Category Archives: Family

Fly, Fly Away…

Guilford Education Alliance

I am flying to Thibodaux, LA to spend time with two of my favorite people. I’ll be back Wednesday. Hold the fort and have a great week!

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Stacia Tauscher via

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Quote Ambition

Since we currently have two dogs, two cats, and four fish, I guess it’s fair to describe us as animal people. We have a hard time picturing ourselves without our furry or wet friends. They make our lives so full and are a constant source of amazement, consternation, and laughter.

Amber is our 92 pound, 17-month old yellow lab ‘lap dog.’ She crawls right up into my husband’s lap while he sits in his recliner, making him laugh out loud. The look on her face when she gets settled is priceless.

Her newest thing is that when you rub her tummy, she puts her head down, going down farther and farther until she does a forward roll right in front of you, ending up upside-down, her feet waving in the air, chewing on one of her front paws. She loves for us to rub her stomach at that point, and would do it all again, over and over as long as we could stand it.

I’m almost afraid to type this, as it may cause the trend to stop, but she has stopped being quite so destructive. Shhhhhh!

She wants to go with us in the car – careful! that’s one of her words!  – wanting to go anywhere, any time.

She wants to be with her people, except when she’s greeted the UPS guy, wanting to get up into his truck……

We are truly rich in animals.

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Dog Song

Good Morning Quote

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Our New ‘Brand’

email from Bill Lites

Everyone on TV has a ‘brand,’ a title that describes in a nutshell who they are – like, “Chief Cook & Bottle Washer for the White House.”

My husband and I never realized that in trying to work from home, and later, when we both retired, our ‘brand’ would change from titles such as “Computer Analyst”, “Self-Employed EDI Specialist,” and “Installer and Fixer of all things Mechanical or Electronic,” for my husband; and “Public School Teacher,” “Owner/Teacher of my Reading Clinic,” “Administrative Assistant,” “Medical Transcriptionist/Bookkeeper,” and “Owner/Artist of Creative Artworks” website for me to “DOGGIE DOOR OPENERS.”

Sometimes the two doggies go outside together, sometimes separately. We humans get a good bit of exercise daily answering our dogs’ signals they want to go out, or barking at the door when they want to come in. There have been times when I’m interrupted so many times trying to write a blog post that I have to stop and read over the post again and again after losing my train of thought.

Amber’s signals that she wants to go out vary from

  • showing up beside you suddenly with a happy look on her face, to
  • nuzzling us to get our attention. (If this results in an absent pat while we’re obviously concentrating elsewhere, she escalates to
  • putting her nose in your armpit and throwing your arm in the air, or
  • letting out the bark from Hell that causes men and women to shoot straight up in the air saying colorful things

Molly comes over and quietly puts her head on my lap.

  • If that doesn’t work, she puts her face up in the air and tries to growl fiercely, or
  • she’ll sit beside the door, hoping a human shows up.

The doggies bark at the door to come back in, but they do not connect the barking and opening of the door with actions of humans. We have proved this because they will be outside with us while we’re working in the yard. They’ll go to the front door, across the yard from me, or into the garage and bark at the door. They KNOW I’m outside with them. If they connected the action to ME, they would come over to me and roust me. You can almost see the gears turning, aggravated because the door doesn’t open until I go in…

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Sneaky Amber

Amber is getting sneakier as she ages.

Her newest “trick” is getting into the trash. This is not your “dump the trash can over and strew it all over the place” type trick. It’s much sneakier. She KNOWS she is not supposed to get into the trash. When we feed Amber and Molly in the mornings, we have Molly on one side of the gate that is in the doorway between the dining area and the living room and Amber on the other, or Amber will sneak by us as we’re fixing breakfast and eat Molly’s food after wolfing down her own.

While we’re distracted, she quietly goes to the trash can beside my living room chair, takes ONE piece of trash out and distributes it in several pieces. She doesn’t dump the trash can. She takes one and ONLY one piece out each morning. She never gets into the trash at any other time of the day – just in the morning. It’s as if she’s taunting us.

If I remember to dump MY trash into the can beside my HUSBAND’S chair, we’re okay. If I forget, the one piece of trash is on the floor when we finish breakfast and are on our way to the office.

We let her in to the dining area as soon as Molly finishes eating. She and Molly like to sit down on the floor beside the dining area table, hoping for a bite or a plate to lick. She knows she’ll be fed – and a good amount. She knows she’ll get a bit extra from our breakfast. She knows she’ll get clobbered if she gets into the trash. The taunt continues….

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I Love Dogs – Take 1

Roger Caras –

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“Fun Sunday” with Pets

I’ve been having a wonderful time with our pets today.  Above is Amber, a playful, ready-for-anything, 17-month-old, 92 pound yellow lab ‘puppy.’ Whoever told us that labs were puppies until they were at least two years old couldn’t have hit the nail on the head better. She has gone through a period where we were lulled into thinking she was leaving puppy-hood behind.

We’re supposed to be getting a lot of rain this afternoon with possibly severe stuff this afternoon and evening, so I’ve been trying to get the dogs in and out several times today before it will be unpleasant for them to go outside.

I went to let Molly, our elderly fuzzy white cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross in and saw a blue and white ‘something’ on the stops leading down from the porch. When I went to investigate, I found it was the label of a water bottle. Looking further, I found FOUR bottles of water in various states of demolition in pieces all over the front yard.

Grumbling, I gathered it all up while Amber danced a jig around me, obviously saying, “Look what I did! I had SO much fun!!!!”


I took the bottle pieces around to the garage to dispose of them. I started to put Amber inside and found Smoke, our cat, demolishing a bird on the mat in front of the steps, looking incredibly proud of herself. I got a paper towel, took the bird away from the now-frustrated feline, saying, “YUCK!”

I got the remaining case of water off the floor under my counter and put it on top of the counter, along with the gallon jugs of Arizona Zero Peach Tea we keep for my husband – thinking they might be next in line as ‘new toys’ for Amber.

It took me about 15 minutes to sweep up all the feathers. Smoke left in a huff after staring at me awhile.

I can’t wait to find out what Molly and Abby have in mind to entertain me today – not to mention the fish!


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The Bottom Line

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Coloring in the Lines?

Khaled Hosseini via

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I Love You

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Amber is Lifting Weights

I just went outside to see if I could get the texting on my cell phone to work. It’s been on the fritz for a couple of days now. I think I’ll call AT&T tomorrow to see if bringing my phone in to them would do any good.

Meanwhile, when I was on the front porch I saw one of my dumb bells in the front yard. It seems that Amber has decided to work on her arms some…

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Stacia Tauscher via

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Abby and Smoke

As I told you recently, I’m having lots of fun with a new toy – a 4 LED Tracing Board. It’s a light box, but extremely thin, and plugs into my computer. I can trace my own artwork, grab pics from the net or books or magazines. Then I can transfer the tracings to my sketch book using carbon paper so that I can concentrate on learning techniques for adding fur or feathers to the drawings. If I had to draw each from scratch, I would be totally intimidated and the learning would be stopped in its tracks.

Yesterday I added tracings of pics I’ve taken of our doggies, Amber and Molly. Today I’m going to add these of Abby (above) and Smoke (below.)  Once I get these into my sketch book, I’ll start trying to learn from a really good book I’ve had for a long time, Keys to Painting Fur & Feathers, edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf. There are drawings and hints on adding realism in various media. Since I really love mixed media, I can play with techniques to my heart’s content, learning a ton with each tracing.


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I took these pics of Amber (above) and Molly (below) today and am adding them to my sketch book so that I can practice trying to get fur to look more realistic with the aid of my book, Keys to Painting Fur & Feathers.  I’ll see if I can get good pics of the two cats, get tracings of them into the sketch book, and then I’ll start reading and trying to do what it suggests. This is really a fun, challenging, engrossing project!


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Smiling Fish

I bought an aquarium vacuum quite some time ago, but didn’t use it until yesterday. It’s a siphon-type apparatus. You sink the main part, getting it full of water, then turn and bump it up and down a few times to get the siphon action going. (This proved to need two of us yesterday, though I think one person is supposed to be able to do it by themself.)

Once we got it siphoning, it did a good job of sucking up the gravel and separating the debris from it, sucking it out through the tube and into the sink.


I then added the decorations, new filter cartridge, etc, and topped it off with the fish. They’ve been smiling ever since, and the water is nice and clear today.

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Filed under Amazing Animals, Family, Housekeeping - Maintenance, I'm a slob

The Best Things in Life

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August 1, 2018 · 11:45 am

The Dog Ate My Homework…

Amber is a big lab with small brain – at least, that’s how it seems to US sometimes. I can’t say much for her owners, either, though, because we SHOULD be smart enough to stay ahead of her.

The latest challenge happened this morning. I was in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast when I heard the distinct sound of her tearing something up. I hurried into the living room to find her chewing up my sandal!

The fact that she had access to my sandals is MY fault. I love to toe off my shoes any time I’m in my chair. If I get up, I slide into my sandals. They have bumps on the inner soles that stimulate my feet and feel good. I’ve gotten lazy, since she has shown no interest in them, leaving them on the floor beside my chair. Apparently, today was the day she WAS interested and decided to chew one up.



I showed her in no uncertain terms that I didn’t appreciate her eating my shoe when there were wonderful toys to play with here and there all over the place. She looked contrite for about 5 seconds, then bounded across the floor to get one of the ”TOYS” I was talking about.

I THINK I might be able to still wear this. I shouldn’t have been careless, but I really didn’t need this regression in Amber’s training this morning.

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Amber is a Wonderful Challenge

This is Amber, our 16-month-old, 92 pound (the last time we took her to the vet to weigh her on his scales) yellow Labrador Retriever ‘puppy.’ So far, all we’ve heard about labs being very puppy-ish through two years is true.  Amber likes to try to scrunch herself up so that she can sleep in Molly’s bed here in the office. (There is a larger bed just on the other side of my desk – complete with chew toys – but she and Molly like this one best.)


For comparison, here is Molly (our elderly cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross) sleeping in the same bed as I type. (Amber went out to play in the rain.)  As you can see, this bed gives Molly a good bit of spread-out-room.

Our latest battle of wills involves Amber going in and out. When the door opens in either direction, Amber is like a bull charging at a red target. She runs right over Molly or the cats, plus us, if we’re not careful. We’re trying to get Amber to sit and wait until we say, “OKAY” before she goes in or out. This is a real test of wills. We have to start getting her to sit before we even touch the door, then keep watching and making her sit until the door is open. If we’re successful, she sits until we say ‘okay’ and everyone lives through the action. Otherwise, not so much.

We WILL prevail, but it may take awhile…

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I just finished cleaning out the aquarium, adding some of the things we used to have in the hummingbird bird bath we built that we finally took down. The hummingbirds – and no one else – seemed to want to take a bath there. The sound of the water was nice, but I was having to clean it out a LOT and it was a big – at least half a day – job.

My fish aren’t unfriendly, but they aren’t good conversationalists. I have no clue if they LIKE the renovation of their tank, or wish I would put it back the way it was. The water is clean now, with a fresh filter cartridge, so they should be happier with the state of life in general, if nothing else.

The only thing they show interest in is their twice-a-day feedings. When they see me coming, the four of them gather in the corner of the tank, wriggling their tails as fast as they can and opening and closing their mouths. I speak to them, but it’s hard to come up with new and different things to say about feeding time.


I DID notice them checking out the woman in the bathtub, though, noses downward as if they were sniffing….

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Rich in Doggies

My husband and I have long deluded ourselves, thinking we’re smarter than our doggies and that we’re training them to live in our home, behave when meeting someone, etc.

Amber is in the photo above. She is a yellow lab, now 16 months old, weighs 92 lbs, and we’ve been told that she’ll continue her ‘puppy-ish’ ways until she’s at LEAST two years old. We’re working on all the regular commands, plus a few particular to our home, but Amber is very independent and will do almost anything to get her way.

Example: We have taught her to bark at the door when she would like to come in or go out. Amber has ‘learned’ this, but has embellished the lesson to include us. We now respond quickly if she either sits beside us and then says, “BARK!” so loudly that we jump straight up in the air, saying ripe words and moving quickly to let her out. A creative alternative to this is that she sits beside me when I’m on the computer and then puts her nose into my left armpit and then routes around, harder and harder until I laugh, get up and let her out. We are now trained to get up and go to whatever door she has decided to go to. Not only that, but she has taught us to reward her for barking to come in with a cookie. If we’re distracted or try to ignore her – she follows us around and then, when we’re least expecting it, yells “BARK!!”

She knows what time it is and starts running around the living room like a mad thing when it’s time for us to feed her in the evening. She won’t be put off, either, adding routing around, trying to climb up in the chair with us, or the dreaded, “BARK!!!” until the humans do what she wants. She herds us to the kitchen, waiting impatiently as we feed cats in the garage, fish in the tank, and then make food for her and Molly. She DOES go to her eating place and WILL sit until we put the food down and tell her “OKAY.”


This is sweet, elderly Molly, a cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross whom we adopted many years ago to cheer up our pit bull. She is now about 13 years old. Her mission in life is to make us laugh or say, “AWWWW!”  She has been a treasured member of our family, and she’s now finally adapting (mostly) to her bull-in-a-china-shop ‘sister’ who regularly runs right over her and considers her a personal chew toy. Without our doing anything, she has picked up on the bark at the door behavior and then demanding a cookie upon entering the house. We have dubbed ourselves ‘doggie doormen,’ not knowing what we did with ourselves before we were letting animals in and out. She growls and yodels to add to the furor surrounding dinner time, thinking she is one fierce doggie.

We are very rich in doggies, and they are DEFINITELY smarter than we are.


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Smoke apparently was up much of the night catting around. She isn’t saying much, but plopped herself down on my calendar this morning and seems not inclined to be particularly sociable until further notice.


She just allowed me to pet her. We have two cats, Smoke and Abby, neither of whom purr worth spit. They seem really happy and spend a lot of time either beside us, being companionable, or sitting on us when they get the chance, often for hours if we’ll allow.

We adopted Smoke from our vet’s office. She was in a cage with some others when we brought one of the doggies in. I went over to the cage and she came right up, rubbing up against my hand and much as she could with the cage between us. My heart melted, but we already had a cat, plus two dogs, and really didn’t need another cat. That night I dreamed of her and named her Smoke in my dream. I told my husband. Being a ‘keeper’ as far as husbands are concerned, he agreed that we did, indeed, have room for another.

This is Abby. We adopted her through a newspaper ad, describing her as a ‘lap kitty.’ It actually took us a day and a half of trying to calm her down in one of our bathrooms before she warmed up to us. In the end, the ad was more than correct. She is now fat, sassy, and a wonderful cat. Smoke is the head cat, though, even though she was adopted second. Abby defers to her in all things.

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92 Pound Greeting

This is Amber. She is 16 months old now, weighing 92 pounds at last weigh-in at the vet’s.  Words to describe her include, “energetic, sweet, exuberant, loving, boisterous, cute, unrelenting, playful, and ‘watch out!'”

Each morning I come down the stairs half asleep. My husband usually makes it downstairs before I do, letting doggies out and starting to feed animals. Sometimes Amber greets me at the bottom of the stairs. Other times in the living room, or the kitchen. I’ve learned to ‘brace for impact’ as we TRY to teach her not to dive-bomb us.

This morning she caught me as I was going to my recliner to retrieve the shoes and socks I had left there last night. She caught me from the side, causing me to almost fall onto the couch while I was trying to sit down in my chair. I took some time to love her, rubbing her all over and cooing to her, trying to get her to calm down. She’s like a volcanic eruption, though. It’s hard to contain all that love and enthusiasm.  (I held my feet up off the floor while greeting her, having learned the hard way that allowing her to step on my toes results in soreness and bruises.)


I got her calmed down, only to have to start over when I tried to stand up. She finally heard, “SIT!” and complied – just long enough for me to get completely up and around the chair. She circled around, over and over, tail wagging madly, as I made my way carefully to the kitchen. I finally got through one of the dog gates and closed it between us.

I AM smarter than this dog – I THINK.

We WILL get her to SIT and STAY one of these days ‘real soon now….’

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Are Fish ‘Affectionate?’

I’ve been told that goldfish are ‘dirtier’ than most aquarium fish and take  a lot more care in keeping their bowl or aquarium clean. I’ll have to agree that it seems I need to completely change the water every week or so, even with a good filter with a cartridge I change twice as often as the box suggests.

My husband keeps suggesting that the fish are too much work, that they don’t ‘love’ us, aren’t affectionate, don’t do tricks or anything – just make more work for us. I just look at him when he starts this. He finally shrugs and gives up. I’M the one who is doing the work, after all.

My fish don’t have names. To be honest I can’t tell the three more regular goldfish apart. I have a white one with a gold spot who could have a name, but I don’t want to treat that one any differently than the others.

I don’t know if my fishies are ‘affectionate,’ or not. The only thing they do that melts my heart is that when I come up to the glass to feed them twice a day, they see me, bunch up in the top right corner of the aquarium and wriggle their little bodies as fast as they can go, mouths opening and closing.  I don’t really know why I find that ‘sweet,’  but I do.


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Defurminating the Dog

Amber is miffed at me because we went out onto the screened porch with a trashcan and a ‘furminator’ tool and I proceeded to try to thin her hair. She’s been panting like crazy in this heat even with plopping herself into her kiddie pool almost every time she goes out. I even gave her a cookie after she had taken all she was going to tolerate, but she’s still miffed.


This started when I was watching the news today and Amber sat down on her bed which is right under the TV. She plops, rather than sitting more elegantly, and this resulted in a cloud of hair flying in all directions.

After getting 1/3 of a large trash can full of hair today, I’ve decided that we’ll try to do this at least every other day. Even though I’m not winning any popularity contests with this, it will make her more comfortable and it will help MY mood. I’ve been vacuuming a LOT (for me) and each time end up with a canister full of dog hair and YUCK from our floors. Maybe I’ll feel that I’m making more progress in this as we thin Amber’s coat a little.

Meanwhile, she looks at me, huffs, and lays her head down again – on the floor because she can’t fit into Molly’s bed. :0)

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Fierce Doggie!

Amber thinks she’s a fierce doggie, alert to all comers.  She weighs 92 pounds and is like a bull in a china shop, bulldozing her way around inside and out.

Today I was in our guest room going through books for possible sales and Amber pushed the door open with her nose. She came in happily, looking all around the room, licking me on the arm. Suddenly her hackles rose on her butt and on the back of her neck. She saw this –


She jumped backward and barked, looking very upset. I laughed and tried to pet her. She was still upset, hair still standing up as she moved closer to the dog, sniffed, and then backed up again, over and over.

Finally, I picked up the pile of books and called her to come with me. She did, but reluctantly – keeping a close eye on the intruder…


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Happiness is Lips Blowing in the Wind

I don’t have a picture of Amber’s joy at putting her head out of the window so that her lips and tongue blow in the wind, but this is a pretty close picture of what I see when I look in my rear view mirror. All we have to do is look like we’re getting up to leave, or say the word, “CAR” and she’s in. It doesn’t matter where we’re going. It doesn’t matter what the weather. She doesn’t like it when we LEAVE the car, but is happy when we return and the trip continues.

Today we took her to a yard sale on the way home from errands. She had already smiled at people who talked to her at Walmart. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy having a dog who isn’t growling or looking quite serious if people speak. The only thing I worry about now is that she wants to go with everyone! She goes right up into the truck of our UPS and FEDEX delivery people, and happily greets anyone coming up the driveway. The greeting is a bit exuberant, and we have to warn people that she doesn’t realize how big she is and might bowl them over…

She greeted people sitting under a tree at the yard sale with her usual smiling face. She started to whimper when we went to look at things quickly. We didn’t want to stay long because we had Amber – and a container of cottage cheese – in the car and it’s in the high 90’s, with a heat index of about 103. We hurried, and she was happy when we came back to the truck, each with goodies in our arms.

My husband got a really pretty lavender cylindrical glass vase and two votive holders he thought I would like. (I did!)


I fell in love with this handmade birdhouse! It’s made of real wood with something sturdy used as ‘shingles’ for the roof.


I think I’ll hang it up near a larger one on the porch so it doesn’t fall apart in the weather. I just love it!


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Amber’s Pool is Clean-ER

Our yellow lab ‘puppy’ is now is almost 16 months old. She weighs 92 pounds (officially on the vet’s scales) and to say that she loves water is the understatement of all time.

I try to clean her pool every 3 days or so, and I have to say, it’s a big job. When it’s half full, as it is in this picture, neither my husband nor I can lift the edge to try to empty it. We tried it together, with both of us on one side, and still can’t do it.

What we’ve finally come up with is to push down on one side, in effect, crumpling the plastic, pushing down hard as the water flows out. Then I take the car broom (long handled and really soft brush) and scrub it out with the rest of the old water. Then I crumple the side some more, getting as much water out as possible. THEN I’m barely able to lift one side as the rest of the water goes out.

When empty, it’s a simple thing of using a cleaner spray, scrubbing with the broom again, and then lots of rinsing. When the pool is clean, we put the hose on full blast with the thingie on the end that keeps the water flowing whether you’re holding it or not and put it in the pool with two bricks on top. When the pool is about half full, the job is done.

Today my husband wanted to help and insisted we bring Amber. He immediately figured out that wearing his socks and sandals wasn’t the best for dealing with LOTS of water, so he stood back.

Amber took my messing with her pool to mean it was play time and she kept trying to get into the pool with the yucky water. As I got the water out, it of course forms mud all around the pool, since the place my husband wants the pool now is in the shade and out of the way of the mower. Amber thought it was great fun to play in the mud – laying down in it at several points, and then trying again to get into the pool.

I finally got the pool half full. My husband got Amber to sit and I hosed her off – with her trying to bite the spray from the hose.

She jumped into the pool as we hung the hose back up on the end of the house, probably putting a bunch of mud into the freshly cleaned pool. I just ignored it, not wanting to see the damage so soon.

At least the water in the pool is clean-ER and cool now. I won’t cringe – at least for awhile, when Amber drinks it as she walks around the inside of the pool before plopping down in it.

  • Addendum – just now she barked at the garage door wanting to come in. I got her toweled off enough finally that I could let her in. She headed straight for the big dog bed in the living room for a well-earned nap.

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Two Mollys




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Going to the Dogs

Fuzzy Molly

We just recently got back from taking sweet, Fuzzy Molly to the groomer at the vet’s office to be shorn like a sheep.  Molly is a cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross and is 13-1/2 years old. She is a happy doggie, making all of us smile. We’re having a bad year for ticks, so we’ve had to keep doing more and more to keep our animals as safe as possible. We use the squeeze-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff from the vet once a month, but this year we also got flea collars for the two doggies and our two cats. (The fish in the aquarium don’t seem to be bothered by ticks. :0) )

Our vet got a new groomer who started at the first of this month. She has some 23 years off experience, so we’re lucky to get her. Today was the first opening the groomer had, so Molly has gotten really fuzzy between groomings. I’m having more and more trouble finding the pesky ticks and now she’s coming in covered with little tiny burrs. I’m glad that we could get an appointment today. We’ll pick her up at around 2:00 this afternoon.

Since we were going to the vet and Amber loves going ANYWHERE in the car, we took her, too. She now understands “CAR,” “GO,” “GET READY” and all sorts of other words shared – or not MEANT to be shared – with her, so it’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to get out the door without either a “LET’S GO” or “NO, you can’t go” discussion.

Amber is a Yellow Labrador Retriever. She is now 15-1/2 months old. In an older post I told you she weighed 95 lbs. I misspoke. She only weighs ninety-TWO pounds. My husband put the no-pull collar and leash on her before bringing her into the vet’s office. She was a perfect lady, even though it had been months since she had worn the collar (which gives her a shock if she suddenly pulls on it, letting up when she does). She hadn’t been on a leash in that amount of time, either, so she has a good memory.  We weighed her quickly and then left.

The first thing Amber did when we got home was run around the side of the house and jump into her pool. With the storms we’ve had the past several days, the water was yucky. That didn’t stop her for one minute. She splashed around, drank some of the water (yuck!) and laid down, saying, “AHHHHH!” and looking very pleased with herself. She is now snoring in Molly’s small bed.

I hope that, if you aren’t lucky enough to have a doggie of your own right now, you have access to someone else’s dog so that you can smile for awhile today.



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