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Posts Tagged ‘Animals’

Yesterday, Bob was outside the front door doing some weeding. Our raised bed of vegetables is on the south side of the house, not within the confines of our fenced-in garden. I was stringing a few pearls together in my first pandemic necklace when I heard him yell, “Honey, come here, quick.”

He told me all about the fat and healthy red fox that had just strolled around the front corner of the house under a holly bush. They were an arm’s length away from each other. Of course Bob saw him (or her) the very second his hand was pulling up a weed – as they locked eyes I’m sure they were both shocked! The fox immediately took off across our not/so/busy street and around an apartment building.

Imagine that, in a city of a million and a half people, nature can still find a way.

This is day #13 of quarantine. I’ve stopped watching the White House Pressers about the Coronavirus, they only serve to bolster Mr T’s fragile ego. He is selling us a fool’s paradise, and I for one am not buying his lies.

But I am crossing off the days on my old-fashioned paper calendar, eager to put each day behind me. Luckily Ms Bean requires a slow-walk each and every day, sometimes three! And now that the sun has returned and Spring has arrived, these meditative walks are a kind of salvation.

They are a way to still the noises in my head, all the “what ifs” and “if onlys.” A stroll around the neighborhood tethered to Ms Bean keeps me here, grounded in the Present. This morning, the sun has come up and the temperature will climb to 80 degrees. The rain has stopped for now. And while drinking coffee and reading my online papers, I noticed a tiny headline: “Yale Happiness Course Takes Off.”

It seems that since December, this online course titled “The Science of Well Being” has enrolled 1.3 million people worldwide. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52055242

Now, when over half a million people around the world are infected with the Coronavirus, and everyone is isolating themselves to flatten the curve, and the Bride is donning her PPE and caring for patients in her ER, and the Groom is planning to make ICU beds appear all over his hospital, and we can’t visit Great Grandma Ada and Hudson, and we can’t hug the Love Bug or tickle L’il Pumpkin…

Now more than ever, I have to keep hope alive.

“People in these situations tend to either look backwards for solutions or ruminate about possible futures: Will I go back to work? Will I be able to afford getting sick? Can I support my family if they get sick?

“While both those abilities are very adaptive in solving immediate problems or challenges or an immediate threat, they’re very harmful in situations like the one we’re in the middle of where the threat is ambiguous, the duration is unknown.”

It’s important to mention that only here, in the US, are people worried about hospital bills. Only here, in our great country, would someone not seek emergency medical treatment because they are afraid it would bankrupt them.

While waiting for the spike of this curve, we have to keep hope alive. And one way to do it is to stay in the PRESENT. Mindfulness isn’t easy during a pandemic. I notice every little flower on my walks, every flowering vine that threatens to engulf a mailbox. I would usually bring my phone with me, to take pictures, but it’s better if I leave it at home and stay present.

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS is another way to support our sanity. We’ve been Facetiming with the Rocker and Aunt KiKi. They have dueling desks set up in their California home and have had Zoom conferences with colleagues. The Bride turned me onto Marco Polo, an APP that’s like video texting, and we’ve been having fun with friends just capturing a snippet of time each day. Steve sent us video of a huge hawk in his yard yesterday! And of course, we talk on the phone too.

Yesterday we walked around the Bride’s neighborhood looking for teddy bears in windows. It was so hard to stay ten feet apart, to not touch the children.

The third linchpin of well being is a daily PRACTICE of GRATITUDE. Bob and I have been doing this on a pretty regular basis before bed. I can’t watch the news at night these days, but I can recall small pleasures during the day, things that bring me joy. Sometimes it’s just the sound of Ms Bean snoring, or a tulip that popped up under the cherry tree. Sometimes it’s the young man who delivers a restaurant meal. We can always name three things we’re grateful for.

Like the red fox foraging under the holly.

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Is this the Year of the Dog, or the Year of the Bird? Last night, a gorgeous picture of a Boykin Spaniel popped up on my Instagram. Liver colored, with soulful eyes, droopy ears and curly fur, it looked just like my very first dog. She was the sweetest, most lovable creature ever, although maybe everyone’s first love takes on a special significance over time.

The Boykin’s photo was courtesy of a National Geographic photographer I’m following who is shooting a series called the #yearofthedogs. His name is Vincent J Musi, “…a trusted friend to animals everywhere.” He doesn’t just capture their distinct personalities, he tells you a little bit about his encounter – like how much the dog may have drooled, while noting that he’s also drooled back in the day. It’s a witty and wonderful start (or end) to any day!

Meanwhile, in the middle of my Monday, I found myself at the Animal Hospital with the Bride and Groom’s older dog, the much loved G-man. I just happened to be playing super heroes with our L’il Pumpkin when I noticed Mr G really digging into one of his paws. Upon closer inspection there was blood on his dew claw; so without further adieu, we headed to the Vet. At that point the Love Bug came home from school and wanted to keep us company.

Her level of empathy is amazing for a 5 year old.

I’ll dispense with the gory details, Mr G is now wearing the cone of shame to keep him from tearing off his bandaged leg. The hardest part will be keeping the new puppy from trying to attack him, um play with him. Maybe I should visit our friend Robin’s pet store, “Come, Sit, Stay” to find Mr G a special treat?

What is it about dogs? Almost every picture I have of me as a child has me standing next to, or holding a dog. The Flapper’s first child, my half-sister Shirley, the one I never knew, used to raise Welsh Corgis. Of all the dogs in the AKC, I too chose Corgis to adore when my children were little, never knowing that Shirley felt the same way. German Shepherd dogs hold a special place in my heart, and let’s face it, ANY and ALL rescues, like Ms Bean and G-Man.

My niece Lynn breeds the regal Scottish Deerhound, a breed known for their sweet temperament. She’s in that category of Best in Show dogs, traveling the country with a plethora of hounds in the back seats. Come to think of it, Shirley’s daughter Karen loves to travel with her canine companions too! Hmm, now that’s a children’s book!

Every other dog you meet in Nashville is a Frenchie! I loved Musi’s photo of a French Bulldog named Larry, who is friendly in a “take over the world” kind of way. Y’all know my Francophile ways, so a Frenchie might just fit with us whenever and where ever the wind blows. Having one pup in a city townhouse is enough for now.

But I digress, because I was wondering about 2018 now that we are 3 months in, and it seems that this isn’t the Year of the Dog, even though I’m a dog addict. It’s the “Year of the Bird!”

“National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 organizations join forces for 12 months of storytelling and science to examine how our changing environment is impacting birds around the globe.”

However, I wasn’t entirely wrong because according to the Chinese calendar 2018 is the Year of the Dog! Loosely translated we should all have “prosperous wealth.” I’m OK with that, because a house isn’t a home until it’s covered in fur. Maybe my next post will be about birds, and the way Ms Bean just plucked one out of the air!? Happy Birding everyone!

Awwww poor G-Man.

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There are only about 1,600 black bears in the Great Smokies. They are interacting more and more with people, coming down off the mountains because their habitat is shrinking. I’ve seen a couple of bears lumbering through the forest in Central VA, but here in the Music City my only wildlife encounter has been with feral cats. I’ve heard about coyotes and possums, but they don’t scare me.

In Eagles Nest Township, MN with 4 beautiful, clean lakes, some people can lay down on the ground and allow bear cubs to crawl all over them! There’s a bear whisperer there who teaches neighbors how to feed the wild black bears peanuts from their hands! He is a biologist on a mission to let people know that bears are harmless, they are more afraid of us than we are of them!

But in the same little MN town, others are convinced of a different reality. They perceive black bears to be a threat; they look at their teeth and claws and imagine being torn to shreds. Even though they appear timid, they have tremendous strength and have killed at least 70 people since statistics were kept in the early 1900s.

I’m probably in this camp, if I were to see a bear on a trail I’d start backing up very slowly… NPR has an incredible podcast about this pair of conflicting paradigms: https://www.npr.org/2017/06/08/531904266/reality-part-one.

They are investigating why people see things differently and appropriately enough it’s called, “Reality.” After Great Grandma Ada witnessed a mama bear with two cubs playing in her swimming pool, she stopped going down to the pool alone. I’m just glad she didn’t decide to feed them peanuts from her hand, as she’s been known to encourage a stray fox or two with treats. In fact, I can’t remember a time when she didn’t have some candy in her pocket for her grandchildren.

Listening to this podcast about how we shape our own reality, and after this weekend’s #MarchforourLives I thought to myself, what’s the point of worrying about something like bears? I mean, there’s some Chinese space station that’s about to crash into earth, maybe I should be losing sleep over that?

Psychologists tell us that depression and anxiety are endemic in our modern world, and that in order to worry less we should make a list of the 10 things that worry us. Writing them down demystifies our dread and helps us decipher when we’re just worrying for the sake of worry – you know that dream where you have to take a test and realize you never went to class? Sometimes we imagine things are way worse than they actually are, or we may need medication to keep the demons at bay.

My mentor, the humor writer Erma Bombeck called that toxic, useless type “rocking chair worry:” “It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”

And the funny thing is, the more you write these 10 things down, make a Top Ten List every 6 months, you realize over time which worries are utterly useless because they resolved themselves, or the outcome was better than the problem, and you can get a handle on those things you may actually want to DO something about. You may even start to worry less.

Why do some people see the list of countries that are expelling Russian “diplomats” and feel fine, while I see the long list of countries who have signed the Paris Climate Agreement – that does NOT include the USA – and feel dread? We are the ONLY country is the whole world who doesn’t believe in climate science! Syria and Nicaragua were the last 2 countries to pledge their allegiance; here is what Stephen Hawking had to say about Mr T’s mean and inept decision:

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” he told the BBC. “Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.” He added that Trump’s decision would cause “avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children”.

So maybe I should be worrying about the bears, and gorillas, and the newly endangered, my favorite of all wild things the graceful giraffe: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/giraffes-silently-slip-endangered-species-list-180961372/  I had NO idea the giraffe’s tail is used as a status symbol in parts of Africa. It’s time to schedule a safari so I can see my long, tall blondes in the wild, not just at a zoo.

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The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Billy Collins was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. This may have been one of our country’s most fragile times, when more people sought peace from poetry. And he is a poet who gets us, and last night Bob and I had the distinct pleasure to listen to him read some of his poems at Salon 615. Everyone of a certain age has picked up a book in rapt anticipation, only to find a few pages down the line that it’s something we’ve read before. I admit it, and Collins makes it bearable in his poem “Forgetfulness.”

Like that moment when he realized he was older than Cheerios, at the age of 70, and so wrote a poem about it. He scatters serious sonnets in among his readings, so last night’s audience gasped and laughed in unison. Because poetry is “…a megaphone.” Because he loves to make up new words, like “azaleate” – which loosely translated means we’ve arrived at a place just before, or after, it’s signature event. Oh, it’s too bad you’ll be missing the peak leaf season here in Vermont, let’s say. Or:

Bob and I azaleated the lavendar blossoming in Provence this year. 

Collins writes about cats and dogs from their point of view. And he even writes about Tennessee Fainting goats! This type of goat freezes and keels over whenever it is startled or feels panic. It’s something I may be catching here in loud and noisy Nashville 🙂

What brought me nearly to tears was Bob’s reaction; he didn’t fidget or head for the bathroom. He actually loved listening to Collins, we poked and prodded each other at yet another small truth that bounced between the two of us. It was like going to Jacob’s Pillow when we were young and discovering that he enjoyed the ballet almost as much as I did!

Then, towards the end of the evening, he turned to that ultimate question all couples must grapple with, “Who will go first?” The universal hope that “…you will bury me.” But is that really true love, to want to go first and save yourself from grieving. Bob has told me so often that due to his genetics he will most likely go first, and I almost believe him.

But what if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow? A very real possibility in this busy city. He would still buy peanut butter and jelly, he would still drive like someone from NJ. Maybe he wouldn’t search for a beach house, or maybe he would?

Collins recommended a book, one that had inspired him in his youth, by a philosopher named Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space.” And I remembered the Bride showing us her Public Policy building at Duke, the light pouring in through modern-Gothic arches. And just last year, pointing out her son’s little hidey-hole inside his closet in their new home.

In the first and last days of life, it is the cosmos of the home that takes on the full weight of human habitation, as retreat and space of belonging. Bachelard’s greatest work remains a compelling reflection on the enduring human need to find psychological refuge in familiar places and spaces, though its author admitted that poets and story-tellers got there first. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-of-a-lifetime-the-poetics-of-space-by-gaston-bachelard-1673212.html

Here he is reading from his book, “The Rain in Portugal.”

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While we were in California, we bumped into lots of new and exciting experiences. Feeding giraffes by the ocean, listening to the Rocker score a new Rogue One trailer, and of course dining at some of the most innovative, delicious restaurants. But picking up the bill was even more  astonishing, because all along the Gold Coast the people voted to give themselves a “Living Wage,” so the bill could be shocking until you realize there is basically no tipping allowed.

Well, at some places tips were included in the bill, but the basic premise is that by 2020 the minimum wage will be $15 an hour, and supposedly one could live on that salary in LA County. Just look at this calculator, it shows two adults working would pull in $62,400 a year, however – “Note: Although the living wage model is a step above poverty, it doesn’t take into consideration extras such as entertainment, eating at restaurants, or being able to save and invest.”  http://www.latimes.com/visuals/graphics/la-me-g-california-new-minimum-wage-20160328-htmlstory.html

Never mind a family with kids who had to pay for childcare. Still it’s a start. Until now.

Mr T has appointed a fast food billionaire as the next Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants. This California golden boy runs Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s and thinks the Living Wage thing is hogwash, in fact he’d like to see robots making his food! Oh but wait, he also wants to see bikini clad women eating his burgers, because well, who wouldn’t? What’s more American than that I ask you?

  • He has been critical of the Labor Department ruling to extend overtime pay to more than 4M workers
  • He accuses the Affordable Care Act of creating a “restaurant recession” since it has deprived citizens of their extra money for dining out…not making $7 an hour
  • His “record of fighting for workers” means he believes a higher minimum wage will kill the job market…

I guess having a robot put mayo and avocado on your burger doesn’t kill the market? I cannot wait to see what Elizabeth Warren has to say about Andy; oh wait, here ya go:

Throughout his entire career, Andrew Puzder has looked down on working people. At Hardees and Carl’s Jr., he got rich squeezing front-line workers on wages, overtime, and benefits, all while plotting to replace them with machines that are so much better than workers because they are “always polite” and “never take a vacation.” Appointing Puzder to run the federal agency responsible for protecting workers is a slap in the face for every hard working American family.

Wasn’t it Sandra Bullock who said, “Once a waitress, always a waitress?” Well I’ve been a waitress and it’s one of the hardest jobs on the planet. The Bride worked a snack stand at the beach as a teenager. The Rocker was a barista in high school. I’d wager a bet that most of you dear readers have worked for awhile in the service industry. That is, those of you who didn’t get a few Million handed to you on your 21st birthday. And I bet most of you think a Living Wage is self-explanatory.

After all, its opposite would be a Dying Wage. The kind of wage that shortens your life span, where food choices and health providers are limited to your station in life. The kind of life where obesity leads to chronic diseases, the kind that taxes our hearts, and any young person feeling suicidal in their low wage job could easily purchase a gun at the Walmart. You see where I’m going…

We now live in a country where our life expectancy has declined for the first time in 20 years. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38247385

We know about diabetes and heart disease factors, but what is causing the rise in infant deaths under the age of one? Parents are warned about suffocation concerns with babies sleeping in a family bed, but I’m afraid I agree with a doctor who states “…the rise (is due) to “social stressors”, such as financial pressures and addiction.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the country is “in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic”, with a record 28,000 people killed in 2014. No figures are yet available for 2015, though the 6.7% rise in deaths caused by “unintentional injuries” may be partly related.” How could you possibly care for a baby while addicted to pain killers?

Our ecosystem is so fragile, so intricately related: to billionaires running/ruining our government; to our life span shrinking; and to the beautiful giraffe grazing freely in Kenya. Like the canary in a coal mine, giraffes are now listed as “vulnerable” to extinction. Perhaps Mr T will invent a robot giraffe for our great grandchildren to feed at the zoo?

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If only I believed in soothsayers, fortune tellers and psychics. I’d make a killing in the stock market, and be able to prevent any slip-ups coming my way in 2015. Although I’ve learned my lesson about bounce houses – they are dangerous emporiums disguised as attractive rainy day activity palaces – I’ve also learned to look down more often while walking. And not at my Iphone!

Ellen DeGeneres is predicting that 2015 will be the “Year of Baby Goats.” In her classic deadpan style she said on Twitter that 2014 was the “Year of the Selfie,” and she should know since she broke the internet with that star-studded Oscar selfie. But when I read about the goats I thought, that is sooo last year. Now if you don’t know anything about goats sounding like people on YouTube, here you go. You’ll thank me later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlYlNF30bVg

Which started me thinking, what makes a trend, and can we really predict them? Remember the snap bracelet, well that’s back strangely enough. And who ever thought those Ugg boots would catch on, even the Love Bug has a pair. Let’s go to Buzzfeed and see what’s “trending” shall we. http://www.buzzfeed.com/trending

The first story is about that guy who found a steel turning rod in his arm from his Thunderbird, 51 years after crashing into a truck! Again I say, pshaaaw (or some such gutteral French sound). Years ago my brother, Dr Jim, found a piece of glass that had migrated out of his arm 20 years after falling onto a glass while he was an undergrad at Columbia University. And the Flapper had to have teeth extracted from her jaw 30 years after her accident in our Year of Living Dangerously. It seems that dentistry after a near fatal car accident in 1949 was not very evolved, they just fitted her with dentures and figured her teeth must be on the road somewhere?

Meanwhile the death of a great Progressive, the Lion of Liberalism in NY, Mario Cuomo is trending on Twitter today. I always wondered why he didn’t run for President, that’s how much the Flapper and I loved Cuomo. And I’m willing to predict that just as the news footage of Blacks being attacked by police dogs in Selma long ago helped turn the corner for Civil Rights, the proliferation of YouTube videos, of citizen reporters filming injustice in their neighborhoods, will spark a larger conversation about social justice. Here is an excerpt from Cuomo’s famous 1984 speech about equality:

We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter, we are bound one to another; that the problems of a retired school teacher in Duluth are our problems; that the future of the child—that the future of the child in Buffalo is our future; that the struggle of a disabled man in Boston to survive and live decently is our struggle; that the hunger of a woman in Little Rock is our hunger; that the failure anywhere to provide what reasonably we might, to avoid pain, is our failure.

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2015/mario-cuomo-dead-1984-speech?mbid=social_twitter

Notice how he starts out with “WE.” And so my hope for us, my prediction for 2015, is that we turn away from so much turmoil and trending social media nonsense like baby goats, that we vote out gun enthusiasts, and that we practice being “tender” with each other this year as Pope Francis said. Cheers to a Tender New Year!

Out with the Old Selfie!

Out with the Old Selfie!

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“Would you eat them here or there? Would you eat them anywhere?” You may recognize the voice of Dr Seuss. His Cat is a master manipulator. You may think you don’t like green eggs and ham, but gosh darn it, you’re gonna like them eventually.

It’s a great book for a toddler, especially the Love Bug. She likes to tell me where to sit, “Nana, sit here!” She likes to tell me where to go, like when I told her that Mama would be home, she looked me right in the eyes and said “Nana go bye bye!” I told her my plan was to stick around for awhile and she smiled as if to say that would be just fine.

Transitions can be hard at every stage in life. Who knew that crossing the threshold of a door – from the world of the wind and the sun outside with popsicles on the porch and school crossing guards who wave “Hello,” to the world inside with high chairs you have to sit in and diapers that for some reason must be changed all the time. My Bug, like Jane Goodall in her new children’s book,”Me Jane,” loves to be outside!

So coaxing her to come in is a major challenge. In fact I’d forgotten this simple fact about toddlers – everything is a negotiation! Then I remembered that the Bride loved a good argument at this age too. I was convinced she was going to study law, that’s how good she was. I found myself saying my daughter’s name instead of the Bug’s, over and over again because her level of sophistication is equal to her mothers.

So last night I thought ahead. After dinner I sat the Bug down and said we needed to talk. I told her I would keep my promise and we would have popsicles on the porch, but then I expected her to be a BIG GIRL when it was time to come in and “Not Cry.” She said “Not cry.” And I said, “OK, big girl, do you want a strawberry or a grape popsicle?” And she said, “Strawberry.”

It worked!

Today was the best day ever. We spent the whole morning at the Nashville Zoo and topped it off with a wild animal carousel ride. She eagerly hopped on the painted kangaroo with me and we waved at Mama who is thankfully home and was waving to us miraculously every time we rode around in a circle.  And now that I’ve got this toddler transition thing down, from getting her into the car without a fuss to getting her out of the tub at night, I’ll be heading home. My husband tells me he’s missing me. But leaving her, will be the hardest transition of all.

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Shouldn’t Animal Rights be a bi-partisan thing? We all know the EPA is a left-wing agency and that gun owners and hunting enthusiasts are pretty much right-sided. Yet shouldn’t they all want to protect the animals they love/eat/hunt equally? I posted an innocuous sentence on Facebook about one Canadian Goose and started a mini-firestorm.

Animal Rights. It’s a relatively new movement that gained steam with the publication of a book, Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer in 1975. Before we knew it, chimps were being freed from laboratory cages and walking in a fur coat down Madison Avenue could be considered dangerous. For me, I drew the line somewhere in the broad/general/middle. I grew up with dogs, I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t have a dog and though I never really dressed them up (except for that one Xmas picture), I considered each and every one a part of the family.

But my anthropomorphism stopped there. If we needed our medical students to learn something of a child’s vein and practicing on a cat was necessary, so be it. Today the dog and cat labs at most medical schools have been replaced by virtual learning devices. Sacrificing a rabbit to see if a woman was pregnant was common in the last century, but experimenting on a rabbit’s eye to test mascara seemed senseless. Even today, scientists will use pigs and not just crash test dummies, to determine the best, safest design in car seats for children. Maybe you can see where I’m heading?

If an animal’s life could serve a greater good – save a child’s life for instance – then I would be alright with that, within of course some pre-required ethical limits.

What’s troubling me lately is so many small, but extremely vocal groups have emerged that would like to see pretty much all animals exist only in their natural environments; even as we humans dig, damage and develop their natural habitat. Let’s get rid of the horse drawn carriages in NYC! What about Charleston, they are a big industry in SC. And though I do feel that Orcas should probably not be swimming around in a tiny Sea World pool, I’m surprised by the latest rally that will be taking place this weekend in front of the John Paul Jones Arena. You see the circus is coming to town!

A group called Voices for Animals says “…circus animals spend about 11 months a year traveling, chained up and isolated.” They are distributing a video that shows an elephant being abused to further their cause. “The tools of the training include bull hooks, which are similar to fireplace pokers and electric prods. Animals are beaten, they are isolated. Highly social animals are isolated,” said Wendy Harper, a member of Voices for Animals.       http://www.nbc29.com/story/25323589/animal-rights-group-protests-circus-coming-to-jpj

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus of course have denied any abusive treatment and say their trainers have absolutely lovely relationships with their animals. The truth I’m sure is somewhere in the middle, depending on the trainer and the size of the circus. But my kids grew up going to the Big Apple Circus every year, and it was a wonderful experience all around. And for the Love Bug, going to the zoo with friends is a favorite outing. Where else would we see a giraffe in the US? I remember bringing the Rocker to see a brand new baby Rhinoceros born at the Bronx Zoo, I’m sure I was more thrilled than he was.

Should we send our Giant Pandas back to China from the National Zoo? Send all the horses pulling tourists off to a farm in Montana and the elephants in the circus back to India? Let’s send all those geese back to Canada! I believe the Big Apple doesn’t have an elephant act anymore, partially because there are not a lot of them left, and maybe also because of the protesters. But our species doesn’t get to lay waste to animal habitats, pull more and more fossil fuels from the ground and continue to make trillions of dollars with disastrous consequences for our planet AND tell us where and when we can see wild animals. Sorry folks, it doesn’t work like that.

Dogs in the Wild while surrounded by an Invisible Fence

Dogs in the Wild while surrounded by an Invisible Fence

My Facebook sentence? “And in breaking Cville news, a lone Canadian Goose walked across Rt 29 N this afternoon and all 5 lanes stopped for him #whyiloveva”

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Daddy Jim and Corky

Daddy Jim and Corky

My very first dog was a black dog, his name was Corky. He was named after the County my foster/father/Daddy Jim’s ancestors were from in Ireland, County Cork. I’m not sure how he came to reside in Victory Gardens with us, but he was my constant companion and set the stage for the rest of my life – a life that always had a canine presence. In fact, until Buddha died, we were mostly a two-dog family. Either you are a one OR a two/or/more dog family, and we were definitely the more the merrier.

Our first married dog was a German Shepherd named Bones. He was named after the doctor on Star Trek of course, and because Bob’s first dog’s name was Doc and well, because he was a skin and bones stray when we found him at the pound. He loved porcupines, and to our utter astonishment couldn’t stop chasing them in the Berkshire Mountains. Shepherds are supposed to be smart dogs, but our Bones just never gave up despite many needles to the snout.

Anyway, over the years we seem to have adopted brown dogs, except for the Bride’s first dog, a tri-color (black, brown and white) Corgi, and Buddha, who was 100 pounds of long, fluffy, pure, white Samoyed-mix fur. With the exception of Corky, I’ve never owned a black dog. Here is our current canine

Brown Bean Burrito

Brown Bean Burrito

The Rocker's First Dog

The Rocker’s First Dog

The first time I heard about the troubles with black dogs was a few years ago when the Bride and Groom adopted their first married dog, a black Shepherd-mix rescue in Nashville. “He was going to be euthanized,” she said, “because they told me that nobody wants black dogs.” Maybe it was because she was going through her Trauma rotation at the time, that I didn’t give it another thought.

Until I heard about this MA photographer, Fred Levy, who has made it his life’s mission to showcase black shelter dogs for all the world to see.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/27/black-dogs-project_n_5037181.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000010

Through doing this project, I’ve found that it’s really important to share the idea that there are always so many dogs in need of a good safe home, regardless of what the dog looks like,” Levy told HuffPost. “Maybe someone will see this and consider the gravity of owning a pet, no matter what color it is.”

Who knows, the syndrome is called “Black Dog Bias,” and maybe it started with the superstition against black cats? I know my Irish Nana didn’t even like a black bird to fly in front of her. I get the fear of American Pit Bulls, although I don’t agree with it. I truly believe a dog, any dog, is what its owner makes of it, along with centuries of breeding to make it fetch or swim or herd or whatever. We had to train our Corgis not to nip at children’s ankles when they run, after all that will only do for cows. I asked Bob on a recent outing to get some fresh air, if he wanted to walk through the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA (CASPCA) and look for an older black dog. http://caspca.org

He said, “Maybe next time.”

Photography by Fred Levy

Photography by Fred Levy

 

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Every single place you go there is an opportunity to learn something new. Last night, we were picking up some comfort Mexican food at our newest neighborhood restaurant, when we overheard this guy waiting for his to-go order say that the deer would be starving this winter. He wasn’t exactly a mountain man, but he did look like he knew a thing or two about hunting. So I interrupted his conversation about how many deer had been spotted and/or hit by a car on his way over here, a common subject in this neck of the woods, to ask him why the deer would starve this winter. I was expecting to hear about another snowmageddon.

Instead, he told us that their main food source, acorns, had been decimated by those tasty little critters Ms Bean loved to crunch. IMG_0595In this year of the cicada – where numbers reached one million per acre and sometimes more – not only did the insects hatch their eggs in the branches of oak trees, they managed to feed on and kill off those portions of the tree. I had noticed splotches of dead, brown leaves at the ends of many of our oaks, and I knew the cicadas were responsible. Even though this was the 17 year plague of the cacophonous insect, I was told our trees would survive the onslaught. I didn’t think about the loss of acorns.

Don’t look away Ms Bean, you know you loved them!

 An acorn on an oak tree grew,
The wind around him gently blew,
It whispered to him quite softly
‘Some day from your mother
You will be free
To grow and be a mighty tree’
‘Who’? ‘Me’? A mighty oak’?
The little acorn thought this a joke.

Acorns have been the subject of poetry, like the above poem by Joseph Enright, and have been used in heraldry designs for centuries. In fact, I believe they gave bonny Prince George’s mum, Kate, a crest with an acorn when she married into the Royal Family. Here it is on the right, joined with Prince Wills. There are three acorn sprigs that represent the three children in the Middleton family. And the leaves represent Berkshire, where she grew up.  I like the unicorn!article-2434825-1850314F00000578-643_634x505

Yesterday morning I looked out my kitchen window to see a mama deer with two young fawns nursing underneath her. She stood straight and tall and we just stared at each other. We’ve posted our property so that hunters are forbidden, still I don’t want these beautiful animals to starve. This weekend I’ll be going to a farm supply store, to see what deer would like to eat. They’ve finished off my roses, and the new growth of a few tender shrubs. One even managed to find and trample the fence around a new fig tree, but he only ate half of it. Considerate don’t you think?

Kensington Palace released this photo of the new conjugal coat of arms for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2434825/Kate-Middleton-Prince-Williams-new-Conjungal-Coat-Arms-revealed.html#ixzz2iqKSH400
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