Archive for April, 2011

Life on the Line

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

The recent underwater adventures John had with his cell phone made me reflect upon the first time he went in the water to save a drowning dog.  His unsuccessful attempt involved one of his beloved bird dogs, Spot.  Several years ago Spot and Sis found a couple of raccoons in a tree that was on the bank of one of our ponds.  After some .22 caliber persuasion, the coons were coaxed out of the tree and attempted an escape by swimming across the pond in different directions.  John doesn’t know exactly what happened as his attention was on Sis as she fought with the raccoon she caught.  When he looked back to check on Spot, he had disappeared.  Despite the early spring water temperature of 60º, John jumped in fully clothed to try to find him.  Even if he were a strong swimmer, it would have been difficult to find Spot in the murky water, and locating him didn’t insure survival.  After just a few minutes of searching, he realized the futility of the effort and climbed out of the water.  In addition to Spot, his cell phone was a casualty.  Several weeks later, Spot’s body surfaced, and we had a burial ceremony befitting a beloved family pet and hunting companion of many years.

As much as we hated to lose him, Spot’s death solved a problem we had been struggling with for several months, namely what do you do when a dog’s natural protective instinct goes into overdrive.  As he aged, Spot’s instinct to guard our home somehow crossed the line between protection and aggression.  We had rescued several salesmen and delivery men who were pinned against their vehicles by Spot’s frontal assault, and John’s cousin, Lynn, startled him from sleep only to have her pants ripped as he snapped at her.  They were the lucky ones because they avoided his powerful jaws.  John’s co-worker wasn’t so lucky.  He graciously agreed to feed the dogs while we were on a trip, and he had his kindness repaid by a stealth attack from behind that left a nasty bruise on his leg even though his jeans kept the bite from breaking the skin.  Spot would have been miserable confined to a pen after years of total freedom, and euthanasia was unthinkable.  However, we were increasingly uneasy with him running loose so we felt a bit of relief having the decision taken out of our hands.

The loss was extremely sad for both of us, but I still chastised John a bit about risking his life in the cold water even for Spot.  He assured me he wasn’t in the water for long, and he didn’t get very far from the bank.  Little did I know that in just a few months an even more dangerous rescue attempt would put his life on the line once again.

Happy Anniversay, John

Monday, April 18th, 2011

We celebrated our wedding anniversary last week.  Number 37 isn’t a milestone year and it doesn’t generate the hoopla of the 50th or 60th anniversary, but it did prompt some reflection when I realized I have been married twice as many years as I was single.  You get to a certain point in your marriage when you have difficulty remembering your life before you said, “I do.”  Marrying at age eighteen and a half didn’t afford me a lot of experience as a single adult, but those brief memories are distant and hazy, almost as if they happened to someone else.  It wouldn’t take much persuading to convince me I was born married.

John asked what I wanted to do to celebrate our anniversary, and I immediately answered that I wanted him to make the odyssey to “the city” to look for a new sofa and chair.  Since he had promised to do this over a month ago, it would allow him to keep his promise and allow us to get rid of the worn furniture we were currently using.  When I say odyssey, I mean John ascribes the same level of effort to the 45 minute drive to Hutchinson that was required from the Greeks as they tried to return home from the Trojan War.  He comes to town so seldom that my co-worker, Jaime, who has been with ESSDACK for 3 years had never met him.

We checked out the merchandise in a couple of traditional furniture stores and found a few pieces that were interesting, but I wanted to visit a different type of store that specialized in handcrafted wooden furniture.  I had seen the piece I thought I wanted several months earlier, but I wasn’t sure John could live without a reclining sofa since that was what he had become accustomed to over the last few years.  When we got to the store, I was disappointed to see that my sofa had been sold, but the owner showed us pictures in the catalog and assured me that a truck would be coming in a week or so with new furniture.

We wandered around the store admiring the excellent craftsmanship on all the tables, chairs, dressers, etc. when John spotted a selection of wooden drying racks.  He asked the owner if those were for sale and proceeded to tell him how he had been searching the internet because I needed a new one.  Really?  I didn’t think I needed a new one.  Granted the drying rack I had was much flimsier and one of the dowel rods had broken, but it was meeting my needs.  John immediately said that we would take the large one.  I told him I didn’t think I wanted the large one, and he told me that I did.  Not wanting a fight on my anniversary or a scene in front of the Mennonite proprietor, I used a tone of voice that I hoped conveyed the conviction of my choice to my husband without frightening the owner.  The large rack stood 5 feet tall and 6 or 7 feet wide.  I wasn’t sure I could lift it, and I was positive I would have to build on a spare room to house it.  Not only would it support a large load of damp clothing, but I think the grandchildren could climb on it like a jungle gym.  John acquiesced but not without saying he certainly would have preferred the large one, and we loaded up the small version.  I know that gifts for the 25th wedding anniversary are supposed to be made of silver and the 50th gold.  Who knew that number 37 was the wooden drying rack anniversary.

Home Cooking

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

A few weeks ago I had the house all to myself on the weekend so I decided to make some homemade noodles.  I used to make noodles occasionally when the kids were small, but for some reason I hadn’t fixed a batch for a long time.  They aren’t terribly difficult to make, but they are a little time consuming.  However, they are well worth the effort if you are in the mood for some comfort food.  The ingredients are quite simple:  flour, eggs, salt and water.  I’ve seen some recipes that include baking powder, but my standard Betty Crocker recipe has never let me down.  The secret of course is to add just enough water to get the dough to form into a ball.  It is also important to roll them into a very thin sheet before cutting into strips so they will be tender when cooked without becoming doughy, but the thickness can be adjusted easily to suit your personal preference.

I can’t describe how good they are cooked in a pot of chicken broth, and when John got home he wanted to know what he had done to deserve homemade noodles because he wanted to make sure he did it again.  I didn’t think he would understand what I really meant if I said, “Don’t be underfoot so much” so I simply said I was in the mood to make noodles.  He doesn’t realize the uncanny ability he has for pulling me off task and turning a request for “5 minutes of my time” into a 2 hour hiatus.  However, after 37 years of marriage, I know that home cooking is a lot easier to do when he’s not home.

And Then There Were Eight

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

I never had any doubt in my mind that eight dogs was our carrying capacity.  Now that two of our three puppies have found a new home, my belief is confirmed. However, even I was a little surprised at how the relocation of two small dogs could have such an impact on the amount of dog food we have to buy and the crowd control techniques we have to employ. The pens we keep the big dogs in have openings in the fence large enough to allow the puppies to move in and out at will, and as they were gradually weaned from their mother, they seemed to spend more and more time as lawn ornaments or guard dogs preventing any entrance to or exit from the house. The simple act of carrying groceries to the house involved the agility, speed, and quick wits you would expect from a contestant on a reality game show, something like: “Survivor: Dog Pound” or “The Amazing Dog Race” or “Canine Wipeout.”

Ruby, the one remaining puppy, can still provide a challenge at times but nothing like what we experienced when she and her sisters joined forces. She looks a lot like Babe, John’s bird dog that was hit by a truck when she was about a year old. Ruby obviously doesn’t have the pedigree Babe had since she is an accidental cross between John’s new bird dog and one of his coon hounds, but it seems to me she has the potential to be a great multi-purpose dog. If she can point pheasants AND tree a coon, maybe we could reduce the number of dogs we have to keep around!! Champ was 14 in November and Sis hits that same milestone this month, so we could very easily be down to six dogs in the very near future. The question is how long will we stay there? Eight may be enough, but I think Six Is Superb!

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