Category Archives: Scout

Life lessons from a Border Collie

This post was originally published at Patheos.com in June 2011.

Scout after an afternoon playing in the sprinkler and rolling in the dirt. (photo © 2011 Joanne Brokaw)

I was sitting on the floor in the lobby of the veterinarian’s office, blowing soap bubbles for my five-year-old Border Collie, Scout, while we waited for our medications after our consultation with a holistic veterinarian.

A woman sitting near us was watching as Scout happily pounced on the bubbles and then stared intently into my eyes as he waited for the next wave of the bubble wand. Chasing soap bubbles is one of Scout’s favorite things to do in life. (In fact, I just typed the word and he must have read it, because he popped up from his nap and he’s staring at me, waiting to see if we’re headed outside.) Continue reading

Bandit explains Valentine’s Day – and it’s scary!

Visit Bandit on his blog, http://www.MyNameIsBandit.com!

Bandit took some time today to explain Valentine’s Day – and boy, is it a scary holiday! Here’s the beginning of his column:

“It is time for Valentines Day, the day when people go around telling other people how much they love them or they try to get people to fall in love with them. It’s all hearts and hugs and kisses and love.

“But it is all a big lie. Really, those people are trying to kill you.

“First, a naked baby named Cupid flies around with a bow and arrow trying to shoot people in the heart. Where I live, babies are not allowed to fly around without their mommies (or their diapers), and they are definitely not allowed to play with bows and arrows. Plus, just in case you didn’t know, if you shoot someone through the heart with an arrow they will die. And they probably won’t love you for it, either.”

You can read his whole column, “It’s Valentine’s Day and Someone Is Trying To Kill You!” on his blog, www.MyNameIsBandit.com!

Puppy mills, shady petitions, and other updates

For those of you who don’t read my Heavenly Creatures blog over at Patheos.com, you may have missed the hot topic last week about a commercial dog breeding facility proposed for Gorham, NY. The town board originally approved a special use permit for Curtis and Jolene Martin, who currently operate a facility in Varick, NY (near Seneca Falls in Seneca County). The plan is to build a facility to house 200-500 dogs to breed and sell wholesale to pet stores across the country.

The approval for the special use permit was unanimous, but once word got out about the planned breeding facility, it was clear the board didn’t have any idea what they’d just OK’d. The Martins run what is nicely called a wholesale dog breeding facility – but is also referred to as a puppy mill (or puppy “farm”, if you listen to Channel 10 news). Hundreds of dogs bred over and over and over to produce puppies for sale to commercial pet stores. They’ve been cited for violations in the care of the dogs. And even without violations, breeding 500 dogs factory-style just isn’t right any way you look at it.

Well, that’s how I feel about it, anyway.

It’s a hot story that culminated Wednesday with an open meeting in Gorham that saw 400 people show up to share their views. The meeting opened with a statement from the town supervisor that the permit had been nullified and plans would have to be approved by the Ontario County Planning Board. If you missed anything, you can catch up on the Heavenly Creatures blog:

One of the things people who were riled up did to try and make a difference was to start petitions. One girl in Buffalo collected 9,000 signatures. And I found out today that someone had started a petition opposing the puppy mill, with the target as my blog … to “STOP HEAVENLY CREATURES APPROVAL TO BUILD AND BREED.”

Which is ridiculous, because I’m a writer, not a breeder or a builder.

And even worse, they used a photo of my Scout as the logo for their petition.

So if you are asked to sign a petition about a puppy mill that includes “Heavenly Creatures” and this photo of Scout – don’t sign it. I have no clue what this person is trying to do – he appears to be an animal welfare advocate –  and I don’t want my readers to be taken in because you see darling Scout’s photo and assume I’m involved.

All of the hubbub did do one positive thing: I’ve become fascinated by the fervor that some animal welfare advocates have approached this topic; it reminds me of the polarizing, self absorbed, single issue mindset I’ve seen in religious communities. People driving hours to protest puppies while ignorning animal cruelty to other animals. Also surprising: the diverse attitudes within the Christian community; there were people of faith whose response to the puppy mill issue is “it’s their business.” So I’ve launched a little project to research and write more on animal advocacy and religion.

Well, that’s all the writing news from The Funny Farm for now. In dog news?

My crying bouts over Scout have become controllable; his remains are in a lovely wooden box from the vet, which is inside a pretty box that says, “Love and Inspire”. It also holds his collar and paw print in plaster (OMG that was such a lovely thing to get from the vet). It sits near my bed. I still can’t go into my office, where he spent most of his time. He preferred to hide under my desk and wedged behind the chair. Even though he chose that spot, it pains me to think of him there, hiding out by himself. I’m plagued by guilt over what I could have done, should have done, the stress his had in the last six months of his life with Bandit and Bailey. Sigh. I need to go find the tissues.

Bailey is doing a lovely  job with her puppy school practice, what little we manage to do. She’s quite fond of doing circus dog tricks – through the hoop, over the yardstick; I think she’s channeling Scout. Bandit occasionally seems a bit lonely without his brother but he’s one super snuggle monster. We’ve been hitting the park for romps and runs, and Bandit made a new friend at Beyond Hardware. You can read more on his blog. These two are still separated 24/7 but they’ve calmed down a lot. I still don’t leave them home alone together, even separated. Bailey is an escape artist and if she broke out of her crate … well, we’re not ready for that yet. But she’s doing great working on spending time in a crate. And when I go somewhere, I just take a dog with me!

Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned and keep in touch!

RIP Scout the Wonder Dog

Scout's chasing bubbles in heaven now

On Thursday, January 5th, I posted an update about things here with the dogs, writing, etc. At the time, Scout was still here, although he’d been having some tough times.

I’m sorry to report that yesterday he went to live on God’s Farm in the Sky. It’s still emotional so I’ll let you read Bandit’s account of the last 48 hours. I can’t even look at Scout’s picture without breaking down. And I have enormous guilt over his passing – I should have spent more time with him, I shouldn’t have gone to sleep that last night so I could have spent all of the time with him …. I can’t even go there right now.

But there are things I’d like to tell you about – I just can’t do it now.

Happy New Year – yes, we’re all still here and yes, it’s still madness

Bailey, honing her pillow unstuffing skills

My blogging efforts in the last part of 2011 were lame, I know. I was overwhelmed with sick dogs, barking dogs, fighting dogs, slow computers, and the need to focus writing energies where the money was.

Which means I’m once again chasing page views. From covering “The X Factor” on m Beliefnet blog to my new adventure covering animals & faith at Patheos, I’ve been trying to fit in required writing and researching while managing the dog situation. Which, quite honestly, has consumed almost every waking moment. (And even the non-waking ones; I had a dream recently in which actor Dylan McDermott came over to adopt Bailey. I’m still waiting for him to show up.)

Bandit, not to be outdone, proves he can still unstuff a dog bed and chew a shoe faster than a speeding bullet

So here we are at the start of 2012 and you’re probably wondering how we all are. Well, I’m sitting here trying to type a slow laptop, with no mouse because Bailey has dumped yet another cup of tea on the table where I’m working. I also have very sticky “y”, “n”, “e” and “t” keys, thanks to spilled tea and Murphy stretching his claws out on the keyboard. Yes, you can remove a laptop key but they don’t always go back on so easily.

 Bandit is barking, Bailey is at my feet ready to spring into action should Bandit bark at something interesting. Scout is lying in the kitchen, saving his energy for a round of b-u-b-b-l-e-s, should the opportunity arise. He’s still here, winding down a bit. In fact, we had a rough night.

In fact, I’ve had a year of rough nights. I estimate that from January 22, 2011, when Bailey came home with me, to December 31, 2011, I had maybe 5 full nights of sleep. And that’s a generous estimate. My nights allow for 1 – 3 hours of sleep in a row (that’s the max; since Scout got sick we average about 2 hours at a time). First it was a new puppy who was a wild animal in her crate and needed to go out every few hours until she was potty trained. Now, it’s a sick dog nearing the end of his life.

We still, thankfully, have our daily “Sleepy Nap Time” but I can’t lie on the couch for more than a half hour because it kills my back, hip and knee. I think that’s from that very graceful tumble I took down the stairs a few months ago. My feet slipped out from under me, I went airborne, and WHAM! Landed on my tailbone. I think I whammed my hip, too, so that when I was out with Bandit a few weeks later and he bolted after a cat – he rarely does that, so it was clearly a very special cat – I twisted my ankle. Ta da! Pain in the back, hip and knee.

But I had a really, really grand bruise on my butt for a long time. I mean, Guiness Records worthy in size. Which of course proves that having a grandly padded ass can really be a benefit. Because had I actually been in shape, I most definitely would have broken something.

So you can see how it might be difficult to be creative with all of the barking and fatigue and constant distractions. But on the bright side, Scout – who was given 30 days to live last May – has had 7+ great, normal months, outside of the need to pee every 2 or 3 hours every night. So it’s been a worthwhile trade off.

There you have it: things are pretty much the same as the last time we met. We’re still looking for a home for Bailey – you can read more here. We’re hoping Scout stays as healthy for as long as possible, and when his time comes he goes peacefully in his sleep. (God willing) And I need to go now, because Bandit has stolen my shoes – again.

Rehoming Bailey – knowing when it’s time to let go (with UPDATES)

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It is with a very, very heavy heart that I report that we’ve made the decision to find a new home for Bailey. It’s not because she’s a bad dog. It’s because she and Bandit are like oil and water, and it’s become very clear that they can’t live together in the same house peacefully or safely.

I’ve sat down a few times to tell the whole story of Bailey, but it’s too difficult to think about losing a member of our family, and to think about how confusing this must be for her. For now, I’ll just tell you about Bailey and what a great dog she is in the hopes that someone out there may need the loving canine companionship she can give. Continue reading

Do-it-yourself photo shoot, Funny Farm style

Think I could use this as a head shot?

Every publication that I write for wants a photo of me to run with my bio. Unfortunately, I take terrible photos. I’ve tried to get darling husband to take a candid picture, but he likes to kneel down and shoot up at his subjects. Which, as you know, makes the object appear larger. Great if you’re a white tail buck. Not great if you’re an overweight, middle aged woman.

I planned to have get a professional shot done, but I used the money I’d set aside for the photo to get highlights in my hair so I’d look pretty for my photo.  I’m not a great financial planner. So sue me.

So today I made another attempt to take a photo of myself using the timer option on my handy dandy camera. I hoped to get one of the animals in there as well. I did my hair, put on make up with care (foundation, blush, lipstick, the whole nine yards). I found a pretty scarf to hide my ugly neck. And I tried to create a semi-acceptable background.

Well, this picture kind of sums up how it went.

Photo shoot, Funny Farm style

I hauled a stool around to set the camera on; I tried to hang a sheet for a neutral background. I ended up with sweat running down my face, my hair frizzing, the cat pulling the sheet down as I put it up. I hauled the kit and kaboodle outside and used the sports mode to take 100 frames in a few seconds, hoping to get one decent frame out of … well, about 400. I cropped this one to show my sister my new highlights; you can’t see Bailey licking my feet.

Pretty highlights that I got instead of paying for a professional photo. By the time I save up enough for the photo, my gray roots will have grown back in.

I was able to salvage a couple of fair snapshots – certainly not professional by any stretch of the imagination. But hopefully one is usable enough for the blogs that needs a picture of me. Personally, I’d like to use the one with Bandit’s big yawn. It’s the best representation of life here at the Funny Farm. But what do you think?

Sheet managed to stay up, Murphy trying to escape. This might be the only photo I can actually use.