Flying First Class

Earlier this year, I posted about the first of my Personal Principles – Try Kindness First. I do mean to get to the other nine one of these days.

And you may remember the Tennessee Seven. One of those seven rescued Westies got a new home in Colorado with my sister. Which brings me to my story:

Flying First Class

You’ve redeemed a bunch of frequent flyer points to upgrade your seat from Steerage to Somewhat Comfortable and as you take your seat, you notice that next to you sits a slightly frazzled woman comforting a little dog in a carrier under the seat in front of her. Your reaction?

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If you’re the young man who sat next to me on the Richmond to Atlanta leg, you don’t even say good morning as you sit down because you’re on your phone. And during the flight you stay busy with your laptop avoiding eye contact or any interaction. It’s okay, I understand. The world is still totally All About You, and it’s possible we’re going to ruin your flight. You probably don’t imagine that I’ve already thought of that and am worried about it too. You might even be trying to conceal your aggravation when the little dog frantically starts pawing the side of the carrier to get out. I try to comfort her by opening the zipper to stroke her head while murmuring an apology to you. I think you grunt at me. I know you don’t actually speak. I get it all under control in what seems an eternity but surely isn’t. Josie’s sedative finally kicks in and before I know it, we are landing in Atlanta. You pack up your stuff and hustle off that plane without a fare-thee-well. I know. You hate flying.

And if you’re the older gentleman from Arkansas settling into your seat on the final leg to Colorado, you see me too. You politely greet me and ask “What’s this?”

“I’m bringing a little rescue Westie out to Denver. She’s a puppy mill rescue and she is a little frantic at being in this carrier, I’m afraid. I hope we don’t bother you too much.”

You smile and in a soft drawl you reassure me, “Awww. She’ll be just fine.” And I feel a wave of relief come over me that our three hour flight won’t be an ordeal. Not because I’m sure Josie actually will be fine, but because I’m sure you’re kind.

To the gentle Arkansan who flew out to Denver to consult with an orthopedist in Vail for a bad back, who has Bouvier des flandres dogs and is so very kind: Thank you. You’re a class act. First Class.

Thanks for reading,

Barbara

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

This week, share a photo that says summer lovin’ to you. It might be a favorite pair of sandals you can’t bear to part with, the homemade salsa you made with veggies from your garden, the flowers you planted, or your family frolicking on the beach.

Summer lovin’? To a gardener, that’s easy. Here the lovely Brite Eyes climbing rose scrambles up the tuteurs as the summer sun sets on the horizon.

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Adventures in Rocinante (or How I Learned to Love Camping)

Part I The Westie Chariot

What’s a girl to do? I had already proven a dismal failure on the golf course, so when Beloved Husband suggested we take up camping, I put on my game face and off we went on a new adventure.

 We set off on our maiden voyage in Rocinante, named after John Steinbeck’s camper in “Travels With Charley,” one of my favorite books. If it’s good enough for Steinbeck, it’s good enough for us.

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Let’s just say I wasn’t a happy camper. Our big mistake was to go to a very large and extremely popular “resort” campground down in Virginia’s river region. Oy vey.

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Uniformed parking attendants met us at the entrance and led us to our campsite which was in a row of other sites in an open field. We were packed in like metallic white sardines with one ironically-named camper (Prowler, Wilderness, Adventurer, Conquest, Nomad) on top of the next. All you could hear was the roar of your neighbors’ air conditioners, their dogs, their kids, their radios…..and when I stepped outside, I could reach out and touch the two campers nearest us. I struggled to keep a stiff upper lip, but there was just no way I was leaving the comforts of home again to spend a weekend like this.

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The idea of getting out and hiking? Fuhgeddabout it, this campground provided golf carts for transportation. Heaven forbid one should actually experience nature while camping. We did walk – on searing asphalt streets – with golf carts whirring past at top speed loaded down with people returning from the camp store.

 

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Thank the heavens above for two things: BH hated it as much as I did AND we discovered the Virginia State Park system. Talk about a chasm in camping experiences. We breathed a huge sigh of relief that Rocinante was not going to be sold before the new-camper smell wore off.

 

State parks are where we should have started to begin with. There are miles of hiking trails which is our big love. Parks have lakes, boating, kayaking, ranger talks, museums, nature exhibits not to mention the incredible scenic beauty of Virginia. And best of all, private wooded campsites!

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Voted “Best in the Nation”, Virginia’s State Park system

Turnabout being fair play, in the state parks you meet the real campers – the tenters – who look at us as disdainfully in our comfortable campers as we look at the resort campers. “Huh! You call THAT camping?” 

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On our most recent trip we went to Stone Mountain State Park in western North Carolina to meet up with Beloved Husband’s brother and his wife who are also avid campers.

Something troubling us this year was what to do with old man Berkley, our fourteen-year-old Westie. He just can’t do the hikes anymore, try as he may. BH to the rescue. He retrofitted one of those baby joggers, we piled old Berkley into it and off we went to hit the trails. 

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“Now what are they up to?”

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Chariot can either be pushed or towed on a bike.

We were in no danger of encountering golf carts on the trails up to the great stone dome, but we did get a few looks from other hikers when they saw the Westie Chariot. Hey, people, we take care of the geriatric around here!

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Now THIS is getting away from it all. Can you imagine this view in fall?

 

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As usual I am the laggard huffing and puffing behind the menfolk.

 Part II The Cosmic Firehose

In the evenings we devour a well-deserved dinner. What is it about food eaten outside that it tastes so much better? On this trip we had just settled in for a huddle around the campfire when we heard some people in the distance racing back to their camper. And all of a sudden the heavens just opened.

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Little do these two know that in five minutes, they’ll be hightailing it under the awning in a torrential downpour. And don’t they look excited to have their picture taken?

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This is what Southerners call a “frog choker.”

During the torrent I texted this photo to a friend with a one-word message: “Rain.” She replied in seconds: “No. Cosmic Firehose.” Yup.

 

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Part III Mayberry

The state parks are often nestled in remote locations near reservoirs or in mountain valleys. Neighboring small towns are fascinating and vaguely sad in their economic decline. We love to patronize the authentic little hamlets still clinging to life in this homogenized world of franchise restaurants and big box stores. Elkin, North Carolina is one of those small southern towns with a Mayberry, RFD feel to it and a faded charm.

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For Lease. I mourn the loss of our downtowns.

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Mural of Stone Mountain

Main Street feels like a relic as too many do nowadays. So many storefronts are closed and the businesses that are there seem almost incidental  – two or three antiques stores, a hardware store, and a few others. This charming little place caught our eye with its “Fountain Service” sign. In we went and what a step back in time!

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Built in 1923, this structure held a pharmacy on the first floor and the town hospital on the second. Can you imagine? In 1924 they added the booths and the soda fountain service. The booths are still there in all their Art Deco glory and are tiny little things….reminding us that people were smaller then. And the best part? The booths have almost 100 years of initials carved into them.

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Floors and booths circa 1924

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How many high school sweethearts sat in these booths, I wonder.

We felt it our civic duty to order chocolate malts. Aaaah, now I’m a happy camper. And I know all this because of the abundant Southern hospitality and friendliness of the establishment’s owner. I could have sat all day just listening to her soft North Carolina accent, y’all.

Next we headed to the neighboring hardware store to see what treasures might be waiting for us. We were not disappointed.

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Everything AND the kitchen sink.

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Ken even has a phaser gun. See what you discover when you get off the beaten track?

 

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I need these like a hole in the head but I’m kicking myself for not buying these circa 1950 iced tea glasses. Dash it.

We have yet to head out for more than a 3-day trip in Rocinante, but someday we plan to be real road warriors and do a week or two. Stay tuned.

And we really do have such a beautiful country.

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 And thanks for reading,

The Happy Camper

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

Boxes, tanks, wrappers: for this week’s Photo Challenge, show us something that contains something else.

While in Colorado recently, I visited my brother and his wife. They live in an adobe-style house nestled in the Rocky Mountain foothills and have a wonderful collection of Acoma Indian pottery. In this photo we have two containers in one: niche contains pot.

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The Secret

I am one of those people who cringe at Public Displays of Affection. It’s one of the few things I actually have in common with Beloved Husband. So I’ll be careful not to commit too egregious a PDA in the rest of this post….

We joke that were we to submit our profiles to eHarmony or any of the internet matchmaking sites, their algorithms would surely have us avoiding each other like the plague. And yet here we are fresh off a celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary.

I’ve never been comfortable in a group of women if the conversation turns to what jerks our husbands are. Yes, he does some of the things I’ve heard other wives complain about: i.e., standing slack-jawed in front of the open refrigerator waiting for the ketchup bottle to ignite as a means of detection but, really, if after forty years together that is the worst thing I can come up with, then I’m a pretty lucky girl.

We were at a party recently where once again we found ourselves the oldest couple there. How quickly we’ve gone from being “the kids” in a gathering to being the hopelessly out-of-touch, untattooed oldsters, but that’s a subject for another blog post.

One of the other couples there was in the throes of new-found love. Both divorced and in their early fifties, they had hooked up via “Christian Mingle” and were in that stage of enchantment with one another where they could just barely refrain from commiting “the act” right there and then. At some point, and most assuredly they didn’t find out from me, the subject of the upcoming 40th anniversary arose. As did the inevitable response:

“Forty years?!? Wow. What’s your secret?”

I have no idea. Is there a secret? I don’t think so. Isn’t each marriage as individual as the people in it?  What works for us would not work for them….or you. 

But actually the secret of our marriage’s success was revealed to me without a lot of fanfare just the other day.

We were having lunch together as we do most days. I made the sandwiches while Beloved Husband doled out the chips. We sat together talking when suddenly I noticed that he was eating the shards from the bottom of the bag. And I was not.

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Please appreciate how difficult he made it for me to get this photo!!

I grabbed my phone to take a picture and a small tussle ensued. “You’re not going to put that in your blog, are you?” Laughing, I told him he better believe I was!!

Forget the shiny baubles, fancy dinners, and lavish trips. The small daily acts of consideration, kindness, and love are what add up to a happy marriage. How do you measure this on eHarmony? I don’t know. But if anybody I loved was getting married, I’d make them test their potential spouse with the almost empty bag of chips. It could save them a lot of trouble. 

And thanks for reading,

Barbara

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic

This week’s challenge is “Relic.” I don’t have any saintly bones lurking in my photo gallery, so I’ll just go with a looser interpretation of something old. And this is old – about 600 years or so assuming it is the original door handle on the ancient cathedral in Germany’s Mosel Valley.

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I Wish Westies Were Ugly

Or at least not so darn cute. Maybe so many of them wouldn’t end up in rescue if they looked like this:

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And I wish ad agencies would stop choosing the Westie as their adorable pitch-pup for whatever brand of dog merchandise they are trying to sell.

Because here’s the deal: people see these cute little white bundles and think “oh, how adorable!!” Next thing you know, they’ve rushed out to buy one without realizing the first thing about what they are actually bringing home. And a few years later, after health and temperament problems have driven everybody to the edge, Westie Rescue gets called in.

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Westies might be the cutest little things you’ve ever seen in their fluffy white advertising guise but deep down, these are terriers, people!

OK, so maybe I don’t really wish Westies were ugly. Instead I wish their potential owners would thoroughly check out the breed before deciding it is the dog for them.

Here are the breed characteristics of the West Highland White Terrier:

  • Quick, alert, and intelligent
  • Energetic
  • Fiercely independent
  • Energetic
  • Social, loyal, and affectionate
  • Energetic
  • Stubborn

Did I mention energetic? Bred as ratters on farms and ranches in Scotland, it’s in their genetic code to be intelligent, independent thinkers. They are not passive lap dogs! I can’t imagine a worse scenario for a little Westie than to be sitting all day in an apartment looking out a window waiting for somebody to come home. Truly that would be the equivalent to canine hell on earth. There are other cute little white breeds out there much better suited to a quiet, less active lifestyle.

Thank goodness for reputable breeders who screen potential buyers of their puppies. But far too many Westies come onto the market through puppy mills, just like the hell hole from which the Tennessee Seven were rescued, and go into pet stores. And then anybody with enough cash can buy the dog, no questions asked.

There are two main reasons we see Westies come into rescue:

Health issues. Westies are prone to skin allergies and cheap dog food is a main culprit for setting those allergies afire. This is the least upsetting image I could find of a Westie just torn apart from the horrible itching and scratching. Believe me, this is not that bad compared to what often arrives.

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Behavior issues: Well, yeah. Many of these “bad” dogs deemed uncontrollable by their owners are simply behaving as they’ve been bred to do. If they are not properly exercised and disciplined, they will take over the house. Both of mine have had their moments where we’ve had to let them know, quite firmly, just who is boss in this house.

The adorable little white furball image is misleading. In fact, it is a giant case of false advertising. Here is a much more realistic image of who a Westie really is deep down in his little terrier heart:

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Picture of Dorian Westie

 

I have a couple heartbreaking stories of  Westies who were brought into our foster care too late and didn’t make it. But let’s not go there today. I want to share a happy story with you of a rescue Westie girl who seemed to be on her last legs.

Bailey came to us through a kill shelter. She had been dropped off at the shelter by her original owner in very bad shape and adopted by somebody almost immediately. That person returned her to the pound lickety-split after a visit to the vet. The vet had advised putting her down because of her condition. She was loaded with infections in her ears and eyes and her skin was just ablaze with itching.

I will spare you photographs of her condition when she arrived. The sight of her infected eyes made my stomach wobbly, if you know what I mean.

A few months of good quality food, eye drops, medicated shampoos, and look at her:

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Bailey in the garden after a nice grooming.

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Bailey was now ready for adoption.  And, boy, did she hit the jackpot. Her “furever” home was with a lady on Long Island who had served nationally in Westie Rescue and couldn’t wait to bring a new pup into her fold. Bailey continued to need treatment for her eyes and, sadly, we learned she did become deaf. But her Westie spirit was indomitable, and she lived out the rest of her days, another five or six years, pampered and cherished.

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Bailey with her toy, Elly, living the good life in Long Island.

If you’re thinking about getting a Westie, please remember that in their little terrier hearts, they really want to look like this:

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They want to run, dig, bark at squirrels, go for walks, terrorize other dogs at the dog park, and take over the household. They don’t ask for much in return: a quality dog food, regular vet visits, a good stomp every day, a little love.

If you know of somebody who is overwhelmed by the expense and responsibility of caring for their dog, no matter the breed, urge them to contact rescue organizations. There is no shame in giving the dog up, but there is in allowing them to degrade to the point they can’t be saved.

And for sure there are good, responsible Westie owners who are doing all the right things and still dealing with skin and other health issues. You’re not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the throw-away Westies, the ones that didn’t live up to their marketing image and ended up in the shelters. For them, I write this. For Cody and Jack and far too many others…..

Thanks for reading,

Proud Westie Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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