The Weekend Fun Folder

My new friend Jody, who I met at work, has a Fun Folder (a Google Doc), which she fills with ideas for destinations, activities and things to do in each new place she lives. After every weekend, she talks about the interesting thing’s she’s done, as if she’s gone on a mini-vacation, even it if was only biking in a new area or kayaking down a river several hours away that I didn’t even know existed.

That’s how she views each weekend, like it’s a mini-vacation. It’s kind of brilliant. While I’m planning all the tedious chores I’m going to accomplish over my weekend, she’s concocting a mini-trip to some place I’ve never heard of even though I’ve lived here 18 years longer than she has. Of course, she’s a lot younger than me, so perhaps her youthful energy has something to do with her extreme fun planning.

A few weekends ago I wanted to join in the fun, so we met up to go kayaking at White Rock Lake in Dallas. The lake is not swimmable and sometimes bodies are found there, but that hasn’t deterred White Rock Paddle from setting up a rental shop on the shore. Of course Jody doesn’t need to rent; she has her own kayak that she attaches to the rack on her car. She’s the kind of person who just exudes adventure. Plus, as an added bonus, she’s always ready for a flood.

This is a photo of Jody and her dog Navi kayaking.

Jody and Navi kayaking on White Rock Lake.

Oh, and did I mention her dog, Navi? Navi likes to go kayaking with her. Many of the Fun Folder ideas include dog-friendly places. After our kayaking outing, for example, Jody found a place that allowed dogs on the porch and probably added it to the fun folder.

Last Saturday, I spent the day cleaning the house. Meanwhile, Jody invited me to go kayaking again with her and Navi in Fort Worth, sending me this photo of the enjoyable time they were having:

This is a photo of a dog in a kayak.

What Navi was doing last Saturday.

Meanwhile, back at my house, my dog was squaring off against the vacuum, which she vehemently distrusts. This is her keeping an eye on the vacuum while I took a break:

This is a photo of a dog staring at a vacuum cleaner.

“Stay right there, or else…”

So what’s wrong with this situation? Obviously, my fun folder was woefully under-consulted that day. However, I did vacuum up what seemed like a whole dog’s worth of fur. So at least there was a feeling of accomplishment. Not fun, but accomplishment.

Next weekend, however, I’m opening the fun folder. Accomplishment is overrated.

The Snail, Free Advice and “Music”

The snail greeted us on the sidewalk Imageas we rounded the corner of the cemetery. I thought it was a small rock and nearly walked right by. But Lucy wasn’t fooled. Her nose took her right to the snail’s tiny little antennae. Have you ever seen a snail close up? They are really fascinating and beautiful. The way the shell circles around reminds me of the rug in my grandmother’s bedroom which had lines inside it like lanes in a mini track. As kids, my cousins and I used to run around it and call it the “roundy roundy rug.”

Anyway, the snail was enjoying the moist, sunny morning after a rare rainfall. He cast a tiny shadow and undulated along the rough sidewalk concrete. We watched him for a few minutes, listening to the silence of his slow, methodical journey and then we continued a little more peacefully on our own journey past the cemetery and back home. (more…)

Lucy Lessons: How an Old Dog Overcame Her Fear

We finally moved.

No more one story ranch house. We are now climbing two sets of stairs daily in a cozy three-story townhouse in This is a picture of my black lab mix, Lucy, at the top of the stairs looking frightened.the heart of the city. The move itself was the usual pain in the butt. Lucy stayed at the Petshotel because she’s a bit anxious to begin with. And at 12 years old, I thought the move might put her over the edge. So I left her at the PetSmart Petshotel for four days. Don’t think she didn’t love it; she got the Bizzy Bundle package, after all. Who wouldn’t love a peanut butter snack Kong and dish of doggy ice cream at the end of the day after playtime?

By the day I picked her up, we’d unpacked about two-thirds of the boxes. The new place was still a mess, but there were definite walkways to navigate. Lucy was super excited to see me, but when we finally made our way downtown after the school pick up, she was totally perplexed as to why we were in this unfamiliar house. (more…)

Walking With Lucy

These days I should be walking Lucy before the sun rises. By the time it’s 8 a.m., the temperature has climbed to the uncomfortable level. By 10 a.m. it’s unbearable. And yet, even when my morning activities mean a walk at 8 or 9 a.m., Lucy still wants to go. That’s the great thing about dogs. They never say no.

Yesterday on our walk we had two people encounters. A older white-haired man rode by on a bike and then, about 20 yards away, he seemed to change his mind about riding by. He turned his bike around and pedaled back toward us. I have to admit that I instinctively tensed. He slowed down and stopped in front of us. I unlocked my phone in case I needed to call 9-1-1. (more…)

Celebrating The Rescue Dog That Almost Wasn’t

We found our black Lab mix, Lucy, in a cage outside a Petsmart store one hot July Saturday morning 11 years ago. She’d been abandoned at a nearby house and the homeowner had kindly taken her to a vet, paid for shots and medical treatment and transferred her to a shelter, which had brought her to their weekly adoption event at Petsmart. About three months old, Lucy was black with a white belly and perky ears that stood at attention.

What drew me to Lucy was her stillness. All the other adoptable dogs around her were barking and yelping and scratching to get out. But not Lucy. She just sat in her cage watching the people go in and out of the store. Zen, I thought. And cute, too. I pictured her stretched out sleeping at my feet all day while I wrote. I drove home and brought the entire family back to test her out. She received unanimous approval.

We quickly learned that it is not that easy to adopt a dog. The shelter needed to make a home visit and had us fill out a long questionnaire regarding how we planned to care for her. Were we going to keep her outside? No. Were we going to train her? Yes. Were we going to regularly vaccinate her? Yes. Still, we had to wait three days to bring her home while the shelter lady figured out if we were worthy enough to parent Lucy the Abandoned Puppy.

When I finally went to retrieve her for good, she had morphed into a different dog. A strong, hyperactive one I could barely control. I wondered if they had given her a Valium for the adoption event. She almost jumped out the window on the way home.

On our first visit to the veterinarian, I brought the kids so they could be a part of the whole dog-caring process. The two vet techs giving her shots discussed her breed possibilities while they manhandled her.

“Hmmm. Lab and…pit bull?” one said.

“Yeah, definitely some type of terrier in her,” the other said. She examined her snout more closely. “Yeah. Pit.”

“Oh my God, I have a PIT BULL?” I said.

“Mix,” they said together. “Pit bull mix.” As if that made everything OK.

Suddenly, I was afraid of my cute puppy. I knew from all the horror stories in the newspapers that pit bulls were evil, child-eating machines. And I had two children that I had let near her mouth. I held Lucy’s leash all the way home in the car to make sure she didn’t snack on the kids while they were strapped in their car seats. I called my husband and told him the terrible news. He thought maybe I was overreacting.

I am a very loving and open-minded person, so…I tried to focus on the Lab part of the mix and concentrate on training her even as a tiny voice was telling me, give her back, give her back while another voice was saying, give the poor unwanted creature a chance. Don’t judge. She was a small puppy, after all. We gave her a chance.

Whenever we were walking her in the neighborhood and someone asked what kind of dog she was, both my boys would say, “she’s a pit bull!”

“No, no, she’s not. She’s a Lab mix. We don’t know what else she’s mixed with. Could be anything,” I would say. The people usually eyed me suspiciously and hurried away, even as Lucy tried to wrap herself around their legs. In a friendly way.

I made the boys practice the new line: Lab mix. Lab mix. Lab mix.

And then it happened. About three months after we adopted Lucy, I was at the stove cooking dinner and she was in a down-stay at my feet. A man walking two big, fluffy white dogs down the street appeared out the bay window and Lucy decided they needed to be annihilated. Immediately. She sprang from her spot, sprinted to the window and smashed through it. Glass shattered. I screamed. The poor man walking the dogs nearly had a heart attack. I envisioned the doggie bloodbath that was about to ensue and hollered at Lucy in a scary voice I didn’t even know I possessed to GET BACK HERE NOW!

To my complete surprise, she stopped and slowly backed through the shards of broken glass until she was all the way back in the dining room. She then sat perfectly still and silent while I gaped at the large hole in the front wall of my house and the shards of glass strewn all over the carpet. The man hurried away, leaving me alone with the destructive and unpredictable beast that I knew we couldn’t keep. She lay down and put her head on top of crossed paws.

“Too late!” I told her. “Bad dog!”

I called the shelter and left a pleading message on the answering machine: Please call me back as soon as you get this. We cannot, I repeat CANNOT keep Lucy. We need to return her ASAP.

The shelter lady didn’t call back that night or the next day or even the next week. The shelter lady was apparently on a long trip and wasn’t checking messages and didn’t call back for almost a month.

In the span of that month, 1) the window was fixed, 2) my older son repeatedly fell asleep curled up with Lucy in her crate, 3) Lucy went to sleep-away training and came back halfway civilized and 4) we taught her to sit, give a high-five, roll over and dance. By the time the shelter lady called back, we had fallen in love with Lucy. I wondered how many times the lady had listened to the type of message I’d left and if she’d really even been on a trip.

A dog that had the patience to be dressed like this deserved a second chance.

A dog with the patience to be dressed like this definitely deserved a second chance.

Lucy turned 11 sometime in April. That’s about 57 in dog years according to Online Conversion Dog Years Calculator. She hasn’t broken any more windows but she still hates other dogs. If you’re human, however, she will love you even if you are trying to break into the house. She’ll do a dance for you and then show you where the treats are.

Now if we could just get rid of that pesky crotch-sniffing habit, she’d be close to perfect.

Happy birthday, Lucy.