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I was in the hospital a few weeks ago, recovering from total hip replacement surgery. The nurses and all the staff were wonderful and I was trying to be cooperative as well. I was scared but putting a brave face forward and trying not to be too demanding. And I was also asking questions about their own families and lives.

One of the nurses told me she was from Finland and had married an American. She said she was not entirely happy here because she was pregnant. And she said that in Finland, new moms get a year off when the babe is born. And yes, I looked that up!

Finland offers a very long parental leave to its employees, where starting in 2021, both parents are entitled to parental leave of 164 days each. Parents will be able to transfer 69 days from their own quota to the other parent.

Another long-time nurse was an animal lover who had horses, dogs, cats and other creatures she adored. We shared happy dog and horse stories like old-time good friends.

Then another of my favorite nurses said, “I want to be you when I grow up.” She was not a child of course, but she said that in the most matter-of-fact way.

Finally another long-time nurse wheeled me out to the car at discharge time. And as we left, she said to Bill, “Take care of her because she is precious!”

I have been thinking about those nurses and the things they said and the stories they shared ever since.

“I want to be you when I grow up” is the most unique and unforgettable compliment I have ever received.

What is the greatest compliment you remember?

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The 3 grands cooking

Complete with dogs and grandgirls and son and daughter-in-law, our house became a home again after nearly two years of no visitors due to the Covid-19 virus restrictions. I still think of the three grands as children but here they were, all gainfully employed and taking time from their busy schedules to meet up again and comfort this Grammy with the new hip.

The youngest grand-girl arrived with some beautiful flowers that promptly set off an allergic reaction. The middle grand put them out on the deck so we could see them through the glass doors but not get close to the pollen.

There were also Dove chocolate bites – no allergic reaction there. And a bandana for Elsa!

Then they cooked and made it a double celebration. Not only were we reunited after such a long time, but they also wanted to celebrate Bill’s upcoming birthday making a ham and noodles dish he loves. After telling them the story of his Mom making apple streudle, they looked that up and made that too.

While I was in surgery and Bill was biting his nails waiting, our son and daughter-in-law were taking care of Elsa and the house. I came home to Emmy’s famous chicken noodle soup and other fabulous dishes that kept her in the kitchen. and waiting on me “hand and foot.”

Son, Corky kept the house together, fixing things and comforting Elsa, who now loves him back and is pining for him. Though she kept up a steady stream of barking, she seems to be missing all the chaos.

Our middle grandgirl brought her GoldenDoodle 8 month old puppy (named Indie) who we decided to keep separated from Elsa. Elsa is a rescue and we were not really sure how she would interact. Fortunately Indie and the family fell in love with the pool, the weather was good and everybody was happy. I am not allowed in a pool of course so I watched from the kitchen window.

Daughter-in-Law, Emmy
Son, Corky

I always envied folks their family reunions but never suspected there would be one of my own. We are a relatively small unit but how lovely to know how committed we all are to each other and how much love we share.

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Elsa, our quirky rescue dog is terrified of loud noises. She is convinced the sky must be falling and she is the target.

It is thundering as I try to describe this shaking, shivering fur ball who is hiding in the well of my desk. At least it is walled on two sides and make it three with the wall behind, and the desk top makes for an igloo or cave-like spot. Then there is the added comfort of my knees for human reassurance.

I only hope there will be good weather next week during my hip surgery. There are no worries over hospital equipment or expertise, but the weather?

The weather can make or break Elsa while I am away.

But believe it or not, our son and daughter-in-law are traveling thousands of miles to be here – yep – for Elsa! The paranoid pup does truly love our son but I exaggerate a little. Corky and Emmy are actually coming to help wherever they see a need. How wonderful is that?

The skies are quieter now and so is Elsa.

The storm has passed and she is in her safe place.

Elsa in her safe place under my desk!
Elsa when the sun shines!

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Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

We all have our little habits that die hard. I tend to rub my nose when I am uncomfortable or bored or I just need to get out or move. I kind of whack my nose and have been doing that since childhood. Used to suck my thumb too but that habit had to be terminated.

But did you ever meet a dog with an unbreakable habit? I am still discovering little clues about Elsa’s personality.

Elsa is our not-so-little Rescue Dog. She used to be lift-able but no longer. Now she is well fed (maybe overfed?) as Bill and I continue to hand out halved dog treats plus plus plus. Like in the film/book Eat, Pray, Love, I have begun calling Elsa “Groceries.”

Back to bad habits that die hard.

Elsa thinks flying insects are fair game. When in the outside world she lurks, stalks, jumps, and snaps into midair and sometimes actually nabs a bumble bee! Oh Mighty Dog, Mighty Hunter!

The problem is last week she swallowed one live!

We tried to estimate how long a living bee in the system of a semi-small dog could survive but came to no conclusions.

Watching Elsa provided some explanation though.

  • First, she plunged her nose in and out much like a harem dancer thrusting chin forward and back.
  • Then she coughed a hollow kind of deep cough.
  • Follow all that by an insane need to go out again
  • Followed by a desperate need to eat grass.
  • After consuming about 3 cups of grass, back inside for a restless nap filled with barking dreams,
  • Then repeat all of the above plus
  • Finally she began dropping her bottom to the ground again and again and again.

Can you trace the movement of the poor struggling bee trying to maneuver through a semi-small dog’s system?

I was beside myself with worry. Could it be something she ate? Like a live bumble bee? The vet was closed of course. I made up my mind to wait to the first open business day and I would take her to the vet.

After a bland dinner (chicken and rice) and a lot of in and out of the house, Elsa finally looked peaceful. Vet no longer necessary.

I have tried to tell Elsa (to no avail) that killing bumble bees is a terrible habit that has to stop. However, I now have a dog who is a serial bumble bee killer.

This morning she was on the deck on high alert. One of those great big flying predators was daring the mighty hunter.

I screamed, “NO! Don’t eat bugs!” and this time she listened but she is refreshed, happy, wagging and hungry.

And the world is full of bumble bees. Well one less after this eyewitness of the bumble bee murder.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Peace and quiet are what I yearn for,

even more so in the golden years.

Instead the phone is ringing “off the hook”

with fake people scams and phishing,

so who has time to read a book?

Yesterday FedX and UPS came twice,

and sent the dog into a fit of barking

calculated to excite.

And others came to dig a trench and add a cable

for high speed internet to bring us up-to-date

that sent the dog a-running and a-barking

and the phone kept a-ringing

so peace and quiet have to wait.

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This is Me, Elsa

They call me a Rescue Dog but I am really just a dog, a descendent of the mighty wolves of long ago. I actually remember bits and pieces of that ancient time when we depended upon our wolf families to survive. This leftover is a dog who still thinks the family/pack is everything.

I remember my ancient mother licking my face to tell me I was safe and cared for. And I remember roughhouse playing with my siblings as practice for real hunting and fighting. But mostly I remember the “now times” and my first, second and third human families.

My name is Elsa.

I am a little rescue dog with big wolf ideas.

In this life I have some bad memories.

My first human family did not really want puppies so they gave me to a kennel where I lived in a cage. Then a mean couple finally adopted me. I had a home but it was not a happy place because the man hit the lady and made her cry. I would growl at him and bark but he hit her anyway and he hit me too. I think he broke one of my ribs because it still sticks out and I don’t like anyone touching there. I also cringe and flinch if you try to pat me on my head.

The mean couple trained me to never to “go” on the grass. They thought the neighbors would complain. To avoid getting hit or kicked I learned to always go on the edges, on the concrete or gravel even though that was uncomfortable and sometimes hot on my feet.

I never learned to play either because there were no toys in that house. As hard as I tried I suppose I never did anything right because the mean couple ended up leaving me at a kennel. Their reason given was they simply did not want me. I was back living in a cage.

The next people who adopted me gave me back too and said it was because of hospitalization. I never bit anyone but maybe they thought I did. I am not sure why they were hospitalized. Then I was put in a foster program instead of in a kennel. The foster people tried to be nice but they had too many dogs to care for. Every Saturday they took us to a pet store in Virginia where people came to meet us and maybe take us away.

How I hated Saturdays! The noise was unbearable because all the foster dogs barked and cried at once. We were all so afraid of all the strangers and there was this awful smell of fear.

But there was a lady who walked with a stick who came in that Saturday.

They brought her a chair and they took me to a cage that was right next to her. I fought with the two attendants who were trying to put me in there when the lady said, “Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.” And so I sat on-leash, next to the lady with my head on her foot, shivering and looking into her eyes to thank her in the only way I could.

That nice lady was named Dor and she was with another nice one named Emmy. They did not know me and I could not tell them how afraid I am of cars. Cars always take me to another horrible place. But Emmy and an attendant put me in the back seat of a car where I did some serious shaking and shivering. Emmy drove and Dor sat next to me. She wrapped me in her coat, held me close, and talked to me in a soft voice. She said, “It’s o.k. You are going home to a nice place where people will love you.” And she kept stroking my face and my ears like my real dog mother used to do and all the wolf mothers before her.

And I thought, “I will never forget this human. I will never forget.”

We drove for a long time to a house with other people and even a dog named Kota, who was much bigger than me and very very nervous. In fact, Kota turned out to be so nervous, she could not be still.

We went inside but I was sure they would soon take me to another kennel and another cage. I really wanted to explore but there were so many people talking at once and Kota kept running around nonstop. Finally I growled as if I were Mighty Wolf and scared Kota onto a chair with her mistress.

It was a relief to sleep that night in a dark room with Dor and Bill. I slept on a blanket at the foot of their bed and it was heavenly quiet. Everybody left in the morning except for Dor and Bill. Now we three would get to know each other and I somehow knew this would be my forever family,

I think I am as smart as any other dog, but it took a day and a night and some more experiences to believe I had a new home where the humans actually liked me.

Dor was the one human I decided to take care of.

I followed her everywhere and still do.

I sit behind her chair but if she moves I move.

I have been here two years now and all this time she thought I was the one who needed protecting. Even when I bark at strangers she thinks I am afraid for myself.

The truth is, I am protecting HER – not me. I do love all her soft words of praise and love and the gentle petting too. But I know my real purpose is to protect her and my family.

I knew this from the very first moment I heard her say,

“Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.”

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I am so envious of my friends here and my friends out there in the blog-us-fear who manage to organize closets and drawers and even garages during this evil Pandemic.

How clever you are to use your time away from society so wisely.

I must say I think about organizing things.

I have thought about the closet now for at least four months.  In fact, I stand in it every day and assess the situation.  There are the shoes in haphazard piles and the winter clothes still not packed away.

It’s almost winter again anyway right?  I have forgotten since I do not frequent the stores anymore who used to let me know about the changing seasons.

Oh yes, there was a catalog reminding about Halloween.

Is it Halloween yet?

I think about all our 40 Photo albums too.

There is a whole big cabinet dedicated to the old non-digital touchy-feely photographs collected over my own lifetime and the lifetimes of my parents and Bill’s siblings who have all since passed.  There are many shots of roads or trees or other unidentified scenery.  And lots of unrecognizable people and many with no dates. 

My inherent need to organize draws me to that cabinet over and over again but I never open the doors.  The job is simply too overwhelming to contemplate.

I also think about the garage alot.  I have to go through the garage to take Elsa-the-dog for a walk and we pause en route so I can think about how to organize things.

There are all those leaves that blew in last Autumn and maybe I should get the leaf blower out and take care of that first.

But then there are all those loose things and tools we never use anymore, and rusty stuff.  Maybe we should look into renting a big rubbish bin.  Never mind, “Come on Elsa.  Let’s go this way.”  And off we go out of the garage.

Uh oh!  I find myself out in the green green world.  But the green is not always well manicured lawns.  The green is really enormous weeds that have taken over every flower bed and the gravel driveway.  If I think too much about the work to be done in my green green world, I tend to hurry home with Elsa after she has done her bit to fertilize the earth.

There is so much to do.

There is so much to think about doing.

To do or not to do is the question.

But I prefer to think about it.

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We have our little rescue dog for almost two years now!

She is still an enigma, a bundle of odd behaviors and idiosyncracies.

Here is Elsa.  And if you are a dog psychologist, maybe you can explain who she really is. 

Bathroom Pleasures:  You have your place and I have mine!

We have acres of grassy lawn but Elsa prefers to water the small rock bed just outside the front door.

There is a surprising benefit from this odd preference.  Since no weed can survive Elsa’s acid rain for long, the rock bed stays her pristine and weed free watering place.

Maybe in her previous lifetimes she was walked on leash in a neighborhood of homes and chastised for going on a neighbor’s grass.

Play? 

Huh?

Elsa does not play, will not fetch a ball or anything else, and has no apparent interest in stuffed squeaky animals or even treat-stuffed toys.   Squeak a toy at her and she will turn away as if to say, “Stop hurting that poor little thing!”  Throw a ball and she will watch its trajectory without moving a muscle.

No!  No!  Nooooo!!!!!  Not the Car!!!!!!

Elsa does not enjoy riding in the car.  She acts excited pre-entry, but once inside,  hunkers down to shiver and shake in fear.  Fear of what?  Why doesn’t she look out the window or enjoy the breeze in her face like other dogs do?

Most times Bill drives and I ride in back with Elsa, who promptly puts her head in my lap and shakes and shivers.

Yes it is true! The Sky is falling.

Our poor little pup is terrified of thunder, airplanes, rain, far off traffic noises, falling branches, gunshots, firecrackers, and more.  She is under my desk as I write this (shaking and shivering).  I am sure she thinks the sky will fall because she is constantly looking to crawl under something.

 If I am quiet will they come?

She is quiet and respectful of visiting deer, squrrels, groundhogs, birds or rabbits and never barks at them even when they get wind of her and begin to flee.

I have never had a dog who didn’t enjoy barking at visiting creatures, especially when they turn and run.

Well, she does bark at people (who I consider the most predatory anyway) and she did bark at that bear who came through.

I think she thinks protecting me from truly dangerous looking intruders is her real job.

The Lady-Who-Limps Saved Me.  I will never leave her side.

Oddest of all, Elsa prefers my somewhat droll sedentary company to any other living thing.  She rarely leaves my side and has evidently decided I am the only human who counts.

I totally agree with that last assessment of course.

And I enjoy the adoration until she follows me into my own non-rock bathroom.

Are you inviting me to get up there on that sofa with you?  What will happen to me THEN?

There are times I would really love it if Elsa would jump on the couch or the bed, just for a hug.  But even when I invite her, she refuses.

It is probably a good thing that she is never on the furniture since she is a prolific shedder.  Again, I suspect she had some harsh training to keep her off the furniture. No amount of cajoling will entice her up, even in a thunder storm when she really wants to be cuddled.

I think I kinda like it here!

What Bill and I notice lately though is a more trusting happy dog who does a whole lot of tail wagging (on those occasions when she isn’t shaking in fear of something benign).

Elsa is full of strange behaviors and habits and fears, but maybe aren’t we all?

She is a little bit off, a little imperfect, a lot insecure, but aren’t we all?

It will be a two year anniversary soon and we think Elsa knows this is her safest place and where she lives with her most ardent fans.

And we know we will always be warned of visiting bears and unknown humans, and we are serene in the knowledge she will tell us when the sky is falling too.

 

 

 

 

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Many steps from house to pool.

Thirty years ago, when we built our little house in the country, we had an in-ground pool installed at the same time.

I insisted we live by water and Bill insisted on a woodstove instead of a fireplace.  It was a compromise.

The end result was a heavy-duty woodstove in the middle of the living room and a swimming pool!

As it turned out, that woodstove grew on me, maybe because it saved our lives through many a frigid winter.

And the pool meant happy memories with our son and the grandgirls, friends who visited, and our two golden retrievers who loved anything water.  Swimming in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia has always seemed to me to be the ultimate luxury.

Oh, and I forgot – there was once a horse in our pool, but that is another story.

But now (due to sheltering in place from Covid-19)  we are pretty much the only swimmers.  We invite Elsa-the-dog to join in but she is suspicious of so much water.

On July 3rd I was determined to get into the old pool and paddle around as a prelude to celebrating Independence Day 2020.  A swim would also be good for Old BigFoot.

But as enticing as it is, getting to the pool is now an enormous challenge.  Navigating all those steps is out of the question since there are many steps down, and the only other way (I thought) was walking down over uneven terrain.

Then there were the endless preparations… What to take…

  •  A water dish for Elsa.  Treats for Elsa.  A leash for Elsa.
  • Towells, walking stick (cane), suntan oil, bug repellent, sunglasses, first aid supplies.
  • How to get down there.  The pool is not far if you can walk.  May as well be to the moon for BigFoot.
  • Bill to the rescue!   “We will take the car!” said he.  And Elsa jumped into the backseat thinking it was another ride.
  • And off we went for a one minute drive around the house to wind up at the pool.

It was an unceremonious but successful arrival. 

Elsa would not even consider getting near the water.

Instead she began tentative explorations and found shady spots (to shelter in place).  In fact she found a cave under one of the big evergreen bushes where she was cool, hidden from danger, and could watch for bears in case the peeps needed protection.

BigFoot loved the swim and was already plotting how to get down there again without the mortification of being driven! 

The only concern is that Bruno-the-Bear or his sister would decide to join in, but there is always Elsa for protection.

Do you think she would emerge from her new private dog-cave-digs to scare off another bear? 

 

 

 

 

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