Monday, May 30, 2011

Fire All the Way

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Can You See the Beauty?

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to Catch an Atheist

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Life after Oprah

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Monday, May 23, 2011

No Clutter, No Booze

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Shaka and Audrey Photos


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saga of the Solano County Basenjis, Part One

(I've been out of commission in the blog world the past few days, the this post shows why. This will appear tomorrow on the blog for Basenji Rescue and Transport (BRAT), but I am previewing it here.)

When I lost my beloved basenji Bow in March, I knew I needed to have some time and a break from basenjiland even though I ached to have a basenji next to me again the moment she departed. Barely a month later, on May 2 I got a message from Ray Eckart, BRAT regional coordinator in Chico that there was a basenji whose owner had to move the next day into an apartment that did not allow pets. Then we learned it wasn’t one basenji but two. The owner didn’t want to go through the hassle of filling out a second online intake form. The information we did have was sketchy besides the fact that they were a six-year-old male, Shacka, and three-year-old female, Crybaby (yes, urgh on that name). And we knew that they had not been spayed or neutered. We needed to act fast or we weren’t sure what might happen to these two, and we weren’t even positive they were basenjis.

Arrangements were made for the owner to drop these two at my house the following day at 10 a.m. At 10:30 a.m. the owner called to say they were missing and might have gotten out the night before, or even earlier. Ray spread the word widely to have volunteers, other rescue groups and individuals to be on the look out for them. Having psyched myself up to bring them in, I now had to try to detach from worrying too much about these two dogs I’d never met. But it was impossible not to think about them running lose in Solano County, a highly developed area in the middle of the San Francisco-Sacramento Corridor where I-80 weaves through and is one of the busiest interstates in the nation. The likelihood of them surviving seemed very slim. I went to bed heart sick that my chance to help these two had probably vanished.

All day Wednesday I tried to blot out what might have happened to these two mystery basenjis, and then a message popped up that afternoon. “Shacka and Crybaby have been found!!!!” Multiple postings and messages had led to them being discovered on Petharbor at the Solano County Animal Control in Fairfield after being discovered running lose on a major street. The grainy online photos showed that they were indeed basenjis, Crybaby looking underweight and with a very sad, miscolored coat.

I called animal control, and miraculously the two had been microchipped, but the information on file was all out of date. That meant the owner had a week to claim before BRAT could gain custody of them. We gave animal control his contact, he chose to turn them over to animal control who in turn signed them over to BRAT

The next day I nervously made the drive to Fairfield uncertain of what I might find. Would they be aggressive, fearful, rabid? There was an excruciating five minute wait after I signed the paperwork and then they emerged charging out on leash with an animal control staffer. They looked like no basenjis I had ever seen. Their coats were matted and very light. Crybaby was especially underweight.

Shacka came right up to me and gave me a friendly sniff. Crybaby cowered but didn’t not show any aggression as the slip leashes were removed and they were put onto my leashes. After a walk around the grounds to prepare for our long ride back to San Francisco, they jumped quickly in the car and rode well all the way back, Shacka sitting regally in the back seat and Crybaby hunkered below him on the floor

I followed all of the instructions I’ve read of fostering of keeping a good distance and giving them plenty of treats and happy talk along the way. As we crossed the East Bay Bridge’s S-curve and then emerged from the tunnel of Yerba Buena Island, I felt my right shoulder twitching, sure that it was from all the stress of the past few days. I reached it to scratch and realized it was Shacka’s paw. He wasn’t pushing to get in the front seat. He had simply gently put his paw on my shoulder and looked into my eyes with what felt like was an attitude of “I think I can trust you.” Even if he couldn’t understand the words I told him, “The best part of your life has just begun.”

With virtually no medical history besides the round of shots they got at animal control, no background on their socialization or temperament, my fostering of these two began. I will go into more detail in a later post, but I will just say that so far these two have proven to be the miracle basenjis. I admire them for just surviving on the streets of Fairfield for at least a day or two. Shacka immediately acted as if I was his best friend. Crybaby (whom I am just calling Baby for now) was very frightened that first afternoon, but snuggled up next to by the end of the day – clearly desperate to be protected and loved but afraid of almost every sound she heard. She let me brush her coat that was as stiff as a porcupine and felt like silk by the time I was finished. By the second day she was almost begging to brushed. They both love to be brushed.

There has been some marking and chewing in the house but nothing so severe that I have really been ready to throw in the towel. The fact that these two have been so willing to trust a human after what seems like a really horrible start in life gives me reason to want to make every effort to help them begin the next chapter of their lives where they will be showered with love, nurtured to great health and thrive as the best basenjis they can be.

Having such support from the whole BRAT community has made this initially chaotic foster assignment much less daunting.

More than once I have thought I was insane for doing this, that it's more than I can handle, that it's too soon after losing Bow. But another side of me thinks Bow had a hand (or a paw) in this, seeing that my life had become too dull and she decided to send them my way. It really is a miracle that they survived that day or two running virtually feral on the streets of Fairfield. Maybe it was Bow, their guardian angel, watching over them and sending them into a new life where they will now be safe.

(And here is a link to a video of them settling into fun in the back garden.)

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Monday, May 09, 2011


Another Magpie Tale

Two birds came to him that morning as he strolled into the garden in his robe. His beard, that robe and modest sandals made many think he was a priest. But he was a mere bank teller at a branch on the west side.

He cherished his moments in the garden, usually going there just after rising and enjoying a cup of oolong tea. He much preferred oolong to herbal infusion or the dreaded chamomile. For a certain percentage of the population, chamomile is a soothing, relaxing herb. For him and many others, is a toxic irritant since it is in essence ragweed, and when in tea form is like ingesting that wretched weed into the bloodstream. Any time he drank chamomile he had restless nights with his heart racing, his lungs feeling swollen and his chest tight. He caused not only sleepless nights but delusional ones.

Oolong by contrast soothed and cleansed him, making him feel at one with nature. It was because of that he lately found bird choosing to perch on his hands. Even without a lure of seeds or other gifts, they seemed at one with him. With time he would offer them pieces of straw. His hand would become a virtual lumberyard for bird construction as each morning he found communion with them before he went off to work to process loans.


Monday, May 02, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: Smoldering Fires

This week's contribution to the Magpie Tales series

Grammy Coobaugh always talked about the time Clarence Holbrook Carter came through Deaver County and started painting residents. Grammy only had half a dozen photographs of the family that she'd barely been able to afford at that little photo studio in Eaglesburg. She managed to pay for it by agreeing to let the photographer come up to farm and take payment with picking blackberries on the halves -- he got to go home with half of the buckets he picked. She'd never paid real money for a photograph. Later her Sister Ida who had moved to Memphis as a teen bride would buy her a Brownie, but that was years later.

The idea of having her portrait done in oils seemed a bit silly to her. All that time involved. Mr. Carter had her sit there for three days straight holding Little Chester who would get restless, and the painter would complain about the light not being correct. She thought of the time she could have spent washing or weeding the tomato patch, but she agreed to stand for the portrait and stared into the distance.

"Smoldering Fires" was the name he gave to it. Many thought it was an obvious title referring to the slag heaps issuing smoke in the background. Grammy Coobaugh never lived to see the portrait since Carter didn't come back through the county after he completed it. Did he maybe sense what was smoldering beneath her composed expression, a certain incomprehension about Carter and life and what she pretty much knew would be Chester's fate. She was optimistic after the Korean War when Chester settle in California but rarely heard from him. He sometimes would send her a Mother's Day card in June with "Sew sorry. Done forget till now but I git it to yoo." He worked as an apprentice mechanic in a garage in Southgate for the next 30 years, drifting in and out of marriages and never making child support payments to a disconnected of children strewn Oxnard to National City.

It was his sixth wife, Edna, that took him to that exhibit at the Huntington in 1973 when he stood in front of the painting, seeing something familiar but still not comprehending. Edna, who fancied herself as being an art and anthropological aficionado nudged him and said, "Why look Chester, it could almost be the Appalachia of your youth."

"Ain't half as good as that Norman Rockwell, if you ask me."

Chester stuck his hands and pockets and sauntered off, adding, "Which room's got that Pinky and Blue Boy. I heard this is the museum with Pinky and Blue Boy."