Tag Archives: Clover

Artifacts to Memories: Bunny Rabbit

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This bunny rabbit is not a personal artifact, but it’s been in my home for quite a few years now. Memories attach themselves to objects, and this little raggedy soft toy is no exception.

I brought two of these little bunnies home, when my dog family consisted of Maggie and Clover. Clover was a joy to watch with a new toy. She tossed it in the air and caught it in her teeth; she gave the toy a good shake before tossing it up again; she’d bring it to me coyly, inviting me to play, too. Maybe tug-of-war? What about fetch?

Maggie, on the other hand, was just a hoarder. She’d impatiently watch Clover play, until she could grab the toy away from her. Then she’d stand, chest out, on her bed, daring anyone to try to take anything away. She was the oldest, and largest, of the dogs, so she always got away with it. While I was away, she’d settle in and chew the stuffing out of any soft toy, but she didn’t otherwise engage with them. She just wanted them. All of the toys. On her doggie bed. All the time.

By the time Maggie passed on, Clover had lost interest, mostly, in toys. I’d try to engage her in games; she try to comply, for my sake, but the joy was gone. She preferred just a good walk. The collection of beat up chew toys and stuffed animals sat neglected in a corner.

Then, little Rosa Parks came in to our household. She was young, curious and ready for adventure. What were all these toys, gathering dust? Could she, with her keen young nose, detect a whiff of another dog…one that she had never met? As the toys were dragged out, one by one, Clover engaged with them as well, just to let the little dog know she knew what they were for. Mostly, they just got them all out, and strewed them around the living room.

As the years went by, though, both dogs lost interest. By the time Clover died, the toys – with a few additions – were occupying the neglected basket again. Rosa Parks, who had engaged in all kinds of games and play with Clover, was a hard dog to entertain, on her own. Often, I’d drive her down to Fox Lake, just to see her tail wag. There the water, and the memories of squirrel-chasing play, always put a spring in her step.

It seemed like Rosa Parks needed a companion, besides me. So, mainly as a gift to my little dog, I adopted Darla. Turns out, both Darla and Rosa Parks would have preferred to be the only dog in my house. Or so they thought. For my sake, they put up with each other. It took a few months for them to learn to enjoy each other’s company.

The toy basket, though, was an immediate success! Darla loves a toy. Her tail wags just snuffling through the basket, trying to pick just the right one. If she has gotten into the trash while I was at work, and she hears displeasure in my tone, she’ll bring me a toy. If that doesn’t do the trick, she’ll go get another. Once, having exhausted the toy basket while I was still picking up scraps of paper from the floor, she brought me a throw pillow!

Darla always likes to carry a toy outside with her. When she goes tearing out of the house, growling, to chase wild turkeys out of the yard, she often has a cute toy dangling from her jaws. Stuffed animals come on our walks with us. Until a chipmunk or a smelly piles of leaves distracts her, Darla will carry a soft toy in her mouth for a mile or more. I try to pay attention to where she drops it, so that I can tuck it in my pocket for the walk back home.

This stuffing-less bunny rabbit and all of his soft companions have a new lease on life, and  are getting out more, now, than they ever did before!

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Dog Comics, Part II

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Clover and Rosa Parks

My next pair of dogs was Clover and Rosa Parks.

Though Clover often had issues with other dogs, she and the little dog became friends very quickly. In fact, Rosa Parks quickly took on the roll of the boss, letting Clover know when she she was being annoying, or when she could – or could not – share space on the bed or sofa. Rosa’s coloring was very much like Maggie’s; I often wondered if Clover didn’t see Rosa as a much smaller, reincarnated version of her old friend.

Clover, being the older and wiser of the two, took her roll seriously. She was the teacher, Rosa Parks the student. Clover would come upon a footprint in the snow. She’d put her snout near it, look up toward the little dog, and raise one eyebrow. Rosa would run right over, and put her own nose down to smell what Clover was smelling. They would exchange a knowing look. If it was a coyote print, the look was of concern. Deer or turkey tracks were interesting but not scary. A dead snake in the road would also demand attention. First the meaningful look, that would send Rosa Parks scurrying over. Then the demonstration: aim, flop onto the back right on top of the dead animal, and squirm. Jump up, sniff again, and repeat. “Now you try it,” I imagined her saying, and Rosa Parks complied every time.

Clover, who was very enthusiastic about chasing chipmunks, did her best to get Rosa Parks involved in the sport. Rosa pretended to be interested. If Clover was watching, the little dog would dig madly at the base of the tree, stare into its branches, circle and jump, just as Clover was doing. If Clover wasn’t paying attention, Rosa’s lazier nature came out, and she’d find a comfortable spot to watch the action. If she saw me watching, Rosa Parks would be quick to roll her eyes at Clover’s antics, letting me know that she was well above behavior like that.

Clover always rode in the car with us down to Fox Lake. Coming home, though, she preferred to run. And chase every single squirrel, and follow every single scent all the way home. Rosa Parks, on my lap, would watch Clover out the window, just as Maggie had watched her from the passenger seat as I followed closely behind. Eventually, though, I’d lose patience with her side trips, and with driving in second gear, one foot always on the brake. At some point, when she was off on the trail of a bird or rodent, I’d speed up, and let her make her own way home. That always put a look of satisfaction on Rosa’s little face. “Finally, rid of her!” By the time we got home though, her relief had changed to concern, and she – with me right behind – would head down the Fox Lake Road on foot, to meet Clover and accompany her in the final stretch for home.

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Dog Comics, Part I

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Maggie

A dog is a joyous addition to a household. There is mutual love and devotion. There is loyalty, trust and companionship.

Having one dog is a pleasure.

Having two dogs is an on-going comedy show.

There is something about the way animals respond to each other, independent of how they relate to their human, that is hilarious. They jump into competition for affection, treats, the best spot on the sofa and the title of “good dog.”  They align with each other to fool me, or to try to finally catch that elusive squirrel. Perfectly dignified dogs become “Mutt and Jeff.”

My first pair was Maggie and Clover. Maggie was a 100 pound lab-malamute mix who loved to walk and loved to swim. Clover was a fifty pound pit-bull, boxer mix, the younger and friskier of the two.

Maggie was too arthritic to get up onto the furniture. She had comfortable dog beds at her level in bedroom and living room. Clover wanted to be in the bedroom, too, when I was there, but Maggie refused to let her. Her stern growl would send the smaller dog back down the stairs every time.

One day, Clover was sleeping in my bed before I got there. Maggie came up the stairs with me. She noticed the infraction, and grumbled her displeasure, but Clover kept very still and held her place at the foot of the bed. When morning came, and she realized she’d gotten away with it, and had spent the entire night in the bed. she grinned (no other dog could grin like Clover could!) and jumped on me, covering my face with kisses.

“Grrrrrr…..” was Maggie’s response.

Maggie would stroll down the Fox Lake Road, tail wagging like a flag, pausing at every interesting odor. Clover would run, full blast, flinging her head from side to side. I imagined her thoughts as the smells registered:

“Dog…squirrel…another squirrel…chipmunk…snake…another squirrel…deer…”

Meanwhile, Maggie would stand in one spot, her nose doing a thorough assessment, like a connoisseur of fine wine:

“Hmmm….dog…a beagle…neutered….five or six years old…eats a diet of dry Purina dog food…chewed on a beef bone recently…probably chasing a squirrel…”

When Maggie would start barking at something in the yard, Clover would blast out the door with her, looking for whatever threat was out there. I imagined, then, Maggie taking on a John Wayne tone, as she offered advice:

“Yeah, that’s good, keep barking…no, it was just a wren, no big deal…She doesn’t know that though…bark like you mean business…could be a coyote…could be a snake…hell, partner, it could be a bear, for all she knows…just keep walking…bark…bark…bark…out the back door and bark your way around to the side door…keep that concerned look on your face…scratch and she’ll let us in…here’s the point, now…wait for it…a biscuit! I tell ya, little buddy, she falls for it every time!”

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Dogs

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These dogs were good buddies. Clover and Rosa Parks entertained each other. Whether out on a chipmunk-chasing walk through the woods, a sniffing and swimming adventure at Fox Lake, or just sitting around watching me work, they kept each other company.

Ever since Clover died – just a little over a year ago – Rosa Parks has been a little down. She knows I’m her “pack” and she loves me…but I’m just not very much fun. I have no interest in finding the garter snakes that hide in the flower beds. I don’t chase chipmunks, or squirrels, or birds. Even walks have been less fun, without Clover. “What good is it to find smelly stuff,” Rosa Parks thinks, “without anyone here who wants to smell it?” Sometimes, when I am working at the computer, Rosa Parks lets out an audible sigh, and drops her chin onto her paws. I feel like she’s been bored, a little depressed and even sad without her friend.

I’ve been thinking about adopting another dog. I’ve gone back and forth about it. There is the expense: sometimes it’s a struggle to cover the vet bills for one dog. I work long hours. Rosa Parks gets lonely, and I feel guilty. Would I be just doubling my guilt? Putting a second dog into the same boring rut? I’ve been advised that’s not the case. Two veterinarians, plus the dog boarder and several animal lovers have assured me that – even though they may not interact much when I’m not at home – it would be reassuring to have another dog around.

Last weekend, my friend Linda and I visited the humane society near her home. We were introduced to several sweet dogs, learned their stories and observed their dispositions. In all, we visited three days. Darla is a mix of Boxer and Pit Terrier, just as Clover was. She is good with other dogs, and good with cats. She – due to household situations, not her own behavior – had already had four homes, and had three times been brought to the humane society kennel. Before I left for home yesterday morning, I stopped and got her, to bring her back to Beaver Island with me.

Darla is a big, gentle dog who was anxious for a home. Every time I stopped along the trip to walk her, she’d look around, find the nearest house and, wagging tail, start to walk toward it. Every time I guided her back into the vehicle, she seemed disappointed. Finally, we made it to Charlevoix and, after a scary (for her) plane ride, we were home. She seemed happy with her new yard and house. She rolled in the grass, and got quite excited about the big basket full of hardly-used dog toys. She wandered through every flower bed.

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After getting Darla settled in, I went to pick up Rosa Parks from the kennel. We were happy to see each other. I was nervous, hoping that my little dog would like Darla as much as I do. There was a little grumbling on first meeting, and there has been some growling coming from each of them since then. I’ve been able to intercede, though, before it escalates. Rosa Parks spent some time letting us know her nose was a bit out of joint about the new addition.

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Eventually, though, after wandering around the yard and garden together, they seem to have reached a level of acceptance. Rosa Parks practiced her manipulation techniques all evening. She’d look out the window and give a sharp bark (“Bird!”). Darla would rush to the door; I’d open it and they’d both run out. Darla would run after the bird; Rosa Parks would go sit under the cherry tree, and look back toward me with a little grin that said, “She fell for it again! Silly dog – you can’t catch a bird!” Then they’d both come back in for a treat. I think we’re going to be fine!

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Snow Dog

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I could rarely tell when my younger daughter, Kate, was not feeling well. She didn’t slow down for anything. Not for quiet time or bed time or a fever. I’m ashamed to admit there were at least a couple times when I sent her out the door in the morning, only to have the school nurse phone to tell me she was sick.

My oldest daughter, Jen, was a different story. With the slightest bit of a virus, she’d get a round, red spot on each cheek, would otherwise be frighteningly pale, and was down. No interest in play time or meal time or anything. Her ailments were probably no worse than Kate’s, but her behavior always elicited more of a reaction. It was scary.

My little dog, Rosa Parks, is a lot like Jen, in that when she doesn’t feel good, it is instantly noticeable. Her tail goes down. Her ears droop. She gets very snippy. It’s so different from her usual behavior, that it gets my attention right away.

It happened a few weeks ago. Rosa Parks did not feel well.

I called the vet for advice. He was unreachable… on the mainland, having a medical procedure of his own. I left him a voice mail anyway.

I observed her through the day. I telephoned the veterinary hospital on the mainland. Of course they couldn’t diagnose, but they listened sympathetically. Rosa Parks was not improving.

I had to make a decision, before it got so late in the day that I had no options.

I called my boss and arranged for my shift to be covered by someone else.

Called the airport and scheduled a flight.

Phoned Aunt Katie to give her an update, and arrange to use her mainland vehicle.

Contacted the vet hospital to let them know to expect us.

I threw a few necessities together, gathered up my little dog and headed out.

We flew off the island at three PM.

Blood work, x-rays and a thorough examination, two prescriptions and a lecture, and we barely made it back to the airport in time for our 4:30 PM flight home. Had we missed the plane, I’d have had to add the cost of dinner and a motel room to the already quickly mounting expenses.

I could make a credit card commercial!

Missing one shift at work: $50.00…

Round trip flight to the mainland: $100.00…

Veterinary bill: $350.00…

Knowing my little dog will survive…PRICELESS!

It turned out that she had a pancreatic infection, and would most likely have been fine until our own veterinarian got back to the island…but she looked so sick! For the peace of mind, it was worth it.

However, the veterinarian we saw did bring up another problem.

My own veterinarian has mentioned Rosa’s weight  and said that I’m a bit too free with the treats where the little dog is concerned. We have explored medical reasons for her plumpness. He has, though, always been understanding and kind.

The young mainland doctor was a tad more direct.

It brought out a side of my own personality I was unaware of until then.

“I can’t believe she’s not even two years old,” he said, “she is carrying way too much weight!”

“She has thyroid problems,” I explained.

He looked at me as if that were no explanation at all.

“For a chihuahua, she’s really quite big-boned,” I said, “I think she may have a bit of mixed blood.”

One skeptical eyebrow raised.

“She’s really all muscle,” I said, “or at least more muscle than fat!”

His expression told me he was unimpressed.

“Look, I give her precisely the amount of dog food recommended for a dog her size!”

“If that amount of food is keeping her at this size, she’s getting too much food, no matter WHAT is recommended!”

Well, okay.

So, we talked about cutting her food in half, banishing treats, weighing her weekly…and I really did listen, and have taken it to heart.

Still, on my way out, I told the nurse, “I understand that she’s carrying a bit of extra weight, and she does, I know, look a little waddle-ish in here…but if you could just see her in the wild!

Yes, I really said that.

I thought about it today, though, and it wasn’t as outlandish a statement as it seemed at the time.

Today, with ten inches of new snow, my old dog, Clover, faced with a wall of the “white stuff” when I opened the door, was not going out until I got out there to shovel a path. Not so, Rosa Parks. She plowed right out in snow deeper than she was! When Doug came around with his plow truck to clear my driveway, I had to run out in my bathrobe to grab Rosa Parks. She gave me a look that seemed to say “What, you’re just going to let him move our snow??”, and she kept right on barking. By the time I got back in the house with her, I was covered in snow balls to my waist! She was undaunted. We took two long walks today. My camera – needing new batteries – wasn’t fast enough to snap her in action. She really is a sight to behold.

In her element, that is. My chihuahua…in the wild!

Focus

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Yesterday, I paid attention.

Nothing else was changed.

I watched and listened and focused as I went about my daily activities.

I walked the dogs. I stopped along the path to listen to the crows as they flew up, complaining at my presence. I paused near a patch of St. John’s Wort, to watch the  bees bumbling from flower to flower. I admired the way Clover noticed every movement in the woods, and how Rosa Parks was completely tuned in to whatever Clover was doing. When Rosa found a cool spot for a rest, I waited with her.

I worked in the little gallery in town. I greeted customers, talked about the artists and their work, commented on the weather. I answered questions, had a chat and made a few small sales. In between customers, I read a magazine. Nothing different, really, except for my level of awareness.

I bought some groceries, went to the library and ran a few other errands.

I picked beans and cleaned them and steamed some of them to go with my dinner.

Another walk with the dogs, a few chores, a couple chapters of a book and then bed.

It was an ordinary day, the first of August.

Last year on August first – though she didn’t know it at the time – my sister, Sheila, was living the last day of her life.

Sheila was staying at the family home, taking care of our Mom, who we knew was living her last days. She slept on the living room sofa, just a thin wall and a few steps away from Mom’s bed, so that she’d hear her call if Mom woke in the night.

Sheila’s boyfriend was usually around. He was good for moral support during this hard time. He’d grill Sheila a steak, and insist that she take a break to enjoy her dinner outside in the fresh air. He’d often sleep on a cot in the back room, and have coffee with her in the morning.

My sisters had worked out a detailed schedule, so there would be at least two of us there through most of every day. There were issues of Mom’s care that took more than one person, meals to prepare and medicine to dispense. Mostly, though, it was so that no one would have to be all alone, during such a sad time. The plan was that I would complete my work week, then leave the island to be down there…for the duration.

I called Mom on the first of August. When we lost the connection, I called Sheila’s cell phone to make sure everything was okay. Mom had dozed off, but Sheila and I had a good chat. Because we’d all gotten in the habit of calling or stopping in whenever we could, Sheila spoke to most of her siblings and several nieces and nephews that day. She had several chances to visit with Mom. She had dinner with two other sisters and they took advantage of the opportunity to talk with each other while they ate and tidied up. I think my sister, Cheryl, left the house about 11PM. Sheila sat down at the computer. She wrote a couple e-mails and sent a few friend requests through her “Facebook” account. I’m sure she checked on Mom again before she lay down on the couch.

She never woke up.

When my sister, Robin, arrived early the next morning, Sheila’s boyfriend was on the phone with 911, and desperately trying to revive her. The ambulance was on the way. Calls were made: Brenda waved her husband in from the lake; Amy came to the house; Cheryl arrived in time to follow the ambulance to the hospital. I can only imagine the desperation as the reality of the situation came clear.

Mom, without her hearing aids in, was unaware of the horror that was going on just a few feet from her bed.

When I received the call at work at 9AM, I thought it was about Mom. “It’s not Mom,” Amy said, and I couldn’t think where that information could lead. “Sheila. Sheila died.”

We didn’t learn the cause of her death until later that day. Sheila had a stroke, probably about 2AM, and was gone long before the first attempts to revive her.

Sheila was young – only 55 – and in good health, as far as she knew. She was strong, purposeful and doing important work. She had no warning.  We had no time to prepare.

I mourn Sheila’s death to varying degrees all through the year. Some days it seems sadder, or more poignant than others. I always miss her.

On the first of August, Sheila had no idea that she was living the last day of her life.

Some of us get warning; some do not. I don’t know which is better.

To honor Sheila, I am trying to live each day fully aware, as if it were my last.

Because I can.

And because it could be.

Happy Easter!

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I’m doing quite a bit of juggling today, to get everything done that I want to do.

I started the day with a very pleasant, early phone call from my grandson, Tommy. Before I got off the phone, I had also spoke to Madeline, Brandon, and my daughter, Kate. The younger ones were wide awake and enthusiastic;Brandon and Kate a little less so.

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By the time our very entertaining conversations ended, the dogs were more than ready for their first walk, so we headed out. We got a bit of rain last night, so everything is looking fresh. The trout lilies, spring beauties and Dutchman’s breeches are showing their leaves in the woods…no flowers yet, though. The wild leeks are the brightest green; they will be ready soon.

I’m trying to get some garden clean up done every single day, no matter what, so that was next. I made good progress clearing grass, leaves and roots from the beds where I’ll put my tomato plants. Clover relaxed…

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in the back flower bed, while little Rosa Parks…

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dug this gigantic hole:

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Almost eighteen inches deep, no kidding!

I’d saved last night’s dishes, because nothing cleans the garden grime out from under the fingernails like a sink of soapy water, and that was my next job.

Remembering Easters with my Mom and Dad, I decided to do up a small batch of onion-skin dyed eggs. I only had a few onions (as kids, we used to save the onion skins for months ahead, to be ready for Easter!), so I used a small pan and did only six eggs. I put the onion skins in first – just the brown, papery covering – and covered them with cold water, then nestled the raw eggs into the pan, and hard-boiled them as usual.

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The finished results are quite pretty, I think.

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Now, I’m making dinner rolls and dessert to bring to Aunt Katie’s house at dinnertime. The milk is scalded, butter and sugar have been added, and it should be just about cool enough now to combine with flour, salt and yeast. While my dough is rising, I’ll be peeling apples for pie.

Happy Easter!

Blazer

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I like a blazer.

A blazer is nice to throw on this time of year, as a jacket. They usually have good pockets (always handy) and add a touch of class to whatever else I’m wearing. I’ve had a couple blazers that I purchased new, but I’ve also gotten a lot of good use out of some that have come to me in other ways.

About twenty years ago, my friend, Chris, and I stopped into the Re-Sale Shop here on Beaver Island. The Re-Sale Shop was still in its old location, in the old Livery building. Chris was looking for rags, for her husband’s garage. I was just keeping her company. My daughter, Kate, could spend twenty minutes and two dollars there, and come out looking like a million bucks. I could spend a lot more, and would look like I’d dressed out of the rag-bag. I just didn’t have the knack for it. On this day, however, someone had just dropped off a pile of suits. I bought three jackets: two in different shades of gray with a very subtle stripe, one in a nice tan tweed. I still have them, and still get compliments whenever I wear  them!

The blazer pictured here is not one of the new ones, nor one of the treasures found at the Re-Sale Shop. It is one that my daughter, Jen, bought…new…a long time ago…when this look was stylish. She gave it to me more than ten years ago. It’s obviously seen a bit of wear. It has snags and tears from being worn on my walks through blackberry brambles. The elbows are worn; the lining is torn. Still, it’s a nice jacket to throw on as an extra layer, when looks don’t matter. Turns out, it still manages to dress up a look, in a pinch.

Last Sunday, I had a ten o’clock flight scheduled, to go to the mainland for the day, to visit my aunt in the hospital. I had planned ahead so that it would be a stress-free day. Then I overslept. Eight o’clock, Sunday morning. I had to make coffee, shower, dress, and walk my dogs. I had to leave myself enough time to stop at the farmhouse to pick up several books and a robe for Aunt Katie, and the keys to the mainland car. I’d promised her I’d also take her dog out for a walk while I was there. I had to be at the airport by 9:30!

Okay, I started the coffee brewing. If I was going to fit everything in, I had to walk my dogs right away. I was in my pajamas. The dogs didn’t mind. We took the path through the field to the logging road, then crossed Fox Lake Road to Cotter’s trail. We walked the half-mile down to the cabin, then circled around by the pole barns, then on the trail through the woods to the new Murray place, and back out to Fox Lake Road to head back to my house.

I was almost home when I heard the car. I checked to make sure Clover was off the road, and swooped Rosa Parks up into my arms. Dogs safe, I then remembered how I was dressed. Brown jersey pajama bottoms, sagging at the fanny, bagging at the knees; pink flowered T-shirt top; navy blue and gray argyle socks pulled up over the cuffs of the pajama bottoms; red and black slip-on Hush Puppies. And the blazer. I hadn’t brushed my hair; I hadn’t brushed my teeth. There was no place to hide.

The car drove up, slowed down and came to a stop. The window came down. “You look awfully nice,” I heard, “All dressed up to be out walking the dogs!”