Category Archives: Dogs

The Quiet

I’ve gone quiet.

When I was little, I’d plant myself in a spare bedroom, the barn, the porch, the horse pasture, the library, or even underneath (yes, underneath) the living room coffee table and go quiet.

The best thing about setting foot on my mother’s farm was the nonexistence of noise.  Any noise.  Especially this time of year without the combines or crickets or howling coyotes, without the constant creak of the porch swing.  Even Buddy, her beagle mutt, holed up under the porch.

These holidays have been quiet.  And lovely.  Even with the Christmas crazies, my kids coming and going (which I loved!), even with Nat King Cole, Sinatra and Brenda Lee on the constant radio, even with a crazy puppy romping around the house, finding her big-girl-voice, it’s been damn (good) quiet here.

I’ve been keeping my mouth shut, reading and listening.

In THE HUNGER GAMES series, I discovered a story I would never have read, a story I can’t stop reading.  My 17 yr old niece called me a year ago and said, “Aunt Teri, you’ve got to read this book!!!”  And I said yep, sure, ho hum.  But now.  But now I’m almost finished with the 2nd book in this series, and had to run out like a crazed, obsessed nutcracker and buy the 3rd.  In hardback, full retail.  I couldn’t wait for delivery, that’s what fun these books are.  The great escape.  Team Peeta!

A friend sent me Ann Patchett’s THE GETAWAY CAR, a short e-book about the writing life, which I read in about a day.  Patchett’s memoir led me to her friend Elizabeth McCracken’s AN EXACT REPLICA OF A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION.  I listened to it on audio, to McCracken reading her memoir, and it broke my heart and revived it, all at once.  I sat in my car, in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble, listening to the birth scene.  Tried to not-listen to it.  In the holiday rush of some jerk-off wanting my parking space (honk honk honk honk “Come On Lady!”) I crumbled under the pivotal scene.  That book led me to re-read (or rather, listen on audio to) Patchett’s memoir, TRUTH AND BEAUTY, which I read years ago when it first came out.  And then I found all of these articles about how pissed off everybody was about this book and, suddenly, I was pissed off.  At ALL of them.  If you’ve ever had a friend that consumed you, if you’ve ever sacrificed your peace and quiet for someone else’s hell, read (or listen to) this book.  And then google “Ann Patchett Lucy Grealy” and go read the bullshit that came after.  I’m in your corner, Ann Patchett.

We went to see a great movie this week:  THE DESCENDANTS.  A quiet little story where nobody is who you think they are, a story I wish I could write.  I ran back to the store and bought the paperback, retail $13 flippin’ 50, by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  What a discovery, this writer I’ve never heard of.  Can’t wait to read her book, her book with the story I’ve already seen.  There’s an interview section in the back:  “In a way, I’m writing all day,” she says.  “Reading other people’s novels is my work.”  Reading is a great thing, “because in a way you’re engaging in this strange, silent, conversation.”

On I found an old (really old) recording of Mary Karr’s THE LIAR’S CLUB.  It’s abridged, and the sound quality is awful, but who cares.  It’s spectacular, in the way that only the Texas of Mary Karr is spectacular.

I’m feeling quiet in this new year.  Like I want nothing more than to hole up in my dining room (aka my office) and shut it all the hell out.


Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You’ll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I’m still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don’t worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told.     —Frank McCourt

Don't let this quietly sleeping, long-legged angel fool you. She dreaming up her next adventure.


It’s the end of the year and time for lists.  Toss out the last 12 months, turn yourself over on your deaf ear, and make room for new nonsense intentions.  You know … all that.

But before I get on with the new year, I figured I could use a reality check.  Back in September, I made a list of things I wanted to start doing.  Here’s how that went:


1. Work on some part of my manuscript everyday.  Well shit.  I’m already off the rails at number one.  The good news is my butt is glued to the chair 3 or 4 afternoons a week, no weekends.  I’m making progress, and I like how it’s going (love it, in fact), but I still need to work more.  Period.

2. Jog.  I did very little with this until Halloween, when I committed to run in the Thanksgiving Day 10K with my friend Julee.  Julee hadn’t been jogging much either, but she’s 7 years younger than me and works out with a fitness trainer.  Thanks to her, the competitive wench in me kicked in and I got on with it.  Now if I could just stop eating like a stoned teenager ….

3. Stop and stare.  I get a big fat F.  Why am I always in such a hurry?

4. Do the things on my To Do list.  At this moment, I do not have a To Do List.

5. Curse less.  Yeah, well, fuck that.  Especially if I keep watching college and professional sports: the corruption, the money, the steroids, the cheating, the abuse!  I can turn out a hell of a fucking rant just by reading the sports page.  Not to mention what might happen once the 2012 presidential election kicks into full gear.

6. Watch less TV.  I can’t really give myself credit for this one since there’s never anything on TV worth watching.  So while the TV is often on, I’m usually doing something else, like reading the sports page or chasing my puppy around the kitchen, playing hide-and-seek.

7. Clean it out.  After 6 years, I finally cleaned out the garage and can park my car in there.  This was such a relief.  On the flip side, it’s almost January and summer clothes remain in my closet, so I’m not completely cured.

8. Read while sitting up.  I’m doing most of my reading on the couch and very little when I go to bed.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve polished off four books and am powering through a fifth.  (more about this next week)

9. Cook fewer dinners.  I’m cooking less, but eating more.  Hmmmmmm….

10. Turn off the computer by 7 p.m.  HA!  This has actually gotten worse.  I’m checking e-mail, reading the blogs, and playing Words With Friends on my iPad until the minute I go to bed.   The actual minute.  This makes me ridiculous, and as that movie producer in THE GODFATHER says, I will not be made to look ridiculous!  


11. Look forward to the holidays. For the first time in a few years, we put up the tree.  We used ALL of my decorations.  I went to Target and bought a few lights to string on the front stoop, which I plan to keep lit up through January.  Both of my kids were here!!  I made my grandmother’s Chicken and Dumplings, played Christmas music in the house, ate an entire box of Libb’s chocolate turtles, and didn’t bake a single cookie.  In honor of my mother, I donated my Christmas money to support this little guy at Animal Friends Rescue Project, the shelter where we adopted Lucy 3 years ago.  This morning, I see he’s already been adopted.

Happy New Year, Bandit.

If We Took A Holiday

Mid November and it's still Fall.

This blog is officially on holiday.

Why so early?  I’m trading blogging for jogging (yes, it’s true, I’m already up to 2 miles without toppling over), and I’ll be spending any and all writing time with my manuscript.

Happy holidays everyone!  I’ll see y’all in the New Year.

If I get lonesome or bored, remember I've got these ragamuffins for entertainment.

Beauty Queen

JoJo is 5 months old this week.  Time for me to start Cesar Millan’s next book on hell-raising puppy-training…

My JoJo is a hoss of a baby girl, all muscles and giant feet.  And she’s pretty sure her real name is Beauty Queen, since that’s how I call her for mealtimes.  “Here Beauty Queen!  Are you hungry?”

Well duh, she must think.  I’m a lab.  I’m always hungry!

Did anyone see this bit the other day about a black lab puppy riding (and surviving) atop of a moving train?  Her new family has named her Boxy.

Or how about this video of the Golden Retriever welcoming her military mom home from Afghanistan?  Beautiful, for sure.

Going Big

A writer took her Labrador puppy for a walk in the park across the street.  They were about to head home when a woman and her horse Great Dane wandered over and asked if they could meet the little one.


Oooooh, how old’s your baby?

This is JoJo, she’s 4 months.  Yours?

This is Boomer, he’s my 3 year old gentle giant. 

(the dogs tumbled and played, 26 lbs vs. 140)

Have you always had Great Danes?

God no.  He’s actually my very first dog!  My dad died 3 years ago, and he’d always loved Great Danes.  I got Boomer as a way to honor him.  

For your first dog.  Wow, you’re brave.

Nah.  I just figured if I was going to do it, I might as well go big.  What the heck, right?


The writer walked her puppy home, opened her manuscript and read through some of the dull parts.  She spent the rest of the day wondering what “going big” might mean.

Strike Up The Band

Let’s end this week of executions and murder trials and a falling stock market on a joyful note, shall we?

I’m going way back and watching the first season of a 1978 TV series.  What a great soap opera Dallas was.  And guess what, it’s still damned good.

Come on, you know you loved the show and got happy when you heard the intro / theme song.


Some new books arrived in a box on my doorstep:  The Art of Fielding, The Tragedy of Arthur, We The Animals, Life With a Star, and All the Names.

Like I need more books.

But then I do.


And you know you’re not getting out of here without puppy pictures.

JoJo snuggling up to Lea, anyway she can. Persistence and sneakiness are fine traits.

A run for fun.


Simple Girl

This was our 3rd year renting the same cabin on the North Coast of California.  It sits right on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean.  Most days were socked in with a cold fog, the occasional electric blue sky peeking through.  I brought just one sweater and one sweatshirt.  For 11 days.  Nothing like being prepared!  Still, when that coastline emerges from the mist, it doesn’t even look real.

I brought this stack of books and figured I’d make it through at least half of them.  I read none of them.  I started WOLF HALL and had a hard time keeping the characters straight.  This is the 3rd time I’ve tried to get going with THE KNOWN WORLD.  Not much reading got done this year.  No time.  (more on that later …)

I did manage to read this one.  Less than 150 pages, and my introduction to John D. MacDonald and his Travis MacGee books.  This is not your standard crime thriller.  The man can write.  I can’t wait to read #2 in this long series.

This plaque adorns the door in the cabin’s kitchen.  I wonder, where did it come from?  How did it get here?  What the hell does it mean?  Are you talkin’ to me?

I also started this book (IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS) which I picked up at the local independent bookstore, The Four-Eyed Frog.  I love buying books here.  In fact, I’m going to try and remember to order from them.  It’s the kind of place where the owner greets you on your way in and offers you a cup of tea or coffee.  And then he actually gets up and gets you the coffee or tea and brings it out to you while you’re browsing.  The perfect place.

And in other news ….

“Thank you” is not nearly enough for the local, small town veterinarian, Dr. Bohn.  The day we arrived our puppy had a urinary tract infection.  Simple, right?  We saw the good doctor twice.  Then, this past Friday, dear puppy got into something toxic (fertilizer, we think) and got very very sick (an understatement).  When I called Dr. Bohn — at HOME — at 9:00 on Friday night, he met us in 10 minutes and saved our puppy.  As for me, see Kitchen Plaque above.

(p.s.  puppy is healthy and back to normal)

“What do you think?” I asked my new friend, Dr. Bohn.  He replied, “I think maybe she’s just not a simple girl.” 

There’s a lot to be said for disconnecting from cell phones and the internet and whatnot, all the modern conveniences of “home.”  And maybe, just maybe, if our disconnected vacation would have lacked the canine medical dramas, I’d have been more relaxed about it all.  But.  I’m not sure it’s possible to describe how thrilled I was to get home to my washer and dryer after the pup lost her bladder too many times.  I could stand up and cheer for cell phones, a door that locks properly, modern toilets, an oven that heats to the right temperature, our fenced in yard (no matter how miniscule), the pizza delivery service, and an internet that can look up, instantaneously!, “common pet toxins, symptoms and treatment.”   No matter how much I might fantasize about being Laura Ingalls Wilder, the reality is I’m not such a simple girl either.

But I will miss this sunset.

The sun going down over Seal Island.

August Holiday

I’ve got a big dog to run with, a new pup to cuddle and train, and a tall stack of great books.  Here’s to the end of summer.  See y’all after Labor Day …

The Yellows

Under the Weather

Anyone who’s driven to the ER vet with a sick pet will understand exactly how my weekend went.  Poor JoJo is not feeling well, puking and whatnot, and needed tests and fluids and a bland diet.  Up all night Saturday, to the ER vet Sunday, and me sleeping next to her kennel on the kitchen floor.  In the light of Monday morning, and with my vet, we think it’s a combination of stress/separation, me giving her too many treats (bad mama), and a common, treatable parasite.

Watching her heaving and suffering has been excruciating, but there’s also a 35 year old wound that’s been pricked.  When I was 9 my mother and I moved in with my grandparents, and mom got me a puppy from the Humane Society:  my first dog.  A little yellow pup, like the one I have today.  Grandma would not allow the pup in her house, so it stayed on the screened porch.  It had only been about a week when I walked home from 4th grade for lunch to find a stiff puppy.  She’d died of worms (we guessed).  What I remember most about that day is touching my puppy’s unbending legs, and my grandmother grabbing me hard by the arm, telling me to clean myself up, I was going back to school.

And I did.  I spent the afternoon in the nurse’s office.

When I got home at 3:00, my mother had just left for her shift and the pup had disappeared.

Now to the present …

Grandma has been long gone, but I’ve held this against her for 35 years.  When my mother would say to me, “I wish you didn’t hate Grandma,” I often replied, “Grandma was mean.”  As with all of us humans, Grandma was not all bad.  I loved her.  I had many fun times with her.  But she had another side too, a cold, hard side, and no matter how many goods she did after this thing with my puppy, I never got over it.

This weekend, with the constant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, taking care of my new JoJo, and remembering every detail of that old yellow pup, I can feel how fresh it all remains.  The feel of her grip on my arm.  The long 2 blocks back to school in the sunshine.  The gray cot with no pillow in the nurse’s office.  The disappearance of that first pup.


As for now, I’m sure JoJo will be well soon.  And to end this dreadful tale on an uplifted note, thankfully I have some help from Lea in the TLC department: