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...