BOREDOM AS THERAPY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I wrote a blog a while back about how I’ve grown to hate repetitive, routine household chores, like doing the laundry and washing the dishes. But things have changed. The Trump presidency has altered my perspective on a lot of things.

Trump and his team have caused political whiplash and existential chaos, which, in turn, has increased my appreciation for the small things in life. Things like the belief in facts, the existence of truth and the joys of a shared reality, at least with my husband. Also, a renewed love of predictability, consistency and reliability – in people and in the world.

So my boring daily slog is suddenly comforting. It makes me feel secure. My husband’s predictable routines now seem appealing and safe, almost sexy. Chores are no longer frustrating necessities. Sorting socks is now a calming Zen exercise. Fitting dishes into the slots in the dishwasher gives me a sense of success and accomplishment. These are the things in life I can count on. I am not helpless in my own home.

My chores also take me away, for a short time, from the onslaught of breaking news from Washington, DC. They give me moments of quiet before the next storm. I deeply appreciate them for the very repetitiveness that had turned me against them before. Boredom is now my friend. I see it as calmness and peace without the negative connotations I used to attribute to it. It’s the antidote to my PTSD – Perpetual Trump Shitstorm Distress!

I look forward to training my dogs. Sit! Stay! Come! Good girl! Repeat. No lump in my stomach, no sense of dread. No alternative facts or alternate reality. Just me and my dogs agreeing that ‘sit’ means ‘put your butt on the floor’ and ‘stay’ means ‘don’t move until I tell you to.’ Boring, but very reassuring and gratifying.

I appreciate my friends more, at least the ones who share my version of facts and reality. They help me stay grounded. And if I continue to focus on the small things in life that give me pleasure and comfort, I just might make it through the Trump years.

LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE

WE LET THEM LIE AND CATCH THOSE ZZZZs. We wouldn’t want them too exhausted to beg for cookies or race around tearing up the joint, would we?

Rest, sweet Duke
Blizzard in January!
Sleeping swan with head under his wing

Sleeping dogs are a favorite subject. They are quiet and I can focus the camera! Yes, focus. And no one tries to stick his or her big wet nose up the lens.

Arizona desert – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Yellow stone Arizona desert – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Gibbs
Bonnie

MY EVEREST: THIRTY YEARS OF SAN DIEGO HIKING (WITH DOGS!) – MARTHA KENNEDY

My Everest: Thirty Years of San Diego
Hiking (With Dogs!)

Kindle and Paperback
August 29, 2017
Author: Martha Kennedy

I don’t like reviewing books written by friends.

What if I don’t like it? Will they hate me if I can’t give them a great review? Authors take book reviews personally. We aren’t supposed to, but our books are personal. I can’t think of anything in my world more personal to me than the (one) book I wrote. Apparently, no matter how many books you write, you will continue to feel that way about all of them. They are your babies, your little love children.

My everest martha kennedyI wasn’t too worried about this one, though. I’ve read other books by Martha and I liked them. I’ve always liked Martha’s writing (if you don’t read her blog, you should), especially when she is writing about her dogs. When this when came out, I dashed over to Amazon and immediately bought a copy. Then I got bogged down with other stuff and didn’t start to read it until a few days ago.

This is a wonderful book. It’s so very good, I hardly know where to begin raving about it.

back cover my everest martha kennedyThis isn’t just a book. It isn’t about hiking (despite its title) in the San Diego hills with your dogs. This is a book about finding what is real and what matters. It’s about discovering the world is God and you are part of it. It’s about recognizing all living things having an equal right to be on this planet. It’s about learning how tiny we are while expanding to be part of the hugeness of life.

“My Everest” is a beautiful book. It is profound and thoughtful. I found myself putting it down to leave myself time to think about it and what it meant to me. I don’t do that. Really. I don’t. I just read. This was different.

Truffle and Molly in the Medicine Wheel

“My Everest” is not one of those silly books about searching for yourself, either. Martha has found what I also found — that we are where we should be and we are in the right place. Our job is to enjoy it. Fully. See it, feel it, absorb it, love it. Be part of the all-in-all. Fly with the buzzards and the hawks. Get warmth from the earth with the rattlesnakes. Watch eternity roll by with the rocks.

This is not self-revelatory narcissism. It reaches out and says “I love you” to everyone and everything. It’s not offering you rules to follow so you can walk the same path. There is no path. “My Everest” is about joy and sanctuary , the world that Martha Kennedy and her many dogs found in the Chaparral in San Diego.

Taking the world hiking.

Those hills and mountains were her place. The suggestion is implicit that any place can be your place. You don’t have to go to those specific hills or mountains. The important thing is that there is a place — your place — that brings you that full measure of contentment.

I don’t think I can explain it any better except to say I loved the dogs and the mountains. I love the people she met on the way. The young people she brought with her to hike the hills. In good weather and bad.

I loved how she loved her dogs, yet understood that when they passed, that was how it had to be. Because we live, we pass — humans , dogs and all that lives.

The Models – Two magnificent huskies

This is not the kind of book I would have normally sought to read, but I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to read it. In many way, for me, “My Everest” is a prayer and a hope for a world gone wrong. I don’t find a lot of hope — or any kind of prayers — in 2018’s world.

I most fervently recommend you read this book.


It’s available on Kindle for the extravagant price of $3.00 and in paperback for the break-the-bank price of $7.00. I have it on Kindle and when my next Social Security check arrives, I will get the paperback, too.


I want to be sure it is in the bookcase with other books I love too much to leave in the cloud.

BARKING DOGS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have found that one topic most dog parents love to talk about is barking. More precisely, excessive and/or loud barking and howling. Apparently many people live with serial barkers, like we do.

So, here are my thoughts on why some dogs bark so much. First, their hearing is far more acute than ours. So we have to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are actually hearing something when they suddenly jump up and start barking and howling hysterically. (We have one barker and one howler).

But why do some dogs feel the need to comment on every sound they hear while others don’t? Some dogs are specifically bred to be guard dogs and protectors. Their DNA literally programs them to alert us to any and all potential threats.

Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.

How they define ‘threats’ is another question. It may just be anything outside the norm for the household. This means that the presence of other dogs, or even squirrels, in the immediate neighborhood could be seen as a potential threat. Cars pulling into my neighbor’s driveway always seems to present a clear and present danger to my dogs.

My husband used to joke that our dogs were actually protecting us from invading inter galactic space aliens. Then he realized that he might have stumbled upon the truth. There may really be space invaders (or ancient demons from the underworld, take your pick) who regularly attempt to take over the earth. These predators may emit sounds that only dogs can hear. So the late night attempts at world dominion are thwarted, every time, when the evil doers hear the warning barks of the canine earth protectors.

Invaders fear these protectors. They may be particularly sensitive to the sounds that dogs emit. They may even be rendered powerless when exposed to the frequencies of dogs’ courageous barks.

So when your dogs wake you at night barking frantically, don’t yell at them. Thank them and pull the covers up over your head.

BEWILDERED AND USING ONLY THREE LEGS

BEWILDERMENT OF DOG AND MANKIND


A couple of days ago, Duke decided he had to leap a badly broken fence. Why? So he could examine the oil input for the house? More likely because he is an incorrigible jumper and when he sees a fence he thinks he can leap, he just does it.

The top of this particular fence are jagged old wires and the whole piece needs replacement. If it ever stops snowing or raining or icing or whatever it’s doing at the moment, we will replace it. It’s a very short piece of fence and it isn’t even a matter of cost — just finding a day or two when some form of precipitation isn’t falling from the sky.

Duke came into the house limping and bleeding. Not bleeding buckets, mind you, but he had taken a piece out of his right rear foot. I cleaned it, slathered it with antibiotic ointment and finally, after a straight out wrestling match with Garry and I and bandages, managed to wrap it up.

We were exhausted. He was pissed off. He was staring at us, clearly of the opinion that if we wanted to make him feel better, all we had to do was … well … DO IT. And all the bandaging and cleansing? What was THAT all about?

He was seriously angry and hopped around the house periodically glowering at us. Unless we had a biscuit. He decided we were okay as long as we had something edible in our paws.

By yesterday, while his foot was swollen, it wasn’t warm and showed no signs of infection and by yesterday evening, he jumped up on the sofa and tossed us a ball. He wants us to throw his ball? That was also when he decided to try leaping another fence on three legs. Clearly a very bewildered dog.

We hid his balls — all we could find, anyway. We opened every gate it was safe to open so he wouldn’t keep trying to fly. We overfed him on treats because even though all this is his own doing, he clearly doesn’t see it that way. We are easy marks for guilt. By this morning, the swelling in the foot was gone and I’m pretty sure he could walk on it. He will let me hold the foot  too, so the pain must also be gone.  Why can’t I get rid of the feeling he only limps when he sees we are watching? That couldn’t be true … could it?

Maybe we are the bewildered ones? Tomorrow, if he is still looking pathetic, we will go and spend a lot of money at the vet to discover there’s nothing more to be done than we have already done. Guilt is a killer … and Duke won’t like the vet, either, but that’s what pathetic gets you.

DUKE THE DOG

I haven’ t been getting out much since winter began. I can’t get it together with stomping through snow, or rain, or mud. I’ve gone to the doctor with Garry and the grocery store a few times. I’ve even gone out on the balcony and shot a few pictures there.

But mostly, I’ve been in the house. Reading — or more accurately, listening. Except I’m also reading (text reading) too.

The Duke

In between, when my dogs do something particularly cute, I grab a camera and take a few pictures. 

I was watching The Duke standing on top of the sofa, watching outside. The neighbors must have been outside. Whenever they emerge, he goes completely wacko. Anyone would think they’d done something bad to him! He tries to fling himself through the dining room French doors by knocking down the gate.

CRASH, BANG, BARK, BARK, GROWL, BARK.

Then he races to the living room, stands on the top of the sofa and growls. Barks. And finally, stands in front of us and whimpers. He really has a spite on those people. You’d think they did something bad to him, wouldn’t you?

Sometimes, he just likes to stand watch on the back of the sofa. He likes the height. It gives him a great view of the neighbors driveway.

GROWL, BARK, BARK, WHIMPER, GROWL.

(Race to dining room,)

CRASH, BANG, GROWL, BARK.

(Race to living room.)

(Leap to sofa.)

GROWL, BARK, BARK, BARK.

“Duke, chill. Good grief, calm down!”

WHIMPER.

“Duke, it’s the neighbors. They live there. They aren’t going to leave no matter how much you bark. Calm down! Garry, did you give him his Prozac?”

I took some pictures. As soon as he saw me with the camera, he decided he needed to get really close to the lens. If I try to back off, he’ll just move up on me, so I do the best I can. 

Duke is a pretty good subject, though. Unlike Bonnie and Gibbs, he has enough white in his coat to reflect light and be visible, even if the room isn’t very bright.

He is a good boy. Total wacko, of course. 

PARENTAL ANIMAL PHOBIAS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My father was afraid of horses, so of course I had to learn how to ride. I was terrified of snakes, so my son has had a lifelong fascination with reptiles. Not surprising.

My father witnessed someone being kicked by a horse and killed. Needless to say, he became phobic about riding horses. When I expressed an interest in riding at around age 10, he forbade it. He was rarely this emphatic about anything.

My mother and grandfather didn’t think I should have to live by my father’s fears. So they went behind Dad’s back and took me for riding lessons near our summer-house in CT. I studied English style walk, trot and canter in a ring. Then I decided to follow my close friend into jumping classes. I never got very far. I was not a great rider. I was always a bit afraid of the horses and they always knew it. The result was that I had little control over the horses I rode.

English style riding and jumping

My father never found out about my riding and I eventually stopped. But when I was in college, I had a wonderful riding experience in, of all places, New York City. A friend of my mother’s rode in Central Park and asked me to join her. There is a large reservoir in Central Park that goes from the East side to the West side of town. There is also a long bridal path that goes around the entire perimeter of the reservoir.

Most horseback riding in the Eastern U.S. is ring riding or trail riding, which is basically a walk in the woods but on a horse. The NYC bridal path gave you the opportunity to just ride on a straightaway for miles. As an added treat, once the horses reached the halfway point and realized they were heading home, they would break into a gallop. What a treat! It was awesome.

I pretty much stopped riding after college. I did enjoy it but it wasn’t a real passion for me. I think my father’s fear rubbed off enough on me to dampen my enthusiasm for the sport.

Me riding western style with my son on one of our trips to the Western U.S.

When it came to my turn as a parent, I got to expose my kids to a different animal phobia – snakes. When I was about ten years old, I stepped on a snake and gave myself a scare. I started having nightmares about snakes and a full-blown phobia was born. I would scream and run if I saw even a photo of a snake.

From a very early age, my son, David, was fascinated by snakes and other reptiles. I obviously couldn’t share that interest with him. Then in 1989, when David was nine, I started taking the anti-depressant Prozac. I first realized that the medication was working when I suddenly came across a live snake and realized that I wasn’t afraid anymore. I even petted a boa constrictor my kids and I saw at a local mall. My son was stunned but ecstatic. My phobia was gone. It had been part of my anxiety based depression.

David and I started reading about snakes together and soon David asked to have one as a pet. Once we made sure David understood how to take care of it (because I certainly wasn’t going to), we got our first of several pythons, Turbo. At 37, David now has two snakes, one a python, three Geckos and a Bearded Dragon lizard. He has become quite a reptile expert and sometimes even goes to herpetology meetings with breeders and other aficionados.

David today with his current albino python, Shayna

My mother and grandmother were terrified of cats but, while I loved cats, I prefer dogs and never became a true cat person. However, my fear of snakes inspired a real passion in my son. So I guess it served a purpose – the creation of a positive and gratifying hobby for David.