Category: Art

A celebration of a life.

My mother was a remarkable woman.

Back in North-West London (Preston Road, Wembley) my two sisters, Elizabeth and Eleanor, are today hosting a party to celebrate my mother’s life. Many family members and friends will be at the house.

My contribution was to record a eulogy that I will broadcast to everyone using a ‘FaceTime’ link between here and Alex’s tablet that he will have with him at the party.

I wanted to share that eulogy with all you good people.

Flick!

Just like that!

How is it that I am sitting at a computer keyboard writing these words in this my seventy-second year of my life!

Where did it all go?

What did I learn?

But this is what I do know.

That it is only as we get into our ‘senior’ years that we can start to put our lives into some form of perspective.

When I look back at my life I can see many things that, in hindsight, I didn’t handle all that well. Yet that same backward gaze also reveals many things that I would never have changed.

That is the person that I am.

Or to put it in a more introspective way, that is the person that I was brought up to be. For each and every one of us rises to adulthood wearing a rather colourful psychological overcoat. Our life’s journey hopefully offers us the opportunity to undo our overcoat from time to time and take note of the shape and style of our underclothes.

That is the true legacy of my father, of my step-father and, most importantly, of my mother.

I was very privileged to have them as my guardians and parents.

Mum and Jeannie - photo taken 31st July, 2014 here in Oregon.

Mum and Jeannie – photo taken 31st July, 2014 here in Oregon.

How we love.

Reflections!

This the fourth day since my mother died.

They have been days of a great jumble of emotions.

But the over-riding emotion has been one of feeling very loved and cared for. Not only by Jeannie, of course, and by my son, Alex, and daughter, Maija, but also by so many of you from my Learning from Dogs ‘family’.

A dear friend, Richard, living in England was incredibly supportive. Richard and I go back nearly 40 years to when we first met. We were both selling Commodore computers for our respective companies back in the early 1980’s. (Richard used to be a typewriter salesman for Olivetti UK and I was an ex-IBM Office Products salesman.)

Anyway, Richard pointed me to this beautiful song by Beth Nielsen-Chapman How We Love.

It sums up perfectly what all your ‘Likes’ and responses to my post The End Of An Era meant to me.

Love you all! I will return to daily posts from this Saturday.

I will not forget your kindness when I needed it so much.

Returning the love.

Wonderful reminders of how so many offer so much love to our animals.

p1160586On Saturday Jean and I spent the day at PetSmart’s store in Medford, OR., supporting another of their wonderful pet adoption events.

There were many dogs and cats available and even more wonderful people coming to find a new dog or a new cat for their homes (the final figures not available at the time of writing this post).

Yes, there are a great deal of people who are unloving and uncaring towards our beautiful animals. But never let that cloud the fact that there are countless people who will put their love for animals way ahead of their own needs.

So when Marg emailed me a link to a recent story on ABC News not only did I want to share it with you good people but it was the perfect story to follow Saturday’s adoption event. Here it is:

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#WalkWithWalnut: Hundreds tread Cornwall beach to mark final walk for 18yo whippet

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-13/mark-woods-and-walnut-were-joined-by-hundreds-of-dog-walkers/8021246

Before a trip to doggy heaven, 18-year-old whippet Walnut was joined by hundreds of people and their pups for a walk along an English beach.

Walnut’s owner Mark Woods posted details about the dog’s final walk along the beach on Facebook, inviting dog owners to join him on a beach in Newquay, Cornwall to celebrate his pet’s life.

“He has had an incredible life and having reached the grand age of 18 is ready for his final sleep,” Mr Woods wrote.

“I would love it if dog lovers/owners and friends would join us for a celebration of Walnut on his favourite Porth Beach.”

Hundreds of pooches left paw marks on the sand and supporters used the hashtag #WalkWithWalnut on social media to pay tribute to the animal, who also became a media star in his final days.

“If #walkwithwalnut has done something, it’s restored my faith in the compassion of humanity, in a particularly dreary year,” one tweeted.

“Meanwhile, at Porth Beach Newquay, humans demonstrate proper love and solidarity on their #walkwithwalnut and Mark,” tweeted another supporter.

Mr Woods carried Walnut across the beach as his ill health meant he was no longer able to walk.

He told local media Walnut had provided much comfort over the years, seeing him through two marriages and three engagements.

After Walnut was euthanased the evening after the walk, Mr Woods posted a thank you to all who attended.

Photo: "He went very quickly and in my arms," Mark Woods said in a Facebook post on the day they euthanased Walnut. (Facebook: Mark Woods)
Photo: “He went very quickly and in my arms,” Mark Woods said in a Facebook post on the day they euthanased Walnut. (Facebook: Mark Woods)

“Walnut passed away this morning at 11.56am … he went very quickly and in my arms,” Mr Woods wrote on his Facebook page.

“Thank you to the hundreds of people that attended the walk this morning and to all those that had their own walks with their beloved pets around the world.”

The whippet breed originated in England and have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

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There were many videos taken of the walk lots of them being uploaded to YouTube. I chose the following one to share with you. Be warned, this will bring tears to your eyes!

Finally, let me return to the overall theme of today’s post: how much we return the love our dogs give us.

By including the following photograph of this woman, whose name we missed, chatting to Jean at the PetSmart event. Not only had this loving lady taken in many rescue dogs she also fostered other dogs as they awaited their new home. The terrier mix in her arms is her dog and, of course, was one time a homeless dog that she rescued.

p1160612Don’t our wonderful pets bring out the best in us!

Marbles, Part Three

Concluding the wonderful story written by Anne Schroeder.

Part One of MY SEASON FOR MARBLES was posted last Monday.

Part Two was yesterday and finished, thus:

Buck’s tendency to work the neighborhood was his ultimate undoing. Eventually the druggie roommate of a neighbor poisoned him for repeated raids on his dog’s feeding dish. By then he was scarred, limping from a difference of opinion with a moving car, had his ear chewed from a fight. He was a seasoned scrapper with a heart of gold. Of all the dogs we owned, he lived life on his own terms.

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MY SEASON FOR MARBLES

Part Three

One day my son and his dad brought home a new pup–a nine-week old, female Boxer that we named Marbles for her brindle coloring.  She had a perfect circle of white around one eye and an ear that perked up when she was surprised.  Steve wanted to name her Stymie.

Something I never expected happened. I experienced a resurgence of mother love. I found myself sitting in the sunshine, playing toss-the-stick. I held Marbles while I watched TV.  I loved the feel of her sleek hair, the way she formed a question in her eyes. I was patient with her, like I am with a child. I gave her credit for her embarrassment when she piddled on the kitchen tile when we were gone too many hours. I watched her dig in the creek bank and was sure she would never try digging in the yard.  She never did. She was surprisingly mellow for a Boxer. She never barked, never whined, never jumped on furniture or tore up pillows when we were gone.

Marbles accompanied us to the mailbox, to the creek, to the canyons. The flurry of a quail made her stop and listen, one ear cocked. Everything was a first for her, and our walks took the meandering pace of a walk with an eighteen-month-old. She was curious about dandelions. On our walks I rejoiced for the way she refocused my appreciation of life.

Marbles was only with us for six years before she died of a malignant tumor that Boxers are infamous for having. I helped Steve bury her on a ridge above our house, in the canyon she loved to walk.

*****

I ask myself what changed with Marbles? Was it me, or something broader? I think it’s a question of timing. For some reason, men bring home puppies while women are busy with babies. Maybe it’s an attempt to capture the bond that mother and baby share. Maybe the man feels left out.  Whatever the reason, a puppy has to be raised, trained, groomed and cleaned up after.  So does a child.  For most women, a puppy is like having twins, or another pregnancy too soon after the first.

Getting labeled as a dog hater is a double-edged sword. Life becomes an “oops, don’t let Mom find out” thing that undermines everyone. When something happens, warnings about pet responsibility come out sounding like a “gottcha.” I grew up with unquestioned values that a dog was a farm animal with responsibilities. A dog earned its keep in the same way a child did. No one questioned that a child could gather eggs, but, suddenly I’m a meany for suggesting that a dog be useful? I’m too old and too stubborn to make the change, and I find myself filled with resentment that society requires it of me.

But I learned to keep my head low and duck the bullets. I don’t offer my opinion around friends, every one of whom seems to have at least one dog. One friend has fourteen dogs and cats. We meet at cafes or on the porch. They try to forgive me my stance on buying a purebred puppy as opposed to adopting from the shelter. We have agreed to disagree, like conflicting religious views.  But I know I’m in the minority. In my defense I should mention that cats crawl onto my lap. I like to pet them. They like me. But that doesn’t get me any dog points.

So now it’s time to look for a new puppy. Steve’s getting antsy, I can read the signs. He’s happier with a dog at his side and I like him to be happy. I try not to think about the stress I feel every time we check out a new puppy litter—three in the past two months. I try not to feel relief when we leave without making a selection. He’s not in a hurry; he wants a love connection, and he’ll know her when he sees her.

At long last I am trying to discard my self-image of a dog meany. I even question the term “pet owner.” Who can own another creature’s heart? This time around I am going to earn a dog’s devotion. Like a first-time mother, self-conscious and unskilled, I secretly practiced with Marbles, and she seemed to think I did all right. This time we will all share in the job of puppy parenthood. It’s not fair for me to have to clean dog snot off the French doors while someone else is tossing the Frisbee. But I’ll still take my walks alone. I tried it both ways, and I realized that my quiet time was not negotiable—mornings belonged to me. In the evenings, I share my walk with the family—and that includes the dog.

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What a fabulous ending to a really charming story!

unnamedI have no doubt that many of you would like more information about Anne.

So do drop into Anne Schroeder’s Author Blog or visit her website here.

Marbles, by Anne Schroeder

Introducing Anne Schroeder – a local Oregon author.

This week presents a number of interesting challenges.

The first is that while I am getting along reasonably well with the draft of my second book, Four Dogs On My Bed, I am still about 3,000 words (as of yesterday) behind where I wanted to be on November 7th. (There’s NaNoWriMo pressing in against me!)

The second challenge is that tomorrow is a special day. No, I’m not referring to the circus that has come to town, to everybody’s towns, but to my birthday. It is my birthday on the 8th and I’m trying hard to stay away from my computer.

The third and final challenge is that there are too many things going on for the balance of the week, even without me needing to keep my writing nose to the grindstone, for me to properly put together the blog posts otherwise required.

anne-croppedBut then along comes Anne Schroeder. I met Anne when I joined our local authors group, AIM, and, like all the other members of AIM, Anne was supportive and helpful towards me.

A week ago, Anne emailed me a short story that was perfect for all you dear readers.

That story is in three parts and I shall be continuing with Part Two and Part Three on Wednesday and Thursday. (I have something else for the 8th!)

Before the story, here is an introduction to Anne.

mariainesfrontAnne Schroeder writes memoir and historical fiction set in the West. She has won awards for her short stories published in print and on-line markets. She was 2015 President of Women Writing the West and lives with her husband and new Lab puppy in Southern Oregon where they explore old ruins and out-of-the-way places. Her new release, Maria Ines, is a novel about an Indian girl who grows up under Padre Junipero’s cross and endures life under the Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui conquest of California. http://www.anneschroederauthor.com

Here, then, is Part One of Anne’s tale.

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MY SEASON FOR MARBLES

I have a confession: Dogs and I have never gotten along. Well, okay, there was Happy, our black, floppy-eared Cocker Spaniel who died in front of me, under the wheel of my father’s truck when I was seven. After that, it seemed easier not to get attached.

On our sheep farm, dogs ate table scraps and slept under the tank house. We had a pair of Australian Shepherds, trained by Basque herders in their native language that guarded the flock at night against coyotes and neighbors pets. We weren’t allowed to distract the Aussies from their work.

My attitude regarding dogs could be described as cautious regard. I carry memories of being chased onto a John Deere tractor by a snarling stray. I have vivid memories of my uncle’s Doberman sinking its fangs into my calf because I was swinging hands with my cousin, a six-year-old like myself, as we walked up her driveway after school. I can still see that dog, loping toward us in slow-motion, slobber spraying off his jowls, his eyes keenly fixed on the enemy—which was me. All I could do was drop my little cousin’s hand, stand still, and hope that the dog would be merciful. No such luck.

I learned later that he was a watchdog, trained to protect his family. My aunt and uncle worked at a mental hospital and had received death threats from patients who escaped on a fairly regular basis.

Even when it was not my fault, I managed to annoy dogs. When I was seven my grandmother’s hound nipped me in the fleshy part of my palm as I dumped dinner into his bowl. My scream of pain was mostly indignant fury, but the memory scarred my soul. Another time a cousin’s cattle dog crawled out from under the porch where her new litter was sleeping. No bite this time; she just snarled with bared teeth until I hopped back on my bicycle and rode home. It was probably a bluff on her part, but I didn’t wait around to find out.

Eventually, dogs and fear became synonymous.

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Whoa! Where does it go from here? I do hope that you will return on Wednesday to find out! (That’s assuming that we all survive tomorrow’s circus!)

Our funniest, best friends.

Couldn’t postpone this for you!

Yesterday was another one of those days where everything seemed to be squeezing in on me. Not in a negative fashion just stuff that had to be done; and that before I even got to the book!

So when I sat down mid-afternoon to think about today’s post, trying to ignore the beautiful day it was here in Merlin, Oregon and how I really wanted to take a bike ride, I wasn’t particularly creative of thought; to say the least! 😉

Thus when I saw the email from Cynthia Scobey that included a link to the following video I would have hugged her had she been in the same room!

Settle back for ten minutes and forget about the funny old world we seem to be living in just now!

(Not so much this funny old world but more about this funny old fart who is the author of this blog. For when I was screening this post to Jeannie yesterday evening she quickly pointed out that we had seen this before. Indeed, we had. Back on the 19th October! Sorry folks!)

Our wonderful, gorgeous, loving, care-free dogs!

Thank you, Cynthia!

Wanderings!

A Victorian Dog Story

Here’s a very delightful guest post coming up. But first to my introduction.

Speke’s Monument, Kensington Gardens

 

Whatever one feels about London, the city of my birth (Acton; North-West London, to be more precise), there’s no denying that it has some glorious parks.

One of those wonderful parks is Kensington Gardens that is located not that far from the Royal Albert Hall. Or as Wikipedia puts it:

Kensington Gardens, once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, are one of the Royal Parks of London, lying immediately to the west of Hyde Park.

So keep that image in your mind as we turn to today’s guest post.

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A Victorian Dog Story

victoriandog

If you are ever in the UK, wander through Kensington Gardens (past the palace where Princess Diana resided) and go Northeast, behind Victoria Lodge; you will find a pet cemetery. Mentioned by Peter Pan author, J.M. Barrie, in his work The Little White Bird, over 200 dogs, cats and birds have been laid to rest here. All of its inhabitants were once beloved pets.
The cemetery was started by the lodge keeper around 1881; the first dog to be buried in Kensington was her “Cherry”, a Maltese terrier who died of old age. The second dog was “Prince”, once belonging to the Duke of Cambridge (no relation to the present Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton!). Struck by a carriage, this dog’s simple gravestone reads: “Poor Prince.” Though the cemetery is no longer active, contemporary guests can take pictures of the tiny tombstones and read such sentiments as “Maudie, An Old Friend”, “Darling Dolly My Sunbeam, My Consolation”; and “In Loving Memory of Our Faithful Little Friend Wobbles.”
Keeping dogs as pets gained popularity in the 19th century. As sanitation conditions started to be regulated, animals such as pigs, cows and sheep were banned from the streets. So dogs that were once kept outside were now invited by the fire. The dog changed from being a worker to being a member of the family. In 1837 there were about 140 dog nappers; they stole lap dogs from the wealthy and charged hefty ransoms for their return. A Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs opened in 1860; ultimately this became The Battersea Dogs Home, where strays could be adopted. For more information on the Victorian cult of the dog, I would recommend At Home and Astray by Philip Howell. Meanwhile, if you are searching for a name for your new pet puppy, you might want to consider Dandie, Dash or Eos, pronounced ee-oohs–if they were good enough for Queen Victoria’s pooches, they may be good enough for yours!
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Let me close with the words of the author: Annabelle Troy
An American who loves UK culture, I alternate my time between New York City and London. I’m the author of four books available on Amazon: Jane Eyre Gets Real, A Cure for Cecily, The Grace of the Hunchback, and Hansel and Gretel Inside the House of Candy.  Inspiration comes to me through literature, history and magic.
Here’s the cover of that first-named book.
511hedjbc8lI don’t know about Jane Eyre but Annabelle Troy comes over as real enough!

November writing alert!

Normal service may not be possible for the next few weeks!

learningfromdogs_3dbook_500xAs many of you know last December I published my first book Learning from Dogs.

That book had been the result of me getting my head down in the Novembers of 2013 and 2014. Why November? Because that is the month of NaNoWriMo, or to use the long-form: National Novel Writing Month.

Having brought book number one the light of the day, it was only natural that my mind started to turn to a sequel. At first, I thought of another book about dogs; perhaps Learning About Dogs? But for a variety of reasons I just couldn’t get started and it all came to a head last Wednesday during one of our regular group cycle rides. As follows:

Jim Goodbrod, he who wrote the foreword to my first book, asked how book number two was coming along.
“Oh Jim,” I replied, “I have left it far too late to contact the many academics that I have come across, to seek permission to quote their works and to find out if they have more scientific information of potential interest.”
“I have this terrible feeling that I’m setting myself up to fail!”

Jim then opened a wonderful window for me; metaphorically speaking. But before describing what Jim went on to say I should explain to you, dear reader, the connection between Jim and Janet, his wife, and Jean and me. Jim and Janet live about half-a-mile from us in Merlin, Southern Oregon, and right from the moment when we moved into our home back in 2012 they have been very good friends indeed. That friendship built upon Jim and Janet sharing very many similar outlooks on life to Jeannie and me. Plus Jim is a professional veterinarian doctor at a vet’s practice in Grants Pass, our local town some 12 miles from home, but has frequently given us advice ‘out of hours’ when one of our pets at home has gone down with something beyond Jean’s extensive experience.
So the four of us have spent much time together socially and I am embarrassed to admit that quite a few of my stories from past years have been told by me.

Back to that conversation during that bike ride. “Paul, Janet and I were only saying the other day that we would really love to see your next book being something autobiographical. You have had so many interesting experiences in so many parts of the world that we truly believe that they would be of interest to many others.”

It felt slightly uncomfortable to hear that. Uncomfortable in the sense that immediately responding by saying what a good idea that was carried too much egotism, was too self-indulgent. But at the same time I knew that Jim and Janet would offer a genuine recommendation and that it would most certainly get me out of my present difficult situation. I thanked Jim profusely. Jim then went on the describe the style that he and Janet would enjoy: “Janet and I have long loved reading books where each chapter was a self-contained story. In other words, a book that one could pick up and dip into and still feel that it was a good read.”

When I returned home and spoke about this to Jeannie she immediately said that it was something that she had been urging me to consider. An hour later I was speaking on the phone to my sister Eleanor and she, too, encouraged me to go down this route.

So that’s how it has come about that book number two is going to be semi-autobiographical, and it already has a name: Four Dogs On My Bed.

Or as the byline reads: On Life; On Love; and On Dogs.

All of which is a rather wordy way of saying that from now until the end of November my first priority is going to be book writing. How that will impact my attention to this blog and all you wonderful readers is uncertain. But if you see a string of re-posts from earlier times, if I don’t provide the most fulsome introduction to a guest author that they deserve, if my replies to comments are not as quick as I normally try to be, then you will know the reason why.

Thank you!

The power of a good massage.

This was a day when a massage would have been perfect treatment!

On Wednesday afternoon Jean and I hooked a big flatbed trailer, borrowed from a neighbour, to our pickup truck and went into town to collect a new sectional settee that we had recently purchased at a furniture sale.

Yesterday, Michael who comes in to help us on a regular basis turned up at 8:30 and we all set to. First up was to dismantle an old sectional in our den that had seen much better days and then carry that out to the front.

Next we moved a settee from our living-room to the den.

Last up was to unpack all three units that comprised the new sectional. Oh, nearly forgot! Then the old sectional from the den was loaded on to the trailer and taken to the tip!

By the end of the day this Brit, who will be 72 in a couple of weeks time, was feeling the odd aching muscle or two!

All of which is my introduction to this:

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Watching animals get massages is the most relaxing thing ever — for people

Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy a soothing rubdown.

Starre Vartan

October 15, 2016
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Most animals can benefit from massage, but whether it’s theraputic or not, they sure enjoy it, just like we do. (Photo: Serjey Saraschenko/Shutterstock)

I get massages whenever I’m able, and it’s my answer to the fun party question: “What would you do with a million dollars?” Well, first I’d pay off my grad school loans, but second on the list would definitely be weekly massage. Every time I get one, I end up walking on air; for me it’s like doing a yoga class without the effort.

But watching massage can be relaxing too — not watching people (that’s icky), but animals. I’m not the only one: My Facebook feed is littered with people posting and reposting cute furry animals both wild and domesticated getting backs kneaded and shoulders rubbed. My favorites are below, so if you need a moment of chill, check out a couple of these and relax.

This corgi’s face massage is a joy to watch, and it’s funny too — check out his reclining position which is more guy-napping-on-a-pool-float than canine.

This sweet gray kitten getting an ever-so-gentle facial massage in the sunshine starts out asleep and seems to get more relaxed as you watch. Is that even possible?

Guinea pigs are known for being snuggly creatures, but also nervous ones. Watching this one slowly relax does the same thing for me.

If you get sucked into this video like I did, you’ll be rewarded with a soft-as-marshmallow white bunny, which follows the gray bunny. Spoiler alert: Both get lots of love.

The relaxation and happiness of this pregnant cow getting a solid rubdown is crystal clear even though the video quality is low.

Aside from dogs, horses are probably the domesticated animal that gets the most serious massage attention, since many of them are performers and athletes, either in the dressage ring or on a racecourse. So there are lots of instructional videos about horse massage, but I think Jess, a trained horse massage therapist, shows it best.

There are a lot of animals that give themselves massages, especially otters. This one is clearly an expert — after a solid minute of scalp massage, she has a nap!

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Well I have to say that receiving a massage directly would have been a tad better than watching these animals get their massages, but it was way, way better than nothing!