Thursday, November 29, 2007


Poor Ridge.

Poor Baxter.

Poor Elsie.

Poor Kenya.

(Pinot's oblivious.)

Daddy Don is hunting again. But now it's deer season (last week it was bear).

And these poor dogs only know that Dad put on his hunting cap and left them behind!

You've got to get the context here.

See, Don's hunting cap looks an awful lot like the baseball cap he puts on when he takes the dogs into the woods or out for a hike on the dirt roads around our house or over to the hunt club.

To the four big dogs, baseball cap = ohboyohboyohboyohboyIgettogoplaywithDad!

Ah, but this time, and last week, nobody got to go.

They don't understand that Labs don't retrieve black bear or white-tail deer. They don't get that it wouldn't be safe for them, particularly our yellows, and in particular Ridge, to roam the woods when other hunters (some, perhaps, less than careful about what they shoot at) are gunning for venison.

All they know is Dad left us behind! Aghast! How could he??? Such betrayal!

Pinot, of course, is oblivious. She's just a happy girl, trit-trotting through life right now. She hasn't made the connection between Don's hats and adventure.

But Baxter, Elsie, Ridge, and Kenya have, and they are all depressed because they couldn't go.


What they'll never understand is that not all activities are suited to Labs. Not all work, even in the field, is suited to retrievers.

The same goes for humans. It's a lesson I'm still learning.

But once learned, it's liberating.

For some time now (the last three years, actually), I've been working on retainer for a non-profit organization - a solid organization whose purpose, vision, and values I can absolutely support. The problem is, I've been doing things for them for which I'm really not well-suited (lots of admin, design, and IT stuff). And when I do write for them (I'm supposed to be their writer), I mostly put other people's ideas into words for them. I write their stuff, like a ghost-writer does. Not mine.

But I am a writer. And I've REALLY missed writing -- committing my ideas, my heart, my passion, my interests, to paper or computer screen in ways that are accessible and meaningful for my readers.

I'm also a speaker and teacher (something I curtailed to keep more time available for my retainer work), and I've missed speaking at conferences and retreats (though 2008 is filling up pretty quickly now that I'm back in the speaking arena again).

It may have taken a few years, but I've finally realized that I need to pursue work for which I was designed and created. I need to write.

Trying to do something that wasn't suited to me has been draining me dry, sucking the life from my soul. Like a Lab trying to retrieve a 300-pound black bear, I've been straining to do something I was never meant to do.

I may be dense, but the lightbulb finally switched on in my head. I need to do what I'm designed to do -- my gifts, my talents, my passions. I'll be miserable otherwise.

So I submitted my resignation just over a week ago, and as of December 7th, I'll be reentering full-time freelancing again.

I'm letting go of some good things (my retainer work) in order to pursue the best.

Now if only I could get the dogs to realize that birds, not bear or deer, are the best for them!

'Til next time,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Warmth in the Cold

It's finally getting cold outside. Over the past week, we've had nighttime temps in the 20s (daytime highs in the 40s).

It's still not cold enough to be my kind of weather, but it's chilly enough to warrant our starting the wood stove.

Elsie and Kenya couldn't be happier.

They love curling up in front of a blazing fire -- sometimes so close I think the radiating heat will singe their whiskers (but it never does).

There's just something about the fire that attracts them.

When it's cold outside, there's nothing like a warm fire or a steaming beverage to nudge the chill away. Kenya and Elsie know this.

We do, too.

But I think it's the same when we experience "cold" circumstances or "cold" relationships. If we're going to survive them, we need to draw close to other sources of warmth..

I'm thinking about a couple of things as I write this:
  • a long-standing, trusted relationship (of decades) that's grown cold
  • my old workplace (a place of function, productivity, and teamwork, but rarely genuine warmth)
  • a church issue (again, a place of function and productivity, but again little warmth)
  • misunderstandings and false accusations
  • a really difficult family issue
If I'm going to survive these things, that is, if I'm going to remain healthy (relationally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically), I need to draw near to those things that warm me.

It's simple for Elsie and Kenya; a burning wood-stove provides their seasonal warmth. What provides warmth for me when circumstances or people grow cold?

  • playing with my canine kids (of course! -- would you expect anything else?)
  • relaxing with my husband
  • giggling with my human kids
  • hanging out with warm, caring friends
  • curling up with a hot cup of tea and a good book
  • doing those things I know I'm good at or feel good about
  • re-reading saved notes of encouragement others have sent me over the years (I have something called a "joy box" where I keep notes like these)
  • inhaling nature
  • writing entries for my blogs
  • interacting with you all
Life's been pretty cold here lately. But your interaction with me (via comments) and the other things on my list above keep my relational heart beating strong.

I have a warm, steady life pulse even now, despite recent icy blasts.

And I will. But only as long as I remember to come in from the cold and warm myself by the fire.

Thanks for being a source of warmth for me.

'Til next time,

Saturday, November 24, 2007

She's One of Us!

Pinot is definitely one of us these days (apples don't fall far from their trees):

  • She comes and sits at the sound of the ice maker (my guys love ice cubes).
  • She sits and waits patiently for treats and food (notice the new photo under the blog title in the left margin at the top of this page. I just had to update the official photo, you know!).
  • She loves being outdoors, sometimes just sitting and watching (the way Elsie does).
  • She thoroughly enjoys snoozing in the sunshine.
  • She loves to work (we're still just doing basic training for only about 5 minutes at a time).
  • She loves to romp with the big dogs.
  • She alerts immediately to any kind of bird sounds (even if they're on TV).


She's a lap dog (go figure)!

Her favorite lap seems to be DH's, of course (you'll get no argument from me - hehe). But she's content with other laps, too.

Here she is on Thanksgiving:

And yesterday morning with Don while he was trying to work from home (hehe):

And yesterday afternoon, sound asleep on DD's lap:

Well, that is, until Mama Elsie decided she wanted Sarah's lap (notice Ridge far right on the couch - it's musical laps for dogs!):

And she is, as are the rest, a snuggler:

Some hunting-dog folks would tell us we're ruining the dogs -- softening them too much.

But I disagree.

I don't think dogs can ever be too people-oriented. The mutual affection between human and canine only strengthens the bond between master and working dog, and therefore strengthens their ability to work effectively together. Yes, Don is the task-master around here (firmer with the dogs than I -- he's the primary trainer), but he's also the primary snuggler.

And it shows. The dogs do what he asks them to do. And they vie for his lap. :o)

No, we're not softening our dogs in undesirable ways; we're socializing them. We're encouraging them to be even more people-friendly then their Lab genes alone would allow them to be.

And that, truth be told, makes them even more responsive in the field.

I'd say it's a win-win. :o)

Now we just need a bigger sofa (or more human laps!).

'Til next time,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pinot's Pillows

Ahhh...the life of a puppy!

Eat. Sleep.
Play. Sleep.
Pee and poo. Sleep
Romp with big dogs. Sleep.
"Work" all of about 5 minutes, a couple times a day (basic manners training). Sleep.
Observe the world. Sleep.
Run. Sleep.
Scavenge crumbs off the dishwasher door. Sleep.
Hang out on the hammock. Sleep.
Chew. Sleep.
Crate. Sleep.
Yawn. Sleep.
Then sleep some more.

So, in tribute to a puppy's need for sleep, here are the many pillows of Pinot:

The sofa cushion:

Grandma's Lap:

The Hammock:


Baxter (especially Baxter's butt):

Kenya (who then uses Elsie -- the domino effect!):

Mom (Elsie):

Sofa + air (this can't be comfortable!):

Puppies can sleep just about anywhere in just about any position.

I wish we could say the same for humans.

'Til next time,

Joan (whose drug-induced sleep on a 757 during a 9-hour flight still wasn't restful!)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Home Again!

We're back from Copenhagen. :o) And we had a wonderful trip. Poor hubby had to work most of the time. I had to work only one day, then spent the rest of the week bopping around the city on my own. What fun.

I saw surprisingly few dogs during my wanderings. Two of the four I saw during the week were Labs, which made me miss home, of course.

The first thing we did after our return and a stock-up run to the grocery store was pick up Pinot. She had great fun playing with her sister, Dakota, all week. I was delighted to see she recognized us and recognized her home after a week away.

That was Sunday PM, and the rest of the canine kids couldn't be picked up from the kennels until Monday, so we had full evening of enjoying Pinot to ourselves. What a snuggle bear!

It was the first time, however, that she'd ever been without a canine companion. Since birth, her litter mates or our gang have been around for her to play with. The poor little girl roamed around whimpering and looking for her buds off and on all evening.

She was fine as long as we were near. But she didn't like being left alone.

Until it was time for bed, that is. Then she quite happily entered her crate and settled down to sleep -- something that took me completely by surprise. I fully expected a night of her crying. But she seemed secure, even content, there. If that's not a plug for crate-training, I don't know what is.

Monday, I picked up the other four dogs. And Pinot could barely contain her excitement or her enthusiasm (same went for the gang).

Once they had the wiggles out of their systems, they all settled back into a normal routine, while Pinot took great advantage of the hammocks we've now moved indoors, claiming them as her own. :o)

She's a happy girl now -- glad to be with Elsie, Baxter, Ridge, and Kenya, and she doesn't seem to miss her litter mates anymore. In fact, Kenya has turned out to be her new playmate; she's a wonderful "aunt" to Pinot. I'll post more about that later this weekend.

So, we're back. And the gang is back in their routine. We're no longer in litter-mode (the other pups are gone, everything is all cleaned up, and we have our house back again -- it's actually a relief at this point, and just in time for the holidays). And we're all doing well.

It's good to be home.

'Til next time,

Monday, November 05, 2007

AWAY message - So You Won't Worry

I'll be away (in Denmark) with Dear Hubby for the next week.

We've got neighbors watching the house, and he human kids dropping by now and then to check on things here as they can.

The canine kids, at least the four older ones, are playing at the kennels all week.

And Pinot gets to go play at her sister's house (formerly Miss Pink, now "Dakota") since Dakota's mom is a pet sitter and takes pet boarders. :o)

So Pinot can play with Dakota all week, which is good timing. It will help her get over her Copper and Killian leaving over this past weekend.

And the rest of our crew can hang out with each other!

And we'll be back on the weekend.

I just thought I'd give you all the heads up so you don't worry if I don't post for the next 8 or 9 days.

We're all fine (us, human kids, and canine kids included)!

Have a great week! I'll check in after we get the gang home again.

'Til next time,

Just Pinot - The Update

Poor little Pinot girl is missing her litter mates, especially the two brothers with which she's been playing for the past two weeks. It's just been the three of them, so Copper's and Killian's leavings have been hard on her.

Not to worry, though. Pinot is getting boatloads of snuggles with us, though, and boatloads of time with our gang -- even crating now and then with Kenya, which they both thoroughly enjoy, so she'll adjust in time, I'm sure.

She also likes sleeping with Baxter or Kenya on the couch or with Elsie on the hammock. She likes playing with Ridge and Kenya best it seems. :o)

She just went in for her 10-week check-up at the vet's and...the GREAT NEWS is this: Pinot's heart murmur is GONE -- no sign of it at all! It must have been a puppy anomaly. Yay!!!!!

She's a little sweetie pie; even more of a peanut head than Kenya. And she's doing fabulously with crate training (all night, no problem, and no indoor accidents at all in the last three days -- almost housebroken!).

And she's responding well to "here" "sit" "wait" "no bite" "leave it" and "ah-ah-ah" (what I use instead of "no"). She's a smart little one.

And she's up to a whopping 22 pounds!!! (Everybody else is at about 25 pounds or more). She still, however, looks underweight to me.

That's our little girl! And she's a whopping 10 weeks old now!

My, where did those weeks go????

'Til next time,

Mr. Green and Mr. Blue go Home!

Well, we're down to just our Pinot now (formerly Miss Black). Mr. Green, now called "Killian," left us yesterday afternoon for his new home. Here he is with his new forever family:

And Mr. Blue flew to AZ with his new "mom" Theresa on Friday. Here are a few shots of him (now called "Copper") with his new forever family at his new home:

I think Copper and Killian are going to have a ball in their new homes. We're tickled with their placements and, again, couldn't be more pleased.

Knowing the pups have all gone to such great new families makes it so much easier to part with them. I will admit, however, that it's been bittersweet to let them go.

I just thought you'd all like to know!

'Til next time,