You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

When Leo was a puppy, he needed to be taught how to do everything from coming when called, to relieving himself outside, to learning that if food was left on a table or counter that it was not an invitation for him to help himself!  At some point, he learned, or used his instincts to help him retrieve objects when thrown – tennis balls, sticks, you name it, he would chase the soaring item and sure enough, bring it right back to whoever initiated the “game.”

At nine years old, Leo, a beautiful Golden Retriever who prances when walking (perhaps due to his father’s famous show dog lineage) has shifted his approach to retrieving.  Yes, he will still occasionally be enthused by the stick throwing routine, but these days, Leo has his sights set on a much more creative approach to play.

Instead of waiting for an object to be thrown and then capturing it, Leo initiates a whole new approach to fun.  Most mornings, he can be found racing through the Swift River trails en route to a quieter open space where there is a sandy spot that has easy access to a slower moving part of the river.  Upon closer view, one will notice that Leo is actually surveying the shallow waters and then hand, or paw-selecting a river rock.

Sometimes the transaction is seamless, and he is able to secure the rock in his mouth before bringing it up to higher ground, proudly dropping it near our feet and going back for more.  Other times, Leo may choose a rock that is too big for his mouth span and he will relentlessly try to capture it, nudging it with his nose – usually heading in the wrong direction away from the shore – whining at it and if really frustrated, barking profusely.  I am in awe of the whole fascinating process!  The fruits of his labor have been collecting over these summer weeks and he now has garnered quite a river rock garden!

As I wonder at how amazing Leo’s new development has been to observe, I am reminded that an old dog can learn new tricks!  Taking a page out of Leo’s book, and with the guidance of many writing legends – past and present – I am creating this blog to have a place to share my life moments – immense or miniscule – of any size.  It is here that I am committing to living a writerly life so that I can be a more authentic teacher of writing for my fourth grade students.  Cheers to all teachers as we get closer to the new school year ahead on the horizon.

 

 

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Practice Makes Perfect

“Do you know what I did last night?” he asks.  “Did Dad tell you?”

Backtrack to last night’s porch conversation in hushed tones between my husband and me.

“So I let him drive the car from the monument to the cabin,” he whispers.

“You did what?” I say horrified.

He repeats his original statement a hair louder and adds, “And I let him drive all the way home from the cabin.”

My mind is still trying to process this information when he says, “Let’s just say he needs LOTS of practice.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’d think all of those video games would have helped to prepare him to drive,” he says, truly astonished.

“Hmm…”

“He was NOT smooth. At. All.”

“Oh.”

“Turning into the driveway was a nightmare.”

“How did you handle that?”

“I was very reserved.  Only said a few words.”

“OK. Good.  This was his first time and it was dark.”

“We’re going to have to give him A LOT of lessons.”

“Practice makes perfect!” I say, trying to look on the bright side.

Fast forward to my conversation with Jackson.

“I drove, Mom,” he says excitedly. “All the way from the cabin!”

“Yes, he told me.  How do you think it went?”

“OK, I guess.  Dad didn’t say very much.  He wasn’t very vocal.”

“Well, that’s good, I think.”

“Maybe, but I thought he’d give me more pointers.”

“He probably didn’t want to break your focus.  Lessons will help with the technical parts.”

And so it begins.  Not sure we’re ready for the road ahead, but it’s staring us down.

Consider This: Wireless Fences

When we bought a home in New Hampshire four summers ago, investing in an invisible fence for Leo was not high on the priority list.  It seemed like a splurge.  There was a generous section of the yard already secured by a chain-link fence.  Until this summer.  The fence is gone and the yard is more open than ever thanks to a new septic system.  With a change in landscape and a bold ten-year old Golden, perhaps now is the time to finally install a pet containment system?  

A decade ago, back in Massachusetts, we purchased The Canine Company Invisible Fence underground wire system, complete with a collar, training sessions, and a floor disc for inside use.  The market has expanded considerably over the years and now includes an array of wireless products promising the same safety and ease of use benefits of its predecessors.

The idea of plugging in a transmitting tower, determining the perimeter, and training the dog with an included collar – all at a third of the cost plus no disruption to our yard -sounded heavenly.  Would this really be effective?  There are many factors a potential owner should consider before purchasing a wireless system.  We learned the hard way, and have become experts on the subject with the help of customer service representatives at PetSafe.

Did you know that if your neighbors also have a wireless unit that they can’t overlap your perimeter or the play area doubles?  A mere 10 foot overlap is all it takes to trick the system.  Some may say this is a perk; however, if one of the goals is to keep your pet out of the 85-year old neighbor’s yard, this is not optimal.

Do you have any hills or slopes in your yard?  The mound of earth that creates the hill or slope can wreak havoc on the consistency of the signals being transmitted.  What results is a sporadic signal that seems to be weaker in nature.  Raising the transmitting tower may help the situation, but isn’t a guaranteed solution to the problem.  This is bad news for the end of our driveway which leads out to the main road.

How about metal roofs?  Does your home have one?  Ours does due to the heavy snowfall during the winter season.  This could be a factor in signal accuracy and strength, but may not be, so it’s hard to put stock in this fact in the decision making process.

Finally, within the last year or so, PetSafe has learned that the Smart Meters on people’s homes run on the same frequency as the wireless Stay and Play units.  This will compromise the effectiveness of any PetSafe wireless product.  I’m happy to say that we do not have a Smart Meter, so we can rule this factor out when troubleshooting.

All of these factors and more have created doubt in our minds that when we open a door with Leo in tow, or by force, he will remain safe if he leaves the property lines.  Not all properties are suitable for wireless pet containment systems.  It is looking more likely that ours may be one of the unfortunate outliers.

The Invisible Fence Company is scheduled to visit next Monday for a free estimate on a bare bones underground wire system.  I’m beginning to think this may be the only way to obtain peace of mind in New Hampshire with Leo.

The Roof’s Workout

The roof plays the keys

 

Warms up with gentle stretch

Pitter patter

Pitter patter

 

Brings heart rate up

Steady staccato

Intense beats

 

Reaches rapid fire

Persistent

Urgent

 

Releases the tension

Drop by drop

Until the song is done

 

Finishes with cool down

Ahh

All wrung out

 

The roof rests

 

Finders Keepers

Laundry

A necessary evil

It piles up

Heaps, in fact

Endless loads

Darks and lights

 

Forget to empty pockets

Greeted with surprises

Shredded tissues

Empty wrappers

Ticket stubs

Coins

 

Hit the jackpot today

Two dollar bills

Washed

Then dried

Extra crispy

A tip from one of the teenagers?

 

Finders Keepers

Hello Food, Goodbye Nails

What if the Common was filled with a variety of thriving independently owned restaurants instead of nail salons?

I close my eyes and imagine a small Mexican cantina selling the freshest tacos and tortillas.  Maybe they’d be interested in serving my roasted tomato salsa in season?  I’ll make myself a note to inquire next time I pass by.

My mouth begins to water as I think about a cozy Italian kitchen serving up pillows of homemade ravioli and piping hot loaves of bread, leaving the air seasoned in the best way.  Do they import their olive oil directly from Italy?  We can hook them up with the nicest family-run business outside of Florence in Fiesole.

I can hardly contain my excitement as I await the delicate fish and chips from the seafood hut on the corner.  Wouldn’t it be great to splurge and order the calamari tonight?  Such a tasty, satisfying treat!

My mind continues to handpick establishments that satiate my hunger and satisfy my taste buds.  It amazes me how real every one of these places feels.  I can almost taste each specialty as if it were being made just for me.

Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo…

The gentle sound of the cuckoo clock striking the hour stirs me.  As I flutter my eyes open, I realize that my mind wandered even further than usual.  What a cruel twist of fate.

Reality sets in.  We have a plethora of nail spas in Bridgewater, not eclectic farm to table dining.

 

Scrambled Eggs

“You didn’t leave me any lunch, so I had to make lunch by myself.”

“What did you make?”

“Scrambled Eggs.”

“Oh,” I said, trying to keep my voice level in pitch and speed.

“Four eggs.  Two batches.”

“Uh huh,” I mused, trying not to let panic seep into my mind.

“The second batch came out milky.  The first batch was cooked too much.”

I tried not to gasp as the implication hit hard.

Would I ever erase the image of the gas stove being lit, I wondered.

The four egg shells greeted me in their broken state at the end of the school day.  A trail of dirty dishes started on the stove and meandered over the counter, ending near the sink.

But the gas was off.

Success!

Little did he know that this was the plan all along.

Independence.

Five days later and he’s made scrambled eggs almost daily.

How long will it take before he gets tired of the eggs and needs to learn a new dish?

Time will tell.

 

 

A Case of the Missing Cheez-Its

“Did you bring a box of Cheez-Its upstairs?” I ask puzzled.

“No, Mom.  I didn’t.” Jackson responds with a hint of annoyance.

That’s so strange.  I know I purchased TWO boxes of Cheez-Its, not just one.  I double check the pantry shelves to see if I put the second box in the wrong spot.  No luck, it’s nowhere to be found.  The two boxes are clearly imprinted in my mind, being scanned at the register.  I am truly baffled, so I look on the shelves a third time, almost willing the box to appear.  Not happening.

It dawns on me that other items I selected and purchased are not in the house either.  I can’t locate the eight rolls of toilet paper, or the loaf of sliced French bread.  The two types of tortilla chips are also missing in action.  Filled with hope, I go back outside to check the trunk of the car.  Maybe a bag slid into the middle seat unnoticed, out of eyeshot.  Nice idea, but no dice.

Determined to solve the missing items dilemma, I pull out my grocery store receipt and call to see if anyone reported products left behind.  I circle the ones that didn’t make it into the house with a red pen.

“Can you tell me what the items were, ma’am?”

“Yes, there was a box of Cheez-Its, a loaf of French bread, a package of 8 rolls of toilet paper…”

“OK, we have those items here at the front of the store.  Did you also buy milk?”

“Oh yes, I forgot about that.  Where did you find the groceries?  Did I leave them at the register?”

“Someone found them on the bottom of a cart outside and brought them inside.”

“Oh.  Thank you.  I have never done that before,” I say, slightly embarrassed.

How is it that a memory that used to be as sharp as a tack, now seems to be fragmented?  Does leaving groceries on the bottom of my cart mean something in the grand scheme of things?

Not ready to accept that forgetfulness is a sign of age, I’m just chalking up the experience to being preoccupied with trying to prepare the house for a meeting my husband was hosting a short time later.

Note to self:  Check grocery cart completely before returning it.

Where I’m From

I’m from the smallest state in the country, the town with the oldest Fourth of July Parade.  Del’s Lemonade, Gramma’s doughboys, and Rod’s Grill.

I’m from a large family – the oldest of six – a sister and four brothers came after me.  Burned brownies delivered our first pet – a black cat – but not until the college years.

I’m from going to church every Sunday.  Having grandmothers come for dinner.  Sometimes, the girls would go shopping before we all had to get ready for the week.

“I called front” is what I remember saying as we all packed into the Dodge Caravan to go anywhere together.

I’m from chlorinated pools racing the 50 Free and 100 Back countless times, breaking only for a short time in August before starting a new season.

I’m from Second Beach, baking in the sun, making poured sandcastles, riding the waves on boogie boards. Playing hide and seek as people went home and the beach thinned.

I’m from Prudence Island where time slowed and life was simple.  Muffler-less cars traveled the island.  Rope bracelets to show tan lines by summer’s end.  Layered rock houses, Matchbox cars, and reading by day.  Capture the Flag and Beverly Hills 90210 by night.

I’m from condos in North Conway that we won at the St. Phil’s Auction.  Storyland, Santa’s Village, Clark’s Trading Post, Echo Lake, and Jackson Falls were annual items in the family bucket list.  Sticker collections multiplied after visiting Elizabeth’s.

I’m from Jade Tree – my first job – the hostess with the mostest.  Greeting guests and seating them all night long. Eating special staff meals.  Folding napkins into hats.

I’m from learning how to drive in a Ford Tempo.  No denying that family life started to change as responsibility increased.

Fleeting moments, wistfully remembered.  The simpler days beckon to me and I want to return.  Relinquish the responsibility.

I’m from sharing memories with a deeper appreciation for all that my family provided.

With love.

 

 

 

Recycled Donut

“Can we stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on our way home?” Caroline asked pleadingly.

“Sure.”

We packed up the car, filled up with gas, and after about thirty minutes, the ever-popular donut establishment appeared on our left.

“Why don’t you just go inside to pick out the donut that you’d like.”

“No, let’s just go through the drive through.”

There’s nothing I dislike more than wasting precious minutes in a line of cars when I’d really rather be making a move on our journey home.

Against my better judgement, we go through the drive through.  After many requests for specific donuts were denied, we finally found one that was appealing.  Going inside would have made the selection process smoother, and most likely quicker, but I digress.

Thinking she’d eat the precious donut right away, I was surprised to see it stay in its bag, just waiting to be eaten.

Halfway through our ride, the donut was still in the bag, untouched.

“I’m saving it for later.”

“OK.  Just make sure that you eat that donut before we get home.”

It’s 4:14PM, we pull into our driveway and guess what?  The donut remains in the bag.

This morning, as Jackson walks away from the car to head into school, I say, “Do you want a double chocolate donut?  It’s still good.”

“Sure,” he says, taking the donut out of the open car window.