Sampson is Found!

My son went hunting this past weekend with some college friends and his best bud, a pooch named Sampson. He had adopted him during his first year of college over seven years ago, my first grand-dog.

The boys arrived at their friends ranch land and unloaded their gear to the air-conditioned cabin. Samson was out of sight but my son didn’t worry. Sampson liked to explore. But after unpacking he went to look for him. His friends had already started practice shooting. Sampson didn’t come when called. His friends joined him in the search. They spent the day searching. Sampson had disappeared.

He was something like a cross between a long-haired dachshund and a Chinese crested, long and low to the ground with not much hair except on the top of his head and on his chin. He ran with his jaw held crooked and his tongue hanging out and he could not hold his licker when anyone visited. He was just about the cutest ugly dog in the world.

It seemed that Saturday was one of those days when the bad news just kept coming. First the call about my husband’s aunt death. Then the emergency techs at the other end of my mother’s “life-alert” system called. My mother had fallen and couldn’t get up, could I go to her? Yes, we got to her and let the firemen into her apartment. She was alert but unable to move from a kneeling position, that’s as far as she could get from flat on her back. She fell when she thought she was grabbing the door jamb but missed and kept going. She was fine and we helped her get supper and settle for the night. Then when I texted my son about the happenings he texted me that Sampson was lost.

Texas is experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. I don’t hold out much hope that Sampson survived for long in the heat. Of all the day’s bad news and events, I think the little puppy getting lost forever in the Texas heat hit me the hardest. I guess the not knowing what happened is the worst part.

When my son was tiny and he lost his cherished teddy bear I told him Teddy went to Australia for a long vacation. It helped. It hurts that I can’t make up even the simplest solution to where Sampson is.

Today, being two days after Samspon was lost, is a red-letter day! Sampson has been found in Ledbetter, TX!

A Hundred Days to Health – the update

Weight Loss (The Office)
Image via Wikipedia

A hundred days have come and gone. I started this crazy attempt at improving my health at the end of January and so much has happened in that short period of time.  Here are the highlights – major house renovation and move, and found out I’m to be a grandmother – but not in that order. In fact, life hasn’t been orderly.

So many things have tried to side-track the health effort. As written I started out a 5’3″ female at 143 pounds and meds included those for thyroid, cholesterol, and diabetes – in other words, a round, middle-aged lady with thinning hair.

I am now at 126 pounds. I’m down one size. My cholesterol meds have been cut in half. Thyroid is fixing to be a thing of the past. Diabetes meds are up (drat!). I’m still 5’3″.

The down side: At this age as you lose weight the wrinkles begin to show. It’s true. However, I don’t think neck waddles are the bane of the middle-aged woman’s existence. No, I believe the worst part of growing older as a woman is the baggy knees. I no longer look hot in shorts. The book  Raggedy Ann and the Camel with the Baggy Knees has more meaning.

I’m thrilled to report that at least two of my friends have set their own health goals by also joining the YMCA and committing to a work-out schedule. Whoo Hoo!!

 

 

 

The Ferocity of Predators

A strange story about a hawk and a turkey.

It begins with the hawk I spotted soaring over our back yard. From the upper back porch I could watch the hawk fly between two huge pecan trees. Having lived near a hawk’s permanent nest in Sugar Land, I had the feeling the hawk for establishing territory for a nest. It may be there is already a nest in one of the trees. Even with the worst drought in recorded history in Houston, those pecan trees are thick with leaves.

Here it is, practically in the flat middle of the big city and that hawk was happy. Lots of prey – rats, pigeons makes it a good living space for a hawk.

I can tell you – watching the hawk that week after we moved brought such joy bubbling up. My sadness at leaving Sugar Land was finally in the past. I could mark the moment.

A week later my husband and I were walking to a little Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood. As we were fixing to turn the corner I saw something that ground me to a hot, dry halt. Fury, rage, frustration, all those things shot through me.

The hawk’s wings had been severed and were now hanging on a dumpster behind the flower shop.

It is illegal to shoot any bird of prey. But this was MY hawk. My hawk was dead. I knew I had missed something. I hadn’t seen the hawk flying lately. Throughout the evening whenever I thought of it, my stomach ached to DO something.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife as soon as I could. I was given the names and phone numbers of the warden. I called, left messages. Finally I called the TPW again and was given the number for the dispatch. I called that number and got through to a human. However I had the feeling that the lady at the other end of the line thought I was crazy.

“I’m reporting that a man shot a hawk,” I said.

“Did you see it happen?”

“No. But the wings are displayed on a dumpster. Like they’re pinned butterfly wings or something.”

“How do you know it is a hawk?”

“It’s either a hawk or an owl.”

“You say they are pinned? To a dumpster?”

“Well, he has them splayed out and held down with something.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

I gave her my name and number. I waited to hear. All day. Nothing. The next day. Nothing. I snuck down the street and took a picture. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking too interested. The owner of the flower business uses that lot behind him to practice his archery. That’s why I know it was him. He shoots at an archery target next to a fence that people are walking past. That’s crazy.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife again. Explained what I was calling about and asked why no one had called.

The dispatch lady on the other end said that it was the first time she was hearing about it.

“Well, the wings are still there,” I said.

“You say they are hawk wings?”

“Yes, the neighborhood hawk. It’s missing.”

“And where do you live?”

“In Houston, near downtown.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

Did she think I was crazy, too?  No one called. Ever. Now I’m mad.

What to do? What to do? In the cool of the evening the neighbors sit outside. I asked them if they’d seen the wings?

No, but they weren’t surprised. That guy at the flower shop, they told me, once hung a bunch of dead fish on his fence to chase away customers of a breakfast shop across the street from him. They said they would tell the neighborhood lady who is involved in wildlife rehabilitation. She would know what to do.

She told the neighbor to call the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation. He did. He came over this morning to tell me. He said the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation department called the Texas Parks and Wildlife and sure enough – a warden called my neighbor. Yes. He had seen the wings and yes, the owner of the flower shop would be getting a visit from him.

Ahhh. Justice.

The neighbor said that he has been assured that our names won’t come up. The flower shop guy is reputed to be nuts. He looks threatening with that bow and arrow. He could DO something.

This is the dumpster. What kind of bird did these come from? With the hawk missing what would you think?

And here’s a follow up. The neighbor told me this afternoon that the warden called him and told him that those are wild turkey wings and that the guy had a permit to kill a wild turkey. Opinion time. Do those look like wild turkey wings? AND where is my hawk? Overcome by the drought? The display remains macabre.

If Life Hands You a Lemon, Suck It Up

We moved into the new old house. It has double wrap around porches, a new kitchen and laundry, and a large master closet.

One can never have too much closet.

We’d been here a week, when the builder showed up and told us that if we wanted the inspections to go through on the electric, the plumbing, and the mechanical (A/C), we’d have to give him more money. He said if we didn’t he’d have to put a lien on the house. Let’s call this what it is – extortion.

This is a sour note to start our life in this house with.

Where is Holmes on Homes when you need him?

But not to fear, we are in the house! Possession is 9/10ths of the law. We’ve paid the builder almost double of what the original estimate of costs would be. If he doesn’t pass city inspections on what he was responsible for it falls back on him, not us. I told him I would file a complaint before the permits board. He said he didn’t care, that he would never do a remodel for anyone again anyway.

He said it wasn’t fair that he made a nice place for us to live and he doesn’t get anything for it. According to him he didn’t make any money. He complained that because I was at the job site almost every day, that I messed everything up. I kept pestering his people. He had a long list of complaints.

Actually, I was amazed at the sloppiness of the job until I learned that he was pushing them on quantity not quality. So often, I would double back and encourage the workers to do what hadn’t been done. I was on the job site because I wanted to see where our hard-earned cash was going.

On this night we couldn’t get him to leave our house. How ironic since I spent a lot of time while he was working on it chasing him down.

At this point I wondered if my kickboxing-body combat would have to come into play. I look like the innocuous grandma I am about to become, but I do pack a pretty mean punch.

We just let him natter.

What he didn’t get was that there are times that no matter how hard you work, you don’t get what you expect. It is tantamount to farting in the wind. Of course, when you are in business it helps to keep orderly books and records, which is what we didn’t see from him after he started the work.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain. (Psalms)

In some of his budget cutting moves he cut his costs by hiring unskilled labor. We have tiles that aren’t laid flat, we have a tub that has deep scars and scratches because no one was supervising, we have paint all over windows and floors, counters that aren’t caulked, paper on electric lines, piles of trash in the back yard. What are we supposed to do?

After the other night, I’m pretty sure I don’t want him around. So I will make everything right with a little elbow grease and a ladder. I feel like that old geezer (Pappy) in the Real McCoys who would hitch up his britches, look toward the setting sun and say “We’ll climb that mountain.”

And so we will.

I Have Lived With Houses

Houses home our best or worst memories.

For those who watch the home improvement shows. I’m running circles around Suzie’s House. Ha!

This past weekend was one which will not be soon forgotten, or repeated. I went to a writing conference at the same time the moving van pulled up to our sweet Victorian cottage to load everything up and move us to the Arts and Crafts home that we’ve been renovating since January. I’d been packing for weeks, and getting material ready for editor and agent review for weeks. And biting my nails. There’s nothing like piling stress on stress. Does wonders for the neck muscles.

Like the characters in my novels, every house renovation jets me into some kind of trouble which seems impossible to get out of. The deeper one digs, the more trouble one unearths.

Foundation work took over a week because the 1910 house was that settled. Plus, the double porches on three sides of the house had to be raised separately. When they raised the back porch, the bottom one fell apart. So it had to be rebuilt to support the top porch. In rebuilding it I had them enclose part of it to create a mud room. Success! Then it rained. Whoops, forgot to waterproof above the sheet rock.

When exposing the chimney flue on the inside (at the kitchen) the builder found that there was NO support beam for the upper floor where it was needed. No wonder the toilet leaked. The upstairs bathroom was caving into the kitchen. I went to flush the toilet the day I didn’t know the sewer line was frozen and the black water shot out, splattered past me and into the tub. Yuck!

Now all toilets flush.

That is huge.

The only thing left is having the air conditioning, the electric and the plumbing pass inspection. Oh, and adding knobs to a few doors.

When we bought the Victorian cottage there was a pot-holed drive way and several street people sleeping under the house or in the shed. We paved the drive, tore up the none-existent sidewalks, and added a fence around the property. The house itself was not livable as the air-conditioning had irreparably broken, which we didn’t know until after we purchased the property. It had limped along until somewhere between signing on the dotted line and getting home warranty insurance.

The Victorian is perfect now. Ready for some fortunate person to purchase it and move in.

The house I grew up in was asbestos shingled, with a white rock roof. No one knew about asbestos then, just knew asbestos made it fire-proof. The shingles were painted daffodil yellow. I remember feeling proud that my house could be seen from a great distance.

Ha. Ha. A huge distance. That house was day-glow before day-glow existed.

There was a crack in the foundation. It was so wide you could see daylight. My brother and I would sit and wait for lizards to crawl in and capture them. To this day I’m crazed if a Palmetto bug skitters too near my feet. This is because for a period of time, after my parents built their bedroom and gave me their old room, I would go to my bed and flip the covers back. There was a Palmetto bug sitting there, waiting for me. It happened again and again. Go in, flip covers, Palmetto bug, scream. Palmetto bugs look like giant cockroaches. I am still afraid.

My grandmother’s house I remember with fondness. I spent a great deal of childhood with my grandmother. There was a painted wood staircase that led to an apartment upstairs. Instead of closet doors there were heavy velvet curtains. My cousins and I would put on plays. I discovered an easy-bake oven one day and burned my fingers.

That house was built in 1889. It didn’t survive Hurricane Carla in 1961. Termites had undermined the beams beneath it and the wind blew it sideways and it crumbled.

My husband and I bought our first house in 1987. It was one of thirty homes out in the middle of a field and across the highway from one of Texas’s finest prison farms. Unwittingly the phone wiring wasn’t sophisticated enough for the phones and so we all shared a party line. This neighborhood wasn’t Mayberry. You could pick up the phone any time day or night and someone would be carrying on a conversation. These people would get abusive when asked to give up some phone time. The first day my oldest went to Kindergarten, the police were searching cars as we left the subdivision. I thought it was a drug raid. As I pulled up the policeman shone his flashlight in my face, like they do on TV. I asked him what was going on. A prisoner had escaped and was seen crossing the highway and slipping over a fence. Shaken I took my son on to school and rushed home to make sure all the doors and windows were locked.

Turned out the prisoner had broken an ankle slipping over the fence and that yard was surrounded by big dogs so he had no where to go. That was two blocks from my house.

Time passed. We raised two kids. The area sprouted five thousand houses.

The p-farm sold to a developer.

We moved farther into the country, where we lived on the edge of a creek. And dealt with banana spiders the size of your hand, water moccasins, and gorgeous sunsets. I miss that house.

We moved downtown beneath the big city skyline to an ultra modern townhouse with a chef-designed kitchen. TOO many stairs in that place. Two weeks after we moved in, Hurricane Ike swept past not a mile from us. The big trees in the neighborhood were uprooted and left higglety-pigglety in the streets.

Felt like renovating a hundred year old house, found one, fixed it and moved in. In this house I learned that street people are important to get to know. There are good ones and bad ones. I got to know Reggie, The Razor, Robinson (former boxer), Cash (a former pimp), Bear (he always wears a clean white shirt, a tie, and a smile, and Reno (don’t trust Reno). I learned that if you pay attention, these are the people who either make your neighborhood safe or make it horrible. Street people know what is going on. They keep watch. They know when a car should or shouldn’t be where it is, etc.

Two years later, meaning now, my husband and I found another hundred-year-old house that needed love. We fixed it (mostly) and moved in.

What have I learned?

First, I don’t think I’ll ever move house on the same day as a conference again. That was silly.

Secondly, making alleys through the boxes isn’t such a terrible thing.

Obama got Osama

So President Obama’s popularity points have skyrocketed. I haven’t seen any polls. I have not paper proof, but I imagine this is true, because Osama Bin Laden has been killed.

Allegedly.

The first things I noticed in the news reel was that Osama’s body was taken, presumably by the navy seals that shot him, and buried at sea in accordance with Islamic beliefs.

What?????

That was at 8:30 this morning I saw the news reel on the television screen. I was elated that Osama had met his demise. He’s got some ‘splainin’  to do before his maker. I don’t think he’ll come out very well there.

So at 6:30 tonight there is little mention of the whole burial at sea “thing.” The talking heads are going on about the outstanding operation by the naval seals (good job, guys!), the lack of intelligence from Pakistan, and the subtle (NOT) bravado from President Obama about his role in Osama’s killing.

What about the burial at sea?

Two questions:

First. Why would we shoot America’s Public Enemy #1 in a dusty house in the middle of Pakistan and then give him a reverent burial at sea???

Second. Who knew that burial at sea was a Muslim ritual? Wasn’t Islam founded in the middle of the desert?

When in Doubt, Hit it With a Hammer

This week, I came close to hitting something I shouldn’t have with a hammer. Let’s just say for the record, we have all survived. And for the other record, I AM NOT a violent person. Do not read the last post. This has nothing to do with killing turkeys, renovators need not apply.

So the inevitable day of the big move to another house looms. The movers are arriving on the day that I am scheduled to be at a writing conference wooing two agents and two editors.

There is no stress like home renovation stress.

Thankfully, I have the dog going for a spa weekend.

I’m taking a moment between piling things into boxes,  to create a couple of pages of “blurb” for both my completed novels. One down and one to go.

In the middle of that I decided to add a few before and after photos of some of the renovation work to the blog to keep it new. The awful yellow color before I changed it to the pale gray-blue.

The bathroom where I tore out the 1995 sink and added a pedestal sink that matches the original 1905 tub. The tub has been re-enameled so they really do match. Also added a chandelier over the tub for a little “wow” factor. You can see this in the yellow picture. This renovated bit is in the Victorian cottage. We are putting it on the market in a few days.

What about the hammer? I had to make supply runs to Home Depot so that none of the workers (at the arts & crafts renovation) could take any time away from their finish work. Yes, those knobs were in the budget! Errrrr.

In all this last minute work (staining floors and adding doorknobs), no one had called anyone to come get the old 1970’s satellite dish out of the back yard. About twenty feet off the ground and about five feet across, the eyesore was a little more than I could tear apart. So I enticed my son and one of his friends to come over and knock it down by telling them that they could probably get some money for it at the scrap yard. I gathered up what I could find that workers had left, aluminum cans, pieces of pipe, and three bags of insulated wire. By the time they had sheared the satellite dish off the pole, torn the pole from the ground, and cut it all up into manageable pieces, the scrap yard had closed. They wouldn’t accept a dinner invitation for their trouble but did take a little money for their gas. It was satisfying to see that ugly thing take a serious beating.

I am very, very thankful, Son!

So the hammer didn’t come into play, at least at my hands. Though I did knock some things from the top of the dryer when I slammed the door.

To Suffer the Slings and Arrows

Group of turkeys
Image via Wikipedia

Recently I was asked to attend the execution of a turkey.

They are my brother’s turkeys. Or perhaps I should say – they are my brother’s dinners. He has several animals on his farm. He raises AKC Siberian Huskies. He has a pet goat (B-Black). He has a sheep. (That feels awkward to think of a single sheep as a sheep.) He has a pet chicken (Miss Chick-chick). He has several other chickens slated to be dinners at some point. (Miss Chick-chick is safe.) He has ducks. He plans to get several sheep and raise little muttons, I mean lambs.

He says of all the animals he has there is nothing dumber than a turkey. Apparently, the turkeys are dumber than the chickens. Doesn’t that say it all? I mean, when you think of a pea-brain, think chicken.

When I mentioned the death of the turkey at a dinner party a few days later, (I did not go into graphic detail. I remembered my manners in the nick of time.) my friend mentioned that she’d been reading a book that speaks about how we should all be like turkeys. The book was about the known unknowable and the unknown unknowable. The fact that for 365 days or more the turkey wakes up with the sun shining and the feeder person coming with the feed. Happy. Then one day the feeder person comes, grabs the turkey up and bam! The end. The turkey never saw it coming.

We all know we can’t KNOW what will happen in the next second, or day, or week, etc. Thus, the known unknowable. But no one actually expects the turkey feeder man to grab one up and bam!

No one sees that coming. No one.

We all expect to die at some point. We don’t plan death necessarily but we know it is inevitable. It is the knowable unknown. Then there is the unknowable unknown. Take what happened to my father for example. His parents lived into their eighties and nineties and died of heart related deaths. We all expected my father to keep on ticking along. I noticed he wasn’t his usually upbeat self around October. At Thanksgiving he wasn’t eating well, which was huge. He loved to eat. The day I took him to a doctor’s appointment a few days after Thanksgiving, I really took a good look at him. The whites of his eyes were yellow. That day the doctors were almost a hundred percent sure that he had pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis was confirmed with an MRI. He died twenty-one days later. No one in the family had ever had cancer. Bam!

I went to visit my friend Shirley today. She has mesothelioma. She has never knowingly been around asbestos. She has always been a very careful person about her own health. This was a shocking diagnosis. When diagnosed, the doctors gave her seven weeks. It has been six months. We continue to pray that she remains as upbeat as she is. Even in this terrible time of her life, visiting her is an uplifting experience. She is an example of a person who has lived under God’s umbrella of love and protection. She is assured that death is not a frightening thing. When I’m around her she is more likely to be concerned about what is going on in my life than worrying with what is going on in hers. That is amazing.

She is happy.

Hers isn’t a happiness that the book is referencing. She isn’t a turkey. She is all too aware of what will happen to her. She isn’t living in La-La land thinking she will be miraculously healed, although it isn’t out of the range of possibility. It would be a miracle if the cancer disappears. She has gone through the mourning process. All the stages of grief. At first she denied the possibility of mesothelioma – telling her doctors they had made a mistake. Then later, she was angry. Later still, she  cried.

Now, the only time she cries is when she wonders how her husband of fifty years will do without her. He can barely boil an egg.

For now, she is teaching him to cook.

Crossing the Line

An enlargeable topographic map of Mexico
Image via Wikipedia

Maria is  someone I have known for many years. When first we met she told me she wanted to learn English better so she could get a good job. I was thrilled to help out. We’ve been friends for about fifteen years. Eventually she met more of my family members including my mother, and I’ve met all of her immediate family.

My mother loves her. So we invited her to work for my mother as her aide. And that’s when we discovered that Maria doesn’t have a social security card. I was puzzled at first. What did that mean? It couldn’t be that she was an illegal alien, surely.

Maria and her husband have been in the United States for over twenty years. Maria has ten brothers and sisters. All of them live in the US. Her parents live in a mountainous region of Mexico, in a village with a name I can’t remember because I can’t pronounce it. Their children recently sent them a computer so they are able to feel more acutely linked to their children and grandchildren.

Maria and her siblings haven’t been to visit their parents in years because of the violence.

There is a terrible civil war going on in Mexico and it doesn’t get much press. They recently found twelve people beheaded in Acapulco, a favorite resort on the pacific coast of southern Mexico. Five women who worked in a beauty parlor were the most recent victims. That should be enough to slow the tourist trade, but it won’t be because this news won’t travel past north Texas. The line is drawn in the sand somewhere along the Rio Grande and not much news on these terrible gun, knife, machete killings gets past it.

It isn’t the only news that won’t travel far. There are wild fires burning from West Texas to Magnolia, just north of Houston. People are losing their homes. But it won’t be big news outside of Texas. I guess our Texas Independent streak comes around to bite us in the behind every once in a while.

Not only are there beheading in Acapulco. There were 64 bodies found just south of our Texas border. These were not just Mexican nationals but some tourists as well. If it weren’t for those tourists, I wonder if we would have heard about it. This is huge. For over fifteen years, there has been a serial killer or killers in Mexico, and this doesn’t get any press. This person or persons preys on young girls along the Texas, Mexico border. Their bodies are found in shallow graves in obscure ranch country, usually on the Mexican side. There’s lots of wide open spaces along there. And there isn’t enough press about it. The warning isn’t out. Girls continue to disappear. And now with the drug wars raging, who knows what or who is involved. Because it isn’t just the young prostitutes now, but entire families who are being murdered.

It’s a regular killing field.

There are revenge killings, and revenge for revenge killings. There is no end in sight. The president of Mexico vows to crack down on the drug lords and the drug lords vow to never stop the murders. Diplomats, US drug agents, city officials, police officials, their families, and so on and on. In Mexico, no one is safe. If you have money, you are not safe. If you do not have money, you are not safe.

When I discovered that my friend Maria was an illegal alien, I offered to sponsor her process to become an American citizen. That was what she wanted, more than anything, to become an American. So I went to an immigration lawyer. I asked what steps I needed to take to help my friend.

“None.”

“What?”

“There is nothing you can do,” he told me.

“I can pay for her papers.”

“No. There are three steps in becoming an American citizen. You can pay for steps one and two. But the law is firm. You can not proceed to step three. Don’t waste your money.”

“But she’s been here a long time. She’s never even gotten a ticket.”

“There is nothing you can do.”

“Is there anything she can do?” I asked.

“No.”

Nothing. Nada. She can not become an American, which she wants to be very much. She wants to pay taxes. She wants to provide a better life for her three children. And she can’t. She can’t go back to Mexico, even to visit her parents. And she can’t become an American citizen.

Where did we cross the line from picking and choosing who gets to be an American? We offer visas to foreigners who would rather blow us up than to ever become productive hard-working citizens. But our wonderful Mexican neighbors who would rather work for sixty dollars a day constructing a roof here, than sit in a card-board hovel begging for pesos in a blood-spattered border town, can’t become Americans. We can’t even pay to make them citizens.

What?

Something is wrong with that.

My Biggest Boy

A few years ago I would have fallen into the “cat person” category. My children would often remind me that if it hadn’t been for the fact that “Daddy” was allergic to them I would probably have ended up on the animal planet’s “Hoarders” series. The crazy cat lady, uh… yes, that would be me. As it is, with allergic husband and all – we have three.

Growing up with three brothers my family always had variety of species dwelling on the property: in garbage cans (hognose snakes – and boy, was mother shocked when she went to throw the trash in), in cans (toads for the hognose snakes to eat), in jars (lightning bugs don’t live long in jars – in case you wondered), in hutches (about 48 hamsters at a time), in the dog house (between 7 and 13 cats at a time – they took over the dog’s house), in the pond (goldfish until the catfish ate them, but that’s another post), in homemade cages (for the praying mantis or surviving caught mice), in aquariums (about 10 of them for the budding tropical fishery), and on the side porch(dogs – usually three at a time).

Don’t think I wasn’t in the middle of all of it. I handle snakes. Have a snake question? Ask me. Insects? Expert. I adore frogs – the cool green ones. Not so fond of toads. In my mind the jury is still out on whether those bumps give you warts. AND when you pick up a toad it PEES on you! And its pee probably gives you warts also.

I suppose you can tell I had a problem with warts as a kid.

I was always involved with the animals. We grew up out in the country. Apart from my brothers, I wasn’t allowed friends at my house so the animals were my companions. I would even sneak out at night to sleep in the dog house with the cats. Warm kittens curled up and purring on your chest – there’s nothing like it. Is that weird? Probably.

But dogs? Couldn’t stand them. My brothers loved them. My brothers smelled like the dogs, i.e. don’t like either of them. (Okay – for the record, I love my brothers now, but this was then and now is now.)

I grew up and discovered I liked boys. I even married one. Although he is allergic to cats and initially I gave up a cat to marry my husband. He has been suffering ever since because we have cats. Heh. Heh. Though it is my theory that if you live with an animal long enough you become immune to that animal. There is scientific evidence to back this up. Apparently the cat’s saliva is particular to the cat and humans can build up a resistance. This proves my husband’s undying love as he has put up with and grown immune to our many fuzzy felines for all these thirty years.

Baby number one was a boy. I don’t know why it is that there’s this floating cultural idea that boys need a dog but I believed that my son needed a dog. We went to the shelter and the first puppy I saw was too adorable to turn down. Part German Shepherd and part Lhasa-Apse (I don’t know how either), Grover looked like Benji, but turned out to be the dog from hell. He tore off the siding of the house, the tile from the bathroom floor, ate through a storm door, and made life-changing messes on the carpet. I had him very well-trained. Only he was so smart he would watch to see when I wasn’t looking.

We gave him to a good home.

Years later one of our beloved cats went missing. I visited all the pounds. No Ajax. But, I phoned my husband, “Hey! I found a chihuahua that looks just like the cat.” “NO DOGS!” said my husband. I went home and pouted and whined. Poor puppy. Poor, poor little puppy – in that cold, cruel pound. “OKAY!” said my husband. “BUT IT WILL BE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!”

Fourteen years later we had to put that precious pound puppy down and it was horrible. Yes, Skittles was the husband’s lap puppy for all those years.

Our wonderful Big Boy is a delight. All 80 pounds of him. Yes, the shelter people said he wouldn’t get any larger than 45 pounds. They lied! I could tell from his baby photos that his hooves declared him to be a future monster. We live in a big city. And he has a monster-dog bark.

I’m so glad we have him.

Last night was a little on the coolish side. Big Boy was shoved up against me in the bed, a snoring heater of a dog. Warm dogs smell like a combination of warm buttered popcorn and canned peas, have you ever noticed?

It’s the best scent in the world.

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