Traveling Dog Lady: 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

walkin' the dog

Today, I walked Hobie around the block. Hector can't go on long walks because of his paw injury. Gil tells me Hector was very unhappy being left behind -- he "howled like a wolf", baying and lowing at the absence of his pack.

Hobie and I had the lucky streak of being able to practice greeting other dogs. This is something I can rarely do successfully when I have both Hobie and Hector on leash. Mainly because they will pull me down on the ground, but also they scare other dog owners. They are just so excited to greet other dogs -- not aggressive, just excited.

I counted the number of dogs we encountered this morning. Seven. First was Billy, who is a regular playmate of Hobie and Hector. No big deal there. Next, we met up with Shannon's brother-in-law and his three dogs. This was great. I blocked Hobie by standing between him and the other dogs. I was calm and gentle, didn't use loud vocal commands, just quiet and as few words as possible. The man asked if his dogs could say hello. "Sure, definitely!" I replied. His three dogs were unruly, barking, growling carrying on (except for the little female she was very sweet -- I think Hobie has a crush on her!). Hobie was an exemplary student.

Onward and upward. We walked by Oscar's house -- where, predictably, Oscar proceeded to bark, bark, bark, bark, bark until we passed in both directions. After Oscar's house, at the end of the dirt road is Alana's sister's house -- she has a really friendly Border Collie. We didn't get to greet him, as he had turned his back and was apparently avoiding us. But that's ok, that, too is an exercise in dog behavior.

Back past Shannon's sister's house, and right before we get there, I see a dog I've never seen before. Hobie doesn't see it. It's loose. No owner in sight. I again positioned myself between Hobie and the other dog, who had by that time gone out-of-sight. I shortened Hobie's leash so he was right beside me, but kept it slack so as not to have any tension on the leash. New-dog, whose name I found out a few minutes later is Riley, was up on the porch of the house with his owner. When he spotted us, and Hobie spotted him (her?) Hobie perked up and I was not making eye contact with Riley or his owner, but I heard the woman say, "AHCK!" then, "No, Riley!" Well, of course Riley gave her the paw and came out to the road to greet us. Riley and Hobie were perfect gentlemen -- great body-language, ears up, tails up, happy faces, sniff, sniff, sniff. Riley's owner was unhappy that Riley had approached us. Riley wanted to follow us! I said, "C'mon Hobie, we're going home," at which point Riley fell in line and was going to join our pack! I saw what was happening and immediately made Hobie stop, resulting in Riley stopping. Riley's owner was able to grab Riley's collar and bring him back home. And Hobie and I went back to ours, where Hector was waiting, happy to see us. I took Hector outside in the back yard for a quick stroll, just me and Hector, and the new ball he got for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I stumbled across some really old photos over the holiday weekend.

The first set are old photos from my infancy and childhood, and they have to be scanned, so they won't be up here for a little while.

The set I'm going to post here are treasures I found this evening -- photos of Hobie when he was a young pup, me when I was thinner and had good hair.

Gil with Hobie when Hobie was just about 5 months old.

And here are some pics of our first grandson, Ben, on his first Christmas!

Ben & his dad, Dave

Ben meets Hobie & Hector, through the window!

virtual strangers

I find myself a part of a cultural phenomenon. It doesn't surprise me that I'm so "mainstream" -- I've always been into pop-culture. Check my 36-year addiction to the ABC soap All My Children, my obsession with the band Bon Jovi, and a slathering of other mainstream, pop icons and fads that I've gotten sucked into over this lifetime. (As I'm writing this, Gil yells upstairs to me to turn on Larry King Live because CNN is re-running Larry's recent interview with none other than the gorgeous, talented, mega-talented, oh, did I say gorgeous, Jon Bon Jovi!).

But the phenomenon I am writing about today is that of virtual relationships. I belong to several "groups" on the internet. A couple of dog-behavior groups, and a couple of fibromyalgia groups. The people on these groups, including me, go out of their way to help the other members of the group. Now, we group members, except for a select few, have never met by telephone, we've certainly never met in person.

We are virtual strangers.

All of this communicating is being done on the keyboard. Everybody out-doing each other, or trying to, in writing, advice-giving, spelling and humor. I cannot count the number of times I've presented to one of these groups with a problem, and someone from a different state... shit sometimes from foreign countries... will reach out with answers, suggestions, compassion and humor. Most times this advice is bandied about on the group itself, for "public" consumption, as long as you're a member of the group. But other times -- and this is the part that is most incredible -- other times people will email me privately. Virtual strangers, reaching out to little ol' me, spending their time thinking about my problem and writing to me about it.

Just this weekend, I received lengthy emails from at least four group members offering me advice, educating me, and assisting me with my various "issues". One guy helped me with some photos I was having trouble posting to And two other ladies gave me some invaluable knowledge about more personal matters.

These groups are the support groups that I attended 20 years ago in person, only better. From the comfort and privacy of your own home, you are invited to attend the support group meeting. You can do it 24/7, and communicate with like-minded individuals from all over the world. The concept is mind-blowing, and it's taken off like a rocket. Two of the groups I belong to have over 2,000 members apiece.

And, just as with interpersonal relationships of any kind, whether it be family, friends, co-workers, the same dynamics come into play. People get offended and get into arguments. The moderator has to step in and put an end to it. Sometimes, people get so offended, they quit the group (I left one dog group for 2 months this fall, and have just recently returned. I used to do that frequently with the for-real groups back in the 80s! The more things change...) Sometimes, everybody works it out and things end up being rather humorous. Some of the groups have extremely strict rules, and some are all about fun, fun, fun.

Oh, and did you know that I'm Time Magazine's Person of the Year?


Monday, December 25, 2006

Another Christmas behind us

Christmas 2006 wasn't bad. Did all my shopping online. Every bit of it. Didn't go to one store.

Got a new iPod to replace/upgrade my one that's only a year old. Between all the hard work Gil did (thank you, Sweetie!) and my own 2,000+ songs, there are a total of 5,300 songs on it, plus videos and I still have to load my 1600 photos and my Cesar Millan podcasts.

Abby gave the dogs a whole bag of toys and treats, including this indestructible ball, which unfortunately caused them to fight probably for the first time ever -- I mean the most aggressive I've ever seen them towards each other. And Hector even fought back. I asserted my pack leader-ness, along with my calm, assertiveness, and won that battle. Took the ball away temporarily. They'll get it back tomorrow. Here is a picture of the two idiots with a toy when they were puppies:

Yesterday found me going to help out with Mom, and that was the best part of Christmas 2006 by far. Mom has these little ceramic tabletop Christmas trees. You plug them in, and they light up. Mom's 86, and she can't get down on the floor to plug the suckers, in, so of course I did it for her. She had been storing the little trees in plastic grocery bags. While I was on the floor crawling around under the dusty veranda in the living room, trying to reach the wall socket, Mom stuffed the plastic grocery bags in a drawer inside the veranda. When she opened the drawer, it was stuffed to the brim with old black & white photographs, classic Polaroids that were peeling off their heavy cardboard backers and assorted other photographic treasures. After I was done crawling and plugging, I opened the drawer back up again. Astonished, I had stumbled upon 100 photographs I'd never seen in my life. The most important ones being of ME when I was 6 months old (the photos are date-stamped October of the year I was born, and there's a baby -- must be me!). They are all taken in the Chicago suburbs where we lived at the time -- recognizable by me today because we spent all of our vacations there when we were growing up. Peppered in are photos of my brothers, my parents, and the house at Lake Como in Wisconsin. I hollered to Mom, who by then was in the kitchen, "CAN I BORROW THESE?!" She said, "Whaaaa?" I carried the photos into the kitchen. "Can I borrow these? I have this machine Mom, it copies photos. It's called a scanner. I want to scan the photos and then I'll bring them all back to you." "You want to copy them." She said, understanding about the scanner. "Yes." "Yes." she said. Of all the "presents" I could've gotten this weekend for Christmas 2006, this was something I never asked for, never expected, never would have thought to ask for. The best kind of gift.

Bummer though, when I got home, I found out our scanner is broken. I ordered a replacement, but it won't arrive in time to scan the photos and put them on CDs for my two brothers whom I'm getting together with on Wednesday night. We always get together between Christmas and New Year's. Me, my brothers, Mom, and my 6 nieces and nephews. This year, we decided not to exchange gifts for the first time ever. I got Mom something, but that's it. Mom insists on giving everybody money, oh well what can ya do? This CD idea was to be a special gift from me to them, as the archivist, historian and genaeologist of the family. Ah well, I will just have to mail them the CDs later on.

Today was great -- worked on for hours and hours. Got a lot of great stuff written and posted. Then I cleaned the house in preparation for the kids and Ben, the only real little kid in our midst. Watched a couple of episodes of All My Children on DVR, and then everyone arrived and we opened presents and ate finger foods, including shrimp cocktail, cheese & crackers and deviled eggs.

When I was at Mom's yesterday, she told me she was making her famous deviled eggs to bring over to my sister-in-law's for Christmas appetizer. So, today when I was preparing our snacks, I realized I had to carry out this tradition. I know Mom's recipe for her famous deviled egg. In fact, we need to now call them Mook's Famous Deviled Eggs. (Mook is my mother's nickname -- it comes from when she was a little girl and couldn't say "milk". She said "mook" and it stuck -- people address her as Mook to this day.) Here is a picture of Mom, the first person to get a ride in my new car:

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Traditions

I had a nice surprise tonight. My favorite movie of all time,
"It's A Wonderful Life" was on TV, but I didn't know it was
on, since it was on last week, too, and the network no longer shows the movie 1,000 times between Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Ever since I can remember, I have always wrapped Christmas presents while watching this movie. It is my one, and only, Christmas tradition. Last year, Christmas was different because Gil was home, and we did watch "It's A Wonderful Life" but I wrapped presents some other time. Tonight, by sheer coincidence, the movie was on, and I still had a few presents to wrap.

We had dinner, and afterwards I went upstairs to wrap the last remaining gifts. There was 45 minutes remaining to the movie -- the best 45 minutes, starting at the part where George Bailey tries to jump off the bridge and is saved by Clarence, the angel who needs to earn his wings. George Bailey declares to Clarence, "I wish I'd never been born", and Clarence grants his wish (to which "God", we think, gets a teensy bit angry). The remainder of the movie is spent watching George come to grips with the fact that he's never been born. As a result, Mr. Martini doesn't own the local bar, Mary is an old maid librarian, the old Granville house is unfit for habitation, and Harry Bailey has a gravestone in the cemetery having drowned because George wasn't there to save him. Harry was unable to save all the men in the war because George wasn't there to save Harry. The list goes on and on. This is about the point where we all start crying, and by the end of the movie we are blubbering idiots, as we read Clarence's note to George while a little bell rings on the Christmas tree. George's little daughter Zu-Zu declares, "Look Daddy! Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!"

The most important part of this tale is Clarence's note to George: "No man is a failure who has friends."

I finished wrapping the last present, just as the movie was ending. Wrapping my presents while watching my favorite movie is a tradition for me, and one I hope to do forever.

Merry Christmas