Monday, December 31, 2007

Make It Stop!!!!!!!!

A month and a half until spring training...can't wait.
As much as I hate to disrespect our dogs, I did promise January would be cat month. Sultana will hold me to the deal. I'll post questions in a couple of days.
Tell the pups to take cover...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Merriless Christmas?

I’ve been remiss in not proclaiming “Merry Christmas” to my sojourners out here on the path.

It’s not a bah-humbug omission. The thing is, every time I sat down to write a Christmas greeting, I felt inadequate. Many of my fellow authors have shared greetings and memories on various blogs, and I felt I couldn’t match them—as if this cyber-celebration was a competition and not a commemoration.

Author Patty Hickman has shared with her readers the amazing work of a ministry she’s involved with, caring for folks with HIV/AIDS ( Upon reading about what these big-hearted, faithful folks have done, I literally jumped to my feet in praise of the One who enlivens their ministry.

So many of you offer similar service in Christ’s name. These are the true gifts of Christmas, laid at the foot of the manger to bring radiance to the child, light to the darkness.
Me? I just walk my dog.
On this last weekend of 2007, it’s fitting to ask if I’m on the right path.

I tell myself someone has to drink in the hush of the woods, be staggered by the majesty of the trees, bath in silent snow, shout praises to a sparkling sky. The key—as in everything—is praise. My pittance of what is owed has quieted because the forester drowned praise with his incessant chain saw and grinding bulldozer; the weather froze praise with bone-chilling cold; the season crushed praise with obligations; the Patriots claimed praise as their own; the writing pretended to be praise’s vehicle; the fear of failure shredded praise in bloody tatters.

The truth is that I chose to walk this path of acquiescence.

The irony is that Tasha still gets it right. She’s slow to get going but once she’s on the path, she bounds with joy. And she’s taken to looking back at me, ears perked and head tilted, as if to say can’t you keep up?

And she’s right. Out on the path, it’s not about having a Merry Christmas. It’s all about letting the chainsaw and weather and seasons and Patriots and writing and failure fall to the wayside.

It’s all about having Joyous Christ. And this, my dear friends, is what I wish you all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Maddie Takes The Plunge

This is from my friend Marj, who shares that miracles even come to dogs sometimes...

As you know, today was the day slated for Maddie's bath.

As this is usually an undertaking fraught with peril (or at least a considerable degree of mess), we prepared by emptying the tub area of all extraneous material and removing the shower curtain. We placed a supply of cookies on the sink. Then all three of us stood in the bathroom so we could hoist her into the tub and then form a human shield to keep her there once she was soapy and wet.

Well. Much to our astonishment, she trotted into the bathroom wagging her tail and then hopped right into the tub. For a moment all three of us stood there staring at her as she waited wearing her patient face. Then we shampooed and rinsed and shampooed and rinsed, and she never once tried to escape. It was simply weird.

We can't decide if she was cooperating because she couldn't stand the smell either, or if she is aware that Santa is coming and decided she had better be good, for goodness' sake.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Is there anything like dog slurp? Thick enough to lube a car's engine, persistent enough to require muscular scrubbing, slippery enough to send someone (me) flying when that someone (me) doesn't see it on the tile and steps in it.

Our first dog, Barney, was a purebred black Lab with a square head and the jowls. Jowls are a a dog's warehouse, where slurp builds up to critical mass. I imagine when Angie Hunt's mastiffs shake, the slurp ends up on her ceiling! We used to try to fill Barney's dish out of his sight because he'd start drooling and leave a trail of slurp across the kitchen floor where someone (me) could take a header on it.

Like most labs, Barney always had to have a stick in his mouth. On snowy days, he'd go outside and play, tossing his stick in the air and catching it...coating it with slurp. It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that, by the end of his play time, a stick that had been one inch in diameter would be about six inches in diameter.

Five inches of frozen slurp is indeed a wonder of creation.

Tasha is a lady with a pointy nose and no jowls. She only slurps in her water dish and food dish. Every few days I hose them down with heavy detergent to de-slurp them. Poor Tasha has been deprived for the past three years. Our dishwasher has been broken and thus, she never ever gets to clean out the roasting pan or the rice pot. No way would I trust handwashing her slurp out of dishes we use. And that's too bad for her because she's skinny enough and old enough to be able to eat anything she wants.

Today Tasha is in dog bliss.

Steve finally found a schematic online for the dishwasher and fixed it. Tasha can eat the mashed potatoes out of the pot or gulp down my leftover spaghetti and we can de-slurp those dishes completely.

What we couldn't clean by hand, the dishwasher does with gusto.

Dog bliss, indeed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Breath of Heaven

I've mentioned before how I like to start the day with a moment of praise at my front door. It's all glass and gives me a wonderful view of our front yard and the woods, taking me out of myself for a time.

This morning I pressed my face to the glass and thought, 'euuww', does my house smell! This hallway always smells because Tasha sleeps her. I wash her blanket frequently and her as often as is healthy but she's old and old dogs stink. I made fried cabbage last night, a sweet and very healthy veggie but it adds considerably to the dog smell. With the cold weather we've had for weeks now, the house hasn't been aired.

I tried to pray but it all seemed to press down on me, calling me back into my life--as stinky as it is today. Not just dog and cabbage but work and health and everything we all deal with.

I leaned my head against the glass and suddenly smelled fresh air. Coming in around the door, the tiniest trickle but it was so cold and absolutely clean, it refreshed me. I pressed my nose to the crack and just breathed it in, taking as much as I could.

Had I courage, I would have flung the door open and let the icy cold air roar over me but I only had the heart and guts to take in this little whiff. Even so, it overcame the stink and made me feel clean. And I like the Holy Spirit. We may only dare to sniff that breath of Life but even that tiny gasp can overcome the stink. Imagine if I could find the guts to fling open that door!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Let It (NO) Snow

We're in the middle of a Nor'easter, the second snowstorm in two days. Tasha and I have already been out, walking the 600 ft. to the mailbox where...miraculously...our newspaper lady had delivered the Sunday News.

In the warmer weather, I need to lure Tasha with pieces of cookies or she won't walk. Once she gets commited to the path, she will follow me but it's with head down and shoulders slumped.

She loves the snow. I guess I get the cold part but something about this weather makes her literally leap like a puppy. On the way to the mailbox, she got so far ahead of me that I had to scream "STOP" so she wouldn't get hit by a snowplow.

Interesting how her hearing is so bad she can't hear the plow...and yet, she can hear my voice.

If only my ears were as attuned to God's voice, especially when I get so far ahead!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

From Bones to Gravy

Ah, Tasha's mouth is already watering.

But we're not talking dog food...we're talking food that is healthy and amazingly delicious. My sister Janice Freeman, a medical professional/health trainer/superb cook, is trying her hand at blogging. She's sharing health, fitness, and food tips on her blog:

Living to Cook, Cooking Well to Live Well

This is her picture, finishing a trialathon last summer. Janice is a woman who hadn't been on a bicycle in my living memory! I urged her into the cyber-conversation because she has so much knowledge, experience, and inspiration that we can all benefit from. I'm going to share her story in own words...

At age 48, I weighed over 300 lbs and daily life was becoming harder and harder. My body would soon succumb to Type 2 Diabetes, as my fasting blood sugar was 115 and climbing. I had to make some changes, but what and how? I "dieted" off and on all my life, and knew it didn't work. I also knew exercise had to become part of my daily lifestyle.

A full time job and a seat on my local Board of Education made that quite a challenge. But if I could just start making one permanent change at a time, maybe I could get healthier. I didn't care about the looks, but health became my primary issue. A journey that is still in progress began. Now a healthy weight and size, in a 61 year old body that completed its first Triathlon this year, I want to offer whatever I can to anyone facing the same struggle.

She does not diet. She cooks well, eats well, lives well. She is a wonderful wife, great mom and grandmom, and terrific sister.

The only thing missing from her life is the dog.

Check her out, and ask questions galore!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Footsteps, part 2

There are some paths in the woods now that the forester has completely obliterated. After he fells a tree, takes the massive trunks away and leaves behind huge branches, trees that break when "his" tree topples, and a general mess.

Not my woods, I keep telling myself. Not my woods,

Some places I can't go at all anymore. One path I can travel but there's a mess over about 20 ft. of it so I need to pick my way carefully through branches and scruff. The snow has made it easier to remember the least dangerous way over that tangle. I follow my own footsteps. And Tasha, after a few bounces and almost getting stuck, follows me.

This morning I took this particular path from the opposite direction. From this perspective, I couldn't find my own footsteps.

Tasha could, however.

Somehow she sniffed out my footsteps and led me along until I could actually see where I needed to go to stay safe.

Lil' pup turned yesterday's analogy back on me. Bless her.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In My Footsteps

Like many of you, we've had our share of nasty weather recently. Yesterday we had a mild ice storm that left a crust on the snow.

Tasha and I keep up our walking, no matter what the weather. When it snows, I trudge along , back and forth, over and over, until there is a decent path in the snow. It's kind of insane but makes for great leg muscles. Tasha doesn't need my path...she loves the snow and springs about like a puppy.

The ice crust is another matter. Unless it's an inch thick, she breaks through and it hurts her feet. Fortunately, I've flattened the paths so the crust--while slippery--is irrelevant. We've had nice walks yesterday and today.

Until this afternoon, until I decided to leave the path and check something out. Tasha followed me and immediately broke through the crust. Her joy turned to pain, to my consternation.

"Hey!" I screamed (because it takes screaming to get her attention). "This way."

I was breaking the crust so all she had to do was follow in my footsteps. But she wanted to go her own way, something that caused the spring in her step to transform into a slouch of the shoulders. The discomfort was written all over her gray snout but, as much and as loudly as I pleaded with her to come walk behind me, she just kept plodding along and breaking through the crust.

Tasha has an excuse for not getting into my footsteps...she is, after all, a dog.

What excuse do I have when I'm punching through the crust of life and wincing with every step...when I could be springing with joy because I'm following in God's footsteps?

Say Hi To Merry Stahel, Flint, and Echo

Today we welcome Merry Stahel and her delightful dogs, Flint and Echo. I'm grateful to know that my dog isn't the only pup who loves to roll in poop! I love when Merry says, "I hope I am living and not wasting the life God has given me and that the Savior died for so I could keep that life."

KM: The thing about dogs is that, given a loving master or mistress, they live life with everything in them.

My apologies to Merry for the pictures showing up in weird places. I need Bonnie Calhoun to write a book about blogging so I can learn how to format my posts better.

And now...ta-da...introducing Flint and Echo.

What's your dog's name, breed, and age?
This is Echo.

Flint is a probably a too-large white Shiba Inu aged 5 years. Echo is a black husky/wolf mix aged 4 1/2. Both were named after characters in Louis L'Amour books - Flint for FLINT and Echo for Echo Sackett in RIDE THE RIVER.
This is Flint.

Where did you get him/her?

I went to get a puppy for my daughter for Valentine's Day. Our 15 year old cat had died the year before and I felt our grieving process was less-blunted and it was time for another animal. I couldn't get another cat just yet and she wanted a puppy, anyway. My husband and I walked around trying to find a puppy. They didn't have any. So we chose a smaller dog. When we went to the room for socializing the dog completely ignored us. So we walked around and chose another. That dog cowered in a corner and wouldn't come to us, either. By then we'd been there for a couple hours. My husband was ready to give up when the worker asked if we saw any other dogs. I mentioned a little white puppy in a cage with a chow. He went and got the dog. Flint (formerly known as Spike) ran around and explored the room, then ran straight to me and stuck his head between my hands. I didn't know it at the time but I was owned that day. We had to leave him behind as he wasn't neutered and were told to come pick him up the next week.

When I arrived to pick him up they were giving him a bath so I chatted with the workers and told them about not finding a puppy. One lady piped up and said they DID have a single puppy - the little runt that they were going to put down because she couldn't walk when brought in...but they decided to feed her and give her a chance. I felt obligated to look but had no intention of bringing home a sickly, stunted puppy who might need medicines the rest of her life and have other issues.

This woman came out with this fat, black puppy who looked just like a teddy bear. She introduced her as Nana. No one could have resisted. I said I'd take her and her name was Echo. Just then the woman came out with Flint and started to turn around to take him back. I said, "Where are you going, that's my dog!" They thought I only wanted one. I took both dogs home that day.

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done?

Flint for the first YEAR would sit outside the glass shower door as I took a shower and howl at the loss of me, his best buddy. I mean HOWL. He is my protector and if he thinks someone is threatening me he will step between me and them and growl. We had to teach him that it was okay for people to hug me and for my husband to kiss me. He is terrified of sticks, brooms or anything that looks like that (we assume he was struck with one before we got him). But if someone approaches me holding a stick like object, he will be frightened, but he steps between me and person. His most annoying habit is that he loves rolling in poop - especially deer poop. We live in rural country and my parents feed the deer, so they flock through my forest twice a day. Flint knows where the freshest poop can be found. And when I leave home he still howls as if his heart is broken.

Echo adores cheese. She herds people towards the fridge to get it. She comes into my office while I'm writing to give me "lovies" in a blatant attempt to get it. She follows all her commands (the only time she does) to get cheese. She also must inspect everything that comes through the door. All bags and things carried must be nose-inspected before we put it away. She is fascinated when we get down on the floor to do anything. My husband put in a garbage disposal one time and Echo sat on the floor and nose-inspected every tool and part before he could put it in. Her undivided attention has convinced us that if she had opposable thumbs (or maybe not) she could install a garbage disposal with ease. Because of Flint's influence, she also bays when I leave. Her voice is very deep and she has a terrifying bark that has backed down visitors. She also looks like a sleek, black wolf and people tend to be afraid of her. What they don't know is that she is one of the sweetest tempered dogs we've ever had.

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?

That unconditional love no matter what the circumstances is a blessing. Both dogs have a sheer joy in life, too. When we moved to the country and Echo found she could stretch her legs and run flat out...the joy on her face was a sight to behold. I was nearly brought to tears to see her in her natural environment - the great outdoors. She has never lost that joy. Every time she runs on our walks she is as excited as the first time she ever ran flat out. I take lessons from her joy.

When I walk with her in the woods I am amazed at all the small miracles. The forest teems with life. For the first time I have been still and know that God is here. I've always had a relationship with God, but when I think back on it I realize I've been lackadaisical about it. Out here in nature I feel God every day.

Flint takes quiet joy in being my companion. He faithfully follows me on walks he never wants to take - he has possible dysplasia and on some days, especially cold ones, walking is hard. I have never had an animal whose very purpose seems to be my friend. I am convinced that Flint would die for me if he felt I was threatened. Flint is afraid of people, especially men. So it would be hard for him to face down an "enemy" but he'd do it. Whether I deserve to live or die isn't an issue with him. His love is so unconditional that it doesn't matter.

I suppose its sacriligious comparing a dog companion to our Savior, but as Jesus died willingly to save me, it is very humbling to know that Flint would do the same. It reminds me of that old saying "I hope I am as good a person as my dog thinks I am." I hope I am living and not wasting the life God has given me and that the Savior died for so I could keep that life.

How does their companionship enrich your everyday (or writing) life?

I have two very faithful companions. They are never far from my side. If I am writing they are in the office sleeping in quiet support. If I read a passage out loud to test its readability they have that happy-to-get-attention look and listen. They never edit or critique my work (this might be a bad thing). If I take a nap they come and stay in the room until I wake up. When I go outside they jump up to go. Flint is often in pain due to the torn cruciate ligament (which requires surgery next week). But his pain doesn't matter to him as much as being with me does. No questions, no balking, just the joy of being my companion excites both dogs.

Is there something about your dog that you'd like to brag about? Or that we just wouldn't believe?

Flint went to Obedience School and was the top dog despite his fear of everyone and everything. I also taught him a trick. If you say "roadkill" he will roll over on his belly and stick his legs in the air. The vet almost died laughing when I made Flint roll over for him. I taught Echo to "give me four!" with her left paw and my Pa taught her to "give me five!" with her right paw. He was in the kitchen one day programming the coffee machine for an early wakeup for a trip and he asked my Mom if 4 am was too early. Echo was across the room and promptly sat down and offered her left paw in the air because she heard him say "Four."

Merry Stahel

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Home Away From Home

Tasha and I are outdoors so often that I come to regard our many paths as my "home away from home," especially in the warmer weather when I can lug my computer along.

I have another home away from home that is precious to me--to many of us, I would presume to say--and that is my home church. Tasha doesn't venture her with me but my computer often does. Being of a distractable nature, I like to get away from home to work (hence, the computer in the woods routine) and my church provides me that sanctuary. It's a small, old New England church. In good weather, I work in the sanctuary and am blessed by centuries of faith and worship. In this cold weather, I work in the warmest (though not very) spot in the church, which is a downstairs 3rd-grade classroom.

I was writing there yesterday (as in the picture) when I took a break to really take in my surroundings. I was amused and rather humbled to take in the bulletin board behind me. If you look closely, you'll see that I am flanked by drawings of women. The picture below shows what the poster says:

To be surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses was an honor indeed--and I don't mean Dorcas, Tabitha, and Priscilla. To sit in the same seat as our eight-year-olds and to be taught by the work of their hands is a true blessing--and one I would have missed if I had been off on the path with my dog.
NEXT UP: Merry Stahel and her dogs Flint and Echo.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Crouching at the Door

Not to belabor a good point--but BadCat makes it so easy.

Tasha and I had another nice walk in the snow today. We came in through the cellar, shucked my boots, and headed up the stairs. No Sultana this time on the top step to stop Tasha dead in her tracks. We thought we were in the clear (since she stops me dead in my tracks, too!)

Then I saw a flash of gray behind the door. BadCat had stretched out, paw extended for a fast strike the moment either Tasha or I stepped into the kitchen.

How can I not think of Genesis 4:7. "...if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

I'll master her all right...with a cup of water next time she lays in wait.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Stairway to Heaven--Not

Tasha is not fond of the stairs leading to the cellar. Her back legs are iffy and she understands that, if she builds up too much momentum, she might tumble near the bottom. If I need her to go out of the house that way (through the garage), I stand at the bottom to hold her up if she starts to fall.

Why not just bring her out the front way? Well, it gets complicated. Sultana the BadCat likes to follow us on our walks. There's coyotes in the woods and, though I am sometimes tempted because she's evil, I won't willingly serve her up as their supper. If she's outside, Tasha and I need to sneak to the woods via the garage.

Yesterday it snowed. Tasha, like all labs, LOVES snow. We had a very long walk in the woods with Tasha staying right with me the whole time. We came in invigorated, using the garage so I could dump my boots and snowy jacket in the cellar. Tasha was still so jazzed by the crisp weather that she bounded up the stairs ahead of me.

And came face-to-face with BadCat.

Tasha froze, fearing the worst--a vicious swipe from BadCat.

I admit, I froze with my dog. No way was I reaching around her to grab the cat from the front. One handles this cat with great fear and trepidation.

Tasha's legs started to give way and she began to slide back down the stairs. I jammed my shoulder behind her hind legs and hoisted her up into the kitchen. Fortunately the evil Sultana had fled the scene, chaos caused.

I wonder how often I get jazzed by walking with Jesus, then bound ahead only to find some frightening stumbling block in my path. Do my spiritual legs give way? Thank God that the Holy Spirit puts his shoulder into my behind and keeps me going.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Rachel Hauck Shares Christmas Memories

While Rachel Hauck is hosting the “12 Authors of Christmas” on her blog-- I’m her author of the day so to read my honest thoughts about Christmas, hop over to her blog. But first… I thought it would be a lot of fun to pose to Rachel the same questions about her Christmas memories and celebrations. And so I present…a Rachel-Hauck Christmas moment.
One of the questions Rachel poses is "What does Christmas mean to you?" I would love to hear your answers to that one!

Note from KM: The questions are Rachel’s own…so it’s her banging on the floor, not me! And we all know I’m not the Florida girl.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I have memories before this one, but it's the most vivid. We'd gone to my grandparent's house inColumbus, Ohio and it was Christmas Eve. My older brother and I slept upstairs in my grandparent's room. It was late, but I was awake, freaked out, because I imagined hearing Santa's reindeer on the roof top! My mom and grandma slipped into the room to see if we were asleep, and I think I must have asked if Santa had come. Cause I was sure I'd heard him.

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

My dad always wanted to wait until close to Christmas to put up the tree. I'd beg and beg to get one right away. Dad and my older brother would string colored lights, the kind that screwed into the light string, then mom and I with the rest of the kids would hang the ornaments. We didn't have a lot of traditions other than being with family and eating a great dinner. My grandma and mom makes the best rolls. When I became a teenager, I bought my own iddy-bitty Christmas tree and I put it up in my room Thanksgiving day. It was fun. Now, as an adult, I do the same. Tree goes up right after Thanksgiving. There was always a lot of love, joy and laughter at Christmas time and those traditions are as much a part of me as the color of my eyes. Tony and I carry on those qualities each Christmas season.

When do you put up your tree?
My husband works assembles my prelighted tree. I do the rest.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album?
I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it’s still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his “Christmas Song.” Well, besides ole Johnny Mathis, we listened to the Ray Coniff singers, and Andy William Christmas albums. We had one instrumental recording for the Philadelphia Orchestra. The vinyl disc was red. The kids always liked that one.

As a teen, I had a Wayne Newton album and recently my sister who is ten years younger asked, "Where can I get a copy of Wayne Newton singing, 'It's Christmas in Washington Square?'"Those songs stick with us for a lot of years.Now, I have a few added favorites. Amy Grant's Christmas albums, Bryan Duncan, Martina McBride, and a collection of old favorites sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme.

Christmas morning, my parents didn’t want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we’d wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

Well, that's my question and answer. :) But to elaborate, while waiting for their okay, we'd sit on the stairs. The anticipation of it all is half the excitement of Christmas. Then, we'd eat a big breakfast.

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I’ve been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

While I was born in Ohio, I've lived most of my life in the south. I'm a Florida girl. My first sunny Christmas with 80 degree temperatures was a shocker. It didn't feel like Christmas, but now, sunshine and balmy breezes on a blue Christmas morning is the perfect Christmas day to me.

It's Christmas Eve. Describe your day and evening.

Growing up, Christmas Eve was thick with excitement. Grandparents visiting, or the familyvisiting them. We'd go to church, then come home to wait for the big day. There was always a lot of excitement and laughter. We'd play games or sit around talking.Now, if my husband and I aren't visiting family, we attend Christmas Eve service at church. He's one of three staff pastors, and I'm the worship leader, so we are working. But, it's a fun kind of work.After service, we might visit friends or come home to our own traditions like egg nog and watching a Christmas movie like It's A Wonderful Life or White Christmas. Since we don't have children, we lose some of the laughter and joy, but we take advantage of sleeping in Christmas morning and leisurely open gifts.

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Both! Who doesn't? Mostly online, though.

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle andbustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

It is about celebrating Jesus. While I strive to do that all year, it is one thing I keep near to myheart at the Christmas season. But it's also about remembering peace, remembering those we love. Christmas is a great time to lay down offenses and love one another. Jesus came to demonstrate love. What a great birthday present to Him if we reach out to someone in love.

It's Christmas day. what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

Since it's just my husband and I, cooking is not a priority for me. But Christmas day, I love to make a meal, even if it's just the two of us. I make turkey and potatoes, and carry on the tradition of home made rolls.I do make cookies, too. I love peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. But this year, I asked mom for her Christmas cookie recipe and think I'll take a stab at making those!

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

One Christmas Eve when we lived in Lexington, KY, we were waiting for my grandparents to arrive from Columbus. It must have been a balmy season, cause the windows were open and my siblings and I were running around, laughing and playing. Somehow, I talked my dad into playing a girl's hand game with me. He'd mess up half way through, laugh and tell me, "I can't do this."We laughed a lot. And I remember the freezer was full of frozen mini Snickers bars! My Dad loved those frozen treats. In fact, that is another small tradition I continue to this day.

Another memory was in the '90s. The family had gathered at my home and during the Christmas Eve service, the pastor gave an invitation to accept Jesus as our Savior. He asked people who were not save and wanted to be, to stand and say, "I embrace the Cross."The presence of God was so strong. People were popping up all over the candle lit sanctuary. My heart pounded knowing the Holy Spirit was moving over my sister-in-law. Finally, she stood. "I embrace the Cross." Even now, it brings tears to my eyes. It was an amazing night.

What are your plans for this season?

We try to spend one holiday with family and one at home. We were gone for Thanksgiving, so will be home for Christmas. One of our "daughters" from youth church days in on her way to Israel with her husband and children. But, they are in town until January, so I think we're going to have dinner with them, and her Dad and his wife. I'm looking forward to it. And, I'm on a deadline, so I'll be writing. :)

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

Just blessings to everyone. Remember, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. If you need peace or hope, run to Jesus.Thanks to all the readers and fans of fiction out there, too. I really appreciate you, as does Triciaand all the writer's we know!Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living in central Florida with her husband and pets. She started writing in the mid '90s, but set it aside to focus on a corporate career. But she missed the craft and wrote another book in 2000. In late 2002, she received her first contract. Besides writing, Rachel is a prayerand worship leader for her church, and the Fire Dweller prayer ministry.

She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.


Diva NashVegas, May 2007, Thomas Nelson

Sweet Caroline, Feb 2008, Thomas Nelson

Friday, November 30, 2007

Welcome Denise Hildreth and Sophie

As we mourn with Marlo for Cisco, we join Denise Hildreth in her grief for Chloe. But meet Sophie, a real heart-melter and heart-healer. How impossibly cute is she!

Sophie is the last dog we have to welcome...but if you have a dog/s that we haven't met, please email me at kathrynmackel (at) aol (dot) com and we'll put you on the docket! If I've mislaid your contribution somewhere in my computer, please accept my apology and give a little nudge.


What’s your dogs’ names/ages/breeds?

Sophia (Sophie-for short) Just turned One on October 12th. Shih-Tzu (You can only imagine what I call her on bad days!)

Where did you get him/her?

I got her from a breeder about thirty minutes from my house that I found through my vet.

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done? (You can answer all three.)

The weirdest thing she does is first thing in the morning, right after she's gotten up, she runs straight for the closest toy and takes it with her outside to potty. Most annoying thing...she leaves that same toy outside for me to go pick up!

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?

It is amazing how you can see God through your pet. But I do everyday. The end of January I found my precious eight year old Shih-Tzu Chloe in my closet where she had died in her sleep after a two year bout with seizures. After grieving tremendously, and then watching my thirteen year old Shih-Tzu Maggie grieve, I knew I had to get another dog. (Don't tell Sophie she's a dog, because she's completely clueless.)

Then I found myself walking through another personal heartache this year that I had no idea I would be walking through. Every evening when Sophie climbs up in my lap, lays her head across my legs and falls asleep I sense God's companionship. I sense His comfort and His presence. The amazing thing is my grief over Chloe was so great I could see no good in that loss. Yet, when I found myself walking through this storm I realized that Chloe's sickness would have been another addition of stress, and God in His sovereignty knew I would need this bundle of joy, albeit "pooping" machine, in my life.

Every time she makes me laugh, I thank Him for the gift of her company.

How does their companionship enrich your writing?

About the only thing her companionship does for my writing is interrupt it. She's been the darndest thing to house break. So, we're always going outside so we don't have accidents inside!

I started putting up Christmas decorations today. I know, I'm crazy! [note from Kathy--Denise shared this a couple weeks backl. ] But I knew I wouldn't be home a lot, so if I wanted to enjoy them I better start early. When I hung up the Santa head stocking Sophie dropped her chew toy at her feet and proceeded to bark furiously at this new intruder. And of course, once again, I had no video camera to win my $100,000!

Denise Hildreth

Latest Book: The Will of Wisteria

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Off Topic--WGA Strike

If you're curious about the Writers' Guild strike and why you may not have much television to watch in a couple of months...Dallas Jenkins (a producer) and I (the screenwriter) were interviewed today on the Christian Writers' Forum.

I'll be walking a picket line in Boston in a couple of weeks.

I guess this does have something to do with walking and dogs...if Tasha were younger, she could come too.

Prayer and Poops

This is a bit complicated but please stay with me--there is a point. It involves dog diarrhea, coyotes, and God.

It’s hunting season in our woods. I hate this week for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’m afraid of someone shooting me! Tasha and I continue to hike, but in our orange outfits with me singing at the top of my lungs. The very terrible thing about hunting is that, when a hunter kills a deer, he or she eviscerates it and leaves the guts in the woods.

Dogs love deer guts.

When Tasha leaves the path—as she did this week—I know she’s found a batch of ‘em. She gulps them down as fast as she can before I find her and drag her away. It is inevitable that she will vomit disgusting stuff and have diarrhea. Sure enough, she did—and being an old dog, we barely got her out of the house in time. She pooped all over our front porch. Given that it was dark and cold, I said I’d clean it up the next day.

Onto the coyotes. They are rampant in our woods and have killed almost every cat in this neighborhood. It’s bad enough when they howl deep in the woods but on the same night Tasha had her diarrhea, they caught something and ripped it apart on our front lawn. Their howling, yipping, and bloody exultation drove me out barefoot to scream at them.

I stepped in Tasha’s diarrhea.

I came back into the house, literally hopping mad. I scrubbed my toes, tried to let the coyote-adrenaline die down, and finally went to bed.

I like to start the day praying at my front door. It’s all glass and looks into the woods. The day after the coyote/diarrhea incidents, I knelt down and bowed my head to praise God.

I saw my footprint in Tasha’s diarrhea.

And I thought—isn’t this God’s mercy? We “step in it” all the time and yet can come to His throne of grace and be scrubbed clean.

NEXT UP: Meet Denise Hildreth and her Sophie.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Marlo Schalesky and the Once-Ugly, Always-Beautiful Cisco

Marlo Schalesky shares this marvelous memorial to her dog Cisco.


Sometimes you learn things about God in the strangest places. For me, I learned something about His gifts from an ugly little puppy named Cisco. I got Cisco over ten years ago, and he died recently (just got old). And so, I reminded again of how I'd gotten him and what he taught me about God.

Here's how it happened:"Hey, you guys want a puppy?" our friends, Steve and Angela, asked one day after church. "They’ll be born in about a month.”

"Nah. I got enough work to do,” I said.Steve smiled. “They’re boxers.”

“Boxers? Really?" My husband and I spun around. We loved boxers. But, they were hard to come by, and expensive at that, so we'd never gotten one.

"Yeah, purebreds." Steve’s grin broadened. "So, what do you say?”

"I’ve changed my mind. We definitely want one!” The words tumbled from my mouth.In a month, right on schedule, seven little boxer puppies were born. With hearts filled with longing, Bryan and I leaned over the litter and eyed each one. Which would we choose? Six were just adorable, with their little black faces and pushed in noses.

The seventh, on the other hand, was not. An ugly pinkish-white splotch spread over his entire face, making him look more like a rat than a dog.

"Yuck. What happened to that one?" I said, pointing at the white-faced pup.

Angela sighed. "We might end up having to keep that one. I can't imagine anyone picking him."

I shrugged and studied the cute puppies. Bryan stepped next to me. "Which one do you like the best?"

"What about that one?" I pointed to a pup with a thin white stripe up his face.Bryan picked up the puppy and handed him to me.

"This is the one I like, too."

Steve smiled. "Hey, why don't you guys take two?"

"Could we?" Bryan turned to me. "Is there another one you like?"

"Well, let me hold me a different one and I'll see.”

Bryan headed toward the puppy pen.

"Any one but that ugly little white faced one!" I added as Bryan reached into the pen.

Then, one by one I held the other five pups, but none seemed “just right.”Finally, five weeks rolled around. Like new parents, we gazed down at the wiggling mass of puppies. There they all were, six little black faced cuties, and one . . . wait a minute!

There was the white faced pup, and he was the cutest of the bunch.We brought all the little boxers out to play on the mat, and the white-faced one played with Bryan and I, licked our faces, and wagged his little nubby tail. I couldn't resist. We claimed our second pup.

In the years to come, Cisco became a special blessing to me. He snuggled with me when I was sad, romped with me when I was happy, and sat curled at my feet when I watched television. Often, Bryan would look at us, shake his head, and say, "He's definitely your dog."

And to think that I once said, "Any puppy but that ugly little white faced one."

Cisco made me wonder how many gifts from God I turned my back on because they seemed a little ugly at first, or weren't what I had in mind. Maybe it was that lunch with someone who sort of bugged me, or the Bible study I just didn't have time for, or the neighborhood get-together that I felt too tired to attend.

So, even now when he's gone, Cisco is a reminder to me to look beyond my initial reactions to see what God may have for me. I try not to say “yuck!” too quickly, but instead remember that the ugly, white-faced puppies in my life may really be special gifts from God, sent just for me.

Marlo Schalesky

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Walking What You Write

Mike Dellosso has been kind enough to interview me for his blog. ( We did the interview a few weeks back and now I'm blushing as I read it.

He asked me for "a few good habits authors could incoporate into their routine to become better writers." The thing is--today I'm finding it hard to get into the grove I describe in the interviews.

I'm blaming it on the weather. Last week was howling cold so I could only walk a half mile or so, even bundled up. For the past couple of days, it was misty cold, treacherous footing that I should avoid or risk snapping my newly-healed shoulder. I went out anyway, in short bursts on the best footing I could find. Tasha came twice, gave up the third time and just turned for home. I didn't realize she had and yelled my head off for her, no doubt causing the hunter I saw up on the hill want to shoot me to shut me up.

Today is beautiful. Finally sunny and fifty glorious degrees. Which presents its own problem because I NEED to be out there, but I NEED to get work done. Caught between that tension, I instead hop on here and blog/whine/worry about it.

There's something about my spirit that makes me long to be out there. My mother was the same way, and I know many of you are. Our dogs live this longing, nose in the air, seeking out secrets, backs to the sun, soaking in the warmth. The wind is blowing now, wanting to bless me but I must work.

One chapter...and then, I'm heading for the ridge.

TOMORROW: Marlo Schalesky tells us about her dear Cisco, who recently left us for dog heaven.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Say Hi to Robin Lee Hatcher and her Poppet

Today Robin Lee Hatcher introduces us to her dog Poppet, and introduces me to a new breed of dogs, the Papillon. I dare you to look at Poppet's photo and not want to cuddle her thoroughly!

What's your dog's name, breed, and age?
Poppet's registered name is French: Ma Poupette des Bois (which means My Small Doll of the Woods). The word poppet is a derivative of the French poupette and is an English term of endearment. Poppet is a Papillon and will be four years old come the end of December. She is over-sized for the breed, standing 12 inches at the withers (11 is the breed max), and weighs in at a bit over 9 lbs.

Where did you get him/her?
I bought Poppet from a breeder in South Dakota after lots of researching. When she was ready to come home, I flew to get her. She was the hit of the airplane coming back to Boise in early March 2004.

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done?

Weirdest: She won't eat her kibble in her bowl. She picks up three to six pieces in her mouth at one time and carries them to the carpet where she drops them and eats them one at a time. Back and forth to the kitchen she goes until she is full. And at bedtime, as soon as I set the security alarm and start turning out lights, she races to the bowl to grab one more mouthful, then runs ahead of me to the bedroom where she gobbles them down.

Sweetest: "Owning a Papillon," the saying goes, "means never going to the bathroom alone." LOL. But it is true. Poppet is always with me. She follows me from room to room, laying down and waiting for me until I'm off to do something else. She also is a great sleeping companion. She lies up close to me while I read, resting against my hip, and then when it is time for lights out, she moves over so that we aren't crowding each other.

Annoying: She is a barker. Whenever anyone comes to the door, she lets them know she isn't too sure they should be there. And sometimes her bark is more of a high pitched, ear-piercing screech. I've tried all kinds of things to break her of it (the newest thing is a squirt bottle, but she outruns it). So far I have failed miserably. I want her to alert me of strangers, but then I want her to be quiet when I tell her, "No." We'll keep working on it.

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?
I think God gives us pets to love and to love us just because it gives both Him and us pleasure. There are so many wonderful things on this earth, even in its fallen condition, that shows His joy in creating things of beauty. Poppet is one of those beautiful things. She is so precious to me.

How does their companionship enrich your writing?
I wanted a small dog who would be with me while I worked. That is exactly what I got. I love reaching down and stroking her head as she lays near me. And when I am browsing through email and not doing lots of typing, she hops up in my lap and curls into a ball. But she can't stay like that for long. Nine pounds doesn't seem very heavy until it is on your thighs for a long while.

Is there something about your dog that you'd like to brag about? Or that we just wouldn't believe?
Hmm. Beyond the fact that she is pretty and loving and silly and loves to play? I guess it would be how intelligent she is. Possibly too smart for me.

~~ Robin Lee Hatcher ~~
From her heart . . . to yours!
Web site:
Write Thinking blog @

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Little Child Should Lead Me

This past week, my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson visited from Ohio and brought their dog Sadie with them. She’s nine months old now, and the nickname Sadie-the-lady fits beautifully. She doesn’t chase my evil cat Sultana, non-affectionately known as BadCat, nor does she bother Tasha. Thus Sadie fulfills the role of a welcome dog-guest. She brightens any room she enters, and enlivens any woods she roams. And she loves to be loved.

Sadie has brought about an interesting change in my 4-year-old grandson. When he was a baby, he inadvertently terrorized Tasha by running over her paws with his walker. He became her best friend once he started eating—and dropping—solid food. When he started to toddle, we taught him to leave Tasha alone because even three years ago, she was geriatric and lacking in patience.

Last year, my grandson developed a dislike for Tasha because she snatched a cookie out of his hand. (I would hate anyone who did such a thing to me!) The word cookie is one of the few sounds that still penetrates my dog’s hearing. To my grandson’s dismay, she doesn’t discriminate between doggie treats and double-chocolate Milanos. Eventually, my grandson and my dog developed a d├ętente—you don’t eat my cookies, and I’ll toss yours out on the front lawn for you to hunt down.

Sadie has changed everything for my little fella.

This week he was all over Tasha—in all the best ways. He sat quietly next to her blanket, just to keep her company. He stroked her ears and gently rested his arm over her shoulders. He spoke in soft, sweet tones that Tasha doesn’t hear. I do hear, and my hear warms.

Because my grandson has learned to love his dog, he knows how to love my dog. Tasha no longer gives him looks of annoyance, with ears askew and shoulders pulled away. She submits to his love because she understands that his love can now be trusted.

Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Because Ryan has learned to love his Sadie, he can be trusted to love a more difficult, prickly dog. And isn’t this the path that God sets before us? Love my family, love my Christian brethren, love my neighbor.

But just as I would never allow my grandson to pet a pit bull, I shy away from Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Petting a sweet dog is one thing. Extending our hand to a snarling, growling beast is quite another thing altogether.

Perhaps I need to learn from my old dog who has learned a new trick. Tasha submits to my grandson’s love because she understands his love can be trusted.

NEXT UP: Meet Robin Lee Hatcher and her Papillon, Poppet.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Oh Haiku, It's Snowing!

A few days ago, I expressed my dismay to some writers' friends that it was snowing here in Northern Massachusetts. This sparked Angie Hunt to offer a haiku...that spawned a host of haikus from around the country. I have enjoyed every one and I trust you will, too!

Read may find your favorite author offering a little taste of their weather, joy, and humor on this Thanksgiving week.

Balmy is my sky.
I will wear shorts and bare feet.
Warmed by hot flashes.
Angela Hunt

Flashes you may have,
Yet much hair remains on top.
Blessings you should count.
Athol Dickson

The snow lies in white.
It promises newfound grace,
But it breaks my back.
Kathryn Mackel

Snowy is my sky
Loving hubby is away
Shovel's working hard
Janelle Schneider

Last night's weather show
told me today 'twould not snow
But I see it lied.
Janelle Schneider

Pink clouds scatter sun.
Desert breezes whisper heat.
Morning in Tempe.
Beverly McCoy, Arizona

Wind in palms: dry rain.
Desert waterfall runs loud.
Hot breeze. Thirst unslaked.
Beverly McCoy

Palms trill soprano.
Ipod silent in my bag.
Prickly pear sings bass.
Beverly McCoy

Where is the winter?
Texas days are still too hot
It's eighty degrees
DeAnna Dodson

Well behaved snow rests
On mountain tops not streets.
Oregon. Heaven.
Karen Ball

Kansas, slice of heav'n
Air conditioner at sev'n
Furnace by 'leven
Deborah Raney

Snow has come at last
It fell while I was sleeping
White wonderland joy
Kristen Heitzmann

Peaceful rushing waves,
And in the dead of winter
We have hummingbirds.
Athol Dickson, California

Lovely autumn evening,
Turkey and pumpkin pie aromas
Thanksgiving eve with family
Yvonne Lehman, North Carolina

Copper, crimson, gold,
A Pennsylvania autumn
Glory swirling down
Gayle Roper, Pennsylvania

Wishing for snowflakes
While watching gray skies and rain.
Midwest November ...
BJ Hoff, Ohio

Lawn furniture wears
white. Surprise, winter
came again, just like always
Sharon Dunn, Montana

Falling leaves cling to
Wet brown earth where summer sun
Kissed grass days ago.
Gail Martin, Michigan

Just a very warm 70 degrees.
I hate sweating while carving the turkey!
Oh for a little snow. Just a dusting.
Linda Windsor, Maryland

God blessed Idaho.
Here I see snowcapped mountains
Rising up in praise.
Robin Lee Hatcher

Already I’m stuffed
So much to be thankful for
Still, I do miss group
David Harrison

(missing our writers group)

Blue sky, warm breezes
No snow on Florida lawns
Visitors crowd streets
Judy Loose, Florida

(who writes haikus while she drives)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Meet Kay Day and her Red Heeler, Skittles

Please welcome Kay and Skittles, from whom I could learn a lot!


What's your dog's name, breed, and age?

She was named Seal when we got her, but I didn’t like that, so the kids picked Skittles. She is a Red Heeler, or Australian Cattle Dog, whichever you want to call her and she is approximately 4 years old.

Where did you get him/her?

We rescued her at an adoption event that PetsMart had. We got her in the middle of September of this year, so she is still new to us.

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done?

The most annoying thing she did was to bite my son’s head the first week we had her. She didn’t mean any harm apparently, because he wasn’t harmed. The weirdest thing she does is to bow down and worship my husband when he wants her to do something, instead of just doing the thing. And she is just sweet in general. She is a very good dog.

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?

She makes me think about things like bowing down to worship when I should be a little more obedient in something else. And she is always with me. I am her chosen one and she follows me everywhere. And when she loses track of me she seeks me diligently with her whole heart. And she is so very joyful to find me again.

How does their companionship enrich your everyday (or writing) life ?

Just knowing that she loves me is enriching. I used to love dogs and then for years I did not. I really didn’t want much to do with them. But because we wanted to get a pet for our kids, I prayed about getting a dog (one of us has cat allergies). I was quite specific because I really wanted to like the one we ended up with. She is everything I wanted and she has turned me back into a dog person! One of my favorite things to do is to visit the dog park and play with all the dogs.

Is there something about your dog that you'd like to brag about?

Or that we just wouldn't believe? She’s just very smart. When she looks at me, I feel like she’s got so much to say, but just can’t. When I turn to find her staring at me, she freaks me out just the tiniest bit.

Kay Day
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Baby At Thirty

We hosted a surprise birthday party for my son Dan this weekend. He'll be thirty years old in early December. Oh man, those first labor pains as I was digging into my cream of wheat seem like yesterday.

Tasha will turn 17 around the same time, which means she's been with us for more than half of Dan's life. He was still in middle school when we picked her up from the pound and discovered in days what a frenetic nuisance she was. She stole sports equipment, hats, and jackets from all over the neighborhood, requiring us to install an electronic fence. She got locked in Leah's room accidentally and chewed through the door. She was not a crowd favorite, to be sure. In fact, our neighbors missed us but not Tasha when we moved

Dan was sixteen when we moved to this property. He and his friends loved playing paintball in the woods. Tasha loved the freedom to roam, and took on the responsibility of guarding the property. She could hear the UPS truck a quarter-mile away and, if I didn't grab her, she'd run down the driveway to face off against it. Both Dan and Leah had less animosity with the dog in those days because she wasn't embarassing them with their friends. She did, however, make every attempt to sleep on their beds while they were at school.

When Dan went into the army after high school, his relationship with Tasha changed dramatically. She was the first to greet him whenever he came to visit, and become his touchstone for home. Dan left the army, entered college, got married to a lovely gal named Jamie. Jamie took over the role of caretaker for Tasha whenever we traveled. She would move into our house, walk Tasha early in the morning, reassure Tasha at nighttime when she prowled the house, wondering where we had gone.

Dan and Jamie lived with us for awhile during her pregnancy and after my grandson was born. Tasha was old by then (13), at least in dog terms. She had no interest in the baby until he started eating solids--then she became his best friend.

The family moved out, stayed close enough to vist. Dan's constant refrain was "oh, Tasha looks bad. She's really going downhill."

Yesterday when he saw her, his comment was, "Wow, she looks great! What's going on?"

My son may be getting old but Tasha and I just keep poundin' the path and telling God how good He's been to us. Aged or not, Dan has been a blessing to Steve and me, and even to the frenetic, annoying dog he grew up with.

TOMORROW: Meet Kay Day and her "Red Heeler" (yes, that's a breed) Skittles

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Roxanne Henke and Her "Prayerful Pup" Gunner

I love how Gunner is a "prayerful pup!" I'm sure you will, too! Please welcome Roxy and Gunner.


What's your dog's name, breed, and age?

Gunner is an English Cocker Spaniel and will be nine years old in December.Where did you get him/her?We got Gunner when he was two years old. He'd been living in a kennel on a hunting/game farm. They had too many dogs and needed to downsize.

What is the weirdest/sweetest/ most annoying thing they've ever done?

The sweetest thing Gunner has done is the day we went to pick out a dog. There were dogs running all around our feet. My husband was standing on the grass, right beside a deck with his hands on his hips. Gunner jumped onto the deck, scooted his head through an opening, and stuck his head in the crook of my husband's arm and looked up at him as if to say, "Pick me!" We looked no further...this dog wanted us...and we wanted him!

The most annoying thing...

Believe me, you don't want to hear about a dog with irritable bowel syndrome~!

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?

I begin each weekday with Bible reading and devotions.When I put my Bible aside, Gunner jumps into my lap and flips himself around (like a baby laying in my arms). He then lays quietly while I close my eyes and pray. My husband calls him our 'Prayerful Puppy."And, of course, each day Gunner is the true embodiment of unconditional love.

How does their companionship enrich your writing?

Gunner seems to know when four o'clock rolls around...and I need a break. He pesters me until I push myself away from my computer and we head out fora couple mile walk.

Thanks, Kathy, for letting me tell your readers about my favorite dog, Gunner!

Roxy Henke

Roxy will have a new book released in January titled:"Learning to Fly." (Women's fiction) Take care...and risks! She is the author of the popular Coming Home to Brewster series...After Anne, Finding Ruth, Becoming Olivia, Always Jan, and, With Love, Libby.
Available now, her newest release...The Secret of Us!

Check out Roxy's website at:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Bare Bones of Things

The leaves are down, the trees are barren, and I like it this way.

This is when Steve and I usually head north for a few days of mountain climbing. October is peak foliage but November is special in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It's still warm enough so that snow isn't an issue except perhaps on Mount Washington. The tourists are gone and the skiiers haven't come yet. But what we enjoy most of all is that, with the trees barren of leaves, we can see so much more.

I'm staying close to home this year because of my accident and Tasha's age. Even so, I can enjoy the new views in the woods next to our home. With the leaves off the trees and brush, I can see rocks and knolls that are usually hidden from view. At the top of the high hill, I can see clear to Mount Wachusetts (Massachusetts) and Mount Monadnock (New Hampshire). There's no secrets this time of year.

Except the ones of the heart perhaps.

TOMORROW: Meet Roxanne Henke and her dog, Gunner. I feel I know him already because he's got the same white snout and chest that Tasha has!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

For All You Small Dog Lovers

Which, judging by our guests thus far (and more to come), is many of you! I emailed with my friend Colleen Patrick, director and acting-coach extraordinaire, as well as pet lover and cuddler, to let her know Tasha was still "with us." I commented on some of the adorable photos I've been seeing of your small pups (some you all haven't seen yet) and mused how it might be fun to have a little pup to cuddle--with apologies to Angela Hunt, of course.

Here's some of what Colleen shared with me about the benefits and pitfalls of having a little dog. Enjoy!

Small dogs who are well trained are terrific hikers, campers, etc., and will alert you to any threat - seen or unseen. Some small breeds, like Pomeranians, are classified as watch dogs and can reduce your home insurance policy.


tiny poops
affectionate without huge muddy paw prints on good clothes
can be held in a lap
are like teddy bears in bed
small food bill
tiny poops
get 'em healthy and they stay that way
their personalities are smile magnets
high energy
usually get along with other pets - cats, dogs, whatever - of all sizes
are tons of fun to play with, and they love to play and laugh
can be more entertaining than TV
tiny poops
are very sensitive to your emotions
love to run and run and run
are generally one person pets - they'll love everyone but be devoted to one person
tiny poops
they can be taken everywhere - on planes with you and stay at hotels, even
easy to train and handle because they are small enough to push around
I walk JR 3 miles around Green Lake and he can still keep going and going and ..
they can be dressed easily (to accommodate cold weather if they're trimmed)


-they need to be trained just like a big dog or they can become yappy little pests
-they should not be around young kids because they can be hurt
-good to groom/wash them a little more often than big dogs - 1c a month or so - because they are held and near the face more
-certain toy breeds have teeth problems; they're shrunken big dogs & have more teeth than mouth
-some have seizures (but this is across all large and small breeds now)
-long-spined breeds of any size die sooner than shorter spined pets
-need to be watched like a hawk when they first arrive; they will find *everything* on your floor in your house that perhaps a dog should not have in his/her mouth. Puppy-proofing a house is as important as kidproofing for a baby crawling around...
-it's hard to keep one of them around; if others need rescuing, the temptation is great to bring more home. I have three Poms and my kitty and we have a blast. It's hysterical around here fun-wise, but when I say "settle down" they all behave so I can work. They've been trained to sleep when they're on the bed, they have to play elsewhere..

Give Tasha a big hug and kiss for me.

--Colleen Patrick Writer/Director ' your greatest dream!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Elsi Dodge and Her Lady

What's your dog's name, breed, and age?
Lady is a beagle, about 15 or so (she was a stray, so that's just an estimate).

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done?
When I'm sick, Lady presses up against me and just lies there, quietly. She models quiet acceptance.

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?
My first vague comprehension of God's unconditional love came from my childhood dogs. They loved me no matter what I did. This gave the Lord an opening to share His love for me.

How does their companionship enrich your everyday (or writing) life?
I drive a 30-foot Winnebago, summers. Lady and I walk in the campgrounds, and she opens the way for me to get exercise and speak to strangers. I write about her often; she shows up in many of my published devotionals. My students like to hear about her and see how I've written about her.

Is there something about your dog that you'd like to brag about? Or that we just wouldn't believe?
On a snowy, Christmas Eve night in 1996, a very pregnant young beagle showed up on a stranger's porch, looking for a safe place of refuge. These kind people, living near St. Louis, Missouri, took the poor creature in and called her Baby, because she would lie on her back in their arms, looking helplessly but hopefully into their faces. They kept her till she had and weaned her puppies. Then the people called their neighbor, saying, "Isn't your brother a vet? Could he help us get rid of all these beagles?"

Their neighbor's brother "happened" to be my father's vet. He had been there the day after Christmas when my old beagle died of a liver infection while I was visiting my father. This vet phoned me in Denver, Colorado, to say, "Are you ready for another dog? She's sweet, but her jaw is a bit deformed. She looks a little funny but has a loving heart."

That spring break I drove to St. Louis and collected the dog. Refusing to stand on a sidewalk yelling, "Baby!" I kept the vowels and named her Lady (think "Lady and the Tramp," but also think, "Goodbye, My Lady" by James Street). Lady's jaw is deformed, but I tell her it's a beautiful smile!

Check out what's going on in Elsi’s life (and in her mind) by going to her website and reading her blog:

RV Tourist: Tips, Tools, and Stories is now available!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Howling in the Darkness

Daylight savings time has caught Tasha and me by surprise. We usually make our last foray into the woods around 4 PM. With the sun setting over the hills by 5, we've been caught twice this week in the dark.

In the dark--when the coyotes come out.

We've seen many coyotes in our time, chased them away from the cats, even stared down a big one on the hill. Tasha and I taking on a lone coyote is no big deal.

This week we encountered the pack.

We didn't see them...we heard them, coming down off the hill, howling like they're on our scent, yipping with dark glee as they get closer and closer. It's a chilling, terrifying sound in the deep dusk.

They're predators, and they're out for blood. They kill small animals, including most of our neighborhood cats. Children have been attacked by coyotes in this part of the state. Howling down from the hill and heading for us, I imagine only the worst.

My blood runs cold and, stick in hand, I try to hurry Tasha along.

I know they're no more vicious than the owl who also rises to greet her day at this time. But the owl is silent, except for those amazing moments when she takes flight with a mighty whomp whomp. And given that I'm heading home for a supper of grilled hamburgers, it's hypocritical to want to deny the coyotes their supper, as bloody as it will be.

It's the howling that gets me.

High-pitched and exultant, the alpha dog sings her dominion while the rest of the pack yips their excitement at waking to hunt through another night. They have a joyful expectation of sinking their teeth into flesh and blood and tearing a creature apart, an impulse so primitive, it makes me shiver.

Yet they are God's creatures too. Perhaps they were also created to be our companions in Eden but in this world still groaning for redemption, the coyotes sing their bloodlust with glee. They do this, not because they are evil, but because they need to kill to eat.

Tasha doesn't hear them. Their howling runs under my skin, making my bones shiver but she walks alongside me like it's just another jaunt toward home. And we can't get home soon enough because they're now on the path to the stream, where we were just a few minutes ago.

I shout and shout again, and they finally shut up. They are still wild enough so that my voice makes them cautious. They're too close to make me feel safe but I've commanded their silence, at least until I can get Tasha out of the woods. Somehow not hearing them allows me to pretend they're gone.

Tasha and I climbed mountains for years, and I never feared because she was so protective and could be fierce if she felt I was threatened. Now she's old and deaf and, should coyotes come after us, she would become prey instead of protector. It's a chilling reality of her decline, just as the coyotes' howling in the night is a chilling reminder of this fallen world.

I should bless them and not curse them because we all struggle to make our way in this world. This is a good time of year for the coyotes. The nights are brisk and their prey is fattened in preparation for winter. When the snow falls, it'll get more difficult for them. I'll be fat and sassy on my hamburgers and roast chicken but their howls will become lean and edged with hunger.
They'll wander into yards, looking for trash and pets to consume. People will spot them in Lowell or Nashua, and we'll wonder at the wild coming into our domain.

It's an easy jump from the howl of the coyotes to 1 Peter 5:8: Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

But to lay this evil at the feet of the coyotes would be wrong. It is our sin that has necessitated the coyotes and wolves and bears and all manner of creatures spill blood to live. My cat is surely as vicious as a coyote but her prey is small and her voice silent, and no one speaks on behalf of the mice she rips apart.

That we can walk and pet and love our dogs, that our dogs comfort us and love us and yes, may die for us, is a blessing that is contrary to the natural order of things. And so it is my duty to raise my voice in praise and thanks.

Loud enough and faithful enough to drown out the howls.

TOMORROW: Meet Elsi Dodge and her dog Lady, who have logged many miles together.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rachel Hauck and Pal Come for a Visit

Today we welcome Rachel Hauck and her dog Pal. He's adorable--and, as you will see, smart enough to know where his "real" home is.


What is your dog’s name/age/breed?
Pal, named by our friends little boy, is a mixed Beagle/Sheltie-Mutt. He's nine.

Where did you get him/her?

He was conceived in our yard when the Beagle next door came over to visit our dog, Jack. Originally, our friends adopted him, but when they couldn't keep him, my husband and I took him in. Not wanting two dogs (and a cat) we decided to give him away "free." This was not a good idea. You can't imagine the type of people who come out of the wood work for a free dog. I gave him away, but called the new owners the next day to see how he was doing. They'd already given him away! So, I called the new owners who claimed Pal was doing "just fine." Turns out he wasn't. The daughter told me he seemed "depressed" when I called a few days later. I said, "I'll be over to get him." Poor Pal was living with two other dogs and the Alpha male of the three was not a kind animal. Pal saw me and ran to the door as if to say, "Where you been, get me outa here." After that, I had several families call to adopt him, but I couldn't bear to give him away.

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done?

Pal did not get along with his "dad" our older dog. So, there was constant growling, bickering, jealousy. At times, it was overwhelming. Yet, when Jack died, Pal seemed emotionally distressed. He missed his friend.
While training Pal has been a chore, he is a very clever dog. I have a Rainbow vaccum cleaner that uses a water bowl to collect the dirt and dust. When I'm done vaccuming, Pal hears the click of me removing the lid and runs to the trash can where I pause to dispose of the fur and hair, then he runs to the back door where I step out to dump the water. It's amazing to me that he picked up on that routine.He's also a very affectionate dog. And cute. We joke those are the two things that have endeared him to us.

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?

I suppose this is another weird thing, but occasionally Pal stuffs himself in the corner of my office and shifts his eyes as if he's seeing something. He's barked non-stop at the wall before for no reason. It's in those moments I think he sees angels. So, he's made me aware of the world I cannot see with my natural eyes. He's also taught us how God loves us even when we are annoying.

How does their companionship enrich your writing?

He's with me all day in my office. In the morning, he stands in the hall waiting for me to walk down "to work." And, he inspires me to write dogs into my stories.

Is there something about your dog that you'd like to brag about? Or that we just wouldn't believe?

I love when he crawls into my lap for a hug. Can't resist. ;)
Check out Rachel and her books at

Monday, November 5, 2007

Light Running

I was driving to church yesterday for the early service when I saw a runner on the road ahead of me. The sun was just coming up and we were both heading into it, she on foot and I in my car.

The woman had very thick, shoulder-length hair. Though she was dressed in black and was almost a shadow figure in the dawn, her long curls caught the sun as it streamed behind her. I marveled as her hair haloed about her head, dark hair turning gossamer gold in the rising sun.

I glanced in the rearview mirror after I passed by. The halo effect was gone because I was now on the sun-side of her. She was just another gal, out for a run on a cold November morning. I wondered if she could possibly know that she was trailing light behind her as she ran. Of course she couldn't...and maybe she wouldn't care because she was running out of her own light and into the sun.

And wasn't that exactly what I should be doing as I drove to church? Running out of my own light--measly as it is--and into the Son?

TOMORROW: Meet Rachel Hauck and her pal "Pal." He's a real cutie.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Flossie the Dog Whisperer

Joyce Moccero shares this lovely story with us. It puts me in mind of God's love and how sometimes we need to be carried out of that dark cave of sin with a "kind word, a gentle touch, and a promise of love."

My Mom, the Dog Whisperer. ~ Joyce Moccero

I came home from kindergarten one afternoon and discovered, much to my glee, seven puppies in the kitchen! I went nuts when I saw them thinking, we had seven dogs! I cried when Mom told me we couldn't keep them--not all of them. We chose one-- my mother chose one--and this is how it happened.

Earlier that day my brother was in the woods behind our house and discovered a cave. He approached the cave only to be attacked by a wild dog (not a dingo or hyena). He ran home and told Flossie (my mom) he had been attacked by a giant wolf. Flossie, being fearless, went to investigate and discovered not a wolf pack but a rather large doggie family living in the cave. The "wolf" had apparently just recently given birth to seven pups.

Mom called the SPCA. They came out, but no one, none of the professionals could get near the Mama dog or her pups. So, Flossie to the rescue. She tells the professional dog guy to stand aside and sure enough, Flossie enters the cave to the now-gathering crowd's amazement and fears. She emerges with one puppy in her arms, the Mama dog and the other six pups following behind. This made the local newspaper—with a picture of Flossie marching down the street with this little parade toward our house.

We ended up keeping the one pup she carried and finding good homes for the others, as soon as Flossie felt they were ready to be placed. The mama dog became the firehouse dog down the street. And that is how we adopted the best dog in the world. When asked how she did it, Flossie simply told the reporter that "You just have to know how to talk to dogs."

The lesson here, I suppose is in learning how to talk to dogs. When all the professional's fancy equipment--nooses and toys and other bribes failed, Flossie used a kind word, a gentle touch and a promise of love.

Friday, November 2, 2007


On September 12, I posted a picture of my "ridge" and mused about the inevitability of the trees in the valley below turning glorious colors. Indeed they have, as shown by the picture I took last week.

I thought about other inevitabilities--the big one being death but I also wrote: "It is inevitable that I will someday throw and catch my last baseball--but will I know that moment?"

The irony of that statement I made in mid-September is that on 9/29 I had an accident vicious enough to make it come true. I'm left-handed and smashed my left shoulder to bits. The blessing is--I throw with my right hand. So I intend, once my catching arm is robust, to throw again in the spring.

The other irony is that I almost missed the turning of the leaves below my ridge. I needed to get well enough to drive and then well enough to walk on rocky paths to get up there. God is good--I made it just in time.

Now I'm going up there in the afternoons, following my therapy sessions. Already many leaves have fallen and, while I miss the colors, I am astounded at new discoveries, things I couldn't see under the tree cover.

I also spoke of the inevitability of Tasha's passing. Last week on her shaky day, that looked nearer than expected. Something has rejuvenated her and she's bouncing around this week. She's vigorous enough to come up to the ridge with me. While we still can, we'll climb up a little closer to the heavens and sing some praises.

Tomorrow in "Getting to Know You (and Your Dogs) Joyce Moccero shares her pup and a story about her mom, Flossie the Dog Whisperer.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Angela Hunt and Her Puppies Pay a Visit

Thank you, Angie for kicking off our "getting to know you" segments. I love Angie's insight on unconditional love--so true. I just want to bury my face in Babe's and Charley's fur!

Here's what Angie shared about her "babies."

What are your dogs’ names/ages/breeds?
I have two mastiffs—each is about 200 pounds. Charley Gansky (official name: Windfalls Glorious Gansky) is four; Babe (official name: Babe) is three. They are English mastiffs—NOT bullmastiffs, thank you very much. Bullies are petite little things.

Where did you get him/her? Babe is a rescue we’ve had for a year now.
We bought Charley from a breeder in Ohio, so we’ve raised him from a pup. He flew to Florida!

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done?
Before she came to us, Babe was treated like a “junkyard dog”--she was kept in a mechanic’s garage, kept most of the day on a chain, and wore a leather studded collar. So even though she now wears a cute tapestry collar, she’s still serious about guarding the front of our house. So she’s broken our stained glass front door three times. That is weird and sweet and annoying and expensive.

Charley is a big baby. When people come to visit, he tries to hide under the dining room table.

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?
My dogs remind me constantly of God (in their unconditional love) and of my responsibility to the animal kingdom. God placed us in a position of dominion over the creation, but ours is to be a benevolent dominion. Our authority over the animals mirrors God’s authority over us in many ways.

How does their companionship enrich your writing?
First of all, they keep me from talking to myself! The writer spends many hours in solitude, and those hours are a lot less lonely if you share them with a canine companion. Second, I have written many, many mastiffs into my books. They’re just great dogs, and they’re relatively unusual, so they’re interesting. :-)

Is there something about your dog that you'd like to brag about? Or that we just wouldn't believe?
Charley and Babe are my third and fourth mastiffs. A few years ago we had Sadie and Justus, and Justus achieved a measure of fame when he was invited to fly to New York to appear on “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Why? Because he weighed 275 pounds and they wanted to have a “big dog weigh-off.”

Justus charmed everyone, and for a couple of weeks after our return he was a local celebrity. He visited a special needs classroom where a classroom filled with blind students petted him . . . My hubby and I got all choked up as we watched. He truly was an angel with fur.
So I have two mastiffs in heaven, and two on earth. My kennel runneth over.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flocking with My Sister Janice

Please enjoy with me the email my sister Janice sent after reading the post "A Joyful Sound." Apparently the birds are bringing blessings all around New England!

(Janice is somewhat new to cycling, having taken it up a few months back to compete in her first triathlon.)

Laura and I were doing one of our "last rides of the season" today. We were on Pleasant St, going north toward the high school, delirious with the beautiful weather. I heard loud, wild, bird songs from a tree to my left. I knew it was the Starlings that (probably) had visited with you earlier this week. They are not strangers to our backyard either, but appear infrequently. They are medium sized, black, and travel in great flocks. They were occupying a couple of trees along our route, saying hello to us while on their trip south. We were homeward bound, having done a strenuous but thrilling ride in the glorious weather. I gave thanks for the visit of the Starlings and, more importantly, my discovery this year of the many rewards of biking outdoors. The day was full of autumn smells and sights, but winter was being held back in the 60+ degree weather. The sun was getting low (it was after 4:30 PM) and creating vibrant colors all around us, just adding to our many delights. When we got back to my house, Peter remarked that we both smelled of fall, and indeed, small pieces of leaves were clinging to our leggings.

"Oh Lord, I do fear, you made the world too beautiful this year............." It's been a recurring thought this summer when I've been biking. (Not bad for a Chemistry major).