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.


Cee’s Black & White Challenge:

Walk 100 Steps and Take New Photos

Today has been a quiet, sleepy day. Raining outside as we snuggle up inside.

I didn’t walk 100 steps to take pictures. Maybe I walked 5 steps to get to the top of the stairs for a shot of the landing below. I walked couple more steps to get a better angle on Bishop, the big Aussie Shepherd.

This is my world, or important parts of it. This is where I spend most of my time, most of my days.






Cee’s Share Your World – 2014 Week 43

What is your favorite time of day?

Ironically, though I hate having to get out of my warm, comfortable bed, morning is my favorite time of day. I love morning light, morning coffee.

Kitchen summer morning 2

The quiet in the house. Morning is when I write best, think best. It is when I get most business taken care of. Sipping coffee, writing a post, making phone calls and appointments. Then Garry is up and the dogs start to charge around and morning is done.

What’s your favorite charitable cause and why?

The Durrell Wildlife Park is a zoological park on the Isle of Jersey. Established in 1958 on the island of Jersey in the English Channel by naturalist and author Gerald Durrell, it is now operated by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. 

I read — and loved — Gerald Durrell’s books and I remember when he was fighting to get his park established. He was one of the first to see that breeding endangered species was going to be the only way to preserve many animals whose habitats were disappearing. He is, for the literature majors in the crowd, the younger brother of author Lawrence Durrell, or as Gerald always called him, “Larry.”

Address: La Profonde Rue, Jersey
Area: 25 acres
Opened: March 26, 1959
Phone: +44 1534 860000 2014-10-27 13-45-12

Their motto is “Extinction is not inevitable.” At Durrell Wildlife Park you’ll can meet – face to face – some of the rarest animals on earth. Be amazed by their beauty, wonder at their majesty and uncover their stories of fight for survival. The park is also a vacation park, an educational resource. I have never been there (I wish!), but I have contributed money when I could and followed its progress from when it was founded through today. It has come a long way and maybe, someday, I will be able to visit.

They have a wonderful website with video, information, stories, stuff for kids. Please check it out!

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

Reading, writing, hanging out with the dogs. Kind of like I spend most days, actually.

When writing by hand do you prefer to use a pencil or pen?96-Bonnie-OnGuard_03

I hate writing by hand. I’ve been touch-typing since I was 10 years old and my handwriting, once elegant and readable, has become illegible. I can still sign my name, but when I have to actually hand write anything, I have to print it if I want anyone but me to be able to read it.

Even then, it’s just 50-50. And I make typos even by hand, which is hideously embarrassing when one is signing a book for someone. Maybe I should use crayons? I like those rolling tip marker-writing thingies. I used to have some of them, but I think Garry stole them. He has a thing for pens.

What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

We finally got Bonnie’s teeth done and they were not nearly as bad as we had been led to believe (another story, to be written separately).

Our little girl has her smile back. It turns out, our dogs are fine. What we really needed was a better veterinarian.

Next week? THE WELL!



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!