By Hand – What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store-bought? Tell us what made it so special.

Garry and Divot

Garry and Divot

I’m not sure what to say. You mean, the lumpy ashtrays kids make in school? The kids don’t even think much of them, but we all ooh and aah over them like we have a budding Rembrandt in our midst. Because buttressing the egos of our fledglings is our job.

96-Garry-618Of course, both the nascent Rembrandt and his/her admirers know it ain’t so, but we appreciated the sentiment and good intentions.

So I’ll go with the concept of “not store-bought” as the major factor in this story.

One bright Christmas, Garry had a pictures taken of him and our two dogs, Divot and Pagan. He signed it, and had it framed. Both dogs have long since passed and Garry doesn’t look like that any more, but that was the best gift.

It captured a time and a place that would soon be gone, but because of Garry’s gift, lived with us for decades longer.


About two years ago, we parted ways with the group of vets we’d been using for ten years. The quality of the care was not at issue, but the prices they were to charging were. For years, they had been reasonable, caring. You could set up payment plans for the most costly procedures. They worked with you to keep prices down so your pets could get the care they needed.

dog prisoners in garden

In came new management. Prices skyrocketed, service slumped. No more payment plans. No more affordable dental care. No more multi-pet discounts. The cost of routine medications and shots went sky-high. A trip to the vet for anything cost at least $100, no matter how minor.

dogs with bishop and gar

I objected. Then, I got mad. They got mad, because I had no right to get mad. With medical care, whether human or veterinary, the doctor’s front office is always right. Just ask them, they’ll tell you. We left.

We have too many dogs to go for long without a vet, so we defaulted to The Convenient Veterinarian — Agape Animal Hospital in Northbridge — the one nearest home. How bad could they be?


Our dogs have been mostly healthy. Bonnie has an issue with her eyes requiring twice daily medicated drops. Nan is arthritic — she is 13 – and she gets a low dose aspirin with her dinner. Nan and Bonnie both needed dental work. To hear Dr. Lawrence explain it, their teeth were in horrendous condition, dangerously, lethally infected. A disaster area which would kill them.

Kill them, that’s what he said. As in death.

Me and Bonnie

He knew we had limited resources. Retirees are typically strapped for cash. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our dogs. It means you can’t squeeze us for more money because we don’t have it. And won’t have it in the future. We can usually pay over time, but we can’t come up with big lump sums.

Price for Bonnie’s teeth — no payment plan option, and no negotiation — would be no less than $800. For Nan? Minimum $1190.

I pointed out if my teeth cost that much to do, I couldn’t do them either. He shrugged, looked sympathetic, but didn’t give an inch. The medication for Bonnie’s eyes went up from $97 to $110 per month. No discounts there, either.

She needed drops twice a day, but usually only got them only once because we couldn’t afford more medication.

Nan - 14

I’d have sought a new vet sooner (like immediately), but I was facing heart surgery and I just couldn’t deal with it. After the heart surgeries (all 5 of them) were done and I was back to being a person, I knew I had to get a new vet. This one was interested in money, not the health of his patients.

We got a recommendation from Furry Friends in Milford. She is the groomer my son had discovered and she’s wonderful. Not only does she know what your dog is supposed to look like (our Scottie looks like a Scottie again), but she charges based on the amount of work involved in grooming your dog rather than how much she can squeeze out of you.

She suggested we go to Metrowest Veterinary Association in Milford. And we did. It’s not as convenient, but it is — sorry for the pun — what the doctor ordered. Bonnie’s teeth got done for under $500 (payment plan, too) and came out with teeth white as snow. Turns out her teeth weren’t all that bad, either.

Bonnie has her smile back. The $110 medicated eye drops now cost $58 and for 50% more drops. Because we can give her the drops twice a day, her eyes are clearing up. Eventually, she may will longer need drops at all.

Not only was Dr. Lawrence screwing us for money, he was also lying about our dogs’ health. Bonnie’s teeth needed work, but they were not infected, not killing her. Nan is next up and we are assured her teeth will cost about the same. They will let us pay with post-dated checks and meantime, she’s okay. Not an imminent medical emergency.

Nan and Bishop

Sometimes, when you think someone is out to get you it’s because they are out to get you, or at least out to get your money. That Dr. Lawrence could say this stuff to us and not care about its impact on the dogs — or us — is hard to comprehend.

If you live locally, don’t take your pets to Agape Animal Hospital. It’s a ripoff. Worse, it’s bad care with a dishonest veterinarian at the helm.


Literate for a Day – Someone or something you can’t communicate with through writing (a baby, a pet, an object) can understand every single word you write today, for one day only. What do you tell them? (Thanks for the suggestion, Chic Prune!)

Dear Bonnie,

I know you are a Scottie and have an inbred tendency to attack life head first. It’s charming, in its own way but I’m going to suggest it’s time to moderate your behavior.

Bonnie - 8

Lately, you’ve been showing up in the house looking like Druid Dog. You’re so covered with leaves and twigs and stuff, it’s hard to recognize you as a dog. You look like a piece of the forest floor that has grown legs. Also, attacking the hall gate by ramming it with you head can’t be healthy. Doesn’t it hurt? It’s not helping the gate stay on its hinges either.

I’m sorry that we can’t have all of you sleeping in our bed, but the bed isn’t big enough and you guys are all much too icky and smelly; frankly, we are too old.

Bonnie Resting

And finally, there’s the whole matter of treats. We humans are not as stupid as you think we are. We do remember having given you a treat mere minutes ago, so hitting us each up for another if we are near the kitchen, is ruining your credibility. How can we trust you when you lie to our faces?

You cannot have an unlimited number of daily treats. It’s unhealthy and will make you fat. You wouldn’t want to lose your girlish figure, now do you?

Bonnie - 1

I’m glad we had this opportunity to chat.

Tomorrow the well guy is going to be here and we will have to do some serious negotiating about not running up into the road. And not getting in the way of the big machines, or falling into the well (that would be really terrible). It’s just one day … surely you can behave for that long, can’t you? Please?


Odd Ball Challenge

Some definitely oddball leftovers this week. This first one, I call still life with flowers and plastic robot. If you want to know more about Robby, click here.

Robby says HI!

Robby says HI!

This next shot is called “Very small dog amidst tall trees.”

Nan in autumn home

Nan so little – in Autumn

Finally, I have no idea why I took this. I think it was the light or something.

Just another day at home

Just another day at home

This one, because it’s Autumn in New England and our driveway looks so pretty dressed in bright foliage.


This one, because I always laugh when I see our gate. You can see the wellhead too. How much worse could the location be? Bet you can’t answer that!




Our of a mound of hair, our groomer carved a lovely Norwich Terrier. Nan, showgirl that she was, has been preening ever since we brought her home from her beauty date. Nan is the only dog I’ve ever known who seems to genuinely like being groomed. She’s been strutting around the house, posing. She’s adorable.



Bonnie -  7

Bonnie, the totally scruffy Scottish Terrier got groomed today. She came home looking like a proper Scottie, wearing a very feminine floral scarf which though technically appropriate, is about as un-Bonnie as anything could be.

Bonnie, for a girl dog, is really a guy. She always was.

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There’s nothing girly about her. She’s tough and scrappy. A digger, a lover of dirt. She’ll take on anybody … well mostly … at least in play. She’s a very tough growly Scottie when she plays.

Here is our newly renovated girl, fresh from the groomer. Bonnie and her best bud Garry, on the deck.


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!