pets

A Day at the Beach in Winter


Winter winds blowing in off the Pacific Ocean in Baja El Norte chill to the bone. Doesn’t matter if the weather app says feels like 54˚because the wind cuts right through a layered t-shirt, sweatshirt, and fleece jacket like a sharp bladed knife chilled in the fridge. Sunlight helps, but in the morning hours it isn’t strong enough to make a difference. Humid and cool is still humid and cool and backed by air velocity it is downright chilly.

Knowing friends in Massachusetts are shivering in 12˚ temperatures while buried IMG_3864under three or more feet of snow is of absolutely no use because nothing feels warmer here based on that knowledge alone.  Walking the wee little doggie in the lee of buildings to try to keep the wee little doggie and the wee little doggie’s person warm(er) is becoming a daily occurence when it comes to the morning constitutional.

Remembering a 1989 trip moving from -33˚ Fairbanks to 33˚Anchorage in a day. That was a 60˚temperature variation in just 8 hours. Leaving in a Mouton lamb parka and ending up pumping gas in Anchorage wearing a sweatshirt and a light cloth windbreaker and thinking how warm it was! Cool, cold, warm, and hot are all relative. Still no help when it comes to shivering against the wind coming off of the ocean.

It’s supposed to get into the low 70’s tomorrow. That will be nice, as long as the freaking wind isn’t coming like a fan over cold water.

I do not need a HA to know when I’m shivery.

 

Advertisements

The Dreaded Adverb


I stand in the gazebo in the middle of the Townsend Common and peer into the shadows of massive deciduous trees. The towering oaks and maples create a deep well of shadow. Hidden in the shadow are dark green picnic tables, freshly painted for the summer season.IMG_1880

Feathering out from each side of the shadows are graceful dark wood park benches with black wrought iron trim. The benches are cast in artful design around the gazebo. They surround it in a seemingly haphazard manner. Perhaps they are at the best places for hearing. Perhaps a whimsical designer arranged them. They’ve been in the same places for the last year.

The church to the east begins a muffled peal. Well, to me it is muffled, but the dog startles a bit. Loud. It must be loud. I don’t have my hearing aid in to walk the dog. I look at the clock faces on the front and side of the bell-tower and realize they display different times. How many peals will there be? Nine. Ten.  I check the time on my smart phone. Noon. Exactly. Neither of the clock faces reads twelve o’clock.

Brass colored folding chairs for the Thursday night concert lean against the wall or slump on the floor, tossed hither and yon by recent stormy weather. I envision how, tomorrow, they’ll be arranged in ordered fashion for the band, unlike the graceful litter of  wooden benches.

IMG_1886Here and there, black light poles erupt from the ground. They match the bold black metal fencing that marches around the edges of the Common. Half-barrels full of flowers line Main Street – ten of them – filled with a riot of brilliant magenta petunias. Several more of the half-barrels are next to the sidewalks in the Common itself, filled with a softer pink flower reminiscent of roses.

Concrete walkways crisscross the Common with a long St. Andrews Cross from corner to corner and a short path east to west across the middle. Today it is me, the dog, and ten thousand starving mosquitos. The dog and I descend the stairs of the gazebo, walk back to the car, and breathe a sigh of relief when the mosquitos are outside and we are inside.

Death to Adverbs – stripping adverbs from writing.

It’s all perspective in the end


I “hear” hearies railing about how deafies don’t listen and deafies railing about how hearies drive them nuts – and then there are the HoH who consider themselves “hearing impaired” which the Deaf find offensive since they are merely deaf, not impaired.  There are the Deaf enough to be Deaf Culture and the deaf who are not Deaf Culture and then the Deaf who are idolized for coming from generations of Deaf parents and grandparents.  The Deaf find the deaf annoying and usually are totally anti-CI and then the CI crowd finds the Deaf who don’t believe in CI’s to be old sticks in the mud.  So there!  Sounds like life happening.  🙂

What brought up this stream of consciousness is Baby Dog.  I take ‘Kinley out to “potty” several times a day.  Unlike some areas of the country, we have lots of bugs – honey bees, wasps (some absolutely gigantic!), and also bumblebees.  Now, bumblebees are the giants of the bee kingdom, in general.  And when they are bumbling from one clover flower to the next they can give Baby Dog quite a start.  I got to thinking.  That bumblebee is as big as her nose.  Maybe a bit bigger.  Can you imagine a bumblebee as big as YOUR NOSE flying up to say “Hello!“?

Yeah, me neither.  No wonder she jumps and runs.  If I had a bee that size come over to bid me a good morning I’d probably wonder if this were Jurassic Park or something.  It is bad enough with the wasps that are the size of half-dollars (I kid thee not).  They occasionally terrorized the 17 year old granddaughter when she tries coming in the front door.  I didn’t believe her until I saw one myself.

So, as with virtually all things, it is all a matter of perspective.  From my perspective she is just perfect, but I think from her perspective she’d like to be a bit bigger than the bumblebees.

Note:  Follow the link to learn more about the bumblebee.  They are really quite remarkable creatures!

Pogo-Stick the Not-Wonder Horse


The first time I laid eyes on her I was looking for a colt or filly to raise and finish out myself using  gentle techniques I was learning from horse training books.  I had my eye on a beautiful bay stud. This was the last visit to look for a colt or filly, but Dad and I had pretty much agreed on the bay.

The conditions the mare and filly were kept in were deplorable.  The dam was an Arabian – a hot blooded horse – who was a broken wreck of a thing – skinny, cowed, terrified.  Her eyes rolled and there were healing slash marks on her sides from a whip.  The filly hadn’t been beaten but she was no less terrified and out of control.  Those were the days before animal rights organizations intervened and my Dad was not yet a judge.  I wanted to beat the living shit of out of the “owner” to see how he liked it.

The little bay stud was gentle, hand raised, would walk up and nuzzle you, expecting nothing but goodness.  The  filly shied away, bit, and kicked, her eyes rolling in fear.  It was a clear choice for Dad.  “It’s the bay.”  I shook my head.  “Can I get both of them?”  I pointed to the dam and the filly, “Both of THOSE?”  Dad looked at me like I was insane, and in a way, I suppose I was.  I’d never attempted to deal with an abused horse before.  It was way out of my league.  “You don’t want that filly.  She’s ruined.”

Two weeks later the filly came to live with us.  Yes, I am stubborn.   I guess Dad figured it would teach me a lesson. What it taught me, was that patience, compassion, endurance and  kindness alone cannot fix all the problems created by early abuse.  I don’t know how that horrible man got her into the trailer, but when she got out in the pasture with my Welsh pony and Quarter Horse mare she was a wild and terrified thing.  Fortunately, my mare and pony were very calm and great role models.

The man would not sell the brood mare – I will give Dad this, he tried. I often wondered about who got the lovely bay Quarter Horse stallion.  He was a great horse.  The best horse for me.  But the filly needed me.  He didn’t. He would go to a great home.

It took a month of bouncing grain in a pan for the horses and having the other two greedily consume almost all of it  before I could lure the little one. I’d have to pour her portion on the ground, then move the others away so she could scavenge.

I kept bouncing grain in a pan and leaving offerings.  I offered apples and carrots. I waited without moving, fending off the other two horses with small motions as they almost trampled me in their eagerness to get her goodies.

I curried the mare and the pony, brushed out manes and tails, removed mosquitoes and biting flies from their ears and dabbed them with insect repellent.  No one got hurt.  Life was a lazy dream in the pasture with the little brook full of clean, cool water and thick with grass as well as one thickly canopied tree for shade.  The little filly got used to standing between the pony and the mare, tails swishing flies.

One day I walked up with the curry comb and finishing brush and started working on Patches, the ancient Welsh Pony who was round as an old oak barrel because he was so fat and lazy and well-loved. I scratched his ears and gave him a carrot out of my bag of goodies and started in brushing – and Zuleika (her registered Arab name) didn’t panic and take off.  She just stood next to him, her tail lazily swishing flies off his face as his did the same for her.

After a few minutes I discreetly offered a carrot around his tail… and she TOOK IT!  I just kept brushing Patches and handed Golden a carrot like nothing unusual was going on.  I wanted to run around waving my hands in the air and scream, “She’s accepted me!”

I’d like to say life with Pogo-stick was easy after that.  It wasn’t.  She was destroyed by a monster – a sub-human who should have been taken out and shot for how he treated horses.  If there is a hell, there is a special place for people like him.  I knew she’d never be “my horse.” I’d probably almost never ride her, if I ever could; but one thing I could do was keep her safe.

In time, she learned that I could use a mudder (mud removing rubber brush), curry comb, and finishing brush and she would not be injured.  Our farrier was a kind man who understood abused horses and Mr. Robertson helped me round her up and keep her quiet while he trimmed her feet to keep her healthy.  He always praised her even when she was so afraid that he had to hobble her front (or back) feet to keep her quiet.  I always had her head, holding her in place, touching her, speaking softly, keeping her attention on me instead of him. And sometimes she bit the snot out of me if I wasn’t careful.  Over time it became less traumatic for her, but never an easy thing.

Eventually, I could (carefully) pick up a hoof to check her for stones in the frog.  However, she had to be short tied or she’d remove part of my posterior with her teeth.  Fear biting was a huge problem with her.  She could have seriously injured me as she grew – or someone else.  I didn’t want to have to have her destroyed.

In the end I had to resort to aversive training to stop the biting.  It just about killed me, but I used the hot potato method since nothing else had worked.

Boiled potatoes were put on a towel on target areas and strapped down with gauze with a long sleeve shirt over that and then I gave her the opportunity to bite that area.  She thought I was careless and lazy so she took it.  She jerked back like she’d been stung – which she had, by something very HOT. I  cried inside to see her with a seared upper palate, but it grieved me less than putting her down would have done.  I was desperate.  I was all out of options.  There were no “Horse Whisperers.”   However, Pogo was a quick learner when it came to searing pain,  and rarely ever bit a human again.  When she did,  it was  a nip not a full-out savage bite from the fear and terror zone.  A burned palate heals. Death is not so easily overcome.

Over the years Pogo grew into a tall, lanky, half-Arab/half Thoroughbred mare. With that combination of bloodlines she was hot-blooded in spades.  By then she was not so crazy and dangerous that she was a danger to the general public. She rarely nipped unless she felt really threatened, and she’d stopped kicking much after some creative hobbling Mr. Robertson taught me that convinced her kicking people equalled almost tipping over.  I am glad our farrier was willing to help me with her since Dad figured she was a waste of horse skin and pretty much ignored her.

I was unable to hand gentle her to ride.  Everything that worked with other horses made her crazy.  She was overcome with terror and it converted to rage. I read every book, used every trick, asked for hints and tips from every good horseman I knew.  Finally I got a guy who did horse breaking to come over and let her crow hop around a corral with him doing the rodeo cowboy thing.  No spurs.  He was just a nice cocklebur, since he knew her history.  Eventually, she gave up crow hopping and let him ride her.  Not long after, I could ride her, but never entirely safely.

Pogo got her name from the fact she had such a horrible gait.  She was like riding a Pogo-stick if you got past a gentle walk.  Her trot was abysmal.  Her canter only slightly better.  She had trouble changing leads and teaching her was out of the question – I was lucky to just be astride.  She had an awesome gallop.  Since I did mostly trotting and cantering I was pondering an English saddle and posting with her, but she just never got ridden that much.  She broke a snaffle bit and ran off (with me on her)  finally stopping when she was too exhausted to go further.  I’m lucky she didn’t kill us both — and I never told my folks about my harrowing, out of control ride.  It would have been the end of her.  It was at that point I put away all the bridles, put hackamores on all my horses, and never looked back. I still think hackamores are more humane than bridles and a horse can’t spit out a bit that is not there.

In the end there was a guy in the Canyon County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse who heard about Pogo.  He was a big guy, well over 6 feet and he was strong enough to deal with her.  He had  experience with horses who were headstrong and skittish, and he could ride her.  After I was pretty much grown and gone off to college, Pogo went to live in her “forever home” and learned to do precision riding.  Whenever I saw her she looked great. Plus she LOOKED happy and content, which counts for a lot!

What does this have to do with being Hard of Hearing or Deaf?  I don’t know that it does.  But I do know that being a HoH kid I knew what it was like to feel not understand what was going on, what people wanted from me, and feeling alone.

I knew that I’d rather have a horse I could never ride than see her suffer any more.  I knew that I was the right human for her, even if she wasn’t the right horse for me, because I would give her the time and attention and care she needed rather than making demands.  Maybe I wished someone other than my mother and older brother had done for me what I did for her.

Lest you think she was totally dysfunctional, she was a great herd member.  She respected Golden as the leader.  She was a great auntie when Gemini came along.  She was pals with Patches, even though she was twice his size by the time she was grown.  She just didn’t have a lot of use for humans.  I can understand why.

Maybe being on the outside looking in as a HoH kid made me willing to try an enormous, overwhelming task like this.  Or maybe I am just soft in the head, like Dad said.  Either could be right.  Maybe both are.  I just know that even though Dad considered her a waste of hay and grain, that she was one of my greatest teachers in so many ways.

She’s long since gone, of course.  They all are.  Only I remain to remember it all.  The dogs. the horses, the chickens, gleaning grain from the local fields to feed my horses, gathering sugar beets for them, feeding them the sweet white bull rush bottoms, dandelion blossoms, just the whole nine yards of life in rural Idaho.   

I only wish I’d found her earlier; other than that, I would not change a moment.  Yes, I’d have had more fun with the bay, but I’d have never learned life’s lessons about what happens when animals are abused.  And I had my beloved Golden Butterfly as my main horse to ride and bond with.

Golden was sweet and easy and loving – having been raised by the awesome Laurie Tipton.  Patches had raised dozens of children and was about as knowledgeable and headstrong a horse as there ever was – also good natured.  Gemi was my sweet, sweet boy who was spoiled rotten and eventually became a barrel racer.

Only Pogo absolutely NEEDED someone to understand her and help her transform from an angry, terrified horse to a content, if not quite happy,  horse.

Are there horses in “heaven?” If not, I want to go to where the critters are – the dogs, the horses, the barn cats, the toads and frogs and all the other creatures I grew up with.

We all have things we can’t abide


Duke the dog can’t abide the seashore and he can’t abide storms. It may be that the rushing sounds are similar.  I’m not really sure.   His reaction to the beach is something along the lines of “Aieeee!  It’s JAWS!  Nooooooooo!  Don’t make me go there, please!”

His reaction to storms is… um… well, that’s a hard one because he’s a lump in the bed.  Under the blankets.  Suffice it to say that his reaction to waves on the beach is similar to his reaction to the sounds of the wind rushing through the trees.

Tonight, as we were outside, me tapping my toe and urging him to make an offering to the gods of animal wastes, I was standing next to a line of trees and heard them literally groan in the wind.  The joys of hearing augmentation.

Duke acted like he usually does, so I’m guessing he hears this moaning and groaning and is used to it.  I, on the other hand, just about jumped out of my skin and started making plans for how fast I could get us both out of the way – under the porch or into the house – before we were crushed or impaled by the local Ent population.

Suffice it to say the wind is still blowing, the trees are still standing, and there is a lump in my bed.   The lump is no longer quivering, so Duke the dog is secure and safe from the storm of life, despite the fact the sounds coming in my open window startle him from time to time.

Maybe I am just a wee bit less energetic


I normally think I am up for just about anything. I go to the gym, walk the dog, work at starting a law business, run thither and yon. So taking the grandkids to visit Mom at Mass General Hospital was a walk in the park, right? (I hear parents laughing quietly up their sleeves.)

So, I grab the car and drive about an hour away to where the kids are. Run to the school to pick up the art project, realize the kids have to take the bus because the art project takes up too much room in my car. Stop by the local donut shop and get myself what amounts to a Caf-Pow and a dozen very large donut holes – three kids/four donut holes, right? (Stop laughing, parental people.)

Meet the eldest one at the house, get the project in, spill coffee on my car hood as I’m cleaning it out for the little ones. Get the booster seat, organize toileting, gathering drinks (after all, I have those 12 large donut holes) and then load the highschooler, gradeschooler and kindergartner into the car and head to Boston on Route 2 guided by the GPS. Did I mention, I don’t usually take Route 2?

Remember my math? 12 donut holes – 3 kids. When the teenager gets the donut bag back from the peanut gallery there are no donut holes. The gradeschooler ate 9. So I’m scouting around for a donut shop or something – fast food of some kind – to feed the starving teen (who is not pleased). Can’t find a blooming thing. Run into traffic jams. Bumper to bumper stuff. Isn’t everyone supposed to be heading OUT of Boston for the weekend? Two hours later we make it to Fresh Pond Mall, by which time the little guy is sitting in lemonade and all the kids want food. Stop at a Dunkin and get milk, bagels and another donut for the little guy. Why a donut for him? Because I’m too worn out to tell him no.

Finally make it to the hospital. By this time I’ve been on the road for 3 and a half hours since I left my office. The kids are bored, need to use the bathroom again and about this time I find out the teenager had a study date – has to do projects and her finals are next week. So she’s peeved at having to go. Meanwhile, the gradeschooler is supposed to be at a sleepover that we’re not going to make in time. I feel so used…

So we make a mad dash to Mom’s room and spend a little over an hour at which point I dash the kids to the car, and take off for their home. It’s been a long day, so of course, the tired kids in the back seat start biting, punching and yukking like the Three Stooges – alternately swinging between mayhem and hysteria. It is a darn good thing I am half deaf or I’d be entirely deafened by the noise level. Periodically the teenager and I attempt to restore order in the back seat. I ponder putting the big kid back there and the gradeschooler in front, but she’s not big enough for the front seat yet. We hear the sounds of ripping, which is the kindergartener turning his homework and projects into confetti. (Sounds of grandmother beating head on steering wheel.)

We actually make pretty good time to Woburn as I am NOT taking Rt. 2 again, where we stop at Wendy’s for dinner (this is not a low-cal day for me, it seems) and then cut through the back roads to Rt. 3 and off we go as fast as I can manage without getting a ticket. Meanwhile, the little kids have turned into little hooligans and are totally out of control. The teenager threatens to make them walk home. I think of the fact their father considered taking them to Montreal and realized he would not have one black hair left on his head if he did – or maybe any hair at all!

Drop the oldest off for her study date – sort of late, but she stays up late on the weekends. I take the little ones home. Dad is looking sort of fried. I know the feeling. He’s been shopping for Father’s day for his Dad and getting things for the kids as well. I tell him the kindergartener reeks of lemonade and spilled milk and offer to take the gradeschooler to her sleepover. First he says, no, no, you’ve done enough, it’s so late…then he realizes he is overwhelmed too. I take the gradeschooler so he can take care of the kindergartner.

On the way home I recognize that I still have the booster seat and the kindergardener’s toys. Small problem – ignore. Get to my abode about 9 hours after I left my office. Drag in and stagger over to the couch where I am greeted by the dog who desperately needs his own toileting. Take dog out, come back in, collapse.

Okay, I admit it – I can no longer keep up with three kids who are on overdrive on a Friday afternoon just days from the end of the school year. They need someone younger – much younger – with better hearing and more stamina. Holy moly. Beatles song about being 64… fade to black.

When the village dogs know you’re there, go back to base


I’m home today with a miserable cold.  It is rare I ever give in and stop infecting the rest of the world, but today I am shot. Since my voice is still almost shot it is a good day to sit around in PJ’s, read, type, drink lots of liquids and recuperate.

Except… the dog goes absolutely bonkers.  He runs to me and the window, me and the window, and he’s barking like crazy. Of course, I check.  No squirrel in the yard.  “Be quiet, Duke.” He  is still barking his fool head off, in fact, he’s even more agitated and his “yarking” starting to trend deeper. Now his bark is dropping into the “I’m a Bull Mastiff” register. The hair on his neck is raised. let him out on the gated porch and almost lost him over the gate – something unanticipated. Now he’s got hair raised from his neck to his tail. Okay, this is serious. Duke’s is running from side to side,  growling, snapping, deep “roof! roof!” coming out of his 27 pound body.  Yup, he’s officially going into aggression/defense mode.  Dogs are not  known to have hallucinations.

Aha!  There!  We have some young fool wearing a camouflage outfit like swaying grasses hunkered down behind a shrub brandishing an orange and yellow water cannon. There is an intruder in the neighborhood and Duke is all over it.  I’m lucky Duke didn’t go over the fence and bite the fool, since Massachusetts is a state which has 100% liability for the first bite.

I open the window and in my best (hoarse) old lady voice say, “Son, you’re scaring the dog. Go play somewhere else.”  I disrupt his “shot” as a car drives by and I add, “When the village dogs find you, go back to base.  It’s over.”  I hope to hell if he goes into the military he considers the fact the village dogs will turn him into mincemeat unless he’s more careful than this.