Category Archives: Life Lessons

Got It Covered!

Thursday last I set out on a walk with CapMan, the FunDog.  He was jauntily leading in his normal lateral two-beat gait, with a slight hitch right hind.  I pulled him up with a “Heel!” and watched alongside  and saw the gimp step again. “Back we go, dude.”  We turned right around and ambled back up the hill toward home.

Inside Cappy offered his paws, one at a time, and I found the source of the limp; left hind pad had a quarter-sized hole in it.  The flaming red epidermis looked angry at having to be exposed to the macadem, but there was no blood, no puncture, no oozing or sign of infection.  With a calmness that only my middle-aged self could bring to an injury I ticked off a list of protocols: flush dirt and debris, cover with clean bandage, reduce activity to potty breaks.

No need for a vet trip while Doc K is around!

No need for a vet trip while Doc K is around!  No, ma’am! After one hour I saw the glitch in my plan.  Covering a dog’s paw to allow even reduced activity is not quite as simple as it sounds.  The 4″ sterile gauze pad that served as the base cover shifted when I covered it with a plastic bag secured by vet wrap, aggravating the newly exposed pad.  The second try at this homemade bootie fell right off when the FunDog disobeyed my “Go Potty” to run flat out after a squirrel.

Out came the betadine shampoo from Barnmom Days, and a swish in the orange water later the foot was clean, Cappy was grumpy, and I was wracking my brain for better bootie construction methods.

What would Cindy of Attiva Barn do?  Yes! That is IT!

One trip to the grocery and pet stores got me dinner and bootie construction supplies–a bag of premie diapers and an armload of vet wrap.  While dinner simmered I implemented Plan D, for Diaper-Covered-Dog-Paw.  I placed Cappy’s clean, dry hind foot in the middle of the wee little diaper, pulled the front up and over his toes, untaped the right sticky tab and crossed it over and down the pastern.  As I thought, “Wow, they have really improved these disposables!” I untaped the left sticky and crossed it up and over the pastern.  Cappy gazed at me, then his foot; after sniffing the cotton-covered-club he looked back with a “And you are doing what now?”  The vet wrap zipped and stuck like a charm as I wound a piece in a simple figure eight.

Cappy followed me outside, pausing every few steps to hitch up his hind leg and stare.  The bootie survived his wish for its destruction and even survived the potty trip.   Now I had to revise the activity reduction scheme, because even the improved bootie could not reduce the chafing to the raw skin as Cappy romped with Luci.

I went back to WWAD (What Would Attiva Do?)  Next potty trip Cappy went alone, on leash.  Not happy.  Too bad. The next wound check revealed a dry foot, perspiration through the pad being absorbed by the little wee diap and damp ground kept out by secure vet wrap; and the injured pad was a much lighter shade of red.  No infection, reduced irritation, dry foot=environment for healing!!

No, ma’am.  No need for a vet when Doc K is around!

I used my bootie and leash for the remainder of the weekend, becoming quite skillful in applying a diaper to a moving target and wrapping the vet wrap–not too tight!– to end at the top of his pastern.  (As one would think, having vet wrap end under his foot is an invitation to watch a bootie unravel. D’oh!)

After this morning’s potty trips in the rain, I removed the bootie to find a  dry foot pad, with a definite extra layer of epidermis over the wounded skin.  Life is amazing.  A healthy body’s ability to regenerate skin and foot pad is amazing.

And I helped!


Hookah, Shisha and Nargileh Embraced!

I am renaming my dogs.

Hereafter Fly will be called Hookah, Luci will take the name Shisha and Cappy will be known as Nargileh.  This way I can  gather my pack and embrace the latest social networking craze:  Hookah Cafes.  Straight from the Middle East….Check it out! There is one near you, unless you live in North Dakota or Northeastern Pennsylvania, which is why I am having to improvise.

Apparently the allure of entering a smoke-filled cafe is that one’s friends are also entering this carcinogenic cloud.  Together you ritualistically prepare the fruit and sugar-laced tobacco in a water pipe–hookah, shisha,  narghila–light it up, and alternately take puffs, laugh, flirt, and chat; sharing your smoke and your germs as the pipe is passed around the crowd.

I am of the generation that nicked their parents’ cigarettes or soaked them in water before stuffing them back into half-empty packs, all in a zealous attempt to make those poor ignorant fools understand that  The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health! I am a bit confused by this generation, who has grown up among health nuts and vigorous anti-smoking campaigns, and their decision to embrace the communal smoking of said product.

I suppose I should be grateful that my child is smoking maassell and not hashish or opium.  But I find myself astonished and concerned nonetheless.

Perhaps this is a push-back to the constant digital cloud that buzzes around and through them?  That by sitting in a real cloud surrounded by real friends talking in real time these young adults are experiencing a kinship and community that my generation got to have, and took for granted?  I applaud the gathering, the talking, the shaping and sharing of cultures from around the world.  I worry though about the unintended consequences of these Hookah Cafes:

In the Middle Eastern studies, hookah smoke has the same amount of nicotine and tar particles as cigarette smoke. There are even unique poisons and evidence of lead arsenics that come from smoking out of the hookah’s heavy metal pipe. The amount of carbon monoxide is also very high and related to heart attacks. Secondhand smoke contributes to breast cancer and has been linked to lung cancer.

One session of hookah smoke (approx. 45 min.) is the equivalent of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day. The blood levels and genetic changes of the bronchial tubes and chromosome changes of hookah and cigarette smokers are about the same. There is just as much damage from both.

Dr. Herman Kattlove, a medical editor at the American Cancer Society

Making an informed decision about joining the Hookah culture means seeing past the myth that the water pipe’s filtration limits exposure to the contents of tobacco smoke; it means moving beyond the enticement of a sweet taste and a communal experience.

Take the time to research what carcinogens and heavy metals you will be inhaling.  Consider what gets transmitted as the pipe gets passed; are you ready to develop tuberculosis, herpes, or hepatitis in the name of Hookah?

All things considered, I would rather enter the kitchen, embrace my renamed pups and pass the kibble.  I hope my young adult friends can find an alternate Hookah Cafe, too.

I Once Was Lost, But Now I Am Found

We had been home from Ireland less than twenty-four hours.  The dogs had been home from Uncle Jim’s Canine Retreat less than twelve hours.  WHAT WAS I THINKING!?!

Like an atomic clock automatically reset to the correct time when it crosses a time zone, Luci sat in front of her food container.  You can take the dog anywhere and she knows when its dinner and where the food will come from.  I obligingly completed the routine, “Say please.”  All three dogs went down.   I then scooped out the correct portions, (which Luci insists are inadequate), gave the release command “Food” and they scrambled to their appropriate bowls, woofing down the kibble in 30 seconds or less.  Then I  let my posse out for the post-prandial bathroom break.  Like I said…..WHAT was I thinking?

Nonchalantly I returned to the matter of finishing our human dinner.  Minutes passed before I glanced at the gathering dusk and thought “Maybe I better get the dogs in before it’s too dark, just in case Luci doesn’t remember the Invisible Fence Boundaries and we need to hunt.  Hahahahahaha.”   I stepped off the front porch whistling into crisp fall air.  No dogs.  I  rounded the garage whistling around its corner and noted the sun slipping just below the Appalachian horizon.  No dogs.  I called “Cappy! Fly! Luci!  COME!”  and walked briskly toward the meadow.  I chuckled at the sight of Cap and Fly, heads buried in the Lupine Patch, obviously enjoying some scat delicacy.  I whistled again, and they hurled themselves  toward me. 

 No Luci Freckles followed.  I called “Luci!” again and continued to make a loop around the house. Step, call, step, call, step, call.  Each step coming faster, each call rising in pitch.  By the time I came full circle the neighbor German Shepherd had joined my call, and I figured that his was one less yard to search in. I stuck my head into the house shouting “I need help finding Luci!” TD immediately exited the house, then the yard to search the neighborhood. 

I kept calling “Luci!” at a steady, hollering pace, so that she could find her way home in the gathering twilight.  WHAT was I thinking!? Just letting them out, collars on, no supervision, five months old, after supper. WHAT was I thinking?! I seized my highly reactive brain; plan, organize, harness the energy!!!! 

(BTW Jerome Kagan is so on to something

Methodically I moved into the eastern side of the meadow, carefully calling and looking into neighbors’ yards to the left, then searching for movement among the thick patchwork of lupine, milkweed, four kinds of goldenrod, aspen saplings and grasses to my right.

Look left, call.

Look right, call.  Goldenrod stalks stand tall, seed puffs glowing in the dimming light like the pup’s tail I wanted so desparately to see. 

Look left, look right. 

A rustle and shake of some fur caught my attention, pulling it down a now-dark meadow path.  Hardly daring to hope that the missing caramel-colored pup could actually be just disobediently relaxing mid-meadow, I moved through the towering goldenrod.   “Luci?”  “LUCI!?”  Amid the crunching of leaves I could hear the crunching of teeth on animal bone.  “Luci?” Lazily, she lifted her head from her meadow treasure and glanced at my distraught face.  “Uh, yeah, Mom, I’m kinda busy here.  Can I get back to you?”  I slipped the leash on without another word, and Luci-once-was-lost-but-now-is-found reluctantly pranced up the path with me, Cappy and Fly.

As I walked her into the neighborhood to rendezvous with TD my senses were released. For the first time I noticed the sky was streaked with vermillion and cinnabar stripes, pulled west to east, where they disappeared into the eastern dusky gray.   I took great drags of  late autumn air spiced with fallen maple, walnut and oak leaves.  The sky was streaked, not my face.  My throat was full of gratitude, not sobs. And Luci remained oblivious to the search and rescue mission TD and I had launched.

My heart had barely decelerated than I received this email from ITD:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Glad to hear that you guys had a good time and are back safely. I look forward to seeing pictures, and sharing stories with you of your time over there. In recent news, I have decided to spend my funds to do this winter trip with AP . I am in the process of trying to get a new passport, and will be filling out paper work with AP to get a visa with the Syrian embassy. I sent you the itinerary for the trip.blah…blah….blah….I am budgeting 2500 ….my savings…blah…blah…blah…. Let me know if you have problems/concerns with what is going on.(Emphasis mine)……blah…blah…blah…. I have talked not only with AP, but with 5 other people who are from Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan blah…..blah……blah…….Get back to me on the ongoing discussion. Best Regards,

Seriously, my son signed this bombshell “best regards.” 

There is a local bridge repair that requires one to enter the expressway with no ramp, from a stop; 0 mph to 50 mph in about 100 feet.  ITD’s email required my heart to do the equivalent.  If it would have been helpful to the cause to jump up, run around the house, through the meadow, and along rock outcrop paths, I would have.  Such is my response.  Instead, I tore through the US State Department web site, pressing copy and paste buttons until I had my first email response.  I then went to bed.

I awoke with new clarity and initiated the day’s exchange with startling insights and careful ruminations.  Pithy one sentence letters –$1000/day over 21 days=$48/day– were followed by pithy one sentence affirmations –We are amazed by and proud of you! – and then I concluded my day’s assault by reminding him of already owned STA student travel cards, NEXT  student insurance cards, and SIM phone cards.  Planning and research; it’s what I do when running  won’t yield results.

Having ITD travel into the very big world yanks my heart like Luci’s venturing to defy the recall whistle.  I can crash through a field of six-foot high goldenrod stalks, dried in autumn sun to a crisp brown. I can find and drag Luci from the object of her rabbit-lust. I can’t very well crash through the tangle of ideas, skills, and ambitions  I so carefully sowed throughout my son’s childhood.  I can’t find and drag my son from the object of his wanderlust.  Both Luci and my son challenge me to grab onto that calm-assertive energy, and become the person I need to be; so ITD can become the person he needs to be.

 Moment of profound insight. Solemn sigh.



A  C  T     I  O  N    

Next….research and plan a project! …..ITD’s Winter Adventure

Recipes for Happiness: a Collection of Pup-Inspired Ideas to Celebrate Life

by Luci Freckles

  1.   Meadow Stew


1 freshly acquired rabbit               2 paw-spans of meadow herbs, goldenrod leaves, milkweed seed, whatever is on hand

Skin your rabbit, tossing fur to the side.

Roll rabbit in herbs.

Enjoy.  Best if served while still warm, and not shared.

Finding myself has never been so much fun.

Exhaustion is a State of Mind

Five o’clock.
Five o’clock am.
Sheesh, Luci. That is an hour earlier than normal, and normal is early when it’s seven days a week.

I am tired, to the bone tired. And I would like to be grateful that it is Friday, but tomorrow will bring the six o’clock alarm of puppy yips and whines just like any other daybreak.
Dogs, like babies, remind me that cutting time into days, weeks, months, and years is a social construct of the human imagination. Luci’s puppy rhythms wrap me up, folding my focus onto the present and all the life moments that can lay hidden in its nooks and crannies.  So I vow to let the exhaustion be a state of mind, to wallow in and relish the discoveries that extra energy would drive me right past.

Life Lesson #1,909,090.

Sometimes it is enough  to just  be.