One of the side effects of a day at the spa was the discovery that Gibbs ears are not looking good. Bring on the blue stuff! If you don’t know what blue stuff is, allow me to introduce you to the world’s best cure for whatever is bothering the dogs’ ears (other than mites).


16 oz. Isopropyl Alcohol (or 16 oz. Witch Hazel if ears are very inflamed or sore)
4 Tablespoons Boric Acid Powder
16 Drops Gentian Violet Solution 1%
Mix together in plastic bottle and shake well.

You will need to shake the solution every time you use it. Purchase a “Clairol” type plastic bottle to dispense solution to affected ears. These bottles can be found at beauty supply shops.

I make half this amount, then I warm it to body temperature in the microwave.

NOTE: If you don’t own one, buy a dropper. The gentian violet does not come with its own.


If you aren’t absolutely sure what you are dealing with, a trip to the vet is your best start.

Warm the solution and shake the bottle each time before using. Flood the ear with solution (gently squirt bottle). Massage gently to the count of 60, wipe with a tissue. On first treatment, flood the ear twice, wipe with a tissue, and leave alone without massage.

The dog will shake out the excess, which can be wiped with a tissue.

NOTE: Gentian Violet STAINS fabric and FUR! Be careful. The stains are impossible to remove.

Many people ask why this miracle preparation isn’t commercially available. The answer is, it is available. You can buy it on Amazon for $20 per 8 ounce bottle. Or buy the ingredients from your pharmacy, which is a lot cheaper. You used to be able to buy gentian violet in the pharmacy any time. These days, you have to order it and it cost more than it used to. It’s still much less expensive than buying the solution in a bottle. I’m betting you can also get it from your veterinarian. Vets have come a long way in dealing with using non-antibiotic ingredients.


For a long time, it wasn’t available anywhere unless you made it yourself. That never made sense to me. I had hounds with long, floppy ears. Infected ears are extremely common in long-eared dogs. We were back and forth to the vet over and over until someone in my hound group introduced us to the blue stuff.

It worked.

It still works.

Gibbs is a most unhappy dog. It’s not that this stuff hurts. It doesn’t. It’s just the Gibbs has strong feelings about being treated. For anything. Ever. For a relatively small dog, he is surprisingly strong and it is a serious job to hold him still. As far as he is concerned, treating his ears is an insult. He isn’t even speaking to us until he is sure a treat is in the works. He softens in the face of treats — what a surprise.

Gibbs’ thinking about forgiving us. Until tomorrow.

How do you explain medical treatment to a dog? Or any animal? Or for that matter, a baby? I always tell them this is for their own good. Infected ears are definitely worse than any amount of blue stuff, but they don’t listen. Gibbs is seriously upset with us. The worst part of this is we are going to have to do it again tomorrow.

I hope he is still talking to us when his ears are cured.



Before the grooming

This morning, we took two blacks heaps of dirty rags to the groomer and emerged two hours later with surprisingly attractive Scottish Terriers. Texture? Soft and fuzzy!

Bonnie has a better beard than Gibbs! A very proud Scottie beard. I got the pictures before we left the groomer. It was raining out and who knew how long they’d look good. Note the two piles of “dirty black rags” have gone and both dogs … (trumpet flourish!) … have eyes!




Scotties are tough little dogs. Fighters to the end.

Bonnie tests every limit. Unless there’s food forthcoming. In which case, she sets aside her principles in favor of a Greeny, or one of those tasteless crunchy things dogs inexplicably love. Otherwise, she will wait until she thinks you might be getting mad before she does as you ask.


Gibbs acts exactly the same way. It must be DNA.

Let’s say (purely hypothetically) we have told them to go outside. Bishop will hesitate at the top of the stairs because he is a bit scared of stairs. He has trouble controlling his trajectory and needs a few moments to reconnoiter the lay of the land.


Bonnie and now Gibbs, go slowly down the stairs. Get to the bottom landing. Stop. Look back up at us: “Do you really expect dogs, like us to simply do your bidding? What if we don’t want to go out? Huh?”

Garry puts a warning note in his voice. “Bonnie,” he says, with as much Alpha authority as he can muster. “OUT!”

She moves to the doggy door. Puts a paw on it so the flap is partly open. Looks back up at Garry.

“Bonnie, I told you to go out.” (Repeat two to three times.) After which, with utmost reluctance, she exits through the flap and into the yard.

Gibbs does the same thing, but being a longer dog, he snakes his way out the door even slower. In summer, this will guarantee a constant fresh supply of mosquitoes.

72-Bonnie & Gibbs-031617_12

Scotties rebel against authority. It’s their way. You have to like a dog that will go head-to-head with you about every little thing, else a Scottish Terrier is not your kind of dog. All terriers are like this to some extent, but for sheer tough-mindedness, Scotties are at the head of the class.

If you are interested in learning more about the Scottish (and Irish) Terrier, you might find this link to Scottish and Irish Terriers by William Haynes a fun read. These great little dogs have remained much the same through the years. Bonnie is typical of old-fashioned Scotties, while Gibbs is designed along modern lines. Yet, looking at them, you could never mistake them for different breeds. Their personalities — despite almost opposite life experiences — are very similar.

Our dogs make us laugh. Everyday, no matter how miserable or frustrated we get with life problems, they bring us joy.


People keep asking us why we got another dog. Don’t we want our “freedom?”

Freedom from dogs is more like loneliness.

What, exactly, would we do with that “freedom”? We don’t travel more than we must.  Given the nightmare of airports, if we can’t get there by car, we aren’t going. Even very long drives are not much fun these days. The roads are falling apart, as are the bridges. Everywhere on the east coast, traffic is nightmarish. The interstate highway system was built during the Eisenhower era. Each year, the roads need more repair and updating … while less and less money is allocated for the purpose. Trains are worse.

Unless the transporter gets real, I doubt we’re going far from home. Hanging at home with our dogs seems a much better choice.


It was love at first sight. At least from our end.

McDuff has become Gibbs, after you-know-who. McDuff didn’t know his name anyway, so it seemed like not a bad idea to rename him. And somehow, we both thought he was a Gibbs and came to the same name independently. Great minds think alike and all that.


He likes the other dogs. He tried to steal Garry’s sandwich from his hand. After all the dogs ate, Gibbs checked all the bowls in case someone had missed a piece. He barks at each passing car. His bark is deeper than Bishop’s.


He is not housebroken, so I’ve work to do with him. But I knew that before we brought him home. He’s not a tiny pup, so it shouldn’t take too long, especially with other dogs around to show him the way.

No one knows his exact history, what road he took to wind up at a breeder’s auction. I think he might have been someone’s pet … maybe early in his life. He seems to know about stairs. And furniture. He’s familiar with food dishes, water bowls — and wasn’t afraid to try and steal Garry’s sandwich.

He’s not fearful of hands or noise. I don’t think he was physically mistreated. Tentative about entering a room and a bit confused and disoriented, but happy to be with other dogs. Happy to be outside, too. Ready to play.

Gibbs has come home.


Since 2011, we have loved six dogs. Two PGBVs, Griffin and Tinker, both with us from puppyhood, died in 2012 within 6 weeks of each other. Nan, who came as a 10-year-old in need of a home, passed a few months ago. Amber — also with us from when she was tiny — went just a few weeks ago.

Remaining are Bonnie, in her prime at 8 years old, and Bishop who, despite struggling with back and hip problems, is still hanging in there.

Garry and I have both been feeling an insufficiency of dogs. We felt this was a good time to bring a new furry friend home.

I wanted a terrier, preferably, another Scottie. Puppies are always available, somewhere, if you have the money. And you want a puppy. A bigger problem than money was that I didn’t want a puppy. I love puppies. Who doesn’t?

But. I’m not fast on my feet these days. I can’t go chasing after a speeding pup. I’m not racing anyone or anything up or down the stairs. Finding a dog seemed the impossible dream … until …



There was McDuff, looking at me from my inbox. Oh that face. Oh those eyes. I was (of course) in love.

Months ago, I’d put in an application with various terrier rescue groups. This was from the Westie group … but it was not a Westie. It was McDuff, the very picture of a Scottish Terrier.

A lot of rapid back and forth emails followed. I said ‘YES YES We want him!!!” and there were references and vet checks and more emails … and then, on my birthday, she called and said “He’s yours!”

We going to get him today! It’s McDuff’s day.


Photography by Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

It takes a village to raise a child. It take two photographers and a lot of coaxing to photograph a Scottish Terrier.


You could say that Garry and I teamed up … but I think if you were Bonnie, you’d say we ganged up. On her.


Forced her to sit still. Coerced her into letting us see her eyes. How undignified!


Although more than half the shots were blurry, we got a few we like. Presenting Bonnie. With and without her favorite person.



When we lived in Boston, a mockingbird used to sit on the rail of our stoop and shout imprecations at the two dogs and the cat, Big Guy. It made them crazy. They wanted that bird so bad.


One fateful day, I was walking the dogs. Mockingbird was perched on the wire over our head, yelling at us. Then he flew down to the garden, perhaps to refuel with a seed or two. Divot, the Norwich Terrier, lunged into the garden (it was one of those stretchy leads). There was a flutter, another flutter, a chomp, chomp.

Divot emerged from the garden, the mockingbird in her smiling jaws. She passed the bird to her partner, Pagan, the big hairy hound (PBGV or Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen) as if they had been practicing for years.

Together, like the thoroughbreds they were, they trotted homeward where Big Guy was clinging to the screen door, apparently aware of all the events that had transpired. Meanwhile, I was trying to wrench the bird from Pagan’s jaws before we went into the house where Big Guy was waiting to get his jaws around the prize.

Garry Kaity Divot RiverBend

Here ye oh Mockingbirds! This is a cautionary tale for mouthy birds. Don’t taunt the dogs. Or the cats. They may be smarter than you think.


A Photo a Week Challenge: Humor

This picture comes with a back story.

We have four dogs. Technically, Garry and I have two and the other two belong to my son. Ours are the two terriers, Bonnie, the Scottie, and Nan, the Norwich. Owen has the big Australian Hairball — I mean, Shepherd — and Amber, the odd-eyed Miniature Dachshund. Amber is a Velcro dog and only puts in an upstairs appearance if there’s a biscuit in it or when dinner is served.

Bishop, on the other hand, is upstairs more than he is downstairs. He’s big, hairy, and friendly. The only dog in a houseful of bitches. (Well, they are bitches. Dogs are male, bitches are female. Get used to it.)

On this day, the two terriers had just come home from the groomer. Looking good. Time to get a few pictures before they went outside to roll in the dirt, or dig a tunnel to Australia. I had cajoled Garry into putting on a nice pair of jeans, and posing with The Girls.

Neither terrier will let me take a picture unless they are physically restrained … or sleeping. Why not? No idea. I don’t even use a flash. Nonetheless, the moment I take a camera out of the bag, they head for the doggy door and all I get is a picture of their furry butts as they make their escape.

I had them lined up. Garry was smiling. I think the girls were smiling, but it can be hard to tell. And suddenly, Bishop decided he was not going to be left out.

dogs with bishop and gar

I could have shot around him, but he clearly felt he was being unreasonably excluded. Even though Bishop is usually no more eager to be a photo subject than the other canines. This time, though, he was going to participate. One way or the other.


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?



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.



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!).


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.



As the tractor dug the layer of ice off the asphalt of our crumbling driveway, Bishop, who had been lolling about the living room trolling for treats realized he was neglecting his duties as watchdog.


Bishop has never entirely grasped the whole “guarding” concept, but he has gotten very adept at the “keep barking until they go away” piece of the puzzle. Given even the slightest motivation, he will bark continuously. Motivation is loosely defined as someone or something in the driveway, on the property or nearby in the woods or on neighboring properties.


If no reason presents itself, he will nonetheless bark continuously — for no apparent reason. Perhaps it is a preventative measure lest some unwanted human or critter be considering invading the territory.

Bonnie is more than happy to help with the barking. The two of them together, sometimes assisted by one or more of the other two dogs, can bark for hours if no one stops them — usually by suggesting it’s biscuit time.


Today they had a reason to bark and bark they did. Mostly, it was Bishop’s day. That big green machine must have looked pretty threatening! And barking must have been the right thing to do because it went away. See? Bark and it makes everything alright.



Other people’s dogs are forever doing cute things. As far as I can tell, they always do their cute stuff when there’s sufficient light to get a sharp picture.

Not my kids. Uh uh. If they do anything cute, the camera is in the other room. Or the light is terrible. If I have a camera — as I did today — it’s inevitably the camera with the slow lens. The Olympus cameras with the fast lenses? They are in the camera case in my office. Down the hall.


The quality of my doggy photography is dubious, to say the least. Undaunted, I still publish the pictures, out of focus and all. Because by golly, my dogs are adorable! It’s not their fault mom can’t get a clear shot of them. Well, it is a little. They could hold still and let me focus.


Today Garry and I watched the Kitten Bowl. Before you say anything, I know, it’s stupid. But it was fun watching a bunch of cute kitties run around playing for three hours. Pointless and silly, but adorable. I took a few pictures of the terriers who were clearly underwhelmed by the event.


I’ll be interested to see if they show more esprit de corps when AT&T’s puppy bowl comes around.

Yes, we’ll watch that too. We are total suckers for baby animals. If that’s the worst anyone can say about us, we’re doing just fine!




This is Bonnie’s spot, her lookout post. Up on the top of the sofa back, on her own cushion. Nose on glass with the picture window … which is so covered with nose prints, it is very nearly opaque.

She can see everything. She sleeps here, unless she is on the sofa with us and she would probably only leave there to eat or go outside and bark (and bark and bark and bark) if only we would join her rather than stubbornly insisting on sitting on the reclining loveseat — from which we can watch TV.

All the dogs have a “spot” that is their own. Nan’s is at my feet, under my desk in the office — if I’m in the office. Otherwise, on the foot of the recliner if I’m in the living room. Bishop sleeps outside when there’s snow cover. He really likes the snow. A lot. Inside, he sleeps on the landing at the head of the stairs or on the landing between upper and lower floors. I think it’s a guard dog thing.

Bonnie is the only one who cares about having a view. She watches. She looks asleep, but she is just resting, ready to spring into action in a heartbeat. Our little soldier, protecting her world and us.