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Give Me Liberty, Or…

 

Patrick Henry’s inspiring words, spoken March 1775 at the Second Virginia Convention, helped inspire Colonial Virginia to take up arms against Great Britain, the acknowledged super power of that era. “Give me liberty…” finalized a strong last paragraph:

Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me give me liberty or give me death.

The paragraph was at the end of a powerful speech I don’t think everyone has read. It might not be a bad idea to take a few minutes away from the barbecue and fireworks to peruse his words. Maybe later to check out some of the other speeches from the bold, impetuous, imperfect people who helped set our country on the path toward freedom.

At the time Thomas Jefferson penned “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as “unalienable rights” his stirring words addressed only a portion of the population. As did so many of our forefathers, he owned slaves. We have progressed beyond that era.  It took another horrific war to start to resolve that issue although the repercussions continue to shadow our lives.

Between the brats and the beer we might think about the men who dared stand up and demand independence, the men who fought to extend those inalienable rights for all men, the women later who stood up against society to demand those rights for their gender. And let’s plan to continue to build on these efforts to leave a better society for our children.

In more eloquent words: “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…” Let’s do it.

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We Can Do Better #MFRWAuthor

This was first published in Perspectives, the newsletter for AKC Delegates

It’s been a roller coaster ride since March, with most of the track spiraling down. A 2015-05-02 agility 0448few slow upgrades then another wrench and everything feels out of control again, hurtling around one corner, then another, trusting in the science of the engineering of wheel to track. These times are trying our souls, challenging us to do better, to be better. Challenging us to help ourselves and each other.

To help each other our major task was…do nothing. Stay home. Lucky us having dogs to keep us company. Lucky dogs having their people full time. What a time to sit still, to contemplate who we are, where we’re going, what really matters. When we asked what you were missing most during this time of isolation, no one worried about cumulative points or high scores. No one lamented that they could be out competing. The major concern was the loss of camaraderie. No shows and trials meant not seeing fellow competitors. No classes meant missing the people with whom we have built connections. No one watching our dogs and each other improve from week to week. No one commiserating over a clumsy effort with encouragement to do better.

Dogs for the most part are social beings. They like to be together, they crave touch and feel comfort in their family groupings. Yes, there is the occasional curmudgeonly dog thatIMG_7578 prefers their own corner with their own bowl and their own toys thank you very much. But by and large dogs are happier in a pack.

We aren’t that much different. Many of us say we prefer isolation but still we are drawn to each other, to gather into groups, and organize ourselves. Now our groups are disbanded and we’re not sure when and how and if we can come together again. We know we weren’t perfect. We know the drive to compete, to be better than, has permeated every activity. We miss what we had, but do we miss every aspect of it? How many times did we allow the competitive drive within us detract from what could have been a pleasant experience?

We have a unique opportunity to try to make things better. To examine what we were doing and find ways to improve. Ways to reach out and help each other instead of trampling over each other in a quest for more. We can do better.

We will do better. 002

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What Makes Us Happy #MFRWAuthor

Smiles not only show the world how happy we are, they also contribute to our good health. Seriously, scientists have studied smiles extensively, and will tell us smiles can trigger the release of neural communication boosting neuropeptides as well as mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Whew lots of big words! Here is some backup from Very Well Mind.

We smile when we are happy, and we can help ourselves feel happy by smiling…that’s kinda neat when you think about it! What makes us happy? Some people think they would be happy ‘if only’…if only they lived in a better house, drove a newer car, got a promotion at work. In my world of dogs, some think gaining titles or extreme wins will make them happy.

As wonderful as those sound, are these realistic goals? If you don’t title your dog in three events or you can’t upgrade your car, what can you do to put smiles on your face?

Years ago, my husband was in home hospice. When he died I called family and friends, letting them know, and told them I was doing fine. One of them called back, telling me she was coming and to deal with it. When she arrived, she asked what I wanted to do. We could clean out the garage, try to catch up on the gardens, or just go walking with the dogs. What would make ME happy.

I stopped to take a deep breath. After months of hospital visits, acute care visits, then home nursing responsibilities, I had forgotten how to be happy. What I wanted was a day away from responsibilities, from duties. We went to Madrid, a funky artist’s community with eclectic shops. We went to my favorite libations store in Albuquerque. Nothing fancy, we just hung out together, and she left the next day.

Over the next months…years…I kept her suggestion in mind. What would make me happy? Often it was little things, like new garden plants, washing dishes before the sink overflowed. Taking the constant pile of cardboard to recycle can often  soothe me for days. Little things but they helped keep me smiling. Whenever possible I share the question. Sometimes the wish is surprisingly easy to help fulfill.

So…what makes you happy?

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Jack London’s Scarlet Plague #MFRWAuthor #BOB

Remember Jack London? Call of the Wild? White Fang? Sea Wolf? To Build A Fire? A In 1910, Jack London Saw COVID Coming in “The Scarlet Plague”man’s man, who lived the adventures he wrote about? I’ve learned recently he was also a social activist, a muckraker, a believer in unions. Far more layers to him than I’d ever known…now I need to read some biographies.

I recently discovered he also wrote a bit of Science Fiction, which is what I’m sharing now. In 1912, he wrote a dystopian story about about an event in 2013, narrated decades years later by one of the few survivors of a dreadful pandemic. Dreadful, as in possibly one person out of thousands survive. Some of his predictions are off…We advanced past dirigibles, democracy is holding on, and who could have foretold the advances in communication?

Beyond the grim nature the writing is elegant, his word choice anticipates an educated reader. Or perhaps this language choice has to do with the era in which he wrote. It’s a short read but it left me with a lot to think about.

The Scarlet Plague is available as an e-book through the Gutenberg Project. You can also find the physical book on Amazon and probably other used book resources.

 

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Don’t Forget the Dog #MFRWAuthor #BOB

This post is mostly for the writers among us.

We love our pets. Dog, cat, bird, fish, we dote on them. We are far more likely to buy a book when we see a dog on the cover. Writers know animals appeal to many readers, with a special attraction for characters who rescue animals. Used as a character feature this can increase connection to the reader.

All well and good, and a tool for writers to employ. Until they forget the dog.1936538_97029219860_1238899_n

We meet the female or male (usually female) protagonist through their interactions with others and learn about their empathy and depth of character. Sometimes the information is shoved at us sometimes we encounter it gradually as we read. That’s a subject for another time. We learn about how much these animals mean to them. Special thoughts if the animals are old or disabled. The writer wants us to know these animals are VERY IMPORTANT.

Then the first meet and with some books instant attraction. The new mate will meet the animals so they can be impressed with how loving and caring this special person is. Then on with the story and we don’t hear much about the dogs until they’re needed again to emphasize how wonderful this person is.

In real life, it doesn’t work that way. Dogs need exercise, food, attention. They’re not meant to be locked in the house for hours nor is it safe for them to be unsupervised 003outside, fenced yard or not. Too much bad can happen. Cats, being more independent, don’t need us as much but woe to the owner who gets on the wrong side of their feline. Litter boxes need regular cleaning, yard poop patrol is necessary.

Those glamorous coats we see floating in the wind don’t come without hours of effort. If your character is busy busy busy please don’t gift them with an Old English Sheepdog, or an Afghan Hound, or some other abundantly haired dog or cat. Unless you want to make regular grooming a major factor in the character’s life. If you want to know more about caring for more exotic pets, most fanciers would be thrilled to help you, just give them a call.

Pets add depth to our characters and can enrich our stories. As long as they’re not just a 032line in a character chart. BICHOK, my friends.

 

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When Food is Your Comfort #MFRWAuthor #BOB

Ahh, comfort food. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Chicken fried steak with white gravy. Mac’N’Cheese. So tasty in the mouth so yummy in the tummy. And oh so permanent on the hips. Sigh. And let us not forget cheesecake or chocolate pie. Nope can’t forget those!

Some people…doggone them…can indulge frequently in these treats and live long healthy lives, perpetually slender. For the majority of us it’s not quite so simple. When the day comes we can’t carry a suitcase up an escalator and our dogs are embarrassed to run Agility with us, changes need to be made.

Does this mean we need to avoid all those foods we love so much? Weeelll we’re not going to lean up on fried meat, mashed potatoes and gravy. But a few adjustments can keep our mouths happy and our waistlines more in line.

I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite recipes, the ones that have helped me, and also my secret helper. What’s my secret helper, you ask? What we used to call white broccoli…cauliflower. You might have tried riced cauliflower and loved or hated or been totally ambivalent. But have you tried Shepherd’s Pie with mashed cauliflower and cheese? Hmmmmm??

IMG_20200119_190632449I started with leftover stew, any combination of meat and vegetables will do. I don’t much care for carrots or peas, so most of my stews and other slow cooked meats end up with an excess of onions and garlic (is there such a thing as too many onions??)

Mashed up the cauliflower, in this case frozen that I thawed out and actually should have cooked better. I had the devil of a time getting those chunks soft and creamy!

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Eventually it went on top of the stew, then of course I added cheese and popped it in the oven.

And…here you are. Nope not low calorie but lowER calorie plus I snuck in another vegetable without having to add those danged peas or carrots.

What do you think? Kinda hit the spot on a winter evening, and fooled my roommate!

 

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The real scare of Covid-19

I can’t think of a better way to return to blogging than these words of a highly talented writer and fellow Saluki person.

Lambert's Look

By Scott Lambert

One of Jamey’s saluki friends told her some horrible news today. Both of her grandparents had Covid-19 and she was expecting to lose her grandfather soon.
This news hit Jamey hard. Especially the personal stuff. The friend, Danielle Rubin, has Salukis and one of the most beautiful spotted saluki bitches I’ve ever seen. I don’t know Danielle personally but I’ve seen her at shows. And I relate to her story. Parts of it.
She’s had to deal with this issue for a while. Covid-19 doesn’t kill quick. So, her family watched and waited while both grandparents suffered. Alone. Wednesday was her first seder without her grandpa, ever. Her grandma started to improve and, just the other day, left the hospital. Grandpa didn’t. He’s been put on the ventilator. He isn’t expected to come off it. They got to talk with him one last time. He was lonely…

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STEALTH HEALTH: Using our dogs to keep us young #MFRWAuthor #BOB

a variation of this was first seen in Perspectives, the AKC Delegate newsletter

            Standard advice as we age is to get a dog or cat for company. We’re told they can 1936538_97029219860_1238899_nprovide unconditional love and comfort. Studies show owning a pet can help protect against loneliness and depression. More of those studies tell us pet owning people on Medicare make fewer visits to the (human) doctor. Dogs offer a wealth of benefits to the mature amongst us. Having a dog as a companion could add years to your lives and play a significant role in surviving heart attacks.

We know all that, don’t we? Most of us are reading with one hand on the head of our canine companion, or possibly with our lap full of demanding dog. We’ve had dogs for decades, we’ve whelped them, raised them, trained them, shown them, watched them age and held them for that last trip to the vet. We’re now down to the last one or two dogs, keeping us company as our lives slow down.

Why?

Not why do we have a dog or dogs with us. Why do we slow down? Barring medical issues why do we succumb to the idea that we are older therefore we can’t do anything too strenuous. Or maybe we’re too heavy, too weak, too…whatever.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

George Bernard Shaw

            Maybe we think we can’t compete with the young, athletic, up and coming people in our breed, or sport. Okay at some point we might not be able to keep up with them in Conformation. But what about other dog sports? Companion Events, Performance Events…the list grows every year of what we can do with our dogs. And in these events, we can compete against ourselves.

81876594-Friday-0450Rather than go to a gym or sign up for treadmill punishment, why not try, say, Agility? What, you don’t have a Border Collie, an Australian Shepherd, a Malinois? Take an afternoon and check out the trials. You’ll see every breed imaginable, and some mixed breeds, following their people’s guidance around obstacles (or making up their own courses). You’ll also see a wealth of silver…hair, that is. Not everyone is young and svelte! Agility requires time invested in training, and here comes the stealth part.

See, you don’t actually need to compete. You can take lessons, practice at home, give yourself and your dog a good workout and never chase another ribbon. If you convince a friend you need their company then both of you will benefit. Or you can make friends, good friends, at the training center. Eventually you might decide you want to leave your safe area and attempt a trial. Here’s the fun part…you don’t have to win to reap the rewards! You can have just as much fun with your dog, just as much frustration and confusion, and never qualify. Along the way you’ve gotten up off the sofa, out of the car, and pushed your heart rate to a healthy number. Soon you won’t have time to check out VVKC-28-15that new television series, you’ll be signing up for a seminar, helping out at a trial, working on a better approach to the obstacles.

Somewhere along the way you realize you’re sleeping better, waking up earlier, and looking forward to what the day will bring. You’ve fooled yourself into being healthier, and given your dog a new lease on his canine life. And you can do the same for your friend…why should you be the only one having so much fun?

 

I’m up earlier than usual, finishing this in the predawn. Soon I’ll be heading out with my little red girl, chasing that elusive green ribbon. Even better, sharing my day with the friends I’ve made and new friends I’ll meet.

Keep moving, moving, moving. But take a moment to hug your friends, tell them you love them, that you’re thinking of them. We never know when it’s going to be the last chance.

 

 

 

 

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The Reality of STUFF

A few weeks ago, Amazon held one of its Prime Shopping days. People filled their computers with great deals on ‘stuff’ and boxes rushed across the country. New treasures for our homes, our lives.

At the same time my local thrift store had a 50% off sale of anything in store. That means clothes, furniture, dishes…anything. A treasure trove of stuff. Some very nice, some more than acceptable.

In the past few months I’ve added to the local thrift store’s stock with ‘stuff’ that has been stacked in my house to be used ‘one day’.

My friend arrived from California, with a POD full of stuff, after leaving a mountain of  ‘stuff’ behind.

Signs on the side of the road, notices in the local papers for yard sales, estate sales, group sales. Of stuff.

Stuff.

Stuff.

Stuff.

We throw away more than people in less fortunate countries own in a lifetime and we are still choking on possessions. It’s not a new phenomenon…when our ancestors inched across the country, they brought along as much of their possessions as they could stuff in those large wagons, often leaving them along the way to lighten their load, choosing survival over possession.

Most of us know we are overloaded with stuff. Even so, we all too often go on a search for more…more…MORE. Just one more painting, one more pair of shoes, one more kitchen gadget that we are sure will make our lives easier (if only!). Our economy is based on consumption. Buy more stuff, keep the economy healthy. But is it better for us?

Most medical professionals say more ‘stuff’ does not make us happier and can often negatively effect our health. I have to say I agree, especially at those time when I feel like I’m drowning in stuff. Who needs that many black totes?

I’ve been researching the problem, trying to decide what should go, what should stay. What do I really NEED in my life? My friends, absolutely. My animals, yes. All those black totes…not really. Nor the red ones, the brown ones, the green ones. Sigh.

Organized people point out if there was a fire most of this stuff would be gone anyway. Well, duh. Do I want a fire to come along and eliminate everything? Not even, since items of value are in boxes set aside to be ‘gone through’ — several years ago. So slowly, slowly, slowly I sort. I took pictures I won’t share since I don’t need to depress myself any more! Yes, being surrounded by stuff can be depressing. Every box to the thrift store, every extra sack into the garbage lightens me a bit more.

Instead here’s a cool picture of a sunrise. Great beginnings.  IMG_9943

Call your family, hug your friends. The only time certain in our lives is now.

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Yeah About That Agility #MFRWAuthor #BOB

It’s taken a while to finish this blog, because…well, reasons. Biddy and I participated in three Agility trials last weekend. Three. I was so sure this would be THE weekend, THE trials when I would finally accomplish the coveted green qualifying ribbon. So very sure.

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Biddy, waiting her turn. She likes her own blanket thank you so much!

Best laid plans and so on, we bombed. Well not totally. The first day we did fairly well, made it around the course and even through the dreaded weaves. But we took too long

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photo by Howard George

for that accomplishment so…no Q. But we did get pictures to share. Like this one.

Hmmm, looks like she’s  jumping a bit close to the obstacle instead of standing back. Jumping close is a Biddy specialty but this is a bit TOO close. That’s probably because we weren’t moving fast enough. Biddy was worried, so she slowed down. I slowed down to match her so she slowed down and…yeah, not a recipe for success!

Agility is a sport of speed and grace, for most of the competitors. Then there are the rest of us, getting around the course as best we can. Loving (nearly) every minute of it. See, I’m not built like an athlete. More like…well, here

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also Howard George

Yup that’s a bit of weight to be carrying around that arena. And kind of why it took so long to finish this post. I thought about only using the photo of her jumping but decided to go with truth in packaging. I might be fat, she might be mature, but we are light years ahead of when we were sitting on the couch ‘thinking’ about getting more exercise!

So yesterday we entered some more trials. Think green, but even more think happy…and keep moving!

 

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