Here it is, folks. My annual Top 10 Books of 2012.
December 26th, 2012 — On the Nightstand
August 18th, 2012 — The Girls
“Come on, Macy,” Alice said as she put on her collar. “It’s time to go back to school shopping at Mr. Chewy.com.”
Macy yiped and barked. This was her favorite time of the year, even though she failed Basic Obedience Training when the yellow tennis ball rolled by her paws during the Sit and Stay exercise. But who wouldn’t fail that, she thought. Tennis balls had to be captured. She simply could not let a tennis ball run away; it was against her Aussie nature. Macy put on her collar with the pink bone tag and trotted after Alice. This year she planned on doing much better in her training. Less barking, more listening. She was convinced she’d get straight A’s and show up her older sister Alice who always excelled at school. Except for the excessive napping and getting into trouble for being the class clown.
Alice jumped onto the sofa and Macy followed, settling into the pillows as Alice turned on the laptop.
“I thought we were going shopping,” Macy said.
“We are,” Alice said. “We’re going shopping the simple and fast way. Mr. Chewy is an online store and their motto is “Delivering Pet Happiness.’ I am all about any company that delivers happiness right to my door, especially when the happiness comes in the edible variety.”
“Do you have your school list?”
“List schmist,” Alice said. “I know what I like and what I need. A girl needs two nutritious meals a day and plenty of in-between meal treats to get the best grades. And, if mom and dad, want me to do all of that sitting, staying, no barking stuff, than I need high-quality vittles.”
Alice scrolled through the options in the dog food section, filled with the best of the best healthy and natural brands. She picked Blue Buffalo Adult Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food, her favorite.
“That’s good,” Macy said. “I’m watching my figure. And all the other dogs will be jealous of what’s in our lunch box.”
“Exactly, sis,” Alice said. “And price is right. We can load up on treats because the food is cheaper than you’ll find at other places. Plus we get free 1-2 day shipping on any order of $49 or more. That means good food gets here fast. Let’s check out the treats. An Aussie can’t herd and play on dog food alone. I need snacks for study hall.”
“Ooooooo,” Macy whined. “Sweet potato chews. Those are my favorite.”
Alice put the Dogswell Veggie Life Vitality Sweet Potato Chews in the Shopping Cart. Next, she selected Three Dog Bakery Classic Cremes Carob Cookies with Natural Peanut Butter Filling and then Spoil Me Rotten Peanut Butter Dog Delight Treats.
“Hey, what’s with all the peanut butter? Macy asked. “Does everything have to be peanut butter.”
“If I had it my way, the entire world would taste like peanut butter. The grass, the sidewalk, this sofa. The whole world would be mine for the licking.”
“Cheese is my thing,” Macy said. “I like cheesy.”
“You’re cheesy alright,” Alice said. “Next time we’ll look for cheese.
Finally Alice chose Flossies.
“Those are Awesomesauce,” said Macy. “Mr. Chewy is the bomb.”
“Dude, the word Awesomesauce was so last year.” Alice said. “Besides, there’s no sauce on Flossies.”
Macy nipped Alice’s neck. “Whatevs. Flossies are made of beef tendon instead of rawhide. They’re healthier and their curly shape is fun. Order me two.”
Alice changed the quantity and then began checking out. Mom had already established an account on the site so ordering anytime, anywhere was easy. Mom liked Mr. Chewy. Ordering high-quality food and treats was easy and she could even pick up important items like Frontline at a great price. In fact, MrChewy.com was founded by people who have a passion for helping pets and wanted a way to make the lives of pets and pet parents a little bit better! What started as a dream has since transitioned into a successful online pet retailer that provides pet parents a better way to shop for pet products and offers a major charitable program, supporting some of the nation’s best pet organizations. Best of all, Mom could pre-schedule regular orders to make sure The Girls always had the food and treats they enjoyed the most.
Alice finished checking out. “You know,” she said to Macy. “Mr. Chewy is our kind of company. They have a Rescue Network that helps dogs like us who came from a good rescue organization like the Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline.”
“If it weren’t for ARPH, I wouldn’t be here,” said Macy. “And I wouldn’t have you for a sister.”
“Right,” Alice said as received the order confirmation. “And now we wait for Mr. Chewy to deliver happiness in one to two days. I can’t wait to dig into those sweet potato chips on the first day of school.”
“Flossies for Aussies,” Macy barked. “Flossies for Aussies!”
January 25th, 2012 — The Girls
Nine years ago today, we picked up Alice (a.k.a. Alice-Palace, The Palace, Palestra, Poochestrami, Greatest of All Time — we believe that’s her favorite — Buddyhead, and many more) and brought her to her new home. She was recovering from hip dysplasia surgery and we were uncertain she’d ever walk normally but that didn’t stop us from choosing her from the Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline (ARPH). And in many ways, Alice rescued us from our grief over losing our first aussie, Autumn.
Here is an open letter to the surgeon who helped give Alice her signature smile (see photo above) and swagger (we also call her Jennifer Lo-paws for the … um … unique sashay in her badonkadonk). We never met the surgeon who helped us have nine great years with Alice, but we’re most grateful to him and looking forward to many more years with her.
An Open Letter To Dr. James W. Harrison, DMV, MS
Dear Dr. Harrison,
You don’t know us. We’ve never met you but your name appears on a letter that gave one dog a second chance, and changed our lives in the process. On December 23, 2002, David and Sheryl Stocker, foster parents for the Ohio Chapter of the Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline (ARPH), brought an Australian Shepherd named Alice to your Bone, Joint, and Spine Clinic in Columbus, Ohio. Alice had been abandoned to ARPH after it was discovered she had hip dysplasia.
In a letter to Alice’s veterinarian, you wrote: “Upon examination, I noticed pain and crepitus in both hip joints and a positive Ortolani’s sign of about 25 – 30 degrees in both hips. Radiographs revealed the classical lesions of canine hip dysplasia with secondary degenerative joint disease. Today, Alice was taken to surgery. Through a ventral approach to both hips, a femoral head osteoectomy was accomplished without consequence … I will be happy to follow Alice through her expected three- to four-month convalescence.”
What you didn’t know is that around the same time you performed Alice’s surgery, there was a couple in Ohio attempting to heal from their own kind of pain. That couple was us. We’d just lost our 14-year-old Australian Shepherd to cancer, and after more than a decade of being herded around by an Aussie, our house felt empty. We began checking the ARPH website and noticed Alice, whose brown-speckled face, cunning smile, and odd, leaning posture were hard to miss. The description indicated that she was undergoing surgery but would be available for adoption soon.
We scheduled an appointment to meet this brown merle with a wink of blue in her right eye. Alice bunny-hopped out of her kennel and sat squarely in the center of the room. Nose raised in the air with her eyes focused on us, she gave a warning bark, a low woo-woof. Then she smiled, pleased with her rock-star grand entrance. For a dog that was only weeks into her recovery, she certainly knew how to put on a show for the couple that would soon become her adoring fans. Alice’s smile informed us that she had selected us as her new owners while the Stockers informed us that she might never walk normally. They also confessed – somewhat sheepishly – that she was quite manipulative. We nodded knowingly. Aussies are notorious manipulators and we decided we could manage Alice’s scheming nature along with her bunny hop.
On January 25, Alice bunny-hopped into our home. We considered contacting you then. We wanted to know her chances of walking on all fours. We were unsure how much to exercise her. You were two hours away and we opted to take her to our regular veterinarian for follow-up care, but we often wondered if you were wondering about her.
As she continued to recover, she manipulated her way into our hearts and the peanut butter jar, and onto our sofa and bed. Once again, our house was under Aussie rule – only this time, it was a two-legged variety. The Stockers suggested getting another dog to encourage Alice to stay active; she was becoming too accustomed to a sedentary life accompanied by sympathetic spoonfuls of peanut butter. In March, we adopted Macy –a blue-merled ball of nervous energy that had been severely abused before being rescued by ARPH.
Alice and Macy became a doggie yin-yang. What Alice possessed in intelligence and confidence, Macy balanced with strength and agility. They supported each other as they healed physically and mentally. Yet, Alice wanted more yang. As Macy zoomed across the backyard in pursuit of a tennis ball, Alice feebly followed, bunny-hopping and barking, as if asking Macy to wait up. We resigned ourselves to having a dog with a two-legged gait but Alice’s determination took hold. On a routine walk, Alice took her first four-legged steps, moving stride for stride with Macy. We watched her confidence bloom as she attempted to run with the other big dogs at the dog park, and we thought about writing you but never put pen to paper.
It’s been eight years since her surgery and Alice has covered countless miles, smiling all the way. She walks, runs, romps, saunters, strolls, and sometimes beats Macy to their final destination. She still puts on shows for her adoring fans. She is Macy’s confident yin and while she’s slowed down some, her love of life still runs strong. She plays every game to win, and she’s not one to give up on anything, including herself or the peanut butter jar.
We’d like to think Alice’s wry smile convinced you to perform her surgery gratis for ARPH, or that you felt the moxy and courage hidden in her disabled legs, and knew that repairing her would reveal her true personality. We’d like to think Alice’s manipulative methods and winking blue eye told you she deserved a second chance to be the strong, clever, and incredible companion she is today.
We don’t know what it’s like to be a veterinarian who improves the lives of animals and their owners every day. And we certainly don’t know what it’s like to care for a dog like Alice and then never see the outcome of your work. What we do know is that the surgery that may have been just another surgery for you has been a life-altering experience for us.
If there is ever a time you or other veterinarians question whether your work matters, please think of Alice. Your expertise allowed her light and love to shine brightly.
If you met Alice today, we know she’d put on a grandest of shows in your office to thank you – this time, trotting proudly on all fours and smiling all the way.
January 1st, 2012 — On the Nightstand
I’m a little late to the 2011 party seeing as it’s 2012 and I’m just now completing my Top 10 book list for 2011 but better late than never, yes?
Happy reading in the new year! Enjoy!
August 18th, 2011 — Kent Places
Maybe my shabby little garden in Kent, OH pales in comparison to most midwest cornfields, but I’m proud. Damn proud. So here’s the skinny (and I’m including my ears of corn in that statement): little known fact, I’m an armchair gardener. Meaning I don’t garden but I read about it, look at seed catalogs, roam the aisles at nurseries, and wish I had a green thumb but my thumb tends to be several shades away of green and tends to kill all natural things in its path. It’s a menacing thumb, really. I point to something green and it wilts. Or screams in horror. Or shrivels up into a brown, slimy inedible ball. I have these dreams of moving about my beautiful vegetable garden in overalls (or maybe a cute jean skirt and pink gingham blouse), picking pecks of peppers, testing the tomatoes for ripeness, busheling beans (if that’s what you actually do with beans…I wouldn’t know, I buy them at the grocery).
This year, I had big plans. Last year it was all about the fence but now it was going to be all about being organic. A landscape designer told us the front area of the backyard would be perfect for a garden. This was my chance. Nothing like fucking up your garden in front of all of your neighbors! Woo-hoo!
The first task was pest removal — meaning the dogs. Being Aussies, the girls like patroling the perimeter. You know, just on the offchance some marauding sheep get loose. We dont’ call Macy the Vigilante for nothing. After several ramshackle, failed attempts to keep them out of the soon-to-be garden area, we bit the bullet and went for a permanent solution: more fence (which still needs painting but I’m still in the first stage of fence painting which is denial and I’m just pretending the fence will paint itself).
The fence idea worked perfectly. Except for the fact that early planting season was way over. I was not to be deterred. There was a sunny patch near the garage, outside of the fence that was suitable for a much smaller garden. It would be more Little Sprout than ho ho ho Green Giant. I rationalized that I didn’t want to go overboard the first year anyway. Who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have time to take care of the massive bounty that would grow in the original area so there was nothing wrong with going small. Beyond that, I seemed to have a knack for growing crabgrass because it was overtaking the yard and threatening to devour our house.
I planted some corn, beans, peppers and sunflowers according to the directions on the little seed packets. Oh yeah, I followed them to the letter. Then I pleaded with the seeds to grow. I watered them like a dutiful mother. But the garden goddess (that would be Flora) was against me. We had also decided to put in a backyard patio shortly after I planted (note the short, unpainted fence below). Unbeknownst to me, to install the patio, the contractors needed a Bobcat for digging. And this Bobcat rolled right over my fragile seedlings. The contractors, probably feeling more sorry for me because the seedlings were so shabby, shoved the tattered stalks into a tiny corner. Buh-bye garden of the gods.
I figured all was lost, no more pecking and busheling, no more cute overalls, no more feeding half of Kent. But my little seedlings persevered. When they first started growing, I had no idea what was what since everything was packed in tighter than John Candy’s thighs in spandex. Oh, and because I’d never planted anything before. Soon, things started taking shape in the shabby patch. A few stalks of corn, some green peppers, mini sunflowers, and some basil. Said another way, a mess. Nothing could breathe. The corn was coming in too close together and I figured I’d end up with those mini, pickled ears best eaten in salads or Chinese takeout. I thought maybe the corn would mix with the peppers and maybe, by some miracle, I’d accidently develop a weird hybrid vegetable — a corper or a peporn. Maybe Miss Flora or Mother Nature would deem me worthy of birthing a brand new vegetable. I’d be famous! I’d be swimming in overalls!
I might not have developed a hybrid but my little garden did grow, sans the silver bells and cockle shells. And sans the beans I’d planted. And sans most of the corn and sunflowers. But, I digress.
Tonight for dinner, I ate the first two ears of corn. Small but juicy and ever so tasty. A week ago we chopped up some basil for salsa, and the peppers are almost ready — though I don’t think we have enoug for a peck. The corn may not be as high as an elephant’s eye but who gives a rip about an elephant’s eye anyhow when you’ve got juice dribbling down your chin.
My shabby garden turned out to be not so shabby. It’s actually sort of chic in its shabbiness. Take that, Flora!