Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Independence Day

Five years ago this night I was sleeping my first night alone in the little cabin on Lazy Mountain, Diva and Courtney a few miles down the road at George and Becky's kennel while I spent several days getting things unpacked and ready for their arrival. I've made a lot of painful mistakes in my life before and since, but the end of that relationship with a fundamentally dishonest man sure isn't one of them. I used to think that I was sorry that he was the one who had to end it through (another) betrayal instead of me being the one who left, but that is so insignificant. Who can be sorry for getting one's own life back? I remember little about the leavetaking part - it was a bitter day (single digits) and the moving men made me laugh by telling me "You're too good for him." One of them had forgotten to bring gloves, and when I went up to ask Jim whether I could borrow a pair and I said I'd be sure they didn't get taken, he said "It's okay. I trust you" and I thought with some amusement that that was pretty effin ironic.

You Must Accept
by Kate Light

You must accept that's who he really is.
You must accept you cannot be his
unless he is yours. No compromise.
He is a canvas on which paint never dries;
a clay that never sets, steel that bends
in a breeze, a melody that when it ends
no one can whistle. He is not who
you thought. He's not. He is a shoe
that walks away: "I will not go where you
want to go." "Why, then, are you a shoe?"
"I'm not. I have the sole of a lover
but don't know what love is." "Discover
it, then." "Will I have to go where you go?"
"Sometimes." "Be patient with you?" "Yes."
"Then, no."
You have to hear what he is telling you
and see what he is; how it is killing you.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

First REAL snow of the season

(backdated entry)

Still, it weren't much. A few days of shoveling morning and night, maybe 10-12 inches in all. And convenient to have it happen on the weekend. (For fading-daylight trackers, this dreary pic is taken around 11:00 am.) But lord, I need to get the new snow tires put on the car SOON. I hate hate HATE driving an automatic on winter roads anyway, but an automatic with no decent shoes on its feet is a hair-raising experience when every intersection becomes a lottery draw.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bull market

(backdated entry)

While I've said for years that I'd never want to have a Bulldog because of the various problems they suffer from human interference in their DNA, I must say that I've become the bulldog lady at Dog Tired - we have half a dozen or so, each very different from each other, and I'm besotted with all of them for various reasons.

Louise is my favorite of all the dogs at Dog Tired, but don't tell my 20 other favorites that I said that. She's moody, affectionate, complaining, hard-charging, playful, stubborn, and (maybe this is the simpatico part for me) is SOOO effin cranky when she's tired. She's a monster and I just love her to death even when she's raining brimstone on other dogs for daring to approach me. I love talking to her from across the room when she's asleep on her feet and so very wishing that she was home in her own bed. She'll look at me knowing that I understand that in her heart she'd rush across the room to be with me if she could just pull her butt off the couch. Her exploits at home are a delight to hear about too - like when she called in sick the day after Halloween because managing the trick-or-treaters had just been Too Much. It's Lou's world and we're just living in it.

Okay, it has to be said right here that one of the reasons the bulldogs like me is that several of them know that Peg will help a brother out when there's a delicate matter that needs attending to. Since most bulldogs are genetically engineered such that they can no longer reach their own asses, hygiene can be a challenge, and they've each figured out their own way of asking me to give them some personal assistance.

Miles is quickly becoming another favorite of mine mainly because of his sad affection for the toybox. We don't have toys in the playrooms on Miles days because he's So Not Into Sharing, though sometimes he'll play alone with a big plastic ball out in the hallway between classrooms - heaving and snorting and really being far too engaged, while trails of slime are rolled from wall to wall and back again. He quickly learned how to take the tops off the toyboxes and climb right in, so now they're kept up on kennels. Miles will sit nearby, or underneath, and pine with a mournful squall - something like the sound your camel makes when you squeeze it too hard.

But eventually the vigil becomes tiring, and like Louise, Miles goes to sleep on his feet, and finally fades away to dreamland, where all the toys belong to him.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Teddy the Hatchet

Emma decided it was time to take out Maddie's favorite teddy bear - she destroyed half his face and half of his foot. Nancy sent him home with me with an accompanying note asking for him to be admitted to the Good Nana Hospital and to send her the bill. Nana and I went through the fabric bin and discussed surgical options, and this is the result. Nana wrote a note in return which reads: "I had to give him a tissue transplant because his foot was pretty torn up and ragged, so Emma donated some stuffing from the sunflower toy she carries around when she visits. I also trimmed some of the hair around his right eye - he'll need that since he lost the left one. Teddy was very good, didn't cry, slept through the whole procedure. Nancy will not be billed as Nana's hospital does not charge for Teddy Bear surgery."

When I had gotten home from my meeting tonight, she showed me the progress and when she mentioned cutting the hair around his other eye, I looked up seriously and said simultaneously with her, "Well, yeah, because he'll need that" and then we both cracked up laughing.


Hunter has never been a bed cuddler, much to my disappointment. He might jump up there briefly but usually is gone in a flash. He does cuddle with his Nana, however. I don't know if it's affection or possession (that is, not as nice as it appears). Don't know, haven't spent time trying to figure it out, will give him the benefit of the doubt for now. But as far as that goes, Hunter has always enjoyed serious cuddle time with any female except me. I live with the rejection.

So I was especially touched this morning when we got up early for him to head outside to pee on the snow, and he jumped into my bed when we get back, scooted over politely as I got in, and then not only stayed with me cuddling, but stayed under the covers too, for a good hour and a half. And was the most precious sleepytime boy this morning, for a quiet talk and little loves between us until I got up to go to work.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hunter takes a dip

Like many old-time Alaskans, Hunter takes a bath every few years whether it's necessary or not. The weekend I adopted him, I bathed him because he had a bit of vet-boarding smell and because I thought it was the caring-mommy sort of thing to do. That was over four years ago and I haven't done it since. He's never needed it. This dog never smells bad, his coat is never oily or dirty, and if he goes out in the rain he comes in gorgeously fluffy and smelling like he stepped out of a fabric softener commercial. I comb him out frequently but still I've never had a dog that didn't need a bath ever beyond a rinse of muddy paws.

Tonight that changed. Although his second round of Frankenfeet went away finally, I feel we haven't gotten to the bottom of whatever it is that's itching him so much. His skin's been dry and the hair around his armpits and his eyes is thinning. No other allergic symptoms though. Anyway, he's looked flaky and scruffy so I figured let's give the boy a soothing bath and see if that helps, and we'll go back to The Holy Man soon for more workups.

Hunter was bewildered. Now some of you remember, this is a dog who early on in our life together up in the Lazy Mountain cabin, walked into my shower and couldn't find his way out. On more than one occasion. Tonight he reluctantly got in the bathtub, but somewhat like my dear old Diva, he didn't fight but he needed to be comforted. (Diva would be wonderful for bathing as long as you kept your arms wrapped around her in a total hug the whole time and bathed with her.) And I realized how long it's been since I bent over to wash a dog in a bathtub. That won't ever happen again either. My low back hurt so much in the first 20 seconds I didn't think I'd have the courage to continue.

After bathing, I combed out tons of undercoat, predictably shed by all good Alaskan dogs at just the point when the weather suggests they really need it. He looks quite a bit thinner all over but is curled up in a sweet fluffy ball on my bed, smelling lightly of oatmeal and tea tree. I haven't seen him scratch once since the bath, so if nothing else he's gotten a few hours of relief tonight.


I have found the true theobroma. While Nancy was in Oregon last week, she visited the Dagoba factory in Ashland and returned with a sampler box of organic chocolate bars, which happen not only to be orgasmic but socially responsible. I mulled over my choice of the 12 bars and picked the dark chocolate with lavender oil and blueberries. And I have decided that social responsibility doesn't extend to sharing it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

First snow of the season

(this pic is taken at 3:30 pm - daylight is already noticeably wimpy these days)

On the west side of town we got a minor skiff - less than 1/2 inch - but it was cool enough today (20's) to stick. Supposed to get an inch overnight, maybe a couple more inches tomorrow. I had just put an engine block heater on the Tercel last year a couple weeks before it got totaled. Today I took the Civic in for the city-sponsored block heater program - $25 fee to the mechanic but the block heater is free. Anchorage has problems with emissions levels in the winter, with inversion layers that keep vehicle exhaust close to the ground. Cold-starting vehicles is a large contributor to that problem, plus a car just starts up much more willingly in subzero temps when it's spent a few hours plugged in. Still have to put glacier grips on it. I hate that this car is an automatic - so much easier to keep control on icy roads with a stick shift. All in all I'm not so sure I'm against global warming.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Meanwhile, back at the moose factory

Welcome to the world as we know it, William Matthew Gallatin, born this morning in Idaho to nephew Josh and his wife Tiffani, on the heels of cousin Zachary born not quite two months ago. These boys are the grandchildren of my oldest brother Matthew, whose two children Josh and Kaci now have one son each. What fun for these little ones to grow up together.

However, that clean Pacific Northwest air must contribute to mutant children - at 9 lb 13 oz and 23 inches, William was even bigger than chunky Zack.

It feels odd to me to know that to these boys I'll be one of those distant sort-of-relatives, as in "she was my grandfather's sister." Something dusty and vague, as though this morning my eyes are not welling with immediate joy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What is urgent / what is vital

"The vital task rarely must be done today, or even this week. The urgent task calls for instant action. The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and they devour our energy. But in the light of time's perspective, their deceptive prominence fades. With a sense of loss we recall the vital task we pushed aside. We realize we've become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent."

Charles E. Hummell

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hunter comes home

I had to run a late-night errand tonight, and took Hunter along with me. When we returned, he went offlead from the car, up the steps to the front door, as he's always very good about doing. This is really the extent of his offlead privileges as he has only one direction (away) and only one speed (full).

I never noticed that the coast was not clear.

As I was juggling my purse and keys in the dark, a rustle caught our attention and I turned to see a full-antlered young bull moose in the dark, at the edge of my front yard. It started to walk directly toward us on the porch. I dropped everything in my hands and tried to move quickly with my keys, but my knees were jelly and my hands shaking. I got the first lock open as the moose began to trot with 10 yards to go. Hunter stiffened and I yelled NO and tried to hold his collar (why? so we could both get stomped?), but he shot off the porch and down the street after the (surprisingly, fleeing) moose.

I jumped in the car and tore off down the street. Nothing in view in any direction. I rocketed up and down the side streets and saw nothing. Called Kari who lives very nearby, and she said she would get in her car right away and start working from her direction.

But honestly I thought that was hopeless. I wouldn't find him tonight in the dark, or maybe ever when he's frequently shy of strangers. He never turns around when he starts to run. And I learned the night that I almost got killed that he can't be easily called off.

I drove back to my house where my mom was standing in the doorway. I stopped the car engine and called up to her that if Hunter came home - which he wouldn't, but... - for her to call me. We spoke for a few minutes and then she said:

'There he is."

And he walked up the driveway, paused as I got out of the car and took him by the collar, and we walked in the house together.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Do as I say

I've been feeling pretty low lately about my lack of effectiveness as an animal advocate. In the broader realm, I know I am reaching people. My words are educating people, helping them through grief issues, and making them open their wallets to help Friends of Pets. But lately I am struggling about the people around me. When I do that inventory, I despair of what good I do in the world - feeling low about how my immediate circle of influence includes backyard breeders, irresponsible neighbors, those who abandon their lifetime commitment, and others who purchase from breeders while another rescue dog dies. In my close circle - and actually even beyond in my more extended network of dog friends too - it's like everyone is so enamored of their dog du jour that it's just sort of gone out of vogue to care about the innocent dead unless they have a dramatic backstory. The vanilla homeless are someone else's problem. As Heidi Klum says, you're either in, or you're out. Auf wiedersehen.

But of course that's a judgment call and one I'm not qualified to make. So I guess I should quit pouting and figure out how the hell to start making an impact someplace that it matters.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pennies from heaven

Actually it's quite a few dollars from heaven, since besides today's direct deposit of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend ($1106) into my checking account, I got an entirely unexpected 15% raise from Nancy when I arrived at work this morning. I had knocked out a ton of billings for her on Sunday and Monday, and Nancy tends to show her gratitude in tangible ways of either time or money. We both have noticed lately that my job knowledge has leapfrogged considerably in the last couple of months - some of the particularly complicated stuff has just suddenly clicked for me - and it made me feel great when she said that she wanted to bump me to the same level pay as my (formally qualified) predecessors because I was showing the same performance. The increase is especially welcome now that my mom has moved here - just taking some pressure off. I have been around the block enough to know how quickly fortunes change, but today I am grateful for this ray of relief.

Monday, October 02, 2006


In some of my mom's boxes moved here from back East are two of my high-school yearbooks - I have the senior book somewhere (dunno where) but these are from sophomore and junior year. Here are just some of the things my schoolmates felt should go into the permanent record...

- Best of luck to ten talented fingers and a caustic wit.
- Wanna throw the frisbee?
- I hope you can put your intelligence to something great in later life. (God, I hope so too!)
- Thanks for all the encouragement and wisdom you tried to bestow upon my feeble whatever.
- Thanks to you I really don't care what people say about my driving.
- Remember all of the fun we had in health class writing about Mr. Lenzi on the blackboard in shorthand.
- It's too bad you're not in any of my classes this year. Remember geometry class the first marking period when you sat beside me and we talked all the time. That was the best part of geometry.
- Remember the Business Club banquet and that lady who took my apple butter.
- I honestly don't think you'll be a Problem Of Democracy.
- It's a pleasure having you in class and if you live long enough maybe you can get off the mountain...after all the way your mother drives...
- I'll always remember you...on crutches...in a brace...taped-up....etc.
- You have made me a thinker, and a better human being. (okay so I had to throw in something sincere)
- I can't quite put my finger on what I did wrong in basketball this year.

Also from my yearbook comments it appears that I played a LOT of Truth or Dare, as there are numerous threats of retaliation for things about which I have no memory at all. No wonder I never had the nerve to attend a class reunion.