remain, the long, brown one at the door and the maroon at the far end of the kitchen as a jumping off place from carpet to bare floor.  Dusty has come a long way.  He still sits on the door mat for his treat, but maneuvers the floor for everything else including leftover cat tidbits.   I like to think I’ve come a long way as well.  The jury is still out. 
  

 


April 6, 2020
"I have a lot of growing up to do. I realized that the other day inside my fort."    
                                                                                Zach Galifianakis

Breakfast at Eight

As I shared in last blog post, screeching like a barn owl when riding in the car and our vision problem have been resolved.  Many thanks were offered to the loving Universal Energy and the veterinarian.  For now I'll put aside the bare floor issue (update to come) because the core of Dusty is calm and casual about everything, and I've got a lot to learn.   

My human is an early bird, okay I'll go out in the yard at six, but eight would work fine, too. While I'm out there I can visit with the deer and bunnies.  Maybe I'll eat early this morning, or maybe wait till ten or so.  The cats can sniff at my food bowl while I think it over.  Should I sleep in the dining room sunbeam, or head to her office?  I'm thirsty, but Abner cat is at our water bowl. I can wait.  In the meantime, let me move my blanket out of the way cause my human on a schedule is on a tear with the vacuum.  

Just when I think I've got my act together, I find I don't.  All these months I have felt that Dusty was sent to me as a response to my request for forgiveness, like in my old Catholic days of saying twenty-five Hail Marys as a penance.  While I still hold that belief (the forgiveness message, not the Catholic dogma) and give thanks daily for the opportunity to take care of my little dog, I'm beginning to suspect there's more to our relationship.  

I'm a planner.  I schedule my day.  All good for my work as a freelance writer meeting deadlines.  Also good for managing a household.  Coffee pot on dog out at six, cats and dog and me fed at seven, next it's litter box cleaning, dressing, then into my office with coffee and a head full of ideas.  So far nothing out of the ordinary, but here's where I start to run amok.  The animal bowls are in my office (all their stuff is in my office), and I notice that Dusty hasn't eaten.  Well, why not?  I've heated his meal, placed it in his favorite spot, coaxed him in that direction. He ate early yesterday morning but today he's curled on his blanket.  So I patiently pat his head and set about worrying while he naps till eleven and then wanders to the bowl and chows down.  Same deal with his evening meal.  Sometimes he eats immediately, sometimes not.  Some days he only eats one meal.  My husband says the two of us could do well to skip a meal now and then.  His joking reminds me of my commitment to patience and humor. But I never agreed to give up worrying.   Now if I follow Dusty's lead, maybe some things don't necessarily need a schedule.  Well, that's a liberating concept for a "hurry up"worrier with a running to-do list.  Seems sweet Dusty, a wise old soul, is on a mission as well.  Look at that face.  Curious spirit in that dog suit.  Think I'll have breakfast at eight tomorrow. 



  






March 30, 2020 
"Calm down, be patient, lighten up."

Cars, Steps and Second Chances

OMG!   Where to begin?  He screeches like a frightened barn owl when he's in the car. He freezes when approaching a bare floor and, with poor depth perception, stairs are quite an issue.  And I'm determined to make everything right, make him comfortable in his new home, want to "hurry up" (as Mother would say) and fix it all.  Dusty comes with very little history, only that he's had several owners along the way.  Sure would like to smack the original human who had him as a pup and likely caused all his problems in the first place.  I remind myself that despite his questionable beginnings Dusty is a well-behaved love of a dog. I look at his little face that suggests I calm down, lighten up, have patience with both of us, especially myself. I scoop him into my arms and we head for the rocking chair.  Sweet Dusty settles in instantly.  Eventually I succumb to the relaxing motion and consider the concept of slowly working on our issues with patience, humor and treats. He likes grain free chicken tidbits.  I'll take a bag of chocolate chip cookies.  
We're heading out for a short trip in the car. Dusty is tucked safely in his crate with a favorite toy and cozy blanket.  He's engrossed in his barn owl screeching.  I'm blabbering, "It's okay, Dusty, I'm right here with you, you're safe, we're almost there."  Don't think he gives a hoot about logic. My muscles are tight, stomach churning.  The vet (who treated all of my critters over the years) is gentle and reassuring.  He says Dusty is healthy, gets him up-to-date on shots and offers car trip advice.  "Play music, try a dog car seat that lets him see out the window, take him for short drives around the neighborhood and don't talk to him." We listen to John Denver on the way home, me singing, Dusty screeching.  "Calm down, be patient, lighten up,"  I tell myself, blotting the tears on my face.  Once in the house we console ourselves with treats - a chicken tidbit for Dusty, half a bag of cookies for me. 
     
Hooray! Improvement!  Following the vet's advice, after several months there is improvement.  With his blanket he settles securely into the soft, open carrier attached to the back seat of the Jeep. It's positioned high enough to let him look out of the window.  We take regular short journeys listening to Denver's  low-key "Annie's Song," me not talking. On the way out there's a little pretend screeching. We park and go for a walk.  On the way home - not a sound from the back seat.  Hallelujah!  It's working!  The consistent reinforcement is working, but my ego likes to think the success is mainly because Dusty is beginning to trust me.

**********

Dusty lost his left eye before he joined my family.  As I mentioned earlier, I don't know much of his history.  My veterinarian did track down enough information on his eye surgery to learn that the infection involved just one eye, the removal fixed the problem and his right eye, as well as the rest of him was in excellent health.  At issue for Dusty was loss of depth perception.  For me the issue was helping him adjust to new environs that included deck steps and not letting my mother's "Hurry Up" mantra get in the way.

Depth perception gives you the ability to accurately judge the distance between you and something else.  The loss of an eye means the loss of that judgement.  Dusty had adapted to having just one eye pretty well on flat terrain, but the five deck steps that let down to his fenced yard and back up to the kitchen door were troubling.  He was very hesitant in both directions and needed a lot of coaxing and hands-on help.  It upset me to see him uncomfortable and I was bound and determined to fix the situation.  Fortunately, it didn't take much and I stayed calm.  

To eliminate the precarious open spaces, I had our carpenter nail risers to the back of each deck step.  Once this was done I put outdoor carpet pieces on the five stairs and placed small pots of flowers at the ends of each so there was something to feel on each side.  Dusty was hesitate at first, but with a little help quickly got the hang of navigating his new safe passage up and down.  As for me, I remained pretty unruffled throughout this project, no past voices in my head.  Proud of both of us, I sat on the top step with my sweet little dog and thought about my forgiveness request and second chances. 
   
   
 

March 23, 2020
"There is a wiser, simpler, saner truth, an honesty idling in the soul waiting with compassion and patience for recognition."

Message for a Dog Snob

I was ready for another dog.  Four years had passed since I'd lost Casey. Before him there was Sunny, the sweetest pup ever.  I also had Sunny's brother, Jesse, a rascal of a dog, but wonderful in his own way - all three beautiful, sleek purebred American Cocker Spaniels.   West Highland White Terrier Brodie was in the mix as well.  We shared many years together and while I never fully recover from the loss of a pet, after four years I felt ready for the companionship of another dog. The reputable breeder research began.  Boy had the cost of cockers gone up.  But I was a purebred dog snob and continued on with my search.

Carpooling to a club meeting late last year, my driving companion mentioned that her neighbor (a casual acquaintance of mine) was quite ill and had been taken to the hospital.  "It doesn't look good," she said.  And here's where things got interesting.  Normally my response would have been, "Sorry to hear that, he's such a sweet guy, hope things improve."  But I didn't say anything like that and the four words I did say, "Where is his dog?" I knew had come from someone else.  The rest of the conversation went like this.  "The poor dog is being boarded, really needs a permanent home, has some problems, if you're interested I can put you in touch with my neighbor's power of attorney." Once again, from someone other than me, I responded, "Okay."  Since I knew something wiser than myself was in charge, I wasn't too surprised to learn that the power of attorney was someone I knew.  In fact, she was a local business owner, had groomed all of my dogs over the years and was familiar with the care and love I gave my critters. She arranged for me to meet the dog who was not a purebred, was terrified to ride in cars, had issues with steps and bare floors and he had only one eye.  The day we met I sat on the floor, he circled once around me sniffing from head to toe and snuggled into my lap.  I placed a hand on his soft head, closed my eyes and took a mental trip back.     

I began seeking a solid spiritual path a number of years ago.  I had lost someone dear to my heart and was at a very low point. Tried a few different religions, tried no religion at all, considered no God as well until a higher power, something I've come to accept as a loving Universal Energy, showed up and gently, subtly changed the trajectory of my life.  Craving my daily dose of solitude, I had gone for a walk in the woods.  What happened just a few steps along the secluded trail has always been difficult to explain.  This poem is my best interpretation. 

A Magnificent Quiet

No robins sang, no distant barks,
the frogs in the pond were still.
Color became vibrant and loud
orange sun, purple lilac sweeping me in.
United with verdant trees, blue sky, tawny brown dirt.
Forsythia blinded with brilliant yellow
and I was every red flower, every green leaf.
A dry, silent breeze stroked gently
embracing my spirit, hushing my mind.
And in the brief magnificent quiet we were one.



I believe we are all one. I believe as well in the Native American concept that when the spirit is free of the body it is everywhere, living on in all of nature. Today I see God not as a single entity, but an energy surging through all living things. If we listen, that Universal Energy speaks.  If we speak, the Universal Energy listens. That was what the magnificent quiet in the woods showed me.  And I think it's that simple.  So each morning I go out onto my deck and listen by taking in the beauty of snow-capped mountains, the glistening blue bay, the towering pines and speak by offering a prayer of gratitude.  A while ago I added a request to my higher power gratitude chat.  There were two souls in my life, both gone, that I could have treated with a lot more  lightheartedness and patience.  It bothered me that I didn't see this when they were alive.  I raised my head to the billowing white clouds and asked forgiveness for poor judgement.  A majestic eagle soared high. And a few days later I was given the opportunity to offer patience, to find humor in the day to day struggles, to grow beyond past foibles, to change direction.  If we speak, the Universal Energy Listens.  If we listen, the Universal Energy speaks.  I welcomed Dusty Quinn.  And from our first day I wondered just whose spirit resided in that dog suit - a spirit guiding me to patience, leading me down the Dusty Road not to simply feel forgiven, but to feel an urge to grow.  So today I bumble along toward tolerance and write for the well-being of animals.  

Dusty Quinn