Some Things Never Change

Some things never change.

This time last year Mike was stacking wood and shoveling snow (I just read last year’s newsletter!) in a “blustery 18 degrees” and today he does the same in 9 degrees of blowing snow. I’m comfy in my fuzzy pink bathrobe by the fire, still determined to give the snail-mail authorities a little extra business this year.

Our family continues to grow!

Travel this past year included two weeks in California where I was honored to help my sister Christine and her children with my brother-in-law Keith’s transition from this world to the next, my trip to Smith College to speak on a panel at their Leadership Conference, a trip to sister Carol’s to visit with Mum and sister Charlene, an unexpected trip to Hilton Head to visit with author Janet Sheppard Kelleher (where I parasailed and avoided gators and dropped my phone in the ocean and put together my book Haikus Can Amusebecause I dropped my phone in the ocean), a week in Maine to visit with my Mum and family at Susie and Jim’s gorgeous waterfront home, a road trip to visit Jake in Austin and another couple of weeks in the trailer at Moab and Lake Powell with Mike and the Ranger-dog. I’m becoming quite the Stand-Up-Paddleboarder and absolutely love being on the water! There were also several Colorado road trips to attend various author events at schools and libraries. Pitch: Please support your local libraries! They do much to support their communities and their local authors.

Summit Library’s Teen Reading Program director went all out for my visit with her group!

I continue to write and publish my books on Amazon and blog at about lots of things including another no-kill hunting season and my first warm elk harvesting from an early morning roadkill call. We finally had a legitimate reason to purchase a separate freezer. Waterwight hit the streets on Leap Day. It was great fun to write, and now I’m working on Waterwight: Flux, the second book in the series. I have a feeling 2017 will be a year of great productivity as I have several other writing projects in various stages of completion already.

Wildfires are always scary.

Training for and competing in his 11th one-hundred-mile mountain bike race this summer just wasn’t exciting enough for Mike, and though it wasn’t his plan, he ended the race in time to manage one of many of the wildfires in Colorado last summer. After several exhausting days he returned to a structure fire, and as soon as he was convinced all was in control, I drove him to Denver to have his second hip replacement, but not before I sent him off to California to climb mountains with his brother Mark over Labor Day weekend. He had to make sure he used up every last bone surface and I had to get him out of the house to compete in a 3-Day Novel contest. By the way, he’s now quite happy being Titanium Man, and I wrote my best piece of fiction ever. Not sure what the county would do without his Emergency Manager expertise, and he’s pretty happy with his influence in many areas throughout our community.

Our beautiful home!

He humored me by letting me offer our home for Leadville’s Victorian Homes Tour right after Thanksgiving, for which I felt compelled to complete the installation of hardwood floors in several rooms. We had a toilet in our living room until the day before Thanksgiving and couldn’t really use the kitchen for the whole week prior, but that didn’t stop me from being able to feed an Army Thanksgiving afternoon.

Have I mentioned what a great guy my husband is?

As for our sons, Jake still enjoys life in Austin working in the IT world and still working on the van that broke down there over a year ago. My Mum made the difficult decision to stop driving last summer and sent her vehicle to him, much to his surprise and delight. He visited us this past summer and at Thanksgiving, but will stay in Austin to have a friends’ Christmas this year. I knew it had to happen at some point, and it will be most peculiar having our first Christmas without him home, but we’re happy he has good friends with whom to share the celebration.

First Lieutenant Nicholas McHargue (Army National Guard promotion this past summer) continues to work at the mine while completing prerequisites for applications to medical schools. We still love having him live just a mile away, and I think he enjoys his mum’s home cooking every once in a while.

The Ranger-dog is still a goofball and loves traveling with us. If you’re interested in knowing more about him, I wrote a blog post called “Don’t Get a Dog” which you might want to read before making a decision to get a dog. We really do like him.

And so, as this year comes to a close, I reflect on things that have stayed the same, but acknowledge the many things that have changed. Like most everyone else, we lost and gained family members and friends this year. The gains are always happy, the losses always sad, especially when we think “too soon” or “not fair.”

I appreciate one of Langston Hughes’ poems about life and death:

“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”

Each year I try to do better at treasuring the beauty of each new moment—even the painful ones—in my fleeting life. I wish the same for you.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, whichever ones you choose to celebrate. And may 2017 be a year filled with health, happiness, and unconditional love.

~ ~ ~

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Don’t Get a Dog

Don’t get a dog, especially a big dog like a German Shepherd. And extra-especially an already 3-year-old one from an animal shelter. Why not? I’ll give you a whole list of reasons why not.

He’ll be weird when you first bring him home. He won’t trust you. Everything about his new home will stress him out and it’ll take months before he’s even brave enough to step into the room where you and your family are watching TV at night. When he does muster up the courage to join you, he’s in and out before you even have time to say, “Good boy!” It’ll take another month or so before he’ll come into that room and lie down near you. It’ll take far longer before he actually looks comfortable resting near you. It’ll be so frustrating waiting for that moment to happen.

Photo by Tonya's Captured Inspirations LLC
Photo by Tonya’s Captured Inspirations LLC

He’ll lick you with a tongue that’s been in unmentionable places. It’ll just be a little lick. You might even call it surreptitious, but it’ll happen. You won’t want him to lick you, because it’ll mean he’s grown fond of you, and who needs that kind of pressure?

He’ll shake every time he stands or moves from one location to another, launching dog fur to the four corners of every room. This action, performed countless times each day, will increase your workload tremendously. You’ll have to sweep or vacuum at least once a week. And when you get out the dog brush and he flops on the floor at the sight of it and lifts his rear leg to expose his belly to you, you’ll have to spend quite some time grooming his big, shedding, shiny coat while he groans contentedly and gives your hand a little lick when it gets close. And then he’ll seem to shed even more. What a mess.

Sometimes he’ll whimper in the dark of night, just when you’re in the middle of a good dream. This will force you to look over at him because you’ll want him to stop whimpering and you’ll see his feet twitching spasmodically and hear his breathing fast and shallow. You can only guess he’s trying to get away from a previous owner, someone who may have abused him or found some lame reason to throw him away, or maybe he’s running from other angry dogs who’ve never known a gentle hand. In any case, he’ll interrupt your sleep, and who needs that?

yogurtHe’ll almost always watch you while you’re eating with a look that says, “I’d like a salami and cheese cracker too, please,” even though you’ve just fed him. You won’t give him your salami and cheese cracker, of course, but he’ll make you feel as though you should. It’ll take you a long time to train him to understand that “Uh-uh” means “This is my salami and cheese cracker, I just fed you, go lie down.” He’ll flop on his bed in the corner of the room, but he’ll still sneak a look at you. What a nag.

He’ll have “accidents” in the house. This might happen because he’s decided to eat his own poop while you were away for the day and left him outside. This is a disgusting habit, even if he felt compelled to do this out of necessity because he wasn’t fed well in his pre-rescue years. And some dogs just like the taste of their own poop. Whatever the case, this will always be revolting. If you’re home and asleep when he has an accident, you’ll know right away because he’s a big dog, and big dogs have big, smelly accidents. If you’re not home, you’ll know as soon as you walk into the house because big dogs have big, smelly accidents. You will eventually get smart and install a dog door, and that will be a pain in the you-know-what for your husband and son to complete. Your dog will wonder why you didn’t do this earlier because he knows he’s not supposed to poop on the dining room carpet, but it really is an inconvenience to have to modify your home to suit your dog.

He’ll poke his cold nose in your face early in the morning while you’re still in your warm bed. It’ll startle you awake, and then you’ll be face-to-face with his mischievous brown eyes and those ears sticking straight up and you’ll see his long tail wagging tentatively at first, then faster when he sees the grin you’re trying to stifle. And then he’ll poke his nose in your face again, and you’ll be forced to get out of bed, or at least stick your hand out from under those warm covers so he can flip it up on top of his head for a good-morning ear scratch. What a drag.

snow-noseHe’ll expect you to take him for walks regardless of the weather. You’ve installed the dog door so he can come and go as he pleases, but as soon as you open a closet door, he expects a “doubleyou, ae, el, kay.” He’ll turn circles and whine until you attach his leash and he’ll be so happy once you get going. If it’s sunny out, he’ll walk for as long as you’d like. If it’s snowy out, he’ll walk even longer, leaping like a goofball through the snow and flipping piles of it into the air with his nose. When you get home, he’ll be wet and sometimes quite dirty and you’ll have to keep a towel near the door to dry him off and work the snowballs out from between his toes. He can’t do it by himself, and while you’re holding his cold paw in your hands, he’ll probably try to lick you. He’ll be like a 3-year-old his whole life. So needy.

He’ll demand your attention. Oftentimes this will happen when you’re enjoying a glass of red wine with friends. He’ll find the hand holding the wine with his big ol’ nose and flip it vigorously in hopes of having the hand land on his head for a petting. When his invitation to pet him is greeted by sounds of consternation when you see the contents of your glass splattered on your white shirt, he won’t understand. He’ll tuck his tail between his legs and look up at you cautiously, timidly, wistfully, until you finally do pet him on the head and tell him it’s okay, you were the guilty one for holding wine in a hand clearly meant for petting.

Sometimes he’ll even demand your attention when you’ve spent several hours at the computer doing work you think is more important than spending five minutes with him. He’ll be so unreasonable. Who needs that?

And he’ll get in your way and possibly even topple you over if you’re not paying attention. This is another way he expresses his neediness. For whatever reason, he’ll want to be near you always. You’ll have to anticipate this, and you might even have to work on your own agility skills around him. You’ll have to be far more aware of your surroundings, and this requires constant attention to detail. You’ll want to just chill and relax or do whatever you want to do, and a dog will expect to be included. That’s a lot of pressure.

He’ll stress out when you change his environment. Once he’s figured out he just might be safe with you and in your home, if you decide to move around the furniture or change his bed from one wall to another, he’ll act as if his world has been turned upside-down. Maybe he’s thinking if you got rid of that chair that’s been here all this time, he could be the next to go. Anyway, he’ll look at the change and then look at you and then look at the change and then look at you again. It’s almost like he’s wondering if you’re still going to be there after he blinks. You’ll sense his stress, and who needs that?

He’ll destroy your house every time the mailperson or UPS delivery person comes to your door. It won’t matter that you’ve tried a training collar and have thunder-hugged him until his heartbeat returns to normal and have lectured him on your theory that the delivery person is good and that this happens every, single, day, and that he should be used to it by now. No. He’ll want to protect you from potential nefarious activity every, single, day.

moab-2016-ranger-wakeupHe’ll look at you. He’ll do this often, and he’ll expect you to look back at him. When this happens, you’ll be forced to feel something you don’t want to feel. You’ll be forced to feel a connection with the being behind the honey-brown eyes. You might even feel his love for you.

He’ll make you laugh, especially when you don’t want to. If he senses you’re sad, he’ll probably whine like a little baby. Then he’ll nudge you. You’ll push him away because it’s your right to wallow in your own sorrow when you want to, but he’ll come back and nudge you again. He’ll do this until you finally give in and give him what he wants—your hand on his soft fur. And you’ll have to pet him until he feels better. You’ll never be able to cry alone.

Probably the biggest reason why you shouldn’t get a dog is because he’ll die before you do. I know this because it happened with our first big ol’ German Shepherd. We’ve only had Ranger for three years now, so he’s about six, and our first dog died when he was nine, so there’s another three years at least before we can think about not having to feed him and walk him and groom him and pet him and laugh at him and snuggle with him and call him a good boy.

I could probably come up with lots more reasons why you shouldn’t get a dog, but I think I’ve covered the major ones. Hope this exposé has been helpful. Gotta sign off now. Here he comes, about to nudge my hand with his big ol’ nose because he just noticed the snow falling outside our window.winter-2015

p.s. Out of the 8 or so books on dog training I read before bringing 8-week-old Guntar into our home (our first dog), the best by far was The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks of New Skete. Guntar was a truly remarkable dog. Ranger is too. But don’t get a dog! ;)


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Going to the Dogs

“My dog’s friendly!” That’s what they all say, right? So is the 85-pound German Shepherd we adopted from a shelter recently, and I’d like him to stay that way. I don’t want to get bitten. I don’t want my dog to get bitten. Even more so, I don’t want my dog to bite. Once a dog has to bite to defend itself or its owner, every approaching dog or person becomes a potential enemy.

This past week I called the Police Department after a close call with a snarling, barking, advancing dog on a dirt alleyway where I walk my dog routinely. The dog would not back off and it took a kind man carrying a big stick (I’ll call him Teddy) running from his backyard and hurling it to turn the dog away. Thank you, kind man.

Sitting in my front yard to calm down after this incident, I was then approached by the owner of the still-at-large dog. She proceeded to unload on me a verbal assault calling me every name in the book—including one that, if true, would secure my infamy alongside the wanton women of Leadville’s colorful past. After recovering from the fear she might jump over my fence and bite me, I pulled out my phone and managed to record a bit of her abuse. I included this with the report I submitted to the Police Department.

I would like people to know that living on a street or alley doesn’t give you or your dog free reign over that public space. I, and every other person in town regardless of dog ownership, should be able to walk down any public street or alley without fear of being accosted by someone’s unrestrained pet. We should also be able to enjoy the peace of our own property without fear of being accosted by unrestrained pet owners, some who believe it is our fault when their loose dogs attack.

Several people have mentioned to me that Leadville needs a dog park. I do my best to hold my tongue lately when I consider what our town needs. Having a dog park, however, will not solve the problem of irresponsible dog owners, who would likely open their front doors and tell their dogs to be home by dinnertime.

Sadly, I’ve seen what happens to victims of dog aggression who have defended themselves in the past. It’s not pretty. Victims have been put on deferred judgment and told to behave for a year, and they’ve gone to jail—for protecting themselves against vicious dogs.

But that won’t stop me from protecting myself should this happen again. Sure, dogs will get loose from time to time, and I know the difference between a goofball dog who tromps up ready to play and one that’s a menace. The next dog to approach with snarling teeth on public grounds will get a blast from my new pepper spray, and if that lands me in jail, well, I guess I’ll have another unique experience to write about.

Leadville is going to the dogs and it’s past time to take action. We have only one code enforcement officer doing the best he can, but there’s no way he can keep up with the number of blatant violations occurring with increased frequency on our streets and alleyways.

If you own a dog, friendly or not, it’s your responsibility to ensure that it remains secure on your property whether you are home or away. Even a friendly dog can be provoked under certain circumstances. If you witness roaming or neglected dogs, please report them immediately. Perhaps after a fine or two, irresponsible owners will think twice about neglecting their dogs.

I would suggest carrying something with you for protection when you are out walking, with or without a dog. I was thankful for the kind man with the stick who came to my rescue.

Even if you are walking your friendly dog on a leash, please don’t assume my dog wants his butt sniffed while we’re out taking care of business. I’ve witnessed friendly initial greetings escalate to aggression when one dog decides he’s had enough. And as a side-issue, there are no poop fairies in town, so please don’t pretend you’re unaware of the piles your dog dumps every day.

I won’t walk my dog again without pepper spray, so if you love your dog, keep him safe. If I end up in prison for defending myself, I might be authorized one call. It will be to someone who’s willing to walk my dog. Any takers? Don’t worry—my dog’s friendly.