Thursday, June 30, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom - Tux - #20 Believing What We Want

We were returning to the car this morning after our walk when a woman and her Basenji entered the park through the entrance at the rear of the park.
“What is that?” Tux wanted to know. I explained to him that it was a dog and was called a Basenji. “Why isn’t he talking to us?” Tux asked as he pondered a dog who wasn’t  barking. I explained that the Basenji didn’t “talk” in the same way that other dogs did. He asked if the Basenji was a “real” dog then. I said yes. I also explained that a dog looking very much like a Basenji was found depicted on the walls of the great Pyramid in Egypt from 2700 BCE or 4700 years ago. Tux was quiet after that explanation. “Hmmm,” said he. “That dog may have been a Pharaoh’s favorite, but I’m your favorite and that makes me pretty special.” Awwww. How can you not love a boy who says things like that?
We continued moving slowly through the park. Grace was with us and she is still favoring the paw that she injured earlier this year. The pace didn’t bother me, it was a beautiful almost-summer morning, still cool, the sun barely up, and we were walking along a tree-shaded path.
Around the bend ahead of us, two people were jogging toward us. They stopped and the man stepped out of sight and returned to the path with a huge dog on the end of a leash. As we neared them, I realized that the dog had to weigh at least a hundred pounds. My first thought was that it was a Mastif and Chocolate Labrador mix.
As we came abreast of the couple and their behemoth, I realized that it wasn’t a mixed breed at all. It was a terribly obese Chocolate Lab. Period.
The Lab looked at Grace in a way that Tux took umbrage with. I had already moved us off the path and into the grass out of reach of the Lab. At that point, the couple, who had slowed down, told me that Bubba wasn’t at all aggressive and was quite friendly. Tux didn’t believe a word of it. He lunged at the other dog just as the Lab decided to get smarmy with Grace. The other couple moved quickly on.
Tux, who hadn’t been called on to defend his sister’s honor in over three weeks, walked a little taller as we went on our way. “Huh,” he said. “I guess I showed him a thing or two.” He had, indeed, vanquished Bubba with the other couple helping him by dragging Bubba along the path and out of harm’s way.
On the last leg of our walk, Tux noticed something on the path. He didn’t have time to stalk it. It had appeared too fast to be stalked. He did, however, walked up to it rather sneakily. Whatever it was, it moved and Tux jumped straight up into the air. When he landed, he walked away from the creature on the path with as much dignity as he could muster despite the snickering of his sister. The creature that had scared him was a Cicada, a flying bug about a half inch long. No wonder Grace was snickering. Tux, for his part, declared the Cicada dangerous and a known hater of dogs. Neither Grace nor I were buying it, but we let him believe what he would.

Lesson Learned
We can believe what we want. Although it might be wiser to check the facts first before treating our beliefs as if they’re written in stone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom - Grace #1 - Introduction

Grace is, as I have mentioned in previous posts, Tux’s sister - his older sister, she is quick to point out. I reminded her that she was only four minutes older. “But older, nevertheless,” she responded haughtily.
Lately, Grace’s nose has been bent out of shape starting with Tux receiving his first fan mail. He was, even I must admit, insufferable for a few minutes until he got distracted by his favorite toy. Before his distraction, however, he insisted that he get to be in the chair with me - all but knocking Grace aside to get the favored spot.
Admittedly, Grace is the smarter of the two siblings. She’s been Alpha Dog for nearly five years - since her older sister, Jessie, a chocolate Lab, died from complications of canine diabetes.
When Grace injured her paw in late February, she couldn’t be bothered with the duties of being Alpha Dog - she was in too much pain to care who got to go outside first and she had to admit that she couldn’t get into or out of the car by herself or even join the family in bed at night. As Tux said at the time, someone had to be Alpha Dog so it might as well be him.
Grace is solid black with a white blaze running down her chest from her neck to her arm pits. She also has white patches of hair on the bottoms of her back paws. She is petite, but all tomboy. This morning, Tux gave every puddle on the park’s paths a wide berth and even jumping over one. Grace, on the other hand, marched through the middle of each puddle. I swear, if she had been able to, she would have kicked up the water ala Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain.
Recently, she began demanding equal time in this blog after months of asserting that being featured in the posts was “sissy stuff.” After the fan mail incident, however, things changed. I told her I’d write this post formally introducing her. She demanded first right of refusal on the choice of the photograph I used. I had to promise her I wouldn’t put any of her baby pictures on the blog even though you’d never see a cuter puppy than Gracie at eight weeks.
Did I mention Grace is too smart for her own good?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom #19 - Wait & See

In the battle for the Alpha Dog position going on in our home on a daily basis, Tux is gaining ground, but his sister, Grace, is sneaky. She easily makes him look foolish. She’ll be lying quietly minding her own business, when suddenly she gives a bark - just one - it doesn’t need to be loud - just loud enough for Tux to hear. 
Tux, who thinks of himself as the household’s protector, leaps up from his nap, and runs barking into the living room to save the day. There is, of course, nothing and no one there. He returns to the family room looking rather sheepish and knowing he’s been had by his sister yet again.
I keep thinking he might catch on to her ruse, but he’s forgetful. She may not try it again for a few days, and by then there is no trace of her trick in his mind. She barks, he runs, he returns. 
Every once in a blue moon, she barks, he runs, and the doorbell rings. He saves the day, and he nanner-nanners her because she didn’t rush into the living room being all protective and now she’s looking pretty foolish.
For some unknown reason, our doorbell has begun ringing on it’s own. Not often, maybe once a month. When I open the front door, there is no one there. Tux looks at me all confused. There’s supposed to be someone there. But there’s not. Then it’s Grace’s turn to nanner-nanner her brother - and me - as we make our way back to the family room. She may not get it right every time, but she is vindicated at least once a month. We’ve figured out that it’s not the kids in the neighborhood ringing the bell. I’ve got no idea why the doorbell spontaneously rings. It’s one of those things like WiFi or electricity - it’s there, it works, and I don’t necessarily care how it gets to me, I’m just glad that it’s here when I need it.
I keep telling Tux not to react to Grace’s bark. To wait and see if there’s really someone at the door. But she barks, he runs.
Lesson Learned
For we humans, this sort of thing happens all too often. Something happens in the bigger world outside our homes, and we get ourselves in a dither. We may see headlines or hear the lead stories day after day, and then nothing. It has all amounted to a non-story. Think in terms of some politician raising a hue and cry about something, we get ourselves all excited about the subject, and then it simply fades away. Or something circulates at the office as if it were fact, we get all fired up about it. A few days later, it turns out to be nothing more than a rumor. When will we learn to wait and see? Probably never, perhaps we’re hard wired to react to things, maybe we love the adrenaline rush it gives us. Maybe, though, we need to add a little excitement in our lives. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review: Wildfire by Lynn James

In Lynn James’ first book, Wildfire, Captain Elaine Thomas works for the National Forest Service. She has sworn to protect the land and the creatures who live there. Botanist Dr. Devon McKinney has been given permission to examine the effects of a toxic spill on NFS land. The two women soon realize that they have more in common than either had initially thought possible.
The women are thrown together when an unexpected late-Spring snow storm hits the area. Devon has no choice but to share Elaine’s cabin with her. The romance that had been threatening to blossom springs into full bloom.

One of the more interesting plot lines that will keep readers turning the pages is when a fire breaks out in the drought dry forest. Elaine must lead her team into harm’s way to try to build a breaker that will stop the fire from advancing. However, another team doing the same thing nearer the fire is surrounded when the fire changes direction. Elaine now must not only keep her own team safe, but must save the other team as well. She gets the other team out, but after doing a head count realizes that a member of her team is still encircled by the fire and didn’t make it out. She risks her life by going back into the maelstrom to rescue him. Both teams are again put into danger when the fire closes in on them for a second time. They manage to find a haven where they can cover themselves with their fire blankets and hope they’re not cooked alive as the fire passes over them.
James had an interesting premise for her book. However, she was unable to get beyond the cliched romance between the women in order to develop an interesting plot line to anything other than a stale rerun of dozens, if not hundreds, of other books. She lacked the skills necessary to describe the women’s feelings for one another and, instead, relied on descriptions that were old 30 years ago.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom 18 - Fan Mail

Tux got his first fan mail today. A woman dropped a line to say how much she enjoyed reading about him. I told him he’d gotten fan mail. Once he understood what it was and its implications, he was positively strutting around the house while his sister, Grace, and I rolled our eyes heavenward. Grace was heard muttering, “Sure, he’s cute, but what’s all the fuss about? I’m cuter.”
Tux finally forgot he’d gotten his fan letter about three minutes later and returned to the seriousness of being Alpha Dog. It was hard work getting fan mail AND being Alpha Dog, so now he’s stretched out on the couch taking a well-deserved (at least in his mind it’s well-deserved) nap in the morning sun. Two fire engines went by and, in his exhausted state, he managed to raise his head to look at me to see if the trucks concerned me or whether we were going to ignore them. I’m sure I saw relief when I didn’t close the laptop. That meant he didn’t need to get excited, either.
A while later, Grace challenged his Alpha Dog status and managed to squeeze out the back door first much to Tux’s chagrin. I heard him ask her, “Who got the fan mail? Not you that’s for sure.” Grace’s retort, as she happily trotted out to the backyard was “Fan mail, schman mail, who cares?” 
Lesson Learned
What will you do when you get your first fan letter? Will you strut around like a peacock or will you take it in stride? Will your ego run away with itself proclaiming the next best seller is yours? Or will you, after doing a deserved happy dance, be like Tux forget about the letter and return to your job?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Nothing but the Truth by Carsen Taite

In Carsen Taite’s fourth novel, she introduces readers to two powerful women: Assistant District Attorney for Dallas County, Ryan Foster, and defense attorney Brett Logan. The two attorneys couldn’t be more different. 
Ryan is uptight, driven, always in control, and always dressed impeccably.  Ryan has been tapped to succeed her boss, the District Attorney, taking his place when he retires, and lives above the fray of the courtroom in her role as administrator for the DA’s office. She prefers her sex anonymous and often.
Brett, on the other hand, is a magnet for dirt. She is often disheveled, prefers casual clothes to business attire, and is laid back - or as laid back as any attorney can be. Brett has her own law practice and takes on cases that appeal to her and lives her work life in the courtroom. Brett is celibate, but looking for love.
When the DA orders Ryan to take over the prosecution of a high-profile murder case she is told it is a slam-dunk conviction. With few qualms about taking the case away from another prosecutor to further her own political goals, she takes the case. Brett is hired to defend a young man who wants to confess to the murder allegedly committed by the man Ryan is prosecuting for the crime. When Brett tells Ryan about the young man, they both know it will throw a monkey wrench into Ryan’s case.
Each time the two women meet, they are both aware of a growing attraction. Ryan wants to deny it and Brett can’t believe it.
Taite has written an excellent courtroom drama with two interesting women leading the cast of characters. Taite, herself, is a practicing defense attorney and her courtroom scenes are clearly based on real knowledge. This should be another winner for Taite.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom 17: Sweet Compassion

Tux is the kind of guy who’s tough when he’s protecting his family, and a softie when no one is looking.
When my nephew comes to visit, Tux gets all squishy around him. He loves Zack. He’ll follow him around the house and even goes outside with him when Zack goes out on the deck to smoke. Zack loves Tux. Instead of going out front, he goes out back with Tux,
I recently had cancer surgery on my nose. When I came home, I had a humongous bandage on my nose. Tux and his sister were very glad to see me. One of the first things Tux did after I settled down in my favorite chair was to crawl up into my lap and lean toward me. I didn’t move, curious as to what he was up to. He very gently touched his nose to my bandaged one. His gentleness was so very touching and brought tears to my eyes.
I wasn’t surprised by his gentleness and caring. He senses when I don’t feel well. He’ll stay by my side if a cold lays me low, for instance. This, though, tugged at my heart strings because everyone I’d seen since leaving the surgeon’s office merely stared at me. And this remained the case for the next two weeks while I still had the bandage on my nose. Few people asked what had happened, most simply stared. I didn’t think the people asking were rude, and I usually said something like, “You should see the other guy.” They weren’t being rude, they were satisfying their curiosity. The people who were being rude were the people who stared.
Tux is not unique in being able to sense when his human does’t feel well. He’s like many other animals in that regard. He does, however, have a special way of making me feel better because he so obviously loves me. 
Lesson Learned
It’s really too bad that humans have lost the ability to care about others. I’ve been around people who think any kind of illness is a weakness and compassion for the weak has no place in their lives. I can’t help but hope that as they grow older and they become more susceptible to illnesses themselves they’ll find their compassion where they buried it long ago when they let their pride hide their compassion beneath a boulder. Surely, if Tux can do it so easily, so should a human be able to do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Review: A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

In Jacqueline Winspear’s 8th Maisie Dobbs novel, set in 1936 England, Maisie agrees to go undercover for the British Secret Service as a professor of philosophy at the College of St. Francis in Cambridge. The Secret Service wants to know if everything is above board at the College. When the College’s founder is murdered, Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. While not asked to help in the murder investigation, Maisie finds the two investigations crossing paths on numerous occasions.
Maisie determines that one of the College’s professors is a Nazi sympathizer as is the son of the College’s main benefactor. While Maisie isn’t sure that has anything to do with the death of the founder, it may have since the college was founded on the principal of worldwide peace.
In addition to trying to complete her assigned tasks for the Secret Service, teaching her philosophy classes, and helping to find a murderer, Maisie’s personal life continues on. The man she’s stepping out with has been sent to Canada on family business, but Maisie determines a letter that should have had a Canadian postmark was actually postmarked in London.  A woman, Sandra, who was once in service with Maisie's father doesn’t believe her husband’s death was an accident and is arrested for breaking and entering. When released on bail, Sandra goes on the lam.
Winspear has created an outing for Maisie Dobbs that, while moving along at a fast clip, allows Maisie, and the reader, to follow every clue that comes her way. There are as many twists and turns to the story as in the warren of streets in London itself.
By the end of the book, Winspear has tied up all the loose ends with satisfactory explanations, the murder has been solved, and Maisie has warned her superior in the Secret Service that the real threat to England are not the Bolsheviks, but, rather the Nazis. Her warnings, though, may have fallen on deaf ears. She’s even found out the whys of her young man’s having mailed a letter in London when he was supposed to be in Canada (of all the loose ends, this was the least satisfying solution).

All in all, this was an excellent addition to the Maisie Dobbs series.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom 16: Exploring the Riches

The other morning we had a repeat of an event that I didn’t think we’d ever see again. Last August, for the first time in his 10 years, Tux, my older male dog, lifted his leg to pee. We were very surprised. I blogged about it on August 31st (
This morning, when I let Tux and his sister outside, it was raining. Neither of them was happy about going out in the rain. Tux hadn’t gone more than three feet when he stopped to squat. He looked around and found himself standing next to a bush. Slowly, ever so slowly, his left rear leg came up. It was almost as if he wasn’t in control of his leg and his leg was attached to a string being manipulated by a puppeteer. Or maybe it was that his leg had a mind of its own as if it was exercising some long-lost doggie memory. He had already started to pee when he squatted and the peeing continued as his leg went up. 
I’m not sure who was more surprised - me or Tux. He seemed positively stunned. He got over himself and went deeper into the yard. I continued to stand there wondering what just happened and why. Why, after eight months, had he decided on this morning to lift his leg again?
A couple of hours later, we went to the park. we passed innumerable bushes, but there was no leg lifting. He didn’t even show any interest in the veritable treasure trove of bushes we went by. 
Lesson Learned
Are we humans like that, too? Do we pass up innumerable opportunities without realizing that what we passed by were, indeed, opportunities? Probably. We have something set in our mind about what would make us happy - the right partner or spouse, the right job, or the right friend. When something or someone doesn’t match any of those pictures appears right in front of us, we pass it by because it doesn’t conform to what we have in our minds.
Maybe, like Tux, we really need to come to know that we don’t have to conform. The world won’t fall apart if Tux doesn’t lift his leg and our world won’t fall apart if we stop to explore the unexpected riches put before us.