Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Zoe Chronicles

I think I have written, and re-written this post 100 times already. I thought it would be easy to post Zoe's "Welcome Home" message, but the right words kept eluding me. I had originally wanted to just give the dates and other factual details, but that just does not do the little furry terror justice. Data is important though, so I will finally post the basics and then move onto the juicy bits...

On July 28th, 2009 Zoe and her brother and sisters were born. She is one of nine puppies, all girls except for on lone boy (there was a second boy, but due to complications at birth he did not make it). I counted the days until our pickup date, the 26th of September, and waited very impatiently for the breeder to upload pictures to their website ( and email news on the pups.

Dunwood Labs is in Oxford, Pa. so I imposed upon my family and stopped in for a little visit. Mom had broken her ankle while trying to check on the drainage system in the yard during one of the late summer's torrential downpours and I wanted to check on her. Bringing Zoe home to them after the pickup was not really a good option (I could just see her tripping mom up and breaking her other ankle), so my sister kindly took us in. Barb is uniquely patient and forgave the puddles that Zoe created in her adorable brick house in Atglen (a lovely little town in Amish Country that is ringed with farms and rolling countryside. Sigh.).

Zoe loved chasing Barb's other two dogs; the Cairn Terrier was just her size (much to the chagrin of the terrier who probably got the worst of those sharp baby-teeth). Zoe immediately fell in love with my niece Mia and I was worried I might be going back to Virginia puppy-less, but I pried the puppy (and it felt like myself, as I love spending time with Barb; She has always been the coolest big sister) away and we headed back to Richmond to introduce Oscar to his new "dog-ter".

Zoe almost managed to climb through the car's dog gate on the way home, but a stop at the Maryland House Rest Area for a little walk and a new stuffed animal (to tear up) from the gift shop and we were just fine. Every time we slowed down for traffic she popped her head up and looked around. Considering my license plate is "Bad Labs", the folks behind us got quite a chuckle.

We got home and Zoe immediately decided that Morty was her own personal living squeaky toy, and Claris was the biggest chew toy ever created. I do not think I saw Morty for the first two weeks; I put food out in the morning and it just disappeared when I got back in the afternoon to clean up. Claris seemed very excited until Zoe began gnawing on her... but as Zoe has grown and begun to play more and bite less, Claris is starting to enjoy her new little sister. Morty has even started allowing Zoe to get a sniff or two in before he swats her and makes a run for higher ground.

The comment that Oscar made about Zoe's arrival really sums it up best though. He said "I wish it took her a little more adjustment time to get settled in". Zoe walked into this house, looked around and claimed it and everything in it as hers. She might as well have just shouted "MINE". Sounds strangely familiar...

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Cat at Dog Days...

Whenever I can, I pack up Morty and haul him to Dog Days. He is an enormous pain to catch, pack up and travel with (last time he yowled and stank the whole way after hiding under the pillows on our bed for a whole hour and making me furiously look for him), so I usually only bring him if we are staying more than four days. He really seems to like it there, and his mousing skills are viciously employed as he prowls through the cabinets, under the furniture and into the hidden corners all over the house!

He acts as if he owns the place, and rules like the feline emperor he is. The new counter tops are a favorite of his, along with all of the wonderful window ledges...

Morty likes to play hide-and-seek, and has become an expert at it. If he is just playing and not hiding to try and keep out of the cat carrier, he will pop up when I get close:

He plays with Claris more when he is at Dog Days, and sometimes looks a little worse for wear, as she plays much more roughly than he would like her to, but he is somewhat of a good sport about the whole thing!

They love the porch and spend most of their time looking out on the trees:

The purpose of this game between Claris & Morty eludes me, though. Each gets a side of the porch door, and they head-but it into each other!

Sign, Sign...

We have finished the gate and sign for Dog Days place, and I am pleased with the results! The three paws on the front are for the three dogs that started this crazy idea: Deckard, Grommit, and Claris. It is a bit silly, but so are we!

Claris is still an only dog, but that ends at the end of September when we bring home our new little girl (to be named at a later date). A new puppy will really jazz things up; considering the puppy-hood of the other hairy children, I am bracing myself for some insanity!

I was worried about the health of the environment around Dog Days when for several weekends we saw no butterflies in the bottom fields. The milk weed bloomed and faded without the usual crush of colorful wings. I was so upset I actually contacted my wonderful college room-mate who has since become an entomologist! She reassured me that these things come in booms and busts, and she told me that they were probably affected by the cooler spring and the Gypsy Moth spraying that may have occurred in the region this season. She told me to wait a little longer, and she was right; the butterflies are starting to show themselves! (Phew.)

I worked on the outdoor cooking area on the porch for the last few weeks, and last weekend marked the first time I was able to cook on the grill! I had to totally rebuild the gas grill, which was more of a task than I had expected. I thought I could easily pull it out, scrub it off, paint it, and replace the burner, grate and all the rest of the guts. I was so wrong! I forget sometimes that we are now living in a throw-away society, and getting parts to re-build and re-use is getting harder and harder. This experience has made me hate plastic things more, and to look more closely at what I buy! I no longer want things that I cannot open up, take apart, repair myself!
Viva La Re-use Revolution!

Yum Yum! Grilled redskin potatoes, parsnips & zukes! I love cooking on the porch, and the great thing about this is I can extend the grilling season because this grill is out of the elements, and because there is so much seating & space I no longer have to be out working the grill all by myself! I cannot wait to make a trip to one of the many farm markets this weekend and stock up on grilling items!

The barn is waiting to become a future project (I keep warning poor Oscar that the overhang on the right side is a perfect place for my chicken coop and the stalls in the barn are asking for BIG four-legged critters...), but for now the deer have made themselves at home! You can see the shine from our bicycle reflectors and a pair of very surprised eyes! Go ahead and click on the picture below to get a larger view so you can see our resident deer...

All in all, we have made so much progress... but there is always so much to do!

Friday, July 17, 2009

There's a vigil at the dishwasher...

Today is the day of the week when I wash all of Claris' dog toys in our dishwasher, and as usual, she is not happy about it. I walk around the house and the yard and gather up the Kongs, Cosmic Cones and all the other rugged & rubberized toys and give them a run through the dishwasher to clean out all the peanut butter and cereal residue that collects from use during the week.

I suspect Claris likes the toys more when they are dirty and stinky, but I don't and my vote has the power of a super-delegate, so into the steamy-hot wash they go! She will sit there, sulking, until the dishwasher beeps to indicate that the toys are done. I usually pull out the colander, run cold water over them (the Bosch Dishwasher makes things so hot I can barely hold them, and she wants to see her toys back IMMEDIATELY when they are done, so I have to cool them down), and put them on the floor for her to inspect. Once she is satisfied, she will then go back to napping on the couch or tormenting the cat, per her usual schedule...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Day at Dog Days...

While Oscar was hard at work painting, putting up a new gate and keeping up with the Dog Days Place chores, Claris & I vanished into the wilds to enjoy the wildlife and flowers around us... and as usual, he was a good sport about it.

We did some bird watching, and I tried to snap a few photos of the Scarlet Tanagers and the Indigo Buntings, but their small size and amazing speed made them very hard targets.

The Snapping Turtle who lives under the bridge in the bottom was a much easier target (dirtier, less bright and pretty, but slower and thus much easier to catch on camera). We named him lurch, and while he is a bit grumpy and reclusive, he can be very entertaining.

He shares the water with a very skittish bullfrog, and a smaller and smaller number of minnows (they are apparently tasty to all sorts of critters). Dog Days water is clear, clean, cool and filled with life, both in and all around it.

We wandered through the pasture, which was completely filled with Daisies. Claris had trouble seeing over the tall grass, so frequently hopped up and down looking for the deer to play with. Sadly, they were not in the pasture, so she made do with chasing butterflies and sniffing out the smaller creatures that inhabit the fields.

We checked out the grape vines, and I can already taste the jelly coming in September

I think this year will be a bumper crop of wild food. The berries are also looking very plentiful and the little apples are making the trees bend with their weight. I wonder if I should knock some little green apples off to make more room on the branches so that the ones left are better, but I will leave that to mother nature and let her decide what is best. I am ready for apple butter this year, and will hopefully get a good video of it for the new website I am working on, Hopefully it will be up soon, and I will be posting videos in a few weeks!

We finished playing down the mountain, and made our way back up to the cooler altitude, and back into the shade of the trees. The ferns are looking very healthy, and Claris loves investigating what might be hiding in the fronds. We have had a large contingent of bunnies this year, and they make fun chase targets (don't worry, she is far too slow to actually get close to them much less cause them any harm).

We made it back to the house, and had a snack before we relaxed on the screen porch. We have a family of Chipmunks living underneath the tent-deck behind the house, and they are far better watching than any TV show. We love squeezing onto the little wicker love seat and spending time taking in their high-speed fun and games. They are still very skittish (even though I have taken to leaving them unsalted peanuts and pecan bits to lure them out) and are very hard to take good pictures of (these are through the screens, so please forgive the fuzziness).

I have not given them names, as I cannot tell the adults apart, and the little ones have just started making their appearance outside of the protection of the deck.

Our day was full of fun, and ended the usual way these summer days do...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Hunter of Reigate

"A man went a-hunting at Reigate,
And wished to leap over a high gate.
Says the owner, "Go round,
With your gun and your hound,

For you never shall leap over my gate."
-Mother Goose

Friday, June 26, 2009

Where were you?

So sorry about the massive amount of time between posts. I could say I was hibernating, but that would not explain the entire spring going by with nary a word. The best answer is, I just did not feel like it.

Much happened in the months of "no words". I lost 50 pounds and a best friend; I gained a sister-in-law and a new kitchen. A friend is expecting his first child, and I have found the breeder (after 7 months of searching) that will bring a new hairy child into our lives and a puppy to the fields and woods of Dog Days. We took a vacation in Las Vegas, and embarked on huge, amazing projects in our work-life. It is amazing how many things can happen in such a short amount of time, and I did my best to be "present in the moment" and take in all these experiences to their fullest.

I don't miss the 50 pounds one little bit, but I am still raw about the loss of my friend. The kitchen at Dog Days is scheduled to be completed in the next few days (miracles never cease), and I am thrilled with the addition of a new family member (the wedding was beautiful and it was great to see the family, even if it was too short a trip. I look forward to the trip up to Pa. in the fall to pick up the new Pup). Young ones bring new life to the old ones and I am looking forward to the coming of new babies, both hairy and less hairy this fall. I am prepared for the mess and drool, and am having happy thoughts about how wonderful babies and puppies smell when they are new...

Vegas was great fun and we enjoyed the sights, sounds and silliness of that strange desert city. Work keeps us busy no matter what we do but this year marks massive changes and upgrades to our infrastructure, the building of which we are both integral parts.

Please forgive the large gap in this digital diary; I promise to try and do better. But as you can see, life is full and sometimes it takes you up, whirls you around and wraps you up and you can't get a good enough look at what you have done (to write it down and share it) until you come out the other side...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


–noun, plural -tus⋅es, -tus.
1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
2. a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
3. any gap or opening.
4. Grammar, Prosody. the coming together, with or without break or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily.
5. Anatomy. a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or other structure.

1555–65; < class="ital-inline">hiātus opening, gap, equiv. to hiā(re) to gape, open + -tus suffix of v. action

hi⋅a⋅tal, adjective

3. break, interval, space.

hiatus. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved May 13, 2009, from website:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SnowDog Zillionaire...

It is Summer now, with the heat reaching into the 90's in Richmond and the humidity is so high that it may be forcing me to mutate into Swamp Thing... I hibernated through most of the winter, and complained endlessly about the dreary looking Central Virginia winters. That is, until the first week of March when suddenly our home became a winter wonderland.

Claris has seen snow before, but not this much all at once. She was thrilled by this new experience, and exploded out into the snow with her usual unabashed exuberance!

I understand the running around, bouncing in and out of the drifts and the general mayhem, but she did something that I really do not understand; it must be a "dog thing", but I have never seen other dogs do this... at least not quite with this amount of intensity.

She would start frantically running all through the snow, then open her mouth as wide as she could, drop her bottom jaw to the ground and like a hairy steam shovel, plow up the snow into her gaping maw. Do dogs get "brain freeze"? If so, she must have induced several mighty painful cases that morning!

Full speed ahead!

My favorite flavor: None!

I wonder if she thought she was helping Oscar clean up all this messy cold wet white stuff?

It was pretty and fun while it lasted, but the whole family is a bunch of Summer-lovers and we are probably enjoying the warm breeze with a tropical drink on the porch at Dogs Days as you read this!