Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spring = Outdoors = OhBoyOhBoyOhBoy!

Well it's finally warm enough for the canine kiddos to enjoy being outside for more than just a few minutes at a time.

When wind chills are 20-below zero (F), which they have been for much of February here, it's dangerously cold even for our well-coated friends. During those cold snaps, they go outside to "get busy" and that's about it.

And then they get cabin fever. :o)

So, since temps bumped up into the 40s, Daddy-Don took Elsie and Baxter out for a good, long, psuedo-training walk and romp in the fields and woods near our home.

Just look how happy the Elsie-girl is:

Elsie is all Lab, no doubt about it. She possesses the strongest retrieving instincts of our crew (although our little Kenya-bean is looking VERY promising). And she and Baxter are best off-lead when Don takes them out (Ridge is best on-lead).

They all love being outdoors.

I'm so glad it's warm enough to get them outside for training and exercise again. :o)

Now, if only we could do something about all that mud.

'Til next time,


Monday, February 26, 2007

The Morning Rush

When folks in southeastern PA (or anywhere in the mid-Atlantic corridor) talk about "the morning rush" they're usually referring to traffic. From DC to Boston "morning rush" means highway congestion and long drives for commuters scurrying to get to work on time.

I will say, despite its challenges, working from an office at home has its benefits.

Avoiding the "morning rush," however, isn't one of them.

No, my morning rush may not include four-wheeled vehicles competing for positional superiority on the Turnpike, but it does include four-legged canines vying for positional advantage by my side.

It's the "oh-boy-it's-morning-and-we're-so-happy-to-see-you-since-it's-been-so-long-since-we-saw-you-last-night-and-we're-just-so-happy-to-see-you-again-and-we-just-want-you-to-know-just-how-happy-we-really-are-to-see-you-so-please-pet-us-and-talk-to-us-and-scratch-our-ears-and-let-us-lean-on-you-and-lick-you-and-sit-on-your-feet-and-paw-you" morning rush.

And Baxter, Elsie, Ridge, and Kenya rush me together, wanting 100% of my attention the minute I step into the kitchen for the first time each morning. :o)

Hmmm...that's about 320 pounds of combined-Lab-wiggle jockeying for who can get closest.

Now that's what I call a morning rush (in every sense of the word).

And it's a great way to begin the day.

'Til next time,


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Winter Thaw = Spring Mud



(said with Jim Neighbors' inflection from the old Andy Griffiths show)....

The Kenya Bean likes mud:

  • standing in it
  • sitting in it
  • digging in it
  • rolling in it
  • burying her face in it
  • and, yes, eating it

Oh boy. Yee haw: we're in winter thaw. I guess I'd better pull out more towels.

'Til next time,


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sometimes, Protecting Our Space is Okay

"It's mine, and you can't have it."

Ridge likes his toys. And sometimes he doesn't want to share.

I suppose that's okay. We'll all need a little space now and then. We all need room to breathe.

I guess it's called setting boundaries.

And I suppose there's a lesson for me in there somewhere, if only I could find it.

'Til next time,

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Warming the Soul

We've had our snow. We've had our sub-zero temperatures. We've had our sleet, freezing rain and icy roads. Though short-lived, this recent round of arctic weather has provide enough winter for me.

Even the canine kids have had enough.

It's been really cold.

Elsie is the first to come in from the outdoors lately, and she bee-lines for the woodstove. She nestles close and never seems to get too warm.

When people's laps aren't available, the wood stove is her warming-place of choice.

Watching her got me thinking: what are my warming places? What warms my heart when life chills me to the bone?

First and foremost, loved ones (that includes Dear Hubby, kidlets, my sibs, Mom, friends, etc.).

Just like Elsie, it's the people with whom I walk through life that warm me best.

And my canine family, of course (they make me feel loved and valued, and they make me smile like nothing else).

But what about when loved-ones aren't available (human or canine)? What brings warmth and life to my soul when a "human lap" or canine muzzle isn't nearby?

Here's just a partial list:
  • Personal words (notes of enouragement or appreciation I've received over the years -- I save them in a "joy box" in my office so I can reread them when I need a boost)
  • Literary words (good books)
  • Inspirational words (Scripture passages, quotes, etc.)
  • Music (ah...sweet music. I SO respond to uplifting melodies and lyrics)
  • A steaming cup of tea (if it's evening) or coffee (if it's morning)
  • Birds feeding at my birdfeeders (unaware that I'm observing them)
  • A blazing fire in the woodstove (or a roaring campfire)
  • Candlelight
  • The absence of man-made noise (no TV, radio, stereo, MP3 player, computer, cell phone, house phone, trucks, jets, cars, snowmobiles, motorcycles, or four-wheelers)
  • Sounds in nature (wind, a trickling stream, the tides and ocean waves)
  • A walk in the woods
  • Writing (journaling, blogging, etc.)
  • Reflecting on what's good and right and helpful in my world
  • Remembering how blessed I am compared to most people on this planet (I have food, clothing, shelter, safety, etc.)
  • Quiet rest or sleep
It's amazing: as I look at this list, I'm reminded that the best things in life truly are free. These things cost little monetarily; they only cost time.

And sometimes, investing time in one of these is the best thing I can do for myself (and for others, as a result).

What brings warmth to your soul? In what could you invest time this weekend (it is a "holiday" weekend after all) to renew your energy and restore your emotional well-being?

Funny, isn't it, how our Labs teach us to take time for warmth and restoration. What they know by instinct, we have to learn (the hard way).

I wish I'd learned to take time for heart-warming moments sooner. But it's never too late.

I think I hear a cup of tea calling my name. :o)

'Til next time,


Friday, February 16, 2007

No Place Like Home

My poor sweet 17-year-old niece was one of the unfortunate souls to get stuck in a massive standstill on I-80 yesterday and through the night last night.

A two-day winter storm of snow, sleet, and freezing rain created treacherously icy roads here and caused a number of MVAs, especially jack-knifed tractor trailors trying to ascend our icy hills. Three of PA's interstate highways are still closed as I write this, all in northeastern PA.

I-78 had been closed from Wednesday to Thursday because of accidents blocking the highway leaving some motorists stuck in a 50-mile backup for as long as 24 hours. Normally that would be frustrating and inconvenient, but not dangerous here in PA. Extremely cold temperatures, however, (wind chills WELL below zero F.) made the situation potentially life threatening. Local fire departments and the Red Cross and even the National Guard came in to help stranded motorists (providing water and baby supplies and food and blankets where needed until motorists could get off the highways). That was I-78.

Kristin was on I-80.

No problem, right? Wrong.

Before Kristin left for her 3.5 hour drive to Penn State, reports said roads were fine. It was, after all, a full 24 hours since the end of the storm, and the sun was shining. It's an easy drive to PSU from this part of PA: mostly interstate highways, and roads had been cleared enough for all schools to be back in session. Surely the roads to State College would be okay.

So Kristin, remember-she's 17 years old, set off alone in the family van to visit friends at college, the college where she's been accepted and plans to attend in the fall.

Just a few short miles after getting on to Interstate 80 she finds herself stuck in standstill traffic. Two tractor trailers had jack-knifed up ahead block all lanes of traffic. Apparently motorists (or other trucks) trying to get around the accidents got stuck, too, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to get in to clear up the mess. AND because of the situation on I-78, there would be a delay getting help for people stuck on I-80.

So she sat.

And sat.

And sat.

And watched her gas gauge go down. With it only about 25 degrees outside, she kept the car's heater on for heat. But it was going to be longer than she expected. Frustrated and scared, she called home.

She might have been completely unprepared, except that (at her dad's insistence) she carried two sleeping bags, water, and food in the car.

So she turned off the engine to save fuel, and hunkered down beneath two sleeping bags to wait it out. Her mom talked her through how to turn a water bottle into a Lady J (female version of a male urinal) -- it was too cold and too dark to leave the car to pee outside.

Then in got dark.

There she was, a 17-year-old, barely 100-pound girl, stuck alone at night in the dark in bitter cold temperatures surrounded by strangers in strange vehicles.

Oh, and she didn't have her cell phone charger with her. She was down to two bars of battery life, so she couldn't just stay on the phone with Mom and Dad. She might need the phone later. So she turned off her cell phone.

Feeling completely vulnerable now, Krisitin was terrified.

7:00 p.m. turned into 9:00 p.m., which eventually became midnight. Finally, close to 1:00 a.m. the cars started moving. Following the State Police and a PennDOT salt truck, Kristin eventually made it off the Interstate (after being stuck there something like 10 or 11 hours in the bitter cold).

She found a hotel - "Sorry, no room, you gotta leave. And NO you can't use the phone." Imagine what that response did to an already fragile 17-year-old who's just trying to get home.

She found a second hotel. There, though all rooms were taken, management invited stranded travelers sleep anywhere (on the floor, in the lobby chairs, etc...), and the desk clerks distributed Snickers and other candy bars.

Kristin huddled into the only corner she could find and started to cry. Some kindly 50-year-old-ish woman with her family took one look at Kristin, and said "Come sit with us." And Kristin did.

Thank God for the kindness of strangers.

Kristin's dad was finally able to find her and bring her home in his truck (the van is still up near Hazelton somewhere). She's tucked safely in her own bed right now.

And home never felt so good to this ready-to-leave-the-nest high-school senior.

There truly is no place like home (if home is a healthy, safe place, which I hope it is for you as it has been for me). Even my canine kids know it.

They're ready to be adventurous and playful and rambunctuous as Labs tend to be, but when it's cold, or they're hungry, or in pain, or when they've had enough adventure (as they have in the photo above where they're all waiting at the door to come in), they just want to be where they know they're safe and loved.

So they come home.

I hope this finds you all warm, safe, and secure in whatever your home may be.

Oh, and Dear-Children-of-Mine (the human variety): I hope you know the door is always open and the hearth is always warm. You'll always have this home here to welcome you no matter where you've been.

'Til next time,


Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Peanut

I had to include this photo today, just to give you perspective. This was taken yesterday, too (on Valentine's Day). Kenya is approaching 7 months old, and she's still tiny (at least compared to our others at this age). She has a teeny head and short stature, much smaller that any Lab we've owned.

Her size just makes her all the more endearing. And she has a Lab-sized heart. :o)

Lest you think Kenya has grown more than she has, look at her compared to Baxter in the photo above. That's Baxter on the left (all 100 pounds of him). And that's Kenya on the right (all 50 pounds of her). Though she's half the weight, she's less that half the size.

She's our little peanut!

'Til next time,
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Baxter and Kenya LOVE snow! The upper right photo captures Kenya racing around our giant Arborvite in the back yard. She sprints and sprints and sprints and sprints -- I've never seen anything quite like it with our other Labs. She just doesn't quit. Well...sometimes she pauses long enough to sit and see who she can race toward or pounce on next. She's a great Lab -- every bit as much as our other Labs are.

Note the rope in her mouth in the bottom left photo above. That's our Kenya bean. She almost always trots around (prances, really) holding something in her mouth. And, to boot, it's usually something she's supposed to have. What a good girl!

I just love this breed!

'Til next time.
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Kenya on Valentine's Day

Here's the little Bean on Valentine's Day.
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She's Growing Up

Nope, this isn't Baxter (although the snow-covered muzzled might suggest so since he's our snow-loving boy). This is our little Kenya girl. All of six months old, Kenya is really growing up. And, just like Baxter, she loves snow--it's just one big playground as far as she's concerned. The two of them would romp in the snow all day if I'd let them.

We finally had accumulating snow here (first this season). Though only a few inches, it was enough for the "kids" to enjoy. And the temperatures are cold enough (wind chills well below zero F.) that we'll enjoy the snow for a while.

I'm content now. I finally have my winter fix, and Kenya has seen and romped in snow.

Spring can come now. :o)

'Til next time,
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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Nuances of Nicknames

Like most pet owners, we use various terms of endearment for our canine kids. I noted some of these in a previous post, but wanted to highlight them here.

For you purists out there, yes (of course) we use only their real names when training or commanding or disciplining (for consistency). But the rest of the time we just can't help ourselves; these other names just slip off our tongues.

The following is a list of the current nicknames we use for the canine kids, listed with photos of them in the order by which they entered our family (Baxter, Ridge, Elsie, then Kenya). EVERY nickname represents some trait that is typical of its owner.

See if you can figure them out!

Real Name: BAXTER
  • Nicknames:
  • Baxter Boos
  • The Boos
  • Special Boy
  • Big Gallute
  • Boos Buddy
  • Sweet Boy
  • Gentle Giant
  • Bud
    Big Tease

Real name: RIDGE

  • Nicknames:
  • Ridgers
  • Knucklehead
  • Neurotic Boy
  • Lover
  • Ridge Buddy
  • Sweet Boy

Real Name: ELSIE

Polar Bear
Snuggle Bear
Sweet Gentle Soul
Sweet Girl

Real name: KENYA
(on left typically holding rope in her mouth)

Kenya Bean
Little Bean
Peanut Head
Little Imp (taken from Elsie)
Snuggle Bug

Oh, and I musn't forget "Cutie Petuty" (Don's special name for Kenya -- she still is awfully cute!).

What's so amazing to me about our Labs (and their respective nicknames) is that each is SO different from the others--unique in personality--yet they're all the same breed, and they ALL typically represent the breed temperament.

Go figure.

An you know what? We delight in and love 'em all. Each brings something special to our family that no other can bring. :o)

The same could be said for our human family: each brings something special that no other can bring, and we delight in and love them all even more.

But we don't have as many nicknames for our humans.

Hmmmm. I wonder what that means?

'Til next time,

P.S. NOTE TO MY HUMAN KIDS: Don't worry, kidlets, I won't embarrass you all by listing your various nicknames here, although every one of you was a "peanut" and a "munchkin" at one time in your life (hint: VERY early in life). (hehehehe)

A Lab for All Seasons

I just love my Baxter Boos. :o) He truly is a Lab for all seasons.

He relishes romping in the snow, yet loves a fire-warmed hearth or human-warmed sofa.

He plays and swims hard, but is the calmest of our crew.

He knows how to be independent, but snuggles with the best of 'em.

He's smart, rambunctous, easy-going, and faithful.

He's our gentle giant and lumbering galoot.

He's our balanced Lab: the one of our bunch that seems to know when to work and when to play; when to turn on and when to turn off; when to look for attention and when to amuse himself; and when to impose his full 100 pounds and when to step softly.

Yup. Gotta love our Boos. :o)

I suppose I could learn something from him, too.

'Til next time,
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Monday, February 05, 2007

Canine Humor

Thanks to my fellow-dog-blogger-friend over at Dog's Eye View, I've learned about a dog humorist/cartoonist in Internet Land who's actually pretty funny (a rarity, it seems). Reference was made to him in Dog's Eye's Guestbook (via the web site of Guest-Book-Signer MyDogsHaveFleas), and I just followed the links.

The cartoonist's name is Mark Parisi, and you can see his work at

To see his dog-related work click here (he does other animals, too), or just click on the "dog" category at the Off-the-Mark homepage.

My favorite is his Anatomy of a Canine Brain. It's funny because it's SO true! This cross-section of canine gray matter could have been taken from ANY of our four Labs, but especially from Baxter. :o) Check it out.

I'd copy his stuff here for you, but his work is copyrighted (as a writer, I honor copyright ownership), so I'm sending you right to the source!



Sunday, February 04, 2007

All Four Love Snow - What Snow?

Believe it or not, this is the MOST snow we've had this winter (what winter?): a whopping dusting.

And it didn't even get cold until this week (the first week of February).

Our Blizzard Boy Baxter is going through snow-withdrawal (he just loves snow -- I suppose it's his nature; we did bring him home in a blizzard, after all).

And this is Kenya's first exposure to the cold, white, flakey stuff. She seems to enjoy it, although I'd love to see her reaction to a two-foot-pileup!

Kenya fits right in with our gang: she's spunky enough to hang in there with them, even when they're rough and tumble.

The Little Bean is six months old now; and she's not very big (check her out in photo above, right in front of Baxter ). We call her "Peanut Head" because she still has this little, itty-bitty skull, even at six months old -- much smaller than Elsie or Baxter ever had at this age.

But what she lacks in size, she makes up for in gumption. She's the spunkiest of all four (combined!).

So here they are today (the photo above of all four with Don was taken this morning). From left to right, it's Ridge, Kenya, Baxter, and Elsie.

And yes, they still teach us about love, life, and laughter, among many other things.

I'm glad to be blogging about them again.

'Til next time,
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The Talker

Ridge is our communicative one. He loves to "talk" to us via moans, grunts, half-woofs, and other vocalizations, none of which I can translate, but all of which I acknowledge.

The "girls" love to be touched; Ridge just needs to know he's heard. :o)

Sounds pretty human to me.
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Flip-flopping Pillows

Elsie doesn't mind being Kenya's pillow.

I guess "turn about" is fair play (see next photo below). :o)
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The Buds

Kenya doesn't mind being Elsie's pillow (that's me, btw, under the afghan -- my lap is a pillow for them both).

Both "girls" need LOTS of human touch time. :o)

And that's okay by me.
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Ridge, Kenya, and Elsie

The loveseat still has room for three. :o)

Well..., that is, if Baxter isn't one of the three. He can take up the entire loveseat by himself.
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Kenya and Elsie Still Snuggle

Pretty soon there won't be enough room in the recliner for both Elsie and The Kenya Bean. For now, though, they still like to snuggle together.
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Kenya Out of Her Cast

And then she was fine (but notice how tiny her foot is after being nearly six weeks in a cast).

Not to worry: She's perfectly fine now, and has complete normal use and mobility. :o)
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Kenya in Her Cast

Over the first weekend of November, while Dear-Hubby-Don and I were away at Youngest Son's Parent's Weekend (five hours away), the Little Bean broke her leg while playing with her cousin Gracie (my sister's dog).

First she wore a rigid cast (looks like an ace bandage, but wrapped around a rigid insert).

Then she graduated to a soft splint (more flexible).

Notice her choice of cast color: hot pink! That's my Kenya Bean!
And she and Elsie remained Best Buds through it all.

Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge all seemed to know Kenya was hurt when we brought her home. Intuitively, they didn't play too roughly.

Pretty amazing, eh!
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