Category Archives: Amazing Animals

Water Wonders

“On Lake” – Paul Militaru Photography




“Turtle Swimming” – Paul Militaru Photography

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Great Squirrel Photos – Take 2

Birds n Blooms – Deanne Tomkins



Birds n Blooms – Kathleen Ottos



Birds n Blooms – Mary Lou Rosemont

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The Battle Over “OUT!”

We thought we were doing a good thing when we taught Amber to bark when she wanted to go out, or was outside and wanted to come in. Soon we realized we had created a monster who LOVES ordering us around. She just comes in and then barks to go out again – and loudly enough it hurts your ears! My husband thinks it’s hilarious when I’m concentrating at the computer and Amber comes up to me and then makes me jump straight up in the air out of my chair with a loud “WOOF!”

Since we have now ALSO learned that letting her out alone results in all kinds of things leaving the garage, the front porch, and other surrounding areas and showing up in the front yard – either in one piece or damaged beyond repair, we are now TAKING her out. It’s now 10:10 a.m. central time and she’s been out 4 times already.  This is a battle. We’re trying to get things done and we’re never sure if she REALLY needs to go out or is just pulling our leg. While it’s a problem concentrating or bringing something to completion, it’s also good in that it forces us to get up and moving. I’m also trying to play with her a bit while we’re out, taking a ball or something with me for her to retrieve. It’s good exercise because I make it a point to go out past the shop to my garden in one direction, and then all the way across the top of our part of the ridge line to my greenhouse and then back to the house. Just in CASE she doesn’t demand it on her own, we have an alarm set to remind us that we should go out again.

We’re having ‘discussions’ now about how many times it’s reasonable to take her out. Obviously, Amber would essentially enjoy being out most of the time. When it’s cold and wet outside with a gusty wind, we are less happy about staying out there with her for very long, telling her to ‘hurry up!’ and wanting to come right back in.

‘Discussions’ with a 91 pound lab puppy aren’t very productive…


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Are We Training HER or OURSELVES?

We’re slow learners, but we finally got the message – Amber cannot be trusted to go outside by herself until further notice. We also learned that we have to watch her like a hawk in the HOUSE, too, as she was chewing on a plug-in thingie for my husband’s computer this morning before we figured it out…

She LOVES to go outside by herself, but since the poor dog doesn’t have ANYTHING to play with, she has become more and more inventive about finding something to pass the time out there.

Yesterday we decided to get new welcome mats for the front door and the garage door to the house. I put the old ones we were replacing on the floor in the greenhouse where the weed barrier has become torn.

Soon we let Amber out. I went out a few minutes later to find BOTH new welcome mats in the front yard. The one from the front porch had a huge bite out of the top of it. The one we got to scrap our shoes on in the garage was in several pieces.

We put the shock collar on her, got the remote, and agreed that one of us will go out with her on a reasonable schedule. We SHOULD be playing with her and walking around anyway, so it’s just having to own up to our responsibility as owners of a loveable, rambunctious, destructive, energizer bunny type lab puppy.




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Milestones in Our Animal Family

It’s been rainy here off and on. Sweet, fuzzy Molly came in this morning from an outing with this piece of evergreen stuck in her hair. As you can readily see, one of the things I’ll need to put on my list is scrubbing her in the sink. She will be 13 years old the first part of March.


Amber, aka “Destructo Dog,” was 11 months old yesterday. People tell me that she will continue to grow and STILL act like a puppy (read getting into everything and destroying whatever she finds) until she is 2 years old.  Her saving grace is that she’s very affectionate. She got into my husband’s lap in his recliner last night, nuzzling his ear and making him laugh. When she straightened up and looked like she was planning to jump from my husband’s chair to mine, I leaped up and sat on the couch. She waited a split second for the ‘okay’ and jumped up, turned around once after kissing me, and sat with me for a good 10 minutes.

Abby was described as a “Lap Kitty” in the newspaper when she was put up for adoption. A couple found her meowing in a tree and decided to make her a part of their family. Their two Siamese cats disagreed – violently. We brought her home after having to stuff her into our carrier. It took at least a day with me sitting in the back bathroom with her before she warmed up.  We took her to the vet to get shots, be checked over, and spayed. We discovered she was pregnant. We had to make the decision to abort the kitties, since we’ve been awash in kittens before and had no interest in being so again. Abby is, indeed a lap kitty, moving from one of us to the other as wonderful places to sit whenever we sit still long enough.

This is our computer helper, Smoke, the newest addition to our cat family. We found her at the vet’s. I went up to her and put my finger on the outside of the cage. She walked right over and tried to nuzzle my finger. I was gone. I dreamed about her, named her in my dreams, couldn’t get her out of my head. We went back and adopted her. My husband remarked that – for a free cat – she sure cost a lot, after we got her shots and got her spayed. She is quite the hunter. I’m trying to convince her that moles, voles, and other ‘oles’ are preferable to birds, but I’m not at all sure she’s convinced. Even though she’s a lot younger, she is the head cat, with Abby deferring to her on whatever she’s decided she wants. She’s also a techno-kitty, loving to sit on the printer, the counter beside my computer screen, the table beside the counter, or in my lap as I type.

And finally, the fish –

I changed from a fish bowl to a larger fish bowl, and then finally to a 5 gallon aquarium. I bought 4 gold fish. One is a dark orange, two are bright orange, and one is basically white with one orange spot. (Guess what HIS name is…) The others don’t have names. They don’t say a lot, but they do respond when you put your finger up to the tank.

I feed them twice a day. When it’s time, I say, “Hi, Guys!) and they all swim to the front corner of the tank, in line vertically, very actively wagging their tails and staying in one place, if that makes any sense. As soon as I put food in, they move from the corner to gulp down the food.

So that is our wonderful animal family. We still miss Bambi, our sweet pit bull, but we picture him chewing on a huge rawhide bone, smiling happily at us around it.


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Destructo Dog

I let Amber and Molly in this morning and discovered a trail of drinking water bottles and labels all over the front yard. Amber had only been able to open one of them and get the label off another, but I cleaned up the yard and put the rest of the bottles that were in the open plastic wrapping into the garage fridge.

I talked to my husband about our closing the garage door to discourage her from rummaging around in there, but he rightly pointed out that she’ll go through the cat door when the door is closed…

Our front yard has become ‘discovery land’ since we adopted Amber last May. So far, I’ve gone out to find –

  • sticks of all shapes, sizes and lengths
  • old toys Amber found from previous dogs!
  • a full length metal shovel
  • my dust mop – with the mop part shredded all over the yard
  • the full drinking water bottles today
  • gourds I was storing to paint
  • buckets of all shapes and sizes, empty and full
  • rat catchers from the pest company
  • an entire rose bush we threw off the edge of the civilized part of the front yard
  • my decorative ducks from the front porch
  • a couple of small statues from the front porch
  • an entire planter full of demolished flowers from the front porch
  • a whole plant from one of the flower planters
  • HOLES dug here and there (we DID get her to quit digging in the two empty planters where we’ll plant new rose bushes this spring, thanks to an idea from my SIL

I THINK that’s the list so far. She’s very inventive and seems to be tireless in her efforts to collect things in the front yard. If she continues, my cleaning up after her may be the only form of exercise I need!


Filed under Amazing Animals, Challenges, Family

Defurminating the Dog

Amber is shedding like it’s spring around here. I’m vacuuming EVERY day now – an un-heard-of thing for me – and it’s not enough. We STILL have piles of white dog hair sailing around in the breezes all over everything. UGH.

We got out the “FURminator deShedding Tool for Dogs” today ( I call it the DE-furminator) and it took both of us to use it on her – one to hold her collar after we got her to sit on the proper side, and the other to use the tool, and both of us trying to corral the hair as it came off. We spent about 10 minutes today, getting a large pile of white dog hair off, but it seems to be something to which you can devote your life. There is always more! She’s a hair growing machine. We’re now thinking about gathering it up and making sweaters out of it – something we can sell on the Internet….

We’ve decided that we’ll do more every time we both have a minute and can gang up on her and see if we can get ahead of this. I refuse to vacuum more than once a day!


Filed under Amazing Animals, Family

Death of a Dust Mop

Yesterday I wrote you that I finally cleaned out my cleaning closet, after some 30 years of stuffing more and more into it.

One of the things I put out as trash was a dust mop similar to the one above. I hardly ever use it because I’m fighting pet hair, and the dust mop just makes it swirl around in pretty circles and fall to the floor again. I put it in the garage next to the trash can for my husband to add to the burn barrel, maybe cutting the handle off for use elsewhere.

I just found what is left of the mop in the front yard. There were a gazillion neon yellow ‘hairs’ all over the yard where Amber had pulled them out of the mop head, chewed on them a bit, and then spit them out. I picked up the majority, but I didn’t get down on hands and knees. Maybe the rake will help later, when it warms up a bit more.


Today has been a character-building day for me so far.


Sweet Molly, who is now 13, had accidents in two places overnight. She almost never has accidents, but she IS getting on in years. I cleaned those up and am trying to get her outside, whether she asks to go or not, to see if she can control things better.


THEN Abby gave her breakfast back on the kitchen floor while I was concentrating on getting my first cup of coffee for the day.

Hopefully, things will tame down a bit as the day goes on.


Filed under Amazing Animals, Challenges, Family

Amber’s Horizons are Widening

THING ONE:  This may not look like much, but Amber has been afraid of stairs. Since we live in a two-story house with a basement, this has been a challenge for her. It isn’t that she NEEDS to go up and down stairs at our house; in fact, we think it would be better if she didn’t. She WANTS to, though, even though we keep the doors shut on the rooms upstairs, even when we’re IN them during the day, and even though there is no reason for her to go down into the basement, she WANTS to. She has been really intimidated by the prospect, and finally overcame her fear, adding going up and down stairs to her skill set. Here she is – at the top of the stairs – feeling victorious. I was at the bottom of the stairs, having just come down. She really didn’t want to listen to my request that she come down. I left her there and went into the office. Since she wants to be with people more than even the victory of the stairs, she soon joined me.

THING TWO: For some reason we cannot figure out yet, Amber seems to want to bring everything that is now in the garage out into the front yard. She has brought a few plastic buckets and things, bringing them into the front yard and chewing on them. Yesterday it was one of our big shovels! It is all metal, so she didn’t want to chew on the handle or something like that. I have no clue even how she got it. We usually keep most of our tools on nails on the wall. Maybe the shovel was just propped up in the corner of the garage….

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Instead of having to play “Pick Up Sticks” this morning, I actually found one of our long, metal SHOVELS in the front yard, plus the part of a mop bucket where you put the mop to squeeze out the excess water, plus a rectangular bin – all from the garage. Apparently, the garage is Amber’s new playground, complete with toy storage area…

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Delightful Ducks

“Duck on Lake” – Paul Militaru Photography


“Great Joy” – Paul Militaru Photography


“Lunch for Ducks – Grass” – Paul Militaru Photography

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Welcome Visitors

Recently we’ve received a wonderful gift of being able to look at lots of birds we don’t often see. When we’re eating breakfast, we love watching the birds come to eat the seed we put out. We’re not official birdwatchers, and identify most as just ‘pointy headed birds,’ ‘cardinals,’ bluejays’ (my husband tries to shoot the bluejays because he read they eat the eggs of other birds), and more.

Recently, though we’ve seen –

a wonderful roadrunner who looked like a baby. He sat in the dish of one of our deck planters, then finally made it over to the shovel bird and found sunflower seeds in the shovel part.  We see full grown roadrunners from time to time in the summer, running in their characteristic, comedic way, where they put their head and tail down to form a kind of horizontal line with their body, run like mad for a few feet, then stop putting head and tail up – frozen as they survey their surroundings – and then the ‘horizontal line’ runs again as they cross the yard.

We also saw –

TWO robins! I guess we probably have a lot of these around, but recently was the first time we remember actually SEEING them on our deck railings and feeders. I realized that I didn’t know if we were seeing two males, or two females, or a pair. I found this –


So we saw two males – meaning that we hopefully have at least two pairs of robins close around!


Filed under Amazing Animals, Arkansas, Favorite Things, Greenwood, Mother Nature


We only had a few errands to run this morning so we asked Amber, “Do you want to go in the CAR?” She grinned and said, “WOOOF!” and started herding us to the door.

She is getting her ‘car legs’ now, crashing into the backs of our seats and falling down less and less. We put the windows down half way on either side of the back seat and she spends her time going from one side to stick her face out to the other. When we get close to town, she vocalizes more, whining as she smells more people, places, and animals.

She waited for us at Yeager’s, and then got to get out of the car with the no-pull collar and leash, at the vet’s. We said we were going to ‘weigh her,’ which we did. (91 lbs), but what we were really doing was seeing if our walking her every day at home was bearing fruit. She did NOT pull on the leash much as we went into the vet’s. (Last time, she almost pulled my husband down at least three times – really scaring us.) This time we went in and told her to ‘sit’ on the scales. She did! She waited patiently for us to say, “Good Dog!”  We took her over to say “Hi” to the receptionist. She just wagged her tail happily and licked her, (NOT rushing around like a mad thing and trying to jump.)  She met a young dachshund (I think) who was in her owner’s arms in a blanket. They were sitting on the bench as we went in. She politely sniffed the dog, wagged her tail, and we left. SUCCESS!

We went a couple more places where Amber waited for us in the car. She seemed to have a really good time.

We’ll continue to walk her on the leash daily, and we’ll put the no-pull collar on her whenever we have Carla and her doggies over for a play date or we go out in public, but there is night and day difference between the way she acted a couple of weeks ago and today!


Not all problems have been solved, however. After playing “pick-up-sticks” with the collection she had gathered in the yard this morning, I found two plastic bins plus a lid that she had discovered in the garage and decided to bring out to the front yard to chew on. She chewed one of the handles off, but the chewed bins are still usable, I guess. :0(



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We’ve Definitely Created a Monster…

This photo shows where the doggies usually are – under my computer area or beside my computer chair. They do go over and bug my husband, but he is mostly able to ignore them and they come back to me.  (Amber is on the left and Sweet Molly is on the dog bed on the right.)


We’ve been working on teaching Amber to bark when she wants to go out, and again, when she wants to come in. It took several weeks to get this across to her. When she realized what we wanted her to do, she would ‘bite the air’ silently, over and over, looking at us. It seems weird that we would have to TEACH a dog to bark, but that’s exactly what we were doing.

We finally have achieved our goal and Amber loves it. I’m concentrating on the computer and she comes and sits beside me. I may absently pet her, or ignore her, trying to do something that requires my attention on the screen. Suddenly, there is a sharp, LOUD “WOOOOF!” With me jumping straight up in the air, saying a ripe word or two on the way down, Amber is already halfway to the door. She LOVES being outside, so as soon as she comes in, she barks to go back out again.  She is also barking at ‘something,’ while out on the front porch. She is facing away from the door when we get up and look out the peephole in the door, so it’s obviously not an asking to come in. We refuse to let her sit outside and bark continuously, so after we get up a few times, we insist she come in…

How do you explain to a puppy that the “new trick” is not a license to drive us nuts?

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The Joy of Raising a Lab

Amber at 10 months

Today has been a challenging day for the parents of a 10 month old lab ‘puppy.’

She LOVES the cold weather we’re having.  She comes to sit beside me as I’m working on the computer. Then she starts ‘talking’ to me, saying something like, “Hmmmm!” If I look at her and say, “What do you want, Amber?” she says, “WOOOF!!!” – making me jump straight up in my chair. She actually hurts my ears! We wanted her to bark when she wanted to go out and when she wants to come back in again, but I think we’ve created a monster. How to you ‘explain’ to a 10-month-old-lab-with-small-brain that barking ONCE to go out is good. When you’ve gone out, and come back in again, you need to wait at least awhile before repeating the process?

It’s noon and so far, she’s been out 5 times!  The first time I let her in, I saw she had been busy collecting sticks again. I put on my coat, hat, gloves, and muffler (I feel like a kindergartner getting ready to go out and play in the snow), and cleaned up the yard.

The second time, I saw ‘something’ I couldn’t identify in the yard. I donned all my gear again and went out to discover that Amber had brought the cats’ water bowl and bottle out into the front yard and had been chewing on them. :0(   I picked them up, brought them into the house, washed the bowl and water bottle and refilled them. I took them back out into the garage to find that, before taking them out into the yard, she had played, “Let’s splash all the water out onto the floor!” Since it’s 15 degrees outside right now, I took the broom and swept the water out as best I could, warning my husband to be careful if he went out into the garage, watching for thin patches of ice on the floor.

The next times were more ordinary, without much destruction, but she would stay in 30 seconds, come over to me and say, “WOOOOF!!!” – piercing my eardrums – to go right back out again.

My husband just finished playing “fetch the frog” with her. That lasted for a good 5 minutes or so before she came over and said, “WOOOOOF!!!” again.

By the way, this cute rubber frog is a “Thumbs UP” list frog, as far as we’re concerned.



When we first got it, It’s made of soft rubber and squeaks. I thought it was really cute, but wouldn’t last long. I was wrong! It has lasted for about 3 months so far. She just loves it. She finally ate off one of the eyeballs, so it’s a one-eyed frog now, but seems to have many hours left in it.  (sorry. I just tried to find the toy on the net so I could give you a URL for it, but I guess it’s been discontinued.)

Footnote – It may be that I’m paying for past sins or something, but one of our CATS just pulled over the laundry basket that was sitting on the stairs, scattering the clean, folded clothes and throwing some socks over the side…..



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No Ice!

It has been really cold for Arkansas already this winter. Our ‘worst’ month is usually February, and it has snowed on my birthday in March. Usually, though, we have a cold snap and then Indian Summer type weather through January. I think I mentioned before that last year I was still harvesting lettuce in January…

We have had no ice, though, and I’m very grateful. That’s the only thing that truly paralyzes us. We live on top of a ridge line. Our driveway is steep, 650 feet or so down to the road that runs in front of the house. It becomes a ski slope in the winter. We can navigate it down and up again if it snows because of the snow tires on the truck. Ice is another story. Not only does the ice make it impossible for us to go out, it breaks the branches of the trees. We still haven’t fully recovered from the damage from an ice storm in 2000!

That said, our 90 pound,  10-month-old lab puppy, Amber, LOVES this weather. She finally isn’t panting from being too hot. Her coat is very thick and she seems to grin all the time she’s outside. When it’s seriously cold, we don’t let her stay out long because she’s a huge dog with very little brain at this point, but we try to let her out often. When it warms up to our high of 36 today, I’ll take her out for her no-pull collar training session on the leash for the day – Day Three.

The fact that it’s too cold to be comfortable outside has helped in my efforts to declutter our house. Religiously every 30 years or so I go through the stuff in our house, taking everything out of an area, cleaning, donating what we think someone else might be able to use, throwing out what should have been thrown out years ago, and then reorganizing what goes back in. Yesterday it was our “coat, hat, muffler, and glove area” in the utility room and back bathroom. Today it will be the front hall closet.

So far, I’ve kept my promise of filling an EXTRA big trash bag to put out for the trash people each week. I’m piling things up for donations to our local library and the Veterans Thrift Store in Fort Smith before the end of this month. My goal is to have donations each month, but if I don’t make it, the goal still stands and will remind me that I have much more to do. I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by how MANY areas in our house are crying out for my attention!

Though I don’t enjoy going through things and cleaning, I DO enjoy each area when it’s finished. I like the feeling of accomplishment, the cleaner, more organized area, the feel that I’m getting better control of our ‘stuff,’ and the happy feeling that I’m sharing things that we have enjoyed with others.

I hope you’re having a happy Saturday. Stay warm and enjoy your day!

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Filed under Acting Like a Grownup, Amazing Animals, Family, Housekeeping - Maintenance, I'm a slob, Mother Nature, Organizing/DeCluttering

No Pull Collar – Day Two

Yesterday we learned the hard way that a now 90-pound ‘puppy’ on a leash HAS to mind. She almost pulled my husband down three times between the car and the vet’s yesterday. It really scared us that we basically lucked out, not being injured by our happy-go-lucky puppy. We came home, dug out the no-pull collar, put it on Amber, attached her to the leash, and headed outside for a walk.

The no-pull collar is designed for the DOG to control whether he or she gets shocked or not. If the dog is obedient and doesn’t pull hard on the leash, there are no shocks. If he or she pulls on the leash, a shock is produced, continuing for a couple of seconds if he or she continues to pull. The dog quickly learns not to pull.

At first Amber was rambunctious and got shocked a lot. I decided that we had the shock value up too high, so my husband lowered it, and we continued our walk. We were all tense, since Amber got really upset at the beginning (this, after she paid NO attention to the regular shock collar at the vet’s). She got shocked once more when she tried to chase one of our cats; but otherwise, we felt the first training walk was a success.

When we came home from errands and Lunch Bunch today, we put the no-pull collar on and attached her to the leash. She hunched down and didn’t want to go out. I felt awful, but determined that we get this under control. We HAVE to be able to control her even when she’s excited, meeting people, other animals,being treated at the vet, etc. We don’t want to be pulled down and dragged by our dog. So I grimly insisted she come with me, my husband following along behind.

She walked as if she were on eggs, clearly associating the no-pull collar with the shocks yesterday. Her tail was between her legs. I was tearing up, gritting my teeth, hoping she would be successful. We walked out to the shop, and she did really well. We gave her a treat and then started back toward the house. She wanted to go back inside, but I told her we were going to walk around the house. When we got to the far side of the house, I continued to walk with Amber and my husband hung back, so she would have to decide whether to continue with me or risk getting shocked by insisting she go to him. Happily, she continued with me. I kept the lead short, so we basically walked side by side. I stopped a couple of times, waited, and then continued to walk. As we walked her attitude improved dramatically. It’s as if she had to re-learn that SHE was in control of whether she was shocked or not. Her tail came up and her step became happier.

We finished the walk, brought her inside. took the collar off, and gave her a big hug, words of praise, and another small treat. I’m hopeful that, as the days of daily walks with no shocks pile up, she’ll adapt to the collar without any more problem. We’ll give this a couple of weeks and then try going to the vet’s again…

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Eye Opener

I spent half an hour today playing ‘pick-up-sticks’ that Amber had collected. We then did one of her favorite things – letting her ride in the car! We went to the vet’s office in order to weigh our ‘baby’ on the large set of scales there.

We discovered that our 10 month old ‘baby’ lab weighs 90 pounds!

We had armed ourselves with her shock collar and the remote in order to be able to control her. The eye opener was that my husband was almost not able to handle her! She got excited at all the strange sounds and smells in and around the vet’s office and would not listen to anything we said, and ALSO wasn’t reacting to the shock collar!

We got her in and out again safely, but we were both really impressed by the fact that this could have been a real problem, resulting in injury to one or both of us, plus problems inside the vet’s office.

We decided then and there we were going to start TODAY – starting over with our leash training – walking her on a SHORT leash – the ‘no-pull’ one that we had put away – around the yard once a day. (This shocks her when she pulls.) We actually found out that we needed to turn the shock down, which we did, but my husband and I walked all around the yard with her for about 20 minutes. She was shocked several times at first, but then calmed down and was more cooperative, only getting shocked again when she saw one of our cats and started to run after her.

In addition to the daily walks with the no-pull leash, we plan to go back to the vet’s twice a month as part of this training. It’s important that she also get socialization plus training-while-excited practice by going to the vet’s and having to obey us. She wanted SO badly to greet the main receptionist that she wouldn’t even sit! We hope that the daily training at home and the twice a month trips to the vet’s office will get her to the point where it isn’t SUCH a big deal that she forgets all she’s been taught!

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“Pick Up Sticks”


I enjoyed playing “Pick Up Sticks” when I was young.  I was pretty good at it, too! :0)


This is our 10-month-old yellow lab, Amber’s, collection of sticks this morning. Every day she makes a collection. Today I watched her while she put each stick where she wanted it, having some design in her head. She would stop, walk around a bit, go to the woods in front of the house, bringing another to add to the collection, then move one from one side of the yard to the other. When she was satisfied, she came to the door and barked.

We let her in and gave her a treat, but I think she was quietly disappointed that we didn’t admire her latest stick collection profusely.

This may also be a plot to get me to MOVE more, since I go out and ‘ruin’ the collection sometime during the day….

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Bird Loving

“Dove” – Paul Militaru Photography



“Sleeping” – Paul Militaru Photography

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Power Trip

Amber will be 10 months old tomorrow. She is still basically a ‘bull-in-a-china-shop,’ lumbering around, knocking things over, running over Molly, messing with the cats, and knocking US down if we’re not paying proper attention. We’re told by people in the know that she will continue ‘puppy-hood’ for another 14 months, until she’s two. Oh, joy.

We ARE making distinct progress in several areas, though, and she is adapting to life in the Lewis household better and better. Molly and Amber now will sleep on the same dog bed in the living room in the evenings – unless Amber sits on top of Molly. The cats no longer freak out and disappear if Amber is in the house, although there is hissing and spitting from time to time if Amber tries to pick up a cat with her nose.

I told you recently that we’re trying to get Amber to bark at the door when she’s ready to come in from being outside. We actually had to start with getting her to bark at ALL. Now we may have created a monster.

This morning she came and responded to my, ‘do you want to go “OUT?” We went to the door, she smacked her mouth soundlessly a few times and then finally barked. She actually barked to come in, though it was a pretty pathetic bark. I opened the door, told her “GOOD GIRL!” and gave her a cookie. A few minutes later, she came and sat beside me, looking at me expectantly. I said, “SAY IT!” and she smacked her mouth again soundlessly, finally barking and getting to go out. A couple of minutes later (it seemed) we heard a bark, let her in, praised her, and gave her a cookie.

A couple of minutes ago I was concentrating on the computer. Suddenly a huge “WOOOF!!!!” errupted from the dog, who was sitting beside me.

I jumped straight up about two feet out of my chair, tried to say “Good Dog!” on the way down. I let her out, and sat down again, only to hear a loud “WOOOOFFFFF!” from outside the door. I let her in, gave her a cookie and sat down again.

When she said, “WOOOOOFFFF!” 30 seconds later, I finally began to see that she was definitely enjoying a power trip, working the system in order to get another treat. I got her a chew toy, told her it was too soon to go out again, and told her to get into her “PLACE!”

So far, this is working. What does a person DO when her dog is smarter than SHE?




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Who Knew?

I thought I had tried everything, trying to get Amber, our almost 10-month-old yellow lab to quit digging in the planters where we dug out old rose bushes and just left dirt for planting in the spring.  This was a daily problem, almost as if she made the rounds, thinking that it was her DUTY to leave dirt everywhere for me to come clean up.

Mary Lou, my sister-in-law from Charlotte, said that what she and my brother-in-law do to discourage their dogs from digging in the yard was distribute their poop where digging was off-limits.

Before the big freeze around here, I gathered a goodly amount of samples with a dustpan and put some in each of the planters. I then put some leaves in the planters so they would look like the other planters we had mulched around the yard.  This was about 3 weeks ago.

SO FAR, SO GOOD! No digging in the planters!  Even though it has been really cold around here, Amber loves to be outside. She has had several opportunities each day to do her digging. Hats off to Mary Lou for the wonderful suggestion!!!!!



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Stick Contest

smile and shine via stephanie youmans wilson

I think Amber and this sweet fellow are having a contest. This guy definitely wins the “most-sticks-in-the-mouth-at-once” category, but Amber  wins the “longest stick” category at 12 feet.

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Amber with Squeaky Frog Toy

I told you recently that we’re trying to get Amber to “Say It!” when she wants to go out, or from the outside of the door when she wants to come in.

Earlier today after she had been out about half an hour, I went to the garage door and peeked out. There she was, sitting on the steps, hoping someone would come. I said, “SAY IT!” through the crack, and after some encouragement, she gave me a good bark. I opened the door, let her in, gave her a treat and said, “GOOD GIRL!” My husband did the same thing when she got to the office, having heard the good bark.

Later, I was typing at the computer, concentrating on answering an email when Amber came and sat beside me. I looked at her and said, “Hi,” gave her head a couple of pats and then returned to my email.

Suddenly, a humongous “WOOF!” erupted from the smiling dog. I jumped straight up in the air, coffee cup in my hand – with both my husband and I saying, “Jesus!” at the same time, and then I managed “GOOD GIRL!” on the way down. I immediately got up, giving her a treat and let her out. She seems to be on the good side of the learning curve on getting out now. Hopefully, she’ll learn that woofing and door opening works in both directions…


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Amber on Ice

Amber is thoroughly worn out – for the moment anyway – after her first experience with ice.

My husband let the dogs out this morning. It was 24 degrees F and there was a thin layer of ice everywhere. Amber went bounding out, landing immediately on her rear and sliding for several feet into the grass. My husband said she looked surprised, then got up again with no damage done, and continued to cavort, as usual.

She’s been out several times today, coming in cold and energized, and this time finally got on her bed plopping down in a huff. She oozes off the bed like this most of the time. I’m not sure why.

By early afternoon the sun was out and things were melting. We decided to go to town . Even though we got ice overnight, it’s been warm enough that it was only a problem for a few hours. Next weekend, when the next wintry mix is forecast, we probably wont be so lucky.

As we were coming home I was struck by the beauty of the grass on both sides of the road. Even though things were melting and the sun was shining brightly, the individual blades of grass and other vegetation were encased in ice. Everything “glistened” just like in the I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” classic.  stunningly beautiful.

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Spray vs Drops – Doggy Dental Care

I love this picture. I have to admit that I haven’t been the best about taking care of our dog’s teeth. Recently, I ordered some spray. You peel back your dog’s lip on one side and spray the stuff in however many times they indicate, depending on your pet’s weight. That meant two sprays for Molly on each side. 5 sprays on each side for Amber. Good luck with that.

I really tried. I don’t know if it was the spray sensation, the taste, the smell, or what, but I did well to get ONE spray into each side – with everyone teed off in the process. The company customer service person was really nice and suggested I put the stuff on a Q tip and then rub it on the teeth. I tried that – no way, Jose’.  So, they kindly agreed for me to send it back and will give me a refund. Good company, Probably good product – just above my pay grade. I could probably bully Molly, but there is no way I can bully Amber, our 81 pound lab puppy, into compliance.

Thankfully, my sister-in-law told me about a product they use with their dogs. It’s called OxyFresh Dog & Cat Oral Hygiene Solution. I put 4 teaspoons of it into a gallon of water and then pour the solution into their dog water bowl. This is a communal bowl, so when anyone – dog or cat – gets a drink, they get a bit of help for their teeth and gums. GREAT IDEA!


They do remind you that this is only a partial solution and that you should either brush your pet’s teeth or do something actively to give them the best chance of good teeth and gums possible.

To this end, I just ordered a few things –

First –

Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Dog & Cat Poultry Flavor Toothpaste




Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Dog Finger Brush, 2-pack


Nylabone DuraChew Double Action Dental Chew Bacon Flavor Dog Toy

I’m HOPING that the fact the toothpaste is supposed to be chicken flavored will help with my efforts to move my finger around in our dogs’ mouths, at lest for a reasonable length of time. I chose the finger brushes instead of a regular toothbrush-looking-thing because I’m hopeful I can control things better. I may not have enough hands, but it’s definitely worth a try.

We have dental chews of all types around here, but I also got the dura-chew bone, hoping they’ll opt to use that in-between my giving them things to consume.

I would like to take good care of our pets’ teeth. I really don’t like the idea of having the vet do it, where the animals are given anesthesia. I don’t know if the finger brush and chicken flavored toothpaste will be usable, but they weren’t expensive. Meanwhile, every time someone gets a drink, they’re getting a bit of a dental boost.

*Note – these are all available from

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To Fetch, or Not to Fetch…

Talk about a “Daddy’s Girl…”

We are working on several new things with our 9 month old, 81 pound Yellow Labrador Retriever, Amber. It’s still up for grabs on who is teaching whom around here.

PICK-UP-STICKS – Amber provides ME with some great “bend-over-and-pick-up,” plus “carry” exercise each morning. She collects sticks she finds and brings them into the civilized part of our front yard, leaving them for us to admire and praise.  Some of these are 12 feet long! Yesterday I saw her prancing around, carrying a huge, long branch around the yard. I called to her and she turned, humongous branch in teeth, and I swear she grinned at me around it, saying, “Look at me!”

FETCH – while I was doing the “PICK-UP-STICKS” game this morning, I brought a large, bright green squeaky ball out. It was 20 degrees, so I didn’t want to spend any more time than I needed to out there, but wanted to give the doggie a bit of exercise, too. I squeaked the ball and then threw it. Amber happily bounded across the yard after it, catching it pretty quickly and then brought it back to me. The problem is there. She loves running to get it, and readily runs back to me, ball in her mouth, eyes dancing. But she doesn’t want to give it to me. She stands there, squeaking the ball, or even comes up to me and puts the ball in my hands, teeth never leaving the ball. She looks at me expectantly. I say, “GIVE IT!” She pretends to, but when I try to get the ball, she clamps her teeth down, clearly wanting to play “TUG OF WAR.” Since I’ve learned the hard way that my hands are vulnerable to her teeth in this game, I won’t play.  She runs off, then returns right away, trying to entice me into HER game. FINALLY, when she accepts that I won’t play, she gives me the ball and I throw it again….

SAY IT! – We have taught every dog we’ve ever had to bark when they want to come in from outside. Sweet little Molly, our 12+ years old cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross readily barks when she wants to come in, many times when she is out at the same time as Amber. When we hear her bark, one of us gets up and lets her/them in, giving a treat. We are trying to get Amber to bark when she wants to go out, and then when she wants to come in. This is hard going. It seems weird to be trying to teach a dog to bark, doesn’t it. But it’s a really handy thing when a dog will communicate with you.

Amber has a hard head. So far, after we say, “Say it!” over and over, looking at her expectantly by the door, we FINALLY get a noise between a whine and a bark. You have to start somewhere. She has barked once when she was out, beside the door. We think it must have been a coincidence, though, because we jumped right up, let her in, and gave her a treat, but she hasn’t repeated it…



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Today’s Collection

One of Amber’s favorite things is sticks. She loves ’em.

Because we don’t want her to eat the baseboards and the wall in the utility room at night, and NOTHING we’ve found to put on the wood to make it taste bad has worked, we give her a stick at night. Happily, she chews on this and leaves the other things alone – mostly.

Since the poor dog doesn’t have ANY toys to play with, each time we let her out, she gathers sticks. We live in the sticks (appropriately named in Amber’s honor) outside of Greenwood AR we have lots of trees and branches. Amber has decided that it’s her life’s work to gather as many of these as possible each day in a collection in our front yard.

Here is this morning’s collection –

Maybe she’s being generous, providing me with exercise in my efforts to keep moving. I gather these each day, taking them to our burn barrel. Maybe she’s thinking ahead, trying to save us money, by not having to pay someone to clear out the underbrush in our woods.

I suspect, though, that she’s just being a healthy, happy puppy, gathering wonderful treasures to play with and chew on. She doesn’t complain that her treasures disappear each day. Happily for her, there are plenty more where these came from…


Filed under Amazing Animals, Family

Mr. Bountiful

My husband and I work in harmony each morning to get all the animals fed, breakfast fixed and eaten, dishwasher unloaded, and our basic chores done.

He usually takes the animals out first thing, stopping at our big bucket of sunflower seeds in the garage to take out to the deck for the birds. We put out both sunflower seeds and the small seeds you see in the picture above.

After he comes in and we are sitting at the dining area table for breakfast, it’s like the memo went out – “Mr. Bountiful has come!”

All of a sudden we’re awash in lots and lots of birds of all stripes bouncing from feeder to feeder, plus a squirrel or two, entertaining us as we eat.

We put a special squirrel feeder up, right on the other side of the window. It has a gallon glass bottle held up by a wooden closure. The squirrel has to come into the wooden enclosure and then stretch out to get the seed in the bottle. We get a really great look at him. There are little pointy-headed birds that also use this feeder, popping in and out with regularity.

With the birds and squirrels outside the window, our two dogs and two cats sitting on the floor around the table, and the fish happily eating in their aquarium, we feel happy and rich.


Filed under Amazing Animals, Arkansas, Delightful Surprises, Family, Favorite Things, Greenwood, Mother Nature

Christmas Fun with Amber

Amber would rather EAT the decorations than WEAR them, but we caught her quickly in a couple of pics for her first Christmas.


She appreciates the smell of roasting turkey, gravy, and more, but otherwise, seems unimpressed by any hoopla she sees around here.

She is getting more and more companionable lately. She wants to be where we are, no matter what we’re doing. One of her favorite things is going ANYWHERE in the “CAR!” (one of her recent words.) My husband is trying to get her to bark at the door when she wants to come in from being outside. So far, she hasn’t a clue what we’re trying to get her to do, although Molly does it when both of them are outside. We’re working with her every day, plus playing a sound byte on the computer of a dog barking. Her new words, if we’re successful, will be, “SAY IT!”

We’re having our good friend Nora to dinner tonight as our celebration. Amber will forget everything we’ve taught her, bounding around, clobbering all with her tail, trying to bowl everyone over for a bit. Then I’m HOPEFUL she’ll settle down and show Nora what a really sweet – if destructive – puppy she is.

Nora always sits on one end of the couch in the living room. For the past month or so, I sit there and then motion for her to come over, sit – THEN say, “OK” for her to come up and snuggle with me a bit. With my luck, the fact that Nora is sitting there will be all the “ok” she needs to get cuddly with Nora…. I’ll warn Nora and watch the sweet puppy, zapper in hand….

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve!

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“Another One Bites the Dust…”

Such an innocent, sweet puppy.

This is what I saw first when I went out to call Amber in this morning –


I picked it up and headed for the front porch to find –


(Only one head involved. I simply added it to the pieces for the pic before I got out the broom.)

SO –

I almost feel like we’re in the 12 ‘Weird’ Days of Christmas Song


“On the first day of Christmas, sweet Amber gave to me – a hedgehog with a missing nose, not to be repaired.

On the second day of Christmas, sweet Amber gave to me – a duck with a bitten-off beak, not to be repaired.

On the third day of Christmas, sweet Amber gave to me – a completely smashed duck, not to be repaired.

And a par tri – idge in a pear treeeeee.”


I THOUGHT I had the duck in a safe place.

One can only wonder what will bite the dust next.

Poor doggie – she only has 85 (more or less) wonderful chew toys, plus sticks, plus another dog who likes to play sometimes, plus people who like to play sometimes…


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