We need an oil delivery. Last I looked — about a week ago — the gauge indicated just barely a quarter of a tank and it has been very cold outside. The heat has been pumping at a rate far above its normal, relatively languid rate. The truck is supposed to show up today. In a normal home, they come, pump, and leave. That’s the whole story.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

However, we’ve got dogs. Before they enter the yard, I need to secure the three of them so they can safely open the front gate and drag the long, heavy hose across the yard. They tried heaving it over the fence, but the fence collapsed. Now, they unlock it — and we have to dig through however much snow so they can do this. The year we got 12 feet of snow, we did a lot of digging.

I live in mortal terror of dogs running into the road. We don’t have a lot of traffic, but it is always too fast. People drive this road as if no one lives here, but it is lined on both sides with homes. Houses are set far apart, I grant you, but this is no kind of speedway. I sometimes wonder if they are going to whack me at the mailbox. They’ve gotten close.

Generally speaking, it’s easy to get the dogs inside. Food works wonders. If they think there is something in it for them, they are in like flashes. Then,of course, there’s dinner. They are always early for dinner by at least half an hour. From when they think they should get dinner to when they actually do get dinner, they leap into the air and twirl for us, often while barking. Because you know, if they didn’t do that, we’d probably forget to feed them. They can barely survive from meal to meal and still stand steadily on their paws, the poor starving creatures.

I’m strong about this issue. Unless we are going out and need to feed them early, they get dinner at four and occasionally — please, understand that life sometimes causes the dog’s dinners to be deferred — as late as five or six. I try not break down and give them dinner early because if they eat early, they are sure they need another dinner a few hours later.

They do not need another dinner. It’s a lie. They lie like dogs.

Getting them in the house is usually easy. Unless there’s someone or something on the property. A vehicle. A delivery person. A truck in the driveway produces chaos and all bets are off. No bribery will nudge them from their assigned duty of protecting us from deliveries — and neighbors.

Gibbs races around the yard at a speed you wouldn’t think a Scottie could manage while simultaneously barking in a frenzy until whatever was there is gone. This means if it’s a worker — say, the cable guy — who is going to be here a while, Gibbs will continuously race around the yard barking frantically the entire time. It is wearing on everyone’s nerves and it is, as far as we can tell, impossible to get him to shut up — or  even come inside. The few times we have convinced him to come in, he still barks the whole time. Inside. Barking.

Bonnie gives a few friendly “got a cookie?” barks. She’s fine with everybody. Not a great watch dog and lacking the deep suspicion of strangers Gibbs and Duke have.

Duke goes all protective — a 40-pound coil of canine protection, including a considerable amount of growling. He’s not obedient any time, but with someone in the driveway and in particular, a truck? He is The Guardian. If the oil people are coming, I need to have them call me before they open the gate. All drivers have cell phones, so it’s not so hard. As soon as we get the call, Garry and I race out to corral the dogs and lock the dog’s door.

This was easier when we were younger.

We could try to keep them inside, but they have lost that “tell your people when you need to go out” thing dogs usually have as part of housebreaking. They know they can always get outside, the same way we know the bathroom is just down the hall. It is one of the side effects of having a door of their own. I’m not sure they entirely recognize that “out” is a different place than “in.” It’s all just “home” to them.

So today, we wait for when cometh the oil delivery.  As I type, the dogs are calm, collected, peacefully resting on the sofa. Yet I know, at any moment, the truck will show up and these same peaceful dogs will become insane balls of fiery protective energy.

It’s fortunate we don’t need oil very often.


I don’t know any martyrs. Historically, there are plenty to choose from, but in the context of “real life,” I don’t know any.

I’m not a martyr. Not even close. Whatever sacrifices I have made on behalf of my beliefs, they never came anywhere near martyrdom. Discomfort or disruption to your normal life does not make you a martyr. Taking care of your kids, working at jobs you don’t like, or struggling to survive? None of these make you a martyr.

This is one of those greatly overused words, along with “awesome,” “resonate,” and the ubiquitous “back in the day.”


How many times have I read “I’m a martyr to housework.” Really? What strange belief system do you follow?

You are not a martyr, even if you are depressed and miserable. If merely being miserable were enough for martyrdom … well … who wouldn’t be one? These days, there are an awful lot of thoroughly wretched people and if you don’t believe me, read a few columns in Facebook and count the whining, pathetic chorus.

In the “not a martyr” category, I assure you that neither your father, mother, or any of your friends were or will be martyrs. Even if they served in the military or worked in a coal mine.

English is a wonderful, rich language. We have millions of words. Which means the language has a special word for pretty much everything.  “Martyr” is a specific term, often used incorrectly to mean “dedicated,” “dutiful,” “honorable,” “generous,” or “self-sacrificing.” Unless you are in jail and likely to die for your political or religious beliefs, you are not a martyr nor will you be.

Dedicating your life to a cause doesn’t make you a martyr. On the other hand, if they kill you because of your faith and dedication, then you have achieved the basics of martyrdom. Remember though. The bad guys can torture you, but unless they really kill you, you don’t get the full title.

I’d last about 10 seconds under torture. The threat alone would make me spill my guts. I guess I’m lucky I don’t know anything important enough to kill me for, eh?

So, in the name of keeping us all sane, if you have a dark secret, spare us both a problem and keep it to yourself. Please.


Every once in a while, I have a dream so weird, I write it down. I write it while I’m basically still asleep and sometimes, when I’m awake and I read what I wrote, it’s … well … almost as weird as the dream itself. For example …

I found 2 baby ducks with wings tinted mauve. I brought them home to live in a lake on the third floor of our condo. They needed food to eat, so I went downstairs where it was now the city of Boston. Apparently we had a pet store right under the house, so I bought them food and went back upstairs to feed the babies.

At which point, I realized that the two little ducks were small children though sometimes, they were also two baby ducks. Both ducks and children seemed surprisingly mature.

Garry and I decided to take the whole crew out for dinner. The restaurant was one of the places where only rich folks usually go, but both ducks and children apparently knew all about the markets and which companies would do well in the coming year. All the brokers were listening to the ducks or children. It was hard to tell.

By now, there were two children, both about 7, maybe older and they were giving advice to the traders in the restaurant. I think that’s when I started to scream. Too many children and ducks and the restaurant served tiny portions. That would make anyone scream.

And here it is, a week later and I haven’t the slightest idea what — if anything — it meant. Especially the baby ducks with the mauve wings.

Why mauve?


We gave them three brand new Kong toys … the only ones worth buying because they are the only ones that last longer than a couple of minutes. Of the three, the one that looked like a little Teddy Bear disappeared entirely within minutes of Bonnie adopting it, but has reappeared several times. I saw it as recently as this morning, but when we came back from the hospital, I saw it on the far side of the front yard near the other gate.

We gave the strange birdlike stuffed creature to The Duke and eventually when Gibbs appeared, gave the Dodo to him.

Sometimes missing toys reappear. Others vanish and are never seen again.

Of the original three, one still looks almost newish. It’s identical to its original, the strangely birdlike creature that all the dogs dearly love. So there are two of them — the old one and the new one.

Then, there’s the blue Dodo. It was brand new. Gibbs grabbed it and took it outside. Later, he brought it back. Covered in ice and snow and mud, it was one of the most disgusting items ever brought in from outside. I washed it with soap and hot water and Garry threw it in the dryer. It sat in lonely isolation on the end table until Duke, frustrated by seeing it but not having it, went rogue and got it on his own. It is out in the snow in the front yard now. Maybe it will come home later.

You certainly couldn’t accuse our dogs of not appreciating their new toys. I wish they wouldn’t drag them out into the mud and ice so fast, but they don’t lack enthusiasm. They sure do love the toys. Looking around, one of the two strange birdlike creatures has gone missing. Again.