Now I am generally not a whiner about the weather, but it is getting a little old. Today, for the third time in as many weeks, we are being blanketed(pelted, annoyed, assaulted, dismayed, covered) by snow. The above picture is actually in color, though it appears black and white. That should give you a sense of the outlook from my living room. Unfortunately we had a warm day a couple of weeks ago which reminded us that spring was actually a possible reality. That trick is one of New England’s favorites. Lull them into complacency and then hit them with a return of winter.
When we lived in Oregon, I always wondered why spring supposedly started on March 22. By then, flowers were up, grass was green, and my winter coat(such as it was–it wouldn’t have lasted here)was hung in the closet. Now I understand the seasonal demarcation. It’s just a little odd to have daylight savings time and snow, although it does allow more hours to shovel!
I did have time to make a batch of granola this morning. Somehow the smell of oats, nuts and maple syrup gave my spirits a little lift. And, after all, before long, we will be complaining about the heat.
I loved and trusted dogs from an early age. Here I am saying hello to the wonderful St. Bernard that lived at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon. St. Bernards are lovely dogs, and they love to lie down most of all. We had one in our dog obedience class, and the instructor said they were one breed that never needed to be told to lie down more than once! Meanwhile, our dogs were cavorting around the room.
But twice I was bitten by dogs. The first time was by a pair of black Labradors owned by Cyrus Walker, a neighbor. I had to pass the Walkers’ house on the walk home from school. Usually, but not predictably, the dogs were behind the hedge. But one afternoon, they ran out and charged me. While I froze, they circled me and then one bit me on the thigh. Fortunately, I had a dress on, so the bite was not deep. Still, I had been terrified. Regretfully, the only response I got at home was that I was bitten because they knew I was afraid. While I thought it was reasonable to be afraid of those dogs, I kept my mouth shut. I learned to circumvent the Walker’s yard by cutting through another, dogless, neighbor’s lawn.
The second bite was also from a Labrador named, ironically enough, Walker. Walker and my German Shepherd were about to go at it and I kicked out between them without thinking. Walker sunk his filthy, broken teeth into my shin. Surprised as I was that he had bitten me and not my dog, he slunk away. The doctor didn’t dare stitching up the hole because of the real risk of infection. I got a tetanus shot and instructions to keep it clean while it healed. I have a dent on that shin forty years later.
I never stopped loving and trusting dogs, despite my two experiences. I remain cautious, of course, but my deep affection of them remains. Two dog bites weren’t enough to change my belief that dogs are a wonderful addition to the world.
Our Australian Shepherd thinks she is a lap dog, as she demonstrates in the photo above as she curls around my husband’s neck. Grace is 11 and a great companion and watch dog, though if an intruder actually entered our home, she would probably lick him. I am home alone most days and I am accustomed to her moods and dispositions. I recognize her “It’s the UPS truck” bark and her “I am going to eat the mailman” bark.
But when I came home from the gym on Friday morning, something was definitely wrong with Grace. She was lethargic, lying on the kitchen floor looking forlorn as only a dog can look. I tried enticing her up with an ice cube(her favorite treat), but she ignored me. I was so concerned I called my husband at work and asked him to come home. Meanwhile I sat next to Grace on the floor, rubbing her back, praying for her and worrying. I can catastrophize with the best of them, and my imagination had gone as far as wondering if I could stand to get attached to a new dog if something happened to Grace.
After 15 minutes of my back rubbing and comforting her, Grace suddenly bolted up and stood waiting to go outside. She ran out in the yard, did her business and bounded back up onto the deck. She was just in time to greet my worried husband as he parked his car.
My granddaughter who is planning to be a vet, though at 10 who knows, calmly told me that “dogs get stomachaches just like people, and they are just as uncomfortable.” So I imagine she is right. Still, we are joking that Grace is our “miracle” dog. And it turns out my husband had enough hours in for the week that he didn’t need to go back to the office. So it was all good.
I have been pondering the different responses to solutions for aging. As we age, we often need glasses, hearing aids, canes, walkers, joint replacements and skin cancer removals. I am intrigued by the stigma that surrounds some of these and not others.
Hearing aid companies constantly advertise that their products are invisible or nearly invisible. Why do hearing aids need to be invisible? Why do people resist getting them, wearing them or admit that they need them? I compare the need for eyeglasses. Yes, many people get contact lenses, but you never hear eyeglass ads touting “invisible eyeglasses.” Why the stigma and resistance for some and not for the other?
Many women need surgery after years of childbearing. Many people need a knee replacement after years of living. The first is a very private matter. The second is often bragged about, as if it is evidence of athletic activity. Both are signs that our bodies are wearing out, but we see them differently.
Canes, which used to be seen as signs of weakness, now come in bright colors and patterns. But walking sticks were always acceptable when canes still had a stigma. Gray hair on a man is distinguished; on a woman it’s a need for dye. Bald men are fine; bald women need wigs.
I guess the whole matter reveals our ambivalence about aging. We want to control how others see us and we respond to the still prevalent stigmas about some signs of aging. Well, I live in a wrinkled, saggy, balding, nearsighted body with good hearing and my original joints. We seem to be embracing everything natural these days. Well, my body came naturally!
My daughter wanted a dog for her eighth birthday and had checked a book out of the library to study all the breeds.(Yes. We are kind of library dependent!) She settled on a West Highland White Terrier, and I found a breeder in central Oregon who had a two year old female who wasn’t a show dog. Because she was older and not show quality, I could actually afford her. We drove down and brought home a wonderful dog already named Biscuit.
Biscuit adapted to us and us to her immediately. We grew accustomed to her needs and took her for walks several times a day. One Sunday morning before church, I put on her leash to take her out. She balked, resisted, and planted herself firmly on the floor. I picked her up and carried her outside since we were in a hurry to leave. Once outside, she expelled a five inch intestine looking object onto the driveway. I panicked, figuring she was dying. Then my brain kicked in and I realized it was a puppy in a sac!
Scooping up dog and sac, I carried her into the house, put her in a box with two towels and went to church. When we came home, she presented us with two puppies, all clean and nursing. In my haste, I had deprived my daughter of the chance to witness the second birth.
Totally mystified by this turn of events, I called Mary Anne, our breeder and told her the news. She replied, “That Arthur.” Apparently she had put a very young male dog, Arthur, in a dog run with Biscuit, thinking nothing would come of it. We had the joy of Sugar and Butter for a couple of months and then gave one puppy and sold one puppy back to Mary Anne. We went to Disneyland on the proceeds.
All day yesterday the weather forecast called for heavy snow. Schools closed and the state sent workers home at noon. Still all we had was rain. The outdoor temperature was well above freezing, and the roads were warmer still. Then in the late afternoon it really did start snowing and snowing and snowing. This morning we woke up to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow. Fortunately the trees have yet to leaf, so though the boughs bent low, we didn’t lose any limbs. It’s above freezing this morning, and the snow is sliding off any tilted surface such as a porch roof. Nonetheless, my husband is out with the snowblower moving tons of snow from the sidewalks and driveways at our home and the ones on either side.
It will be below freezing tonight, so any melted snow will turn to ice. In the meantime, I expect we may get a bit of mud tracked in by the dog from the marsh formerly called our back yard. In parts of New England they joke that between winter and spring is the mud season.
Our poor hollyhocks, fooled by the warm temperatures ten days back, have stuck their little heads out of the garden. The crocus weren’t as misled, and sent up leaves but no flowers. Only the snowdrops got it right, though now they are buried in the real stuff.
May you all enjoy the wild weather that seems to be happening around the world. We can’t control it, so we might as well accept it.
Cinder met a handsome black Labrador and ended up with five little babies. Here they are being weaned off Cinder and onto Pablum and evaporated milk, apparently the transition food in 1951. They are all sharing the same bowl, which makes it a lot like their nursing experience.
We watched the puppies being born, as we later watched other puppies and kittens being born. There is certainly nothing like being a kid and watching birth to answer a string of unasked questions about the whole thing. We had watched Cinder get “fat”, make a little nest of rags and then work hard to push out each little pup. Each one was in a sac and we watched as Cinder licked it off and went on to push the next one out. We were completely impressed that each pup wiggled their way over to a nipple which supplied the milk. Nipples and milk were already known to me from watching my mom nurse my baby brother. We turned each puppy upside down to find out if it was a girl or boy. So that difference was obvious even to a little kid.
The next excitement was waiting for the puppies to open their eyes. I knew that human babies open theirs right away, so this was a fascinating difference. I hadn’t known that humans didn’t come wrapped in a sac. This had to be explained to me. But I understood that the cord and the resulting belly button were the same in pup and baby.
I am not sure if kids today commonly get to watch animals give birth. Watching the puppies and the kittens seemed like an urban transition from the typical rural experience kids had long had with sheep, goats, horses and cattle. It was an easy way to learn a lot without being in a classroom full of embarrassed kids. I’m grateful for it.