Monthly Archives: October 2008

Short break for Halloween

     Tomorrow we begin preparations for Friday’s Trick or Treat night.  My neighbor and I will carve only four pumpkins this year.  Hate to admit it, but we are getting older and if we carve more than two pumpkins apiece, our hands are killing us for days.  To top it off, my porch is so crowded with Halloween props that four pumpkins will be quite enough. 

     I won’t have a moment to spare for the blog during the next two days.  Not only will we carve pumpkins on Thursday, but also we will begin cooking up a storm for our annual party that we have as soon as the kids are off the streets Trick or Treat night.  

     All day Friday, we’ll decorate the porch-we have to have everything in place, working, and be in costume by six o’clock.  (Occasionally, we’ve had kids arrive as early as five o’clock.)  We’ll put the final touches on the inside party food and when the clock hits six we’ll start the fog machine and crank up the music.  When eight o’clock rolls around, the people we’ve invited to join us are already here or they begin to show up at the door and our party begins. 

     See you Saturday…

Malcolm’s predecessor, Joey

     Joey was with us for only a short time, he was all white except for a tiny patch of brown over one eye.  He was my introduction not only to the dog show ring but also to the stage.  

     It began with a Saint Patrick’s Day parade.  I’d walked him the four blocks from our house to where the parade would go by to see how he’d respond to the noise and excitement.  This was after he’d had a few dog shows under his belt, so to speak, and he enjoyed being in the crowd getting attention. 

     At one point, a very excited man and woman ran up to me.  Both were babbling about how perfect Joey was.  I placed myself between them and my dog wondering what these people were after.  Imagine my surprise when they told me he was the director of a local production of ‘Oliver!’ and they wanted to use my dog in the play.  What fun! 

     We went to rehearsals.  He learned his musical cues and loved the cast especially the kids.  However, we found out opening night that he didn’t like curtain calls.  All that applause scared him.  He’d try to hide behind the nearest person, part of the set, or run off stage to find me.  By the third performance he’d become more used to the sound and didn’t try to hide or run off stage. 

     Two months after his final performance, and at the age of twenty-two months, we lost him to the kidney problem I spoke of in an earlier post.  For months after that I’d run into cast members and they’d ask me about him.  I felt awful telling them he’d died.  Joey went out as a local star and he started a stage tradition for Malcolm and me to follow in the years to come.

Malcolm’s Mayhem 7

     My first experiences with dog shows began with Malcolm’s predecessor, Joey.  We’d started with a match show as part of a dare between a neighbor and me.  She entered her Pomeranian and I entered my Bull Terrier, Joey.  She chickened out and didn’t show her dog.  I didn’t chicken out and my dog won.  That was it; hook, line and sinker, the dog show world had me. 

     Malcolm the ham loved dog shows.  His first show was an outdoor summer match show.  He was the only Bull Terrier entered, which meant we had a trot around the ring, and the judge handed us a first place ribbon.  La-di-da, no big deal, but Malcolm loved it, showed beautifully, and made us proud.  We stayed for terrier group.  At that point, Dear Hubby and I had figured the experience for Malcolm was good, but we’d never do anything in the group ring that day. 

     Group ring for Malcolm was like obedience classes at home.  Malcolm, the obedience class clown had a brand new audience.  By the time terrier group began, the temperature had hit 89 degrees and was still climbing.  Rested, watered, kept cool, Malcolm was eager to strut his stuff.  

     Malcolm sparkled when he entered the ring.  DH snapped pictures like crazy.  We lined up with all the other terrier breeds and waited for our turn.  He was an angel and stood like a stone when the judge went over him.  Malcolm didn’t need me on the end of the leash.  He showed himself, loose lead, and flawless turns, stopped in front of the judge and stacked to perfection.  The judge motioned us to the end of the line and went on to the next dog. 

     After the judge had gone over all the dogs, she sent us all around the ring one last time. 

     I wasn’t sure but I thought she pointed at us and said, “First.” 

     I turned to the woman next to me and asked, “Did she mean us?”

     She flashed me a huge smile and said, “Yes, get up to the head of the line.” 

     DH was going nuts with the camera.  Malcolm and I went to the front of the line.  The judge handed me a Group First ribbon and a small trophy.  I couldn’t tell you how many hands I shook as we left the ring.  Malcolm stopped every few feet to pose for pictures his tail a blur. 

     Outside of the ring, after loving on Malcolm, I turned to DH and said, “You know this means we have to stay for best in show, don’t you?” 

     He made a quick check of his camera, “Damn, I’m almost out of film.” 

     We went back to the van, covered Malcolm in a cold, wet T-shirt, gave him water and treats, and waited for the best in show competition.  My nerves thrummed.  Malcolm took a nap. 

     The call came over the intercom, “Best of show competition, ring 5 in twenty minutes.”

     By now, the temperature had hit 95 degrees.  We headed for the ring.  It was in full sun, not a speck of shade.  We stood in line, the judge checked each dog, and sent them down the ring and back. 

     Next thing I knew Malcolm and I were singled out and standing next to a Yorkshire terrier and its handler.  The judge had the Yorkie and its handler walk down the center of the ring and back.  He had Malcolm and I go down and back.  He stood back, stared and had us repeat it.  Down and back. 

     The fourth time Malcolm made a decision, if the judge couldn’t decide he’d do it for him.  It was hot out there.  We went down the ring, we came back, and Malcolm did not stack himself.  Instead, he looked the judge in the eye and sat down.  No treat in the world, no amount of nudging would make him stand.  He’d had enough of the judge’s indecision.  He didn’t win the Best in Show ribbon that day, but we didn’t care.

Now that’s a scary costume!

     Today my best friend cracked me up while talking about her five-year-old grandson.  Last year he went Trick or Treating dressed as a ninja.  He’ll wear the same costume this year, he’s happy with that.  However, he’s already made his costume choice for next year.  It won’t be a ninja. 

     My friend was cooking dinner for her hubby and their grandson who was spending the night with them.  Grandpa and Grandson were sitting on the living room floor playing with a new set of Leggos they’d bought him that day.  My friend was taking pleasure from listening to their conversation. 

     The conversation turned from what they were building with the Leggos to Trick or Treating.  Grandpa asked the little one what he was going to wear to go Trick or Treating.  Their grandson with no hesitation told him he was wearing last year’s costume again but he already knew what next year’s was going to be.  

     Grandpa asked, “What are you going to wear next year?”

     The five year old paused a moment and then in a serious voice answered, “Well, Grandpa.  Next year, I’m going to dress as a teenager.”

     Grandpa replied, “Now that’s a scary costume.” 

     That’s when the severe case of the giggles in the kitchen began.

Malcolm’s Mayhem 6

     A week after we’d lost our young male Bull Terrier, Joey to a congenital kidney defect we were visiting his breeder.  She’d offered to replace our pup and was showing us the dogs she had available.  I took pictures of them so we could take them home and think about which one we wanted.  

     One dog in particular stood out.  We kept going back to his picture.  He was ten months old.  In the three pictures I’d taken of him, he was sitting, had his paws on the kennel run fence, and had a look on his face as if he were saying to us, “Psssst, you.  Come over here.  Have I got a joke for you!” 

     The following weekend we brought Malcolm home.  As soon as our third Bull Terrier entered our lives, we realized that our new dog was going to be a real hoot.  Malcolm was a ham.  

     This dog, when being walked down the street, expected everyone to stop and pet him because normally everyone did.  One day, while Dear Hubby and Malcolm were out walking, a person walked towards them, Malcolm got excited.  Malcolm stopped.  He sat down and waited for the expected attention.  The person walked past them, he didn’t pause, he didn’t stop, and he didn’t pet.  The poor dog looked stunned. 

     DH laughed and told Malcolm that the world didn’t revolve around him.  They continued their walk.  However, Malcolm couldn’t stop thinking about that missed petting.  The poor distracted, dejected, and disillusioned dog kept looking back at the person who’d ignored him.  Malcolm became so preoccupied looking over his shoulder that he walked smack into a telephone pole.

I love Halloween but….

     For thirty-five years, we’ve gone all out on Halloween.  We even wear costumes to hand out candy.  This year is no different. 

     On October first, I put black garland twined with orange lights along the edge of the porch roof and stapled glow in the dark plastic spider webs to the struts on the sides.  The fancier lights and decorations don’t go outside until the day of our city’s designated Trick or Treat night.  My best friend and I will spend the entire day of the ‘designated night’ decorating my front porch. 

     Trick or Treat night falls on Halloween for a change, and our city limits the hours to between 6 and 8 p.m. (No fair!)  I want to stay out there later.  I have too much fun playing with my fog machine and animated props.  Sometimes on a rare, warm Trick or Treat night, we will pass out candy until 10.  

     We have hordes of Trick or Treaters arrive.  Meatloaf, Queen, and the old Halloween stand bys blast from speakers.  Wildly Witchy, I dip into my cauldron and pass out candy by the handful.  It’s true, I enjoy thinking about sugar-hyper kids who bounce off the walls and drive their parents crazy all night.  Why should I be the only person who has trouble sleeping? 

     I always love the comments the people make about our display.  However, the last few years I’ve heard a few remarks a great deal scarier than the spookiest of costumes.  These were from numerous parents who brought their kids to our house. 

     “I’ve always loved coming to your house on Halloween!  I used to Trick or Treat here when I was a kid.”  Those people had graying hair and were with children who weren’t toddlers.  


My Snoopy card.

     Above my desk sits a card sent to me by my wonderful Aunties.  It has Snoopy and Woodstock on the front.  Above the picture are the words, “Here’s the world-famous author at work.”  Snoopy is typing; It was a dark and stormy night.  Suddenly a shout rang out.  When you open the card, the center pops up and there are Snoopy and Woodstock in silly hats.  Surprise!  Happy Birthday!  They sent it to me a few birthdays ago.  I keep it on my desk to remind me that these amazing ladies have always been supportive of my writing.  They have faith that they will see my books published one day. 

     It’s heartwarming to have a cheering section-people who believe in you and who don’t belittle what you are doing.  To all those people (related and not related to me) who cheer me on, keep me encouraged, and don’t call my writing a ‘nice little hobby’ I say thank you and I won’t let you down. 

     Then there’s Dear Hubby who will proudly tell everyone that I’m a writer.  He’s my rock.  On those days where I’m groping for words to write and they won’t come, he is willing to listen to me and offer ideas.  To him I say, thank you for believing in me, for loving me (even when I’m going crazy with my writing), for being there for me when I need you, for letting me sleep in a little later when I’ve been up all night writing, and most of all, thank you for 35 years of laughter and love.

Malcolm’s Mayhem 5

     We’ve owned or rather, over the years, seven Bull Terriers have owned US.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned in those many years is when given half a chance, a Bull Terrier will eat almost anything. 

     One incident comes to mind.  Do you remember those gumball style machines that had tiny toys in them?  For a quarter, you got a cheap toy, and many times, it was a tiny Superball.  The neighborhood kids had dozens of them.  Knowing my pup had a penchant for anything made of rubber, I asked them to let me know if they accidentally bounced any into the yard.  I wanted to find them before Malcolm did.  Usually the kids did darned well about letting me know so I could return the toys.  However, one day they forgot. 

     Two days later Malcolm fell ill.  We made a quick vet run.  Our vet ran a series of tests and took x-rays.  All he could see was that Malcolm had a blockage right below his stomach. 

     “Surgery,” he said.

     I panicked.  We had to leave him there over night.  The next afternoon we received a call that Malcolm went through surgery with no problems and the vet wanted us to come in.  We raced to the office.

     Our vet brought out a container and inside it were one Superball and an end piece of a Kong toy.

     “I found the Kong in the stomach but that wasn’t causing the blockage.”  He pointed to the Superball.  “This was the problem.  Luckily, I didn’t have to cut into the intestines or the stomach.  I only had to do the abdominal incision.  I was able to work this ball out of the intestine and up into the stomach where I retrieved it with the scope.”

     They kept him another night and the next day we brought him home to the tune of $750.00.  (I still tell people that I own the world’s most expensive Superball)  Malcolm had a long belly incision but he healed rapidly.

     For the rest of his life, whenever we took him to the vet, he’d flop on his back, splay all four feet out, and show off his scar never failing to crack up the staff.

My van is haunted.

     My old brown van was a faithful friend.  Baby traveled long distances repeatedly and without protest.  Shabby and nearly naked of paint, she limped along on her second transmission her last few years, and I didn’t trust driving her far from home.  Last fall she died.  We couldn’t afford a new vehicle so I bought another used mini-van.  This one is white. 

     For a little while, the new, used van was without a single problem.  Then odd things began to happen.  It started with the door locks.  Normally they would lock when I hit fifteen miles per hour, and this was fine.  Now they lock, unlock, lock, and unlock while I’m driving.  I’m used to it now but this startles friends.   Especially when I say,  “Oh, did I tell you that my van is haunted?” 

     They give me that look normally reserved for the crazy people with the tin foil hats. 

     I hit the turn signals and the wipers go on, I have to turn them on and off to get them to stop.  Again, I say, “Haunted.”  I’m having fun but I don’t think my friends are.  I grin.  

     They laugh nervously and give me a sidelong look.  

     When I make a hard right or left, my wipers go on.  I’ve been finding fingernail marks in the upholstery lately. 

     It could be that my driving scares the crap out of them.  Then again, it could be the van. 

     I’m rethinking this van’s name I don’t think the one I’d chosen when I first got it fits.  Maybe Casper?

Frost and squirrels in the forecast

     I’d hoped to squeeze another week out of the nice weather before I had to dig out some of my more delicate plants.  It didn’t happen.  Last night we had frost.  Now I have to find the time and energy to dig out all my black elephant ears and calla lilies. 

     Today I had planned to move some of my tulip bulbs to another part of the garden.  However, after discovering a trail of bulb crumbs that led to the base of the magnolia tree, I found that the squirrels had beaten me to them.  They had not only dug up and eaten the tulip bulbs, but they’d buried peanuts in their place.  Someone is feeding the tree rats again.  Not only have I found buried peanuts but also there have been walnuts, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts.  The squirrels raided my tomatoes.  They absconded with all we had left on the plants.  All of them still green, but we’d looked forward to having those fried.  They even sampled one of my jalapeño peppers.  The blasted tree rats are eating better than we are. 

     The pups keep trying to catch the squirrels but have found gravity doesn’t help them when it comes to climbing trees. 

     We’ve begun to prepare the pond for the winter.  Sometime this week I’ll drag the netting from the back porch to cover the pond and keep out most of the leaves.  I’d better hurry because the leaves are dropping faster than the temperature.  We found out that we have to keep the netting raised about three or four inches from the ground, so the frogs can move about until they go into hibernation.  Last year the bullfrogs were not amused when we had some temperate weather and they couldn’t leave the pond to hunt.  I had to raise the edges of the netting to allow them access.

Malcolm’s Mayhem 4

     There are limits to how much lunacy even a Bull Terrier owner can endure.  I hit that limit after several weeks of daily company.  I don’t remember a time where I was so glad for a family reunion to end.  During the reunion, we had a houseful of people, much to Malcolm’s utter joy.  

     There was my mother, who thought Bull Terriers were the homeliest of dogs.  My older sister, her husband, and two daughters, ages four and nine.  Then, my younger sister, her husband, and her two sons ages one and four.  It was during this visit that I discovered exactly how much trouble one enthusiastic Bull Terrier and two four year olds could get into.  

     Malcolm was famous (or is that infamous?) for his love of mischief, he had a real nose for finding trouble.  This sixty-five pound white dog, with his two four-year-old allies, succeeded in making my house look like a nuclear disaster area. 

     I called this faction ‘Malcolm’s marauders’ which amused Dear Hubby.  However, I never used the term within earshot of the sisters.  The marauders also managed to terrorize our poor cat to where she only crept out of hiding after everyone left for the night.  

     Malcolm was in his glory.  Chaos reigned.  The dog had a blast leading his two willing victims into trouble.  Always playing the innocent bystander, he’d sit back, tail a wag, eyes twinkling with merriment, while his cohorts caught hell.  That dumb, innocent look saved his hide from both sisters’ wrath many times.  

     Okay, I admit I found it a hoot.  After all, neither sister was the least bit familiar with how much trouble a Bull Terrier could get into all on his own.  Moreover, I am guilty of not pointing out the fact that he was the leader of that small group of bandits.  Things were quiet after they left.  

     Then the new rescue dog arrived.

Oh, opossum!

    Like many people, we have a metal storage shed in our back yard.  Sometimes Dear Hubby forgets to close the door.  When I find it opened, I close it.  A few years ago, I learned to check inside the shed before I close it.  One never knows what could wander in there. 

     Upon entering the shed one bright morning, looking for a small item I knew was in there, and knew that without a flashlight I’d never find it.  I blithely shined the flashlight towards the back wall of the shed whereupon I spied a naked rat-like tail.  As I moved the light along the tail I thought, Oh, please tell me that’s not a…rat, HOLY CRAP that’s a big freakin’ rat tail…er-oh, thank God it’s an opossum!  Then he bared his teeth and hissed. 

     I jumped back, slammed the shed doors closed, and pondered what to do about the critter with the sharp white teeth who had rudely hissed at me.  DH was at work.  Well, it least it’s not a gigantic rat.  I couldn’t leave him in there, the dogs would sniff him out, and then I’d really have my hands full.  I’m not into carnage and chaos. 

     I’ve worked as a vet tech among my many and varied occupations so using that experience I decided to rig a crude rabies pole.  I did not intend to get too close to those teeth.  I took a mop handle with a large screw eye on the end, took a rope with a slipknot and looped it through the screw eye and my rabies pole looked good to go.  Next, I had to figure out what to put the creature in once I’d caught him. 

     I dug an old galvanized washtub out of the cellar and tested the garbage can lid to see if it would fit, yes it did.  Now I had something with which to catch the opossum, something to put it in, but no way to transport it anywhere we only had one car at the time and DH had it.  I called a friend of ours.  He laughed, and told me that IF I caught it and secured it in the washtub, then he’d come and take to the woods. 

     I am woman, I am strong, I can do anything…I caught it.  There was a minor struggle to get it into the washtub accompanied by a lot of growling and hissing from the angry creature, not to mention a few choice words on my part.  I managed to cover the tub with the lid while removing the slip knotted rope from the opossum’s neck without it escaping or biting.  Then I tied the lid on top of the tub and called our friend back.  

     A few minutes later, he arrived.  We loaded the growling washtub into the back of his truck and went to a nearby park that has trees, a river, and plenty of cover for a wild creature.  I don’t think our friend truly believed I had an opossum in the washtub until he untied the lid, stood back, toed the lid off the tub, and the opossum leapt out and ran for cover.