6 July 2017

When Notecards Talk And Make Us Smile

When notecards talk

I rarely buy or use notecards but I will confess that Abrah Griggs new notecards have been speaking to me all morning, she has a way of bringing things we sometimes see but rarely think of to life, and also of giving them a sense of humor, badly needed in our intense times.

I wrote about these new notecards earlier, but I am buying this one and putting it on my wall. The more I look at it, the more relevant I think it is to human life. You can see the notecards of Abrah Griggs here, but a caution: they are inexpensive and addictive. I think I need them.

Once in awhile, I stumble across somebody I think of a major talent. Maria was one, Rachel  Barlow another and Abrah Griggs (abrah.work@gmail.com)  for sure. It is a gift to stumble across such talent, it humbles me and inspires me and reminds me of what is wonderful about being a human being.

The world can be a serious place, but if we take it too seriously, the bright parts of our soul wither and die. Abrah's creatures make us smile.

Posted in General

Working Dog: Chicken Staredown. Gus Wins.

Chicken Standoff

I am not fond of the chickens coming onto the porch, they eliminate up there and sometimes go after the food we leave out for the cats. Chickens are pushy, and sometimes dirty. Generally, I shoo them away, but that does not deter them. I was delighted this morning to see Gus hold them off, he stood on the edge of the porch, stared at them and barked when they tried to get closer.

This is a working dog. Small dogs might be cute, but they are dogs, and given the opportunity, I see they will work just like good dogs work. Gus, it seems might be a working dog.

The chickens pay no attention to the cats, or even to Fate when she's up there. But they paid attention to Gus. Life is strangely curious.

Posted in General

Farm Dog

Farm Dog

Our farm acclimation program for Gus is going well. Fate more or less tolerates  him, sometimes even plays with him. But more exciting is his budding friendship with the donkeys. We have brought him to the donkeys on a leash every morning, and everyone has done much sniffing. Gus licked Fanny on the nose, which seemed to amaze her.

Donkeys are guard animals, they can be unpredictable and dangerous, but these two girls are sweet and accepting. Lulu kept a wary eye on Gus the first week, but I let him off leash in the pasture and he ran right over to Luly and sat right next to her while she grazed. He's in. Gus is on his way to being a farm dog.

Posted in General

Great Sight: Turning The Corner On Red And Fate’s Troubles. Am I Dumb?

Getting A Handle

Red ate this morning for the first time in several days, and for the first time since Friday or Saturday, he wasn't vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, scooting or straining. A lot of worry, a lot of laundry, most dog lovers have been through days or weeks like this, it's part of the deal.

Fate got sick last Friday in the same way after our time at Pompanuck Farms on the refugee retreat. Red got sick a day later, but he wasn't on the retreat. We were thinking infection, some bad food, some contagious disease.

Our regular vet was closed for the holiday, we find another vet, Dr. Jack Kittel from Hoof N' Paw who agreed to see us and we went to work trying to figure this out. Fate responded to medication right away, and was better by Sunday morning, Red got worse.

He was pretty sick, Dr. Kittell is very good.

Red had awful accidents in the night and suffered greatly from straining, rawness and an unwillingness to eat anything. They call it explosive diarrhea and it lived up to its name.

We are tired and sick of diarrhea. But relieved.

Maria and I spent more than one night racing up and down to get the dogs outside. Sometimes we even made it.

Red suffered from mild dehydration, but Dr. Kittel and us monitored it closely and it never got that bad. We both decided to skip the intravenous ID and the money that costs. The curious thing was that neither dog looked sick, they were active alert and appeared normal otherwise.

We went back to Dr. Kittel Wednesday and he switched medications and after about 24 hours, Red began to respond. He gave us medication for diarrhea and some steroids. He guessed that both dogs ate something bad at our farm, not at Pompanuck.

I decided not to feed Red yesterday to permit his system to clear out, and it was one of those good calls from people who know their dogs. He refused to eat in the morning Wednesday, I didn't try in the evening.

This morning, I fed him cooked ground chuck, some chicken broth, a cup of white race (for binding) and some of his regular kibble. He wolfed everything down, and no wonder, it was the first time he ate in days. But he was also much better.

He'll get the same dinner tonight, and then everything goes back to normal.

No more scooting, straining, today, no more diarrhea that I have seen.

I'm hopeful about the stools (only dog people talk a lot about feces) we'll see. Dr. Kittel was conservative and experienced, he found there was no fever, the gums were not white (as they get with dehydration) and on the second visit, he took some blood, which found Red was normal, all of the tests were negative, a far  and welcome cry from his bout with four kinds of tick disorders last month.

For both dogs, the treatments and pills cost about $400 altogether, which is pretty good these days. As expected, I received a number of messages from people with diagnoses, home remedies and advice.

I am learning to be mellower about advice, but it still puzzles me sometimes, and it is worst when a dog is sick. I include the many people who begin their messages with the same words: "I know you don't like unwanted advice, but…"  My own feeling is that when people don't want unwanted advice, I don't offer it, but that is a minority approach, I think.

I wish to say that I very much do appreciate the caring and good will that does into some of these messages. But they still confound me. Several people wrote to me to warm me that Boston Terriers are subject to heat stroke on hot days due to their short noses, and a larger number sent me urgent messages warning that dogs like Red can get dehydrated and it should be taken seriously.

I think I must sometimes appear to be stupid or ignorant for people to think I don't know these things, when I write about them every day and have for many years.

These messages no longer anger me, which is healthy, but they still baffle me. One person wrote to say she knew I wasn't looking for advice, but her conscience compelled me to warn me about dehydration. Why, I wondered, didn't her conscience compel her to respect my oft-stated feelings about unwanted advice? Is it only a dog that stirs conscience, and they don't have one?

And why did these people assume that a man who has written 12 books about dogs writes often and obsessively about the need to study dogs and breeds carefully before bring them home would not know that Boston Terriers are subject to heat stroke? It is practically the first thing every vet or breeder mentions about small dogs with short snouts, I don't know a dog lover who doesn't know it? I would have to lazy, ignorant, and deaf and dumb not to be aware of it, let alone write about it all the time.

I've had dogs all of my life, including border collies who have tubs of water nearby at all times in the summer to keep them from heat stroke, and small dogs with short noses are twice as vulnerable to it.

There is not a vet in the world who doesn't talk to clients about these things, mine mention both all of the time. My own feeling is that we live in an increasingly fearful and phobic culture, and in many ways, social media is a system for spreading fear, argument, warnings and cautions.

You may notice that I never post warnings or alarms on my blog. You can get those everywhere on social media. I don't seek advice from strangers on Facebook or Twitter, I seek it from professions who are trained to keep my dogs safe and healthy. And have for years.

I never bring a dog into the house without knowing every thing there is to know about them and I write about that ad nauseum. I accept the good intentions of people, but I will not ever be easy with a world of warnings and presumptions. It will just have to be that way, for the people who can't stop giving advice, and seek to do my worrying for me, and for me. I'm learning to live with it, in our culture, no one is presumed to be wise or able to care for themselves and have their own opinions.

My dogs get very good care, all of the time. None of them will ever die of a heat stroke in my care or dehydrate to the point of illness and death while I am responsible for them. So I hope the people out there will try to do what I try to do: relax,  take care of yourself and let me worry about my own life, and my own dogs. If I need help, I will ask for it.

i think Red is out of the woods (again). This is the wondrous nature of life with dogs. It is not a crisis, it is not a drama. It is just part of it all, and I accept in on those terms.

Posted in General

The Most Remarkable Notecards For Sale: The Wonderful Work Of Abrah Griggs

Notecards From Abrah Griggs


I don't usually plug things on the blog, but the most wonderful notecards about animals and nature have gone on sale this week from an artist I have come to know and love.

Her name is Abrah Griggs and she lives in Vermont and is shy and unassuming, which is why she is charging so little for these cards, I think they are brilliant, and they reflect her very wonderful and idiosyncratic and ironic sensibilities about birds, lightning bugs, moths, frogs, spiders, butterflies, dragonflies, cats, mosquitoes and rodents.

It is increasingly rare to find a true original and individual spirit in label-crazy America today, Abrah is one of them. She is a very talented artist as well. She is one of those people who undervalues her work sometimes, and the notecards should fix that.

The notecards are funny and original and really appealingly priced -$3.75 for one, $13.00 for four plus shopping. I would say underpriced. Great notecards to use, and a memorable gift. And I see a lot of animal stuff. I want to tape some of them to my study wall.

Abrah is not yet set up to take orders online, so if you want the cards you will have to do it the old-fashioned way – s-mail and e-mail. You can e-mail her at abrah.work@gmail.com and see the notecards here: I've ordered five sets, they are very, funny, inventive and original. Abrah has mastered the challenge of being hilarious and touching at the same time. Not an easy trick.

Griggs, who is putting together the Mansion Book Of Stories, has a great and very dry perspective about life in nature.

I love the way she and her creatures look at the world. Once a year, she appears at one of our Open Houses, and I much look forward to her visits.

Abrah Griggs lives way out in the Vermont woods and ponders the bugs and insects of our world all the time. Like me, she has an ambivalent relationship with the outdoors, but finds it fascinating, we are lucky for that.

She puts some wonderfully funny words in the animals and insects mouths, and her imagination is refreshing and original. Her notecards are really worth a look, I think. There is something very special about them.

Posted in General