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!

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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.