Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Frankenweenie – Is it a Movie for Dog and Cat Lovers?

Frankenweenie – just another boy and his dog movie?  Not really.  Not when it’s from the hands and mind of creative genius Tim Burton.  His latest eagerly anticipated B&W 3-D animated film opens today in theaters, just in time for what has now become the month of Halloween.  We love Tim Burton.  The movie?  Read on.

Four of us attended a preview screening, shown in its best possible scenario -  on a gargantuan screen with full surround sound (OK, there wasn’t wine but beggars can’t be choosy).   As a long time fan of Tim Burton’s slightly twisted and unique style of story telling,  I was especially excited to get a sneak peek.

The opening scene doesn’t disappoint.  Harking back to the days of shooting and editing film before everything became digitized was a really nice touch. Combined with being filmed in black and white, it had beautiful visual appeal.

From there on, though, something went just a little flat.  There were cool references to horror classics and the original Frankenstein – the boy is Victor, the dog’s name is Sparky, another character’s name is Shelley, a funny take on Godzilla – well, we don’t want to ruin the fun.  But what makes a great cartoon, horror movie, any movie isn’t the cool factor – its the characters and story line and both were a little one dimensional and not quite “fleshed” out.  As for the 3-D effect, it was vastly underutilized.

As soon as the lights went up, the first common question all four of us had was “who’s the audience?”.  This is a tough one.  For young children, there are upsetting scenes of a dog being hit by a car, death, a creature being impaled, among others.  Maybe teenagers.  Tim Burton fanatics.

We give it a “Two Paws” rating out of four.  Liked it, didn’t love it.  Let us know what you think.

 

 

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A Goodbye

This is very personal. We share because you’ll understand.

This past Friday, the 13th, one of our elder cats, Blackington Dancing Bear, left us. From his memorable entrance into our lives to his exit, he was one cool, wise, calming presence. He was the epitome of catdom.

Blackington Dancing Bear

Our paths first crossed fourteen years ago. Hurrying between midday dog walks, I took a quick run into the Marshall post office. In, out, back to the car. But, what was this sad dark object moving towards me in the parking lot? He plopped down. The effort was too much. An emaciated, flea bitten black kitty. First thought – “Norm’s going to kill me” (we had a lot of cats). Second thought – “Maybe he lives in the neighborhood. But, look at him”. Third thought – “I can’t leave him here”.

So, whisked him up and off to the Middleburg Animal Hospital. “Carole, we need a name for him to start a record”.
Me, frazzled and late. “Let’s just go with Blackie for right now”.

This was before the advent of the ubiquitous cell phone. A smart phone would have been even better.

Returned home early evening to a greeting from Norman. “You need to call the animal hospital – they made a mistake and left a message about some cat named ‘Blackie’”.

Oops. You’ve got some ‘xplaining to do.

Our vet friend warned me not to get too attached. He estimated him at 8 years old. His kidneys values weren’t so good and he’d led a rough and tumble life.

A couple months after Blackie adopted us, we found out that he’d been living with a family over a mile away from our home. Two miles and a busy highway away from the post office. They called him Halloween as they found him on that night one year, with two injured rear legs. They nursed him back to health. They never had him neutered and he was allowed to roam. And roam he did. He apparently had quite a territory. They didn’t seem to care. We offered for them to come visit him anytime. They never did.

Blackie quickly became Norm’s cat. He loved men and Norman, especially. The gravitational force to the nook of Norm’s arm was intense – Norm couldn’t sit down without him jumping up and cradling, like a baby. At night, he’d make his way up to the bed and lay on his chest. Even his last night on this earth.

It was not until later years that we discovered Blackie was FIV+. He never fought or bothered with the other cats.

He loved his food. A chorus of little, kind of high pitched mrrreows would accompany mealtime preparation.
“Heeere I am!”
“Don’t forget MEEEE!”
“Hurrrrrry up!”
And then the mad dash to his established eating spot.

He loved his sunbathing and had perfected his approach over the years.
Morning – find the tiniest spot as the sun rose.
Rest of the day – follow the sun throughout the house.
Cold months – establish perch in front of the wood stove.
Warm months – spend the day in the warmest spot on the sun porch. The hotter, the better.

He left us on Friday the 13th. Blackington Dancing Bear, you were one memorable cat. We buried you in what has become the Circle of Love site on our rural property. Shortly after, a black butterfly flitted by. Then a jet overhead, with two perfectly formed plumes forming behind against a flawless blue sky. Warm and gorgeous.

Just the kind of day you loved.

Goodbye, Blackington Dancing Bear. 1991 (?) – 2012. Run free, far and wide.

Blackie enjoying one of his favorite things

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Miss Polly, Remembered

Polly's portrait by Molly McDonald Peterson

Polly and Russ were kind of a happy accident. We were looking to adopt A dog. So, we went to visit our friends at Middleburg Humane Foundation. We had no particular type of dog in mind. Just looking. Freddy, an Australian Cattle Dog X, caught our eye. Hilleary Bogley, founder of MHF, was with us.

“Oh, no, you’re not adopting him!” Hilleary is nothing short of honest. “He lifted his leg and tried to pee on me yesterday. He needs to go to a working farm”. OK.

Norm turns around, sees something, and points. “What’s with those two?” There sat a little mess of a black and gray terrier, on top of a dog house, trying to be all Snoopy like. In the doghouse was a cream lab/something/something, cowering. It was Russ and Polly. A man had noticed them by the side of a road one day on his way to work. The next day, they were still there and he brought them to MHF. Their collars were so tight they had to be cut off. They were adult dogs that had been dealt a bum rap. They were pretty uninterested in meeting us. Norm and I love a challenge.

We looked at each other and nodded. “We’d like to adopt them – both!”. They joined our home a few days later and, from that day forward, slept in bed with us and the cats and never spent another day abandoned, frightened, outdoors.

Russ and Polly

I Have No Self-Esteem

Soon enough we realized why Russ was on top of that doghouse and Polly inside. It was obvious that Russ had kept Polly safe and alive through their ordeal. He was the boss.

At the beach

Norm had a dream one night with Polly in it. She spoke with a lisp. “I have no shelf eshteem”. We felt it was a direct message and from that day forward, worked on making her not only comfortable and happy and healthy, but able to move freely in this world with self confidence.

She and Russ were inseparable buddies and it was a great joy to see them tearing around the yard together, running in huge, crazy, happy circles. Polly, over time, came out of her shell, in little bits. She was never one of those kinds of lab mixes that was totally happy go lucky. Her love and affection were measured and, if she didn’t know you, had to be gained. Polly earned the nicknames “Precious” and “Miss Polly Girl”.

Polly in the Middle

Some time after Russ died, we considered adopting another dog for Polly. But she seemed to enjoy her status as “only” dog and just didn’t seem all that interested in other dogs. She traveled the East Coast with us – camping everywhere from Surfside Beach, SC to Maine. She learned to ride an elevator at the Loews Hotel in Nashville, TN and swam and canoed in the cool waters of the Adirondack region of New York. She loved riding in the car, even if just to the Marshall post office. As she and Russ had done, we hiked many trails throughout the East.

She was an active, funny, and wonderful companion, raring and ready to go – anywhere, as long as we were with her.

The Not-Always-Golden Years

Anyone who’s been fortunate enough to have a dog or cat live past expectancy understands that their care becomes a labor of love. As faculties fail, it’s our duty to help assist them and make them as comfortable as possible.

Polly was with us fourteen years when she started to show symptoms of Canine Cognitive Disorder. Getting stuck in corners. Howling/yowling instead of her typical greeting barks. Her last year or so, we carried her up and down stairs. Her last few months, we carried her almost everywhere. She no longer savored her food or dug holes (with her nose!) to bury and hide her bones to enjoy later. We were losing her but she wasn’t in pain and it was our privilege to keep her comfortable and let her go as naturally as possible, when she was good and ready.

That day came last St. Patrick’s Day – March 17, 2011. Although she eased us into the transition, she still left a gaping hole in our hearts and our home.

We mish you, Mish Polly. And your shelf eshteem.

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Thirty Years and Enriching Pets’ Lives, Directly and Indirectly, Everyday

By Terry Haas

Its the close of another National Professional Pet Sitter’s Week here in the United States and it has been 30 years since the founding of the first professional association – the National Association for Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). In 1982, a few well connected, forward-thinking, pet-loving entrepreneurs birthed a business from what once was the under-the-table domain of neighbors and family members, and yes, at times, the kid-next-door. Cheers to them, they know who they are (as they are not exclusively among the ranks at NAPPS). The Industry has since become a thriving slice of the 50+ billion dollar pet care services industry, employing not only those self-employed sole proprietors who started it all, but hundreds of thousands of independent contractors and employees. But that’s only one of the Industry’s collective achievements. Because these people were not just entrepreneurs, they were also caregivers and students of animal behavior and health, rapidly arming themselves with the experience of the hundreds of pets in their care and all of the results of the foods fed, toys played, leashes handled, training methods employed and other services consulted like veterinarians.

I began Loyalty Pet Care in the early days of 2007. My discovery of the Industry was accidental, but the inspiration and passion for it, no less energizing than my previous career as an archaeologist/environmental scientist. The void of being behind a desk, the addition of physical exercise through work. The difference – instead of joy derived from discovery of the past, joy derived from connecting and inspiring connections between humans and animals. As a trained scientist, I couldn’t help but naturally collect data from day one. In one way, many of my new Industry peers viewed this position as unprofessional – seeing our role as professional pet sitters as one that silently serves and provides care per client instruction, only.

If you were exposed, over and over again, by the use and results of use of hundreds of pet care products, foods, training methods and experience of area service providers, do you think you could contain letting others know which were most effective? Which were detrimental? And which were downright dangerous? In my view, one of the greatest accomplishments of the Industry is this: awareness and sharing of knowledge to protect and better the lives of the animals who enrich ours. I have a great, and timely story to help punctuate this point.

Last week I was contacted by a former employee who moved on to become an Adoptions Coordinator at a County Shelter. She forwarded me the thankful email of a cat parent who had reached out to the Shelter to surrender the cat, citing inappropriate house soiling. My former employee advised me that her Loyalty Pet Care cat sitting training (now referred to as Loyalty® LitterLab™) played a big part in enabling her to understand and advise this pet guardian, in turn giving her the tools she needed, with the medical support of her veterinarian, to discover the issues, resolve them and create a happy and healthy life for her cat. With the shelter at record highs for felines up for adoption, it is clear that our former employee saved this cat’s life.

There is no better thanks or praise for National Professional Pet Sitters week than hearing that our work has indirectly enabled a pet’s life to be saved. Who is your Professional Pet Sitter and what would you like to thank them for at the end of Professional Pet Sitters week and the start of the 30th year of this Industry’s birth?

Terry Haas is a professional pet sitter, certified PetTech® CPR, First Aid & Care instructor and the owner of Loyalty Pet Care® – a small employee-based, force-free, holistic-leaning, adopt-not-buy, professional pet sitting business currently exclusively serving Arlington County, Virginia. Like Pawgevity, Terry has always been uncompromising on quality, integrity and love, three areas that oftentimes slow down her profits, but never her success. Like Loyalty® on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/loyaltypetcarearlingtonva

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“I Rescued A Human Today” – Author Unknown

Our thanks go out to our friend Linda M. for sharing this sweet turn point of view.

I RESCUED A HUMAN TODAY
Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels.
I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.
I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid.
As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn’t want her to think poorly of them.
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn’t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life.
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her.
Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship.
A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.
Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.
I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side.
I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes. I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.
I rescued a human today.

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I Want a Dog Who…

By Margaret Bishop

My sister’s dog died in February and she has just started to look for another dog. Still in the throes of grief and longing, she has a very explicit idea of what her new dog will be like. She will be just like her former dog, only three years old. She and her husband have composed a one page document entitled, We want a dog who…

This reads like a Match.com profile written by Goldilocks. The dog must have large soulful eyes, a medium coat and be beautiful. She must have a strong desire to please, be easy to train and smart, but not an independent thinker. She must want to be with them, but not clingy. She must be friendly to people and other dogs but not actively seek attention. It goes on in this vein, very specific about their wants and even more detailed on their don’t-wants. This is a method that is recommended for people looking for a dog, and is considered invaluable in assuring a successful adoption.

As I was reading this and perusing some of her choices on Petfinder.com (world’s most dangerously addictive web-site) my new adoptee was sleeping nearby. The spaniel, sleeping next to her, shifted slightly and his paw may have barely grazed her tail. She let out her signature bark, a high pitched, hoarse yelp that startles as much as it grates. Then she stood up, gave him a baleful look, gave me a pleading look and climbed on the couch.

I didn’t make a list of likes and dislikes before I went to the shelter. Until I met her, I couldn’t know.

I brought Pied home on December 28th from a local ASPCA. I had gone to look at what was described as an elderly pointer. This was a nice dog, but not a good fit with my dogs and to be honest, not one who spoke to me. I feel guilty even admitting that I could be so fickle, but I was. I told the volunteer that I might just look around. She said, “There’s another pointer in the run next to hers. She’s only two, but do you want to see her?” When I agreed, she hesitated and then said, “She’s a little vocal.” She rushed to assure me, “But just when you first come to her pen.”

We went to look at her and that was the first time I heard the signature yelp, hoarse and piercing, only now it was a cry that went on and on. Out in the large run, she tried to play with my dogs, but if they so much as considered sniffing her, she howled and ran away. She was like a lonely creature from another planet, desperate for something but terrified of everything that was offered. She came to me and allowed me to pat her, but then had to return to racing around the run, play bowing at my dogs and then crying pitifully when they responded. I took her on a short walk, and she very nearly climbed the trees her exuberance was so great to be outside and moving, even if her freedom ended at the buckle of the six foot leash.

Pied

I had promised to be responsible, so I returned the dog to the volunteer, told her I had to think about it and that I would call the next day. “OK, but just so you know, we can’t hold her for you.” My friend, Tracey, who had come along to make sure I behaved responsibly, had to pinch me hard, but I agreed to accept that risk and turned to gather up my dogs.

As the volunteer headed across the parking lot and back toward the building, the dog commenced vocalizing again, guttural cries and yelps. She stared beseechingly at me, as her paws scrabbled on the pavement and her entire body yearned towards me.

Driving home, Tracey said, “I’m not going to say a word. I don’t want to influence you, so just tell me what you thought.”

“Oh, I’m definitely getting her. I love her. I’m definitely taking her.”

She smiled, shook her head and said, “You really like a project.”

Two days later, Pied was standing in my kitchen, whining, terrified to move on the slick floor.

I was worried that her bark was hoarse from overuse, that she might be an incessant barker. But she isn’t. The bark always means something. Sometimes it means she is excited because we might be going for a walk, or getting ready for a meal, or because the other dogs are excited; sometimes it expresses alarm and dismay as when another dog touches her; sometimes it means we are in the car and the other dogs are touching her and we are certainly going for a walk. She vocalizes a lot in the car. When Tracey and I were discussing what this dog’s job would be if she were a person, she said, “Whatever she does, she has Tourettes.”

If I leave her in the car to run into the store or the bank, she cries loudly and piteously. Once in the post office, I was getting my mail and I could hear her howling. Behind the PO boxes, one postal worker said to another, “What is that? It sounds like it’s in pain.”

If other dogs play, she wants to be part of it, but all she knows how to do is bark and run away. If a dog actually tries chasing her, she runs directly to me and starts yelping and crying at them, an expression of fear and accusation in her tone and on her face. The dog walks away, disgusted, and I stroke her ears and try to reassure her.

But Pied hasn’t been a project. She has beautiful house manners, and after only a few days of training she developed an extremely reliable recall. Because she is so consistent about staying with me and coming when I call, she can walk off leash. Well, I walk, she runs her legs off. In the middle of a full tilt gallop, she’ll abruptly freeze into the most classic point and start the slow pointer creep, each paw lifted, held and oh so silently placed down again. Very often she is creeping up on a leaf or a shadow, but never mind, she’s off again. When she isn’t pointing, she runs just for the joy in motion, nose inches from the ground, legs never seeming to coordinate with each other in any sort of consistent rhythm. And then she’ll abruptly hurl her body to the earth and roll, all four legs thrashing wildly in the air, paddling away as she wriggles through the wet grass. She gets up drives her chest into the same spot and slides her chin along the ground. Then she is up and running.

Now that it’s hot, she does this in streams. Galloping along, mouth open, water splashing into her mouth, across her face, up onto her belly, she is a wonder to behold. She won’t swim but she’s got a killer wade. Tracey said, “That dog just freebases life.”

She sleeps right next to my head and when we wake up in the morning, she groans a little, creeps closer and lays her chin gently across my face.

If I had written down what I wanted in a dog, I wouldn’t have said — I want a dog with the temperament of a car alarm, the social skills of a frightened wolverine and the car manners of a chimp on amphetamines. But it turns out, that’s exactly what I wanted.

Margaret Bishop is a writer living in Northern Virginia with her four unemployed dogs.

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Power Out? An Easy Peasy Way to Keep Food (and Beverages) Cold

As many of us on the East Coast are preparing for power outages due to Hurricane Irene’s wrath, we thought this tip might come in handy. Thank you to our friend Tammy R. of Culpeper, VA, who shared it with us many years ago as a way to keep beverages super cold on the beach.

Supplies you’ll need
:
A cooler
Ice
Rock salt

Add ice to cooler. Sprinkle a light amount of rock salt on top – it doesn’t take much. It will make the ice “colder” and extend the life.

Add food and beverages. The less you open the top, the longer it will last. We’ve had the ice last for days. You can add more rock salt as needed but if you use too much it will freeze everything (think ice cream).

Please leave comments below and share your storm preparation tips.

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The Dog Dictionary (Author Unknown)

We were in need of a good laugh at the end of a long Monday. Thanks Toni!

“DOG’S DICTIONARY

Leash: A strap that attaches to your collar, enabling you to lead your owner where you want him or her to go. Make sure that you are waiting patiently with leash in mouth when your owner comes home from work. This immediately makes your owner feel guilty and the walk is lengthened by a good 10 minutes.

Dog Bed: Any soft, clean surface, such as a white bedspread, newly upholstered couch or the dry cleaning that was just picked up.

Drool: What you do when your owners have food and you don’t. To do this properly, sit as close as you can, look sad and let the drool fall to the floor or better yet on their laps.

Sniff: A social custom to use when you greet other dogs or those people that sometimes smell like dogs.

Garbage Can: A container your neighbors put out weekly to test your ingenuity. Stand on your hind legs and push the lid off with your nose. If you do it right, you are rewarded with food wrappers to shred, beef bones to consume, moldy crusts of bread and sometimes even an old Nike.

Bicycles: Two-wheeled exercise machines, invented for dogs to control body fat. To get maximum aerobic benefit, you must hide behind a bush and dash out, bark loudly and run alongside for a few yards. The rider swerves and falls into the bushes, and you prance away.

Thunder: A signal the world is coming to an end. Humans remain amazingly calm during thunderstorms, so it is necessary to warn them of the danger by trembling, panting, rolling your eyes wildly and following at their heels.

Wastebasket: A dog toy filled with paper, envelopes and old candy wrappers. When you get bored, turn over the basket and strew the papers all over the house. This is particularly fun to do when there are guests for dinner and you prance around with the contents of that very special bathroom wastepaper basket!

Sofas: Are to dogs like napkins are to people. After eating it is polite to run up and down the front of the sofa and wipe your whiskers clean. If there are people sitting on the couch just include them as a handy wipe.

Bath: A process owners use to clean you, drench the floor, walls and themselves. You can help by shaking vigorously and frequently.

Lean: Every good dog’s response to the command “sit,” especially if your owner is dressed for an evening out. Incredibly effective before black-tie events.

Love: A feeling of intense affection, given freely and without restriction, shared by you and your owner. Show it by wagging your tail.”

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Living and Loving the Vida Local

“I got tired of drinking bad coffee” – Monty of Cabin Creek Roasters, Edinburg, VA.

Every local entrepreneur has a story – a reason for being, a call, a mission, a purpose. As Norm and I sat down to dinner (locally grown) at our campsite last night, we reflected on all of the inspiring localpreneurs we’ve hung out with just this week.

We’re so fortunate to have relationships with many of the best local farmers in the Commonwealth. This being the height of the produce season, I’m visiting with our fruit and veggie partners on a very regular basis. Everything’s super fresh and vibrant – one day I even waited while the crew cut Swiss chard for us, still warm from the morning sun. And though everyone’s busy, we always take a minute to catch up, discuss the weather (brutal but not unexpected) and families and the future. Farmers are some of the most optimistic people I know. And they all share one common thread. They want to nourish their communities with the healthiest food possible, no matter the sacrifices and hardships they face in their own lives. The best and prettiest produce always goes to the customers, while the blemished and misshapen inhabit their own tables.

And even though farming means longer, harder hours then most of us can imagine – they then bring all that goodness to us, making it convenient to eat well – through farmers markets, buyers clubs neighborhood deliveries and deliveries to our local stores. Our friends Molly and Mike Peterson of Mount Vernon Farm know this routine well and go out of their way just to accommodate everyone – including taking care of our furry friends by meeting us for Pawgevity pickups on off delivery weeks.

Our localpreneur experiences aren’t limited to just food but other forms of nourishment as well. Thursday evening we experienced locally produced art and wine courtesy of Barrel Oak Middleburg and the Byrne Gallery. Middleburg, VA has become quite the art and vino lovers’ destination with the opening of BOM – where you can sip tasty wine (with your dog, no less) as you peruse lovely art – followed by a short stroll down the street to view the current exhibition of Vienna, VA abstract artist Nia Tavlarides Stratos at the Byrne. If you don’t think you like abstract art, run don’t walk to Nia’s exhibition – this DC native artpreneur brings pure joy and beauty to every canvas she touches – a calling – in her words “I see art in everything, every moment, every day”. (Confession – Nia and I have been friends since kindergarten and I’ve watched her art evolve from elementary school to world class talent).

But back to foodpreneurs – obviously a favorite topic! Yesterday we hit two farmers markets – one very small, one quite large – both fun destinations with uniquely wonderful local goods. New Market, VA was our first stop where we picked up Cabin Creek Roasters coffee; corn relish and other goods from our Shenandoah Farms friends; baked yummies and even locally produced eco laundry and dish detergent. One of our favorite finds was this recycled, repurposed bag – we didn’t meet the woman who makes them but simple, pure, purposeful, entrepreneurial genius.

Then on to Harrisonburg – the farmers’ market was abuzz with activity. Between the two stops, we picked up our groceries for the week. Sprite melon (ever tried these cute little guys? – they’re wonderful), cantaloupe, elderberries, tomatoes, basil, arugula, baby purple potatoes, mini eggplant, garlic, rainbow radishes, Firefly Garlic Fire hot sauce (their tagline: “It will light your a.. up!”), A Bowl of Good stuffed bread, shitake mushrooms, bi-color corn. All grown and produced locally – some picked just that morning. We tried to purchase a little something from each of the stands as all had so much to offer. Focus is always on the unique, heirloom, unrecognizable – we encourage you to try something new from your farmers market every week – it encourages the farmers to diversify and grow things you’ll never find in the supermarket. Move over Monsanto!

Shopping wasn’t limited to healthy fantastic foods, however – I wasn’t able to resist Staunton artist Carmen Rose’s handcrafted art glass earrings, especially after meeting Carmen. The story behind the ingenious recycled puzzle piece earrings she had on display – “I woke up one morning with this great new idea to make earrings using puzzle pieces! Later I was looking on etsy and – it had already been done”. She tweaked her organic vision and made her own take on them. I’ll be picking up a pair of those on our next trip.

Want to support your locals? Let’s spread the word. Who are some of your favorites?

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Puppy Up!

This is a guest post from one of our favorite writers, Margaret Bishop.

Recently, I visited my sister in Seattle. Stella, her fourteen year old cow dog/boxer mix has lymphoma. They did one round of chemo and it nearly killed her. Some herding breeds have a genetic anomaly that makes them completely unable to tolerate toxins, and chemo is a serious toxin. But she pulled through that, and now is surviving with acupuncture, a full complement of Chinese herbs and other supplements and occasional manual lymphatic drainage massage. When her lymph nodes really swell, she gets Prednisone for a few days. And of course she eats nothing but real food, raw.

We went to the 2 Million Dogs Puppy Up! Walk. The Two Million Dogs Foundation raises money for canine cancer research. You can read more at www.2milliondogs.org . This was a two mile walk for dogs and their human companions.  There were a few hundred people and about half as many dogs.  Mixes; large and small, shaggy and sleek, one big white dog with a red ear, a medium sized dog fully brindle and constantly smiling, then some pugs and golden retrievers, a very striking Harlequin Great Dane, several labs, and lots of small, bouncy dogs getting their leashes all tangled together. Other than the small, bouncy ones and a red bone hound that bayed every now and then, most of the dogs walked quietly along, enjoying the intermittent sunshine and plethora of interesting new scents. They greeted each other and tolerated being touched, patted, hugged and sometimes wept over as the people shared their stories, all so similar and each uniquely painfully.  At least half the dogs had shaved bellies and little shaved patches on their forelegs.

The dogs seemed oblivious to their plights. They were out for a walk in the rare Seattle sunshine, meeting new friends, wading in the lake, just another day in the park. Mortality was not on their minds.

For us, thoughts of mortality can be a spur to living more in the moment, appreciating the little things, relishing each day, essentially, living more like dogs. My sister has said that living with Stella living with cancer was initially unbearable; all that anticipated grief, imagining and reimagining her loss. Finally, she had to stop imaging all that and instead enjoy their time together as much as Stella enjoyed her walks, her meals, her snuggles and naps.

As we wandered the path through Seward park, we noticed people wearing, “In Memory” signs pinned to their backs. “In Memory of Turley, who died from osteosarcoma on July 12th, 2010.  We love you Handsome.” This over a picture of a sweet-looking golden retriever. (Is there any other kind?) Some of the walkers wore t-shirts from Partners to the Bridge, a group organized, “In support of families and their animal friends in life’s last transition.” Many of the walkers wore Two Million Dog t-shirts, “cancer touches everyone.”

Being with a group of dog people, each one there wanting to make a difference, enjoying every moment they had left with their canine companions and sharing the pain of “life’s last transition,” was both heartbreaking and hopeful.  When I visited Lourdes last summer, I asked my Catholic friend if the people who went there would feel disheartened if they didn’t get their miracle. He said that just being there, in a place of such faith and devotion was the miracle. For me, the Puppy Up! Walk, or maybe any gathering of dogs and their devoted companions, is a similar miracle.

We rode our bikes home, hugged Stella and took her for a walk around the block.  (Stella likes some but not all dogs, so she didn’t want to go to the march.) On the walk, she ran into one of her friends and they played chase.  Back at home, she galloped up the steps and raced through the house, ready for lunch, and then a snuggle and a nap.

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