An Easter Tail.

One might think this scene illustrates a tragedy. On most any other day, one would be correct, but not this day. On this day, tragedy left empty handed, leaving instead a bit of humor and a nekked chicken bottom.

Scene of the crime.

Scene of the crime.

More on that in a tiny while.

I purchased a book over the winter.  It was titled “Gardening with Chickens” and had a catchy little subtitle like “How to Raise Happy Chickens AND a Garden the Size of Vermont!” I was intrigued, because everyone knows Vermont is the “Green” Mountain State (and the book was taped shut, disallowing any preview.)

I read it cover to cover. Planted my happy-chicken-garden, starting with organic (and expensive) potato seed, five 15′ rows, enough future potatoes to secure a french fry-supplier contract for the Golden Arches. Then six rows of bush beans, eight inches apart, 1 inch deep.  I was out of garden space, but not out of vegetable seeds. I put the tiny greenhouse up and planted the rest of the seeds in there, in the little cow-poop pots that are guaranteed not to stink. It was awesome.

Straight from Maine to Texas. Certified hashbrown seeds for a certifiable gardener.

Straight from Maine to Texas. Certified french fry seeds for a certifiable gardener.

Abby Normal was totally in love with this tiny little house.

Abby Normal was totally in love with this tiny little house.

And the project was off to a good start. Happy chickens? Check. Awesome garden? Check.

I loved the little mounded rows for the spuds. It looked so tidy, orderly, and perfect, there was no way we wouldn’t be harvesting 6000 pounds of future french fries in a few months’ time. I left the strings stretched for the bean rows so I could check on the progress of baby beans when they started coming up. The chickens were very, very, impressed as well, I just knew it. My little feathered friends and I were going to have a great garden together.

And then they found it. The rich treasure trove of earthworms I had carefully and lovingly nurtured in the compost pile throughout the winter months, and placed throughout the garden rows, encouraging the tiny slimeys to go forth and procreate. I had whispered in their diminutive ears, welcoming one and all to my little patch of organic paradise.

In  two days, the potato rows were leveled. Each day I would return from work and re-rake the mounded rows, chastise the chicken girls for their zeal and hope for the best. I checked the list of chapters in my happychickenandgarden book. No chapter titled “When Bad Things Happen to Good Gardens.” I secretly grieved for the earthworms.

But then I had a seed of an idea.

I searched my memory for the last place I had seen “FlatSam.”  The camper under seat storage!  I went to the barn where the camper was still waiting safely for warm early summer days, and there it was, as my memory had promised. FlatSam had served his purpose well for a year or two as a funny novelty, giving us many giggles as he stood guard over the camper kingdom last summer, and the summer previous as a photo-shoot prop in the pasture, silently scaring the eggs out of a few hens at the time and spooking the goats, too. It had been great fun, but now he really had a purpose. To the garden we went.

FlatSam. From funny to functional, that's life on a farm.

FlatSam. From funny to functional, that’s life on a farm.

Our little pack of corgis have always co-existed pretty peacefully with the chickens..even on those rare occasions when one of the more foolish birds would visit the wrong yard. We’ve lost a few birds over the years, but always due to our lapse of awareness, and never due to a corgi. In short, the chickens knew to leave the corgis alone, and the corgis knew to leave the chickens alone. A FlatSam scarecrow would be just the ticket.

"Looks real to me, girls!"

“Looks real to me, girls!”

"..it only looks like a dog on the one side, i think.." "I don't care I'm not flying over there first. you go."

“..it only looks like a dog on the one side, i think..” “I don’t care I’m not flying over there first. you go.”

But it happened. Favorite hen flies into yard. Foster dog sees favorite hen, trots over to check it out, hen panics and runs, foster dog takes chase, resident dogs follow suit, feathers fly. All this while I was proudly planting FlatSam in the garden, knowing (just knowing!!) that a life-size cardboard cutout of Sammi Dean Martin da Corgi would fersure bevel those cheeky, beaky birds and save my potatoes. Then I heard the commotion and my little hen squawking for dear life.  Only baby chickens are supposed to know how many feathers are in a bird’s behind.

He just wanted his own feather pillow. I'm sure of it.

He just wanted his own feather pillow. I’m sure of it.

Beverly Hillbilly will need a seat warmer for a while.

Beverly Hillbilly will need a seat warmer for a while.

And so, tragedy, as promised, was averted. Amelia Bones, however is certain that someone, somehow, brought an Easter Chicken into HER yard and scared the feathers off it. She has been to the crime scene, and she has proof.

amelia smiling with feather

The Easter Corgi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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These are a few of my favorite things..err…dogs…

A friend “tagged” me in a Facebook post yesterday, challenging me to post 5 of my favorite dog breeds, and I was like “Five? Just dogs?” I thought about this for a few minutes. It seemed to me that someone may just as well have asked “Hey! you with the chocolate stains on the white shirt..!! what’s your favorite flavor of chocolate?”  (Let me get back to you with that.)

Actually, I’m pretty certain there are some days I don’t even LIKE dogs, especially at o’dark thirty when the sound of a dog barfing on the new quilt becomes the NewAndImprovedSmokeAlarm. (Is there carbon monoxide in dog barf?)

And so back to the original question. My favorite breeds. I’ll start with the one we have the most of, and that obviously would be corgi. Once upon a crazy time not so very long ago we counted 17 of the furry short-legged barking beasts. Here. We’ve had therapy since then, and a tiny bit of medication and are now at a comfortable level of 6. Or so.

Second on the list of faves would be my mother’s most favorite breed of dog. I would have thought that since she was raised right alongside labrador retriever puppies and working adults, she would be a lab fan. We always had a lab or two as kids. But, (gasp!!) I would be wrong. Mom’s favorite dog, declared loudly and often over the noise of the blue canister vacuum cleaner, was “SOMEDAY I’LL HAVE A CERAMIC DOG !”

Mom's vacuum. It never met a dog-hair-dust-bunny it didn't like.

Mom’s vacuum. It never met a dog-hair-dust-bunny it didn’t like.

And so, Favorite Dog Breed Number Two.

No shedding. No barking. No vet visits. No problem to housetrain. The Purebred Ceramic Labrador.

No shedding. No barking. No vet visits. No problem to housetrain. The Purebred Ceramic Labrador.

And really, right there is where I get stuck. Maybe this is why. I like smart creatures, which may be simply because I’m not very smart some (most) days, and having a really bright dog trotting along with me makes me feel like I am a genius, because everybody knows that a dog (or horse for that matter) is only as smart as the trainer, right? Right. Insert winky emoticon here.

I also appreciate really handsome (or pretty) animals, and like someone once said “..if you have to take an aspirin for the pain before you can even look at it, then maybe you have the wrong (in this case) horse. Thank you to my old friend Keri from Arkansas, from whom I learned how to be an animal snob. Thankfully I have other friends (just as wise) who helped me unlearn. I still keep a bottle of aspirin  around, though because lots of people can be just plain hard to look at. Go to Walmart and don’t shop. Just. Look. Take the Excedrin with you.

And so, that brings me to My Favorite Breed Number Five.  It’s an ancient breed, sometimes comes with pedigree and papers, sometimes not. Has been a Famous International Dog Show Champion many times over, and lots of other cool stuff. This breed has been recognized for their ability to do pretty much anything, from guarding sheep to catching marijuana dealers to finding lost children to being championshoechewers to..well..you name it.

It’s My Dog. I’ll bet it’s your favorite breed, too.

Perfect without papers.

Perfect without papers.

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Wild Animal Winter Day, Corgi-style

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Corgis have wicked imaginations. A record March snowfall overnight here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area inspired a wild animal hunt in our backyard. The elected hunter-gatherers of the home pack were the leaders. StickyLickyVicky, above, was the referee.

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First, the wolves. The marauding midnight wolf-pack had butchered almost an entire tree’s worth of perfectly healthy sticks. This stick was quickly put out of it’s misery, having spent the night under a heavy, but fatal blanket of snowflakes.

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Next, the hyenas. We wondered why the pyrenees in the goat pasture had barked all night long, now we understand that there were rare and elusive Texas Hyenas rambling through the yard. They look just. Like. This. ^

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Then there were the Texas SnowBears. Well, ok. Not plural. There was only one, based on the tracks we saw. They look EXACTLY like Gordon Whitefoot. He is a Professional Corgi Mix, and our Senior Pack Leader. He has the badge to prove it, just ask him.

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Then there was a WHOLE HERD of Siberian Tall-Eared CanterLopes. Curiously, they look identical to Whiskey, and we could sure tell this, even though we’ve never seen one for real. This is a true story because if you know how to read tracks in the snow, you can read purt ‘near everything, perfectly.  (thank you Larry McMurtry and Zane Grey) We were not sure if these tracks were from the Western or English versions, however.

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JustDave, switching from wolf-mode to rabbit-in-the-headlights mode. He gets an Oscar nod for this performance.

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See? Rabbit. Disguised as a corgi. It would be perfect, too if Dave had used the Clairol hair-tint stuff we recommended. But no.

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He had to remain the Prairie Princess, even though that side of his personality is a secret to all but his closest fffff-riends.

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Every wild animal park keeps their most dangerous carnivores behind bars. Forget the “Habitat Immersion” stuff…if you want to see dangerous people-eating carnivores you want to see the bars and fences keeping them from eating you. Here you see Amelia and Augustus imitating “The Lion in Winter” (with apologies to Katharine Hepburn) and on the right, the Texas Bi-Polar Bear. Half bear, Half dog.

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No wild animal hunting story is complete without the story of “The One That Got Away.” This would be that “one,” and of course, his tracks were hard to find, too. Like the Chupacabra of the southern hemisphere, there exists the God of Winter, Boreas, who also brings the north wind for the northern hemisphere. He looks a LOT like a tri-color rather-short-in-stature athletic corgi named JustDave.

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If you believe all that..well….come see me. I need the money, and I’ve got a bridge to sell.

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A Recipe to Remember

My grandma used to make this crazy face when she taste-tested her cooking. Midway through the batch of whatever-it-was-on-the-stove or what’s-that-stuff-in-the-bowl, she’d take a spoon, dip it in, and then dab it on the tip of her tongue. Then the face-making would begin. Most importantly, there would be the squinty eyes, because one less of her five senses helped focus her taste-buds, maybe. Then, since she couldn’t tape her ears shut, she’d hold up a hand (the hand not holding the spoon) and silence the room. Chalk off another sense, down to three now.  Sense of touch, nope needed that one or the spoon would fall. Sense of smell? Used it to put together the ingredients. Lord knows you need your sniffer to be sure that enough pepper stays in the pepper shaker.

Back to the taste test. So, with her eyes squinted shut, the room silent, the spoon with its treasure poised in mid air, she would tip it to her tongue and the real miracle of cooking would commence. “Licklicklicklick” was the sound of her tongue, smacking lightly into her lips as she savored each delicate fragment of ingredient, seasoning and texture. I do think it was pretty important for the flavors to mingle with the air in the room, kind of like where wine-tasters get their chops, maybe. They probably had awesome grandma cooks, too. Or grannies who liked wine, maybe.

And with that taste, she’d either nod approval or squint further into the pot, pondering how to repair the missing flavor. As one of the earliest memories of my grandmothers, I was always positive that everybody’s grannies did this when they cooked, and that everybody’s grannies were awesome cooks. I used to think their taste-testing thing was pretty silly stuff, an idiosyncracy that had no real purpose except to entertain the grandchildren until one day I caught myself doing the same thing. I don’t have grand-kids, and the dogs don’t care about my taste-testing, they’d rather do it their own way.

Dang that DNA, raising it’s little green head when I wasn’t looking.

Crazy enough, what I discovered was this. When the flavors of one’s cooking are properly and gently blended with the air in the room, like say a warm, homey kitchen that smells like banana bread or cucumbers, those flavors take on a life all their own by waking up memories stored somewhere in the part of our brain that keeps smells. A whiff of warm fresh bread, the soft scrumptiousness of a triangle-shaped home-fried doughnut with sugar sprinkles, ripening bananas on the wooden table in the breezeway, fresh coffee in the mornings, over-cooked coffee in the afternoons but always the smell of coffee at one stage or another. Not the kind of coffee made these days. Nope. This coffee was made on the stove, in a pot with a little glass bulb on top where you could watch the brewing happen. It smelled like home, always.

And that’s what cooking is about, at the end of the day and when the last plate is served. It’s about home.  Our homes are just like recipes, I guess. A touch of this here, a pinch of that there, add one cup of humor, mix with two cups of tolerance,  a spoonful of compromise, add a dose of respect until reaching the desired consistency.  Making a home and keeping a home requires we taste-test often, and that we mix it properly with the air in our kitchens. Call it the sixth sense our grandmas hoped we would learn someday.

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Waiting out the storm with the Dogs of War.

shortdogblog:

I love Anna Blake. You should too.

Originally posted on Horses |AnnaBlakeBlog | Equestrian:

WMcorgiwar Profound courage on guard detail.

Last Monday I worked a couple of horses in the morning. The temperature dropped in the afternoon–by 54 degrees. I raced to the feed store to get an emergency stash of senior feed and when I came out, there was a wall of black cloud from one horizon to the other, bearing down on me like a bad B-movie about zombie-locusts. Frozen zombie-locusts.

It’s my fault. Last week I made fun of a Dylan Thomas poem and then chided us all for the annual loss of winter chops. Perish the thought. It hasn’t been above 10 degrees since. I got some of my chops back–it soared up to 6 degrees and I almost took one of my hats off.

So I have been in the house all week, except to feed and have brief outdoor frozen hose wrestling matches. The dogs and I have cabin crazy fever…

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Once Unwanted, Stray Dog Returns Gift of Life, Saves Family

Whoever said “no good deed goes unpunished” never met Major.

A big black dog, once an abandoned puppy facing an uncertain future, is being credited with saving the lives of his family last night. As their home was burning to the ground, Major’s persistent barking awakened Abe Lieja and his son, Brandon, and as they stumbled through their smoke-filled hallways in the dark of the night, groggy from toxic smoke inhaled while they were sleeping, they made their way safely outside where they were met by firefighters and EMT’s already on the scene.

All three family members received immediate medical care and will be just fine. Their home however, burned beyond salvage.

It was just last winter when the pup was found in the rural community of Quanah, Texas.  The small black mixed-breed was found lingering on a roadside, alone and hungry. Through the efforts of several people, he was taken to Carrie Dodson’s horse ranch where she provided food, blankets, and a warm and safe place to sleep until his owners could be located. No one really had much hope of finding any owners. Dogs and puppies dumped in roadside ditches are an all-too-common occurrence, and the residents of the small town of Quanah have become well-acquainted with unwanted animals living and dying alongside their quiet country roads.

The un-named black puppy found safe haven with Carrie Dodson while he waited for a family to claim him.

After several days of posting pictures of the pup, Brandon quietly came forward to offer their home for the abandoned puppy. He and his dad lived alone, and a dog may be just what they needed to fill their days.

Major, the big black dog once abandoned in a ditch, proves that loyalty incurs no debt.

No one ever knows the impact a dog may have on its new family. Days of too much barking, too many holes in the garden, too many accidents on the living room floor, or too many of any number of puppy-growing-up mistakes can lead to the end of a relationship that, like Major’s, can change the lives of those who love him.

For Abe and Brandon Leija, they will forever look at this dog and know that their good deed, taking him in and sharing their life and home with a once-unwanted puppy, saved more than one life.

To help Abe and Brandon rebuild, an account will be opened in the next few days at a Quanah bank. In the meantime, any cash donations can be sent to Quanah Schools, where Abe works in the maintenance department. The fire destroyed everything they owned except their love for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s a Little Clutter?

We live cluttered lives.

Kitchen cabinets that simply. Won’t. Shut. Bedroom closets that are just. Too. Full. The extra coffee cups sitting patiently next to the extra plates in the cupboard seem silly, since we both use our favorite cup, anyway.  More than ten of either seems a waste of space, since our dogs don’t get to eat off the plates, and they sure don’t drink coffee.

Don’t even think about trying to organize the plastic-ware cabinet. Those things come with the right shaped lids when you buy them from Mall-Mart, but as soon as you get home, the lids don’t ever fit again.

I found a half-full bag of “Sta-Fresh Marshmallows” by the hundred-and-ten dinner plates the other day. They were no longer fresh. Apparently the “truth in advertising” people are banking on clutter to conceal their deception.

We have magazines from 19-hundred and ninety-something.  They live on a rolling cart under the counter top, secure in their own little world of occasionally-cleaned dusty clutter.  Read once, saved for posterity.

We even bought a storage building for stuff. It’s cheaper than renting a storage unit, we figured. Lately the door has had trouble staying closed. It used to blow open in a decent wind, now it just pops open from time to time, wind or no wind. Not random.

Clutter.

It’s been an exciting week of new homes for our foster animals, and for the first time in a very long time we are at a more comfortable number of hungry mouths to be fed and cared for every day. It’s really pretty great to save a life or two along the way, to put a sparkle in the eyes of a lonesome and heartbroken critter, or to fix something broken or bruised and make it like new again.  We’ve gotten really good at it, this saving of “clutter.”

Honeybear, once neglected with battered ears and a broken heart, will be going home in a few days to her own happily-ever-after. Good vets like Dr. Cindy Jones help us make “forever” happen.

As new families come with empty vehicles and leave with fur-covered back seats, we see more clearly the real clutter in our hallway; the food bowls and blankets waiting to be washed so they can re-join the stack of other blankets and food bowls in the too-full closets. Cleverly evasive dust-bunnies roll out from under cracks, crevices, and furniture just a few minutes after putting up the vacuum cleaner and wringing out the mop.

There’s something to be said for less clutter, kind of like taking your car or truck in to the car-spa. When you climb back in your once-cluttered, now clean vehicle, you see the shiny hood and smell the new air-stinky thing. As you drive away, it’s like a miracle that no one else on the road notices your freshly polished and shiny car. Driving a clean car always makes me feel like I just bought a new one, even if it does have 100,000 miles hiding on the odometer.

It’s been decided then that we will take our cluttered selves to the car wash, with our mutually-accumulated couple-hundred-thousand miles of wear and tear from caring for unwanted animals that once were other people’s “clutter.”  When we drive away refreshed, we’ll get ready to add one more plate to the cabinet, one more curious coffee cup to the collection, and perhaps one more furry broken heart to our hallways.

Uno Mas

It’s really not clutter if you love it.  That’s our miracle, we see it every day.

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When dreams come true.

Five mustangs later, Ericka Schelstraete-Savage of Florida no longer goes to the grocery store when she’s hungry. We’ve all been there, stalking the aisles for one item we needed, then coming home with plastic sacks full of special somethings to ease our sudden hunger. Unlike groceries, Ericka’s mustangs have found a permanent home. Her adventures as she sought the perfect horse began nearly 30 years ago when she saw a BLM promotion for a wild horse adoption event. She dreamed that one day she would have one of those amazing wild horses eating out of her hand. One day in June, 2009 her childhood dreams came true.

 In the heart and soul of little girls, there is a place where horses live forever. For me, it was a spotted pony who dappled my soul and lit up my heart with imaginary adventures as I traveled the pathways from grade school to adulthood on a hand-me-down green Schwinn.  With knobby tires and coaster brakes she was mostly a compliant steed, those times when the fat tires weren’t aimed at potholes and ruts as I traveled the road to higher learning on my sometimes-bucking bicycle. We lived in the outskirts of the city, and horses were only allowed in one’s imagination.

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We are from a generation who remembers the spirit of Wild Horse Annie, and in whose lifetime legislation was passed to protect our nation’s heritage of wild horses, those nearly-mythical creatures who paint our western prairies with rich bay, sandy dun, coppery chestnut, sorrel, and roan colors. Three decades ago a little girl named Ericka made her very first promise to herself. One day she would touch one of these magnificent horses. One day there would be one who turned to look at her, and who followed her into the future together.  On that day in June, 2009 in a place far removed from the wind-blown and dusty miles of her Nevada herd territory, a frightened bay mare turned at Ericka’s voice.

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 It’s been a few more years since that day in the crowded BLM adoption pens, when a quiet moment of understanding and hope passed between woman and wild horse. She named the mare  “Ellie,” and with the keeping of a childhood promise Ericka began the journey to a relationship she had only dreamed of.

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As a young girl she didn’t dream of the tears and fears that would need to be met head-on with courage, patience and perseverance. Their time together at first was a challenge for both, but through it all Ericka believed that the goal was worth the effort, even though there were times when Ellie was truly the wild horse from the Nevada desert. Step by gentle step, the two learned together to trust, give, and respect, every day cherishing tiny victories, another glimmer of understanding, another moment shared which brought the two together. This was what Ericka had dreamed of, this was why she had promised, those many years ago to hold out her hand in friendship. From the very first shared breath between the wild mare and woman, a relationship came to life and a dream had come true.

 Ericka Schelstraete-Savage lives in Florida with her husband David, Ellie and 4 more rescued mustangs; Oso, Andy, Journey, and her most recent love, Arturo the Kiger mustang.

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They share their home with two rescue bulldogs, a blind dog named Smoky and a pair of kitties.

Image Ericka has dedicated hours of her free time learning all that she can about the mustang’s unique nutritional needs and has devoted her life to understanding the whole horse. She has learned how to trim feet and has compiled volumes of research on each of their beloved mustangs and the individual herd management areas where they were born. Perhaps the most intricate story is that of Journey, a 16.2 hand black draft-cross mustang whose BLM brand proves he is over the age of 20. While his history is by no means complete or without mystery, his future, like the other mustangs in their care, is secure with Ericka and David. For Ericka, the power and magic of the mustang began with a picture, randomly observed and without preamble. She believed for years that she could bring her dreams to life, and when that moment came, it was a lonely mustang mare who made it happen.  

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Originally posted on shortdogblog:

It’s true that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I found that out myself, coupla dozen times by accident on purpose. Even after some expensive mistakes, I still find myself being a dimbulb, guess-timating the qualities of a good looking dog, just as if I were in the stacks at the book store, and walking right past the hopeful eyes of a plain brown mutt.

In our house we have a few “epic novels” in dog form. Most of the best weren’t much to look at, but once we opened their cover and started reading them, we stayed with them to the end. Some were chapter books, some were comic books, and some, well…let’s just say we prayed a bit.

At a recent dog adoption event, I watched hundreds of people come by the wire crates to look at the dogs and puppies waiting for homes. Nearly everyone…

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Every Dog Has A Story Worth Reading

It’s true that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I found that out myself, coupla dozen times by accident on purpose. Even after some expensive mistakes, I still find myself being a dimbulb, guess-timating the qualities of a good looking dog, just as if I were in the stacks at the book store, and walking right past the hopeful eyes of a plain brown mutt.

In our house we have a few “epic novels” in dog form. Most of the best weren’t much to look at, but once we opened their cover and started reading them, we stayed with them to the end. Some were chapter books, some were comic books, and some, well…let’s just say we prayed a bit.

At a recent dog adoption event, I watched hundreds of people come by the wire crates to look at the dogs and puppies waiting for homes. Nearly everyone wanted to hold and cuddle the beautiful tri-colored pups with the big brown eyes. Short glances were all that were shared with the two older dogs, one a black-ticked heeler mix with sideways ears, one a mottled aussie mix with a few too many extra pounds. Louie and Mascoti.

A few pounds extra just means more to love.

They once belonged to a lady who collected the unwanted. Her specialty was dogs. She fed them, vetted them, and fed them some more, until she had nearly one hundred souls greeting her every morning. Overwhelmed, she turned to the humane society for help. Louis and Mascoti were the last of her pack, the other 90-some all off on their own adventures with new families.

How does a lonely dog make a connection with shoppers? They have no spoken words, no sales flyer, no discount coupon. All they have is the fur they wear and the ability to express their desire through their eyes. But no matter how hard they tried, how gentle and honest and convincing their eyes looked, Louie and Mascoti needed more. They needed someone to open the cover, read just one paragraph of their prologue, and take a chance that the story would be captivating.

Sometimes it takes a little magic.

"I put spell to you."

Sometimes it takes a gentle nudge.

"I will love you. Promise."

First touch.

Promise delivered.

Louie took his heart home with a new family yesterday. Somehow the magic worked , and after nearly six years of being one of many, he can spend his last years becoming the well-loved, slightly dog-eared and treasured “book” that is good enough to be read more than once. Good books, once loved are never traded away.

Mascoti still waits for someone to give her a second chance. The promise of a happy ending is in her gentle eyes.

 

 

 

An epilogue for Mascoti. One week later, her dog dreams have come true. Children, books, and her very own happily-ever-after ending. Definitely worth reading again.

"Once upon a time.."

 

 

 

 

 

 

"...and they all lived happily, ever and forever."

 

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