J-Pups

On Frolicking, Snow, and a Poem

We had our first snow yesterday.  Not much.  But enough to cause some roadway havoc.

I always love the first few snows of the season . . . but the dogs?  Oh, they REVEL in it!  They race around the yard, frolicking.  They rub their faces in the snow and dig and roll and chase each other.  It is Pure Dog Joy!

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Watching them play in the snow always makes me think of this perfect poem by Mary Oliver, from her book Dog Songs.

The Storm (Bear)
    --- by Mary Oliver

Now through the white orchard my little dog
    romps, breaking the new snow
    with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
    hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins,
until the white snow is written upon
    in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
    the pleasures of the body in this world.

Oh, I could not have said it better
    myself.

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Have a wonderful weekend!


Dogs on Vacation

Although our dogs come up north to our cottage with us all the time, they usually have to stay at home with a dog-sitter when we go on vacations to other places.  It was a Grand Adventure, then, for all of us, when we brought the dogs along to Beaver Island for our vacation.

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Beaver Island is completely dog-friendly - beginning with the island ferry, where the dogs got their own tickets!

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Both dogs did just great on the 2-hour ferry ride out to the island (which is in the middle of northern Lake Michigan).  They were well-behaved and pretty relaxed.  (It was tougher on our way home because the water was really rough that day, and they were somewhat uncomfortable about that.  But still good dogs!)

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On the island, we stayed in a cottage right on the lakeshore for the week.  It was pretty much dog-heaven -- with the water and the woods and the turkeys and the snakes.  So very much to check out!

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One day, the lake was super calm -- barely even a ripple on the surface.  A perfect day for swimming!  

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We had hoped for a dog-swimming-day and planned accordingly, packing water toys -- including one of Jenny's favorite blue floatation cushions.  The dogs LOVED swimming in the "big lake!"

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The shoreline of the island is mostly rocky, so it's challenging to "walk the beach" -- but there are a few bays with sandy beaches.  They are very dog-friendly (unlike most of the Lake Michigan beaches nearer to home, where dogs are not allowed - even on leash) and the dogs were welcome.  We were able to let them off-leash where they could walk along with us, free to explore and roam a little.

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They LOVED it!

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And we did our part to keep the beaches walk-able for everyone. . . 

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It truly was a Grand Adventure for all of us -- J-pups included.

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And, as an update, Jenny is feeling much better.  (She got into the trash at our cabin on the last night of our vacation. . . )  We're still waiting for her to pass whatever "interesting thing" she ate -- but she's eating again, and acting like her usual cantankerous self!


Decade Dog

 Saturday we celebrated Jenny's 10th birthday . . . 

with a long walk on the trail at Asylum Lake

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and special dog treats --  dog-hamburgers on the grill and special doggy-cones at our neighborhood ice cream parlor. 

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Jenny enjoyed all the special attention (and JoJo loved tagging along for the fun).

But it go me thinking . . . 

Ten years . . . they go by in the blink of an eye.

(But in dog years???  Even faster!)

The summer we got Jenny - as an 8-week-old pup - Erin had just graduated from high school,

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and Brian was a gawky high school freshman!

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We had recently lost our 14-year-old German Shepherd, Jake, and were all still grieving when Jenny came along to fill the hole in our lives (and hearts).

She fit right in to our family, and quickly became a beloved member of our "pack."

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She's been very healthy and low-maintenance -- except for her two "knee replacement" surgeries, of course.  But those surgeries were totally worth it -- as she now has "bionic knees" and shows no signs of arthritis.  (She's in for the long haul.)

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It took awhile, but she's (pretty much) forgiven us for bringing JoJo into her life 4 years ago.

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Even though Jenny is quite a diva about the whole thing, she and JoJo get along well and seem to enjoy sharing the same space.

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There's some healthy rivalry there, sure.  JoJo's youthful exuberance drives Jenny crazy sometimes . . . but there is no doubt, really, about who is boss.

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Happy birthday, Jenny . . . our Decade Dog!

 


Out and About

Last Friday, we had the first day that's really felt like spring (well . . . since February . . . ), so I decided to take the dogs for a trail walk.

Let's just say . . . 

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BIG HIT!

Although I take them out for a neighborhood walk nearly every day (which they love), our routes are completely "old hat" by now.  There just aren't very many surprises or curiousities on our walks in the neighborhood, y'know?

So they loved getting out in the woods.  On a trail.  With millions of fresh smells!  (Oh, happy day.)

It was great to be out, enjoying a beautiful spring day in the sunshine.  

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We went to Asylum Lake,* which is only about a 10 minute drive from my house.  There is a trail that loops about 2.6 miles, past the lake, beside a little stream, and through a meadow.

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It's very nice -- and especially with the dogs.  They really do love getting out and exploring -- although it was hard to keep them out of the water.  (Jenny plunged right into the creek, pulling JoJo -- and almost me, too -- with her.)

Best of all?  Lovely weather -- with sunshine and warm temperatures.

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There really wasn't any evidence of "spring" quite yet in the woods, but soon.  Very soon, I'm sure.

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For now, it was great to just be . . . out and about . . . with my very happy dogs!

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*  Asylum Lake is located on the former grounds of the Michigan State Asylum (yeah . . . ), now part of the Western Michigan University campus.


Morning Ritual . . . Now With Added Tail-Wagging

A couple of years ago, I added meditation to my daily morning ritual.  I discovered that meditation was a powerful tool for me; that it helped me feel centered and prepared to meet the day.

But then . . . last year . . . lots of my regular habits and rituals started to unravel.  Including my budding meditation practice.  (Like I've mentioned before . . . I lost my balance last year.)

So.

I decided to use last month's One Little Word challenge (to develop a new habit or activity) as an opportunity to put meditation back into my daily morning ritual; to get myself back in balance.

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With a few exceptions, my focus on daily meditation was a great success, and the practice is now rooted in my morning ritual.

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I've discovered a few things along the way.

  • If I let the morning get away without meditation, it's much harder for me to find a way to fold it into my day later.  (Those days I missed?  It's because my morning was crazier than normal that day.)
  • It helps to have a designated place for meditation -- and a signal to let Tom know I'm meditating and not to disturb me.  (I close the door - and then Tom remembers that I'm meditating.)
  • I really like having a candle burning . . . even though I tend to close my eyes during meditation.
  • Soft, gentle music playing in the background helps me stay focused.
  • No distractions allowed.  No phone.  No Tom.  No dogs.

But wait a minute.

No dogs???

While Tom understands that a closed door means Do Not Disturb . . . the dogs?  Not so much.  They sit on the other side of the closed door and try to get in.  Loudly.  Distractingly.  (And sort of pathetically.)

After several days of trying to keep them out, I decided to give in and let them come in with me for daily meditation.

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We begin the ritual with some petting and tail-wagging.  Maybe a dog-kiss or two.  And then we all settle into our places.  JoJo usually to my right, and Jenny right behind me.

Turns out my daily meditation practice is enhanced with dogs.  And I think this is really okay.  Because, for me, interacting with my dogs is a great way to get into a more mindful state of being.

And I think they like it, too!

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Have a great weekend!

 


Hygge Weather

It started snowing here on Friday.

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And, with only a brief pause Saturday afternoon, it hasn't stopped yet.  (Although definitely tapering down now.)

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Yeah.  Garden Buddha . . . wearing his little snow-cap at noon on Sunday.  Now?  Well, now you can't see his face.

But this is perfect hygge-weather!  

The dogs LOVE to romp in the snow.

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We enjoyed a little time out in the snow -- I filled the bird feeders while Tom threw snowballs (JoJo loves to chase snowballs).  I took a lot of photos.  

And Tom and I got out to the gym and to see a movie.

Inside, though, it was All-Hygge-All-the-Time!

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I hope your weekend was nice and cozy and hygge-filled, too.

 


Gold Rush

28/30

Tom is contributing to NaBloPoMo this year by writing the following "guest blog."  Enjoy!

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Jenny, top dog in the pack, the sheriff, not inclined to suffer fools or foolishness. Attitude. But, beneath it all she is a lab mix, always on the make for food, insatiable.

Just before Thanksgiving, Kym has placed chocolate kisses, a mix of plain and almond in a dish on the low-slung coffee table. Amid regular visits to the dish, I find it empty and so transfer the partial bags to refill the dish, pleased with the abundance of almond in the mix.

Next day, a full dish, but all plain, no almond. Strange.

Later, an empty dish. I confer with Kym and we conclude that the dogs have been into the kisses. Interrogation begins. Jo Jo looks vaguely guilty but clueless (as usual); Jenny however looks Very guilty. That was a lot of chocolate, and what’s more, there are no wrappers around meaning that the foil was part of the feast.

I know that dogs are sensitive to chocolate. Caffeine and related compounds like theophylline. But milk chocolate is better than dark, less dangerous. But what of the wrappers? I am also concerned about blockage. We wait.

Over the next couple days Jenny coughs up a few soggy foil wrappers, but not enough to account for what was eaten ("missing mass" in technical terms). Then, Jenny appears to have a bowel movement out back one night. When she’s done, I take a flashlight to investigate. I find it and…EUREKA! A silver-encrusted nugget fit for a miner’s dream. Striated veins of glittering ore run through the turd; Together with the relieved dawning that this too shall pass.


Letting Go

A couple of years ago, I decided to spread my wings a bit . . . and take a drawing class at the KIA (our local art museum and art school).  Although I took several art classes in high school and college, I hadn't dabbled in "official" art-making for . . . decades.  

It felt good.  But I felt pretty much like a fraud.

Last fall, I stumbled into my first colored pencil class. . . and I loved it!  The instructor was wonderful -- inspiring and supportive, and my classmates were great (for the most part; there's always . . . Someone; y'know?).  Still.  Fraud.  I was super hesitant about my work.  Slow.  Careful.  Overly cautious.

For example, it took me agonizing weeks to work through this piece (which I now refer to as "Snout I"):

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At the end of that first course, the instructor provided each of us with a carefully written "critique" of our work.  Mine?  Very positive.  But.  She also pointed out my greatest obstacles:  hesitation, second-guessing, fearfulness.  She encouraged me to, "make mistakes and try to figure out ways to fix them."

Those words. . . rang through my head.

Kind of like alarm bells.

In fact, her words were the very words that led me to my "one little word" this year:  RISK.

Make mistakes and figure out ways to fix them.

I'm here to say . . . I've come a long way since my first colored pencil class.  Not necessarily with my art, but with mistakes.  I went WAY out on a limb . . . and took a watercolor class last spring.  (Different instructor, but also very supportive.)  This was a huge risk for me -- because I had no experience with watercolor.  AND because there are no erasers in watercolor.  (Every time you wet your brush, you're taking a risk.)

Watercolor was a game-changer for me in terms of letting go and making mistakes, and I started just kind of  . . . going for it.  Realizing, finally, that this art of mine is really JUST for ME.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't?  Fix it. Or pitch it.   

RISK.

This last Saturday, I took a one-day colored pencil workshop.  I think my instructor (that same one) was more thrilled than I was -- when I completed (except for the background) this drawing of Jenny during the day-long class.  (I call it "Snout II.")

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I took a RISK.

I made some mistakes.

I fixed them.

It worked out.

It's very freeing . . . to let go.