Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Had lunch with John today at McDonalds in between his work hours and my trip home from the Doctor in Kansas City.

I got to tell him all about what I said and what the doctor said and what all was wrong with me, ( I was attacked by a shopping cart in a 30-mile-an-hour wind) and how it would get fixed. I think John really enjoyed this little chat. I know I did. You know how us old people like to discuss such things.

Also the doctor was very nice to me. I think it was more than just that doctors are always nice to old people. I can’t help but think he was impressed with my style sense. John thought the brown sweater and electric blue blouse was a real eye catcher but as for me the gray plaid pants were what really set the outfit off. And no, I did not wear my tennis shoes, even though those little pointy toed slipper things hurt like the devil and made me limp. It reminded me how my knee hurt so I asked the doctor about that too.

I had to wait awhile in the little room where they put you at the last, while the doctor looked at the latest x-rays and the MRI. I betcha I glow in the dark by now. I will report on that later if I can stay awake late enough to notice.

They had some really neat charts on the wall with pictures of all sorts of stuff that can go wrong and I found one I thought was probably my knee and it said that forcing the leg to turn too sharply caused a tear in the messeosis or something. Sure enough, when I told the doctor the problem with my knee he said, “It is probably a torn messeoiss…..” Heck, I bet I could be a bone doctor.

On the way home I stopped at Sarah’s office and told her what I said and what the doctor said and all about the messiosis thing and we had a nice chat too but her eyes were bothering her or something because they kept wandering to a stack of papers she had on her desk and back to the computer and when she looked right at me her eyes looked kind of blank. I hope it’s nothing catching.

I’ve had my fill of doctors for awhile.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Parakeet

I’ve never been much of a bird lover and John’s nasty little Parakeet didn’t change it one bit. The hateful little critter resented me and the feeling was mutual. She was a nasty creature, tossing bird clutter all over her cage and onto the floor and as far as I was concerned, just another stinky thing for me to clean up.

She and I had this adversarial thing going and it didn’t end until her untimely death which WAS NOT MY FAULT.

Peace would reign and she would be sitting quietly on her little stick. I would walk into the room and she would begin bouncing and shrieking and tossing bird trash around like a demented person. I would shriek back at her and throw a dish rag or a dirty sock or a wadded up newspaper at her or try to sic the cat on her but the cat was never really interested..he was into mice and God only knows we had plenty of those….but the bird would not shut up until I covered her cage with a sheet.

After supper, while everyone else, including the bird, was taking their rest and enjoying the TV and family time without me in the living room, I would spend another hour cleaning the kitchen and getting clothes ready for the next day.

The bird would be chortling gently in her cage in the corner of the living room, preening her feathers, enjoying life and my husband and children would be laughing at something really entertaining on TV or each other. It was really irritating and I was generally drowning in self pity by then anyway so the bird didn’t help at all.

No matter how quiet I tried to be, as soon as I stepped into the room the bird would start shrieking and raising cane so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone a conversation or the TV.

And we would be back at the old..bird shrieks, I throw dirty sock, bird shrieks, I throw wadded up newspaper,, bird shrieks.. but soon I would give up because John would be glaring at it was my fault!! And he would talk sweetly to the nasty little thing and promise all sorts of rewards which only I could possibly come up with and had no intention of providing and the bird would sit calmly and tip it’s little green head like it was really a very nice person after all and act like it was listening reverently to everything John said. Ha!!.

I have to say that I had no remorse at all later, on that final day, running three red lights to get the tiny bunch of feathers in the cigar box to the vet, no remorse at all.

And I would not even remember it except for the tears on John’s cheeks when we finally came to a stop at the vet’s door and he said in the choking voice of an almost man child trying not to cry, “It’s too late, Mom. I think it’s too late.”

And it was.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Stupid was one of a large litter born one February to Susie, a Great Pyrenees, whose mountain instincts drove her to seek the wettest, coldest corner of the barn for the event. Efforts to move her to a warmer spot were seriously rejected and Stupid was the only survivor.

Stupid’s father was the neighbor’s delinquent Dalmatian whose one accomplishment in his rather short life….he got hit by the school bus…was the ability to climb the eight-foot woven wire fence to develop a relationship with Susie.

Susie, an absolute marvel at her livestock guardian duties, was a nonchalant mother and only visited the pup twice a day to let her nurse. Even at that the pup, a tiny handful at birth, grew phenomenally and within a week had quadrupled in size. But she was lonesome in her cold, wet hole in the corner of the barn and cried piteously at regular intervals for the first couple of days. Susie, deaf to the pup’s pleas, continued to spend her days and nights meeting her responsibilities to the herd.

But Maggie, whose own chance at motherhood had been cut short by surgery in her youth, heard the whimpering pup and the nurturing devotion of her Shepherd blood responded. On the morning of the third day after Susie left the barn for the field with her livestock charges, Maggie ran to the barn and found the pup and their relationship began.

Maggie spent her days with the pup, only leaving when it was time for Susie’s return. By the end of the week, except for the twice a day nursings, Maggie was the pup’s mother. Thanks to Maggie, the muddy little dirtball in the corner of the barn soon became a white ball of soft fuzz. She cleaned her and tumbled her and loved her to exhaustion until the pup would fall asleep between her front paws and I would find them there sleeping, Maggie’s nose resting on the pups fat tummy.

As the pup grew, Susie became even more detached, if possible, and Maggie no longer left at nursing time. I don’t know if Susie appreciated Maggie’s help but she certainly didn’t disapprove. Between the two of them the pup grew..and grew…and grew.

Surprisingly, Stupid lost her white baby fuzz and soon black spots, another gift from her father, dappled her sleek whiteness. She was also huge, a gift from her Great Pyrenees mother, and far bigger than Maggie. What she became was a beautiful coach dog like you see in old pictures riding on fire trucks. Stupid was beautiful!

But Stupid is as stupid does and Stupid earned her name, partly because of her comically awkward habits of tripping over feet that grew too quickly and running into barn doors and tumbling off woodpiles and hay bales. She climbed, (probably a trait inherited from her father) and couldn’t get down without falling. She got stuck going into places that had no way out. She gnawed strips off shed doors and dug up freshly planted tulip bulbs.

Stupid, I thought, was just plain stupid.

Definitely a slow learner, she misbehaved wildly and often, grabbing food right out of my hand, or another dogs mouth, scattering the chicken feed, spilling the dog water, pouncing on the hens and ducklings and jumping on guests.

But slowly, with a two steps forward and a step back kind of progress, Stupid began to learn. Thanks to Maggie, I began to see improvements in her behavior. It had become apparent early on that Maggie shielded the pup from my somewhat harsh discipline. If Stupid jumped on a guest she was severely chastised verbally and with a hard placed knee into her chest. If she was caught chasing a member of the poultry family she was thumped soundly and tied to the barn door for a day.

At first Maggie tried to forestall the pups discipline by placing her own body between me and the pup as soon as I raised my voice. This I couldn’t allow and therefore it did not work. But Maggie did not give up. She began her own discipline and I must say it worked better than mine. She simply put herself between the pup and whatever wicked entertainment Stupid was contemplating. When Stupid lost control at the sight of the newly hatched chicks and their tiny mother, Maggie was there blocking her path. The scattering-the-chicken-feed game ended. Twice I saw Maggie run the pup to the barn as I tossed the corn out for the free ranging hens.

I knew the battle was won when one bright morning Maggie, sitting obediently at my feet waiting for her special treat reserved for after-chore time, was joined by a solemn and decorous black and white spotted beauty known as Stupid. Stupid had never been given a treat at this time. She had not earned it and always tried unsuccessfully to take Maggie’s.

Maggie had been trained to sit, both by my saying the word “sit” or simply lowering my hand from chest high toward the ground. At either signal she would sit motionless for a reasonable length of time. I admit this was the only trick I ever taught her but it came in handy many times.

That morning Stupid lowered her bulk into the “sit” position beside Maggie, glancing first at me, then at Maggie, whom she now looked down on from her superior size, back to me, and back to Maggie. Unsatisfied with her own posture she scrunched her hind quarters a little forward and sat more compactly. Again she looked at me and back at Maggie. Apparently satisfied she fixed her gaze on me and waited for the treat.

She got her treat. Stupid may have been stupid but she had something better than superior brain power and better than beauty. Stupid wanted to learn.

And so learn she did. Not everything was uphill and hard work. Maggie taught her a lot of fun stuff like how to wrestle and how to get a cripple-grip on a foreleg in case she was ever in a fight to the death. Maggie had never had to use the dread cripple-grip herself but instinct told her how vital this was for a young dog to know. She taught her never to turn down surplus food but to run to the back of the barn with it to be buried in the manure pile. She taught her to relax in the heat of the day and to use the cool mornings for tug of war games with sticks and old feed sacks and other stuff that made strong jaws and sharpened reflexes.

And then one day Stupid was all grown up!

And the question had to be asked. What place did she have here? What was her job?

Susie, her mother, was totally and consistently committed to the herd and filled that position with awesome capability, taking the goats to pasture each morning, guarding against predators all day and in emergencies, such as gun shots, firecrackers, loud and unusual machinery rumbling by or rain, thunder and lightening, brought them back to the safety of the barn at a dead run. And every night, good weather and bad, she led them back to the barn for the night, occasionally falling to the rear to check for stragglers and little ones. But Stupid had no interest in the livestock.

Maggie, with the exception of her nurturing devotion to the rearing of Stupid, has had no allegiance to anyone or anything except myself and the tasks I required of her. In her youth she kept guard beneath my window each night, accompanied me every morning at chores and held livestock at bay so I could feed and water without fear of being trampled.

At my order, “Hold ‘em, Maggie” she would drive back the overly eager herd that threatened to flatten my none-too-good fence. As Maggie saw her responsibility, I was it! Even today, after eighteen years, except in the most inclement weather, she still sleeps on guard across my back doorsill. But Stupid, although friendly and gentle, looked upon me only as a provider and periodic disciplinarian.

What was there here for Stupid?

I needn’t have worried. Stupid, never leaving the yard, became the self-appointed gatekeeper and was soon very effective at the job. She lay at the end of the drive all alone, easily visible in her flamboyant black and white coat, and no one entered or left without her inspection. Friends were greeted, politely searched and escorted to the house. Strangers, entranced by her beauty, often made the mistake of taking liberties and were soon put in their place. Wanderers no longer used our drive as a turn-a-round. Neighbors’ dogs no longer left their calling cards at our driveway entrance. Stupid took her job very seriously.

But three big dogs were more than I could maintain. Stupid had received the regular medical care, as were all critters on the farm, and was spayed, vaccinated and wormed as needed. These things do not come cheap and feeding costs were getting out of hand. I half heartedly decided that I needed to find a home for Stupid. But she was such a great dog. Such a beauty and so full of character. Maggie had done her job well. It had to be just the right kind of home. It had to be just the right kind of situation. It had to be just the right kind of person.

I talked to my vet and we put a sign up in his office. I definitely wanted someone who valued their dog people enough to know the vet. Within a week a call came and a lady wanted to stop by and see my dog. She gave me her name and we made arrangements for her visit. I called the vet and talked to Bridgett, the receptionist to get a character reference on the caller. It was good. On the agreed upon day I called Stupid back from the gate and tied her to the yard gate near the house. (I had had my fill of animals mysteriously disappearing for a few days when their departure from the place was imminent.)

The lady drove down the unguarded drive and I knew by the look on her face when she saw the glorious Stupid in her sleek maturity that she was a goner but I agreed that she should definitely check out the animal shelter before making a decision. The pup, no longer a pup, and a friendly sort at heart, took to the lady. I think she thought she was going to untie her. She hated to be tied.

Late in the afternoon the lady returned and said she had seen nothing as great as my dog and would love to have her. We agreed that if it didn’t work out the dog would be returned A.S.A.P. Stupid, having been tied to the yard gate most of the day was more than willing to make nice and go anywhere with anybody.

As for the lady, she lived just a mile or two to the northeast and raised exotic animals! What she needed and wanted was a gatekeeper to discourage the questionably curious.

She asked me what the dog’s name was. I looked up toward the gate that had been so ably guarded, I glanced down at Maggie who was staring me right in the eye, and off over the pasture, hazy and misting up over the pond in the twilight….. I looked the lady right in the eye and said,

“Her name is Misty. We call her Misty.”