IS HE STILL ALIVE?

By Garry Armstrong

The phone rang and the caller ID flashed one of Boston two major newspapers. I figured it was the sales department. I handed the phone to Marilyn.

I heard Marilyn respond “yes” several times and was puzzled. We didn’t need and couldn’t afford expensive home delivery of newspapers. Then Marilyn said “He’s right here. Why don’t you speak to him?” She had a broad smile on her face. I was even more puzzled.

Long story short. The caller was a reporter working on a series about Boston schools and the 40th anniversary of court-ordered school desegregation. She was looking for people who had covered the story in 1974.

forced busing Boston

Photo: Associated Press

Apparently my name came up in her research. I confirmed I had indeed covered the story and shared a few anecdotes about the first day of what some called “forced busing”. I also shared some stories about my coverage of Boston schools over the following 25 plus years before I retired. To give some context, I mentioned that I’d also covered the civil rights movement for ABC Network before coming to Boston.

The reporter seemed impressed. We agreed to meet again for a more detailed interview. I hung up the phone and smiled. I looked at our four dogs seated around me and they understood. They were grinning at me. I could read their minds. He’s not just an old fart who feeds and plays with us. 

I looked at Marilyn with satisfaction. I wondered what she had said to the reporter when she took the call. Marilyn smiled and recounted the conversation. “She asked if you were alive. Then she asked if you actually remembered what you used to do. I bit my tongue and didn’t say ‘That’s a matter of opinion.’”

I looked back at the dogs. They were still grinning. How fleeting is fame.

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A FURRY SUNDAY HELLO FROM NAN

While all the other pups were sacked out in the sun, Nan patiently watched my every move from her place at the gate. As a reward, I did her portrait. Unlike Bonnie who runs and hides as soon as she sees the camera in my hands, Nan stands still and smiles.

Nan at the gate

Nan at the gate

Which means I have a lot more — and better — pictures of Nan than of any other dog. Because she will always give me her good side. I’m not sure she has a bad side!

WELCOME TO MY WORLD, WEEK 25

Share Your World – 2014 Week 25

What is your favorite type of dog?

My favorite kind of dog is the kind that I have. Currently, that would be a Scottish Terrier, a Norwich Terrier, a miniature Dachshund and an Australian Shepherd. Previously, there were others — PBGVs, mixed breeds, and others.

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If I were to foolishly express a preference for one or another of these fine canine citizens, I am sure that they would learn about it from their doggy friends on Facebook and would turn my life into a living hell.

Bish and Nan Biscuit Time

I love them all equally, as can be demonstrated from the fair and equitable distribution of biscuits, not to mention the endless stream of said treats starting with early in the morning and only ending when I finally limp down the hallway and close the door.

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Name one thing not many people know about you.

Off hand, since I started blogging, everyone in the known universe seems to know more about me than I know about myself.

Have you ever gone scuba diving? If you haven’t, would you want to?

No, and not really. I’ve gone snorkeling in the Caribbean and enjoyed it, but all the equipment you need for scuba diving is too much for me. It looks like work.

What was the most important event in your life last week?

waring mini oveen

I bought and got (I just love Amazon) a tabletop convection oven. Now I don’t have to use the great big oven for our itty bitty meals.

I’m hoping it will help get our electric bill under control. It works really well. Faster and neater than the big oven – all for under $100, including shipping!

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BONNIE IS BACK!!

BONNIE IS BACK.

It was a long day for us, but Bonnie is fine. She had, I gather, a lovely day full of biscuits and romping with her new pal, a Boston Terrier. Garry and I are finally breathing!! Yay.

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Thanks to everyone who kept an eye out. She was apparently picked up by a motorist on Rt. 98 and taken home to Douglas where she had a fine mini vacation. Many thanks to the Uxbridge and Douglas Police, both of whom helped make sure she found her way back to us.

And especially thanks to Joyce, Uxbridge’s intrepid Animal Control officer for her support and assistance.

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GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL!

Uxbridge’s jail is part of the old city hall and in this century, it’s a storage area. At home, we have our own prisoners. Four furry internees.

dog prisoners in garden

I would let them run free if it weren’t for nasty old Rt. 98 at the top of the driveway. There isn’t a  LOT of traffic, but cars come around our blind (and reverse-banked) curve too fast. We have more fatal accident on our little stretch of road than anywhere else in the area … known as “death alley” to the cops. Motorcycles, cars, and once Garry nearly bought the farm when he and a telephone pole got too intimate. What chance does a dog stand?

I don’t know why they never run the OTHER way, into the woods where there are 75+ acres of trees and meadow – and no motor vehicles. But they always head for the road.

The “Beware of Dog” sign isn’t because they are dangerous, but because the world is dangerous to them. It’s to prevent delivery people from opening the gate thus letting free the incarcerated doggies.

They are getting older and aren’t as frisky or fast as they were. But even old Nan can hit the driveway running in a mad sprint of death. It’s not good for my heart. If I chase them (which in any case, I can’t do), they run away because “chase me” is a classic doggy game and they love it! I have to stay calm, call them back with biscuits — before they become road kill.

My heart is in my mouth the entire time they are loose, so they will remain prisoners of love. Not so terrible. Not such a cruel life, with their 24/7 doggy door and sofas for beds … and far too many biscuits.

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LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT AND FOREVER AFTER

First Sight

Whether a person, a pet, an object, or a place, write about something or someone you connected with from the very first second.
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She was so tiny, a little bit of fur and bone and two black button eyes. I knew we were meant to be together.

Bonnie, light of our lives, a Scottish Terrier. Mischievous, funny, strong-willed, patient and full of love.

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WHAT TO DO ON A RAINY DAY

Ask Nan. She knows.

Cold? Drizzly? Perfect time to catch up on your sleep. Of course, that’s more or less her answer to everything, except for short excursions into the kitchen in the hope of cadging something tasty. Like a dry biscuit or a fallen piece of lunch meat (mm!).

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Bonnie, not to be out done, has taken over the sofa as her own personal napping area, not to be shared with dog or human.

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A GOOD DAY FOR BUBBA

Here’s a sequel I didn’t see coming. Not so soon, at least. And, after all our recent trials and tribulations, it’s nice to write this piece. Remember, it’s day by day. We were just trying to figure out how to say goodbye to Bishop aka Bubba, our beloved Australian Shepherd. That was two days ago.

In our last piece, Bubba was struggling to move around and clearly in lots of pain. We figured it was a combination of  muscle damage and arthritis. He was staying downstairs to avoid the stairs which obviously were too much for him. The vet didn’t have much to say except try to make Bubba as comfortable as possible. It didn’t look good.

Bubba has been getting slow walks outside, to get some air and do his business. He didn’t seem interested in joining the other three dogs in our front yard which is reserved for them.  I cajoled and enticed him to no avail. I even got down on my knees and barked at him. Nothing! He just didn’t want to hang with the other furry kids and bark at things, real and imagined. That was yesterday.

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Today, so far, is bright, sunny and warm. A good day to be outside for folks, two and four-legged. I sent the three little kids, Bonnie, Nan and Amber outside to play and closed the doggie door. Marilyn suggested Bubba might be interested. I didn’t think so based on the past two days. But, what the heck, give it a shot, right?

I led Bubba out the downstairs door and out to the driveway. Didn’t expect much. I turned around and he was right on my heels. Wow! I opened the gate to the front yard and, before I could say anything, Bubba raced by me and joined his pals. I couldn’t believe it. The little ones greeted Bubba with cheery barks and they began looping the yard with fresh energy.

I’m not sure how the day will end for Bubba. Marilyn has just suggested I bring him in so he doesn’t overdo things. I’ll do that. But, at least, for one bright April afternoon, our Bubba is doing okay. We’ll take that, One day at a time!

 

SAYING GOODBYE TO A FURRY FRIEND

There was a very poignant post on Facebook today showing police officers bidding farewell to one of their own, a K-9 partner. You could see the sadness in the eyes of the otherwise stoic law officers. It struck home.

One of our furry kids is in a bad place. The big dog, the affable enforcer in our canine family which includes a Scottie, a Norwich Terrier and a mini Dachshund. We call him Bubba because of his lovable personality. He’s our big, huggable Australian Shepherd.

Painfully shy when he came to live with us, he has gradually become part of our family, both human and 4-legged. Bubba used to be afraid of his shadow, but Bonnie, our unflappable Scottie – ring-leader of the fur people, took Bubba under her wing. Bonnie made it clear shyness doesn’t get you anywhere in our family. It certainly doesn’t get you attention. More importantly, it doesn’t get you those extra biscuits.

Bubba learned. He learned so well he began showing up in my office as I worked on my first cup of coffee in the morning. Not my best time of day.

Bubba’s finest moment came recently when Marilyn was taking pictures. Bubba wasn’t in the shot, but decided he wanted to be included. He just poked his head into the shot making it clear he wasn’t going to be left out of the festivities. Bubba had arrived!

We have a lot of strong personalities in the house. We’re not camera-shy or modest. Bubba made it clear he wanted billing above the title in our family soap drama.

dogs with bishop and gar

Something went wrong in the last couple of weeks. Bubba, not the most agile of dogs, has taken several tumbles on the stairs. We thought he had shaken them off but we were wrong. Bubba sustained a back injury while simultaneously has been developing his own serious case of arthritis. Arthritis is something of a plague in this household. Quite literally, everyone’s got it.

Now he’s dragging his rear end. The stairs are impossible for him. It’s painful to watch our big guy struggle to move around. Marilyn says big dogs are more prone to this kind of injury than small ones.The vet says there’s nothing to be done for him but to give him pain-killers and make him as comfortable as possible. Maybe he’ll get better. We can hope.

Bishop

Bubba is now living downstairs with the junior members of our family. He is actually their dog even though we feel he belongs to all of us. Bubba is still eating well and responds quickly to offers of biscuits. But something is different. It’s clear his energy is sapped. He moves slowly. Hard to believe, but we miss his baying at the moon and those furtive three o’clock in the morning shadows.

It’s about quality of life. Some family members are hoping for a miracle. We’ve all been down this road before. It’s not about us or our feelings. Saying goodbye will be difficult and we’ll hold off on it as long as we can. But, in the end, it’s about Bubba.

Neighbors and Old Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Friends come in many sizes and shapes. Horses, dogs, cats and other warm fuzzy creatures give our lives texture and joy … and old things holding memories of other times and places … these too become friends, holding our memories and reminding us of the lives we have lived and things we have done.

Old Number 2 is one of Uxbridge‘s oldest fire trucks. Long out of service, he still has his own place, standing through the years and seasons in a field across from the post office. He’s become my old friend, put out to pasture but like me, remembering his glory days.

Old Number 2 in summer … with some special effects just because.

Seasons come and go, but Number 2 waits patiently. I visit him. He has many stories to tell and I listen so he will be less lonely and know no everyone has forgotten him.

Horses in the pasture, friendly and hoping for snack, an apple or a carrot maybe …

Retired now, she grazes in a pleasant pasture in the company of her friends and the goats in the adjacent pasture. Do they share their memories?

With a shake of her mane, the pony companion enjoys the autumn weather with an old pal.

Still beautiful, she poses with her good side, elegant in her peaceful paddock.

It’s a fine day to be a horse. Or a human.

Tinker, one of our two PBGVs romps now at the Bridge, but here, her big black nose pokes through the picket fence of our front yard. Just saying hello!

Tinker’s big black nose — a perfect nose for such a hound as this Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen hound nose — pokes through our pickets. She’s gone to the Bridge, but lives on in our hearts and her tooth marks remain forever embedded in our furniture, shoes, remote controls and paranoid nightmares of destruction.

Griffin, our big boy PBGV died last winter, as did Tinker. He was my personal cuddle puppy, full of joy and humor. He always made me laugh and the more I laughed, the more he would act the clown. Never has a dog enjoyed making people laugh more than Griffin. A marathon barker, entertainer par excellence, he was the best.

Many of our fur children have gone to the bridge, but they are never forgotten. More of them  on other days, I promise.

One autumn day, in a rare family project, we made a couple of friends of our own … classic New England symbols of Autumn and the harvest. We made them from yard sale clothing, two bales of hay, and their painted faces on old pillow cases were created by Kaity and Stefania … at that brief period as they were transitioning from girls to young women.

Some friends we made ourselves to celebrate the harvest and the season, sitting on a bench, backed by flowering bushes and shaded by oaks.

Finally, we meet the farmer’s old truck. He stands in a field around the corner, behind the fire station … an old friend put out to pasture, holding too many fond memories to send him to a junk yard. Instead, he stands ever waiting if he should  be called back to duty.

Just this, no more, all within a mile of home. It IS home.

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ODDBALL CLOWN DOGS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge - Week 3

This is my all-time favorite oddball — funny — picture. All my dogs are comedians, but this time, Bishop won the prize for funniest.

The big guy wanted to make sure he got into that shot. I could have as easily omitted him from the picture by simply moving the camera a little bit, but he was hilarious, sticking his head in there. He reminded me of Mel Brooks playing the waiter at the Last Supper in “History of the World Part I.”

Bishop has been taking clown lessons!

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