Unconditional Love Wrapped in Yellow Fur

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Four year ago today I adopted my pup Jazzmin from Happy Tails Animal Shelter in Canandaigua, New York. I’d wanted to get a dog since my divorce in the summer of 2011, but I hadn’t found one that looked like the right fit yet. I grew up with family dogs and loved them, but had been unable to have one during my marriage because my ex didn’t like dogs. He wasn’t overly fond of cats either, but he put up with them because I wanted them. The freedom to get whatever animals I want and love them without concern for allergies or lack of a partner’s fondness is one of the many reasons I enjoy being single.

Jazzmin and I were a perfect fit right from the start and a friend has called her the canine version of me. She’s full of energy, optimistic and has the most adorable brown eyes. Just like me 😉 She goes a little heavy on the 80’s black eyeliner look, but it works on her and adds a deeper patheticness to her puppy dog eyes.

I was trying to keep Jazz's ears warm. She was not impressed...

I was trying to keep Jazz’s ears warm. She was not impressed…

Jazz and I have had our ups and downs as we’ve figured each other out. I didn’t really know the proper way to walk a dog, ie they walk next to you or behind and not in front, but I learned and taught her. Nowadays she stays by my side with only occasional reminders, as long as a squirrel doesn’t run across the road or we encounter another dog. She’s like me in the social aspect, she likes other dogs but gets overexcited and isn’t sure how to act. Whereas I tend to become shy in similar encounters with humans, she gets exuberant. We may never have the “social with our own kind” thing figured out, but she LOVES people of all kinds and is a favorite visitor at the boarders when I go on my road trips.

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

When I adopted Jazzmin, they guessed that she was around two years old, which makes her around six now and she shows no signs of slowing down. She still walks the road like it’s going to disappear if she doesn’t keep moving and she’s my almost constant shadow when we’re inside. Most days I almost trip over her when I turn around and while I appreciate the loyalty, I don’t need help being clumsy.

I’ve managed to teach Jazz a few things over the years. I taught her how to play fetch indoors. We try it outdoors but she loses all focus and just runs in a circle like a lunatic. I’ve taught her to wait patiently for food and treats and can almost balance a biscuit on her nose before she gobbles it. I’ve advanced the traditional “shake” into a “high five” where she raises the paw a bit higher and while I can’t get her to speak on command, she will howl-talk at me sometimes when she’s impatient. My 9-year-old black cat Owl and I taught Jazzmin that cats are pretty cool and while she may never really “love” the younger cats (neither will Owl), she definitely loves Owl.

Jazzmin and Owl snuggling with me today

Jazzmin and Owl snuggling with me

Jazzmin has taught me some things over the years too. She’s taught me that no matter what I do, I’m always worthy of love and that the best snuggles on the couch usually involve a big pile of yellow fur that twitches and snores. Jazz has taught me a new level of patience as I’ve worked to improve her leash skills over the years. I’ve become more aware of my surroundings too as I try to spot squirrels and other distractions on walks before she does.

Jazzmin and the sky

In honor of today’s adoptiversary, I gave Jazz a nice big beef bone and she’s been working at it with occasional water breaks for almost two hours. She’s very determined when it comes to getting every last ounce of marrow out of a bone or chewing on a new toy until the squeakie is suitably dead. There’s a lot to love about Jazzmin. Her porcupine quill-scarred nose, perky ears (her right is always slightly higher than her left) white chest, buns of steel as my vet calls them and upright tail that’s wagging almost all the time all make her uniquely adorable to me.

She's rather fond of lobster tail

She’s rather fond of lobster tail

I can’t imagine my life without Jazz and she’d best live forever! I know I’ll own dogs for the rest of my life and every last one will be a rescue like her because every dog deserves a loving home. If you’re ever looking for a new companion, I urge you to go to your local shelter or contact one of the many pet rescue organizations to find the perfect compliment to your life. I see so many dogs and cats I wish I could adopt, but I don’t have the room or the money to create my own “circus.” Maybe someday, but not now. For now I’ll just love the animals I have and do my best to provide them with a very happy home. =)

The kittens snuggled up against Jazzmin.

The kittens snuggled up against Jazzmin.

Squirrel!

dog in the snow with booties

This assignment for Intro to Creative Writing was one of my favorites to write. We had to write a short story and though I struggled for a while picking a subject, once I figured it out, it flowed smoothly. Here’s a little glimpse of what it feels like to be Jazzmin…

***

Squirrel!

Sitting quietly and patiently as instructed, I stare eagerly at the front door as my mama puts on her boots to go outside. The snow outside is up to my yellow-furred belly in spots, but I don’t mind because that just makes it more fun to frolic in. I’m wearing my blue and black weighted backpack because I like to have a job and because Mama says it slows me down a little.

Sometimes Mama puts rubber booties on me to keep my feet warm, but she says it’s above freezing this morning and I’ll be okay without them. That makes me very happy because I hate those booties! Whenever she puts them on, I try to stand on one leg rather than put my booted feet down. Unfortunately, standing on one leg is impossible for me because I have four legs and I need to have at least two down to keep from falling over.

Once she’s all dressed in her boots, gloves, and winter coat, Mama reaches for the front doorknob and I stand up, my tail wagging happily behind me. We’re almost out! She turns to me with stern brown eyes and I remain standing still waiting for her command. “Come, Jazzmin,” she says in the authoritative tone that reminds me to move calmly instead of leaping toward the door. I do as she commands and walk slowly to the door, though I have no control over the arched yellow tail still wagging happily behind me.

Mama pulls the main front door open and I press my nose up to the closed storm door beyond it. I’m sure I can suck in the outdoors through my snout if I just try hard enough! I hear Mama’s low chuckle and then the storm door is open and I’m ready to take off on today’s adventure! Mama’s quick tug on my leash stops me though and I remember that she’s the pack leader and she goes first.

Once Mama steps through the open storm door and onto the snowy deck, she says “come” again and I’m eagerly at her side with my short ears perked straight up and my deep, brown eyes trying to absorb everything on the deck, in the yard, and into the trees beyond. We don’t go on as many walks in the winter as we do in the warmer weather so every time Mama puts my backpack on I get very happy and excited.

We move down the steps from the deck side by side and it feels like it’s been months since I was outside walking! There are so many smells I’d almost forgotten existed and so much to see even though it’s all blanketed in snow. The snow crunches beneath my paw pads as we walk down the driveway and then I catch the sight of movement. Is it snow falling from a tree? A bird? A car driving by? Oh no, it’s something much better! It’s a squirrel! Hang on, Mama!

Snowpup

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Jazzmin is determined to sniff down to whatever animal tracks are hidden.

While the snow that fell yesterday is lovely, the frigid temperatures are getting old rather fast. I did manage to take Jazzmin for a short walk despite the wind chill in the single digits but I’ve been struggling to warm up ever since. These are the days I long for a nice, big garden tub that I can fill with hot water that doesn’t stink of sulfur. Someday!

Jazzmin isn’t as bothered by the cold as I am. In fact, she loves to plunge her head all the way into the snow past her ears to sniff the tracks in the dirt far below. She always comes back up and snorts the snow off, shaking her head as if she doesn’t understand why her head is all cold and frozen. I envy her ability to withstand the cold because I know I’ll never be a snowbunny…or a snowpup in this case. 😉

Winter wonderland

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The view on our walk this morning.

 

Thanks to one of those peculiar weather systems that’s spinning the wrong direction and moving east to west, it’s been snowing all day where I live. In New England, this precipitation was freezing rain and rain but when it moved west to where I live, it transitioned to snow and cold. It isn’t a blizzard or anything near the amount of snow dumped on Buffalo recently, but it’s the most snow we’ve had yet. As it’s still the holiday season, I don’t mind the snow and I’m enjoying the sight of it gently falling as it creates a winter wonderland.

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Daisy playing with the little snowball I brought inside. Jazz ate is shortly after this.

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The kittens were exhausted from birdwatching.

A little snow and cold wasn’t going to keep me from my vow to walk Jazzmin every day so we headed out this morning when there were only a few inches on the ground. Jazzmin is always happy to walk but she’d be happier if it wouldn’t snow on her head. Even with the cold and the snow pelting my face as we walked, I was happy because I know how lucky I am. I have a strong dislike for driving in snow and thanks to working at home, I don’t have to worry about driving into an office every day, no matter the weather. I’d much rather be out walking Jazzmin as I’m bundled up to my eyeballs than working for someone else helping them achieve their dreams. Nowadays, I get to chase and achieve my own dreams.

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Our footprints in the snow.

Despite a few unexpected interruptions, I was able to finish my work for the day before dinnertime. One of those unexpected interruptions was actually a welcome one as they cancelled afterschool activities and I had to pick Jordan up from school. She usually rides the late bus with her sister to their father’s house on Wednesday afternoon, but the canceled activities meant she needed somewhere to go. That’s yet another reason I feel blessed to be able to work from home, I’m there for my girls when they need me. Living only three minutes from the school comes in handy on days like today and thankfully, the roads weren’t too bad. Jordan and I enjoyed a quiet afternoon together before her father picked her up and I resumed my tasks for the day.

lights on the walkway

Glow of my walkway lights in the snow.

I’ve already had to shovel five inches of snow off my deck and I’m sure I’ll have to do tomorrow since it’s still coming down, but I’ll manage like I always do. I know that the cold is only temporary and that even when I don’t have my girls, I have my felines and my pup to keep me warm and remind me that I’m loved.

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Snuggling on the couch tonight.

Winter writing, walking, and winging it!

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December has arrived with cloudy skies and temperatures dropping into the teens by tonight. One would expect such frigid temperatures this time of year in Upstate NY, but considering that yesterday it was 50 degrees with occasional sun, I’m thinking it wise to expect the unexpected this month.

Along that thought, I’ve already decided something unexpected this month and that is to post a new blog entry every day in December. I was slacking a bit in November with the holidays and having to write my college research paper, but now that the paper is done and I know exactly what I’m getting for gifts for my girls, I can focus on writing for pleasure again! I don’t want my pursuit of a writing career and writing-based college degree to kill my love of writing so it’s best that I continue to express myself with the usual rambling Julie here.

Writing rambling or writing serious work are both easier when it’s cold outside. What isn’t easy when it’s cold outside is working up the motivation to walk Jazzmin. Nonetheless, she and I both benefit from our walks so I vow to walk every day in December! If there are days when it’s -20 with a wind chill we might not make it out, but I’ll do my best to make up for it with more than one walk a day if necessary! Jazzmin could walk forever so I’m certainly not worried about tiring her out and considering how much I love Chex Mix and sweets during this time of year, I could use the beneficial tiring out. 😉

Another thing that tires me out is overthinking. I don’t know if overthinking is just part of being a writer or if it’s just an unrelated malady I have, but it’s an exhausting quirk. I’m constantly thinking of the “what ifs” and “shoulda coulda wouldas” of life and all it does is make me overly anxious and waste my energy. Therefore, for my third W of winter (or at least for December) I’ve decided to wing it. As in go where the wind blows me and not worry so dang much about things I can’t control.

I know two very potent remedies for my overthinking and they’re beading and writing in fantasy books. When I use my overly active mind in my handmade creations, I’m amazed with my own capabilities. Focusing my highly excitable imagination into my writing has helped me come up with plots lines and character developments that astound me. I believe that if I just let go of my worries and allow hope, inspiration, and faith flow freely, I’ll finally be able to break through my writer’s block and create stories the world will love to read. 🙂

Foggy flurries and furry fluffballs

My snowy house this morning.

My snowy house this morning.

Today marked the first substantial snow for the season here. The calendar may still say it’s fall, but Upstate NY has never been a place that abides by such silly notions. I don’t mind snow when it first begins and my girls both seem to love it. I remember loving it when I was a child, but once I became an adult who had to drive in it, snow lost a lot of its magic. The “magical first snow” today started overnight and hasn’t let up since. It’s not accumulating fast but it’s heavy, wet, and perfect for making snowballs.

And make snowballs I did! When I took Jazzmin out this morning, I made a couple snowballs and tossed them at her. She happily caught them in her mouth before spitting them out when she realized they were strange, cold tennis balls. I then took a snowball in to show the kittens and they were fascinated by the cold, white, balls of water. They love water and I’m always plucking them out of the sink, bathtub, and dog’s water bowl. I eventually plopped the snowball in their water bowl and Daisy watched it intently until it melted.

Once the girls were off at school, I did a bit of freelance work and then settled on the couch beneath a blanket to begin some new beading projects. I’d reviewed a new set of instructions for making earrings this morning and I was eager to try them. What I created came out better than I expected, but I discovered I need to start using a thimble to avoid poking my pointer fingers constantly. Thank goodness fingers heal quickly! It’s worth it though because I’m so pleased with last week’s creations that I need more hours in the day to create all the jewelry designs that have popped into my mind.

Modeling last week's beaded earring and pendant creations.

Modeling last week’s beaded earring and pendant creations.

The snow never let up so there was no point in waiting for it to stop before taking Jazz for a walk. I bundled her up in her booties (which she hates) and warm, blue sweater and I bundled myself up similarly in my winter jacket, boots, and earmuffs. It wasn’t exactly frigid today but there was a breeze and I wanted to keep my ears warm. Our walk wasn’t very long but Jazz was happy to be out and we both became thoroughly coated with snow. As we were heading back home, fog began to roll in from the top of the hill which detracted from the beauty of the first snowfall.

Jazz in her sweater and booties.

Jazz in her sweater and booties.

The snowy trees.

The snowy trees.

Jazz smells something...

Jazz smells something…

Yuppers, it's snowing!

Yuppers, it’s snowing!

The fog rolling in down the road.

The fog rolling in down the road.

Jazzmin and I were both happy to get home and thaw out. The kittens were fascinated watching the falling snow and took turns looking out the window or hogging my desk chair because it’s so cozy.

Daisy looking out the window.

Daisy looking out the window.

Angel hogging my desk chair.

Angel hogging my desk chair.

I had to get my snow shovel out of the shed to clean off my deck steps and create a path to the door and it’s now resting beside the door, ready to be used again. Winter has definitely begun but with the combination of foggy flurries and furry fluffballs, I know it will be anything but dull!

 

Whoa! I should have worn a sweatshirt!

This was one of the really windy spots on this afternoon's walk.

This was one of the really windy spots on this afternoon’s walk.

 

Sometimes things in my life don’t turn out as I hoped and I’m left feeling confused, disappointed, lost, and all sorts of less-than-positive emotions. The most effective way of dealing with such times in my life is to go for a nice, long walk! Honestly, any type of exercise can help create a more positive perspective because the endorphins start flowing and energy begins surging, but for me, walks work best!

As I took a rather short walk yesterday due to the cooler, more turbulent weather, I decided that today Jazzmin and I would take a nice loooong walk! Our long walk is a total of four miles and involves traveling all the way down to the local farmer’s huge storage barns, but I had a lot on my mind and I knew I had to work it all out with a properly exhausting walk. Sweet, lovable, loyal Jazzerboo would walk forever if I let her, but she’s limited to what her pack leader (me) can handle, so four miles is our longest walk (so far).

On this lovely autumn day, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was bright blue, and the wind was once again whipping across the hills. Even so, I thought I’d be warm enough in just shorts and a tank top. By the time we reached the end of my driveway I thought, “Hmm, I might want to put on a sweatshirt.” I then talked myself out of that by deciding the long walk would warm me up and I’d just end up tying the sweatshirt around my waste. I was wrong!

While I usually break a sweat on longer walks, it wasn’t even possible today because the wind cooled off my body before it could get hot. After we crested the tallest hill, I was tired but not hot, my arms and legs had goosebumps, and I was feeling rather numb.

Scolding myself for not wearing a sweatshirt, I continued on the walk and looked forward to the areas where trees bordered the road. Usually I like those spots because the tree shade cools me from the sun, but today I loved them because the trees blocked the wind! Wherever the road was open to farmer’s fields and treeless hills, the breeze blew so strong that I’d see tumbleweeds roll across in front of us. The wind was so strong that butterflies were struggling to stay on course, turkey vultures were having a ball kiting through the air, and leaves were flying off the trees!

One of the upsides of being so chilly was that I was walking rather briskly because I was eager to return home and swim in some hot coffee! While on the walk, I rescued five wooly bear caterpillars and a praying mantis from certain death beneath car wheels. I also saw a merlin, a hawk, and three monarch butterflies. The monarch sightings were a pleasant surprise because I thought it was too cold and windy for any of the lovely orange and black butterflies to be up north still.

When Jazzmin and I returned home over an hour after leaving, we were both quite pleased with ourselves. Jazzmin was pleased because she’d sniffed out every squirrel, deer, raccoon, and chipmunk that had ever crossed the road and I was happy because I’d worked off my negative feelings and replaced them with positivity and hope. There’s no denying the benefits of walking because I experience them first hand whenever I take Jazz out. Even on days when I just want to crawl back into bed and nap because I’m feeling down, I’ve discovered that going for a walk helps my attitude do a complete 180 spin into happier, more upbeat and perfectly positive feelings. I’m also positively feeling that I really need to wear a coat next time it’s as cool and windy as it was today!

New season, new outlook!


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Today was the first day of my favorite season: autumn. I don’t particularly like the season that follows autumn but as I’m working on enjoying the present and focusing on the here and now, I’m not going to worry about that particular aspect of the future.

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous with a cloudless blue sky, gentle breeze and enough sunlight to banish the cooler temperatures of yesterday. Once I’d finished my morning freelance work, I grabbed Jazzmin and we headed out on our daily walk. As I was curious to see how quickly the trees were changing along the farmer’s road, we headed that direction at a brisk pace.

My pup and I had just turned the first corner when I spotted something small and bright green in the center of the closest lane. I peered closer, realized it was a praying mantis and quickly but gently picked him up out of the road. He was the first non-squished praying mantis I’ve seen this year and I was happy to help him travel safely across the road.

The moment I picked the mantis up, he pointed in the direction he wanted to go and I carried him there as he held firmly to my hand.

That way please, Miss!

That way please, Miss!

Now place me gently down there. Thank you!

Now place me gently down there. Thank you!

Once safely on the opposite side of the road, I gently set him down in the grassy shoulder and he quickly blended in with his surroundings. Pleased with another successful creature rescue, I led Jazz onward to the farmer’s access road to continue our walk.

Even though there wasn’t as much color change among the trees as I’d hoped, it was still a lovely walk among dragonflies, butterflies and birds.

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Colorful vines climbing up the trees.

Colorful vines climbing up the trees.

A fallen oak branch filled with acorns.

A fallen oak branch filled with acorns.

This year has also been very good for grasshoppers and everywhere I walk, the ground springs to life as multiple grasshoppers jump swiftly out of my path. I tried to take a picture of the little bugs in action, but they were too fast!

I led Jazz to the end of the canopy of trees over the farmer’s road and up a bit further before turning off the gravel and onto a path of flattened grass created by the large tractors that mow those fields. We walked in the shade of the large trees along the path and paused by a rather large and obviously frequently-traveled deer path. I took a picture to capture the feel of the trees and shadows.

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After that, we stepped out of the shadows and cut across the grassy field toward the little pond we visited earlier in the week. As we approached, a handful of deer went bounding away from the water’s edge and quickly disappeared into the underbrush of the distant trees. A higher up motion caught my eye and I raised my gaze in time to see a hawk flying out from the trees beyond the pond. Wearing a huge smile, I watched as he soared along the tree line for a short way before swooping upward and out of sight over the treetops.

By the time we finished crossing the field, I think Jazz had smelled every animal that had ever traversed the grass. We walked along the far tree line as I searched the ground for red tail hawk feathers. I found a small turkey feather but alas, my hunt for red tail hawk feathers continues.

Turkey feather I found today.

Turkey feather I found today.

Jazzmin and I returned from our walk quite satisfied by the exercise and our adventures. She took a quick snooze while I showered and then it was off to pick up Jordan and continue the normal routine of the day.

This evening was just as beautiful as the day so my girls and I took a short walk up around the corner to the nearby stream. Jordan had a chance to practice her pack leader skills and I was pleased to see how well Jazzmin walked alongside my oldest daughter.

Jordan walking Jazzmin and Jaycie following behind.

Jordan walking Jazzmin and Jaycie following behind.

It was the perfect end to a perfect day, an ideal beginning to my favorite season, and an eye opening transition to a new perspective!

Fences, flowers, furry pups and feathered friends

Fruit tree blossoms down the road from my house

Fruit tree blossoms down the road from my house

It was another beautiful day today that felt more like summer than spring. I happily enjoyed it because 80  and humid is infinitely better than -25 and three feet of snow!

Morning thunderstorms cleared out rather quickly and have only recently started up again now that it’s dark. I don’t mind thunderstorms at night except when I have the girls. I don’t blame them for being scared when lightning flashes and thunder shakes the house. I think they’ve finally settled though so I’ll continue my rambling.

I took Jazzmin for a short walk in the early afternoon and the heat off the pavement was intense enough to make her pant by the first turn. Even on that short walk though we saw an abundance of spring beauty and I took some pictures with my phone camera. Only after returning home and looking at them did I realize that most of them included a fence of some kind. To be expected since I live in the country near several farms but certainly not intentional. Regardless, they turned out surprisingly lovely for my little camera phone.

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Upon returning home, Jazz was hot, tired and happy. She laid on the floor panting while looking eager to go back out walking once she caught her breath. Once again proof that the pup wants to walk 24/7 in any kind of weather!

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

This evening I was blessed with the return of my resident hummingbird. I was watching the birds in my wild bird oasis and in the hummingbird zipped looking for his feeder! I hadn’t put it out yet so I quickly remedied that by hanging it where the unoccupied barrel bird house had been hanging. He returned later as I watched the storms roll in and he seems to know where his feeder is now. Always nice when he returns because it means the buzzing little birdies think it’s a safe bet that warmth will stick around. I certainly hope they’re right!

Signs of spring

Roadside stream near my house

Roadside stream near my house

March in the Northeast U.S. is a month full of Mama Nature’s mood swings. She’s not quite ready to let us have warm, sunny days regularly so she tosses one in here and there to tease us amid cold temperatures and scattered snow flurries. That’s okay though because I make sure to enjoy every moment of the nicer days by going outside on walks, while snuggling inside on the less nice  days.

Thursday is the official “First Day of Spring” but truly, that’s an optimistic notion. I’d be extremely pleased if it was suddenly 55 degrees and sunny out and the muddy, snowy bog that is my yard instantly dried up and sprung to life with green grass. No wait, nix the grass, I’m not ready to mow yet. Flowers will do nicely instead! I’m really just tired of being cold and waking up to dark mornings. The dark mornings will slowly get lighter again as the month progresses but wow, the time change makes it hard to get up early all over again!

I took Jazzmin on a pleasant, two-mile walk this afternoon and was happy to discover that I’m not terribly out of shape from being sick and mostly in bed for the past couple weeks. My legs do still have muscles and my lungs still work up to capacity! A grand discovery indeed! We saw a young fox frolicking in the field during our walk and I grinned from ear to ear because foxes are always a sign of good luck! When he saw us he immediately dashed across the road and into the woods out of sight but I thanked the powers that be for sending me such a positive sign.

The fox was a sign of continuing luck and I welcome it with an open heart, mind and spirit. I’ve had several promising changes in my freelance writing career today and it’s a grand boost to my confidence! This blog is where I ramble about whatever I like and it’s very freeing but it’s also nice to know what my professional writing is appreciated and sought after. Spring has sprung with positive omens and soon it will pop and flourish with warmer days, blooming flowers and leaves on trees!

Piles of Pathetic Pupness

Jazz flopped pathetically by the couch this morning.

Jazz flopped pathetically by the couch this morning.

I adore my pup Jazzmin but she, just like every other dog in the world I imagine, is an expert at flopping about in the most pathetic and pitiful piles of pupness. She can go from happy and tail wagging after playing to flopped on the floor in utter misery and woe because I haven’t pet her in the last two breaths. She goes from gratefully burping in my face after wolfing down her food to melting on the floor in feigned utter starvation as if her last meal was months ago. Full on doggy drama queen!

It’s been way too cold to take Jazz for a walk the past several days. Just to put her outside for her morning answer to nature’s call I have to dress her up in her booties and sweater to prevent her from becoming a pupsicle. I even had to carry her 55 pound butt back in the house last week because it was too cold for her to walk in the snow! She’s always so eager to get back in the house and I’m always so hopeful that feeling will last all day. Alas, it never does. Within moments, she’s wondering why I haven’t taken her outside for a walk. She looks at me in utter dismay wondering what horrible thing she’s done to make me punish her with lack of walks. My eyes are about to roll out of my head from her constant puppy dog eyes of death!

Time for a walk yet, Mama?

Time for a walk yet, Mama?

I love Jazz but bundling up to my eyeballs in a snowsuit and ski mask to walk her in negative temperatures just isn’t going to happen. Especially since she’d have to be equally bundled and would never keep a full doggy ski mask on, if such a thing even exists. It was so cold this morning that she was holding her paws up out of the snow even with her booties on! I don’t recall that ever happening before and with her leaky steel trap memory, Jazz doesn’t remember it happening at all by now.

The cold shoulder pout.

The cold shoulder pout.

My daughter Jordan asked me last night if I thought Jazz was born looking that pathetic. I said I highly doubted it and that from what I remember of puppies, they’re furry, round butterballs that sleep a lot, chew on things and pee and poo all over the house. I’m not up to dealing with THAT variety of pathetic pup piles around my house! Despite her constant “woe is me” body flopping in every room of the house, I know Jazz is a happy dog. She has by now forgotten her less than lovely life in the animal shelter but her periodic stays at the boarders remind her what a good thing she has in my tiny, cabin-fever filled house.

Ohhh woe is Jazzmin!

Ohhh woe is Jazzmin!

Eventually the weather will break and we’ll be able to go for walks again but for now I’m doing my best to ignore the sighs, huffs, grunts and stares of longing she keeps aiming in my direction.

Fetching Lobsters

Throw it already, Mama!

Throw it already, Mama!

This past summer I tried on more than one occasion to teach Jazzmin the game of fetch. My attempts were unsuccessful because while she’d run after the ball when I threw it, she wouldn’t necessarily fetch the ball in her mouth or bring it back. She enjoyed the run part but bringing the ball back didn’t happen.

With the frigid temperatures and knee-deep snow outside we’re all getting a bit of cabin fever and Jazzmin is no exception. I do walk her when the temperature gets about 20 degrees and I don’t have the girls but the weather hasn’t been walk-friendly in a while.

To use up Jazz’s energy, we play indoor games of tug, run around the table and chase the red bug (laser pointer). Today we added a new game thanks to me finding a bag from Just Dogs Newburyport while I was tidying. Inside the bag was a toy I’d forgotten I bought for Jazz, a tuggy lobster made of sturdy red rope. The moment I took the lobster out of the bag, Jazz was fascinated by its dangling legs and her tail started wagging eagerly. I tossed the toy at her and she began gnawing at it as she held it between her paws.

Jazz sinking her teeth into some lobster fun.

Jazz sinking her teeth into some lobster fun.

Jazz kept coming over to me with the lobster in her mouth wanting a game of tug but I decided to mix things up a bit. I made her drop the lobster and then I tossed it down the hall. She eagerly ran after it and to my surprise, brought it back to me. She still wanted to play tug and I used that eagerness to create a game of lobster fetch.

Within a few tosses of the lobster, she’d happily bring it back to me wanting more. Jazz still needs a command to drop it but the key part is that she brings it back! I say “fetch!” when I throw it and I think the lightbulb finally lit up in her head that helped her realize what playing fetch means.

She's rather fond of lobster tail

She’s rather fond of lobster tail

I don’t do things the ordinary way so I don’t know why I expected my dog to be any different. Jazz may never be fond of fetching bouncing, round tennis balls but she’s becoming a pro at fetching lobsters!

Zoey’s Story

The moment I picked up the little black and white cat at the shelter, she melted in my arms. She sprawled out, exposed her belly and showed me that she completely trusted and loved me at first sight. The love was mutual and I took her home that day. My then husband was with me and he liked her too despite not being an animal lover. He came up with the name Zoey for her and it seemed to fit her.

Zoey didn’t discriminate, she snuggled with everyone. She especially loved snuggling with my father when he’d come to my house and relax in the rocking recliner. I swear Zoey would instantly appear on his chest the moment he sat down. My dad always hated moving and disturbing her snuggling but Zoey was always good at resettling.

Zoey loved my daughters from the moment I brought them home from the hospital. Why wouldn’t she? They were more warm bodies to snuggle with! The girls loved her back and they were both fortunate to spend the first years of their life with such a sweet cat.

When I found Owl in my barn as a small, scared, stray black kitten, she didn’t know how to meow. She’d hiss but not meow. I couldn’t imagine then what a meowing loud mouth she’d become or how much of a great snuggler she’d grow into. Zoey wasn’t exactly thrilled by the little black kitten trying to tackle her all the time. Sometimes she’d play with Owl and sometimes she’d put her in her place by knocking her down. Eventually, they learned to get along harmoniously and most days I couldn’t tell where Zoey’s black fur ended and Owl’s began.

Zoey and Owl engaged in a very lazy cat fight.

Zoey and Owl engaged in a very lazy cat fight.

Unfortunately, Zoey eventually grew sick and the vets couldn’t figure out why. She was still a young cat, less than 10 years old but something was wreaking havoc on her body and draining her energy. They gave me medication to ease her pain and I took her back home so she could be comfortable. I had such high hopes that she’d recover somehow. I gave her medicine daily, snuggled with her and told her I loved her.

One night I snuggled with her on the couch and then left to go upstairs to bed. I came back downstairs the next morning and couldn’t find her. I then went searching in the basement because there was an old chair down there she loved to sleep on. That’s when I found her. She’d already passed, her spirit was gone from her tired body. As I write this now it’s been over four years since she died but it still makes me cry. I will forever miss that sweet little cat.

Much to my amazement, my then husband constructed a coffin for Zoey out of wood pieces in the barn. The coffin was far bigger than required for her tiny form but he placed her in it and dug a huge hole out in the back yard to bury her. That was the final resting place for her body but I know her spirit is never far from me.

Three months after Zoey died, my father passed. As hard as losing them both in such a short span of time was, I was comforted by the fact that they were together in heaven snuggling on a rocking recliner, snoring happily together.

Just as my father bestowed so many gifts upon me, Zoey bestowed gifts upon Owl. She taught Owl how to be a really dedicated and open-minded snuggler and to love anything and everything she met. Owl used those teachings to stubbornly and determinedly attempt to become friends with Jazzmin until she finally got her way.

Whenever Owl comes in the house from being outside, she seeks Jazzmin out and rubs against her until Jazz can’t stand it anymore and walks away. Jazz pretends not to like it but I know she really loves Owl. I’ve caught her looking for Owl when she’s not in the house and going to the door when she hears Owl outside meowing. Thanks to Zoey, Owl transformed a dog with no history with cats to a dog who can’t imagine her future without them.

A New Face on the Doggy Gauntlet

The new face resembled this adorable guy! Source: Pinterest

The new face resembled this adorable guy! Source: Pinterest

Yesterday morning I decided I’d take Jazzmin walking through the “Doggy Gauntlet.” I originally discussed why I call it this in a post back in April entitled (appropriately) “The Doggy Gauntlet.” Feel free to click the link to read the post.

I’ve walked that particular area enough times that I thought I knew where all the dogs lived. I discovered during our walk yesterday that I was quite wrong. Jazz and I had made it peacefully by all the homes with known dogs without incident. People were at work and their dogs were confined inside or away at doggy day care. Confident we were safe, I stopped in the shoulder of the road so Jazz could do her business. No sooner has she finished when I heard a deep growling approaching from behind us. Uh oh!

Pulling Jazz close to me and holding her leash tight, I whirled around to face the oncoming dog and found it to be a pup that must’ve been a mix of mastiff and something else. He had the height of a mastiff but not the big jowls and he was a quite handsome blend of brindle and white. I took all that in rather quickly as he came running, growling and barking at us from the house across the road. I’d never heard or seen a dog at that house before so I was rather surprised.

Many thoughts whipped through my head in quick succession as I stood in the shoulder of the road with Jazzmin behind me. Foremost were “Oh crap! Big dog! Eeek!” Thankfully, I’m pretty good when faced with a crisis so I remained calm and silenced the panicked voices so I could focus on the useful voice in my head. The voice and advice came from someone I’d asked almost 2 years ago what to do if a dog came running at me. All I could remember was something about looking and sounding tall and yelling…what was I supposed to yell??? The only word that would come to mind and come out was “NO!” The moment I yelled that in my biggest, most authoritative voice, the dog stopped running at us and looked confused and taken aback. He’d slowed but he kept coming so I stood my ground and kept saying “NO!” as I held Jazz behind me. My voice was obviously doubly intimidating because both the big dog and Jazz obeyed me.

The dog was partially wagging his tail and had stopped barking and growling as he stood 5 feet from Jazz and I in the road. I don’t judge dogs negatively by their breed or size and I think he just wanted to play but I had been told by the owner of the voice in my head that having two dogs meet head to head wasn’t a good idea. Not to mention this dog probably weighed two of Jazz so “playing” might have been tricky. Having heard my yelling, the owner of the dog finally stepped out his side door and called the dog back.

Grudgingly the dog left us and trotted back across the road. For once the owner didn’t try to reassure me by shouting “Oh, he’s friendly!” I’m sure the owners mean well when they say that but when their dog has just come charging at Jazz and I barking and growling, it’s hard to accept at face value. It really would be better for everyone involved if they kept their dogs on a leash or safely confined by invisible fence. Thankfully I knew what to do when faced with a charging dog and it worked but not everyone who walks by will possess that knowledge.

After that bit of excitement I was very proud of myself for standing my ground and of Jazz because she didn’t try to lunge out in front of me or emit a single bark. I was so pumped with adrenaline and endorphins that we made record time on our six-mile walk! It helped that the road was relatively flat and mostly shaded but I was impressed with us nonetheless.

Yesterday morning proved to me that the voice in my head can be a saving grace when I need it most. Somehow in the turbulent waves of my mind, that important piece of advice popped to the surface and I was able to do exactly what I needed to. Among the swirling whirlwind of my mind there exists a calming force, a stabilizing anchor, a rock that grounds me. It began with my father’s influence and continues with a powerful, living presence I feel very fortunate to know.

Morning Walks

Right before my 5am alarm went off this morning, I was dreaming that I was walking on the beach. The sky was overcast but the water was warm and I was in it up to my knees. The feel of the churning waves rolling over my skin was divine and I could smell the salty air. I love the ocean and walking on the beach is something that brings me peace and contentment. It’s also something I don’t get to do enough but I’m working on fixing that. When I live closer to the ocean I will walk in the shallow waves as often as I can, morning, noon and night if possible. I’ll revel in the feel of the wet sand squishing beneath my toes and underfoot and collect whatever shells wash upon shore. That dream this morning is something I am determined to make a reality.

Sunrise at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 2009

Sunrise at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 2009

 

The lovely rolling waves in the morning.

The lovely rolling waves in the morning.

 

A seagull all tucked up on the beach

A seagull all tucked up on the beach.

Right now my reality is living in the country though so I’m making the best of that. Sunday morning Jazzmin and I headed out to the farmer’s access road for our walk. There was a light breeze but it was already becoming humid. As we neared the gate across the road, I heard church bells in the distance which must have been announcing the start of service. It was lovely how that sound carried across the hills and valleys of where I live and I felt at peace.

The morning view out over the fields.

The morning view across the field.

I’d been smart enough to wear my hiking boots this time and I’d placed the Dr. Scholl’s active series insoles inside them. Those insoles really do work by the way and I recommend them to anyone suffering from shin splints, foot pain or back aches during or after their walk. The walk down that road was uneventful with only the red-winged blackbirds and some chickadees serenading us. As we neared the end of the straight part of the road I saw a squirrel perched atop a large boulder. Jazz didn’t see it and it quickly ran away but she smelled it as soon as we reached that boulder and had to investigate.

Large boulder minus squirrel.

Large boulder minus squirrel.

 

Jazz looking across the boulder.

Jazz looking across the boulder.

 

Jazz searching for the squirrel

Jazz searching for the squirrel.

I stood on the part of the road that opens out onto four different fields and took several pictures of the wash out and brush clearing. For some reason that section reminded me of a desolate post-war wasteland despite the un-endings songs of the birds and the butterflies flying by.

Washed out earth.

Washed out earth.

 

Cleared out brush and trees.

Cleared out brush and trees.

I took a panoramic video of the area as Jazz sniffed around and then I decided to head back. Barely five minutes after we started walking back, the church bells sounded again marking the end of service.

Morning view of the hills and valleys.

Morning view of the hills and valleys.

 

Some lovely purple flowers I saw on the way back.

Some lovely purple flowers I saw on the way back.

I felt very calm and at ease as we walked back toward home. Starting my day like that out among nature and the songs of birds brought me serenity. That access road isn’t a true nature trail or even that secluded, but to me it felt like I was in another world. Perhaps it’s just my overactive imagination that causes that or maybe it’s my learned ability to appreciate all the nuances of life. Whatever the reason, I look forward to further morning walks in the country and anticipate deeper contentment when I stroll among the ocean waves.