Christmas as Seen Through Shay Shay’s Eyes



Christmas is big in our house, not news.  The whole house gets turned upside down with decorations.  Parties, celebrations, and general merriment happen almost daily.  Vast amounts of good smelling foods are constantly being cooked.  Delivery people are coming to the door, sometimes two or three at a time.  Wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and especially tissue paper are plentiful.  All these are things that Shay Shay, our beloved labradoodle loves.  Christmas is her favorite time of year.


Today my friend Lynn, affectionately called Baby Chick in our house and I had a few friends over for a little lunch and Shay was sure the whole do was just for her.  She would stand at the glass door staring out as friends, some new; some unfamiliar came to her door certainly to see her she thought.  Festive in her big red bow she would stand on her hind legs and greet each guest.


Certain that she was the center of everyone’s attention she circled the table as people enjoyed their lunch, pausing by the person who laughed the loudest anticipating some food might fall from their mouth, but none did.


Shay is fairly well behaved, but she can show some frustration if none of these humans who came just to rub her belly were doing their job.  At one point as Shay was demanding attention I told her, “Go jump in Baby Chick’s lap.”  Shay turned from me and scanned the room and made a beeline for Lynn, bounding in an unladylike way on to her.   Lynn and Shay are fast friends and Shay never misses an opportunity to exploit Lynn’s weakness for a furry lovey.


Although there were plenty of unattended plates of cake sitting right at Shay’s nose she waited to take a nibble until all the guests had left the room and then only had one small taste.  She was greatly disappointed it was not a liver cake.


Shay politely waited until all the guests had gone before she took some tissue paper and ripped it into tiny shreds, as is her favorite pastime.  When the house was empty she despondently lay by the Christmas tree surveying wondering when the next party would start.  Like a small child on Christmas morning after all the presents have been unwrapped, Shay was a little let down.


But the party is not over yet.  It is just the beginning of the whole holiday season.  More cooking and wrapping, more friends will arrive, the festivities continue and as far as Shay thinks we are doing this all for her.  After all she is the baby of the house and isn’t Christmas more magical when seen through the eyes of a child or at least a very cute dog?

My Skinny Model Dog



Shay Shay went to get groomed today.  Her curly bushy hair had gotten a little matted while we were on vacation.  I knew that a good hair cut was the only way to deal with the tangled mess that continued to grow like the weeds in my garden fed from all the rain.


The groomer met us in the waiting room and looked at me with concern about what I was going to request.  I really like Shay to be the cute brown bear that she is naturally, but I knew that was going to be impossible.  “Do what ever you need to do to get rid of the mats, “ I said.  “Its just hair and it grows like crazy so it will come back.”


I kissed and hugged my sweet shivering girl goodbye.  She was none too happy about being left there.  I was standing in the grocery store at 4:45 when I realized I was supposed to pick my puppy up fifteen minutes before.  I left my cart in the aisle and went running back to the car.  When the groomer brought Shay out to me my dog gave me the look of a mad child who was the last one picked up from pre-school.  Both anger and sadness were in her eyes.


I looked down at my baby.  Where did she go?  Standing before me was the skinniest dog whose legs looked more like a French teen-age super model than the fluffy labradoodle I left there this morning.  Her thigh gap would be the envy of any diet-obsessed girl.


I gave her a hug and laughed as I told her what a cute girl she was.  I could see from the look on her face she did not believe me.  “You did this to me” was the attitude she projected.


We got home and she drank two bowls full of water.  She refused to eat.  I think the skinny model look has affected her appetite.  To make matters worse now she is pouting in that super model way, refusing to smile instead adopting a runway scowl.  I am doing everything possible to win back her trust and love.  I am keeping the bathroom doors closed because they have mirrors that go to the floor.  I think if she does not see what I did to her she might forget and come back to her normal loving, bubbly high jumping self.  For now I am just happy that she did not discover smoking cigarettes like the other model dog to keep skinny.

Our Dog as Nurse



Getting sick stinks.  There is only one possible benefit and that is loss of appetite and actual pounds.  I have lost four and a half pounds since I got sick on Sunday.  I am wondering what is going to happen when I feel fully better.  I am still eating so I hope that this is some real fat disappearing and not just water flowing out of my system.  In the good medical advice to stay fully hydrated I am drinking as much as I can.  It does not seem to help my chest congestion, but I will keep at it.


My daughter is much sicker than I am.  She has the full-blown flu as was confirmed by the violation of a long swab stuck way up her nose by the doctor this morning.  Hopefully the Tamiflu she was prescribed will help shorten the duration of this already grueling illness.


I know there are lots of homemade remedies for flu and colds from chicken soup to menthol chest rubs.  In our house the best medicine is our snuggling labradoodle Shay-Shay.  Shay is a loyal companion to anyone hold up in bed and feels it is her duty to lie as close to each patient as possible.


Perhaps the cold and rainy weather is adding to Shay’s desire to be near to us, but it certainly is comforting to have her company when we feel this poorly.  It seems like a visiting dog program could be added to the visiting nurse world.  Shay doesn’t seem to be vulnerable to our illnesses so she is the perfect one to watch over us when we are sick.


I had a wonderful and loyal dog Beau who I got when I was in college.  While Beau was still a puppy we went home to my parents house so I could have my wisdom teeth taken out.  That was the most horrific procedure I have ever endured.  My second night home I woke up in the middle of the night in terrible pain.  I stumbled into the kitchen to get one of my pain pills and passed out before I could take it.  As I went down I knocked a glass off the counter and it broke under my unconscious body.


Beau saved the day by going to my parent’s room and waking my father.  He was furious that my dog was coming to him to be taken out in the middle of the night, but he certainly did not want my dog to pee in his room.  When Beau led him downstairs my father found me bleeding on the floor passed out.


Today I am thankful for a devoted and dedicated dog who makes us feel a little bit better and never lets us feel alone.

Cheney the Dog

Well before most American’s had heard of one of the most disliked Vice President’s in modern times, Dick Cheney my very liberal and big time animal loving Uncle Wilson found a hound dog and named him Cheney.  Despite this poor dog’s name he was well loved by both my Aunt and Uncle.  Signs alerting visitors to the farm where my Uncle lives next to my father warn drivers to “Go slow, Pet animals around.”


Cheney and co-dog Georgia rule the farm as the leaders of the animal kingdom.  Marlin, the deaf cat had passed away a little while ago and I recently noticed the sign reading, “Drive slow, deaf cat” has been removed from the tree in the bend of the road leading up to my Uncle’s house.


My Uncle Wilson is a retired Episcopalian Priest whose only religious paraphernalia at his house is a statue of St. Francis, the animal loving Saint.  Wilson has never been shy about proclaiming his love of animals, which I think is almost stronger than his love of people.


This past year Uncle Wilson has had a lot of serious health problems and has been unable to walk for months.  Recently he has gotten good news that his primary problem is in remission, but he has a very painful broken pelvis which must heal on it’s own.


The day after Thanksgiving Cheney, who is mostly an outdoor dog did not come and sleep at the back porch where his bed resides.  Both Cheney and Georgia had been out chasing some smelly animals and they had been banned from coming in the house until the weather warmed up enough for them to be bathed to remove the stench.  Uncle Wilson and Aunt Janie noticed the next day that Cheney was still gone which worried them because Cheney was not known to miss many meals.  Four or five days passed and no one had seen Cheney.  Will was heart broken thinking that Cheney surely had died somewhere out on the farm.


This came as quite a blow to him after his year of poor health.  Although he had a great attitude about what might kill him, the thought of loosing Cheney seemed to bring him down to a place he had not gone to so far.  I think that thinking about Cheney’s mortality brought Will’s into focus.


On the fifth day after Cheney’s disappearance Will got a call from his Doctor who told him there was no treatment for his broken pelvis, except for physical therapy.  So while Janie was out doing an errand Will, who had not gone out of the house without a wheel chair for months, decided to get up alone and take a walk, with his walker, down the road towards my father’s house.


Georgia, one who was always up for a walk ventured part of the way down the road with him.  As my Uncle got a hundred yards from his house he decided that this walk was a very bad idea.  He turned to go back to his house and noticed that Georgia had only come half way with him and was standing on the side of the driveway near a culvert where a pipe that runs under the driveway exits.  Uncle Wilson thought that Georgia must not have felt like a walk either.


As Will came back towards Georgia he heard a faint sound coming from the pipe under the driveway.  He recognized the sound as Cheney’s voice.  With his walker by his side, Will got down on the ground and looked in the pipe and could hear Cheney, but was unable to reach his arm in far enough to touch him.  As he lay on the ground overwhelmed with the thought that Cheney was alive, he realized that he could not get up.  Thank goodness he had his cell phone in his pocket and he hit redial calling our cousin George who miraculously was only one mile away, rather than at his house an hour and a half away.  He came right over, calling my father as he drove, who called Rufus and Bill two men who work at the farm, my mother, and Aunt Janie.


All these people who are not always around came quickly and gathered by the pipe and realized that they could not get Cheney from the open end of the pipe so they began to dig the pipe out at the other end.  At one point one of the men with a hatchet in hand was banging away on the cement pipe and as he lifted the hatchet high in the air to bring it down hard, my father screamed stop.  Lord knows what made my father stop him, but he did and the crowd or mainly very old people, working together lifted a huge chunk of pipe and there was Cheney right where the hatchet would have hit.


That dog jumped up, ran to the house and drank water for what seemed like a day.  How this very old dog had survived stuck in this pipe for five days with no water or food and freezing nighttime temperatures is something to behold.  Having Cheney back is the best medicine Uncle Wilson could ever have.  Neither of those old dogs is ready to give up.  Perhaps Cheney was well named after all, because like Dick Cheney who has survived five heart attacks and a heart transplant operation and still keeps going, Cheney the dog is one tough ‘ole pup.  But unlike the Vice President the dog brings hope and light into the world and might just be proof of some higher being.



God’s Gift

Everyone I know is busy. I was talking to my friend who has two girls out of college and both employed and one in college, and I was complaining that she had not been at Mah Jongg.  She looked at me with a you-are-never-going-to-believe-this look in her eye and said, “I know, I am busier than ever.  I want to play Mah Jongg, but I have so much going on.”

What is happening in the world that we all keep getting busier and busier, but yet the world is not really improving that much?  I am no better, just today I had one phone interview, four meetings in various places around town, a blog, three letters of recommendations, one report and 42 e-mails to write, so far and a dog who lies next to me, head on my lap top wishing I were throwing her the ball.  All of this and no one is paying me a cent to do any of it.  Shouldn’t I throw the ball first because my dog gives me the best payback for my investment?

The only one I see in my world who is not busy is my dog, but she is the happiest being I know.  I think that when she leans on the key board and inadvertently pushes the caps lock she is sending me a message to stop typing and give her a snuggle.  She is yet to type out an actual request, perhaps for lamb and rice rather than chicken, but I would not be surprised if she had one she wanted to convey.

I am working on actually being productive and not just busy without the productive stuff being things like laundry or a clean house.  But I not only want to be productive, but I want to have fun and bring joy to my world.  In other words, I want to be more like my dog who is always happy to greet another being whether two of four legged, rejoices in an embrace and brings a smile to all who meet her.

My dog is not busy, yet she is productive if in no other way to make everyone in our house spend time outside and show affection everyday.  It’s an old thought, but dog spelled backwards does spell god.  I think of our dog as god’s gift to us and a reminder to slow down and play a little everyday.

Listening is the Hard — Hearing is Even Harder

Recently I had a friend ask me if I could talk to her husband about losing weight.   “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” was my response.  “Do you want me to talk to him or does he want me to talk to him?”

My friend, who loves and adores her husband, is interested in his losing weight.  She confessed that he does not see the same man in the mirror that she does.  Jump back friend.  I would never bring up the subject of losing weight to anyone else.  I am happy to answer someone’s questions, but not initiate the conversation.

I know from personal experience that the only person who can make you want to lose weight is the person who is putting the food in your mouth.  Losing weight is a brain exercise first; only when your brain is interested in doing it will it happen.

On the other side of things, if someone is telling you something you don’t want to hear stop and consider how hard it was for them to do it.

Many years ago when Russ and I were working in London and had terrible sleep schedules due to too many transatlantic flights we had a next-door neighbor who had a garage without a door, on the bedroom side of our house.  These neighbors who were used to us not being home much had gotten a puppy and they kept him tied up in the garage at night.

When we were home we were kept awake by this poor lonely puppy howling and barking in the echo chamber that was my neighbors’ garage.  At first I thought that it would be a short-lived problem and eventually the puppy would learn to sleep alone, but that did not happen.

One night as I lay there I thought surely these people know their dog barks all night, but no.  When I finally could not take it anymore I got out of bed, put my trench coat on over my nightgown and in the pouring rain went over to my neighbor’s house.

When they came to the door I apologized for the late visit, although it was only 9:00 at night it was 3:00 in the morning to me, which was very late.  I said I was sure they did not know that their puppy’s barking echoed so loudly into our bedroom and asked if they could bring the dog inside.  I will never forget the wife’s response, “Our dog does not bark.”  Now this couple was elderly, but I had never seen them with any hearing aids that could be removed at night to ignore a barking dog.

I was shocked that my practically apologetic request had been met with an accusation of my being a liar.  In my jet lagged and not most polished state I responded, “Lady, why in the world would I come over here at this hour in my nightgown in the pouring rain and make up a story about your dog?  How would I even know you had a dog?  Your dog barks and by leaving in your open garage it amplifies his crying.”

Her husband apologized and brought the dog inside and never left him to sleep in the garage again.  The wife has never spoken to me since despite my saying hello to her every time I see her.

What was in this for me if her dog did not really bark?  Why would I risk bad neighborly relations if it were not true?  If someone tells you something you don’t really like, stop and consider what it is it for them to tell you.  Drop your defenses and try and listen to the truth.

I am not advocating that anyone runs out and tells your loved ones they need to lose weight or control their dog, but if someone gives you a signal, perhaps a lot more subtly than I told my neighbor, that you have a problem, think about it.  They risk something in telling you, but if you can really hear it, maybe your brain can take one step closer to trying to solve it.

Home Again

After a wonderful two week trip with nothing but fabulous memories there is still nothing better than coming home.  And it is not the home that makes it the best, but coming home to our sweet dog Shay Shay.

As soon as we dropped our suitcases in the garage, Russ and I walked to our neighbor Mary’s house where Shay Shay had spent her own holiday blissfully playing with her other four-legged playmates.  But as soon as she saw us she jumped into Russ’ arms and wiggled and kissed us for a good ten minutes without stop.

While Carter is still in Taiwan, Russ and I get to have Shay all to our selves.   Such devotion and love is better than any trip could ever be.

So back to reality is not so bad.  Back to arugula, roast chicken and home made pickles for dinner.  Back to our own quiet house, with no trolley cars rumbling outside our window.  Back to snuggling with our puppy, home again.