Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Love of a Dog

I have had dogs my entire adult life. When I was a kid, I was always bringing home stray animals, much to my mother's chagrin. And I used to think, when I have my own home, I'll have as many animals as I want. When my marriage ended, I had eight dogs, all of them rescues except for one. I was forced to leave them with my ex because circumstances required me to move and take a job where I'm gone about 12 hours a day and do a lot of travel for work. I don't think it would be fair to have a dog and leave them alone so much of time. They're such social creatures and live to see you and be with you.

Some of the dogs I've had stand out in my memory for one reason or another. And today marks the birthday of one of the most exceptional dogs I ever had. I don't think I really and truly appreciated her at that time in my life, but I'll never forget her. One day I hope to have another German Shepherd share my home. I sometimes worry that I won't be up to the challenge, but when I retire, hopefully in less than two years now, I'll make that dream a reality.

I wish I had a picture to post of Misty but all those photos are in storage somewhere in North Carolina. She was beautiful, everything a GSD is supposed to be, stable temperament, intelligent, protective without aggression. She was the epitome of her breed in every way. She was a black bi-color and had a wonderfully feminine and expressive face. She was born on January 31, 1988. When she died on February 7, 2003, at the age of 15, I tried to contact her breeder because I wanted them to know what a wonderful dog she had bred and how healthy she had been and how much she was loved. This is the tribute I wrote the day she died. She was one of those dogs that you never forget.

My oldest dog left for the bridge today. I wanted to post this tribute in her memory. She drifted off at almost 6 p.m. this evening.

"And at the very moment when someone at my side says, "There, she's gone!" other voices shout with gladness, "Here she comes!" And that is death. Death is only a horizon, and a horizon is the limit of our sight." - Luther Beecher

How do you say good-bye to a piece of your heart? A piece of my heart left earth today in the form of my German Shepherd named Misty - - A Mother’s Day gift, the last puppy left out of a litter born to beautiful parents. At the tender age of three months, she arrived wet after getting car sick on the ride home, unsure of her surroundings and wearing the biggest set of ears I’ve ever seen. I soon learned that beneath her beguiling exterior, there was a multi-talented dog with a special flair for fashion and interior design.

Shortly after her arrival, Misty demonstrated her fashion sense in haute couture and was able to convince me to replace my shoe wardrobe. Always tactful, she expressed her disdain for my choice of footwear by quietly and carefully chewing up one of every pair of shoes I owned. She thoughtfully redesigned our screened-in porch while I was at work, hoping to save me from the pain of having to make those awful color-matching decisions. She felt it needed more of a greenhouse look, and her first course of action was to rip open a 40 lb bag of potting soil and scatter its contents from one end to the other. Ever meticulous, she made sure that the remnants of the bag were no larger than an inch in diameter. I can picture her grinning face as she tossed the bag of soil, scattering it through the air like a brown mist, taking pains to make sure it was evenly distributed.

When we decided to crate train her, she stepped into the plastic crate we had purchased and allowed us to pat ourselves on the back for being so wise. She didn’t mind the crate at all, as long as she could make a few slight changes. In the span of four hours, having had some leisure time to think about ways to make it more comfortable and homey, she decided to install a sun roof by chewing through the top. Imagine my surprise when I arrived home for lunch to see a grinning shepherd, head poking out of the crate to greet me.

Misty excelled at games and humored us by consenting to zoom around a room, from person to person, as she chased an imaginary ball we threw back and forth. I’m sure she was laughing inside. She could leap into the air and catch a ball on the fly or sniff out a ball that had been carefully hidden in a game of hide-and-seek. Flashlights were play things, especially when the human turned them on so she could chase the beam of light from one place to another. Summer time was the best because she got to play with the water streaming from the end of the hose. When she tired of waiting for us to depress the nozzle, she would do it herself and then run to catch the droplets as they flew through the air.

Although she was a wonderful playmate and companion, she was formidable as a guardian. Sleek, well-muscled, and ever vigilant, she watched over her family, protecting us from harm even as we slept. I remember the night she barked an alarm to tell us that she had captured an intruder. Running from bed, stumbling over my feet to follow her, she led me to the ominous figure bobbing in the dark. Startled, I turned on the light to discover that my darling girl had cornered a helium-filled balloon in the evil shape of Garfield, complete with hanging arms, legs, and tail that had somehow wandered from a bedroom into the stairwell.

Powerful in her prime, with teeth that could crush bone, she never lifted a lip or growled in anger. She mothered eight-pound dogs and allowed them to win in games of tug. The intelligence glowed in her face, and I swear she understood everything we said to her. She never met a human or a dog she didn’t like. She was . . . amazing.

So many memories, so many years. . . and yet, still not enough for the greedy human who wishes for one more day, one more minute, one more second. Where did the years go? When did the minutes fly by? A muzzle once black is now gray. The ears, always listening, now deaf. She feels the vibrations of our footfalls and watches our hands for signals. Her steps begin to falter, and we know it’s time for our darling girl to leave us.

Kelly and I sat in the car with her as the sedative took effect and she drifted into sleep. We were grateful for the chance to spend this quiet time with her, reassuring ourselves and her that everything was all right. When she fell asleep, we picked her up and took her into the clinic. She was easy to carry, having lost weight as she aged. We laid her gently on her quilt and I put my head on her chest. Jeff administered the fluid and placed the stethoscope over her heart, the giant heart so full of love that continued to beat out her good-bye for almost three minutes before it stopped. I’m glad I was able to be with her as she drifted away and to tell her how much I love her. She celebrated her 15the birthday on January 31st.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I have a wonderful Himmy named Mimi. She's is about as perfect a cat as anyone could ever hope to have. She's affectionate, not destructive, does not jump on my counters, very laid back. I trim her butt fur by myself and she just lies there like a little ragdoll, purring the entire time. She has the most beautiful blue eyes, is talkative (which I love), and very playful. And she doesn't try to eat my bird!

Me: Mimi, would you like to tell us how you maintain your beauty? I mean, how do you manage to look so gorgeous all the time?

Mimi: I don't mean to look smug or anything, but I know I'm, how shall I say it, extremely beautiful. I get plenty of exercise, watch what I eat, and get at least 14 hours of rest a day.

Mimi: Excuse me, but I need to catch some zzzz's. After all I need my beauty sleep.

Full Moon over Arlington

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dream Magic

When I dream, it's in full, vivid color. Sometimes my dreams are very weird and I can't even begin to guess what they mean. I've been pretty sick all of last week and finally got some antibiotics last Thursday for what I believe was a sinus infection that turned into a nasty case of bronchitis. I haven't been sleeping well because of the coughing and I've heard that sometimes antibiotics can result in strange dreams.

Last night, though, my dreams were very beautiful. I dreamed that I had gone to visit some childhood girlfriends. We were on our way to church, walking hand in hand down a dirt path to the church.

On the way we passed a beautiful pool of water that seemed to be lit from beneath. I was entranced and told my friend we should come back later so I could take some photos of the area because it was so beautiful.

We went to the church and attended the service and returned home. My friend dropped me off and said she'd be back later. For some reason, she wasn't able to come along; so I went off again, walking down the path, anxious to take as many photos as I could while it was still light outside.

I took in the views and began taking what I was sure were the most perfect photos I had ever taken. On my right was a lake, crystal clear, and the bluest blue.

There were homes along the lake and boats tied to docks, and I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to live there and see the lake every day. When I looked up into the hills, I saw a farm with a house, a barn, and a hillside covered with sheep.

I followed the path to the church, which was part of an old monastery. I walked in and saw sculpted archways and stopped to ask for permission to take photos of the monastery.

I took a photo of the sun as it began to set.

I couldn't wait to get home to see the pictures I had taken. I was sure they were perfect, but when I started to upload and view them, they all looked like they had been taken from a great distance.

I've been thinking about the dream today, wondering about the beauty and the mystery of it all. Maybe I was dreaming of heaven where all our dreams become our reality. When I woke up, it was with a smile and a feeling of warmth and happiness.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Raptor Sighting

On my way home from work on Monday, I saw two hawks resting in a dead tree that sits in a field close to the road. I wished then that I had my camera with me to take a picture. Yesterday, I made sure I packed my camera in my bag, and it paid off. Today, on my way home along a different road, I came across this beautiful bird looking for prey over a field.

I think it's a Cooper's Hawk, but I'm not sure. It was beautiful. I was able to get these photos by rolling down my car window and taking the shots from inside the car. It was completely aware of where I was. I decided to see if I could get closer, so I got out of the car. As soon as I began to walk toward him, he lifted his wings and flew away. Darn it! I need a telephoto lens.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I'm fairly new to scrapbooking. My sister has made some wonderful scrapbooks to memorialize some really special moments in her life, and she really inspired me to try my hand at it too. I wasn't sure how to get started, but she gave me some tips and some supplies to work with. Then I was on my own. I made my first scrapbook as a gift for my oldest daughter as a memory of the wonderful time we had when she came to visit in the summer. We took a train trip through the Potomac Valley in West Virginia. It was wonderful to see the beautiful river valley and all of the wildlife. I love taking day trips to different places, but this was even more special because she was with me. Here are a couple of pages from her scrapbook. I love the way it turned out, and she loved it too.

After I made my first scrapbook, I was totally hooked. I couldn't wait to get started on another one. And the inspiration for book number two was my second daughter's 10th wedding anniversary.

I was armed with tons of photos, and proceeded to work on it as a gift to her. I looked at it over and over again when it was finished. I figured out that I could use my computer to print some of the words and decorations on the pages (duh!). Here are some of the pages from scrapbook number two.

Memories of her special day

Three beautiful angels

Mom and Dad

I loved making these, and I especially loved knowing that I was creating memories for all of us to share and remember.


Everyone was all atwitter yesterday about the possibility of more snow overnight. The local weather folks were saying we were only going to get an inch or so, but then conflicting reports came in saying we might get up to four inches. Now, I know that's probably funny to you folks in the north, but that would make for serious driving issues here in Virginia. On my way home from work, I happened to look up and see these really cool cloud formations. It really looked like snow blowing in.

I fell asleep with visions of snowflakes dancing in my head. And when I woke up and got ready to leave for work this morning, this is what I saw from the back of my apartment.

These beautiful crystalline works of art created by Mother Nature herself. I LOVE winter.