Homeward Bound

 

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It’s finally here!! I’m making my first journey home from St. Joe. I booked my flight awhile back. You know I’m not going to Baton Rouge after it gets too hot, and with this warm winter, that’s next week. So I found a cheap flight from O’Hare to New Orleans, and the day has finally arrived.

I could pay about $300 more and fly out of South Bend which is much closer, but that’s a flight that always stops in Atlanta. Every single time I’ve flown from South Bend to Louisiana, it’s been a 12-hour travel day. Delays, weather, the big flood in Louisiana and even a detour through Charlotte have plagued all of those flights. It’s worth it to take more time on the ground and travel to Chicago for a nonstop trip. Besides, they have better snacks here!

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So, I left the other side of the lake this afternoon and boarded a bus in Indiana headed for O’Hare. The driver was so nice, and the bus wasn’t crowded at all. While she fought Chicago Friday afternoon traffic, I texted my sister, ate some nuts from Starbucks and read the New York Times. It was a stellar way to get to the airport, and the parking was free at the bus stop. By the time I would have paid $20 a day to park at O’Hare, the bus ticket was a wash.

It’s been awhile since I’ve flown, and I’ve flown out of small airports the last few years. I checked in for my flight on my phone on the bus and purchased my pass to check a bag. When I got off the bus, I just walked over to a kiosk where I printed my own bag tag, slapped it on my bag and handed it to the counter guy. It all took about 2 minutes. They gave me a pass on the TSA check, and I sauntered right through security without stopping. It was so easy!

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I arrived at the gate and immediately got an email that my flight was delayed but, at this point, I’ll only arrive 30 minutes late. As easy as this trip has been, I’ll not complain. I’m sitting at a Starbucks now trying to decide if I want to grab a healthy snack. I didn’t eat dinner, so I’ve been snacking on fruit and nuts. And I get to spend the night at Michael’s house. Yay!

As far as my sugar journey, I messed up today. It was an accident, but I ate some sugar at lunch. I didn’t realize sloppy joe meat had sugar in the sauce. Of course, I don’t know how much, but I looked up a generic sloppy joe nutrition guide, and it said 32 g. That’s about 2 teaspoons of sugar. I could tell immediately after I ate it. I got a little light-headed, and I did not feel good. After a week of feeling grounded and stable, I was disappointed that I was feeling this way. I learned a lesson. I’ll be more careful next time. It happens, right?

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I’ll give you a breakdown on the last few days:

Energy: My energy has been great and very steady. I haven’t gotten much sleep the last few nights, and, even with that, I have felt good. After 5 hours of sleep night before last, I still had enough energy to workout yesterday.

Sleep: I haven’t gotten good sleep the last couple nights but it’s not because of sugar. I drove to a hiking club meeting an hour and a half away Wednesday, and I was too wired to sleep as I got home at 10:30 PM. Last night I was up packing and running around the house and was again too wired to sleep. I imagine tonight will be a re-run, but tomorrow night I can catch up!

Brain Fogginess: My brain was really messed up after eating sugar at lunch today. Before that, I’ve had good mental days and got a lot done at work.

Mood: I have been a bit on edge, but I think it’s the lack of sleep that’s doing that. We’ll see.

Bodily functions: I’ll add this tonight and won’t mention it again. When I don’t eat sugar, I don’t wake up to pee in the middle of the night. And, on top of everything else, I become much more regular (if you know what I mean). I won’t post any pics on this!

Hunger: Yesterday, I didn’t get hungry at all. I remember the last time I got off sugar, I realized that my hungriness is part of the sugar cycle. Hunger – when my body is clean of sugar – feels different, and it’s not so insistent. I can just say “Hmmmm …. I’m hungry,” and I don’t even feel compelled to eat right away.

At any rate, I’m back on track with no sugar. I may even start my 30-day clock over. I’ve got a busy weekend. I’ll be in touch.

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Ashok even found a boyfriend at the petsitter!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Night Check-In: Shifting Gears

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I’ve had a rough week. To be honest, I’ve had a rough time for a few weeks. I’m not sure if it’s SAD, or if I’m just sad. I know that I’ve been trying to reign in my consumption of sugar with a great deal of inconsistency. Every time I eat it, I am awake in the middle of the night for hours kicking myself. The stuff disrupts my sleep no matter what time of day I eat it. I’ve been knowing this for over 3 years now. And still I struggle with it. It may even be the cause of my mood.

Friday was Employee Appreciation Day, and we had a candy bar in our office. A whole row of beautiful candies and chocolate greeted me as I walked in. I had absolutely no willpower. “So much for eating right,” I said before putting my purse on the floor. There were no brakes …. no deceleration … no hesitation. I went for it, and I woke up at 2:30 Saturday morning. “Hello, Sugar,” I say now when I wake up in a fit of insomnia. I’m not sure if I drifted off again or not, but I left early Saturday morning for a hike. Since I didn’t get much sleep, I told myself that I was NOT having any sugar this weekend. So far, I’m golden.

I met a group from the Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association in Marshall MI for a 6.5 mile hike. This was a “road” section, so we basically walked on the road through cornfields, a bitter winter wind and through neighborhoods. It felt a little weird since we were about 50 people with backpacks and stuff, but nobody else seemed to be bothered so I just enjoyed the day. A couple of river crossings gave me a little natural scenery, and I was very excited to meet Strider, the NCT thru-hiker I heard on one of those trail shows last year. (You can listen to his account of the trail here.)He is one of 8 who has hiked the entire 4600 mile NCT. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity although he seemed like a pretty ordinary hiker.

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Me and Strider

He works part-time for the National Park Service working on this trail, and there were a other park rangers on the hike. I talked to one who told me that they were all worried about the budget cuts coming. He said anybody that has anything to do with the environment is holding their breath. 97% of the funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Project is in jeopardy. It takes my breath away to even think of those beautiful lakes going back to their former polluted condition. All we can do is pray…. and call our senators.

I drove around Marshall to look at the town, and there were some beautiful historic buildings there. I put the GPS on “back roads” and drove home via country roads. I passed through several small towns and took a quick tour of Battle Creek. I found the Fort Custer Recreation Area and made a note of the nice campgrounds. The Kalamazoo River was up, and the sign next to the river assured me that any oil I saw would not harm me. Apparently there was a huge oil spill in this river many years ago, and the EPA spent a long time cleaning it up and holding the oil company accountable. I can only hope they will continue to be able to do jobs like that in the future. All I can do is pray … and call my senator.

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The flooded Kalamazoo… oil-free.

I woke up really down this morning, but I managed to get out and wash my car, take care of some chores and cook myself a healthy lunch. The sun came out and then ducked behind the clouds while I stewed in my juices about all of the sad things going on in the world. I tried to watch a movie about grizzly bears, read an article about a river that has disappeared because of human consumption in India and laughed at last night’s Saturday Night Live episodes. I needed to work out today, but I could not get motivated enough to move. I decided to walk Ashok around the block and keep walking if I felt like it.

Once I got going, I felt better, and I made my way to Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful late afternoon. The water was almost still, and the sun was hanging low on the horizon in a lightly-clouded sky. Few people were on the beach, but the ones who were out enjoying the spring-like day were friendly and talkative. We walked back at a slow pace, and, by the time I was home, I was really glad that I made the effort.

I’ll continue to try to shift out of my funk, and I’ll continue to pray … and call my senator. I hope you will do the same. Have a great week, y’all. I wonder what drama will go down this week!! You can’t make this sh*t up!

 

 

 

 

Winter Moments

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It’s cold everywhere today. My Memphis friends are checking in with snow photos from a long snowy day at home. A friend from Baton Rouge called me to laughingly inform me it was 38 degrees, and Louisiana was officially shutting down. My old boss texted me a photo of an icy drive home in North Louisiana. All evidence says that winter is settling in even in the deep south.

As for me, I shoveled snow twice today although my snow removal person told me we didn’t have enough snow for him to worry about. I informed him that I was Southern and wouldn’t know how much snow was enough to shovel. He told me that this snow was powdery and nice, but if it’s a wet snow, I’d need to have it shoveled. “It all depends on the type of snow,” he said. I reminded him again that I was Southern, and I wouldn’t know the difference in types of snow. He left with an assurance that I would figure it out, and that he would help me when it gets too bad to get out of my driveway. And he wouldn’t even let me pay him.

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This morning I had to be at work for 6:30, so I drove to work in complete darkness. But it was so beautiful out. The roads were completely covered in snow as the plows had not gotten cranked up yet. The bridge over the St. Joseph River was icy and snowy, and it all looked like a perfect winter wonderland. Christmas lights still burn up here because … well… it still looks like Christmas. As I left the edge of town and hit the country road leading to Whirlpool’s campus, it got darker. The snow was blowing sideways in the wind, and I felt myself start to smile this really big grin.

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I slowed down for the Whirlpool parking lot which was almost completely empty except for a car that had been left overnight and one or two others from my team. The parking lot was not cleared, so my tires squeaked on the freshly fallen layer of snow. I parked under the lights and jumped out of the car. With the delight of a child at 6:20 in the morning, I took some pictures of my workplace lit up in the snow. I looked around and realized that no picture could capture the moment in this snowstorm. The scene was only mine to see.

I’ve felt it many times since I’ve been here. Standing on top of the dunes at Grand Mere or Warren Dunes State Park, driving through corn fields in late summer, freezing at the end of the pier by the St. Joe lighthouse in a vicious wind…. the raw beauty of it all ignites something inside of me that makes me feel quite young again. Even while I’m out shoveling snow in the darkness with my dog running around rolling in the snow I feel this sense of adventure… a knowing that this life is short, and this moment – all moments – are fleeting.

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Tonight I bundled up – 13 degrees and dropping – and took Ashok for a walk. I finally found some little booties that work, and she looked so cute plodding around in them. I was wrapped up in my down parka, $75 technical gloves that still don’t keep my fingers warm and my snow boots. We trudged across snowbanks and shoveled walks. The snow was coming down hard and fast, and the Christmas lights twinkled an assortment of colors.

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I let Ashok loose in a field of snow, and she raced in circles, rolling in the snow every few seconds. She ran back toward me and gazed at me in a downward-facing dog position. She was completely covered in snow. Her black fur made a shadowy outline around her eyes. For a moment, I really regretted that I didn’t bring a camera. I giggled because she looked so funny. And, just like this morning, I realized that some moments are not meant to be captured. They are only meant to be lived.

Enjoy winter, my friends – whether you have it for a day or for a season, it’s meant for inward reflection and downtime. Fix a hot chocolate and cuddle up with a loved one. Tomorrow, this moment will be history.

It Ended As It Began – 2016

 

 

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Happy New Years Eve! 2016 has been an up and down year for me for sure. I’m eager to see it end, and excited to see what 2017 might bring. All week, I’ve been seeing memories from Facebook of last year’s holiday hike on the Wild Azalea Trail. It was my first long backpacking trip with three ladies and one girl dog. It’s made me reflect on that hike and remember what it meant to me to be so adventurous and learn all of those new survival skills. It truly was a life-changing experience.

Last year’s hike on the Wild Azalea Trail….

As I was watching those pics pop up, it made me a little sad that I didn’t have hiking buddies this year. I’m ready to get out hiking, but I just don’t have those folks on speed dial that would say Hell, yeah! if I called and asked if they wanted to go on a hike. By some stroke of sheer luck, my friend Karen posted on Facebook that she was in Southwest Michigan this week. Karen is one of the lucky travelers who travels around the country in her RV working at National Parks and other odd jobs. In her spare time she hikes. I went out to dinner with her last night, and at the last moment, I asked her if she wanted to hike this morning. “Hell, yeah!” she said. (Well, maybe that’s not what she said, but that’s what I heard.)

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We met at 9 AM at Warren Dunes State Park. It is about a 25-minute drive from my house. I had driven over there once before but wasn’t interested in just climbing those steep dunes all day. I had done some research and found out that not all of the trails were over the dunes. Some were in the woods, so I was eager to get my feet on the trial to see if I liked it.

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We hiked through the woods with our dogs – females Ashok and Tippy – on another all-girl adventure. A slight dusting of snow was evident at the start, but gradually the snow disappeared. The leisurely trail through the wooded park sat just on the edge of the sand dunes. We finally reached a juncture where we had to choose if we wanted to get physical and climb some dunes or stay with a more easy pace. We both decided to go for it, and up we went into some of the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world on a beautiful 40-degree day.

The dunes, of course, led us to that gorgeous gem, Lake Michigan. There was no ice today. We walked the beach next to crystal green water boiling with waves just like the ocean. We found a little “tumbleweed” that was formed from the dune grasses that line the shore. The dunes had eroded a great deal, and a massive “wall” of sand marked the edge of the beach. The sand was stacked in layers that looked like some kind of massive sandstone rock formation.

The tumbleweed and sand wall….

We climbed Mount Randal which is a 260-foot dune and the namesake of the trail. Feeling like we were lost in the desert, we kept climbing and walking on the top of the dunes trying to find the trail. It disappeared into the blowing sand, and there was little evidence of a walkway. To our left was a sharp drop-off that went almost straight down to the woods, and on our right was a less steep but still unnavigable drop into the heart of the dunes. Eventually, we saw this really long, steep “trail” that looked like it led back to the wooded area. We decided to slide down as far as we needed and then lope the rest of the way down the dunes. It was like a long sand slide, and I had a ball trying to get down.

We found a lovely little creek at the bottom and followed it and the trail back to the car. It was such a beautiful day, and the dogs had a great time playing with each other and hiking. It was a perfect way to spend the last day of 2016. I’d spent the first day of 2016 on a trail in North Louisiana alongside a beautiful creek. I never would have dreamed that I’d be climbing a massive sand dune in Michigan by the end of the year.

On the way back, Karen and I talked about the Great Lakes and the massive sand dunes. On that trail, we had two very distinct eco-systems. The dunes very quickly fade into a super-dark soil that could support trees and ferns. The Great Lakes were formed when very heavy glaciers pressed down upon the earth and dug out (or pressed down) the soil. So, these dunes and soil rose up in the process. When the glaciers melted, the depressions filled with water, and we now have some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. I find the history so fascinating.

I hope that you have a Happy New Years’ Eve tonight, and I wish you the very best year for 2017. I hope that you discover and seek out experiences that fill your heart with joy and make your soul’s desires your most important priority. Life is too short to miss the beauty and love all around us. And it won’t come to you. You have to go seek it out. Happy New Year!

See this drone footage I found on YouTube of the park we hiked today….

 

 

It Takes A Village to Save a Pile of Puppies

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I got up for my usual 5:15 AM walk with Ashok yesterday. It was still dark, and we tooled along taking care of business and saying morning prayers. I was almost to the end of Capitol Heights when I spotted something that would end up totally changing my day. It was an undistinguishable mass right on the edge of a street that crossed Capitol Heights. “What is that?” I said to myself as I walked a little closer. The pile started moving in a hurry, and I realized it was a pile of sleeping puppies.

They were situated in the road but to the side. If a car had turned that corner in the dark, the whole pile would have been hit. As puppies do, they started bounding toward me but in a wide swath. I didn’t know what to do. I was still sleepy and a little shocked, and I certainly wasn’t looking to take in 4 puppies on a Monday morning. But as I looked around, I realized they were all over the road, and if I walked on, at least one would surely be squashed by a car before I came back.

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One of the puppies ran over to Ashok who was sitting on command and started trying to nurse her. She doesn’t like other dogs, and I guess it was a little too close. She snapped and growled and all the puppies started running, squealing and scattering down the street. A car came to a stop at the intersection, and I was standing in the middle of the road with puppies scattered all around me. He couldn’t move without hitting one. I finally walked over and told him that I had just found these puppies and asked if he could help me carry them back to my house. He said sure, and he took 3 puppies in his lap to my house. I tried to find the fourth puppy but apparently he ran into hiding.

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The fourth puppy and definitely the alpha dog.

I went back after getting the other puppies settled in a cage to look for the fourth puppy but could not find him. It still wasn’t daylight, and it was hard to see anything. I had no idea what direction he went, so I finally gave up. I came home and posted on Next Door – the neighborhood social media site – that a puppy was missing and to contact me if anyone found it. Then I had to get ready for work as I had an out-of-town meeting with a start time that was quickly approaching.

A neighbor, Stacy, whom I’ve passed on the street a number of times when I’m walking Ashok contacted me and said she would go out looking for the puppy. I thought the chances were slim on finding him, but I gave her a description of the little guy and a proximate location where I found them. She didn’t find him on the first pass, but about 10 AM she texted me that she had him. He was hiding under the house close to where I found them. I was astounded that she knew to look under that house, but she said she tried to think of where she would go hide if she was a dog, and she found him.

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Stacy was nice enough to go get the puppies off my porch. I couldn’t let them go in because I had no idea if they had a disease, and I didn’t want to expose Ashok. She took them in for the day and ended up taking them to vet to get a preliminary checkup. The vet said they looked to be about 12 weeks old, all males and seemed very healthy except they had worms. She got them dewormed and then I met her over at her house.

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Stacy has a toddler and a beautiful black labrador retriever. The house was in chaos with a toddler running around and four puppies peeing all over the place. Stacy was following close behind with a spray bottle. Another neighbor came in with some puppy pads, and we decided that I would take them home for the night and put them in my back room where it was quiet. I thanked Stacy and Keith for all their help, and I went home.

Meanwhile, I was posting pics of these adorable puppies on Facebook and getting lots of ideas about where to take them. I’m in a rental, so I knew I couldn’t keep them long enough to find homes. I was astounded at how many rescue groups contacted me about these puppies. Baton Rouge seems to be very connected with resources for stray animals. In fact, even the vet said our city shelter was usually pretty good.

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Really???

My house was chaos. My usually tranquil yoga room was a stinky, squirming mess for about 24 hours. Ashok hid in her kennel. She wanted nothing to do with the squirrelly things, and the cats stayed in my bedroom. The puppies were entirely in control of my time, and I basically ran around trying to keep things somewhat sanitary. When I wasn’t cleaning up the floor, I was talking to rescue agencies and getting references.

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My niece Hannah fell in love with the black and white puppy the minute I posted the first picture. She and her fiancé have been wanting a puppy for awhile, and this seemed to be the one. So, I promised it to her early on. I could have found 10 homes for that puppy. It seemed to be the most popular one, but I loved the little tan and black one. I also loved the runt of the litter. But I’m a sucker for the underdog. They were all adorable, but I was surprised that no one wanted any of the other ones. They were all so sweet. Nevertheless, three of them ended up going to the Return the Favor Animal Rescue in Folsom LA this afternoon.

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Showoff with Buster

I met Cynthia and Jessica in Hammond to deliver the puppies, and they were so nice. Jessica is 14, and Cynthia is her grandmother. Cynthia said Jessica was hell-bent on starting that animal rescue operation when she was 13, so she helped her do it. In her words, she said, “If she wants to spend her weekends chasing stray dogs instead of stray boys, I’m totally supportive of that!” We loaded the puppies in the car, and they headed off to their new lives. I cried half the way home – happy and sad at the same time.

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I thought of the day I adopted Ashok. I remembered walking her out to the car, and she jumped right in. She was older. She wasn’t a puppy. But she jumped in the passenger seat where she would continue to ride almost daily for the past 7 years. She looked at me expectantly, and I told her that I was going to take her on so many adventures. I promised to take her camping and hiking and running, and I told her that she was a very lucky girl. In my heart of hearts, I hoped that each of those puppies would have a similar experience soon and that somehow I was partly responsible – along with Stacy and her crew  and the rescue team – for making today the first day of the rest of their lives.

I came home and bathed the black and white for my niece and helped them get out the door with their new little family. I texted Stacy a pic, and we both said we felt so happy and sad that all these little guys were finally moving on with their lives. It’s funny how things happen in life. When I took off on my walk yesterday, I had no idea that the next 48 hours would be filled with new friends, beautiful little helpless puppies and as much pee and poop as you can rightly imagine. It was such an awesome experience to help them get on their way. I got 48 hours of pure fuzzy love.

BTW…. if you can help to defray the costs of the shots and medical care for these lovely puppies, you can donate to Return the Favor Animal Rescue at GoFundMe. Or you can donate directly to the Folsom Animal Hospital. The links and numbers are below. Midlife Moments and the Capitol Heights puppies thank you. It takes a village to save a pile of puppies, and you can help. And if you know someone who wants a puppy, check out the Facebook page and look for my puppies up for adoption soon!

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Folsom Animal Hospital

Return the Favor Facebook Page

 

Who’s My Daddy?

Ashok loves her Mommy. They go hiking together … and eat together … and run together … and ride together in the car.

One morning Ashok woke up and wondered if she had a Daddy. The Pomeranians down the street had a Daddy. They didn’t seem to have a Mommy. Maybe he was her Daddy!

 

Then she realized that a Daddy would hug her and feed her and take her places, and he never did. Ashok decided that she would see if she could find her Daddy.

But where would a Daddy be? So, she asked her Mommy…

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“Who’s my Daddy?”

Mommy said she didn’t have a Daddy. But how could that be true? She wanted to have a Daddy, so she decided to do an undercover operation and find her Daddy!

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She remembered Gerry in Memphis. Could he be her Daddy? He gave her a bone and lived in that nice condo overlooking the river. Maybe he was her Daddy!

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But then she realized that he was in Memphis, and they moved away from Memphis. If he was her Daddy, they would still be there.

So she thought and thought and thought….

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“My Daddy must be out there,” she thought. “Maybe I should think of what I like to do and that will tell me where my Daddy would be!” Surely a Daddy would like to do the same things as their dogs!

Ashok loved to kayak, and she set off to see if she could find her Daddy on the river!

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When she arrived, she looked around, but there was nothing but sand. There was no Daddy for her on the river.

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She knew she loved to ride the golf cart on Graveyard Island! Could that man be her Daddy?

Then she remembered that was her Granddaddy! He couldn’t be her Daddy! She was really excited to know she had a Granddaddy, but she wanted a Daddy.

She loved to ride on a boat! “I’ll go find my Daddy on a boat,” she thought!

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But, she was hungry first. Looking for a Daddy made her hungry!

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“Could Jeff be my Daddy?” she wondered. “He likes to eat, too!”  she thought. “Jeff must be my Daddy!” So, she asked him if he was her Daddy. Jeff told her that he loved her very much, but he was not her Daddy. He suggested she go to the bar to see if he was in there.

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One man seemed to really like her, but Ashok knew that her Mommy didn’t like to hang out in bars and neither did she. How could that be her Daddy? Even if it was, she’d never see him, so she decided that she should stick with her original plan and see if she could find her Daddy on a boat.

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“Are you my Daddy?” Ashok asked the nice man in the red shirt. “No. I’m not your Daddy,” he answered with a laugh. “Maybe Ray is your Daddy,” he said. So Ashok went to see if Ray was her Daddy.

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Ray really liked Ashok and hugged her and played with her, but when she asked if he was her Daddy, he told her that he wasn’t. He was much too busy with work to be her Daddy. This made her very sad because she liked him very much, and besides …. he has a nice boat.

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Ashok realized that even though it would be fun, maybe her Daddy didn’t own a boat. After all, her Mommy didn’t have a boat except for a kayak, and it was no where near as nice as those motorboats.

So she thought and she thought and she thought…..

“I’ve got it,” she said! “My Daddy is a hiker!”

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She waited for her Mommy to pack their bags to go hiking, and she was so excited! “I’m going to find my Daddy!” she thought.

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But, alas, she took off with a bunch of girls, and Ashok knew that girls couldn’t be your Daddy. You had to be a boy to be a Daddy! She wasn’t born yesterday.

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But she thought, “Maybe my Daddy will be hiking with us!” This made so much sense because she and her Mommy loved hiking and camping.

IMG_5056“I hope Duane is my Daddy!” Ashok thought. “He always has good things to eat and shares them with me. Plus, he has two little girls that like loving on me.” But Duane told Ashok that he was not her Daddy.

“I have two little girls, and I don’t have time to be your Daddy,” he told her. “But if I ever wanted to be a dog Daddy, you’d be my first choice.”

Ashok was broken-hearted. She might be Duane’s first choice, but he still wasn’t her Daddy. She was no better off than when she started hiking.

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She walked over to Kirk and told him her story about wanting to find her Daddy. She was so sad. Kirk petted her and hugged her, but she knew he wasn’t her Daddy either. She could just tell that he was a good friend to have, but he didn’t feel like her Daddy.

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Ashok hiked with Kirk back to camp, and she felt much better. Even though she hadn’t found her Daddy, she’d found a good friend who made the world’s best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That was something!

She went to bed that night and thought about where she might find her Daddy. She only had one more day to the hiking trip. Surely she would find him tomorrow. Her Daddy had to be a hiker!

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It was cold the next morning, and Ashok put on her favorite pink and black fleece camping jacket. If she met her Daddy today, he’d think she was beautiful. After breakfast, Blake came over to pet her.

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Last night he picked her up and put her in his lap. Nobody ever picks her up and does that! Ashok weighs 40 pounds. She’s too big to be a lap dog…. but not for Blake!

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When Blake was petting her, she could feel herself getting very sleepy. She started daydreaming about Blake being her Daddy. She knew he couldn’t be. He wasn’t old enough to be her Daddy. Besides he was another dog’s Daddy. But, what a beautiful world it would be if Blake would be her Daddy.

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Ashok was very sad on the way home. She hadn’t found her Daddy on the hiking trip. She had a great time running in the woods and taking treats from everybody. It was the perfect weekend for her. She fell asleep and dreamed about all of the hiking trips, kayaking trips and fun things she’d done since she found her Mommy all those years ago.

When she woke up from her nap, she felt ….. happy. She was really, really happy. How could that be? She still hadn’t found her Daddy but something had happened while she was dreaming.

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Ashok realized that while it would be great to have a Daddy, a Daddy isn’t the best thing in the world. After all, a Daddy will sometimes have to go to work and spend time with women and get angry because she ate his dinner. Having a Daddy would be great, but it wouldn’t always be perfect.

While she’d love to have a Daddy, what she really wanted was a family. And she had a family! In fact, she had lots of family. When one person was busy, another one could pay attention to her. A family was so much better than just a Daddy!

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Ashok was so happy! All of the pictures of her family started going through her mind. It made her smile just to think about all of the family she had. She couldn’t wait to tell her Mommy!

 

It’s National Dog Day! What’s There to Celebrate?

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This morning at 5:30 AM I passed another dog owner walking his dogs. “It’s National Dog Day!” I yelled across the street at him. He chuckled, and I ran on. It was 62 degrees this morning, and I enjoyed my run immensely. Even Ashok seemed to be pretty happy with running in the less humid air. On these first days when the humidity dies down, she jumps and bites the air when she walks outside.

I wasn’t born a dog person. I’m a cat person. But, I’ve learned to be a dog person. When I have friends come to stay with me that are dog people, Ashok is noticeably different. She cuddles and jumps in their lap. I always look at them and wonder why she’s not like that with me, but I know that she’s not like that with me because I’m not like that with her. The most amazing thing about her is that she reads people so much better than I can.

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A few years ago in Memphis, I was sitting in the waiting room with my friend Elizabeth who also had an appointment with my acupuncturist that night. Ashok always came with me to acupuncture because Marlene is a dog person, and she loved seeing Ashok. Marlene walked in, and Ashok immediately jumped up and was pouncing on her. Marlene bent down and was tussling with her and talking in that ‘doggy’ high-pitched voice. While this excitement was going on, and Ashok was uncharacteristically going nuts, a patient walked out of the treatment room.

She turned toward the chairs, and Ashok ran over there to her. About the time she got there, I noticed that the woman was moving very slowly – as if she was hurt or very, very old. I was afraid that Ashok would pounce on her since she was in that state of excitement that she gets around dog people. The woman reached her hand ever so slowly toward Ashok’s nose, and Ashok immediately sat quietly and did not move. She let the woman touch her, and she never once moved. I looked at Elizabeth and said, “Did you see that?” She said, “Wow. That was amazing.”

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It’s moments like those when I’m most happy I have a dog. She does the same thing when a throng of kids comes up to pet her. No matter how excited and crazy they are – pulling her tail and ears – she sits and lets them do whatever they want to her. It’s so cute. She’s not the same with other dogs, though. She turns into Cujo. She will get used to them given a little time, but it’s one of the things I hate about having this dog – her reaction to other dogs. I guess it comes from her being a rescue and being in a single dog household, but it drives me crazy.

Things I’ve learned by having a dog:

  • The world is made for groups of people. When I travel in the summer, I can’t leave her in the car. It’s too hot. Rest areas don’t allow dogs in the rest rooms. I often wonder what they expect me to do. The same goes with campgrounds. I can’t leave her alone at the campsite, but I can’t take her in the restroom. I’m in a Catch-22.
  • Virtually anything is edible – if you want it to be.
  • There is nothing on this earth more exciting than food.
  • A dog’s life is way too short. It seems like the ‘sweet spot’ between puppy mayhem and old age lasts only minutes.
  • Running and walking are rituals that create the strongest bonds between humans and dogs according to the Dog Whisperer. Having a dog makes me get out and exercise whether I want to or not. Just seeing her jump up and down when I ask, “Do you want to go for a run?” is enough to make me want to lace up my shoes and go.
  • Veterinary care is very expensive.
  • A dog sees its human as its Higher Power. She is much more comfortable when I’m running things and in charge of what we are doing. Obedience training was a miracle in teaching me how to be a dog owner. It’s not DOG training.
  • Dogs dream. I see her twitching and little barks or yelps come out of her mouth. I often wonder if she’s being chased or having a good time.
  • A dog can be a pain in the bohunkus and the best gift in the world at the same time. As a single dog owner, much of my life revolves around things I can do with my dog. I made a commitment to her. Sometimes I want to be free of the commitment, but I love the fact that I have a companion that will do almost anything with me gladly. She loves to kayak, hike, run, meet new people and eat vegetables. If I was a different person and liked different things, I think she’d like those things instead.
  • I’ve learned most of all that dogs are here to serve their masters. Momma said one time she sat in the back seat of their truck with their dog, Prissy, and she was curious what she did when they were riding. Prissy stared at Daddy the entire time. Ashok stares at me all the time. She is wired to be loyal to me. I have to trick her at the kennel when I’m leaving her. I walk to door as if I’m going with her, and tell her “Yes, I am going to trick you.” The kennel I go to has a glass door where I can see her after she goes through. She turns her head and stares at me all the way back. It breaks my heart every time.

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I actually don’t think I’ll ever get another dog. I got Ashok for protection and as a companion for running and camping. But, I may be wrong. Who knows what I’ll feel like after she’s gone, and I no longer have that sweet face looking up to me. I had one dog before her. His name was Arf. Arf was more devoted to himself than me, but I took him everywhere. He was a pocket dog – a Pomeranian, and he was adorable. He also had a horrible problem eating shoes. He ate my shoes, my husband’s shoes, our guest’s shoes… he never outgrew it.

Arf

Arf

So, today, I’ll celebrate National Dog Day and celebrate both of my dogs. I hope you’ll celebrate yours in some way. And, if you don’t have one – well, go get one. It might change who you are.

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National Cat Day is October 29.

Ashok’s Adventure: A Scary Hotel

IMG_1193Hi, everybody. I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands right now, so I thought I’d write on Momma’s blog. She’s making me wear this stupid inner tube around my neck. I think I’m being punished for something, but I can’t figure out what I did. It all started last week. I got really nervous and tried to eat this big marshmallow-like thing in the room where I stay when Momma is gone. It’s so fluffy that I like to lay on it, but all of a sudden I got this urge to eat it. It didn’t taste like bacon or peanut butter or even close to sweet potatoes, but it was kind of a challenge, and it helped me relax to tug on it and chew it up. She was kind of tense when she got home and locked me out of that room. But she was better later.

The next day the marshmallow stuff came back up my throat. She had to tug at some of it because it was stuck in me. Then later that day some more came up. She seemed a little worried then, but she said something about me having to go to the vet the next morning anyway. But later I felt really bad, and stuff came up all over Momma’s new rug. But she didn’t get mad this time. She just said ‘let’s go for a ride’, and I love rides, so I ran out to the car.

She took me to that hotel where Momma doesn’t get to stay. I prefer the hotels where Momma can stay. When we stay at those places, we usually ride for a long time in her car and have fun when we stop. But this time was not fun. We went in a room with a lot of metal, and a man tried to take me away from Momma. I hugged up against her, but she tricked me and acted like she was walking through the door with the man. I went with the man to have my picture taken. I never saw Momma again after that. I spent a really long time at the hotel, and I thought I’d never go home.

It was awful. They stuck me with metal things that hurt, and then I fell asleep. When I woke up, my stomach hurt really bad. I had tubes running inside me, and I was in a cage. I felt really foggy and couldn’t remember what happened or why I was there. I couldn’t find my Momma anywhere, and I couldn’t believe she let them do this to me. The people seemed really nice even though they hurt me a lot. They seemed really happy when I would sit up. They got really excited when I ate and even when I pooped. They must have been really bored. It seems like it would be more fun if we floated in the plastic container that floats in the water or a walk in the woods. I just slept a lot and dreamed about having fun with my Momma.

It was years before I saw her again. I walked out with the man to the front of the hotel. My stomach still hurt, so I walked really slow. I was really glad to see her, but I didn’t feel good. She didn’t look like she felt good either. She took me to the car, and she said something about us not going on vacation this year. That made me really sad because I love camping in that little tent in the woods. But, I felt so bad I couldn’t think about it. It hurt me to jump out of the car. I went straight in to my little box and went to sleep. I dreamed about camping and wading in the creek in Arkansas where we used to visit. When I woke up, she gave me this white creamy stuff with some nasty tasting bits in it. She put the big inner tube on my neck and laughed. I didn’t think it was funny. Then I got sleepy again. The cats just stared at me. I hate those cats.

Today, we went on a few short walks. I wanted to go longer, but I didn’t feel very good. I got confused. I stopped to urge her to walk me farther, but I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what I wanted. I still feel like there’s fog in my head. When she got home today she told me that we could go on vacation. She said some nice people who liked me on Facebook gave money to the hotel for keeping me. I don’t know why that place cost so much. It wasn’t any fun. Who would want to go there? Anyway, I’m just really happy that we’ll get to go on vacation this year. I hope we go camping on Lake Michigan where it’s cool. It gets so hot in this new place where we live. I want to run on the beach and jump in the cold water. I think I’m going to sleep now so I can dream about something besides these cats. Thank you to the people who helped my Momma and me this week. I hope I never go back to that hotel again. I wish the cats would go there to live.

Learning From My Little Sweet Potato Fanatic

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Brrr ….. it’s cold!

As soon as I woke up this morning, Ashok ran over to the bed for her morning hug and belly scratch. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night I wake up, she’s totally excited that I’m stirring. And…. she thinks it’s time to get up and have her morning meal and walk. It breaks my heart when I have to tell her to go back to bed. The life of a single person’s dog must be incredibly boring. I often feel guilty about how much time she spends alone waiting for me. And, sadly to say, I do sometimes plan my life around her because I don’t want to leave her alone more than necessary. Today, I’ll drive out to Hammond with her in tow to go to the football game. She can’t go, but she can wait at my friend Gretchen’s house. Just letting her ride with me to and from the game is better than her waiting another 1:45 minutes home alone. It is one of the primary reasons I paid prime real estate prices for a home close to work. I can go home at lunch and let her out for a few minutes. It killed me when I was gone for such long days plus a commute at FedEx.

So, I got up rather shortly after first waking up to take her for her walk. I would have loved to stay in bed for awhile longer, but she was sitting there staring at me with her “I’m ready to go” face.

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We went downtown for a walk, and I was surprised to see that the Farmer’s Market was still open. Everywhere I’ve lived the market closes from November to about March. As much as I complain about the hot weather down here, I guess there are some advantages to long, hot summers and mild winters. I was actually able to buy some field tomatoes from the same vendor where I bought some Opelousas sweet potatoes. I told her that I’d never eaten Opelousas sweet potatoes and that I was fairly new here. However, I informed her, “My sister gets me sweet potatoes from Marksville.” She looked at me with this grimace as if Marksville sweet potatoes tasted like dog doo-doo. “Marksville?” she added, “these are much better than that.” I had to laugh. It was as if there were some sweet potatoes that were nasty and some that were amazing. I think there may be ones that taste better than others, but I’ve had very few really nasty-tasting sweet potatoes. And, I don’t think Ashok has ever found one she didn’t like. I texted my sister and told her the lady at the market said Opelousas sweet potatoes were better than Marksville’s, and she said … well ... how do I put this…. to keep a G-rating on this blog ….. she said she was ‘wrong’.  I guess down here there seems to be fierce regional competition on the orange spuds.

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I don’t really buy much meat, so I usually skip the meat vendors, but I remembered that I’m responsible for cornbread dressing for the company lunch and my family dinner. I thought I’d better get some giblets and chicken for the broth. So, I bought a fairly pricey organic chicken and a bag of hearts and livers. Turn up your nose if you will, but Momma’s cornbread dressing is unbelievable, and she uses the organ meats. Who am I to break with family tradition? I also got some fresh cornmeal since I couldn’t remember what I had at home.

When I arrived at the market, there was a pretty young woman that was selling cannolis, chocolate mousse and hot chocolate. I wanted some hot chocolate, but she said it needed some time to heat. It was homemade and being warmed in a black kettle. Every time I’d walk by, she’d tell me it’d need another 5 minutes. I finally decided to buy some on the way out even if it was lukewarm. I could heat it at home, and I wanted some homemade hot chocolate. I am not disappointed. I’m drinking it now, and it takes like liquid candy. I gave Ashok half of an Opelousas sweet potato, and she came back in the kitchen looking for more. She knew I’d bought a whole box and there were more where that came from. I gave her the other half, and she excitedly ran off with her vegetarian bone.

She’s sleeping beside me now, and I suppose she’s happier than I might think. I know several single friends who have dogs who have the same dilemma. The fact is that we need those dogs as our companions. They keep us company, and they give us something to love on and care for when it seems that no one needs us. My Medicine Cards say that dog medicine is all about loyalty. They will do whatever their master wants them to in order to try to please them. Even if they are abused, they will still remain loyal to their human companion. As a human, I doubt I could even fathom that type of loyalty. Our capability to think and reason gives us the sense to get out of the way. But, my little canine companion seems to be very happy with me. She’ll never really get socialized to other dogs because she is alone, and I worry about that, too. If I could give her the best life a dog could ever have, I would. But, this is what I have to offer, and it is limited.

I can learn a lot from her. It’s the simple things that cause her to jump in the air with all four feet off the floor in excitement. When I talk in a high, sweet animated voice ….. when I say the words ‘walk, run or ride’… when I stir in the mornings …. and when I fill her food bowl…. she responds with unbounded joy. She is most content waiting for me in the car when I’m running errands, looking out the window on a car ride and curled up beside me on my sofa. She’s extremely jealous of my cats and pushes her nose at me when I make room for them. I wish I had her level of contentment with what’s right in front of her. And she’s so smart. Not only are sweet potatoes delicious, but they keep all year long, are highly nutritious and are dirt cheap. Susan’s bringing me a box of Marksville spuds next week. I’ll see if she thinks Opelousas sweet potatoes are better than Marksville’s. My guess is she’ll love whichever one is in front of her.

So, in an attempt to let Ashok be my teacher, I’ll note the simple things that gave me joy this week. I love the little space heater I have in my bathroom. It reminds me of my first Mother-in-Law’s home in Clinton. She had the coziest bathroom heaters in her old house. I’m grateful that I have a canine companion who is so patient. I totally enjoyed lunch with an old friend on Friday. The hot chocolate I had this morning was a very special homemade treat. My cats are like little hot water bottles on a cold night. And, if I’ve never said it, I absolutely love my house. It’s not very well insulated for the cold, but it’s lovely, and it gives me a lot of comfort and joy. Oh yeah… and I am grateful for the cold. I know everybody around here is freezing to death, but I think it’s just right. Lion Up, y’all!!

My Day in Flea School

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Yesterday morning I woke up and noticed Ashok was scratching. She tends to have dry skin, so I wasn’t sure if it was her skin that was making her itch or fleas. So, I checked her tummy, and, sure enough, I saw it. There was a little flea walking along her bare skin. Damn… I pay all that money for that monthly flea crap at the vet’s office, AND she had on a flea and tick collar that I bought when we went out in the woods in Georgia. I hate dealing with fleas. It’s one of those things that makes my head swim in fear that I will never be able to get them under control, and we will all live the rest of our miserable little lives  scratching and itching and otherwise wishing that we could blow our house up.

 

The Fleabag

The Fleabag

I went through this drill with my pomeranian Arf when I lived in Knoxville. Poor little guy would scratch and scratch and scratch. I would call the vet, and they’d tell me to bring him in to get dipped. I don’t even know if they dip dogs anymore. I’d bring him in and bomb the house while he was gone. It was torturous trying to get rid of them, and no matter what we did, he still scratched all the time. I actually never saw a flea on him. But, when I would ask the technician what else it could be, she’d assure me that the fleas were really bad this year so it was probably fleas. I forget what happened, but at some point I began to think that we needed to get a specialist to look at him and see if he had allergies. Come to find out, he was allergic to all of that crap in the dip and the grass and the trees in our front yard and basically everything but the air. I learned a big lesson in not assuming the obvious and following my gut instincts. I just couldn’t see how we still had fleas with all that we were doing – especially since he was an inside dog.

So, I got on the internet yesterday and googled what I needed to do to get rid of fleas. Now, since I use the monthly preventative, I assume that the eggs these critters lay won’t hatch. That’s what they say, but they also say that they will die, and she sure had a live flea on her. I’m not an expert on what I should expect, but I am expert on how much money I spend on that crap. I’d like to think it’s helping in some way. After reading the information on the internet about all the stuff I needed to do to get rid of an infestation – and if I’d seen one flea there are probably 5000 lurking around my house that I don’t see – I was overwhelmed. So, I went to my trusty advice portal and posted on Facebook:

I found a flea on Ashok this morning. I do all of the recommended stuff. After reading the tips on the internet on how to deal with it, it seems easier to move and get rid of my pets. Anybody got tips that will work that won’t cost me a fortune?

Well, I got lots of great tips. Plus I got a few pleas not to get rid of my pets. Sarcasm doesn’t seem to play too well on Facebook. I learned how to get rid of fleas with essential oils. I think I had testimonials from every brand of flea preventative AND at least one disclaimer or bad experience on each of them. I was told that I needed to do the same things that were documented on the internet PLUS spray my neighbor’s yard as well as my own. I had a couple of people who didn’t jump into the public fray but contacted me offline. One told me that fleas can’t survive if the atmosphere is too dry, so my AC might be strong enough to get the humid air here dry enough to kill them. Another friend told me about a product that ‘dries them out’ called Diatomaceous earth. It’s a fine powder that ‘slices’ the fleas waxy coating, and they dry out. I found this article today that further explains what happens, and this stuff is edible. Not only is it edible, some people eat it regularly because they claim it kills off parasites inside us. And they say lots of farmers feed it to their animals to kill parasites and worms. Hmmm…. very interesting. In fact, the article says that we eat it all the time because most of our grains are mixed with it to keep the bugs out of them. I realized after my day in flea school that people are very opinionated about how you kill those little buggers. I know more about fleas and flea control than I ever wanted to know. All because of that one little flea. I’m thinking of opening up a flea consulting service if I can get this problem licked.

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So I took action armed with my newfound knowledge. I threw out Ashok’s bedding. The cats seemed to think this was a good idea, too. I vacuumed the house. I actually have hardwood floors, so the biggest issue will be my throw rugs. I went to the local veterinarian supply dealer and bought some diatomaceous earth and a bottle of natural flea repellant made up of essential oils. I doused the cats and Ashok with it last night. I found myself laughing with glee as I sprayed them (to their horror) and exclaimed ‘Die, you little a**holes!”  I put an additional ‘back of the neck’ flea preventative on the back of Ashok’s neck. I now wonder if that was wise since I’d put an initial application on July 26, but I panicked. What can I say? I was a little out of control. She was itching much less last night. All of my animals now smell like a flower garden, but they won’t let me come near them. Bella hisses at me if I come within 2 feet of her. Tonight I’m going to dust them all with the diatomaceous earth, and I may eat some with my dinner. What the hell? I went to sleep last night, and I kept feeling fleas crawling all over me, but I couldn’t find any. It must have been psychosomatic.

Dog in a space suit! Flea-free at last!

Dog in a space suit! Flea-free at last!

Lots of people encouraged me by saying they’ve had to deal with fleas even though they buy that recommended stuff, too. And many agreed that it almost makes you want to get rid of your fur babies. It’s bad enough that I have to pay all of that money monthly for three animals to prevent this, but now I have to buy this other stuff and tear up my house. I looked at some pictures this morning of flea bites, and I feel relieved that I haven’t seen anything like that on me or my dog. I think it was only one little flea. And maybe it was a recent acquisition. Oh yeah, and I wondered this morning on my run if I needed to spray the entire neighborhood since Ashok regularly runs with me. I had the great idea that maybe I just need to get one of those Mylar suits for her to wear in the summertime. While I was looking for a photo of my dream flea-free suit for canines, I ran across several articles about how the Russians used dogs as test subjects in their first space flights. I’m guessing I can find a better-designed suit for her today, but I’ll bet they didn’t have fleas up there!

Russian dog space suit

Russian dog space suit