Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I've been very blessed to have my brother Tim visiting for the past week.   Since he flew, Elvis didn't get to come along and stayed with my cousins back in Michigan.   Reports are that he's been doing a lot of howling - especially at night, but that Pete has found the way to Elvis' heart is through his stomach.   Carrying around a few choice treats in the pocket makes any corgi (at least ours) an instant friend.

Part of my Christmas Eve tradition is to ring the Salvation Army bell for the Red Kettle Campaign at my neighborhood grocery store.   It was a lot more fun to do it this year with Tim, and, with temperatures in the upper 40's, we were able to bring the girls along and take the kettle outdoors.    I'm quite sure they brought in a few bucks - especially from the kids who were begging Mom to pet the dogs.  

On Christmas Day we went for a couple of nice walks - one of them over the Main Avenue bridge in Fargo (which is gorgeous) and the other at a large park a few miles north of town.   It's our favorite place to go in the winter for cross country skiing or just a good romp in the snow.   This year, with our lack of snow, it was a hike through the mud.  Hence, the girls have had two baths in the past 72 hours and I'm still finding clumps of mud in the carpet!   Nonetheless, we had a great time and were sad to say goodbye to Tim this morning.  Hopefully he and Elvis will do a speaking tour over spring break in the Upper Midwest and stay with us for a few days.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It doesn't look like Christmas without snow!

We are headed into the second week of December and we have no snow!!  It's been an extremely dry Fall, which has been great for the rivers, as we actually have a shot at a minor flood (or none at all!) next Spring.   That would be glorious!!   But it just doesn't look like Christmas without snow; not in Minnesota!  I can't remember the last time we had a 'brown' Christmas but it's been quite a few years.   We still have three weeks to go so hopefully we'll get a few inches by then.

Not only has it been dry, but it's been unseasonably warm and sunny.   No complaints about that!!  I took the girls to the Holiday Lights parade a couple weeks ago.  We go every year, but it's usually so cold that we don't last long.  This year it was 35 degrees and we saw most of the parade.  (I always try to get there after the firetrucks - with sirens blaring - have gone by.)   The girls were dressed in their winter jackets and reindeer antlers and they got more attention than the floats, I think.   They were pretty darn cute. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Therapy Dogs

I can't believe that it's the end of October already.   One thing that grief has done to me is distort my sense of time.    Events that were a few weeks ago feel like they were months, or in some cases, years ago.   I'm desperately wanting to do some serious journaling about the last 8 months, and I go into every weekend resolving to do that.   I know it would be a very healing thing .... just to put events in chronological order and write up the notes that I have on assorted scraps of paper, napkins, church bulletins ... whatever happened to be handy when I thought of something I didn't want to forget.   Grief has a strange way of magnifying some memories and erasing others.   I look at some of my notes and go, "Huh?" because I have no memory of it, or the memory is inserted in the wrong place on my timeline.  I'm finding that journaling, while healing, is also very exhausting.  I can only do it for short blocks of time.

In the meantime, I have my therapy dogs.  No, they haven't gone through the official therapy dog training, and frankly, Princess wouldn't make a particularly good one.   She's too aloof.  (Quite a few people have told me that she has a cat-personality.)   But she can, at times, be very loving, especially at night.  She snuggles up along my back and it's very comforting to feel her there, especially now that the weather has turned colder and I have my flannel sheets on the bed! 

Dan and I connected in the MN River Valley for a
couple days just before he went back to China.
Dee Dee, on the other hand, is a natural therapy dog.  She could teach the class.  When I'm feeling sad, she knows it!      When my heart is heavy, she totally gets it.   She comes and sits by me, kisses my nose, licks my tears and rests her chin on my leg, looking up at me with big, sad eyes.   She is THE BEST. 

We had our annual wellness checkups this week and the girls are both in excellent health for their age.  They ran a blood panel on Princess (who is 12-1/2) and everything came back perfect.   Dee Dee had a good checkup too.   I was afraid that Dee Dee had gained weight this year, given the lack of exercise when things were harried at home.  But she was 29-1/2 lbs - exactly the same as a year ago.  And Princess was 25-1/2.   She is shorter and has a much smaller bone structure.  One thing that Tim and I have talked about for years was the possibilty that we could lose our parents and our dogs close together, given their ages.   I'm so grateful that I won't be facing that.    I need my little therapy dogs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In memory of my parents .....

Dad                  May 19, 1927 - June 23, 2011
Mom                 June 27, 1926 - September 1, 2011

Neither one of them grew up with pets, but they ADORED our corgis.   Princess, Dee Dee and Elvis brought joy into their lives, just as they have ours.    We miss them so much!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Figuring out Fears

Is there anything about this picture that looks scary to you?   Me either.     But there is something in this scene that scares Dee Dee.   

I am getting ready to leave to Michigan this weekend, and have started setting things out that need to be packed.    Last night Dee Dee refused to come into the kitchen for her supper.    I could tell she wanted it, but was afraid of something.    I watched her as she suspiciously eyed a couple of dresses that I had hanging over the back of a chair.   Then I remembered that she has been afraid of clothing hanging over the chair before.   It's hard to even imagine what is going through her little mind that would frighten her about that.   But I was telling Tim about it and he said Elvis is afraid of loose dark-colored clothing too; especially if it sways slightly.   If he sees a woman wearing a dark colored skirt, he will run away.    Princess used to be afraid of black balloons; any other color was OK but not black.   It's so interesting to try and get inside their little minds and figure out what's bothering them. 

The girls have enjoyed coming to work with me quite a bit this summer.    They make a nice addition to our 'staff'.    Princess wanders the halls, taking naps here and there, always making her presence known when someone is heating something in the microwave or eating their lunch.     Dee Dee, on the other hand, prefers to stick close to me; hanging out pretty much all day under my desk. 

Summer is winding down, and Monday night was the annual 'dog swim' at our local wading pool.   The night before they drain the pool they allow dogs to come and enjoy a dip.   Since it was a hot night, I thought we would go.   However, in past years Dee Dee hasn't been willing to go in the pool unless I'm in the water with her.    I had hoped to get there at 5:00 when it started, but it was closer to 7:00 when we got there.   By that time there were a few ... ahem ... logs floating in the pool.   I wasn't too keen on standing in the water, or, for that matter, having my girls investigate them, so we decided to skip the dog swim event this year.    We just went to our usual park and played Frisbee instead.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hotter than ....

If you want to experience weather, in all of it's extremes, the Upper Midwest is the place to live.   We reserve the right to grumble when the mercury dips to -30 F in the dead of winter, but honestly, I prefer that to 95 degrees above with a dewpoint of 81.   Which is what we have now.   One step outside and you might as well be in a sauna.   Step back inside and your glasses fog up like you've just been dropped into a cloud.   I try not the run the AC more than I have to, but I've broken down this week.  

The girls aren't great fans of the heat either.   They were pretty lethargic all day Saturday, so Sunday afternoon I took them to a nearby lake for a little swim between thunderstorms.   Yesterday I got out the little wading pool I picked up at a garage sale for $2 and filled it with cool tap water.   Dee Dee wasn't so sure about it at first, but when I picked her up and set her down in the water, she stood there, relishing the coolness.   They had fun jumping in and out to retrieve the ball and were quite content for the rest of the evening.

Then, in the middle of the night the thunder-boomers came.  BIG thunder-boomers.   Princess was already sleeping between me and the oscillating fan, but Dee Dee prefers the bathroom floor, next to the AC vent.  After a couple of especially loud cracks of thunder, she decided she wanted to be up on the bed too .... and not just ON the bed, but waayyy down under the covers by my feet.   It had to have been pretty warm down there, but at least it was quieter.    We have had a lot of late night storms this summer, and I've grown weary of being awakened by thunder, tornado sirens or Code Red calls, warning of severe weather approaching.   I'm longing for the day when I can sleep with the windows open once again; a cool summer breeze lulling me to sleep.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gotta Brag a Little ....

The past several months have been consumed with caring for my parents who are struggling with some serious health issues. I have traveled to Michigan by train, by plane and most recently by car, which meant the girls got to come along.  They have always been good travelers, but  they were on 'off the charts' good behavior this time. I am convinced that they picked up on my stress and decided to be extra good. Dee Dee, who has not been able to be in the same room with her brother Elvis for years without snarling at him, got along with him fabulously. Last year, I had to keep a muzzle on her when we went to the beach, but not this time. Princess endeared herself to my Mom by sleeping with her, pressing up against her back and giving her comfort while Dad was in the hospital.   The condominium where my folks live does not allow dogs, so we had to be somewhat discreet in our comings and goings. I made sure they got out for a good walk or swim each evening, and they were content to be left alone all day. A mom couldn't be more proud!

Elvis kept us in stitches with his stick obsession.   I could be waayyyy down the beach with my girls and if I lifted up a stick, he'd come charging down towards us, then complain loudly when the girls didn't play by 'his rules'.   He's hilarious.

The girls continue to amaze me with their understanding of new words and fairly complex problem solving.   Yesterday we were playing with a Frisbee on a paved parking lot.   It's nearly impossible for them to pick up a Frisbee when it is on a hard surface that doesn't give like the grass does.   But Dee Dee figured out how to push the Frisbee up against the curb so that the bottom lifted up  just slightly and then she could grab it.   Smart girl!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Annual Hot Dog Walk

Each spring the Fargo Park District sponsors a fun evening at the Yunker Farm dog park where dogs compete in various categories:   tallest dog, shortest dog, best trick, owner/dog look-a-like and best dressed.  Owners are served free hot dogs and there are treats for the pups as well.  This annual event has a history of landing on a cold, rainy night but last evening was beautiful.   The sunshine and mild temperatures drew a big crowd, and the 'girls' got a lot of attention in their Doggy Diva Tshirts and colorful visors.   I'm sure we could have won the 'best dressed' category if we'd been able to hit the 5 p.m. registration deadline.  Unfortunately, by the time I get home from work, dress the girls and drive up there, it's closer to 6.   Nonetheless, a fun evening.   Dee Dee got a little nervous with that many dogs around, but Princess had a great time.   And for once, she kept her visor on!   Usually she rolls in the grass until she can get it off.   She's not into that 'girly stuff'!   But she didn't seem to mind last night, and even was willing to pose for a few pictures.

 I noticed a TV camera crew there from one of our local stations, and saw them zoom in on Princess and Dee Dee.   So I was very excited to watch the newscast and see a clip of the girls.  However, my excitement turned to sheer horror when the news anchor referred to them as "weener dogs"!!!   Before the credits had finished rolling, an Email message was flying through cyberspace, informing Kirsten of the difference between a Dachsund and a Corgi!    

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another year, another flood .... and A MOUSE in the house ....

After three months of anxiety, knowing that a major flood this spring was all but certain, it is finally upon us.   In 1997 when the river crested at 39.7 feet, no one could have imagined  that 12-15 years down the road, we'd express relief at a crest of  39 feet!   But after 2009 (the highest crest in history at 40.8 feet - and perilously close to losing our cities), anything under 40 feet is met with relief!   Simply stated, the communities along the Red River of the North have gotten darn good at fighting floods!   Hundreds of improvements have been made to our infrastructure since 2009,  a flood wall now winds its way through south Moorhead, eliminating a view of the river for home-owners, but also giving them significant protection during what has become an annual event.   Hundreds of homes have been bought out by FEMA (110 of them in my neighborhood), which allows earthen dikes to be build along that land, giving us some measure of protection.  Permanent flood protection (i.e. a diversion project) has been on the planning table for over two years now, but when you're dealing with two states, plus the federal government, and a price tag of 1.8 billion dollars, these things move slowly!   But this is our third major flood in as many years, and we are tired. 

Our biggest threat this year has been complacency.  However, with a major flood a certainty, we got to work early and three MILLION sandbags had been filled by early March, eliminating the last-minute panic mode which has characterized some of our previous floods.

So we have now crested at just about 39 feet - which we expect to hold steady for several days since it's raining today - definitely not what we need, but meterologists don't think it will raise the crest; just prolong it.   So viligance is the order of the day!

So .... to make a hard transition here to another topic ..... we have a mouse out in the radio station where I work.   With an abundance of cords, wires and cables in every room,  and multiple sightings of the little critter, we set some pretty sophisticated little traps - all to no avail.  Apparently the little guy isn't hungry or else (shudder) he has found something else more tasty to snack on.     So I brought Princess to work with me on Thursday.    She loves to hunt field mice so I thought she would certainly catch the critter roaming our halls.   Not only did she let him run right past her without flinching, but she sprung the trap and ate the peanut butter.    She's been fired.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Moorhead Dairy Queen

It's an annual rite of passage.  Never mind that the thermometer reads a frigid -3 (F) or that the windchill is -28.  It's March 1st.   And around here that means one thing .... the opening of the Moorhead Dairy Queen.   A part of the community since 1949, it is one of the oldest DQs in the country, and under only its second ownership.   Perhaps that is part of the secret to its success.   Or perhaps it's that when most DQs joined the Brazier franchise and became indoor establishments, the Moorhead DQ remained an old-style walk-up store.   That means that, for one thing, prices are lower.  Significantly lower, in some cases.   And, if you talk to the locals, they'll tell you that the food is better too.   Maybe that's because ice cream just tastes better when eaten outdoors, in the company of friends.    No doubt, some friendships have been forged, standing in line.   It's not uncommon, on a hot summer night, to stand in line well over a half hour.  People expect that.   No one complains.  It's all part of the experience.  Yes, going to the Moorhead Dairy Queen is a part of the culture here.   In a community that has its fill of Starbucks, Burger Kings, Taco Bells and all the usual eateries, the Moorhead Dairy Queen is a throwback to a simpler time - when life was less hurried and visiting with neighbors was common.

But March 1st?  Really?!?!   In a part of the country where winters are MUCH longer than the calendar-prescribed three months, one would expect the DQ to open .... well, maybe June 1st.   But owners Troy and Diane Deleon shut down for just four months out of the year (November-February) and they know that, come March 1st, people will be waiting in line .... having planned their day around this annual event.   Several years ago I remember ordering a blizzard in a blizzard.   It was crazy.  We're hearty folk up here.  And, after all, a tradition is a tradition.  

So today, the girls and I made a run to the Dairy Queen.  The lines didn't look TOO long when I got there.   I chose what appeared to be the shortest one.  Ha!   It would have been nice if the lady in front of me had turned around and said, "Uh, you might want to choose another line.   I'm going to order 11 blizzards."   That's right.  ELEVEN blizzards.   She was taking them back to everyone at the office.   Really, I could have killed her.   But, putting on my "Minnnesota nice" face, I just smiled, gulped and waited.  The air was frigid, with a stiff wind to boot.  Even the girls were shivering.   But they know the routine.   Wait patiently and you get a 'dog dish'.  That's a little cup of ice cream with a milkbone biscuit. They cost somehing like 30 cents.  Maybe 40 cents now.  I've never really asked.  It's just part of the deal.   Diane loves my dogs.  And it's not uncommon to see a half dozen canines standing in line with their owners, waiting for their treat.   I've witnessed a few snarls.  I've taken Dee Dee to the car a time or two.   But for the most part the pups are versed in "Minnesota nice" too.  

There's snow on the ground here.  A LOT of snow.   It's supposed to get in the teens below zero tonight.  We're preparing for spring flooding .... most likely 4-6 weeks away.  It is decidedly winter here, yet.  Except at the Moorhead Dairy Queen.  In the Red River Valley, it's one of the first signs of spring.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Winter Fun

It's been a brutally cold and snowy winter across the entire nation it seems, and in Minnesota/North Dakota we have certainly gotten our share of both.   When the girls were younger, I took them out for a walk every evening, no matter how cold it was.   But they've gotten older and I've gotten lazier and many nights we have settled for about ten minutes of playtime in the yard.   OK, some nights it's been more like five minutes!  Our back yard is a giant snowdrift, which at one point is level with the back deck.   So the girls don't need the steps; they just run straight into the snow and have made a nice little track around the yard and back to the door.   
I've been trying to make up for the lack of exercise during the week by going on a good outing on the weekend; both Saturday and Sunday, if possible.   Our favorite winter playground is MB Johnson Park north of Moorhead.  It's not an official 'dog park' but it could just as well be.   The place is a mecca for dog owners and cross country skiers (who don't necessarily like to share the same trail), but it is so large that there really is no reason we can't all get along!   We enjoy a trek through the woods, meeting lots of other canine friends along the way.    It's a great place for some winter fun. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Family Christmas - Better Late than Never

This holiday season wasn't good to travelers.  That's an understatement.   It didn't matter where you were going or how you were trying to get there; the journey was destined to be a nightmare.   I had planned to drive to Michigan with the girls in December, but an 'active weather pattern' (to use the term of our meteorologist) caused me to re-consider.   In the end, I took Amtrak and went after New Years to get a lower fare.   A couple of days before I was to leave, I was notified that Amtrak had suspended travel between Whitefish, Montana and St. Paul, MN and canceled my trip.  Ugh.  Fortunately, I was able to go a couple of days later.    Amtrak was dealing with a major backlog and some significant delays so it wasn't an easy trip, but I'm glad I went.   I think that, for this year at least, it was the best option.

Of course traveling by Amtrak meant Princess and Dee Dee couldn't go with me.   I am so thankful to have next door neighbors who love the girls and are always willing to take care of them.   I don't know what I'd do without them.   This trip proved to be a major breakthrough for Dee Dee.   When I've been gone in the past, she has refused to go next door .... sometimes refusing to leave my yard or even the house.   Princess is happy enough to stay next door,  so that has left Dee Dee home alone.   She must have finally gotten lonesome enough that she decided to step out of her comfort zone, because after the first two nights, she slept next door on a little bed they made for her in the kitchen.  That made life easier for everyone!   She was very happy to see me when I got back, and spent the day sleeping on my coat!   Dog Logic 101:   If I lie on her coat all day, she won't be able to leave again!

Elvis gave the girls several nice gifts that they've had fun playing with this week.    He gets so many treats and toys as honorariums for his 'speaking engagements' that Tim shares them with us.   Elvis is really into opening gifts - whether or not they are for him.   It's quite funny.   He seems to have the surprise element of a gift figured out, and whenever someone is opening a present, he is right there.    He was quite happy with the Greenies he got from us.   Corgis love any kind of treat, but Greenies are definitely a favorite at our house.