Monday, February 28, 2011


A few concerned readers have wondered if something has happened to Tank.

Yes,,, something has happened to Tank.

But it's not as bad as it could be....

I don't think.

I've hesitated to report it till now, as it could have (and still might) have a bad outcome.

Tank was born with demodectic mange.

He had a spot on him when I got him from the pound.
I have never dealt with demodectic mange.  I was so unfamiliar with it.
The man at the pound and I had a conversation that went something like :

" He was brought in on abuse charges"
" Well, he's the one that I want"
" He's not up for adoption yet"
"WHAT?  You're gonna wait for abusive people to come claim him?"

It was the day before a predicted record snowfall for us... at a shelter that is underfunded and understaffed.
A shelter where I am known for my love of big dogs, and possibly, just possibly for taking on a hard case.


Then we get the bad news from the vet... demodectic mange.

This is passed from infected mother to puppies.  ALL animals that possess it should be spayed or neutered and not allowed to reproduce.  The fix is expensive, does not work every time and of significant issue to me, is downright toxic.

But alas... we were in love.  Our rascally boy, stocky, sturdy little Tank.

Every morning begins with administration of medication.  And things will get far worse looking before it gets better and we're hoping and praying it gets better.  The result is the loss of hair, sore, blackened skin, great sores, secondary infections, scars and all manner of more sinister things.  So far, we're dealing with everything on the list, but not the things like seizures.  Oh, and blindness... which I'm also happy to report that we're not dealing with.  Right now, we're at the phase where great handfuls of hair fall out daily, his skin is itchy and scaley and in places open and sore.

It's been rough.  People see him and draw back.  It's ugly and he's so sore to the touch that its' hard for him to run and play.

What it's not is this:  It's NOT contagious... He and Stormy have been together every day and she's as thickly, handsomely coated as any little German Shepherd.

It's not going to stop us from trying...

In the discussion of the notion that treatments can be deadly, and some 20% of dogs don't respond to treatment and do not survive, or worse, need to be put down, we decided that we'd make every effort and we'd know that the worse case scenario would be that if we lost him, then he'd at least have had the time here where he knew that he was loved, part of a pack of happy dogs.

What he is is a ferocious barker (exactly what we needed).  He's fierce and protective and very, very observant.  He's a wiggly little affectionate puppy to his 'people'.  He's occasionally dangerous to chickens... and to shoes left on the porch and to rugs hung out to dry.  He's wiggly and full of fun but can be quiet and sweet.

When I take my cup of coffee to the porch to enjoy these crisp clear mornings of 'not quite' spring, his little head perches on my pajama covered knees and he looks at me...

and I realize that he is where he needs to be.  He might just turn out to be the ugliest dog around, but he's  ours.


Wow... just wow... there are days that I wonder where all the time went...

... when did he change from the chubby little newborn, into a  happy crawler, into the rambunctuous toddler?

It seems like yesterday, when he discovered mud... or when he put the cat in the dryer.

One day last week, we bought a tuxedo...

Try as I might to insist that he fit beautifully in his brother's tux, I was forced to admit that was not the case and we went on a whirlwind tour of the areas menswear shops to locate the appropriate fit.

And here we are... the social season of his senior year. 

Corsages and dances, dinners and proms, proper manners and celebrations of coming of age.

Oh, my... how the days have passed quickly.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A lot can happen

A lot can happen when you go away for 4 days!

Puppy training can go far, far awry.

Oh, wait... that's her cute little face.

Actually, that's a people problem... bag of packing peanuts not put away properly... but you can see my point, I'm sure.

Then there's the issue of the suicidal cat...

Have you ever seen a better advertisement for reusable bags?

There are chickens who want to see you and spend time with you and sit on the porch!

There is now the need to mop the front porch...

But wait... what is this?

Several hundred peach and pink tulips have pushed their way through the leaves and detritus of winter, living proof that spring is on the way.

And this...

a hundred years worth of daffodils and jonquils and narcissus begin to push their way forth, reminders not only of spring but of my inheritance of earth and love of a garden.

 The first of the crocus, always, ALWAYS says "hang in there... warmer days are coming soon."

This is the promise of fresh eggs soon, round fat hens, out pecking away, nearly re-feathered after some down time.

This is the promise of early morning wake up calls and little peepers...

And this is the promise of a companion animal... rapt attention to my every move, good progress on training, the undying devotion in her eyes...

Ah... it's good to be home!

*   *   *

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A time away.

I seldom spend very much time away from home.  I next to never go away without at least one family member or another, or, less frequently these days, all of them.

Last week, I attended the National Association of Interpretation's Regional meeting.  It's a professional organization, of which I am a member.  The NAI is a connecting place for people who interpret natural and cultural heritage resources and the regional meetings are places for training, which is largely peer driven and connecting the members to one another in a supportive way.

I attended this meeting on the strength of a scholarship for new interpreters.  Without the scholarship assistance, I'd have missed a pretty amazing 4 days.  I took my certified interpretive guide training last January.  Since the loss of my job at an historic site in June, I've pondered which path to take on the journey back to employment. Having found this field, almost by accident, some 25 years after graduating college, I've really enjoyed it more than anything else I've ever done professionally. The scholarship enabled me to attend this first regional conference where I found support and encouragement, insight and new ideas and met many folks who expanded my idea of what an interpreter is and what they do.

I met with 50 or so others who work in zoo's and aquariums, historic sites and natural history sites, National and State parks, museums, gardens and nature preserves.  Everyone works to relate their site to the visitors though tours and interpretive talks, living history and many other ways which are creative and informative.
There's nothing quite like seeing the 'spark' in the eyes of child or adult visitor that says "Wow, I get that!".

This conference was held on Jekyll Island, Georgia.  I've passed the exit on I-95 a number of times, during family treks to the Magic Kingdom, but had never managed to go there.  It's a beautiful natural island, once the playground of wealthy Northerners, who built a hunt club there in the late 1800's. Today, the Jekyll Island Club is an historic landmark and very much available to anyone who would like to rest and relax there. There's nothing quite like waking up in the morning, stepping into your own private sunroom and watching guests, clad all in white, playing croquet on the lawn.  Soft, sweet Southern manners abound and staff are set to pamper and always greet you with a smile.  I've never been better cared for, more relaxed nor have I ever wanted to simply stay a few more days at any place that I've ever been.  The conference facilities were very nice and everything was within a short walking distance of my room.

The NAI conference itself was well run, with daily concurrent sessions that ranged from Developing a Master Naturalist program, to the Sounds of Interpretation - A Mariner's Song and many other engaging programs in between.

I attended the Master Naturalist program, something that I'd been contemplating for quite some time and I left the session more motivated than ever to sign on to the program here in South Carolina.  It was just the thing that I needed to tip the scales and get me enrolled. Information and the opportunity to ask questions made it easy to turn thoughtful contemplation into action.

I learned about Audio/Visual tours as part of the Interpretive Experience.  During an informal presentation and a walk about the grounds, we learned about the use of new technology to create another 'layer' of information for the ever more 'connected' visitor to our sites.  We learned of specifics of costs and the time it takes to produce the tours and contemplated how these applications would work for the places where we spend our days.

There were tips and techniques and hands on learning.  I took part in a particularly fun session where we learned to write engaging program titles.  We did a creative exercise, perhaps a little before our morning coffee kicked in, but we saw how many ways there were to  label the same program from many different angles.  Since the conference, I keep looking at titles of things and my mind jumps to renaming the titles using techniques that I learned.

Probably the most contemplated session was the last one, which concerned itself with music's place in the interpretive program.  I'd taken my CIG course with the young man who interprets a 17th century sailor at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in South Carolina. I knew that he was engaging and entertaining, so I headed to that program as the conference wound down.  I learned so much more than I expected to.  Two interpreters from the site shared much about their site in general and included a hands-on activity that incorporates song and how it relates to sailing the vessel Adventure that is at their site.  I'll admit to often saying that I was going to Charles Towne Landing and never actually making it there.  This is one oversight that I will correct very shortly, after sitting through the fascinating session.

During the Regional conference, one day was devoted to off site  sessions and trips.  I signed up to go to Cumberland Island National Seashore.  Though the day dawned with a cold, cold rain falling, I put on my gear and grabbed my backpack and jumped in the van for the drive to the ferry.  A congenial group of fellow trekkers departed the mainland for Cumberland, with the admonishment of the ranger that you did NOT want to be on the island at 4:46 pm, when the last ferry for the day had departed.

We had an informative tour with an interpretive ranger, we met the head ranger for lunch and a brief talk before setting off to explore the island on our own.

We saw the wild horses (which are actually feral horses, a genetic detail, but as a horse lover, one that matters to me) and I met, up close and personal, my first armadillo.

We toured the ruins of Dungeness and heard the story of the Carnegie family.

We traipsed across the 3/4 mile dune,which is my personal 'largest dune I've ever seen'.  I found a lettered olive shell on the ocean side and enjoyed the hike with some of the most engaging companions. There was birding and some of the most amazing trees. It was nature overload and I intend to go back and camp there for enough days that I can do justice to this amazing National Park.

After the day of enjoying nature's expanse, we headed back to Jekyll Island Club on the ferry and two porpoises raced along the bow of the boat, providing me with a last memory of Cumberland and it's vast wildness.

Taking a time away was very nice.  Though I've been busy making up for 'lost time' here at home, my mind keeps going back to Jekyll and pondering the things that I learned and the people that I spent time with.  I fall asleep thinking of Cumberland Island.

Sometimes, it's very good to have some time away.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sometimes, it takes you by storm...

Yesterday, I needed to 'connect' with my boy.

I don't know how I did it without the cell phones when my other two were this age.

Except that they had to be adult and manage things for themselves, like flat tires and 'I don't have enough gas to get home'.

I digress.

I called him to do a bit of coordination of our afternoon, evening schedule and he answered his phone.

And he sounded ...

.... like a grown man...

... not a manly boy...

but a fully grown man.

For a long, long moment, I could hardly breathe.

Then he said that he didn't have gas to get home...

which reminded me that he's not..


there.... yet.

He's well underway... don't get me wrong...

... but sometimes, you just need a little bit of help on the way.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beautiful day for a competition...

Winter percussion competition season has begun.
And this first day dawned nice and clear and warm enough for the 'indoor' percussion team to practice out of doors.

So sunny in fact, that I got the call to bring sunscreen!

In a world where teens can be up to all kinds of 'no good', I'm so grateful for the fact that I know where my 'noisemaker' is and what he's up to.

He doesn't get to wear a different outfit... I also got the call that he'd locked his keys in his car, along with his uniform.

It's ok... I was going to help chaperone anyway.

An hour on a bus with the world's most adorable teens, a warm up and a performance for 'qualifying' for the season...

I can think of far worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon...