Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lyka goes hiking

I'm not sure where Lyka came from. I wasn't her original foster. I've had her for a while now and haven't had much luck finding her a home. If I believed in animal communicators, she's one that I'd take in for a session. Animal communicators are people who claim that they can communicate with animals, much like John Edward claims to communicate with the dead.

I would love it if it were true because I'd like to know what happened in Lyka's past and I'd like to be able to tell her, in a way that actually gets through to her, that she needs to change her behavior so she can find a home. Unfortunately, I think animal communication on this level is complete bullshit, a way to separate well-meaning but gullible people from their money.
Lyka is a nice girl. She's sweet, friendly. But she also seems to be rather deranged at times. Her excited utterance bark is one of the worst noises known to nature. When she's overstimulated, she just seems to go insane. It is very hard to describe. At adoption events she's pretty good for the first 60-90 minutes. After that she starts fighting the leash, jumping up and pawing at anything or at nothing, and even goes into the alligator death roll at the end of her leash. That in itself is not unusual, I've had dogs who have time limits at outings. My own time limit is only about two hours, less if I have to talk to a lot of stupid people. But Lyka has other problems as well. She goes frantic in a crate and will break out, although she's pretty much fine indoors without one. She chases cars on the road, running along inside the front fence in the pasture that fronts on the road. She doesn't seem to have learned much since she's been here. She still jumps on me incessantly. Her behavior with other dogs has gotten better, however. That is one thing that my fosters learn pretty quickly as a matter of necessity and survival.

She's obviously been hit in her past and when she becomes fearful she's extremely head shy as if every move is an attempt to strike her. She's a troubled girl. Consider also the facts that she's probably a mix breed; she's not terribly pretty; she's got manical eyes; she's too jumpy for kids; and she hates cats, and Lyka adds up to being a tough adoption prospect.

I've decided that I'll have her forever if I don't do some work on her. My foster numbers are somewhat down at the moment (10, including the ringworm dogs who will be going back soon), so this is the time to get to work on fixing Lyka and getting her adopted. It's also time I got my butt back on the walking trails, so Lyka and I are going to be hiking buddies. She's unfocused, terrible on a leash, erratic, but I'm hoping that the directed exercise and leash work will help. At least it will help me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Taking (a) Chance

Q: What do you get when you take a 3 year old, 90 pound, yellow lab mix and confine him to a kennel 24 hours a day for 2 or 3 years?

A: A wild child, a lovable monster, a gorilla in a yellow coat.

Chance's owner called me before christmas. She's moving, taking her 2 little house dogs and her two cats, but not the dog she raised from 6 weeks of age. He got moved outdoors when he got big and the grandchild came to live with her.

The dog doesn't have a mean bone in his body, but he's freaking HUGE! He nearly knocked me down standing up on me to lick my face. The only time he gets out of the kennel is when he has escaped. He sits on command for a treat, but he's never been on a leash. His vaccines had expired because she couldn't get him to the vet's office. I'm quite sure she could not control him. I had a hell of a time doing so myself and getting him into the van was a wrestling match. Thankfully, Chance has a wonderful temperament, and he had some basic training at one time, but there has been no exercise or stimulation for this dog for far too long.

Chance settled down on the way home and he had a great time in the dog yard. He met Jeep, the hound, and later we moved him over to the other kennel with Bear and Bud. At 85 pounds, the German Shepherd, Bear, is the smallest of the three. Chance is neutered, but he and Bud (a very big rottie), had to work out their dominance issues. I had Clay stand by outside the kennel in case there was a major male event that I had to get involved in. But, there was no real fight, certainly no blood. There were a couple of snarling matches that looked (and sounded) like they could have escalated into a fight, but I've found that it is almost always best to let male dogs handled things themselves. Females are another matter.

Chance seems happy to have some company at last and more room to move about. In a few days I'll take him out to the pasture for a good romp and he will get to be a dog again at last.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Greetings

I've been pretty busy the last few days, but here is a sampling of the email and photos I've been so happy to receive over the past couple of weeks. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my former fosters happy in their new homes.

Baron is a wonderful dog. He was buddies with Bear (See, A Solstice Miracle, below) when I had them both. Baron came to us from the Culpeper shelter and he had a badly injured tail, which we had removed at the same time he was neutered. So Baron was tail-less, had tipped ears, and a bit of a prey drive, so he took a long time to be adopted. But it often seems that those who take the longest find the best homes. Baron's family writes:

"Just writing to wish you a merry christmas and wishing a happy new year. I hope all is fine and you are doing well, Baron and Crystal also says merry christmas to you, they are doing very well also. Thanks again for such a wonderful boy, we love him very much."

Laredo (formerly known as J.D.), is a beautiful golden retriever. Laredo's family didn't send a digital picture this time, instead, they had this portait made and wrote:

"My family loves me so much that they had this portrait painted of me by students at Very Specials Arts. All the best, J.D. (a.k.a. Laredo)

Here is Samson, the dog with pneumonia featured in my first blog posting. His adopter writes:

"Santa Paws came to see Samson because he has been a very good boy. He got lots of toys and gift certificates to Petsmart. I was so excited to show him off to his whole family. On Christmas Eve, all of his grandparents were here for dinner and were able to meet him for the first time.

He is never aggressive [at the dog park], but doesn't like the dogs who pick on each other. He often will herd the dog who is being picked on away from the other dogs. It is incredible to watch.

His coat looks great and on Sunday, he will be getting a 48" crate as he is still a growing boy. The extra 6" will benefit him while he is crated. Other than that, things are great. You can see how he loves to be around everyone and often waits for people who leave the room to return. I am looking forward beginning obedience school after the first of the year, if not for the pure satisfaction of showing his progress!"

And this from Dax and Celia's new home (photos are mine):

"Happy Holidays and peace to you, all the pups, your partner and family! Peace to all from Celia and Dax, who are anxiously awaiting Santa so they can bark at him as he comes down the chimney!"

"Gretel will soon be 12 years old on the 1/1/09. So far she is in great health. She still chases her ball some and loves to take the usual 20 minute walks 2x per day. She is ALWAYS ready to get in the car to go anywhere. Even on business trips, she is with me whenever the logistics will work that I can take her. She is superb in travel and motel, hotels. But during the summer she prefers her air conditioning and comfy pads every where in the house. Thanks for making this so."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lap Dogs

I'm a big dog person. I don't have anything against little dogs, but they just aren't what I'm looking for in a canine companion. Little dogs can be tough as nails and they have genuine dog personalities, but I like a more substantial dog. Anything less than 50 pounds is a small dog to me. 50-80 is a medium sized dog. And a dog has to be over 80 for me to consider it "large." That doesn't mean that I don't like a lap dog, however. But being a lap dog has more to do with the dog's personality than its size. Some dogs just love to be close and will try to crawl into a lap at every opportunity.

What I don't understand is people for whom size is a prohibiting factor. I encounter people who say, "Oh, I can't possibly have a big dog like that in the house." That is very puzzling to me. The biggest dog I've ever had is still far smaller than the average adult. If the dog is too big to be in the house, how can their husbands, children, and friends be allowed in there? What is really behind this prejudicial attitude is the idea that large dog = outside dog, and small dog = lap dog; big dog = mean, scary, and small dog = warm and cuddly. None of this makes any sense to me, or to Jeep, the hound sitting in my lap in the picture above, or to Codi, the shepherd climbing into my lap at left, or to Bremo, the 90+ pound rottie mix sprawled on Clay's lap, (below left), or to Kate, snuggled up against me, (below right).

I think my time and foster space is better used for larger dogs, because there are fewer people willing and able to take them in. Fortunately, they are also what I enjoy having around. When I take in a foster, I plan on having them for as long as it takes for them to be adopted.

When it comes to rescue work, small dogs are much easier to place. There is a bigger pool of potential adopters, although that is based on several common misconceptions, such as the idea that a small dog doesn't need much exercise or that a small dog will be better with children.

I once took a hound mix named Truman to meet a nice family with 3 or 4 little kids. They ran all over the basement chasing the dog, screaming that shrill, ear-piercing noise that only little girls can make. The dog didn't only tolerate it, he loved it. But, the parents thought he was too big for the smallest child to walk. Now, the smallest child was incapable of walking any dog, of any size. They ended up buying a small breed dog. It was a terrier breed, not known for tolerance, and the little dog nipped the kid and ended up being dumped. They should have bought a stuffed dog if all they wanted was a toy. Stupid people.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our First (and still favorite) Foster

Maggie started us down this road. We had adopted dogs from Maryland German Shepherd Rescue (predecessor to Virginia German Shepherd Rescue), and from Animal Connections. However, Maggie was our first foster. When we met up with Animal Connections and adopted Cabell, I knew I wanted to get involved in rescue. I had the time and the space and it was something I wanted to do. We got word that there was a very pregnant female rottweiler at the Louisa County shelter. That was a pretty poor shelter in those days and neither the mother nor the pups stood much chance of getting out of there. It was March, 2000, just about St. Patrick's Day. I went to Southern States to buy a kennel while Clay and his mother went out to the shelter to spring the mother-to-be. These days we would have considering naming her Bristol, but 2000 was well before anyone had heard of the Palin clan, so we gave her a nice Irish name, Maggie, in honor of the season.

A week later, she delivered 10 puppies. She was new at this and so were we; she had no interest in being a mom, but a great interest in being our dog. Only 6 pups survived, but that was all she could handle even with inexpert help from Clay and me. We adopted one of the pups ourselves, known as Fuzzy Bear when he was a pup, and now called Bremo.

I wanted to keep Maggie, and she wanted to stay. She was fiercely loyal, fast, friendly, and playful. There was nothing not to like about Maggie. Gypsy, however, had other ideas. Gypsy is our alpha female, and her picture should be in the dictionary next to the word "bitch." Now, I love Gypsy; she is my girl and I'd do anything for her. She feels the same way about me. The only thing she wouldn't do for me is share my attention with another female. She hated Maggie and made it very clear that there would not be two female dogs in our household. The female shepherd/rottweiler match up was not a fight I wanted to be involved in, so I knew that we had to find a home for Maggie.

I was having some back problems at the time and was seeing a physical therapist named Laura who was engaged to another therapist named Eric. Both were young, active, and tall (long legs are essential for keeping up with Maggie), an ideal home for Maggie. They adopted Maggie and later moved to upstate New York. However, they have sent me christmas card photos of Maggie every year and it is the one thing I truely look forward to at christmas time. Maggie is getting some years on her now, and I realize that her pup, our Bremo, is soon to be 8 years old himself.

We've taken in, fostered, and adopted out hundreds of dogs since Maggie and her litter of pups. All those dogs owe a debt to Maggie, and even to Gypsy, who prevented us from keeping Maggie. I always tell people the story of Maggie and Gypsy when they ask how I can stand to give up a foster dog. Like many people who foster, I didn't want to give up my first foster dog, but I had to. Once I realized that I could take in a dog, love it as my own, and still adopt it out, it made me realize that fostering was a possibility. I couldn't be happier about the home and life that Maggie has had with Laura and Eric, and seeing her smiling face each year, if only in a photo, makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Solstice Miracle

Let me tell you a story of a real Solstice miracle; one that doesn't require you to believe in UFOs in the sky over a Palestinian town or that virgins can give birth.

This miracle child is a rottweiler named Bear, or Care Bear as I like to call him. He came to me over a year ago from the Fluvanna SPCA. He had "shut down" in the shelter and had to get out. It wasn't long before I discovered that Bear had serious issues being handled and restrained by people. We had some wrestling matches in a vet's office with a vet who would have preferred to euthanize rather than treat the dog. However, although Bear would fight restraint, he did so only in an effort to escape, not to harm. If he had been out to hurt me, I would not be here writing this, or anything, today. He's a big, powerful dog, but he just needed training and socialization.

Still, I couldn't risk taking him to outings where every kid in town (and most of their parents) feel that it's appropriate to reach into a cage and touch or pull on any part of any dog they can reach.

Bear settled in at my place, where he loved running in the pasture, playing in the water, and really loved playing long distance fetch with a tennis ball. Bear taught Baron and me how to play "Mower Ball" -- I'd ride on the mower and throw a tennis ball in the recently-mowed pasture; he'd bring it back to me on the next pass. He quickly learned to drop the ball close enough for me to reach it, but not in the path of the mower. This would go on until the pasture was done, or until I ran out of gas.

He came to trust me and learned to take food out of my hand and even to wait patiently until given a signal to go after his food. He was actually rather sensitive to a stern voice and really wanted to please. He also proved to be as smart as only a rottie can be. Still, I was aware that although Bear would listen to me and let me handle him, that would not necessarily translate to other people.

Good rottweiler adopters are few and far between, and those willing to take on a potentially tough dog are virtually non-existent. I'm not sure I had any inquiries about Bear in all the time I had him, until one day a couple weeks ago.

Rick and Donna wrote that they needed a friend for their female Doberman who was missing her companion who had died a while back. I doubted that they, or anyone, would be right for Bear, but I told them his story and they said all the right things and still wanted to meet him.

Rick is serious about security for his home and his dogs, with a very secure fence, barbed wire on top, and an electric wire on the bottom to prevent digging out. Their dogs are housetrained, but also have freedom to run and play in a large, very secure, yard. Bear made a big impression on the first day by demonstrating his ability to open the gate of the kennel. He topped that by opening a car door and jumping in back, and then opened the back door to the house, ran inside, and laid down by the sofa!

When Bear growled at Rick's initial attempt to handle him, Rick's reaction was simply: "Oh, I guess I have to earn the right to do that." It was the perfect reaction and demonstrated an understanding of the dog and a willingness to earn the dog's trust. When I went back a week later to complete the adoption, Bear was as happy as I've ever seen him. He was already desensitized to being handled by Rick and Donna; the two dogs are playing together; and Bear was well on the way to learning house manners.

Bear was not the dog for everyone, but he deserved a new home, and he found it. We should be very happy for Bear. Good night Bear.

p.s. This was written a couple years ago. Bear is still doing well and has been joined in his new home by a new rottie mix named Lady. Unfortunately, Rick recently died. He was a wonderful, fun-loving man, and he is greatly missed. He has the best possible seat in doggie heaven where he has been reunited with his prior canine friends. We can only hope to join him one day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

K9 Rescue Barbie

I didn't write this. It circulates on the internet throughout rescue world from time to time. It always makes me laugh, and cringe a bit too, because there is quite a bit of truth in it and it hits close to home.

This Christmas season, give the latest, hottest new Barbie -- K-9 Rescue Barbie. She comes with her own Ford Aerostar van, and various size dog crates inside. She has a cell phone that's barely working due to over use and underpayment. Barbie herself is decked out in jeans, grungy athletic shoes, and a t-shirt that reads: "Dogs are Better Than Any Other Living Thing on Earth." She comes with a road atlas of every town and state in all of North America, and a compass on the dashboard of the van. She also has a map of every McDonald's in the world.
Optional is the special Rescue Dog Barbie laptop computer with the names and addresses of every other dog rescue person on earth, in case she gets somewhere and a contact fails to show up. Running buddy, "Lucky", the three-legged, blind Shih Tzu doll is available for an additional $ 49.95. For $89.95, you can complete the set with "Pissed off husband at home, Ken,"and the various foster dogs at $ 20 each. Prices for accessories are:

Fake snow falling on Barbie's van: $12.95

Barbie's first aid kit: (human): $11.75, (canine): $69.50

Barbie's speeding ticket: $95 (Mississippi--$195)

Barbie's coat-that-she-had-to-buy-in-Minnesota: $85

Barbie's vet bill for Lucky in Vaughn, New Mexico: $63.45

Barbie's contact, Rhonda, who she had to give gas money to in MesaVerde, Texas: $20

Barbie's bill to get her contact, Luis, out of jail in Bakersfield, California: $500

Barbie's bill to get Luis's dogs out of the pound in Bakersfield, California: $265

Barbie's hotel/kennel bill in Laughlin, Nevada, while she waits for her contact: $532

Barbie's overalls that she has to buy in Minden, Nebraska, hunting down lost coonhounds: $49.95

Pizza for Barbie's suspicious looking hitchhiker with sick puppy: $15

Vet bill for hitchhiker's sick puppy in Des Moines, Iowa: $143.29

Barbie's doggie wheelchair for "Klause" the rescue dachshund in Leavenworth, Kansas: $143

Detailing/fumigation of Barbie's van after hauling parvo/kennel cough puppies: $187

Friend Edith, 87-year-old feral cat colony feeder, who calls begging favors when her arthritis acts up and she can't get out: $59.95

Food for Edith's colony cats (after all, Edith is on Social Security): $139.95

Friend Margie, do-gooder with pristine home and one spoiled cat, whose idea of being a rescuer is to pick up strays and take them to Barbie for rehab, vetting, fostering, and placement: $89.95

Vet bills for Margie's rescues: $892.95

Mother Sadie, who calls weekly to ask Barbie when she is going to get rid of all those smelly dogs and give her some grandchildren already: $ 89.95

Shrink, who talks Barbie out of killing above-mentioned persons each week: $500

Barbie's resume to get new job when she gets home from run: $29.95

Vet who makes house calls and doesn't blink at unannounced visits and odd-hour consultations: priceless.

Fosters with ringworm

Julie and Philly, shown here, are two CASPCA foster dogs with ringworm. Julie (left) is the larger, adult dog. Philly (below, right) is the pup.

When a dog comes into the shelter with ringworm, they like to get them out and into foster care. It avoids contamination and spread of the disease to others and it frees up space. Ringworm is entirely curable, but it takes time. Spending 6 or more weeks in isolation in the shelter is rough on the dogs and it takes up valuable space.

I often take in foster dogs with ringworm because I have a facility where they can be kept separated from other dogs. Quite often I get entire litters of puppies with ringworm, or suspected ringworm. This gives me a chance to have puppies every once in a while, which is often enough.

Ringworm is contagious between dogs and even from dogs to people. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about it. First, it's not a worm at all, it's a fungal infection of the skin. It is common on dogs who come out of very unsanitary conditions. Improving the dog's living conditions goes a long way towards addressing the problem. Although it is contagious, it is not to be feared like the plague. I do limit my cuddle time with an infected dog until they've had a couple of treatments. I've never picked up the infection myself, however, nor have any of my other dogs. A dog (or person) that is clean, dry, and basically in good health shouldn't have much to worry about.

Julie had a pretty bad case of ringworm and you can see the patches of hair loss, although they are beginning to grow back in. The treatment is a lyme/sulphur dip that smells terrible, but it sure works.

I'm always glad to have more than one ringworm dog at a time so they have some company. Philly is particularly playful and would be miserable if she didn't have Julie to chew on, play with, and cuddle next to at night. These girls have had three treatments so far and I'm hoping they are clear of the disease so they can move on soon to a permanent home.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Jerry came from South Carolina along with a female named Darci and a male mixed breed named Koby. The "human" portion of the family abruptly vacated their single-wide and moved away, leaving the three dogs, including the very pregnant Darcy, in their unfenced yard with no real plan for their future.

Darci was quite pregnant, and given the fact that the other male was neutered, Jerry is the prime candidate for baby daddy. Today, starting very early in the morning and continuing well past dawn, Darci gave birth to 12 puppies. Darci and the pups are with another foster home, only Jerry is with me.

Speaking as Jerry's attorney, I can neither confirm nor deny the allegations of paternity, and I've advised my client not to speak of it publicly. Speaking as Jerry's foster dad, I can say that the pups would be very fortunate to be carrying Jerry's genes.
Jerry has now been neutered to avoid this problem in the future, although he swears that Darci told him that she was on the pill.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adoption updates

It is always nice to get good news about my former foster dogs. It is even nicer when they send pictures along too. Nothing makes my day, short of an adoption of another dog, like getting an email from an adopter saying how happy they are with their new dog. Samson went to a new home in Richmond a couple weeks ago. The first few days were a bit difficult, but they started an obedience class right away and they seem to have smoothed out the initial bumps.

He certainly looks happy and content, and that is what this is all about.

Destiny is also doing well. She is a constant companion to her new owner and she is getting the love, care, and treatment that she needs. She has a grooming service that comes to her and she is getting a medicated bath every other week as well as an aloe treatment for her skin. She greets strangers with a big wag of the tail. She didn't make a sound for the first several days, but once she settled in she decided that the printer ejecting paper needed to be barked at. Destiny has a home in the country as well, which she reportedly enjoyed last weekend.

All dogs deserve great homes, but after what this dog has gone through, she deserves the very best, and she has it.

Diego is now called Tevya. His owners take him to the dog park almost every day because he enjoys it. (I love people who cater to their dogs' desires.) This was not an easy dog in the beginning. He tore up a number of things, including a nice, new, big bed that his owner had got for him. But they hung in there, he has settled down, and has turned into a wonderful dog. He prefers sleeping with a pillow. He has the happiest, goofiest, smile on his face at all times.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Two in, two (almost) out

Saturday I drove down I-81 to the Natural Bridge exit to meet a woman who regularly brings me dogs from the far southwest corner of Virginia. This time she brought me Ricco, who was given up by an elderly man who couldn't care for the dog any more. Ricco is a great dog, he's friendly and outgoing, he seems glad to be here. Unfortunately, Ricco has Pannus, one of many diseases common to German Shepherds. It's an inflammation of the cornea and can lead to blindness. Ricco hasn't been on treatment for it and his eyes look like he has cataracts. Our Zachary has Pannus and it's well controlled, but it does require daily eye drops. I'm hoping we can get Ricco's condition under control.

Saturday's other arrival was Jerry, from South Carolina. His name was Jerry Lee, presumably named after Jerry Lee Lewis. I dropped the Lee and am just calling him Jerry because I didn't see a reason to have a dog named after a white trash, cousin-marrying pedophile. Jerry is a bit shell shocked from the changes in his life. His family moved away and left him and two other dogs behind. The other dogs were also saved, but they were separated and Jerry ended up with me. He will be fine in a few days, but he's still a bit traumatized by it all.

Both the new arrivals still need to be neutered, vaccinated, and tested for heartworms.

Speaking of heartworms, Bear has them and needs treatment, which I hope can happen this week. As of today, he has a home to go to when his treatment is completed and he gets neutered. Unfortunately, that's probably going to be 6-8 weeks yet.

Rocky, on the other hand, found and went to his new home today. His adopters had applied with VGSR to adopt a shepherd. They live in Charlottesville and I did their home visit. When I met them, I immediately thought of Rocky and they were open to the idea of a non-shepherd or a shepherd mix. They came out today to meet him and fell for him immediately. They went shopping for dog supplies and came back this evening to take him home, so Rocky has a warm new home of his own this evening.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's not a minivan, damn it!

It's a K-9 Rescue and Transport Mobile Adoption Unit (KRATMAU). I can't say that I'm thrilled to be driving a vehicle designed for and marketed to soccer moms. I'd rather have a Jeep. And my other vehicle is truck, really.

When most guys get married, they give up their Jeep, truck, motorcycle, and/or boat in favor of a "family" vehicle, the mini-van. It's sad, it's embarassing, and I feel for those guys. I hope that the promise of regular sex will compensate for the ego crushing consequences of their lifestyle choice. One of the great joys of being gay is the ease and comfort of living with another man. At home we are free to belch when necessary; we can piss outdoors. There is no Laura Ashley bedding and no potpourri, anywhere. Accordingly, I was less than thrilled to be driving that symbol of heterosexual domestic bliss, the minivan. But, the damn thing is incredibly practical for rescue work.

I've taken out the 4 rear seats and installed a truck bed mat over the interior carpeting. This is much better for cleaning up after car-sick dogs. I've installed two crates with dual openings immediately behind the seats. They can be accessed through the sliding side doors and it's an easy step up for dogs that are reluctant or unable to make much of a jump. There is a piece of plywood slid in between those two crates, so I can carry two dogs that don't like each other without snarling and fighting in the crates. There is still enough space behind these two crates for two or three more dogs (four if they are small or very friendly), or two smaller crates if necessary. The height of the crates makes for an unobstructed view and provides storage space for leashes, collars, and a K-9 First Aid Kit. The rear window vents create a much needed air flow when transporting dogs directly from a smelly shelter. It is emblazoned with dog rescue signs and magnets, and there is no "My child is an honor student at ..." bumpersticker in sight.

So, give me a break. It's not a minvan and it's never even been anywhere near a soccer game unless we happen pass one on the way to a shelter. KRATMAU isn't a great name, however, I need a better acronym.
(The two dogs shown are two new shepherds picked up yesterday, Ricco and Jerry.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

If it's winter, it must be mud

Mary Chapin Carpenter put out a christmas album this year. It's not "Jingle Bells" and "Come All Ye Faithful." There are a few traditional, public domain songs on it, but there's a lot of original material. The thing I like about her writing is that she's able to say so much in so few words. One of the songs contains the lines: "And around here winter seems to come, with rain and mud and bits of sun. It's not exactly Currier and Ives." That pretty much sums up winter in central Virginia. It's not so much a time of snow as it is the season of everlasting mud.

Yesterday was a wintry, rainy, muddy day. I'm not sure how many inches we got, but my fire pit is full of water and the dog yards are a muddy mess. If it had been cold enough to fall as snow, it would have been a big one.

Everyone hunkers down in the rain. The inside dogs stay indoors and get bored. The outside dogs stay mostly in the outbuildings, venturing out only to do their business or for a quick romp when the rain lightens up. Consequently, on the day after rain, everyone is full of pent up energy and ready to run. Most dogs aren't bothered by mud, and it shows, on them, on me, in the house, in the kennels. If it's winter, it must be mud.

So I'm off to buy more straw. It's the best thing I've found for turning a mud pit into an inhabitable environment. The dogs love it too. They love to roll in it, play in it, and on a sunny day it's the nicest place to stretch out and enjoy an afternoon nap.