Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Grand Adventure

This past Saturday was the Grand Opening of a PetSmart near us. We took Phil. It was a grand adventure. He'd never been to a PetSmart before. We got there early to take advantage of special a free nail trim and a free portrait--the one you see above (with me edited out, of course). It was wild. There were lots of dogs everywhere. We met another greyhound...a female red brindle. There were bulldogs, pugs, poodles, labs and goldens. There were others too. It was quite the madhouse.

Phil particularly liked checking out the food aisles and the treat aisles. I had to pay particular attention there as I feared he may just start helping himself to rawhides as we walked along. As we stood waiting to have our portrait done, someone started vigorously squeaking a toy a few aisles over and Phil's ears went straight up. His ears are very expressive. I thought they got a great shot of him in the picture because they got the ears out and the head tilt.

The head tilt is one of my favorite expressions. Of course, it's good that he only uses the head tilt when he's feeling quizzical, as opposed to having a permanent one. He had a stroke this past year, and the vet that treated him cautioned us that his head tilt may very well be permanent. He's had a remarkable recovery and seems to be doing quite well. He received terrific care at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at NCSU. Those folks are absolutely terrific. I can't say enough good things about them.

We didn't buy too many things, but did get Phil a new Kong dental toy. It's one of the ones that you can hide treats in. He was really giving it a working over yesterday afternoon. I'm not sure whether he really liked it, or whether it was ticking him off!

We ran a few errands on the way home and Phil was great about waiting patiently in the car. Later on, Phil sang the Carolina fight song with LoML and helped pull them through to the Final Four. Go Heels! All in all, it was quite the happy day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Tribute to Grandparents

So I've been thinking a lot about grandparents. Those who know me well understand why that's particularly true at this time of year. I was fortunate to have my grandparents in my life well into adulthood. My paternal grandparents passed away earlier than my maternal grandparents...who both passed in '05.

I was born on my maternal grandfather's birthday. That fact shaped my life. While it's natural to love and be close to grandparents, I was always especially close to him. Until he passed away, we only missed celebrating two birthdays together.

I could tell you how all four of my grandparents were good people with strong morals who believed in being involved in their communities. I could tell you that they were terrific role models. That they loved me through my trying times and that I'm so glad that they got to see me come out the other side of some rough patches and have some successes in life. I could tell you that they were honest, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth kinda' folks who were special in the lives of those around them.

Mostly, though, I just want to tell you that grandparents should be treasured. If you still have yours in your life, send them a card, give them a call...better yet, go hug them! If you don't still have them around, stop for a minute and think a happy thought about them. If you are a grandparent, pat yourself on the back and know that you are important. And loved. As you should be.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Willow & the Terrible Towel Monster

I spend a lot of time wondering what goes through the minds of cats. I think it's a fascinating place. I get that sometimes I totally anthropomorphize them...thinking of them as funny little people in fur coats. But sometimes I just fantasize about what *really* goes on in those little brains...I, for one, have no doubts that while their intellect is quite different than ours, they are wonderfully bright. This gets me to one of my frequent musings: they're really aliens sent down to study us humans. Have you ever noticed that sometimes, despite knowing all your cat's favorite hiding places, you just can't locate them? That's because you happen to be looking at one of the brief moments when they've beamed back up to the mothership to report in on what crazy things we're doing down here now. Don't worry. They don't stay long. You'll walk off, and then suddenly discover that they're right in plain sight in one of the spots you already looked a half a dozen times. They gaze at you stoically. They wonder why you are out of breath and hollering their name. They blink. They get up and stretch. They decide it's time to eat.

Willow and I have a game we play. It starts with a bath towel. The towel starts out lying on the tile floor of the bathroom. Then I pick up one corner and slowly twitch the towel. Wil' launches herself onto one edge of the towel, reaches up and grabs more towel...then she flings herself onto her side, whilst holding on to the towel with front paws and maybe teeth. Then we get the "rabbit kick". I *love* the rabbit kick. This is performed on the side, holding the prey tightly with the front paws and kicking its guts out with the back feet. When she thinks it's dead, she slowly lets up. But she keeps an eye on it, because sometimes, it was only faking and comes back to life! This can go on for long periods of time...generally until I'm ready for bed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Livin' in God's Country

This is what I get to see driving home in the evenings...I never tire of it. It amazes me that we humans can get so wrapped up in our crazy lives that we forget to stop. And look. And breathe. I live in a truly beautiful place and I don't want to ever take it for granted.

Maybe you don't have this view available to you. (I sometimes wonder what it's like for people who grow up in the middle of this country and never see the ocean.) But I bet that wherever you are there's some place nearby that has an awesome view of the sunset. Go watch the next one!

Forever Homes, part 2

Just a quick note to better introduce you...this is "Sydney" who just found her forever home with my friend. It's not the greatest picture (black dogs are hard to photograph!) but you see a little of her cute personality in the perking of her ears. She was really listening to me! I think she's predominantly border collie...within a few minutes of meeting her, she was herding me.
She joins Phoebe, who is *smiling* not baring teeth...
...and Shadow--how sweet is that face!
You could do worse than be reincarnated as a pet into this house! Congrats again on the addition to the family!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Forever Homes

At the risk of starting a great debate (or maybe in the hopes of it...I can be that contrary) I wanted to talk about adopting "mutts". I use that term with love and mean nothing derogatory in the least. For the record, I love all critters...not just pure-breds. As you've already discovered, I loved Westminster. I loved meeting so many different breeds. I think there are lots of neat aspects to a lot of those breeds. But I think that most people can find the perfect companion for themselves, the perfect addition to their family, by adopting a mixed-breed from a shelter, through their local vet, or from some sort of rescue agency. And let's face it, there are way too many pooches--and kitties--available. It's shameful how many pets are cast out in this society. (Uh-oh...did you hear that scraping sound? It was me getting my soapbox out.) "Mutts" frequently combine some of the best attributes of a given breed, without some of the inherent problems and medical issues plaguing some of the pure breeds.

Okay, am running out of time this morning. More on this later. But for now, let me just say that two of my friends recently rescued dogs from local about 3 hours before said sweetie was scheduled to be put down. *Congratulations* Sydney and Maggie-Posh on finding your forever homes!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Paddy's Day y'all (hey! it's a southern Irish expression!) Are you wearing your green? I figured what more appropriate way to celebrate than with a picture of an Irish Wolfhound. This is Quintus. He comes from Aerie Dogs of Pennsylvania. I wish you could see him standing up to appreciate just how big he really is...he's huge!!! He's also terribly sweet. He was resting from a big morning of showing when we met him.

This may be the year we actually make it to Ireland. LoML and I have both dreamed of going there. We have relatives in England and have made several trips there, each time vowing to make the side-trip to Ireland. I think we're really going to make it there this fall!
So, I've been slack on posting this past week. Much going on between trying to get everything to the accountant before my usual last-minute, need-an-extension rush, and ACC basketball tourney--always a favorite time of year in our household. There was much excitement this year, some terrific games. We were glad our team managed to pull another championship out.

Will try to do better this coming week and post more. For now, I leave you with this old Celtic blessing:

May the blessing of light be on you—light without and light within.

May the blessed sunlight shine on you and warm your heart till it glows like a great peat fire.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Best Opening Lines

Not much time to post this morning so I thought I'd share a couple of best opening, not pick-up lines!

Best Opening Line in a Novel: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." From Stephen King's "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger." Hands-down, the *best* all-time opening line. No competition.

Best Opening Line in a Song: "She put him out, like the burning end of a midnight cigarette." From "Whiskey Lullaby" performed by Brad Paisley with Alison Krauss (sorry, don't have the writing credits in front of me...will look that up this evening and give proper credit).

Come on, share some of your favorites with me.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why Cats Spring Forward But Don't Spring Back least not gracefully. You might think that cats should spring and fall in any direction easily. All I can tell you is that mine spring forward just fine, but falling back is a whole other story. Like I said, because of the diabetes they have to eat meal-style. Breakfast is served at 6:00 a.m. Despite frequent attempts to cajole midnight snacks or move the morning meal up in time, six o'clock it is. Then, for no apparent reason, one morning in the spring we suddenly start waking them up an hour earlier to feed them. Oh happy day!! (Actually, we try to make the change gradually...but you get the idea.) This is terrific. They have no problems at all. Life is good. But sadly, at some random point in the fall the humans turn cruel. Six o'clock kitty-belly time rolls around and the humans aren't puttin' out the spread! What madness is this? The service around here is declining shamefully!!! They have to remind us poor saps where the food is. Repeatedly. It's a wonder no one's called the ASPCA yet.

And so the cycle of the seasons goes.

On Conquering the Universe

This may be news to those of you who don't live with cats. Let me say right now that I don't mean to be condescending or judgmental, but I think you're really missing out on one of life's grandest adventures if you don't share your home, and your life, with cats *and* dogs. There is much to be learned from each species...and the lessons are quite different.

The other morning I rounded the corner from the dining room and saw our two cats "meatloafed" in the hall. (The "meatloaf" pose is when they lie on their tummys with all four paws curled up underneath and they look just like a meatloaf in a pan.) This isn't a normal spot for them. (Cats do have normal spots they hang out in.) I started giggling. "What are they doing now?" LoML asked. He knew from the way I laughed that it was the cats. "Well," I said, "they're either planning to take over the universe, or they're thinking about going to bed for a nap." And that's the way of felines. It really could have been either thing. Truly.

One time we got a booklet about bringing home a kitten. It came free with a package of kitten food. We'd both been owned by cats for most, if not all of our lives. We didn't really have to read it, but it was fun to see what the good folks at Purina thought we should know about cats. There was an interesting bit about the social hierarchy of cats. It contrasted them with dogs, explaining how dogs have a definite order, establishing alpha male, alpha female, and right on down the line. It went on to say that each cat believes everyone else--feline, canine, human--to be beneath them..."in no particular order"! We still laugh about that one because it is *so* true.

I have a magnet on my 'frig that sums it up: "This house is maintained entirely for the comfort and convenience of our cats!" And believe me when I tell you that if they only had opposable thumbs they would probably take over my blog and explain to you how we humans are sweet...but not very bright. We don't attend to their every need as completely as we should; particularly falling short in the culinary department. Our Willow is an insulin-dependant diabetic. She does quite well with her disease, but we can't allow her (or therefore her brother, Oz) to have food available around the clock. They have to be meal-fed...and they resent this mightily. They have been trying for years now to convince us to just leave the food out. They have to constantly tell us when it's time to eat for fear that we'll forget since we humans have such feeble minds. They persist in believing that some day they really will have us trained. But for now, they just have to keep after us.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

More on Food...Getting Hungry Yet?

What trip to New York could be complete without pizza, cannoli and cheesecake (not at the same time of course!). For the pizza, we discovered Mariella's. The doorman sent us there. It was a short walk from where we were staying. It's a small place and the warmth from the ovens was welcome on a cold night. The smell was divine! (Not that it mattered to us, but Oprah and her bud, Gayle, declared it the best pizza in the land.) We thought it was mighty fine pie!

I've always been a huge fan of cannoli. Not that I run into it all that often, but I never turn it down when I do! I managed to fit it into the schedule several times while we were there and was not disappointed.

And then there's the New York cheesecake. Mmmmmm. Your mouth is watering just thinking about it! Our last day in the City we went to Lindy's for brunch. (You might as well call it lunch. We missed breakfast trying to figure out alternate transportation as our flight home had been cancelled because of the snow. We ended up finally finding a rental car and driving home.) Besides the good food, it was fun to look at all the celebrity pictures on the walls. Lindy's is *the* place for cheesecake. They also have really good sandwiches. There was so much food we ended up taking the cheesecake to go. It was a welcome treat several hours later on the road. Amazing.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Did I Mention the Food?

No recitation of the details of a trip would be complete without the mention of the culinary adventures involved! We're big believers in trying out the local chow wherever we go and in eating things we might not be able to get at home. You might be thinking "What is she talking about? It's not like she went to a foreign country." Let me just say that what's available in NY is a pretty far cry from what we can get in the South.

The food adventure really kicked off on Saturday morning when we were treated to some food from my friends' favorite NJ deli. Without me being able to use gestures, there's no way you can really appreciate my description of this food...but I'll do the best I can. (Incidentally, some of my coworkers swear I'm Italian because I absolutely cannot talk without excessive hand gestures.) First, we were treated to bagels and lox. I'd always heard it, and it's true: NY bagels are infinitely better than the bagels we can get. I can't explain it, but I now accept it without question. I don't know if you like lox, but I did. I thought I'd tried it before, but obviously never any authentic lox. I didn't remember being impressed with it. This stuff was divine! Then there was the corned beef and pastrami sandwich. ("For breakfast?" you exclaim. Dog gone right!!) This is the part you can't appreciate without visuals, but I swear I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this thing could feed *six* people....*easily*!! It was this ridiculously huge pile of meat with pieces of bread on the sides and long wooden skewers run through the lot to hold it together. You basically just added more bread (served on the side) and just kept making more sandwiches. Truly something to behold. And delicious!

Saturday night we went to "Benny's Burritos" in the Village. (That's Greenwich Village for you fellow small-town kids who didn't know.) This is a great little restaurant that my bro' loves to frequent when in the City. We had met up with his sis'n'law and had a great evening with her. Benny's is a funky little place with all sorts of cool artifacts on the walls to amuse....packed with people...terrific burritos! We finished off that night with a carriage ride through Central Park. (Okay, nothing about food there, but I just hadn't told you about that yet!)

Sunday night we went to the Jekyll and Hyde Club. This was so much fun. I could try to describe it, or post some of my pictures from in there (or a video I shot), but instead why don't you go to their official website: and check it out.

There's more eating to tell you about, but unfortunately, work looms in my near future. To be continued....

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Little Culture

While we didn't have a great deal of time to sight see, we did include some non-dog activities in our trip. Day one in NY city we went to MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art). It was a short walk from where we were staying. This statue was right outside the museum.
While I have family members who know a great deal about art, I am fairly ignorant about it. But I do enjoy looking and learning. MoMA is way too big for us to see everything in the time we had, but thanks to an insider we had some hints on parts we definitely wanted to hit. It was neat to see "Starry Night".
And there were a lot of Picasso's works I enjoyed looking at.
Some modern art is, well, modern??? This piece was made by dusting chocolate onto a canvas! I'm not sure if I truly appreciated what the artist was going for...but it did make me hungry ;D
And I know I didn't get the message here...but this woman was quite intently studying the piece.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My #1 Hound...and Friends

There were so many wonderful dogs at Westminster...but here's the number one dog in my book: Phil! Phil turned 8 last November. He retired from racing in Florida and we adopted him just before he turned 2. This is his "I'm a big bad hound and I can beat you to the fence" look :D I told you he's muscular! His muzzle is a lot greyer than when he first came to live with us; he worries too much. He's had some health challenges this past year, but he's still quite the athlete.
Speaking of athletes, here he is sporting his favorite shirt. We now have a ritual where he and LoML have to sing the Carolina fight song before each basketball game...maybe some day I'll post the video of that. You can see one of his buddies in the background.
This is Willow. She and her brother, Oz (out of the same litter) are also 8 years-old. They both love Phil. Willow likes to rub on him and curl up for naps with him. Oz likes to play-attack him.
Oz is demonstrating the fine art of the cat nap. No one does it better.