Month: November 2013

Single Baby Boomer with Dog Celebrates Thanksgiving with NaNoWriMo

For the past couple of days, every time I walked Izzy, it was cold and raining, and he didn’t want to poop.  Seriously.  That’s been my biggest problem for the last 48 hours.  We’d go out around the block, he’d stop and look, pee on his bushes, stop and look again, shoot me a sad “woe is me” puppy eye, sit down (seriously, Izzy???  It’s raining!), sniff a little, then look at the rushing water in the gutter, look up at me again, and consider that he didn’t want to jump it.  And wet leaves?  Lordie, they’re poison!  Who wants to walk through wet leaves and lower their butt to the ground to do their thing.  Not Mr. Izzy.  No way.  Sigh.

So, instead of our usual five walks a day, it’s been more like seven, and each time, I stand there, shivering, saying, “Good boy, Izzy.  Now, poop!  C’mon, Izzy, you can do it.”  And each time, he didn’t.  Until the second walk this morning, and by that time, I was already late for work, and he knew I was getting itchy — and irritated.  But at least it’s done, and I can relax.

I seem to remember going through the same thing last year at this time.  It was raining and cold.  I wasn’t excited about going out for walks and neither was Izzy.  It was our first year living in Roxboro, our first Thanksgiving together, my first holiday alone.  Ever.  This year makes two.  Second year living here, our second Thanksgiving together, my second Thanksgiving alone.  My savior?  Writing!

I’m convinced whoever conceived of National Novel Writing Month must have been single and hating facing the holidays alone.  The best way to get through them was to keep extraordinarily busy.  “Oh, I have an idea!  Why don’t I write a novel during November?  Commit to at least 50K words on the page, then I can take December to do some rewriting (or finish the novel) and by January, I’ll have a bright and shiny new story to start sending out to agents and editors.”

It works.  

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Last year, I sat at my desk over the long Thanksgiving weekend and almost finished the first draft of a novel (I’m not dumb enough to send something that new out in January; I’m going to do another rewrite of it in February and March, which means the novel will have gone through at least three-four drafts before it hits an agent’s/editor’s desk), and I certainly felt better that I had survived the holiday — and was productive doing so.

This year, I’m rewriting a novel that was originally part of my dissertation.  This one has gone through enormous structural changes, so even though I’m not committing 50K NEW words during this NaNoWriMo, I feel like I’m writing something even more valuable to me:  a polished manuscript.  This one might be ready in January or February.  Depends on what my reader says when she finishes it over the Christmas holidays.

I’m sure I’m not the only Baby Boomer with a dog who’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving alone.  Though most of my single friends are escaping to the warmth of a family member or friend’s house to share the turkey and the gossip and the silly jokes Aunt Milly never understands, there are plenty of us who’ll be huddled over a laptop, our favorite canine (or feline) faithfully keeping us company and making us take breaks from the writing to walk the cold, rainy streets.  

Here’s to those of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving with our animals!  Cheers to all those wagging tails and warm noses.  I give thanks to them for keeping us all sane — and far from lonely.

Question of the Day: Cava-Poo-Chons, are they perfect?

Okay, I understand why some of us want a dog who’s absolutely adorable, smart, friendly, hypoallergenic and not yappy.  I understand that because Izzy is one of those dogs.  When I started looking for a pup to keep me company and to replace my recently departed and very old cat, I wanted one that would be all of the above.  There were several breeds that fit my criteria:  Cavachons, Shichons, Shipoos, Cavapoos.  You get my drift.  They were all what could be considered hybrids.  Poodles, Cavalier Spaniels, Bichon Frises, and Shih Tzus in various combinations/iterations, all creating the same little ball of fluff with personality, smarts, friendliness, and a tendency to be less yappy than other small dogs (like Yorkies or Chihuahuas).  And who could resist their teddy bear-like appearance?  (Shichons, especially, which is what Izzy is).

There are positives and negatives to this type of dog breeding, and depending upon whom you talk to, you’ll get bits and pieces of both.  One of the positives is that people who might be allergic to dogs can actually own one.  That’s a huge point to make.  On the down side, by breeding these “designer dogs,” lots of shelters aren’t seeing people walk in to adopt the dogs that fill those kennels to the brim regularly.  Negative to the nth degree.  Nothing is more heartbreaking than the numbers of dogs who are euthanized because they are not considered “adoptable.”  Pitbulls, once considered the American dog, are currently the breed that is least likely to be adopted — and cities/counties don’t help that phenomenon by allowing regulations that allow certain areas/cities/housing developments to outlaw owning a dog from the Pitty family.  

Ironically, designer dogs are garnering higher and higher price tags, normally reserved for those purebred dogs that are never inter-breeded with another species.  Dogs like the German Shepherd are now selling for less than the hybrid dogs like Cavachons.

Yesterday, I read an article from the Huffington Post entitled “Is the Cava-Poo-Chon the World’s Most Perfect Puppy?”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/cava-poo-chon_n_4311387.html  Naturally, there’s a photo of an absolutely adorable pup, and the article extols the virtues of the mix of breeds, even commenting on the breed’s long life (though I don’t know how they can know the lifespan since this is a new hybrid).  What amazes me is the price this breeder is asking for her pups.  This is basically what we used to refer to as a mixed breed . . . translation:  mutt.  But because it’s cute and well-behaved, it’s also more expensive.

I don’t know about all this hoopla about the Cava-Poo-Chon, but I can tell you one thing.  Izzy’s a Shichon (Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise mix), and I think he’s pretty perfect.  But I might be just a tad prejudiced.

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Izzy’s Happy I Came Home From the Writers Conference

This weekend, I joined the “writingest writers in the U.S.” in Wilmington, North Carolina for the North Carolina Writers Network Conference.  We are dubbed the “writingest state” because so many well-known writers have brought their Carolinian stories to the rest of the world.  I always enjoy conferences because I get to talk business with people at various stages of their careers and writing different types of work than I do.  Writing is such a solitary profession that when one has the chance to press the flesh with others who understand exactly how frustrating it is to determine what genre your book will fall into or who will empathize when your favorite editor has decided to retire from the business or who might have wise advice when you’re unsure what kind of writer’s platform you want to build. Conferences are invaluable to the working writer, though I don’t attend as often as I used to.  But who can turn down a conference on the beach?

I drove down with my friend Ron, a really astute and elegant poetry and flash fiction writer, so the conference started long before we arrived at the hotel.  At many points during the weekend, he and I talked about our dogs, and because I’ve begun to shop around my book about Izzy, I talked to other writers about their dogs, as well.  It dawned on me that almost 99% of the people I talked to had either a dog or a cat (or several) and that pet was an important component of their lives.

On Facebook, I’m friends with lots of writers around the world and we always share our animal stories.  Amy Tan lost her little Yorkie last year and her FB group of friends all joined with her in mourning the little guy.  Now she has Bobo, who has moved into her heart and shares her travels like Bombo did.  Susan Wiggs, well-known romance writer, has both a little guy and a big guy (a Chihuahua named Lennie, and a Doberman named Barkis).  A beautiful big white cat “owns” novelist Anne Rice.  And Connie Lee Fowler just lost her precious boy, Scout, who was almost 21 years old, and she’s giving extra love to her sun worshiper, Murmur Lee.

For some great shots of writers and their dogs, check out this collection:  http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/205235  And below, Izzy and I share time at the beach.Image

Hoarders. Are they protecting animals or hurting them?

Over the weekend, a story came out in the local news about a woman who’s a former animal rescuer and how she’s been charged with animal cruelty.  Come to find out, 60 of the 93 animals in her home had to be euthanized because they were ill.  

My first thought was that she probably thought she was rescuing the animals (most were cats; 3 were dogs), but when push came to shove, she simply didn’t have the money or resources to feed all of them.  A good Samaritan whose good deeds came to a horrendous end.

I can empathize with what this woman has gone through and why she felt the need to take in so many animals.  I volunteered for a rescue service for more than a year, answering emails for them, and there were many times that I would have taken an animal that someone was trying to turn over to us.  The irony is that we couldn’t take any animals since we were a small, volunteer-run organization with no “home office.”  Instead, we rescued from the shelters, but only when one of our foster homes had space for another animal.  As a result, the animals we fostered had a solid foundation, usually learned some basic commands, and were in much better condition when their forever homes finally found them.

I do remember one particular email that I received on a cold January afternoon.  A woman had bought a Havanese pup from a breeder.  Nine weeks old, black/white/brown, and full of mischief, the pup would have made anyone who saw it say, “awww.”  In her email, the woman’s anguish came through clearly.  She had paid $900 for the pup, plus all of the food, toys, and accouterments necessary to make a home for the little guy.  But less than two weeks after bringing him home, she lost her job and was being forced to move in with her daughter — into a home which didn’t allow pets.  The woman simply wanted someone to take and love her pup.  No money was necessary.  Just give him a good home.

My heart broke for both the pup and the woman, and I wanted desperately to take him in.  At the time, I didn’t have Izzy, but I had dreams of having a pup like the Havanese, and here was my chance.  Unfortunately, I already had a cat and lived in an apartment complex where one pet was the rule.  My cat, Jojo, was 18 years old, blind and deaf, and I knew she didn’t have much longer to live, but bringing a pup into the house (secretly–which I was ready to do) would not have been fair to her. 

I often wonder what happened to that woman and to the pup, just as I’m going to wonder what’s going to happen to this woman who is probably brokenhearted that her plan for rescue has resulted in her arrest.

If you want to read the full story, cut and paste this link in your browser:  http://www.examiner.com/article/former-animal-rescue-head-charged-after-90-cats-found-her-nc-home

Izzy’s day at the S(pa)w!

Sometimes dogs get that smell.  You know the kind I mean?  That odor that really makes you go “pe-yoooo.”  As much as you love the little buggers, you really don’t want them on your lap and you certainly don’t want to be lovin’ on them.  Time for a bath — or better yet, a trip to the groomer’s.

Yesterday, Izzy went to Spaws here in Roxboro and not only got the dreaded bath (he doesn’t like the water, though he’s a real nut about being toweled off.  He’ll wait in front of the door after our walks for me to get out the towel and give him his rubdown), but he was also trimmed and sprayed with an appropriately scented “freshener” for the holidays.  Suffice it to say, my house smells like pumpkin pie now.

Okay, for those of you who thought I was a bit down on doggie prima donnas who get all dressed up, you might want to give me a hard time for the pic of Izzy with his bandanna.  Not my doing.  Everytime he gets groomed, he comes home with a different kerchief.  They last maybe five minutes.  I usually find them under the couch with all the balls and bones he has “lost.”

So, here’s the boy — before and after.  Gotta admit, he looks (and smells) much better.  But it would be nice if he looked into the camera occasionally.  Take out the cell phone for a quick shot, and he either looks away or averts his head so I can’t get a full view, making him look horribly uppity 🙂

BEFORE

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AFTER

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Falling leaves and temperatures . . . must mean cold dogs and NaNoWriMo!

Over the weekend, I spent most of my time writing (this is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write 50K words), but when Izzy and I went out walking, it struck me that autumn is at its peak.  This morning, I realized winter is on its way.  We’ve had our first frost.

Saturday night, Izzy and I scuffed through piles of leaves that industrious neighbors blew off their fading lawns and onto the sidewalk.  At first, he didn’t want to plow through them, and I had to cajole him to hop right on in.  He’s short, so there were times the leaves were over his head, and he’d pop up, leaves stuck to his nose and to his coat (which needs to be cut before the end of the week — he’s having more “bad hair days” than good lately).  After the first couple of leaf dives, he discovered it’s much more fun than he thought, and now he’s searching out those piles of crunchy playthings.  Now I’m the one reticent to dive in since I’m not sure whether the snakes who’ve just shed their skins might be finding a hiding place under the warmth of the fallen leaves.

While we were walking down Main Street, I glanced up at the sky.  The black storm clouds were backlit with fiery reds, lemon yellows and pumpkin oranges, mirroring the colors of the leaves hanging on the trees along the street.  The whole world seemed warmed by the autumnal colors.  In the air, the smell of woodsmoke reminded me that the season for lighting the fireplace was upon us.  The air, brisk and clean, prickled at my cheeks.  Even Izzy seemed to recognize the change in season and he popped along beside me as if invigorated by the chillier air.

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On Saturday night, I relished the extra hour of sleep, and Izzy didn’t seem to mind it either, but this morning I had to get up for work, and Izzy’s internal clock hadn’t registered Daylight Savings Time.  He started poking me with his paw around 4:35 AM.  Twice, I said, “ten more minutes, Izzy,” but he wasn’t listening.  He hopped over me and sat on the floor near my head.  I could feel him standing beside me, paws on the bed, sniffing my hair and quietly “woofing” — as if to say, “Here’s a gentle reminder that it’s time to get up, woman.  Let’s go!”

He lasted until 5:30.  No matter how many times I rolled over, it wasn’t working to ignore him anymore.  So I got up, put on three layers and my gloves and headed out into the 37 degree morning.

Yup, it ain’t warm in North Carolina anymore.