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Grey muzzles


My big, beautiful black dog’s muzzle is going grey!

My Nemo’s muzzle is gone nearly all silver. He was right up near the pillow when I took this picture and I am surprised it came out in focus. He usually makes the effort to sneak up next to me not so much to cuddle the way Rico does, but because he wants something he doesn’t have thumbs to get. Dogs have no guile.

The big guy is five and a half years old now. I still remember the day he was born, when the Puppy Fairy delivered nine puppies to Daisy, the pregnant dog I had rescued from the neighbor next door. We won’t go there right now. This is about happy stuff and we did find a good home for Daisy.

Nemo grew up with not one, but two nanny dogs, the first being Emily the Great Pyrenees who passed away when Nemo was just six months old and the second being Sadie, the Yellow Lab who just recently passed away. He has lived with cats and chickens his entire life as well as with Sparky, his elder dog brother by two years. Nemo’s younger dog brother would be Rico, who is just over three years old. Phoofie has been a mainstay and nemesis for Nemo’s entire life so far. Of course, at eleven years old, the cat pretty much just naps all day and ignores the dogs anyway.

When I got sick last year, the lying around staring at the ceiling activity level I have had makes me appreciate that my dogs are here providing in-home dog therapy the way they do. When I get my hair to grow back, I’m not even going to complain about it being all grey any more. At this point, I will be satisfied to simply have hair.

My shiny, black puppy has grown to 140lbs at his heaviest, 125lbs when he’s at his best weight, and has acquired quite a few silver threads on his schnozzola. Grey hairs signify life lived, history made, time spent. Nobody will ever love you the way your dog does.

Day 16: Grey muzzles are beautiful.

Reposted from SuperSparklyMe.com and BigBlackDogStudio.com.

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Best. Medicine. Ever.


Wow, I cannot believe I missed the entire summer. Those folks who are really observant will notice that my hair in the above photo is barely there. All spring I had not been feeling very well, mostly just drained and had no energy. I needed more and more naps in the afternoon. I had a swollen lymph node on my neck and a dry cough that wouldn’t go away since, like, December. Well, by mid-July, my temperature was spiking to 102, 103 and even 104 degrees, being brought down temporarily by a constant supply of aspirin. And everybody knows that can’t be good.

After nearly a month in the hospital, I received a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – which thankfully is 90% – 95% curable. Heaven knows there are much worse cancers or diseases one can have. Four days after my birthday in August, I had my first chemo treatment and like Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs, who was diagnosed with the same cancer almost a year ago, my expected treatment time is relatively short: six or seven months. God is good that I’ve got something curable and short-lived.

All through my extensive napping this past spring and summer, Rico has been glued to my side and lettering in varsity napping. Of course, Nemo is a professional, but for an active pup like Rico, putting the breaks on, curling up next to me every time he comes over, even not getting up when the other dogs go outside, this was a huge bonding commitment on his part. He’s almost ready to go pro.

I love this picture of him curled up on the pillow next to me, which I’ve often described to folks about his cuddliness, but hadn’t been able to get a good picture of before he’d move. Every night he spends with me, this is how we start off. Can you say, “puppy love”?

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Look for beauty in everyone

Continuing with my “notes from online dating experience 2014” theme, a very good-looking man a state and a half away had reached out to me to pay me a compliment recently. When I responded, I thanked him and said I appreciated his own well-written narrative, seeing as I find myself attracted to intelligent as well as handsome men 🙂 The fellow wrote back that he was “flabbergasted” that I had actually taken the time to respond, much less nicely and was willing to engage in conversation with him. It makes me feel bad that online dating is more renowned for its badly behaving people than its sincere and well-behaved ones. So, the conversation continued a little longer and he inquired as to why would I take the time to pen something nice to someone I wasn’t likely going to ever meet or who really didn’t meet any of my preferences other than being a good writer? I gave a good thought to it, wrote down my thoughts and sent the following back to him to try and explain. Soul-searching like this is something I highly recommend to anyone merely because it helps you get to know who you really are. Self-knowledge is something I feel is sorely lacking in the world today.

Since being nice in general and uplifting whenever possible is part of my ministry vocation and something I feel very strongly about, I wanted to copy and paste what I wrote in here to share because any kind word or other random act of kindness may be the one act you do today that makes a difference in someone’s life. As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “do small things with great love.”

Fair enough question. As an artistic/creative person, I appreciate beauty for its own delightful sake wherever I find it. Although I’ve been in vocational ministry as a music director for just over thirty years and am by default “nice” for a living, one thing I feel strongly about is that there is too much tearing down of people in this world and not nearly enough effort toward building up, lifting up, strengthening, encouraging and blessing of others. Perhaps in my old age, I’m more and more cognizant of that negative energy that swirls around us, especially prompted by the media through horrific music, violent films and video games, etc. I see people’s faces lined with stress, their eyes averted from making eye contact during their day because they are so used to looking up and seeing other people’s faces snarling with pent-up anger, bitterness, loneliness and other pains they cling to. We tend to see in others things that mirror ourselves; I decided a long time ago that I did not wish to reflect back to the world the bad experiences I had had, but rather would focus on the joyful things. That is how I choose to live out my day: remembering the beautiful, the happy, the wonder. I look for it in others and when I see something – anything – I make a point of telling them, not because I want something from anyone, but because they deserve to know that more than just their pain shines through their eyes. I want things like that to give people hope in humanity and perhaps just a little lifting of their spirits enough to rise up above what has been pulling them down.

It is true that my “type” – if one were to go by my virtually unbroken record of past loves – has definitely been the blue-eyed, German/Scandinavian boys. My family is Scandinavian and German on one side, so all of my cousins as well as the German/Dutch settlers of my hometown fit that picture. I grew up around hunky farm boys and muscular men are what my eye sees as “normal.” There’s a little bit of Irish/English mixed into me, explaining my freckles and greenish eyes and the red tint that used to appear in my otherwise very dark brown hair before it went silver years ago. The other half of the family – the one that was estranged when my mother divorced when I was 5 – was Italian, so there was more dark hair, eyes and skin that didn’t burn in the sun. I got the olive skin that tans as well as freckles, for which here in Florida, I am ever so grateful. 🙂

One thing about me that has been steady since I wrote my first creative piece back in middle school a hundred years ago: I communicate best through my hands. My writing, playing the piano, my touch – these are the ways I best express what is on my mind or heart. When I read someone’s profile who obviously has gifting and skill in written communication, it’s something I gravitate toward. The intellectual conversations stimulate and re-energize that part of me that too often is forced to operate in dumbed-down mode for daily life.

I’m very happy you reached out to me, happier still that you appreciated my response, and would enjoy getting to know the you inside if only for the span of several greatly enjoyable emails. Most of the “hits” I’ve gotten online during my first two and a half months have been from mostly mid-sixties, lonely men. Not always with teeth. I usually just ignore the ones I categorize as “WTF not even close” but do write back a nice, “Thanks, but no” response to others who take the time to send me something more than a generic spam blast. Now, you are going to laugh at this part, but I am human after all: of the 3,000 some that the profile says have looked at my profile (whether or not they click anything), I think I have found maybe a dozen of them physically attractive from their photos. Therefore, my non-scientific conclusion would be that there are a lot of really homely men out there, making it therefore ever more my conscience-owing duty to try harder to encourage those who do or have something going right (in my eyes), but then simply lean back and enjoy the ride and mutual flow of attention from men I find physically as well as intellectually inspiring. I am hoping to find my Chosen One to spend the rest of my life with and it will have to be someone whose mind attracts me as much as his physique.

I hope you have a wonderful day as you start the beginning of this week.


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A-type is not a bad thing

Strong … passionate … super-achiever …. pushy … Why do people assume that A-type personality people are automatically jerks? Having made the foray into online dating two months ago, it’s interesting to see how people react to the term “A-type.” To most people, the term connotes an annoyingly, single-minded, run-you-over-to-get-what-they-want personality, but that is so wrong. I am an A-type personality and I get along best with other A-types and it’s included in my online dating profile (another story for another day). I spelled it out recently to someone who thought it was masochistic of me to seek an A-type person, and thought I would share the little elucidation I wrote back to him here with you:

People erroneously believe that strong-minded, A-type people – both the strong, silent ones and the loud, pushy, obnoxious ones and all those in between – don’t have feelings because instead of seeing the usual lurid drama, all they witness is what we do and how we pursue to achieve. We are able to put our passion and momentum into our work and the right and left brained parts of us operate in tandem in all things and areas of our lives, not separately from each other.

There are book-smart people who haven’t the will to do anything more with themselves than they need to do to get by, whining their way through their lives looking for a parent and not a mate. But A-type people delight in absorbing knowledge through everything we encounter and synchronize it through an innate desire for doing things with what we learn, knowing that we will always be learning and thrilled to go around the corner to see what challenge next awaits … in relationships, in life, in hobbies, in work … we take on challenges, not back away.

People who don’t “get” us label us as focused or one-dimensional by what we do because we’re not average like them. They wrongly assume that we enjoy running over wishy-washy people’s feelings because we don’t care or have feelings of our own. Nothing is further from the truth: we feel love and joy euphorically and our hurt takes us to the deepest of chasms. We can explode with anger, burst out in laughter or clam up and brood to process our feelings.

We are very hard on ourselves and are our own task masters. We get impatient quickly at other people’s inaction and would rather take things into our own hands and do them ourselves so they are done “right” … sometimes boldly, sometimes quietly behind the scenes. Oftentimes, we get impatient with ourselves for not accomplishing our goals to our own high standards and timelines. We are often guilty of foot-in-the-mouth moments when what we are feeling wells up in us so fast, we don’t think before we speak. We have a hard time taking “no” for an answer and must muster up all of our strength to stand down and not take the control which is so natural for us to wield. It’s our birthright. We’re the ones the greatest love tragedies were written by and about.

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I’m back

I can’t believe how long has passed since I was posting here. My bad. I am steady at 116lbs, my original, steady weight and size and am exceedingly pleased. Feeling like my old self again! Wooooo hooooooooo!

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Shrine of the Black Dog

While in the thrift store the other day looking for a wooden chair to paint and donate for a “chair”-ity auction upcoming, I was thumbing through picture frames to find any that I could use. I came across a frame with its three pictures of a Black Lab and his human. At home, I took off the back to see if there was any writing on the backs of the pictures as to when they were taken or what the dog’s name is but found nothing.

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What strikes me about the framed dog is not that it’s a Black Lab or that it appears to be a hunting dog as well as the dog in his younger days as well as old. What struck me is that someone must have passed away nearby here, the family came in and cleaned out his stuff, and then donated all the stuff they didn’t want to keep to the thrift store, which is something typically done and not strange in and of itself.

What bothers me is that the dog was obviously important to the hunter to have his favourite dog hung so nicely on his wall. The framing might have been a gift given that way to him. But the family didn’t bother taking out the pictures to keep in a photo album of the deceased with his beloved dog and donating just an empty frame; instead, they just packed up someone else’s fond memories, personal photos and all, and left them at the good-will. Why? Because it’s just Grandpa’s old dog that probably died ten or twenty years ago? Or at least as long ago as when they still developed film on Kodak paper?

Ancestry.com lets you track your family tree of humans so we can remember people we never met but who were part of our family. Why don’t they have a pet version so we can gaze back over our lives and remember all of the wonderful animals that we have loved and who have loved us unconditionally in return? Will someone please invent that for me? I would include all of the pets I have lived with in my life, and believe me, it’s quite a few.

In the meantime, the picture of The Beloved Dog will sit next to my Big Black Dog Studio sign as a shrine to beloved pets everywhere that enrich our lives for a time, but who pass on and often get forgotten as time rolls on. That seems to me to just be not right. Our pets help make us who we are just as much (and sometimes more) than the people in our lives. I personally think that we learn much more about ourselves reflected through our pets than we even know.

All of my pets have always been rescues, so I adopted poor, cast-off Beloved in spirit, and he can watch over Nemo like an adopted ancestor, one beloved Big Black Dog to another. I don’t need to know the specifics of Lovey’s life; all that’s important for me to know is that he once meant a lot to someone, so therefore, he now means a lot to me.

(reprinted from my other blog at http://bigblackdogstudio.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/shrine-of-the-black-dog/)

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“Just let it go”

As I am wont to do, I greatly enjoy Sister Mary Martha’s blog. Today’s post had a wonderful bit that I had to share about people who wonder about the “grand scheme of things” (like me) and how God works things out for our good (despite our most persistent efforts to try His patience):

As for the Great Scheme of Things….that’s Sacred Mystery territory. If you are a regular reader you’ll know what I mean by that.  The Church defines a Sacred Mystery as that which we are not even meant to understand, God’s wisdom that is beyond our capacity as humans to ever understand.  I define it to mean, “Just let it go.”

Sacred Mystery=Catholic for “just let it go.”

I love that!


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