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Jun. 23rd, 2009

Don't Leave Those Kittens in the Road!

Do you ever find yourself taking a strange back road for no other reason than, because? Have you noticed when you do, you sometimes stumble across something unexpected that made you glad you took the road?

Something like this?

And this?

They were in  a little heap in the road (a fourth one lay dead off to the side). I didn't have a crate or box with me so I put them in my hat and took them to a safe, warm place - my friend Ann's house.

Ann is a cat-nut  so I figured I could pawn them off on her. Wrong. She has doctored and bathed them and now she must send them away as she is becoming too attached. Sigh. 

Tomorrow they come to stay with me and I have no clue what I'm going to do with them. What if I can't find someone to adopt them? I don't regret picking them up, I just don't want three cats. In fact, I don't want any cats.

It is a true dilemma. Surely someone out there is looking for a cat, maybe it's you...are you?

Jun. 18th, 2009

The Wren ... Again

Pictured below is the hat I wear to protect my head from the sun. Usually. On top are the leather gloves that prevent my hands from getting pickers when I pull weeds. Normally. Both of these are out of order because....

I failed to take them inside despite knowing a Wren uses them for a nesting platform. Annually.   

The bars in the forefront belong to a trellis that should be holding up my climbing Sweet Peas. Rocking chairs, side tables, and a weed eater form a barricade to keep curious canine snouts away from the eggs.

How long does it take for Wren eggs to hatch? Surely not infinity, although it seems that way. I've had to buy a new hat. I no longer pull weeds for lack of gloves (right!) My climbing Sweet Peas are rambling down instead of up, forming a jumble of pink and green vegetation perfect for lurking Copperhead snakes. I am powerless and my life is out of control because of a bird no bigger than a Kiwi fruit.

Today, when I peeked inside the nest, the speckled eggs had disappeared. In their place? Awwww.

Apr. 16th, 2009

A Lousy Break

This little fella is called a Chinese Crested dog. Does he look worried or what? I can't figure out if it's because he's waiting to be neutered, or if it's because he's been told that little tuft of fur on his forehead is not up to breed standards.

Seriously, how fair is that? The dude's got about fifteen strands to work with and he gets kicked to the curb because his poof came in with a part across the middle. 


Feb. 19th, 2009

Is There No Honor Among Thieves?

Every morning at half past ten a family of deer pass through my yard. Each day they pause to graze and Frannie, who does not allow wildlife on her turf, breaks into a fit of barking, throws herself at the door until I open it, leaps off the porch, and races up the hill. The deer casually  flip their tails at her and bound into the woods.

Cody generally gallops up the hill behind Frannie then stops and looks puzzled. Obviously there's no hunting dog in his gene pool. So...

This morning the deer charged through the yard at warp speed. I didn't give it a thought as I let the dogs out. Not once did I ask myself this compelling question, "What were the deer running from?"

Instead, I picked up the phone and called a friend. As I chatted I heard frantic, barking, growls, and a big yelp. I stepped onto the porch then shouted at my friend, "Gotta go. It's wild dogs!"

They were three of them, mean and ugly and fanning out to surround Frannie and Cody. With my heart racing, I sprinted inside, grabbed my .410 shotgun, and ran onto the porch. I pulled the hammer back as I aimed, braced myself, then pulled the trigger. Click.

What the hell?

It wasn't loaded. How could it not be loaded? I always keep it loaded. Realization struck with the speed of an asp: I'd recently loaned my house to friends who'd taken a few things with them when they'd left: my pocket change, the paper towel holder, my Multi-tool, a shower curtain, an oral thermometer, and other such random items. They must have been playing with the gun.

A stream of invectives issued from my mouth as I stomped into the house for a new shotgun shell. When I returned to the porch the wild dogs had fled.  Okay, so you live and learn. My dogs are safe, my gun is loaded, and those people will never be invited back.  But my self-image took a hit.

I'd charged onto the porch feeling like Annie Oakley, heroine of the Wild West. Now I feel as though I ought to move to Mayberry and change my name to Barnalina Fife. Darn!

Feb. 17th, 2009

Rainbows - Either Ya Love 'Em or Ya Hate 'Em

Last week I saw my second rainbow ever and, let me tell you, it was a mighty fine sight. As I gawped in wonder, another rainbow appeared. My third rainbow ever!

They were close enough they could pat my head (if they'd wanted to.) The colors were so vibrant I'm pretty sure I heard them hum - mmmmmmmmm.

And you'll never guess where they ended. At my house.

I cannot believe how happy they've made me feel. At night their colors dance behind my eyelids. In quiet moments I hear their tuneless song. I'm in love with rainbows!

But today a thought tiptoed across my mind that is so outrageous I can hardly put it in words. If there are people who love rainbows, doesn't it mean there are people who hate them? There must be. If there weren't, it would mean everyone on this planet is in agreement about it.

Seriously, how likely is that?

Feb. 13th, 2009

Puppy Love

It has been way too long since I've regaled you with a puppy tale. I've decided to correct this by introducing you to Little Man Cody, who was rescued from the brink of death by friends of mine. 

His story begins on a sad note. Last May Cody and his brother, Angel, were found in a ditch, barely alive.  Angel died within a few hours. Cody hung on by a thread, so sick, it didn't seem possible he'd survive.

But he did.

It took a lot of loving care to get Cody on his feet. Three weeks after his rescue he was up and at 'em.


  He chugged along ...

And flourished.

And before too long it was time to send him to a shelter in search of a forever home. But there was a problem putting Cody on the Puppy Wagon - no one wanted to do it . 

"I'll adopt him," I said.

Did I really say that? I already had Frannie, a spoiled four-year old pooch who would never allow another dog into her home. I amended my offer with a wimpy, "If Frannie agrees." 

So, Cody came to meet Frannie. Nice, welcome huh?

As odd as this sounds, that is Frannie's come-hither look. She liked him!

And so it came to pass that the little urchin came to live with Frannie and me. And just like Jack's bean stalk, he and his ears started to grow.

And grow...

And grow until one day...

He morphed. His ears succumbed to gravity, and his tail swept up into a mighty plume. 

I'm totally smitten.

I think he is too.

Feb. 4th, 2009

Stop! Thanks.

Snow has come to Northeast Tennessee. Schools and businesses are closed and people are holed up inside their homes, your humble narrator included. 

I do not like snow. Not that the weather gives a hoot. Rain on Monday morning turned to fat clumps of the "s"-word and no matter how hard I screamed at it to go away, it kept coming down.

As you can see below, my yard which normally sports a colorful winter coat of rust, gold, and green, was transformed into a monochromatic setting reminiscent of the Great White North - a place from which I flee every January.


My options were to sulk or make the best of it. The latter won so I put on a pot of soup and settled in to watch the storm. By early afternoon, the snow gave way to fog that shrouded the distant mountains in a cloak of depressing gunmetal gray.

But by late afternoon, the sun burst through the fog. Its light show more than compensated for the dearth of color earlier in the day.

I instantly forgot I was a snow-phobe and begged to be shown a snowbow, a little-known cousin of the popular rainbow. (I suspect these exist only in the realms of unicorns and faeries but I still want to see one.)  So I watched. And I hoped. And pretty soon I relaxed and allowed myself to just be.

Serenity wrapped me in its gentle embrace.

When darkness came I crept outside to see what was going on. A crescent moon beamed its lopsided smile my way. Stars shimmered and winked. Dry branches rustled in the breeze.  I went to bed feeling at peace with the entire universe.

Tuesday morning I awakened to a sight so brilliantly gorgeous, I stood in the snow in my slippers and nightgown and gawked.

It wasn't long  before a gang of dark, roiling clouds tumbled over the mountain top and jumped the sun.

Heavy snow rode in on the back of a fierce, keening wind. Fistlike gusts slammed into my house rattling the windows and shaking the floors.

The storm blustered into the night. It huffed and it puffed and tried to blow the house down. I snuggled into my chair feeling warm, and safe, and lucky.. to be here, to be me.

At bedtime I stepped outside for a final check on the weather. The storm had raged off leaving countless strands of glittery stars strewn across the sky; priceless gems worn, then casually tossed aside.

I breathed in the fresh, clean air then grinned my thanks to Mother Earth, the sky, and the snow for forcing me stop and appreciate the beauty that surrounds me. And for reminding me to be grateful.

Then I laughed out loud. Because the thing for which I'm most grateful is....gratitude. It makes me feel happy. And peaceful. And just plain all right.

How about that?

Jan. 24th, 2009

And Why Were You in the Bathroom Together?

I picked up the fellow pictured below. He was in a bathtub. I didn't do it because I like to pick up giant spiders. I wanted to take a closer look at it, and I thought it was dead. (I was also showing off because the two people with me were acting squeamish about it.)

Its leg was cold and clammy.

"I had one of these on my lampshade once," I said.

It moved.

I shrieked and flung it down. The three of us ran out of the bathroom screaming. We huddled outside the door shivering, and shuddering, and quaking in our Doc Martens. In quivery voices we discussed the likelihood of a spider that looked so dead still being alive. None of us had the courage to check.

Was it dead or playing head-games with us?  I'm sure I don't know.

Jan. 20th, 2009

Your Wish Has Been Granted

Sometimes when the sky is gray and I'm feeling down, I shake my fists toward the heavens and shout, "Give me a break!"

Today, the heavens answered back.

Okay, so maybe it was the clouds that got the break, at least I got some type of response.

Jan. 15th, 2009

This Old World Just Keeps Getting Smaller

Many years ago, I broke my parents' hearts by dropping out of college, packing up my bell-bottom jeans, and moving to Boston with my friend Wendy. Why? I can't remember. I'm sure it wasn't to get a job cleaning rooms at a Holiday Inn, but that's what Wendy and I ended up doing.

The job was pure drudgery; changing sheets and cleaning bathrooms has never been my thing. The Big Moment of that otherwise unremarkable experience  came when Wendy found out the members of the group Three Dog Night, were staying at the hotel. We looked up their room numbers then skulked through the hotel lobby and hovered in hallway near their doors. We were rewarded with a close encounter.

Wendy: You're Three Dog Night!
TDN Guy: Yes. You can clean our rooms now.
Me doing my bobble-head imitation: Okay, okay, okay.
Wendy who retained her dignity: We aren't the maids for your rooms.
TDN Guy: Will you find the maid who is and ask her to do it?
Wendy: Okay

The three men brushed past us and disappeared down the hall. End of Big Moment.

Or was it?

Today Ann and I met with a husband and wife team to brainstorm on fund raising ideas for the animal shelter. The husband is the former drummer for Three Dog Night. Yep, the very same dude who'd wanted his room cleaned by little old me. I told him about not doing his room. He didn't remember. We all found it hilarious.

He and his family moved to this tiny, rural county in the middle of Appalachia for the same reason I did - because.  Since they've been here, he's launched a local  program of Inner City Slickers , which provides a weekend of horses, compassion, and camaraderie for at-risk teens.  And now he's going to lend an advisory hand to the animal shelter board.

Seriously, what are the odds of this City Slicker meeting up with that City Slicker two times under such random circumstances?

Jan. 8th, 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name...

I'm in the animal shelter office with Ann, calling people who have signed their pets up for our monthly mobile spay-neuter clinic. I'm having a run of bad luck, phones that ring forever with no answering machine or voice mail. Ann is on a roll, everyone she calls is available and ready to schedule. I suffer a pang of call-envy as Ann gets another hit while I listen to an interminable ring .

A loud, elderly female voice booms out of Ann's phone. "I'm glad you called," the woman hems then haws and says, "I have to ask you something. " Pause. "About my male cat that was fixed awhile back." Hesitation. "I don't know how to say this... but ...I think they're growing back!"

Ann's eyebrows raise, "Growing back?" she says, "I don't think they can do that. Are you talking about the little fuzzy pouches? There are little fuzzy pouches there."

Little fuzzy pouches?

I end my fruitless call and listen up. I can't make out the response from the woman but Ann says, "My cats have little fuzzy pouches."

Silence on the other end of the line.

 "Why don't you feel the pouches to see if there are testicles inside?" Ann says.

The woman squawks in indignation, "That is not something I practice doing. Going around feeling my cat's testicles!"

Uh-oh. Ann tries to explain it's no big deal but the woman isn't buying it. Soooo, the woman is bringing the cat to the next spay-neuter clinic for Ann to feel the little fuzzy pouches. 

Tee-hee. There's something to be said for no answer, no voice-mail calls.

Dec. 20th, 2008

Appalachian History Tour - Gustatory Heaven on the Road to Sneedville, Tennessee

Ann and I left the Vardy museum and took a narrow dirt road over a tall, steep ridge in search of adventure. We rounded a downhill curve and almost smacked into a small school bus that was stopped in the middle of the road. A woman sauntered down the driveway of a tiny white house and crossed the road to the bus.  A flock of chickens clustered around her legs, clucking, flapping, and bustling to keep up.  When the woman and her peeps got to the other side, the driver handed a small boy out the window. No one spoke as she set the child down then took the backpack offered by the driver.

The boy raised his arms like he was a traffic guard then stood motionless, and expressionless, as the  woman slipped the backpack onto his shoulders. The chickens crowded around the lad, pecking his feet in a friendly manner.  When the backpack was in place, the woman turned and strode back to the house. A moment later, the boy followed,  and behind him the chickens ran squawking and pumping their legs as fast as they would go.

 "Well," I said, "now we know why the chicken crossed the road."
"Yep," Ann said and we continued on our way. We drove for several miles in silence then Ann said, "I don't know where we are. Look for signs"

Signs? There were no signs.  There wasn't anything. Not one single thing until ...

An oasis in the sea of nothingness that did not allow drinking or open beer on the premises. Ann went inside while I snapped this exceedingly poor picture of a tiny convenience store/ pool hall/ eatery. That done, I followed Ann. 

A very old man in a dark raincoat and fedora hat sat on a folding chair just inside the door holding an uncut sandwich with both hands as if offering communion. He took a gigantic bite and chewed slowly.

"Doesn't that look good?" Ann said nodding toward the man, "Want to get a sandwich?"
Oh wait, we were on an adventure.
"Umm, okay," I replied. 

The proprietor got busy.

He grabbed a jar of Hellman's, a slab of Velveeta, and a hunk of baloney out of a cooler, slammed the lid and used the top for a cutting board. A loaf of Wonder Bread magically appeared. He slapped four slices down then sawed thick pieces of cheese and baloney onto the bread. He plunged the knife in the mayo jar and slathered cholesterol-laden gobs onto the meat. He fetched a plump tomato from a box on the floor and added glistening red chunks to the sandwiches.  We got a couple of Diet Cokes and a Baby Ruth candy bar and I generously offered to buy lunch - $5.10.

When Ann and I repaired to the car to eat she said, "Did you notice he didn't wash his hands?"
I shook my head, while I arranged my sandwich for a photo shoot, "I was too busy wondering about the knife."

Now I'm going to say right up front, I know this sandwich looks like one of the grossest things you've ever seen. And under normal circumstances, this City Slicker would agree with you. But we were lost on the back roads of Appalachia, and it was a beautiful fall day, and we were starving, and, well, this was the best sandwich either one of us has ever had! Seriously. 

The Wonder Bread stuck to the roofs of our mouths, tomato juice dribbled down our chins, we mmmmmm'ed after every bite. In fact, this sandwich was so damn good, I'm not even going to bother telling you about the writer's retreat cabins we found on the banks of a roaring river.

Or the pioneer graves in the middle of a hay field. 

I'm going to stop this tale at the sandwich and say it was one of those perfectly perfect days that cannot be arranged or repeated. It only happens if it happens and you go when Ann invites you on an outing.

Nov. 10th, 2008

Appalachian History Tour Part 2 - Mahala Mullins - A Mulungeon Legend Lives On

After Ann, Claude and I left the museum, we trotted across the street to tour the cabin of an infamous Mulungeon moonshiner named Mahala Mullins. She ran her successful business in the latter part of the nineteenth century from a cabin hidden deep in the woods at the top of a ridge.

Moonshiners weren't anything out of the ordinary back then but Mahala was notable because of  her fine 'shine and  her astounding girth. She weighed somewhere between 500 and 650 pounds. Many a sheriff showed up at her door with a warrant for her arrest but none succeeded in taking her in. Not because of her wily ways, they couldn't get her through the door.  Here's a picture of Mahala looking not-so-lean but plenty mean. 

The Vardy Historical Society disassembled Mahala's cabin and moved it down the ridge. It was a painstaking job but they felt the cabin and her legend were worth preserving.   

Mahala's home was built as two separate cabins. On one side was the kitchen with a table, chairs, and a bed. (I'm sure the cabin is much tidier in this picture than it was back in Mahala's day.) She, her husband, and children lived in and conducted their nefarious activities from here.  It's hard to imagine more than one person residing in this tiny space, much less twenty -  with one of them weighing a quarter of a ton! (Yes, my friend, she had eighteen children.)

The other cabin was a sleeping area. The rope bed and straw mattress are typical of that time. On the far side of the room a narrow staircase leads to a loft where tobacco could be hung or extra guests and family members could be accomadated. The curved window-top on the left side of the picture is a common feature of Mulungeon cabins.

The two sides were divided by a "dog trot" - an open space that served a as a fire break in case one of the cabins caught on fire, a place for one's daily or possibly weekly ablutions, and the spot daddy Mullins took the boys when they needed a whippin'. The bathroom facilities were located in the woods out yonder. You can read Mahala's death notices here and they are well worth a gander. They are filled with anecdotes about Mahala and the mysterious Mulungeons who inahbited these hills for as long as anyone can remember.

And that's it. See what I mean about a short tour? When we were finished with that we thanked Claude for opening up the museum for us and set out on the next part of our adventure in which we learned the answer to an age-old question, indulged in a wonderful lunch, and visited a perfect spot for a writing retreat.

Nov. 3rd, 2008

Appalachian History Tour Part 1 - Vardy, Tennessee

If my friend Ann ever invites you on an outing - go. What started as a leaf-peeping tour  ended with a trip back in time, an adventure in culinary daring, and the discovery of a wonderful spot for a writer's retreat. The day was so full, it must be recounted in more than one blog entry so as not to overwhelm my reader.

We began with a let's-see-what-happens itinerary. You know the kind. You set out in the morning with no plan other than taking back roads through the Appalachian Mountains. The day couldn't have been finer, a slight nip in the air and a clear blue sky provided the perfect backdrop for the blinding fall colors.

At the last minute, Ann had a brilliant idea and called an old friend of hers, Claude, and asked him to meet us here:

This might look like nowhere to you, but it's actually a community called Vardy. As you've probably guessed, you won't find Vardy on a map. It was established in the early part of the twentieth century by Presbyterian missionaries and consisted of a church, school, and two houses - one for Mr.and Mrs. Leonard, the minister, and his wife, and one for Miss Rankin, a teacher. (There were others who came before these three but they were the primary players in this story.)

Ann's friend, Claude grew up on a farm on the top of that last ridge in the picture and attended the school that was located behind the church in the forefront. The church (est. 1899) is now a one-room museum which contains photographs and artifacts of the Vardy school (est. 1902) and the community in general. Claude's colorful stories of growing up in this remote area and the missionaries who influenced his life, turned our museum tour into a time-travel journey. We were there- in Appalachia - and it was the 1930's.

Mr. Leonard and Miss Rankin were people who believed in treating the person as well as the soul. The church provided for the spiritual side of life and the school taught the children how to live. Vocational training such as woodworking, was an important part of the teaching plan. The children were also exposed to a regular program of films to bring the outside world to their isolated community. An entire display cabinet is filled with the filmstrips; topics from "Slave Life" to "Russia,"...

...to the proper way to cook eggs.

Sadly, the shoolhouse fell to ruin and was torn down.There is an exact replica inside the museum and I could kick myself for accidentally deleting the picture from my camera. It was lovely. A three story Cape Cod, painted gray with white trim, and loaded with windows (Miss Rankin was a firm believer in proper air circulation). It looked more like a resort hotel than a school in Appalachia.

When the children reached the eighth grade, those who showed the most promise were sent away to high school. Claude was one of them. At the age of thirteen he and another boy left home, took a bus to Knoxville, and boarded a train to North Carolina where they would continue their education. Claude cried all the way.  (He went on to get an undergraduate degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, and a master's degree from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.)

Miss Rankin was not only a missionary and a teacher, she was a nurse who insisted the children have proper nutrition. Each morning on his way to school, Claude and the other children stopped at Miss Rankin's house where they drank two glasses of milk and had two tablespoons of Cod Liver Oil. After that they stepped on the scale, and their weight was recorded. Every day.

Miss Rankin also taught the children about preventing sickness through proper hygiene, patched up wounds, cared for families in their homes when illness struck,  and delivered babies.  When a due-date was near, Miss Rankin loaded up her "birthin' kit" and left it at the expectant mother's house so it would be ready for action.

After Miss Rankin delivered the baby, she stayed on for a day or so to look after mother and newborn, and anyone else in the family who needed looking after. The missionaries also distributed used shoes, coats, and clothing to the residents of Vardy, many who would have otherwise gone barefoot and cold.

Claude made my day by giving me a book entitled, "Windows on the Past - The Cultural History of Vardy"  by the Vardy Community Historical Society. It contains oral history, lots of photos, and all kinds of interesting stuff. You can purchase your own copy here which, oddly enough, is in the UK. Or, you can see pictures and find out more about this amazing community

Our tour of the Vardy museum ended with Claude describing the inhabitants of the area at that time. They were poor white farmers and an even poorer group of people known as Mulungeons. If you are wondering what a Mulungeon is, join the crowd. They are dark-skinned, blue-eyed people who were discovered living in the Appalachians in northeast Tennessee when the first settlers arrived. The Mulungeons spoke English, called themselves Porta-ghee, and no one has a clue where they came from.

Claude told us when he was away at school he read an article in the Saturday Evening Post about the Mulungeons. The photographs that accompanied the article were of his aunts and uncles. When he returned home he asked his mother if he was a Mulungeon. 

"Don't you ever say that again," was her reply. (Which gives you a pretty good idea of where the Mulungeons stood in the pecking order back then.)

And with that, Claude took us across the street to another museum, the former home of an infamous Mulungeon named Mahala Mullins.

(To be continued)


Sep. 20th, 2008

Think Positive and No Hurdle is Too High

You think I'm talking in cliches? Well how would you describe the coupling of a white male Chihuahua with a female Black Lab? 

Does the very notion conjure up images of ladders, trapezes, or parachutes? Nobody is sure how the dude managed but the proof, as they say, is in the puppies.

Sep. 14th, 2008

Guess What's in the Bag and Win a Prize

It's ninety degrees and humid. I squat on my haunches over a shallow ditch, my gloved hands probing through the brambly weeds. Sweat rolls down my cheeks to the delight of the sweat bees crawling on my face.  I think I may be standing in Poison Ivy.  I'm with a group of volunteers cleaning up trash on the newly acquired animal shelter property.

Most of the other folks have already left. I intend to knock off as soon as I finish unearthing a final trash bag. I lean  over, grasp a corner, and tug. The ancient plastic disintegrates, disgorging its contents in a heap between my legs. Large brown bones, dry with age. A ribcage balances on top.

"Uh, Mike," I say to one of my shelter buds, "I just found a bag of bones." 

Mike was in law enforcement in the Park Service so I figure he's an old hand at this type of discovery. He comes to gaze over my shoulder.

"A dog," he says.
"You think?"
"I don't know. Did you find a skull?"
"Try to find one."

I set the ribcage aside and pick up a hip socket, part of a spine, a leg bone, and some mystery items. I have no clue whether they are animal or human; my knowledge of the skeletal system is gleaned entirely from eating chicken.

I shiver with  ghoulish anticipation, what if this was someone important?  Who's been missing for decades?  I could become famous. I'm picturing myself on Oprah when I get to a clump of brown, matted fiber. As I reach to gather it up Mike says, "Hair."

My hackles rise and goose bumps race down my arms. What if this really was a person? I swat at the tangled locks as though warding off an attack, then gingerly resume pawing through the remains. I am no longer having fun. Eventually I come to a familiar sight, a white helmet of bone with two empty eye sockets. 

"I found the skull," I say. Mike squats next to me as I lift my find from its hiding place in the ditch. The top teeth are still attached.
"A dog," Mike says.
He's right. We stare at it for a moment then I toss it in a bucket with the rest of the trash. My heebie-jeebies have been replaced with disappointment.
"I thought it might have been a person," I say.
"Me too," Mike says.
"Jimmy Hoffa."

Oh well. 

Sep. 6th, 2008

Dipping for Mange

If you've never dipped a dog for mange, then you haven't lived. Picture a small, water-filled swimming pool, sitting in the shade of a tall leafy tree. Stir in a sulphur-lye mixture that has been perfumed with mint, in an unsuccessful attempt to to mask the putrid odor. Next, catch, muzzle, and drag seventeen unwilling dogs one-by-one and plunge them into the smelly brew.

They are rubbed and scrubbed as their personal space is violated in every way. Splish, splash, lunge, writhe. Each dog has its own unique way of struggling to escape.  And as if yellowed hands, stinging eyes, and dripping clothes aren't punishment enough for us  subjecting the dogs to such humiliation, we have this dude hanging over us sneering and judging our every move.

Jun. 29th, 2008

Spider in the House? No Problemo!

I'd like to start out with a disclaimer: I do not suffer from arachnophobia. Nevertheless, I was highly disturbed when I glanced up from my book and saw a brown, hairy spider with a leg span larger than my hand, lurking on a lampshade six inches from my head.

I did what any normal person would do; screeched, threw my book across the room, and catapulted from my chair landing two feet away in a Samurai wrestler stance. That done,  I tried to figure out how to get rid of the spider without :
  1.  touching it

  2.  squishing it on the lampshade

  3.  allowing it to escape inside my house

I removed one of my slippers, extended my arm to full length, and swiped at it. The spider leaped onto the floor and scuttled in my direction. I jumped from foot-to-foot emitting a sound that cannot be duplicated with a written word.  I smacked him with my slipper. He launched into the air then bounced onto the floor and rolled. As he attempted to stagger to his feet (do spiders have feet?) I hit him again. And again.  And again. I didn't stop until I was sure the dude had gone to spider heaven. 

You'd think I would have settled down after that but no;  my skin crawled and that damn noise was still coming out of my mouth. I needed to clean him up and there was no way I was going to let any part of me touch any part of him.Grossed out beyond belief, I used three layers of paper towels to scrape his remains off the floor and dispose of them in the trash. I set my tainted slipper on the porch to deal with later. Then I sat down and waited a half hour for my heart to stop pounding and the hair on my arms to lie flat.

Perhaps you think I overreacted, or used excessive force, when the spider had shown no signs of aggression. But, seriously, would you have handled things any differently? 


Jun. 24th, 2008

Hobo Pups Ride the Rails

 The fifteen pups we pulled out of a gully are on their way to being adopted. For a change of pace, nine of them went to Florida with a rescue group that works with a shelter in a nearby county. The other six took the usual route to a happy home and rode the puppy wagon to New York. 

In case you are wondering what the deal is with the puppy wagon, you can read a story that was recently aired on local television. That's our very own puppy wagon lady, Sharon Cherry, holding a puppy and squinting at the camera like she's getting ready to slug someone. Maybe she was thinking about whoever it is that tosses these little guys out. Usually she's smiling. The rescue work she does comes straight from her heart. Because of Sharon, all the poochlings you've seen in this blog have found a happy home.

Here are a few snaps of the hobo pups just before we ran 'em outta town. Awww, aren't they darling?


The runt of the group

Buddha, the anti-runt

What do puppies do on a hot day when their bellies are full?

Jun. 10th, 2008

Puppy Hobo Camp

 The day is hot and humid. I'm with Gloria, Martin, and Linda, animal lovers and fellow adventurers. We've tromped through waist-high grass, slipped down a steep slope, tramped through a briar thicket, cracked off Tarzan-vines as thick as our wrists, and come to a halt at a barbed wire fence.  Nobody makes a sound as we gaze in disbelief at the scene below. 

Hobos in Chicago, 1929 

Okay, so maybe it's not exactly like that, but it is a hobo camp, a puppy hobo camp. 

It's in a litter strewn gully under an old Maple tree, sheltered by honey suckle vines and bramble bushes, with a floor of bare earth, and a whole bunch of puppies. All ages, all sizes, staring at us as though they've never seen a human before - which they probably haven't. One of the older pups grrrr's and they all scramble into a  tunnel dug into the earth under the power train of an ancient tractor. 

These puppies belong to the wild dogs that live behind Gloria's barn. We've got to catch them, and it must be done before the mama-dogs come back and rip us to shreds.

Gloria and I race to the barn for a crate. When we get back, we see Martin and Linda on the far side of the fence holding three squirming puppies. I climb through the barbed wire and the Great Puppy Capture is underway. Martin chases down two escapees hiding in the briar patch and Linda discovers a second entrance into the tunnel. She kneels on the tractor parts, and hangs over the hole while  Martin jabs inside the tunnel with a weather beaten fence rail. A rusty ironing board is our walkway across the gully.Each time a puppy tries to make a break, Linda scoops it up, hands it to Martin, he hands it to me, I hand it to Gloria, and she puts it in the crate. 

Jab-Scoop-Pass. We're at it for almost two hours. Things do not go smoothly. When the remaining puppies refuse to budge, we dig through disintegrating bags of trash with our bare hands, trying to break through the roof of the tunnel. Linda gets bitten. I fall and land on my butt inside a car wheel. Our arms are scratched and we've got ticks in our hair. 

At last we've got all but four of the puppies. The crate if filled to capacity and we're suffering from heat prostration. Martin and I struggle to carry the crate up the steep hill. Linda and Gloria straggle behind. We load the crate onto the back of a pickup and drive it around to unload in a kennel inside Gloria's yard. The catch of the day was 15 of these:  

And these:

And these:

The next day we went back for the rest of the gang, but they were gone. The mama-dogs have hidden them so we'll never find them. But then, that's what they thought about this hobo camp, is it not?


Jun. 2nd, 2008

Phew, Am I Tired!

 My back aches, my muscles are sore, and I'm exhausted. No, it's not the flu, I spent the weekend working at a Remote Area Medical (RAM) spay/neuter clinic at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.

I was in the recovery/discharge area, a space the size of a two-car garage, along with about 50 other volunteers and lots of dogs and cats. In two days we handled over 250 animals ranging from tiny kittens to 150 pound dogs, and I do mean, handled. I sat with them on the floor while they regained consciousness, rubbed them when they needed comforting, and carried them to their owner's cars when it was time to go home. I muzzled an agressive dog with my hand while it got a vaccination, watched a cat wig out when it got a shot, witnessed a huge dog have a seizure, mopped up bloody sutures, picked up, cleaned up, and did whatever else was needed as it came along.

This is the second time I've worked at a RAM clinic. It's a remarkable combination of controlled (usually) chaos and teamwork. I can't wait to do it again!

May. 25th, 2008

Love Fest in the Woods

 Monday: I awaken thinking I've developed a severe case tinnitus.

Tuesday: I realize the noise is outside my head. Someone to the east of me must be running an electric sander from dawn to dusk.

Wednesday: The noise is louder; I finally realize it's 17-year Cicadas. They have crawled up out of the ground by the thousands to mate and die. The din is incredible, but not as bad as the sound of a 20-year old truck with the oversized tires and no muffler driving into my yard. It's the Odom boys! Fortyish brothers who were recently released from prison and are living on the mountain with their parents.
 "Hey lady," says the beefy blond driver as he flicks a cigarette ash out the window, "We thought your burglar alarm was going off."
"Nope," I say, "It's cicadas."
"We've been driving around trying to figure out where the noise is coming from," says the wiry dark-haired one with the soul patch.
"I usually get my gun when I don't know who's driving up here," I say, trying for the right balance of casual but tough. 
"What's your name?" asks the blond bomber, "That way we'll know you, next time we come up."
Yikes! How do I tell them to never come back without pissing them off? I don't.
I reluctantly tell them my name, and they tell me theirs. We all smile now that we're buddy-pals then, with a final flick of an ash, the blond guy says, "See ya, lady."  

He wheels the truck around, and roars away. I turn to the woods and shake my fist, "Shut! Up!!" 

Sunday: I'm slowly going mad; surrounded from morning to night by a steady drilling sound and blaring klaxon-like calls. What if the Odom boys come back? The sound of their truck will be drowned by the cries of Cicadas in ecstasy.  

Please, let the ugly brutes (the insects) finish quickly and drop dead. Until then I will sleep with one eye open and a shotgun next to my bed. 



May. 10th, 2008

Home at Last

Sadie is quickly learning to use her legs, she has mastered the lope and the gallop, but hasn't quite figured out how to stop. Her joyful greetings have launched more than one person into the stratosphere! She's now in the capable hands of a Great Dane rescue group. But not for long. 

A family has already filled out an adoption application for her.  The family will be checked and double-checked to make sure they are the right kind of people to own this gigantic galumphing sweetie-pie. 

With luck, Sadie will be in her permanent home in time for a belated May Day celebration. She might even be persuaded to take a spin around the Maypole, not attached to a chain, mind you, just for the sheer fun ot it. After all, she's been given a solemn promise;  she'll never be chained again.

Apr. 21st, 2008

At a Loss for Words, Well, Almost

Sadie has been at her foster home for a week. 

Seven days.

That's not very long. 

It's actually kind of short.

But, oh, how that girl has changed!


Apr. 16th, 2008

I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again...

 "I cannot understand the cruelty of human beings. We're the only things alive that're intentionally cruel, and the only ones who can do something about it." 

That's what my brother, Peter, wrote to me when I told him about Sadie. For some reason the abuse suffered by this big, lovable pooch has made me sadder than any of the mangy, wormy, starved pups I've fostered. I finally figured it out; the puppies were neglected, abused, and starved but they were still full of vip and vim. Sadie's spirit had been broken...well, almost. Severely battered as she was,  huge doses of love and food in her belly, have pulled her back from the edge and gotten her looking at the sunny side of the street. 

She's at the puppy wagon lady's house where she has eleven acres to roam, plenty of other dogs to play with and, of course, wonderfully kind humans to earn her trust and show her that, as a species, we ain't all bad.  

This girl is coming around so fast, she may be ready to head up north by the end of May. Yep, she's got a ticket to ride - on the Puppy Wagon! She will undoubtedly be the biggest kid in the back, tucked in with the munchkins; healthy, well-fed, and looking for the right person to take her to the loving home she should have had all along.

Sadie Taking It Easy Four Days After Her Rescue

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