Friday, October 21, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Now that you’re 30 (How is that possible? I was only 4 when you were born!) I want to reflect on what you’ve added to our lives.
As you turn 30, I look at the 6-foot-3-inch young man who has ideas of what he wants to do, and I smile, my first baby. You’ve become quite a man.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
It's been 16 years since we've lived with a puppy.
Savannah was our last one. After she disappeared in a blowing snow on her final adventure Jan. 8 and we never located her, we began looking for a shaggy, small dog to adopt as a companion for our 12-year-old Lhasa Apso, Hairy Dawg, who is blind.
Skippy came home with us two weeks ago. He's a black-and-white "Goodview terrier," whose daddy was a Shih Tzu and whose mother was a Cairn terrier. Think "Toto," Dorothy's dog in "The Wizard of Oz." This pup who definitely tends toward the terrier side of his family came from Goodview in Bedford County, and he's 3 months old.
We weren't looking for a puppy. Even though we had looked into adopting adult dogs at just about every shelter, checked with rescue groups, adoption websites and Craigslist postings within a 100-mile radius, almost all of them available in January and early February were big, were hounds or had a healthy "re-homing fee."
Skippy – whose original name was Billy – was the last of four puppies and his human mama, Delores, just wanted a good home for him. We set off with Hairy in the car one Sunday afternoon for a meet-and-sniff. (The dogs did the sniffing, not us.)
My husband wanted to name the pup Skippy after his first dog, a Spitz mix. Billy-Skippy doesn't seem to mind the change. He was ecstatic to have a friend to lie next to on the dog pillow in the back of the car, to sleep with in the crate for the first two nights, and to roll all over in general.
Skippy didn't know about leashes, walking on lead, housebreaking or stairs. But he didn't whimper when we put him to bed, as his original mama told us to do, "every night at 9 when I give him a hug and kiss him on the nose."
That worked the first night, once I put Hairy in with him, and might have after that if Hairy, who isn't used to being crated, hadn't decided enough was enough. Hairy started barking in the wee hours of the morning and wouldn't stop voicing his discontent over being confined with a youngun who thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
OK, so I'm a wimp. After that, we turned the two of them loose in the kitchen with a puppy gate confining them, and plenty of puppy pee pads, food, water and toys.
Hairy didn't think much of that, either. He's used to sleeping on carpet next to our bed.
His domain upstairs was puppy proof for a brief while. But Skippy, who's definitely not an alpha dog and isn't used to being alone, started barking in the middle of the night in the kitchen.
He solved that himself. Over the weekend Skippy – who was raised in a single-story mobile home – taught himself to climb stairs and scamper down again. No more crates, no more puppy gates. Still plenty of pee pads, but it's a lot easier to open the upstairs door and let the dogs outside in the fenced yard in the dark instead of trying to walk the pair of them in the middle of the night. The full moon was gorgeous, though.
Our devilishly clever plan is working. Skippy plays with Hairy's toys, lies close to him on the dog bed, and gives him somebody to follow up the stairs and out the door. The three cats have adjusted much easier than I expected, and tolerate the newcomer.
Hairy is moving around better. Maybe it's having a youngster in the house. Maybe it's the glucosamine sulfate-chondroitin I grind up and put in his food.
I think Savannah would approve of Skippy. She would be licking him.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
How many times will I look out the front door to see if she's back? Or walk along the road calling her name and whistling?
On Saturday, our old shaggy dog Savannah went off on her last adventure. It was still dark out and snowing lightly when I let our gray-and-white Shitzu mix who had lived with us for 16 years out the front door for a few minutes on our private road. She spent her life in a fenced yard but occasionally I gave her a special treat of going by herself to our mailbox to check out the neighbors before trotting back up our driveway, with her plumed tail wagging, and a happy grin.
When she didn't come right back and the snow was coming down thick, I began calling her. She's deaf so it didn't really do any good, but I didn't know anything else to do. I followed her paw prints to the end of our walk. Then they disappeared. Just disappeared.
Throughout the day Bill and I searched surrounding woods, and called neighbors. He walked a mile down Lawyer Drive onto Wildwood and back again, looking underneath anything where she might have taken shelter.
We figure she probably just went off to die, on her own terms. These last few months I've taken to checking in the mornings to see if she was still breathing. Sixteen is old for a dog. We knew it.
She had slowed down a lot in the last year, I realized, from looking at this picture I took of her and next-door dog Mars in the snow in February 2010. When I called his mistress, Gayle, about Savannah she told me the black Chow mix had died Dec. 30 while they were all together in South Carolina. It's appropriate two mailbox buddies passed on about the same time.
Last week I noticed Savannah lying very close to Hairy Dawg, our blind 12-plus-year-old Lhasa Apso. I thought maybe she knew he was fading. Instead, she might have been telling him goodbye.
She was not an alpha dog. Youngest daughter Haley picked her out from a litter a former boyfriend's family had. Mama was a Shitzu, Daddy was a traveling man. My guess was a speckled bird dog. Savannah always did have her nose to the ground while walking on a leash. She put up with a lot. Haley dyed her lavender one time. I put a sweater on her in October and took her and Hairy to the Blessing of the Animals at St. Paul's Episcopal.
She was the one dog I brought with me when I moved to Salem 11 years ago. Bill and the other dog stayed behind in Madison Heights to go through the accumulated "stuff" of 26 years, three children and leftovers from two sets of their grandparents.
Our yard wasn't fenced then, and Savannah didn't do well alone by herself during the day. She leaped puppy gates closing her in the kitchen – the only room not carpeted – and another time nosed the kennel down the stairs until it and she was standing on her nose. So we adopted Hairy Dawg to replace Putney, our Lhasa who didn't wake up from a grand mal seizure when we were in the throes of moving.
Hairy led Savannah out and in the doors, and gave her somebody to lick and play fight. I wasn't sure how he'd do without her, but he's managing.
Two years ago on Mother's Day morning, Savannah brought me a present when I let her out the back door into the yard in the dark. It was a half-grown baby possum she dropped at my feet. It was, of course, playing possum. I picked it up by the tail. One eye blinked open, so I took it outside and freed it across the fence.
This week just after Bill and I watched the last-minute field goal by Auburn (Go, War Eagle!) to win the national championship over Oregon early Tuesday morning, a possum I've dubbed Cracker climbed onto the glass-topped table on the front deck and gobbled down the rest of the homemade cookie crumbs left for the birds. Savannah's rescue, maybe?
I'll always see her come running down the walk after one of her short adventures. This was her final adventure – one she chose.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I should preface this with the explanation that two weeks ago my trusty 2000 Durango blew a gasket. “Blowing a gasket” was one of my Daddy’s favorite expressions. When I was growing up I didn’t know what it really meant, except that somebody was mad. In this case, the gasket is deep in deep in the Durango’s bowels, the timing cover gasket.
After taking powderpuff auto mechanics when I had a slant-6 1965 Dodge Dart, I know a fair amount about what’s where inside engines, but a timing cover gasket that causes the car to leak like a sieve and blow clouds of steam is a new one on me. I figured it was the water pump, or a stuck thermostat or something related, once I could tell it wasn’t the radiator or the hoses.
At any rate, the Durango is sidelined until I can get it fixed.
One of the main reasons I picked out a Durango was for the 6-foot-carrying space for fall craft shows, and here I was days away from my first one of the season.
I arranged to borrow a van that was beat-up but ran. My sweet husband spent a couple of hours on Friday packing the wire screens, wooden screens, boxes of my Animal Art by Meg paintings and framed ones into the van while I was at work. I was feeling so positive about the whole thing, being packed hours before Saturday morning. Hah!
At 5:30 Friday evening, I went out to start the van to drive to Salem that evening to take a photograph. Nothing. It was deader than a doornail (where did that expression come from, anyway?)
Bill had already left to teach a master’s level class in marketing at National College, and wouldn’t be home until about 10 p.m.
I started calling neighbors, and got no answer at the first three. The fourth didn’t have jumper cables. We did. Ted Lineberry generously came over to jump the old van. It wouldn’t even turn over.
He decided it was something other than the battery. I wasn’t so sure, but bummed a ride with him back to Salem and borrowed a second van.
So far, so good, even though it meant the prospect of unloading and reloading everything in the dark of night. Bill was willing, but not the happiest of campers, especially when we couldn’t get the rear door of the second van open. It opened for me two hours earlier, I promise.
So he jumped the older van with the newer one, and left it running for awhile. It started, and all was well with the world.
Until the next morning. At 6:45 a.m. when I climbed in and shut the driver’s door, it bounced back. The locking mechanism was frozen. Olde Salem Days starts whether or not you’re there to set up. Bill handed over a bungee cord, and I strapped the door closed by hooking it to the seat belt connector. I wouldn’t have tried this except that the trip was a little over 2 miles each way, and on back streets.
The old van performed just fine, except for the door. I left a note on the keys and was glad to return it to its home.
Editor’s note: My Durango is fixed, back and I am soooooooo happy to have wheels that work again. I can’t say enough good things about Rick Yopp and his Riverside Auto in Salem. Less than 24 hours after the Durango was towed to his shop, he had her fixed. – Meg
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I wish I still thought raccoons were cute little furry critters with smiling mouths and black masks. The masks should tip you off. They're bandits, and will eat just about anything at your house they consider theirs.
Naive, trusting person that I am, at first I believed it was a possum gnawing at a corner of the extra sack of chicken laying mash we stored on the back deck after a trip to the local Big Spring Mill in Elliston. It's worth the nine-mile trip to buy two 25-pound sacks of feed there than to buy one at the local hardware store. Only one fit into the can, hence the open storage.
Somewhere along the way I figured out the culprit must be a raccoon instead of a possum. Then came the day I found an unopened sack dragged across the back yard and part-way up the hill. It still hadn't dawned on me there was an entire passel of raccoons conspiring to get that sack of feed up the hill and over the fence into the woods.
We've had six Araucana laying hens for three years and only now are we getting raccoons inside our yard. I declared war a week ago after hearing chickens screaming at 5:30 a.m. and found a mama and a half-grown raccoon head to tail, frantically trying to find a way out of the chicken coop that is a totally enclosed cube of chicken wire.
We couldn't find where they got in and they couldn't seem to remember how to get out. After rousting my sleeping husband out of bed, Bill and I finally had to open the coop door and beat on the outside wire covering to chase them out. (Of course, in between times I had gone into the coop and taken pictures of the two. Once a journalist, always a journalist.)
Bill had thwarted the varmints for more than a week by wiring a shutter horizontally along the chicken wire at ground level. Before that, one or more raccoons had been pulling up a 3-inch half-circle and going in to raid the feeder.
We've had some interesting conversations with farmers, local wildlife experts and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries since then. For instance, we found out if raccoons are not shot in the trap, which is what most chicken and geese owners I've talked with do, coons usually come back if they're not relocated more than 10 miles away.
But it's illegal in Virginia to transport raccoons unless you have proper licenses. Catch 22.
In researching raccoons and their rights in Virginia, I learned:
• There is a continuous open season to trap raccoon and several other furbearers within the incorporated limits in Roanoke County, or, according to DGIF's website, of any city or town in the Commonwealth, and in other specific counties. A very helpful young woman named Stephanie in the DGIF office out of Bedford confirmed that for me.
• Trapping laws are different than hunting laws. Depending on where they live, property owners might still have to get a kill license from the state even if they are hiring a wildlife control service.
• A person 65 or older does not need a license to trap on private property in that person's county.
Wildlife people and Barbara Leach, an Extension Service horticulture technician who frequently writes columns in our paper about gardening and garden pests, passed along some good advice:
"One of the biggest attractants is inadvertantly feeding raccoons. Leaving out dog or cat food – even bird food – or having fish ponds, streams and frogs."
Speaking of food, I also found out some of the old guys in the Roanoke Valley are partial to baiting live traps with cans of sardines to attract raccoons. The mama of our laying-mash litter is probably too smart to fall for that. For now, it's a standoff. We're keeping the extra chicken feed inside the house. Let's just hope the mama and her little ones don't manage to get a copy of our house key.