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My bitch has gone butch!

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…just curious that my 7-year old female husky-mix has begun lifting her leg to pee.  Yes, it started about 2 years ago.  Perhaps because she was part of a wee dog pack of 3 that walked together every morning.  The male in the group passed unexpectedly, leaving the 2 female dogs to mend, as well as the humans.

So now, she’s the self-declared Alpha.

I wonder if it’s our fault that she’s suffering from gender confusion.

In response to an ad 7 years ago, we visited a local family that had recently birthed 12 pups–a mix of a Husky-dad and a Border Collie/Lab-mum.  We asked the owner to identify the males.  We had it in our heads that we preferred a male dog for some reason.  Once amidst the cacophony of cute wiggly pups, one white pup stood out–and was identified to us by the owner as one of the 5 males in the group.  This pup was smart, active and bossy…definitely the dominant dog.

contemplative pup, always thinking

My kids and I spent an hour with the puppies, and without saying, we all knew this white pup with black spots was “The One”.  We decided to be mature about the decision-making process…and sleep on it.  However, in the car on the way home the decision was easily made…and the name was chosen–Vinnie.  Once home, we called the puppy-filled household right back to reserve “The One” for pickup the following morning.

Vinnie was very “Husky”,  with a nice sprinkle of Border Collie…no Lab.  She was intelligent, almost intuitive,  wanted to be boss and was very opinionated.  So Vinnie did not lay on her back with her belly exposed as most puppies do.  Instead she  made a careful choice about when she might sit next to you.  She was no lap-kitten.

Several visitors came to see our new puppy during the next week .  These friends and relatives challenged her suggested gender, noting that the equipment was… questionable.  We found ourselves rationalizing that maybe Huskies were built differently…?

How embarrassing is this?  I’ve grown up my whole life with dogs, as well as a plethora of other mixed pets and somehow, I manged to convince myself that Vinnie was a boy…all because I wanted to believe it.   My eyes told me one thing, but I chose to believe something different.

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still thoughtful, after all these years

Obviously, as soon as we took her to the vet to be spayed, the blatant truth was confirmed.  Mom, it’s a girl!

So, yes, it’s possible that our Princess Vinnie may have some…questions.

And yes, she continues to lift her leg when it’s time for a pee.  (the funny thing is, she has to use a tree, or nearby rock to support that lifted leg–she hopes no one will notice that little detail).

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in the middle

We live on a small block with good neighbors.

Like many people, we live in between 2 different households.  Today, they have more in common.  We can hear the sounds of many unfamiliar voices.  Visitors.  Relatives arrive from far away places.

One side, the youthful grandparents have their vivacious and vocal grandchildren visiting.

On the other side, loved ones come and go as my 90-year friend travels swiftly toward her own end.

I can hear the impatience of youth…”I was here first!”  “You’re cheating!  Get behind the line!”  “It’s not your turn yet!”

I can hear the impatience of old age…”I’m so tired.”  “Why don’t you visit more often?”  “I miss my dear husband”.

And we, in the middle, hear the intrepid sound of high school boys playing basketball in our own back yard.

Hearing both neighbors enlivens my senses–I feel this place of  love that warms us here in the middle.  My gratitude abounds.

Last week, I decided to spice up my walk a bit.

I carried my camera with the intention of capturing an image with one-snap–no bracketing,  or different angles…  just See And Snap.DSC03555

I gave myself a visual target… Yellow.

I didn’t go anywhere special, just walked one of my regular routes…I wanted to see differently, to notice  my world around me…add some saffron to my stewDSC03554

I think we tend to move about our lives with ritual and habit…probably for a reason.  Once upon a time, as cave dwellers, our brains had to keep busy with the business of staying alive, so our brains developed the capacity for habit as a way to preserve  dedicated gray matter for thriving.  We modern cave dwellers do so many things without thinking…brush our teeth, drive to work, tie our shoes… that it’s possible to move through a whole afternoon without presence of mind.DSC03542

So, from time to time, I ask my brain to be fully cognizant while performing daily tasks.  For instance, I’ll brush my teeth with my wrong hand…sure it takes a bit more time… I might even take my shoe laces around to the left, rather than the right when I loop and tie.DSC03538

Yes, outrageous.  I know.

Back to the walk…I wanted to remind myself to see the subtle changes of Spring that were all around me.  My little exercise of yellow-hunting really provided me with that opportunity to see my neighborhood through different eyes.

DSC03560 DSC03559    DSC03541  DSC03534 DSC03531 DSC03529 DSC03523  DSC03520 DSC03514    DSC03500DSC03522DSC03511DSC03506

So, it’s a rainy Friday night when my family is in the back room watching a film.

We hear a strange noise in the backyard.  As I jump up to grab the flashlight, we hear the  “ding-dong” of the front door bell.  My husband goes for the door and I peek out the back window still curious about the unusual sound.

I see 2 broken oranges on the porch.

Just then, I hear my husband’s voice calling the kids and I to the front door.

We all huddle on the front porch to see not just rain dripping from our trees, but lots and lots of white toilet paper.  And someone has carefully wrapped my husband’s truck in TP and included the word “HI” on the front windshield.  How charming!  We also see that some of the oranges have been pulled off the tree and tossed around.

Now, if I put this in perspective, I can imagine that this gesture is sort of a compliment…probably a friend of one of my teenagers.   By the shear height of the paper in our tall trees, we also determine that maybe the ‘decorator’ is an athlete of some sort–what an arm!…we all concur.

In reality, however, it is rainy and cold and our garden is completely covered in drippy toilet paper.  We decide to dive into the clean-up immediately, before conditions get worse.  The 4 of us make quick work of all that can be reached.  The really high pieces separate too easily in the wet night to be able to pull them down.

“Perhaps there will be a brDSC03295eeze tomorrow…” we suggest to one another, hoping that it will come down by itself.

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The next 2 days are clear with a bit of  breeze.  Pieces drift down of their own accord at various times.  It’s almost lyrical to watch the thin rectangles float down.

And then something completely unexpected…and pretty amazing…occurs.

Help arrives.DSC03374 DSC03379

It’s early Spring and daddy is bringing home the new nest material–it’s like he’s been at Home Depot.

And my family is reminded that lemons aren’t always as sour as they seem.

one butterfly

So I was reading a story this morning about the journey of one late-blooming butterfly, and it resonated with me for some reason…probably because it sounds like something I would do.

in case you haven’t heard the story yet…

Maraleen, a resident of Shokan, NY.,  who has an extensive butterfly garden at her upstate home, discovered a lagging Monarch caterpillar still in mid-metamorphosis in late-September.  She surmised that the butterfly would emerge damaged as that was the typical outcome with slow development.

However, when the Monarch finally did emerge, it was perfect, healthy and hearty, according to Maraleen.

Nevertheless, she felt that the butterfly would perish if she let it go, as it had become too cold this late in the year for it to make it’s journey south.  With the butterfly so robust, Maraleen began to make phone calls.

Next thing she knew, she and her specially-contained butterfly were flying as guests of Southwest Airlines to San Antonio, Texas.

Upon arrival, she released her Monarch in the San Antonio Botanical Garden where there were hundreds of blooming flowers for the Monarch to feed on.  Once released, the butterfly circled back to land on Maraleen’s head for a moment, then off it went.

Maraleen’s final comment was “This is not just the release of one butterfly.  She is a symbol of hope”.

Without expecting it, and even without my consent, I found myself feeling lifted by the idea of hope.

One butterfly… it actually does fill me with hope..a big, sloshy bowlful of hope…overwhelming, in fact.

I find this feeling of hope to be similar to a sneeze  (I have a cold right now, hence the analogy, I guess)–it comes on without warning, it can’t be stopped…and it coerces my entire facial expression.

fyi…Monarch butterflies are know for the epic journeys they make each fall and spring, flying thousands of miles from the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and Canada to Mexico.  It’s the only butterfly species known to make a two-way migration each year.  A typical monarch lives for two months and it takes three to four generations of its offspring to complete the migration back north.

foster child

I have just returned from visiting family on the east coast–yes, the east coast in August…pretty toasty time of year.

We took great pleasure in their slight cooling trend and gray skies while cruising between Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC and North Carolina.  The thermometer was still dishing out the mercury though, but nothing compared to the heat spell that hit the area earlier in the summer.

…and we had thunder storms almost every day–how delightful for girl like me who is mostly Californian these days.

When visiting with my mum in south-eastern Virginia, we luxuriated in her new-found pleasure of hosting foster kids–actually foster kittens.  I am such a glutton for kittens.  Who doesn’t love a good kitten?

Who couldn’t love a face like these?

Some time ago, my mom and sister were part of establishing a new Humane Society in their area where there were no options for homeless or lost animals.  Three-day shelters were the only thing around.  This meant if no homes were found within 3 days, it was the end for that animal.  My sister also drove the Humane Society’s Vet unit around the tiny bridges and tunnels of the eastern shore and beyond.  This state-of-the-art RV-sized surgical-unit-on-wheels brought spay, neuter and shots to rural people and their pets.  My sister was the Vet-Tech and my mom ran the appointment book.

In the last few years, my mom has discovered that she has the time, energy and love to be a foster home for kittens in transition.  The humane society acquires them in various ways, vets them then houses them with people like my mom who teach them how nice human laps are while the kittens heal from neutering and become of age for adoption.

We wanted to help my mom while we were visiting.  My kids and I found the task of loving baby cats to be very easy.  The harder part was the litter box, the rare sick kitten requiring special attention, and finally saying goodbye as each purry group headed out for adoption day.

What an experience!…unforgettable.  Thanks Mom.

the dust bunny

What exactly is the science behind the dust bunny?

The wonderfully unsubstantiated Wikipedia says:

Dust bunnies (or dustbunnies), also called dust mice, are small clumps of dust that form under furniture and in corners that are not cleaned regularly. They are made of hair, lint, dead skin, spider webs, dust, and sometimes light rubbish and debris, and are held together by static electricity and felt-like entanglement.  They can house dust mites or other parasites, and can lower the efficiency of dust filters by clogging.  The movement of a single large particle can start the formation of a dust bunny.

Well then.  There you go.

Spring can bring on a sudden litter of dust bunnies with little or no warning in my house.  I have caught them scurrying across my wood floors in recent days, hoping to go unnoticed.   Most of these little scooters appear to be white.  Empirical evidence points the paw at my white husky and light-colored cats (one is particularly fluffy and particularly peachy-white), who gaze at me with innocent eyes and insist that they could not possibly be responsible for the presence of such offspring, considering they are neutered.  Nice logic kids, but I’m not buying it.

So I’ve begun practicing a catch and release program.

…And, I’ve been brushing  our pets more often to discourage future litters.

So Sooz, what are you gonna do with all that pet hair?  …knit a sweater?