Where do our small, personal rituals come from, I wonder.
I have mixed feelings about the rain. I live in a wet area of the country, where water flows freely and droughts don’t mean dried up rivers. It rains about 144 days out of the year on average, so a more than occasional rainy afternoon is a given. Life goes on. I still have to go to work, grocery shopping, and get in a workout. This is the land of Gore-Tex and rain boots, though if you carry an umbrella, we might think you are a visitor from far-off lands.
That being said, rainy afternoons are a good excuse to slow down and cut myself some slack. I have a few personal rituals for these types of days.
First, I light a candle. Sounds very ritualistic, doesn’t it? It serves a small, but very important purpose. The gloomy days bring me down, and the warmth of a candle flame is a small, but very important stand-in for the soul-warming rays of the sun. Just having that small, warm flicker lifts my spirits just a little.
Cozy days at my house don’t just happen. With the rain usually comes the cold. Many days are stormy, with gusting winds seeping into the house. “Mom, can’t we just turn up the heat?” pleads Goose invariably, as he saunters out of his resting place in front of his computer, wearing only shorts. Honestly, he needs to settle in a warmer climate. I hold my ground. The heater stays put at 68 degrees, and I remind him, as I do on a daily basis, that this is what sweatshirts are for. But I’m not altogether cruel, so I set to work making scones. Between the cold bedrooms and the warm kitchen smells, I’m sure to see my sons for at least as long as it takes to scarf one or two or three of them down.
Rainy days are perfect for soups and stews, so I usually get one of those started. The smells take over the house. Caldo Tlapeño, a rich Mexican chicken soup with lime. Vegetarian lentil soup with vegetables and barley. Rich, homemade chili. Any of a number of vegetable bisques, all so good with a loaf of homemade bread. Rainy days are aromatic days at my house.
Once the house has reached peak coziness, I am able to settle down with a book or my laptop. We have blankets folded on the back of the couch, soft, fuzzy blankets, perfect for snuggling. I grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a book and settle in, not worrying about the housework that always needs to be done or the leaves that are piling up outside, putting off that trip to the store. It’s ‘me’ time.
At least until Goose walks out to once again plead with me about the heater.
Like so many days on the Oregon Coast, the day was cold and foggy. We had just gone out to eat, and were doing the requisite walk on the beach. Goose was 5 and Maverick was 4, and they were not just brothers, but best friends. I had just squatted down to take a picture when a sneaker wave came in and bowled Maverick over, rolling him over and over in the surf. I moved fast, but the water resisted my rescue attempts. Finally, I caught the back of his shirt and scooped him out of the wave. He was soaked, and sand was everywhere! In his nose. In his ears. Down his pants. He was scared and miserable.
“This is the best day at the beach, ever!”
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Retrospectively Funny.” Tell us about a situation that was not funny at all while it was happening, but that you now laugh about whenever you remember it.
Yesterday my Facebook feed was awash in pictures of dogs. My friend’s Scottie peering up at the camera with puppy dog eyes. My daughter hugging our old Pyrenees-Blue Heeler mix. A friend of a friend’s lab lounging in the shade of a tree, tongue hanging happily.
Now, I don’t pay much attention to national anything days, except to find the humor in the obscure, but I love my dogs, so I took notice.
Dog day was started in 2004 by Colleen Paige in the hopes of bringing to the forefront the plight of unwanted dogs serving time in shelters. (People, spay and neuter your pets!) We are the happy owners of a shelter dog and two other mixed breed dogs. Please let me introduce you.
Grandpa Dog – Ranger
Ranger was adopted over 15 years ago. We were on our way to some friends’ house and had stopped at Wal-Mart for some items. My husband and son ran in and I waited in the car with the rest of the kids. We noticed a crowd gathered around a box in front of the store, which was a common sight back then. People often took their kittens and puppies to Wal-Mart to give away. We wanted to see the baby animals, so we walked over there while we were waiting.
What we saw were the cutest little bundles of fur. I held one, and couldn’t put him down. He was adorable. He was a mixed breed, of course, with a little Blue Heeler, Great Pyrenees, and some Lab. I was still holding him when my husband came out of the store. I just turned toward him with my own puppy dog eyes and asked if this little furball could be my Christmas gift. And my husband, being the kind soul that he is, agreed to take on a puppy.
Ranger is now a doddering, partly senile, mostly deaf old guy. He has had a long, good life. He lives outside on a fenced acre and absolutely owns this place. He sleeps in the piles of cut grass, the heat probably helping his old bones. He’s a seasoned professional at his guard dog duty, probably due to his Pyreneen heritage. When he was younger, he would nip at the kids elbows as they ran around the yard. We chalked that up to the Heeler. They are prone to act on their instincts, after all. He’s been such a good dog, and a faithful companion. He has the most uncanny ability to know when someone is sad and will come stand next to them, gently put his head on their lap or arm, and look knowingly into their eyes. He’s getting old, and some days has a hard time getting around. We know his time is coming, and we are going to miss this old guy.
Buddy is our shelter dog that we renamed when we brought him home. He is a big lug, an energetic puppy in an 80 pound body. He doesn’t have any concept of personal space, and would prefer to be in our laps if at all possible, and he tries to make it possible. Right after we got him, we thought about returning him to the shelter. He was just so overwhelming and annoying! But my youngest son said, “You don’t get rid of someone because they are annoying.”
So he stayed.
And I’m glad we kept him. We figured out that he has issues, and in true Cesar Milan fashion, when we put him in with Ranger, who is very stable, he calmed down a bit. The shelter tried to give us his crate when we took him in, so I know he was crated part of the time, maybe too much of the time. We figure the previous owners just found that he was too much dog for a small place. Here he has the run of the yard, and although I know he would love to be an inside dog, our inside space is tiny compared to the outside space. With his boundless energy and whip of a tail, he would be knocking things over left and right.
We can thank the previous owners for putting him through obedience classes. He can behave himself when he needs to. He has been a great running partner. He heels like he was born to, and no cat or dog can sway him from his path when he is heeling, but once the heeling is over, he’s back to his Buddy self. I made the mistake one time of stopping to take a picture with him, and he bowled me over right next to the road.
I recently contacted the previous owners. I was deep cleaning and came across Buddy’s paperwork. As I read through it, I was taken by how they seemed to care about this dog, but when I got to the end, I saw that there was a place the owners could check off if they wouldn’t mind being contacted. Beside that was written, please do! I quickly sent off an email with a couple of pictures and telling how happy their dog was along with the kinds of things he was enjoying around the property. I immediately got a happy email back, and she followed that with some pictures of him as a pup.
Buddy has a great bark, and I’ve had people get back into their cars when he stands at the fence and barks at them. Living in the country, it’s nice to have a dog that will be a deterrent to the crazies.
The baby of the pack is Roxie.
We weren’t quite ready for another dog, but had talked about looking for a replacement for Ranger, who wasn’t doing very well at the time. Then a friend told me about how someone she knows had a purebred lab that had gotten pregnant and had a litter of thirteen puppies! We talked it over, and decided that it would be a good time to take on a puppy. I would be off work, the boys out of school, and our daughter would be home from college, so the pup would get plenty of attention. Buddy could get used to having her around and losing Ranger wouldn’t be such a loss.
Well, Ranger really seemed to love this puppy, and gained a whole new lease on life.
My daughter took this on as her personal project, so this puppy has claimed her as her human. The problem with that is that when she leaves for college, the dog is mopey, and Skype conversations can put her into a state of depression. Sometimes when my daughter is gone, I look outside to find Roxie sitting on the bench where my daughter sits to play her guitar.
Neediness aside, she’s a fun dog. She lives for the Frisbee, and has recently discovered that she likes to swim. (We just have to watch for those pesky campground hosts who want to enforce the leash laws.) She loves dogs and kids and smells and treats… The list goes on and on. She is the only dog in the past 18 years that has been allowed by my husband, albeit grudgingly, to come in the house. (I won’t tell him about her climbing onto the window sill!)
In light of these three amazing creatures, I will have to think about celebrating National Dog Day. I’ll celebrate with treats, with Frisbee sessions, walks, and rides in the car. I’ll take endless photos and scratch behind their ears. I’ll take this day to remember how incredibly loyal they are to us, and how much they love just being around us.
If you’re still with me, you must love dogs as much as I do. Who is your four-pawed, tail-wagging best friend?
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