Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mystery Solved: Podengo

My husband and I were fortunate to spend a couple of weeks in Spain and Portugal this past October. As we wandered along the beaches and through the cobblestone streets of coastal southern Portugal we kept seeing pointy-eared, scruffy dogs -- little ones, medium ones and the occasional big one. We had seen a few similar scruffy dogs in Spain as well. At first we thought they were just very cute terrier crosses. Then as we kept seeing more and more of these scruffy dogs, we started to wonder if they were actually a breed.

Podengo Pequeno
This afternoon I was chatting with a dog-loving friend who asked me if I'd ever heard of the Podengo, a scruffy dog breed from Portugal. I hadn't. This is rare. I'm usually the one my friends turn to and ask: "Do you know what kind of dog that is?"

(As a youth I was desperate to get a puppy, so I memorized the Encyclopedia of Dogs in an attempt to prove to my parents that I was knowledgeable enough to handle the task. I finally got the dog: Katie, the Cairn Terrier, the first of my scruffy dogs. For some reason that near-encyclopedic knowledge of dog breeds has managed to stick with me all these years. I probably could have used that memory space for something more important, like remembering family birthdays or the names of people I've met at work functions, but no).

My friend's comment sent me on a quest to see if the Podengo was that mystery dog we kept seeing all over Portugal. It is.  The Podengo comes in smooth coat and wire coat in three sizes: Small (Pequeno), Medium (Medio) and Large (Grande). And it's not just any dog breed from's the national dog breed of Portugal. I guess that explains why they were everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Rural Portugal doesn't seem to have any sort of enforced leash laws, so these scruffy dogs were running around the countryside, wandering through the city streets and begging for food at restaurants, without their owners anywhere to be found.

Podengo Medio
Obviously I've been remiss in keeping up with the dog times, because, I'm told, this breed is soon to be the hottest must-have dog here in the US. A 2000-year-old hunting breed brought to Iberia by the Phoenecians and now they're being spotted wearing silk dog coats in Manhattan.  I guess that's how it goes. And as of January 1, 2011 the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno is eligible to compete in AKC's Miscellaneous Class, which will give it a big boost when all the scruffy dog lovers like me spot these guys trotting around the ring in televised dog shows.

I just hope that their soon-to-be popularity doesn't lead to them being bred indiscriminately. The breed today has almost no genetic disorders and is extremely healthy, smart and well adjusted to family life -- as it has been for millennia. Traces of the Podengo's DNA are found in little, scruffy, pointy-eared dogs all over the world -- pretty much wherever the Portuguese explorers landed -- as the Podengo Pequeno were used as ratters on Portuguese sailing vessels. But it takes only a few generations of poor breeding in puppy mills to destroy a breed. So let's hope, for the sake of the adorable Podengo, that scruffy dog lovers will get their dogs from reputable breeders who are taking care to maintain this ancient breed's wonderful characteristics.
Podengo Grande

We're not looking for another dog at the moment. Baxter and Kirby are plenty of scruffy canine for one small household. If we were ever to get another purebred, it would probably be a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon like Baxter.  But I have to admit, the Podengo is pretty cute. And we are hoping to spend another vacation in Portugal some day...

(All photos from the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno Club of America.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Austin, the Great Dane, on MAX

I shot these images a few weeks ago, as we were returning from our Spain/Portugal trip. Bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, we were riding the MAX light rail train home from the airport when Austin, the Great Dane, entered and sat down behind us. Needless to say, Austin wasn't supposed to be on MAX, but we were charmed nonetheless. I couldn't resist capturing the moment and neither Austin nor his traveling companion seemed to mind...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gray Friday and Electric Santa

This year, in the spirit of giving thanks for all that I have in my life, I have decided to part with some of it.  Instead of Black Friday, a day of acquisition, this year I had Gray Friday: a day of pulling out dusty boxes, still packed from the past two home moves, and going through their contents.  There was a small part of me that thought "you haven't even considered this stuff for the past three (or, in some cases, nine) years, why don't you just haul it all to the dump?" But the better parts of me -- the sentimental part, the maybe-someone-less-fortunate-could-use-this part, the what-if-this-old-thing-is-worth-something-on-eBay part and, of course, the just-plain-curious part -- just couldn't let things go without having a look.

Gray Friday has paid off in spades. I'm not sure how I got by for all those Christmases without Electric Santa. I've had Electric Santa since I was a little girl. Somehow he became separated from all of the other Christmas stuff and emerged just yesterday from a box filled with a mix of old holiday and non-holiday items. Nothing else in the box mattered much to me, but finding Electric Santa just made my day -- and my whole holiday season -- a little brighter. He's now glowing on the window ledge above my desk and every time I look up at him I can't help but smile. Just the right amount of kitsch and childhood nostalgia.

Another nostalgic find was the box filled with a few of Baxter's things, including his puppy collar. It was sooooo small. It was expandable, but even so, I think he outgrew it in a month. I felt pangs of sadness finding his hiking backpack, though. While Baxter still hikes with gusto and manages to stay a few yards ahead of us all the way, with his arthritic hips we wouldn't dare load him down with any weight. It's been years since any of us has been backpacking... But I think I'll wait until spring to unload the box that says "backpacks and camping equipment."

My Dad used to joke that "three moves are as good as a fire." It's true in terms of being able to find anything. Stuff just gets lost...usually among the boxes that aren't unpacked for so long you forget about them. But unlike a fire, recovery is often possible and sometimes found items feel like blessings from the past. One of those blessings was finding a "lost" box filled with Dad's rock carvings. My dear father passed away in 2006. For a number of years he and Mom were snowbirds, escaping Iowa's cold to spend the winters in slightly warmer Sedona, Arizona. Inspired by petroglyphs he saw while hiking there, Dad took up the hobby of carving similar designs into slabs of beautiful, red Sedona sandstone. He gave them away as gifts. In one of our past moves, the ones he gave us were lovingly wrapped in towels and packed away in a box that somehow ended up in the back of a closet somewhere. Yesterday I found them. It was as if Christmas came early. And as I gleefully unwrapped each stone, I thought of Daddy and smiled.

I've only just begun the excavation (archeological dig is more like it). But the whole process so far has really made me think about what is meaningful and what is just a passing fancy. Some of the items I purchased years ago, thinking they were so necessary at the time, are now sitting in the box that's bound for the Goodwill store.  But seemingly insignificant things, like the little red box of white, lick-and-stick paper reinforcements I used for making crafts as a child (and not nearly as often for reinforcing hole-punched paper) took me back to my pre-school days. That's a keeper.

I'm realizing that in most cases, the value of an item is, for me, in the memories I've attached to it. There's no price on eBay that's worth as much to me as plugging in my Electric Santa.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving for Dogs

Photo credit: Thanksgiving 2008 by kmazz
It's that time of year when we unwittingly torture our canine friends by preparing and eating (in front of them) an inordinate amount of rich, savory, gravy-coated food while they stare at a bowl of the usual old daily kibble. Well, actually, our dogs ignore the kibble entirely and just stare at us as we eat. They watch every fork-full move from plate to mouth. That is, until we tell them to stop begging and lay down, which they do, begrudgingly.*

We have never fed our dogs food from the table, but that doesn't stop them from trying. They instinctively know how to pour on the pathos, beaming at you with those large, soulful eyes and an expression that says "I haven't eaten in months." Who knows, maybe this year a gullible guest won't know the house rules? (I think Baxter still remembers our friend in Southern Oregon who would "accidentally" drop bits of food as she Thanksgiving he didn't leave her side for several hours.)

Given that we count our dogs are among the beings on this planet we are most thankful for, it hardly seems right to let this holiday go by without doing something special for them. Yet (and we know this from experience) feeding our guys certain "people foods" can wreak havoc on their digestion. The trick is feeding them the right foods. As Heidi Biesterveld explains in her great "Dog-friendly Thanksgiving" blog series on The Bark:
"...think of your pet as a lactose intolerant celiac with high blood pressure (i.e., needs to watch his or her salt intake) and with allergies to onion and garlic."
She shares some great info on what not to feed your dog and, in several subsequent blog entries, she provides recipes for delicious-sounding, gluten-free foods that are good enough to serve your human guests and are also suitable to share with your canine friends. It's worth a look.

Another option -- for those of us sticking to more conventional human fare -- is to plop a bit of Merrick's Thanksgiving Day Dinner canned dog food onto our dogs' usual food. It's something special, they love it and it's entirely grain-free, so it doesn't usually cause any digestive distress. Merrick also makes a Grammy's Pot Pie that gets rave reviews (read: gone in 5 seconds) from both Baxter and Kirby.

Once they've wolfed down their special dinners, I'm sure both dogs will maintain their table-side vigil until the last crumb of pumpkin pie is gone...

*Yes, they've perfected the art of begging from a prone position. Oh that look... I must be strong.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Dog Sofa

We recently gave up on the "no dogs on the living room sofa" policy. For years it worked just fine, as Baxter would sit or stand next to the couch and put his head on my lap. Enter Kirby, who is too small to do that. It started when we decided it was only fair to let Kirby come up sometimes, as long as he was on someone's lap. The hang-dog looks from Baxter were unbearable. So we got a throw and made the rule: you can get up here, as long as the throw is down and there's a human on the sofa with you.  This is working pretty well, and the dogs usually ask before they jump up. Only once have we caught a dog on the couch when we walked in the door (Baxter). We forgot to fold up the throw. He just assumed... Anyway, it's a dog couch now.

Now the jostling for position begins. There is plenty of room for all three of us up there (Baxter, Kirby and me), but if Kirby manages to get up there first, he stretches out his little body as long as he possibly can, so there's no room for the considerably larger Baxter to lay down. I usually have to pull Kirby out of the way to make room. But the other night Baxter took things into his own hands...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Escape Claws

Baxter is at it again... I felt a tap on the elbow, just prior to the touch of four rather large claws gradually pressing into my arm. Baxter is giving me the most earnest look possible. I've never seen a more earnest looking dog (see example). He knows the neighbor's cat is prowling around the driveway behind our house. He thinks if he can con me into taking him outside (even though he was just outside a short time ago and I'm pretty certain he doesn't HAVE to go), he just might break free to give that cat what he has coming to him. I don't know what that is, exactly, but Baxter really, really wants to deliver it.

Last time Baxter lunged his way loose from my grip and actually caught a cat, he did absolutely nothing. Baxter just stood there, staring at the cat as if to say "tag, you're it!" Of course the cat was having a complete nervous breakdown.

Maybe that's all Baxter wants. Is a little cat tormenting so wrong? Perhaps Baxter, like us, saw the same cat tormenting a little bird last week...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Canine Snore-fest

Last night we didn't have use of our noise machine. This is significant. One of the adaptations we made to accomodate our life with Baxter (and now Kirby) was the introduction of a whirring air filter machine to help us all sleep through the night. The dogs, who manage to sleep most of the day and still sleep most of the night, each have their noisy night quirks. Baxter has always been quite the snorer. Maybe it's something to do with his large nose or soft mouth. Whatever the cause, he saws logs most of the night as his legs run in hot pursuit of dream cats. Kirby has a wee little snore that doesn't begin to compete with the big guy. But when the two of them get going in tandem, it's actually kind of funny. It's less funny at 3am when we're trying to sleep, but rhythmically interesting nonetheless.

The other canine night noises involve a combination of shaking -- the dog equivalent of the "reset button" -- that must be done prior to changing positions. Before lying down, Baxter must circle in his bed at least two or three times, after which he literally drops to the ground and groans. Roughly 30 seconds later he's snoring again. Kirby, who still prefers to sleep in his crate, just climbs in, kicks the walls once or twice to get situated and nods off.

I had almost forgotten just how much of this commotion takes place in the night because my husband and I have been blissfully snoozing through it for years, thanks to the masking noise of the cheapest, loudest-whirring air filter we could find. But last night the machine was out of order... Actually, I had thrown away the old air filter and had forgotten to pick up a new one at the store. I realized as I was making my way to bed that the whole contraption was still in pieces. I figured we could make it through one night without it.

Needless to say, after about an hour of the aforementioned activities, my husband was up turning on every fan in the house. Fortunately, our home was blessed with a couple of bathroom and laundry room fans that rival the decibel level of small aircraft taking off. Soon the dogs and people were sound asleep in our noisy house, dreaming, snoring and kicking our way through the night.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Vito @ 8 weeks: The Movie

Going for a stroll with our new little friend... Video courtesy of Jamie Newton.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome Vito!

A puppy has joined our extended pack... No, he's not exactly scruffy, but he is the new canine in the family of our dear friends (whose sweet Portuguese Water Dog and honorary scruffy, Phoebe, passed away last November...RIP Phoebe, we miss you terribly.)

Enter Vito. Adorable. He's an 8-week-old Lagotto Romagnolo and we had the pleasure of meeting him this past weekend. Not only is he brimming with cuteness, he's also one of the sweetest, most laid-back puppies I've ever met. He has an almost Baxter-like expression -- inquisitive, he looks you right in the eye in a totally non-threatening way, as if he's trying to discern what you are thinking.

I'm probably taken in by the resemblance as well...He looks a bit like puppy Baxter with a body perm... They likely share some DNA, as the all of the modern European water retrieving dogs are believed to decend from the ancient Lagotto.

Photos of Vito at 8 weeks and Baxter at 10 weeks.

In any case, stay tuned for more husband's camera has not yet been mined and the forthcoming YouTube video will melt you. Really.

Sniff Dog Hotel

Sniff Dog Hotel is opening up in Portland...Based on the website alone, I almost want to work here... I wonder what it would take to wrangle a PR job with these folks? Anyway, this looks to be a very classy place for pampered pups in the Portland area. What a great concept. I love the array of classes, the idea of a dog/person cafe, etc. Photo: Sniff Dog Hotel website.

Note the upcoming Grand Opening and benefit on Thursday - September 2nd 5p-9p. Proceeds from drinks/food/raffle benefit Oregon Human Society & Dove Lewis.

I'll go if I can make it that day...if not, I'll definitely be checking this place out some other time!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Adios Paco

It is with much sadness that I post this... We've just learned that our little friend and Kirby look-alike, Paco, has passed away. He was just seven years old.

If you've read my blog in the past, you might remember the story of Paco and Kirby meeting at the Ashland dog park...
Before we moved back to Portland, Kirby and Paco (and their respective "brothers" Baxter and Nemo) spent quite a bit of time playing chase and wrestling and, like their human counterparts, thoroughly enjoying each other's company. Paco's "mom," Cheryl, has kept us posted on Paco and Nemo's adventures in Baja each winter and we have so enjoyed the connection over the years.

We are terribly sad to hear of Paco's passing and our hearts go out to Cheryl, Nemo and family at this time of loss.
RIP Paco.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Exercising Options

Baxter is a walker. He will go anywhere with gusto, smelling every tree, checking every shrub for birds (or cats) and maintaining a lanky lope that I can barely keep up with. Kirby, on the other hand, only likes to walk within a five block radius of our house, and only on days when it isn't too hot or too cold or too noisy or too windy. So every time I try to take both dogs on a longer walk, I end up with Baxter pulling me forward and Kirby pulling me backward (until I turn toward home when the whole thing reverses).

I've been nursing a shoulder injury of late -- dog-related. I'll save it for another time. In short: it's really hard for me to manage this "push-me-pull-you" style of dog walking. So I've started exercising the dogs separately, and they love it.

One of Kirby's favorite things to do, of late, is fetch a tennis ball. He sprints with joy, grabs the ball with laser accuracy (most of the time) and returns it to my feet and stares at it with the intensity of a collie until I throw it again (his DNA is showing through). Kirby will repeat this until he wears himself out or it gets too hot. He then either lays down in the shade or, as he did this morning, jauntily carries the ball back to the door of our house. Perfect.

I open the door, Kirby runs in and Baxter comes out with me for a longer walk, which he absolutely loves. I think not having the little guy under foot suits him better. He doesn't pull on the leash as much as he used to when he was younger. I think he's just content to keep a brisk walk going with an occasional detour to get a whiff of something that's just inches beyond the reach of his leash.

Everyone is happy with this set-up. And it keeps us all a wee bit fitter.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Gentle Reminders

Every once in a while I have one of those days that is so blindingly busy -- you know, that vaudevillian sense of all the plates on all the sticks wobbling and you'll never get them all going again without something crashing to the floor -- that I almost lose my sense of time and place. These are the times I pay the least attention to the dogs, but the times when I most appreciate them. They don't have days like that. For them, it's just another boring day, watching me type and stare at a screen with squiggles on it. And every once in a while the dogs decide to do something about it.

Baxter's style is the big paw on the lap and the earnest look, straight into my eyes, that says "It's time for you to step away from the infernal glowing squiggle machine now."

Kirby usually takes a more verbal approach. Sometimes he'll put his paws on my leg, but usually he'll just sit, staring intensely at me, and start making little growly noises that almost sound like words. Humpf. Humpfrrr. Humpfrrowrow.

It must be time for dinner...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Desert Road Trip

We recently returned from a desert Southwest road trip with my mom and the dogs. We timed it to see the peak bloom of wildflowers in Death Valley (next to 2005, one of the most spectacular blooms of the century I'm told). We drove to Las Vegas, met family who flew in, rented a van and spent an entire day just tooling around DV. Baxter and Kirby, who are accustomed to having their own gated space at the back of the Subaru, were thrilled to ride unfettered in the minivan. Well, almost unfettered. I elected to play dog wrangler, sitting in the far-back seat with the other half folded down. The dogs frolicked in the back, but soon decided the seat would be more comfortable and both decided to jump onto my lap at the same time. Thank goodness my lap isn't big enough for both of them...but that didn't stop them from trying.

Of course, Death Valley was spectacular. It's always spectacular for its geology, but when you add a blanket of greenery and wildflowers that seem to spurt from impossible sandy soils and rocks, it's off the charts. I don't think the dogs quite appreciated the sweet smell of sand verbena on the wind -- something I couldn't get enough of and ended up spending a great deal of time on my knees bending down to get a stronger whiff. But they were pretty excited to find a nice patch of grass at the oasis around the visitor's center at Furnace Creek. Three days on the road and not a whole lot of grass to be found.

We turned in the van, said goodby to our air-traveling kin and went on to Sedona, Arizona (another of our favorate places). While both Baxter and Kirby are good travelers, I think they were glad to spend a few days on terra firma.

Kirby visited the area briefly as a pup, but Baxter has been to Sedona many times over the years and has a few favorite spots. He started whining as we drove down Verde Valley School Road in the Village of Oak Creek...winding our dusty way toward Red Rock Crossing. There, where the smooth red rocks slope gently down to Oak Creek, the water widens into a pool that is one of Baxter's all time favorite stick-fetching spots.

Now, while Kirby is far better at fetching on land (Baxter pretty much refuses, choosing instead to run off with the stick and chew it) Baxter is the king of fetch in the water. As soon as we released the dogs, Baxter made a beeline for the creek. With the enthusiasm of a dog half his age, Baxter took a leap into the ice cold water and gleefully swam out to fetch sticks over and over and over.

Kirby, who isn't a big fan of swimming, waited on the shore. Each time Baxter returned to dry land with a stick, Kirby proceeded to grab one end of it and run alongside him... A couple of times Kirby successfully wrested the stick from Baxter and cheerfully carried it over to drop it at our feet, as if to take credit. Bax didn't seem to mind, because he knew he was the only one who would venture back into the creek to fetch it again.

It was a warm, sunny day so we took a little walk to dry off the dogs and stretch our legs. We found a lovely spot in the trees, rested in the shade and admired the view of Cathedral Rocks (which Jamie painted and I attempted to sketch). It was a lovely afternoon.

The next day we went for a hike with the dogs, who were more than happy to hit the trail. But like any weekend warriors who are a tad advanced in age, Baxter started showing a bit of wear and tear. Between running across the sandstone and padding up the rocky trails, Baxter's feet were a little sore and his hips seemed a tad stiff. He stepped gently and slowly (no more pulling!) and decided he would only walk on pavement, avoiding the rocky yard at the front of the hotel. After a day of rest he was back in ship shape and rearing to go.

Kirby, whose pads are small and extremely thick (it's as if they have Nike air technology that allows him to bounce), didn't seem to notice any wear at all. Of course, he's young. It's amazing how resiliant young bodies are...a fact of which I am constantly reminded now that I'm no longer a kid myself...

The trip home, through Death Valley again, provided even more spectacular wildflower sightings. The blanket of desert sunflowers covering the hills was at least three times thicker the second weekend. We drove North along the East side of the snow-capped Sierras, up through our old haunts in Ashland (where we had a lovely Easter brunch with friends and Baxter and Kirby got to celebrate Baxter's 11th birthday (which fell on Easter, just like the day he was born) playing with their old friend Jackson.

It was a lovely trip. And while the boys seem very happy to be back home and into their normal routine, I think they had a pretty good time too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lumps and Life

Baxter is an elegant dog. He has always been a tad tall for his breed, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, but his long legs and lean body create a perfectly balanced and graceful form beneath his scruffy hair. Baxter is a dog who looks as good wet as he does dry (Kirby, on the other hand, rather needs the fluffy hair). But as he's gotten older, Baxter's beautiful tweedy coat has camouflaged his increasing lumpiness. Thank goodness, the vet tells us these lumps are only lipomas -- benign, fatty growths that are quite common in older dogs, particularly retrievers and other hunting dogs.

It's very hard for me to admit Baxter is getting old. On April 4 he will turn 11 -- he is, most definitely, in his golden years. But he has so much energy, such joie de vivre, it's sometimes hard to see the signs of age. But they're there. When I run my hands down his sides, I feel the landscape of a half-dozen lumps beneath his skin. More on his neck, his chest, down his thighs. All covered by that glorious hair.

The vet always takes meticulous measurements to ensure none are growing at a rapid rate that might suggest some other form of tumor. So far, nothing to worry about, he says. I hope so. I just wish there was something I could do. Some way I could hold off the inevitable decline that begins with a few lumps and the occasional shaky back leg. I don't want to see my boy grow old. I want him to always be the spry, athletic, goofy yet soulful pup I've known and loved for the past decade-plus.

Among other things, one lesson I learned from my father's death is that we must cherish every moment we have with our loved ones. But I sometimes forget this. I too often take my family members -- including our dogs -- for granted. When I get done working, doing all those important things I need to get done, I just know they'll be there.
But they won't.

So today I took a nap with the dogs. Something I haven't done in a while. I stepped away from the computer and curled up next to Baxter on the floor. He stretched and nestled into the crook of my arm. Kirby curled up next to my leg. And we snoozed.
Pure bliss.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kato: A Sad Story with a Happy Ending

Another long period without writing my blog. It has been such a strange few months since we got back from Japan. Some good things have happened. And some sad things have happened, one of which was the passing of my dear uncle in Iowa and the drama that ensued around the fate of his little dog, Kato.

My uncle had no children. His wife had passed away a couple of years ago, leaving him and their new puppy, a little white pomeranian named Kato, to fend for themselves. Life was never quite the same for my uncle after my aunt died, and while Kato was quite a handful for an arthritic fellow in his mid-80s, that little dog seemed to be the only joy in my uncle's life.

Kato was, of course, the little prince of the household. I'm not sure he ever heard the word "no." My aunt and uncle had always had poms, but Kato was by far the liveliest (and, I think, the cutest) puppy they'd ever had. He bounced. He could spin blindingly fast in circles. He did laps around the house. He loved to play in the snow for hour on end. And, as all puppies do, he created mischief.

According to reports from my uncle, Kato mellowed a bit as he matured, but he still maintained an energy level unrivalled by any of his predecessors. Kato's greatest asset was his sweet disposition. He never growled. He seemed to be smiling all the time. He absolutely loved sitting in your lap and would bathe you with kisses if you let him. And it was that loving personality that kept my uncle going day after day.

I took this video of Kato with my phone when my mom and I went to visit my uncle last fall. At the time, I had no idea how significant this little video would be to Kato's future.

We learned the news of my uncle's passing when we returned from Japan. My heart sank. Then my sadness quickly turned to concern -- what about Kato? He had stayed in my uncle's house and was being fed by a neighbor while my uncle was in the hospital. Now what? He needed an immediate temporary home and, at some point, a permanent home.

Still jetlagged from my trip and overwhelmed with a combination of grief and a nasty chest cold, I made finding a safe place for Kato a number one priority. I contacted the national Pomeranian rescue and learned there wasn't a rescue organization taking poms anywhere near my uncle. So I put the word out to some of my friends and family on Facebook... And here's where I most appreciated Facebook's capacity to make connections with old friends.

Through Facebook I had re-connected with Lisa, a dog-loving friend from my childhood days, who still lives in the town where I grew up (the town where my uncle lived). Lisa (dear soul) immediately ran down to the local shelter and asked about rescue resources... Within the day she connected me with Linda, a woman who provides temporary care for dogs in her home. Linda agreed to care for Kato until our family could get back to Iowa or until we made arrangements for his adoption...whichever came first.

The next morning Linda was at my uncle's house, picked-up little Kato (who was, by now, quite confused and lonely) and took him straight to the vet, where I had made arrangements to have him neutered. She picked him up from the vet, took him home, cleaned him up and proceeded to give him as much love and comfort as a sweet, lonely little dog could take.

I turned again to my dog-loving connections and sent around the little video of Kato...hoping that someone among my friends or family back there would want to give him a permanent loving home. A few days later I got a note from one of my cousins...she had sent the video to some dear friends in Minnesota who were looking for a little dog, and Kato's video had simply charmed them.

To make a long story a wee bit less long... I had some long talks with Kato's temporary caregiver (who had also fallen in love with Kato, but couldn't keep him permanently due to family concerns). She said he had been wonderful with her grandchildren, got along splendidly with her cat and would make a fine companion for a family with children. He was just in need of some basic training.

I had a few long talks with the prospective family, asked them questions, told them of Kato's sweet and gentle nature, and made sure they knew Kato would require some firm guidance to learn the rules of the house. They were OK with it all. They seemed like wonderful people. We had a new home for Kato!

When I went back to Iowa for my uncle's funeral I had a chance to visit Kato before his new family came to pick him up. When he saw Mom and me, his little brow furrowed and he got this look of concern on his face... Did he remember us from my uncle's house? He snuggled into my arms and looked up at me with his sweet, dark eyes. At that point I almost had a hard time not packing him up and taking him back to Oregon myself. But I knew this was the right many people had come together to help this little dog. And there was a nice family just a couple of hours away who were incredibly excited about adopting him.

I spoke with Kato's new family recently. He's settling in. The kids love him. It took the cats a while to warm up to him, but now they play chase and get along just fine. He adores playing in the snow and snuggling up in the evening. He's had a few behavior issues to resolve, as expected, but with love and firm guidance, he is making progress. Most of all, he's happy. And his new family is happy. And I know that's what my uncle wanted for his sweet little Kato.