Thursday, July 28, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom: Tux 24 - Summer Allergies

When summer came upon us, Tux’s allergies hit him like a ton of bricks. They'd been less severe during the winter and spring. He is allergic to beef, all grains, probably chicken, lamb, pasta, and the list goes on. The only things we’re sure he’s not allergic to are fresh duck breast and yams. 
His constant itching and scratching was finally diagnosed by a vet we were seeing when we lived overseas. His recommendation was to feed him fresh duck breast and boiled yams. Very soon after starting his new diet, his allergies cleared up and he was allergy free while he lived overseas. When he returned to the US, his allergies kicked in again. 
In case you don’t know it, fresh duck breast in the US is expensive, very expensive and very hard to find. Yams, while plentiful, do not make a diet for my carnivore as he was quick to point out. 
I tried a variety of commercially made dog foods and even prepared his food myself, but still the allergies continued. It wasn’t until a friend suggested that perhaps we should add grains to his list of allergies that I found a solution to most of his problems. I found a grain-free dog food that had duck in it, and again his allergies cleared up. 
Tux’s allergies returned with the summer. This time, though, his allergies are not food specific. He may be allergic to grass. Yes, grass. And only in the summer. He is virtually allergy free in the winter as long as he stays grain free.
Tux has tried to convince me on more than one occasion that he’s okay with the scratching and itching so it’s okay to feed him beef - steak preferably. I’m not okay with his scratching and itching. Not when we can do something to alleviate it.
Lesson Learned
Sometimes we have to give up that which we love in order to live a better life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: Parties in Congress by Colette Moody

In Parties in Congress, Lambda award winning author Colette Moody introduces Bijal Rao, a political researcher. Rao works for a little known Republican mayor who is running against the incumbent, Congresswoman Colleen O’Bannon, for the House of Representatives seat in Virginia. 
During a chance meeting with a beautiful woman in an elevator, Rao brags that she’s in the building to spy on O’Bannon, only to realize too late that the woman she’s flirting with is O’Bannon. The two women continue to meet as the attraction between them deepens. They agree, however, that it would be unseemly, if not unethical, for them to actually date considering they’re on opposites side in a political race.
As the election nears, Rao’s candidate makes a series of comic blunders that adversely affects her campaign. O’Bannon, on the other hand, seemingly can do no wrong. Rao wrestles with her conscience and Republicanism as she tries to decide whether to stay with a doomed campaign or cut and run. 
In this outing, Moody gives us two attractive, intelligent, and witty characters to love. The banter between them will have you smiling and, at times, laughing out loud right up to the last page. However, the same can’t be said about the less finely drawn secondary characters. For instance, Rao’s roommate, Fran, can be annoying as she lectures Rao on not getting involved with O’Bannon while she herself is being promiscuous. 
At times, Moody becomes preachy and slows her story down by having O’Bannon lecturing the reader on party politics, social issues, and Congressional ethics.
If nothing else, the reader will begin to understand the complexities of politics in the US and the importance of becoming engaged in the political process. The reader will also get a fun, fast read that will keep her turning pages long after she should have turned off the lights.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom: Tux 23 - Stunned by a Cat

Imagine Tux’s surprise when a cat, yes, a cat, slithered under the gate of the privacy deck right outside the family room’s French doors. At first, he was immobilized, stunned by the audacity of the animal. Grace was the first to react, racing to the glass doors and barking her outrage. Tux followed her, but before he could issue forth a single bark, the cat had slithered back under the gate.
The cat, however, wasn’t done with us. When it realized that the hounds from hell hadn’t been released on her, she turned around and came back. Yes, really. She came back. Then she added insult to injury and sauntered slowly and casually not more than a foot from the reaches of the world’s most frightening Cocker Spaniels. Not once did the arrogant cat look their way. She totally ignored them both. That took away their voices. No one had ever been so outrageous in their presence before. Had the cat lost her mind? Did she think there wouldn’t be consequences to her actions? What did she do next?
She lay down. Yes, she did. She laid down. The boards of the deck had undoubtedly been warmed by the morning sun. She laid down in the remaining patch of sunlight. What did Tux and Grace do? Nothing. They did nothing. They didn’t bark, they didn’t insist on being let out, they didn’t do anything. That’s how stunned they were at the cat’s behavior. 
The cat, of course, lost interest in the game when Tux and Grace would do nothing but stare at her. She got up and stretched - first one rear leg and then the other. She calmly went out the way she had come in - slithering gracefully beneath the gate. She knew she’d won. I’m not sure Tux and Grace realized they’d been had. It took them several minutes to understand that the cat wasn’t coming back. She’d done what she’d set out to do. She shamed them both. Only they didn’t realize they’d been had.
Hours later, Tux is still checking out the deck. The cat hasn’t come back. If she does, however, Tux will be ready for her this time.
Lesson Learned
We can sometimes be stunned into silence by the arrogance of another. That doesn’t mean we don’t care or, indeed, we condone the behavior of the arrogant one. What it does mean, though, is that if we don’t find our voice and our willingness to act, the arrogant one will assume we condone his behavior and use our silence and inaction against us. Sound familiar? It should since it’s exactly what the politicians are doing to us right now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom - Grace 2: Cancer Surgery

Grace had surgery. While difficult on her, I do believe it was worse for me. 
I first noticed the problem in February when she began licking her front right paw. She didn’t seem to be in pain, she wasn’t limping or crying out when she jumped down from things. There was only her persistent licking of the paw. Then she began limping slightly.
I took her to the Vet when I noticed an odor emanating from the paw. It could have been because she was licking it all the time or it could be that something worse was going on. I hoped it was the former. 
The vet examined her, declared it was only an infection, and sent us home with antibiotics, pills to reduce the swelling, and a medicated shampoo in which to soak the paw. 
We followed the vet’s orders. She took the pills like a trooper (mainly because they were buried in globs of peanut butter, one of her favorite foods since she’d been a puppy). We went back to the vet. He pronounced her cured. I was immensely relieved.
She was not, however, cured. The licking persisted. She began limping even more. Things were getting worse, not better. We returned to the animal hospital (which I had asked around about and got glowing reviews on it so I took Grace and Tux to see a vet there), but saw a different vet. She examined Grace, and said we needed x-rays to determine what was really going on. When asked, she said she thought Grace might have cancer.
No! I cried out silently. Not my Gracie. Not cancer. 
The x-ray did, indeed, show that she had cancer of the toe, and it had already eaten away a goodly portion of her toe. 
The first vet never uttered the word cancer. His misdiagnosis of the cancer allowed the disease to eat away at Grace’s bone, and worse, perhaps spread to other areas of her body.
I took the x-ray to a different practice, and the vet there agreed it was cancer, and Grace needed to have the toe removed. Surgery was scheduled. The toe was removed.
Grace came through like a trooper, even managing to have the staff and doctor fall in love with her along the way. At home, she wasn’t able to jump up on the bed so she was lifted up and down. She quickly adjusted to the huge bandage on her paw. Within a day or two, she was running on three legs while holding the casted leg out in front of her. 
After several days, Tux, her brother, was rolling his eyes, sure that she was faking the effects of the surgery.
The pathology report came back confirming that it had been cancer, but also confirming the doctor had been able to remove all the cancer. She now has to return to the vet every three months for an x-ray to confirm that the cancer hasn’t spread.
Now, six weeks after the surgery, she is back to her old self. Reasserting her alpha dog status and wrestling the title of alpha dog from her brother, Tux, who is resisting her attempted coup since he had taken over while she was recovering. He wasn’t about to give up his hard-won title easily. 
One of the manifestations of Alpha Dogism in our family is who leads who out the back door and into the back yard. For a short few weeks, Tux got to go out the first. Then Grace recovered and now she’s back to leading the charge outside.
I have no idea who’s going to win the Alpha Dog War nor do I care. I’m just thankful that the two of them are healthy again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom: Tux22: Cocker Spaniel Pout

This morning’s walk was one of those walks where Tux was in his element. Tux is an intrepid hunter. Nothing is safe from his keenly honed hunting skills.
This morning he stalked a very elderly and obese black dog and his equally elderly master one slow step at a time, pausing now and again to raise his front paw in the classic stalker pose. We went slowly up the sidewalk until we were nearly opposite Tux’s quarry. Then I ruined it for Tux by pulling him along behind me to get the show on the road. I’m not sure that the other dog and/or his owner even noticed our presence.
Tux also stalked a bunny, who, at first, wasn’t going to leave his place in the high grass at the side of the path. Discretion finally got the best of the bunny and he high-tailed it into the nearby underbrush, but not before Tux was able to claim he vanquished the bunny. Such are the triumphs that make Tux’s day memorable.
Tux jumped a foot off the ground when a low-hanging branch from a nearby bush brushed his back. He apparently thought he was being attacked from above. Of course, squealing like a girl didn’t help his macho image nor did the fact that I’m pretty sure Grace, his sister, was laughing herself silly. When he was being his macho best, peeing on a nearby bush, he very nearly fell over. This is nothing that we talk about in front of others lest his male ego be insulted and/or wounded.
Later, I couldn’t bring myself to point out to him that while he was smelling the honeysuckle, the park’s resident Mallard and his mate were swimming placidly in the rain-swollen pool just below the bank of honeysuckle Tux had immersed himself in. If I had told him about the duck, he would have pouted for the rest of the day. 
There is nothing worse than a Cocker Spaniel pout (CSP). A CSP can make me feel guilty even when I had nothing to do with the incident causing the pout. Those big-brown eyes can make the Pope feel guilt. Of course, for the rest of the day, I’m more likely to give tidbits of food here and there, allow him to sit in my lap when I should be working, and feed him earlier than his scheduled feeding time because he’s hungrier than usual. I can’t figure out whether he knows what he’s doing when he goes into a full-blown CSP or its happenstance that works well for him.
Lesson Learned
Don’t you agree that there are times when its best, like with Tux, that we don’t know all the facts? Like, for instance, as much as most writers rail against the agents who give zero feedback about why they don’t like a manuscript, don’t you think its better not knowing that particular truth? I mean what if the agent were to say, “This is the worse piece of writing I’ve ever read in my twenty years of being an agent.” Would you ever write another word if you had that “feedback?” I don’t think I would. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: Just a Little Romance by Mary Jane Russell

Mary Jane Russell introduces Samantha Moyer, who is successful in her professional life. She is, however, much less successful in her private life. She is in her 40s and searching for the love of her life in all the wrong places. 
After a couple of disasters, Sam finally gives up online dating, sleeping around, and tries to get her act together. When she does, she finds love in the person who believes Sam is not good relationship material.
Russell slowly unfolds her story allowing her to develop the relationship between Sam and her best pal, Paul. Sam has two other best friends. Ava, an 80-something next door neighbor and 20-something Haley, living across the street. These two women and the other characters remain amorphous, however, throughout the book. The reader is told of the closeness of the bonds between these characters, but the reader may have difficulty believing it because the relationships are not well developed. There are other characters in the book, like the retired judge introduced in some detail in an early chapter only to never be mentioned again. Easier to understand is the villain Russell gives us, KD is an abusive woman who believes Sam is the cause of Haley breaking up with her.
For a book that unfolded as slowly as this one, Russell should have been able to develop her characters in depth. However, such was not the case. Perhaps if the author had decided on fewer characters, she could have given the remaining characters more personality. Russell had a very interesting premise, but the book didn’t live up to its potential.
Russell’s transitions in time was often so abrupt that it takes the reader out of the story while she tries to figure out how much time has passed between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. 
This wasn’t a bad read. in fact, it is worth the read simply to see how Sam deals with the various crisis in her life and how she determines to finally grow up.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom:Tux 21 - Pawing the Ground

Tux has developed a new habit that has us flummoxed. I’m not sure why he’s started doing this nor how he knows to do it. Perhaps he thinks he’s the only dog in the world doing it. What I do know for sure is that, in his 11 years, he’s never done it before.
The Habit
When he’s finished doing his business, he has begun pawing the ground with some vigor. First, he gets going with his hind legs and then he adds his front legs. It reminds me of a bull pawing the ground before he charges. Tux, however, charges no where nor no one. He does, however, shower us with leaves, twigs, grass, and the occasional dirt clod. Anyone standing behind him is pelted with debris and, if there’s a breeze, he even manages to get some on his own back. I learned the hard way to wait until he’s done to bend down to pick up after him.
He doesn’t do it occasionally. He does it every time he relieves himself. He’s not posturing because there are other dogs around. Well, his sister is with us, but, as he’s said numerous times, she's only a girl.
I’ve thought about the whys of his doing this for a while, but cannot determine the purpose for this ritual. If he were using only his front paws, I’d say he was emulating the cats he’s shared his life with until recently. We don’t have a cat now, although, I’ve wanted one for some time, but can’t figure out where to put a litter box.
But I digress.
The other day, Grace did the same thing without the enthusiasm Tux brings to the ritual. Her pawing was dainty and half-hearted - as if she wasn’t sure why she was doing it, but because her brother was doing it, she was going to be supportive even if it was a stupid thing to be doing. She’s not nearly into it as Tux. She forgets most of the time to do it.
I was waiting to pick up my nephew a few days ago, and watched as a dog and his owner came toward us in the green space across the street from my nephew’s home. The dog paused at the trash can, lifted his leg, and then pawed the ground once, twice.
Encoded Genetically
Since seeing the other dog do it, I decided that the pawing is genetically encoded in a dog’s DNA. Tux has no say in the matter, he has to do it.
What I’m pondering now is why has it taken 11 years for Tux’s DNA to kick in and remind him to do this? I’m now reconsidering the DNA theory because of the 11-year-lapse and because he still squats like a girl to pee. Surely, if it was DNA controlled, lifting his leg would be of more importance than pawing the earth. After all, who wants to spend a lifetime peeing on one’s own front leg?
Tux has lifted his leg twice in his life and didn’t see any reason to continue the practice. He enjoys flinging leaves and twigs out behind him so he continues to do that even though I’m sure he doesn’t understand why he does it, nor, indeed, does he care why he does it - it makes him feel good, so he does it.
Lesson Learned
Perhaps our lesson this week is if writing makes us feel good then we should continue to write even in the face of rejection after rejection. We certainly won’t be the first author to face tens, if not hundreds, of rejections. Some of the greats were rejected many, many times and they didn’t quit writing, did they?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review: Breaker's Passion by Julie Cannon

This is Julie Cannon’s 8th novel. Here, she introduces the reader to Elizabeth Collins and Colby “Breaker” Taylor. Elizabeth is a college president from New Hampshire and lesbian romance author who is in Hawaii for 10 weeks on vacation and to finish her latest book. Colby is a surfer instructor and surf shop owner. Neither woman is looking for love, but both are in danger of falling in love when they meet.
Colby, though, has a dark secret she’s been carrying for three years that prevents her from wanting a relationship. She’s never told anyone the details of her guilty secret. She knows that once she tells anyone about her past, there can be nothing between them. Elizabeth has never understood how any woman can give herself totally to another. She thinks she was born without the absolute commitment gene.
Both women know from the outset that the passion between them can’t lead anywhere because Elizabeth will leave the island at the end of her vacation and return to academia. In the meantime, however, theirs is a torrid romance.
When Colby unwittingly shows something of her past, Elizabeth insists on knowing it all. In a moment of weakness, Colby tells her the story expecting Elizabeth to react badly. Colby only sees what she expects to see and rushes out into the night. Elizabeth searches for her, but can’t find her. With no reason to remain in Hawaii, Elizabeth returns to the States earlier than planned.
The two women both have epiphanies about her feelings for the other woman. But will either do anything about their discoveries?
The story unfolds slowly, and the reader may have trouble telling the characters apart at first. Once they meet, however, the book gets going and the two characters are easily distinguishable. Cannon writes about Hawaii beautifully, her descriptions of the landscape will make the reader want to jump on the first plane to Maui. The ending was at first confusing because Cannon failed to divulge which of the character’s voice she was writing in - are we in Colby’s head or Elizabeth’s? Does it really matter? Not one whit.