Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving As We Go

Morning:

Lucille

 

Fennel!

 

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Miss Chef is trying a new approach she read about: roast for an hour breast-side down, then flip.   A few more hours to go.

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Afternoon…Lucille is the name the farmer gave our turkey (we ask him every year when we pick it up, and he makes up a name on the spot.)  She looks beautiful, doesn’t she?

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A little weight-loss routine…

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…and the main course is ready.

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Sides included a super-yummy cornbread stuffing with chestnuts and local sausage.  That’s the green bean casserole to the left.

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Our hostess made a pretty medley of roasted root vegetables.

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Of course, there was a lot more…I didn’t get the two styles of mashed potatoes, or the rolls from our local bakery with herbed butter, or the sautéed shredded brussels sprouts with cranberries.  Uh oh, I think I’m getting hungry again!

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Good thing there was a plethora of pies to top us all off.

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I hope you all had cozy, laughter-filled Thanksgivings with your loved ones.  Enjoy those late-night turkey and cranberry sammidges, y’all!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Making Friends

Like many of you, I've been finding blogging at the very bottom of my to-do list.  So apologies if I haven't been "stopping by" some of your blogs as frequently.  I'll be back, sooner or later.

At the back of the pond in our neighborhood's common area is a fairly narrow strip of woods.  It's wide enough to let Rosie off-leash, out of sight of ducks and bylaw-waving neighbors, but small enough to see daylight through the trunks.

On the other side is a large field, broken by lines of trees, and seasonally occupied by a herd of beef cattle.

Larry, Curly and Moo


Cows intimidate me, especially these large beefy specimens, but I've recently started taking more of an active interest in the denizens of this field.  Perhaps you can guess why?

Which of these is not like the others?

Those of you who read the blogs from the 7MSN Ranch and Morning Bray Farm have an unfair advantage.  Especially if you've noticed any of my comments regarding a couple of dark-eyed boys named Alan and Nigel.

Yup, living alongside these placid bovines is a sweet-faced little equine.


(Unfortunately for me, the field is on the west side of the woods, so I've had to adjust contrast and brightness on these photos in the computer.)  I think this donkey is actually the second to be put in with this herd; there was a gray one until a year or so ago, but I haven't seen it since this beautiful black beauty showed up.

For lack of a better idea, I've been calling her Jenny, waiting for something more inspiring to strike me.  Last weekend, she came close enough to the fenceline to stretch out her neck and sniff briefly at my hand, but she was very shy.  This week, when I spotted the herd feeding close to the fence again, I trotted back home with Rosie to grab an apple and the camera.  (Rosie was very confused when we headed back out!)

It took awhile to attract Jenny's curiosity enough to drag her away from the fresh hay bale she was munching at.  She was quite standoffish.  But when I waved an apple quarter at her, she deigned to come close enough to at least check out what all Rosie's rustling about in the underbrush might mean.



I couldn't convince her to come close enough to grab the apple from my hand, so I ended up tossing the quarters onto the ground.  Once she got a good sniff, she didn't need any convincing to chomp them up.

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As you can see, once she was done with the apples, she was done with me!  (You might also notice I had the attention of most of the herd by this time.)  Hmm, not the friendliest donkey, but maybe over time she'll decide I'm at least a nice diversion from those slow-moving hamburgers on cloven hooves.  Problem is, it's only on the weekends that I can get out there at feeding time.  And the farmer moves the herd from field to field throughout the year, so I'm not sure how long I'll get 'til she's out of reach.

Still, it's a fun little project to befriend a hoofed stranger.  And when I'm sweet-talking a donkey, I'm surely not thinking much about lesson-plans, chores or work.  I tend to walk away feeling a bit lighter, and mentally refreshed.  I see how one can get addicted to these brushy-maned enigmas!  Even if I never get to stroke her soft muzzle, I'll still enjoy spending time talking to her.  And confusing the cows.

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As we made our way back through the woods, I noticed the subdued light was bringing out fascinating blue highlights in Rosie's coat, so I stopped for a short photo session with her.  In spite of the fact she refuses to look at the camera, I got a couple good enough to brag with!






Since our run-in with Tia's family I described in my last post, Rosie's been getting lots more walking,  attention and affection from me.  It was a good reminder to enjoy every day with her.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Therapy

Fair warning—this post turned out to be more of a tear jerker than I expected.  I needed at least three tissues to finish writing it.  Don’t worry; Rosie’s fine!


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Rosie is not an uncommon dog.  After we adopted her, I was astounded by the number of lookalike, Chow-mix dogs I ran across all over the place.  There were at least two others in our small neighborhood alone.  Sometimes this would lead to confusion: one neighbor drove by me slowly in his pickup truck one night when I was walking Rosie, then came back around and asked, “Where did you get that dog?”  Turned out he was out looking for his own fuzzy black dog, which had slipped through a gate, and thought I’d grabbed him.

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Rosie is an uncommon dog.  I like to tell the story of how I chose her from among the hundreds that went through the Humane Society while I was volunteering there.  I was aiming for a mid-size dog (larger than a beagle, smaller than a golden retriever), and I had three criteria: the dog must be excited about the human approaching its run, but must not be a jumper or a barker.  Rosie nailed her audition, and was the only dog I looked at.  And she’s proven to be a quiet, affectionate dog whose first instinct on meeting new people is to run up to them and sit down for petting.

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She is so laid-back, very little fazes her.  Aside from becoming mostly deaf and blind to me in the presence of other dogs, she passes by most anything else with barely a ruffle.  We’ve been by backfiring cars, sirens, power equipment of all sorts, and the most she’s done is startle briefly then go in for an investigatory sniff.

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When I saw her calm nature and friendly manner, I immediately thought of using her as a therapy dog.  I got hooked up with a therapy group through my vet, did some basic obedience training with her on my own, and eventually we were certified through Therapy Dogs International.

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We visited local nursing homes and hospitals for about a year and a half.  I enjoyed reaching out to the older folks stuck in a hospital environment, and it was a good, tiring afternoon for Rosie.  I especially enjoyed the visits arranged once a year at a local camp for kids with cerebral palsy; Rosie seems to really enjoy children.  But I never did get her to stop pulling and pulling at the leash, and it became less and less fun for me and her, so eventually I let our certification expire.

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Rosie still gets to keep in practice, though.  One friend in particular—a big-dog lover currently living with two small dogs—can’t get enough full-body hugs when she comes to visit.  I need my share of good big Rosie hugs, too, on those long weeks when I hardly see Miss Chef.  But my favorite is when a young child no taller than Rosie herself runs over and wraps his arms around her with a big grin.

Today, however Rosie came fully out of therapy retirement for brief time.  We were out for our usual walk and passed by a house I know well.  It’s where one of her twins lives, a slightly smaller dog named Tia.  I’ve not been a big fan of Tia—she's always been a nervous dog, prone to growl and snap when she's not comfortable.  Her owners also let her run free for several years (I’ve had more than one person tell me Rosie had been loose or bit their dog, when I knew she was safely home or with me).  But the resemblance was so strong between our pets that I remained friendly with the family.  Their two children always run up to pet Rosie when they see us in the park, telling me each time, “She looks just like my dog!”

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As we walked by their house today, I saw them all outside, working in the yard.  Their daughter, who’s probably about 12 or 13, met my eye and we said hello.  I could tell she wanted to pet Rosie, so I stopped to chat.

“She looks like Tia,” Emma said.  “We just had to have Tia put to sleep.”

I learned Tia was older than I realized; 11 years.  She’d always had hip problems, which I’d never noticed.  Recently she started drinking heavily and having accidents.  When they took her to the vet, they found a large growth, probably bone cancer.  Tia was put down about a week ago.

Before I knew it, the entire family was gathered around my dog, telling me about Tia.  They hugged Rosie and talked to her; showed me the places where they used to kiss Tia on the face, and how Rosie has the same forehead bump.  They told me how Tia used to sleep under the cypress tree by the front door, and how she held off a man who was coming up the driveway in the dark, supposedly to sell something.  They also offered—repeatedly—to dog-sit any time we needed it.

By the time we parted ways, they had stepped away from Rosie and we were talking about what kind of dog they might get next.  I wondered if clinging so heavily to this reminder of their lost dog wasn’t a bad way to get through the grieving process, but their loss was so sudden I was very glad we could offer some comfort. 

Someday, I know, I will be in their shoes, and will wish I could reach out and pet my dog one more time.  But days like today will make it all worthwhile, in the end.

09 Rosie 07

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday Night Philosophizing

or Things I Think While Rosie's Taking a Pee

Photo from here

I like to stand outside on a clear night and look up at the stars.  I consider their immense distance, and ponder the enormity of space.  It's so vast and, in a way, so simple.  There is existence and nonexistence.  Ok, there is energy and heat--extreme, unimaginable heat that would obliterate us in a nanosecond.  And there is cold--absence of energy, a stillness beyond death.

And yet here I stand, in spite of that cruel simplicity, feet planted firmly on this spinning globe.  Standing upright on my grassy lawn. Why should there be grass?  In all the vast reaches and vagaries of the universe, why should grass have come to be?  And not just grass, but Bermuda grass, fescue, rye and crabgrass; such a variety of something that didn't really need to exist in the first place.

Then my eye falls on the dog as she wanders back up the driveway.  How amazing it is that two such improbable creatures should exist, should have found each other and should have created this strong intangible bond.  We call it love, and value it above all else.  And it has nothing to do with the temperature of space, or the distance between stars.

Oh, how we complicate our lives.  What difference does it make, faced with the infinity of the universe, if our lawns are cut or our improbable woven-fiber-spun-from-cotton-seed-fluff shirts are sufficiently ironed?  I think, I should just relax and enjoy the fact of being.  Rosie is here, I am breathing, there is a Miss Chef organism on this planet who will come home here tonight and make our family complete.  What else could I expect from this massive, incomprehensible universe?

As I turn back toward the light and warmth of the house I have to wonder--is it all a miracle?  God's great  plan?  An elaborate accident of physics and chemistry?

And I decide, why not all three?  God's great plan works through physics and chemistry, and the complexity, unlikely simplicity and sheer beauty of it all is a miracle to me.