Monday, November 25, 2013

Cold weather tips from the dogs

I realized this weekend that the dogs are masters of how to be truly successful in cold weather. Here are how the dogs at my house deal with cold weather:

1.  Drink plenty of water. I tend to forget to drink anything. So, when I get up to move around (see how I remember to do that, below), I heat some water for tea. I try to make it herbal so it counts for my total glasses of water for the day. 

2.  Keep moving. It may be too cold to walk those 10,000 daily steps outside. If that's the case, get up from the desk, sofa, chair every hour or so. I have an alarm set on my FitBit ( to remind me to move around.

3.  Get outside, but don't spend a lot of time out there when it's really cold. Even in the winter, we need a certain amount of sunshine to stay healthy and keep our bones strong.

4.  Nap. Yep, that's right. If I'm tired and I have the time, I curl up for a nap - usually on the sofa with a book and a dog to provided added heat. I always say I would make a good bear when the days are short and the temperatures are in the "It's too cold for me" range!

5.  Eat lightly. I can't give in to those urges to eat lots of heavy food during the colder months. It makes me feel awful - kind of like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. And I dislike that feeling more than I like heavy food.

6.  Play. Even if it's only for a few minutes, I try to throw a ball for the dogs and just breathe. It elevates my heart rate just a bit and gives my soul a chance to soar.

7.  Bundle up. I have come to realize that, living in Oklahoma, we often don't have the best clothes to brave the cold weather. I'm going to try to add some thin layers to my wardrobe in the next couple of years so I can face the cold a little more positively. But, as I mentioned before, I really hate that stuffed feeling that comes with lots of bulky clothes (or too much food!), so I am going to take my time and buy carefully.

8.  Smile anyway. My Airedale, Mattie Rae, always lived her life with joy. This winter, I am going to try to channel her philosophy of appreciating the little things and remembering to smile.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

The race is on to have the house in order, the shopping done, the food prepared for next week's influx of people. Even though my nephew, his wife and three daughters are not joining us this year, we have an additional two people (and one migratory shore bird, but that's another story). There is definitely some decluttering to be done in the next few days. Here are two of the three canine "helpers." One helped a bit too much, making the carpet shampooer necessary. A massage and a tropical island sound really good about now.

Must. Remember. To. Breathe!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The lonely walk

A dear friend is traveling final days with her beautiful Saluki. As those who love and give themselves to others, we all travel this path. It can be dark and lonely but, as we shoulder the grief, we also know we can and will do everything in our power to ensure our loved ones do not suffer.

And so today I offer my musings to these two. May their love stay strong and shine brightly, may it break the bonds of Earth and fly free in this life and beyond.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I seem to have a lot to write this week! I hope it will make up for the times I average my "normal" three posts a week.

A week of changes and realization of so many changes to come. Happy, sad, regretful, contemplative. It is what keeps each of us moving along the road, isn't it?

A beep and simulated roll of thunder woke me this morning. I read the message: "It may begin raining in 28 minutes in your location." I admit, I ignored it and burrowed a little closer to my pillow, knowing all the time there would be 12 muddy paws as penance.

Before too much longer, paws were wiped and coffee was brewing. The sun peaked from behind the clouds and, even though rain is promised today and the wind is blowing, the temperatures aren't bad for mid-November.

In an hour I will attend the memorial service of a woman I have known for most of my life. She is the mother of someone I graduated with from high school. For a while, they lived next door to us growing up. She and her husband (he's been gone for a few years now) were friends of my parents. In recent years, he had an office in the same building as my dad and they shared coffee and stories each morning. She was a school library media specialist, lived down the street from the kids and me until health concerns took her to Florida to live with her older son a little over a year ago. According to my daughter, her deep dish apple pie is the absolute best thing EVER.

And so this morning I drew deep breaths of renewal from those who offer their lessons freely and abundantly - the dogs who live at Dragonfly, our home.

Here is a bit of Saturday morning at our home (and, by the way, we are anxiously waiting for our son, brother, friend to come for a visit this afternoon. We will celebrate his new path in life and shed a few tears that he will soon leave us for a semester on the east coast of Florida).

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Fighting fire with fire" and why it's no way to train a dog - or any animal!

One of the blessings of not having subscription television is I don't have access to programming that would just make my blood pressure rise. So when I read a blog post by Victoria Stilwell discussing a recent "Real Housewives" episode, I had no idea what happened. Based on Ms. Stilwell's post, I probably don't want to watch.

One paragraph continues to stick with me. To read it in its entirety, go to But this is the gist and, to me, it pretty much sums up what I want my relationship with my own dogs - and those of the families I am fortunate enough to work with - to be: "When you fight fire with fire ... When trainers use ... intimidation, you are not only asking for a bite, but you're completely bypassing the root of the problem." Stilwell sums it up by stating the only way to truly change behavior is knowing and understanding the cause, the underlying stress or anxiety that manifests in the problem at hand.

What a powerful statement.

By the way, if you disagree with the way "training" was portrayed in this series, let Bravo know. Their official contact page is

When time is short

The Autumn season is present in more than one way in our lives right now. My parents are affected; after all, they are 91 and 92. But so, too, is their dog feeling the effects of aging. She is both an inspiration and heartbreaking to watch.

Sandy came to my parents more than a decade ago. She was at a shelter and a family friend made the match. Sandy is tan with a few darker areas around her feet and ears. She has some terrier in her, but she also has several other splashes of canine DNA. Her teeth have always been bad. At her advanced age, there may be four teeth in her mouth. My mom moistens her food and makes sure she has soft treats to allow for her inability to chew.

About a year ago, Sandy started to get a bit bald in spots. Now her entire tail is pretty much hairless. In addition she has a black square just above her tail, remnants of a skin irritation and the subsequent veterinary treatment. They never have determined what caused the loss of fur or this particular irritation.

More recently, though, Sandy has begun to cough, mainly in the morning and at bedtime. My suspicion is her heart is involved. Her groomer suspects the same (my mother believes the groomer more than me!). The rest of the day she acts fine - eating, drinking, playing with her toys. At her age, my parents are not inclined to put her through a lot of testing, so a definite diagnosis won't be forthcoming (I have discussed her symptoms with the vet, however, and she pretty much agrees with my thoughts).

This week brought a new twist and has me worried. Twice now, Sandy has "fainted." Once in the morning just as she got up for the day, the second time as she again stood to start upstairs to bed. As my mother describes it, she simply folds over then, in less than five seconds, is awake and moving again (in my mind, I think of it almost like a fainting goat!). She doesn't seem to be in any pain and her quality of life hasn't changed.

Still, I know that her time is growing short. As much as I hate what I know will inevitably come, it also breaks my heart to know Sandy will be the last dog my parents have in their home, as they are simply no longer able to care for animals safely. I watch my mom's eyes fill as she says she knows Sandy "won't be around" much longer. I listen as she mentions more frequent accidents in the house. I nod to acknowledge what each of us does in similar circumstance, that is, make accommodations to ensure our animals still feel safe, secure, clean and loved. And I know that very soon Sandy and I will make one last trip to the vet, as my mother has long since turned over that particular duty to my care. 

And so, as the days become shorter and the night falls earlier, I hold my parents and Sandy close to my heart. I hurt for them and marvel at the lessons Sandy is still teaching each of us - to bask in moment, to play often and with total abandon, to savor our meals and treats, to relish the touch of others, and to love fully each and every day.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I was reminded today that life is short and that we too often work - or wish - away our time here. It isn't always that we want time to go faster; sometimes we are so caught up in the moment and still not present in it. We are caught in the stuff and not in the living.

There are those who would say animals are less encumbered by higher-level thinking and that is why they live in the moment. More and more research proves just how highly intelligent animals are, proving what those who live with animals have always known. But, somehow, animals simply do not seemed concerned about much outside what is happening RIGHT. NOW.

It is cold and windy again today, but the sun is shining. I took a short drive at lunch and just let the warmth of the sun touch my skin. I thought about those whose paths I once considered lined with gold and how their journeys are not without some pretty wicked twists and turns. I thought of how all the dogs I am blessed to know are present in each and every moment, whether chasing a ball or chewing up the sandstone in the backyard. (ugh!)

Each of us in given a gift. So many gifts - life, love, laughter - maybe not in the amount or the time frame we would wish, but it truly is there for the asking and for the taking. But we do have to take that gift, accept it, for the presence and the present to be ours.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

The first dog I worked with was a young puppy. After we finished, he settled down for a nap.

I passed by this big guy each time I walked back and forth. He watched me with such focus and I enjoyed sitting quietly with him, asking for his health, happiness and safety.

His coloring was so different than anything I have ever seen. The steel gray of his coat shone in the light and his bark was big and deep - and impressive!

This little girl was our class dog. I don't know her name, but "Sally" kept coming to me as I interacted with her throughout the day so, to me, she is Sally.

Finally, this older boy kept following me with his eyes. I sat with him for a while, but he was uncomfortable with anyone being too close.

I pray each of these dogs finds a wonderful forever home very soon. Please join me in sending good wishes their way.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Of hope and despair

Over the past decade, I have studied Reiki - formally and on my own. I received my Reiki I attunement in 2003 in Tulsa, then again from a long-time friend several years ago. Just this past summer, I received my Reiki II attunement in Tulsa. It was a wonderful experience and came at a perfect time - my first weekend since becoming an empty-nester. It set the stage perfectly for this next stage of my life.

I took another step this weekend when I participated in an Animal Reiki workshop.

In all honesty, the class was nothing like I expected. I alternately felt sad, frustrated, irritated and restless. I firmly believe there are many paths and I disagree with those who say one path or the other is wrong while another is true or right. At the same time, I am adamant in my belief in training to work with animals. I don't just mean watch a television celebrity and imitate what they do or read a book and consider yourself a trainer/behaviorist. The animals always, always pay for that ignorance in the end and humans often pay a price as well. As a friend mentioned to me just yesterday, ego can be a huge boulder when working with animals. We cannot move another person's boulder; we can only chip away at our own.

So I tried to just keep breathing. I tried to focus on my own mission, which was to spend some time with dogs and cats at a shelter and - hopefully - bring them some feelings of peace and comfort. To an extent, I succeeded. It was a beautiful weekend, the last warm days of autumn. The sun was shining. Hawks hunted in the woods to the east of the shelter, their calls loud as they flew high above us. The animals welcomed us and we spend a good amount of time sitting with them, offering them what we could. My Wednesday post is devoted to photos of the dogs I met. For today, please offer prayers and gentle white light to shelter animals everywhere. They need us each and every day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mud dogs!!!

We have had a couple of days of rain here in northeastern Oklahoma. The moisture is very welcome, what with a couple of years of drought and all. It will take a good amount of time and rain for the water tables to refill, even though the past few months have been "wetter" than normal AND the Farmer's Almanac is calling for a wet winter:

          "Winter temperatures will be slightly colder than normal, on average, 
          with precipitation and snowfall a bit above normal in Oklahoma and 
          north of the (D/FW) Metroplex." 

So it's all good, right? Mostly. Rainy weather means the dogs can't (or won't, in Blue's case) spend as much time outside, getting fresh air and exercise. It also means the one who adores the rain (Carson) spends more time in her crate drying off. I was thinking about all that in the morning when I decided the terriers needed some running around time in the yard as I got dressed for work. Moments later, I began to hear the banging noises. Getting closer to the back door, the noise seemed to be shaking the entire sunroom. Open the door, call the dogs. Nothing. Nada. Grab a jacket and head out: There they are, in all their glory. Up to their eyeballs - no exaggeration - in heavy, wet, Oklahoma red clay with a bunch of torn-up grass thrown in for good measure. Trying their best to dig under the lattice surrounding the sunroom. Their goal (prey)? Probably toads or field mice. They tend to ignore the toads who perch on the steps on late summer evenings but maybe the allure of digging for them is just too much to resist.

By afternoon, when these photos were taken,
the sunshine made them a little less "huge."
 Of course, all this happens when I need to leave for work in, oh, say, five minutes!

Race inside, grab a towel and slip into garden clogs. Hope the jacket will somewhat protect my clothes.

Evidence of Marley's participation
in the digging!
Marley is easy. Offer him a treat and he's willing to give up on the digging. I wrap him in a towel and hold him - feet facing out - as far from my clothes as I can. Bonus: let's consider this a workout for my biceps! 

Carson, of course, isn't so easily swayed. Her entire nose is covered in clay. It's hanging from her ears, her furnishings, her tail (how did that happen?). And it's a game. Get within two inches and she takes off at a full run. I remind myself I adore her, keep from looking at my watch to see how late I now am, consider my wet hair will only get more curly standing in the rain, and take a deep breath. Several minutes later, she is mine. Yay! Sorta ... My black and tan terrier is now a definite shade of barn red and smelly - wet dog, wet earth, WET. I carry her the same way as Marley and toss her into her crate, hoping she keeps at least some of the drying clay inside the crate during the day. I close the back door and head to school.

A little aside about Carson: She tends to get distracted and forget what is important (to me, obviously, not to her). When I return home after work, her crate not only has dried clay, is also has a little gift since she forgot to "take care of business" while she was busy digging to the other side of the county. Sigh ...

The next half hour was spent cleaning crates. This is the view from inside Marley's crate, as I was wiping up dirt. On a positive note, dirt doesn't usually "stick" to hard terrier coats; it tends to dry and end up on the floor. I'll spare you a glimpse at Carson's crate, however!

In the afternoon sun, the culprits were happy and playful. I filled in the holes as best I could (what, exactly happens to dirt that there is never as much to put back in a hole? I will never understand that!).
You can see from this photo that Marley is just happy to have me home, to be out in the sun and is secure in the knowledge that the treat wagon will soon visit. The ringleader, on the other hand, wouldn't stay away from her beautiful creations, so she was relegated to "hard time" in the run. I don't know about you, but I honestly don't see one smidgen of remorse on her face!

The next few days are supposed to be dry and sunny, which will give the ground a chance to dry out. I can only hope we won't repeat this scenario too many times during the months ahead. Happy Friday and a wonderful weekend to all.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


My daughter is away at college for the first time so, most days, it's just the dogs and me at home. I didn't tell them she was coming home for a visit over the weekend. Their joy when she walked in the door made my heart smile. It was a weekend of cooking and visiting and canine snuggles. Any time she was close to the dogs, it looked something like this:

Cara walks in the door &
Marley recognizes her.
Much licking & many kisses commence.
Marley (left), Carson
(center & looking at the camera) & Blue line up for attention.

Blue gets into the act.
All weekend, wherever Cara was, at least one dog was close at hand. Of course, the fact she spent much of the weekend cooking likely had something to do with that.

All of them benefited from the closeness, I think. She wanted - and needed - the personal connection. Marley slept with her at night and stayed close whenever she sat down. Blue and Carson made sure they got their "fair share" as well. Another few weeks and she will be home for the holidays. EVERYONE is going to be happy about that!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall itchies

Two weeks ago, Carson and I got to visit the vet. It isn't a visit we make very often. I am blessed with dogs who seem to be pretty darned healthy at the moment.

Carson waiting patiently for her exam.
You can see the spot between her eyes.
Carson had just healed from a scrape on her side. Whether it was caused from a scratching herself with a jagged nail or something else, I successfully treated it at home. But then, after a grooming session, she developed raw spots on her neck (I probably clipped too closely there when grooming!) and on her head (I don't think I did the same on her head, however!). It was bloody and crusty and didn't do much for her darling countenance and it kept getting bigger. Time for reinforcements!

Good grief!
The verdict was hot spots, perhaps caused by some seasonal allergies. Not sure there is a true allergy tie-in, but we will work with what we have for now. So, we came home with an armload of medications, both oral and topical. The vet wanted to shave the spot on her head, but I decided against that. It would have made it a bloody mess and it just wasn't worth it to make her that miserable. So, we came home with all this: 

There were antibiotics and free form fatty acids (those are a trip to watch her eat; she chews on the capsule for a good 2-3 minutes!). There is also Betagen which, had I been more attentive, I would have known that I already have a bottle at home. And then there is a skin care regimen of a shampoo and spray. The shampoo is supposed to be administered on days 1, 4 and 7. We then use the spray for two weeks. Welllll, did I mention that little bout with shingles I've had? Hmm. That means the thought of wrangling a wet, wiggling terrier into and out of the tub would be nearly impossible. We brought those products home, but have yet to use them. And, Betagen. Do you know one of the primary ingredients in it? Yeah. Alcohol. No wonder Carson reacted like she had been shot when I spritzed it on her poor head. After all, once I cleaned it regularly, it looked like this: 
Poor baby girl

I opted out of that, which means I now have TWO nearly full bottles of Betagen at home. I used Calendula spray instead, much easier on a little girl, although she still tried to rub the top of her head on the rug after every application. Wish I had video of that!

The last dose of antibiotics on Wednesday night. We may begin using the shampoo regimen this week if, for no other reason, than to get rid of the residual flakes and crusty areas. Carson's neck is completely healed and her head is well on its way, although it will take some time for her fur to fill in completely. Here's what it looks like now, two full weeks after this saga began:

Not perfect, but certainly looking better!