Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The power of words, and power over words

Words are powerful. They either start wars or are used to justify them after the fact. I've never really felt that there are any words that should be off limits. Words are like clothes, they are not all appropriate for all situations, but most have a practical application if we keep them around long enough. While it is smart to have a healthy respect for the power of words, it is also smart to remember that words have only the power that we give them, and we can take it away.

It was about 16 years ago when my first partner landed in the hospital with a host of AIDS-related illnesses and we got the definitive diagnosis that he had AIDS. It wasn't a complete surprise, but it was a devastating blow. His family didn't know and wouldn't know for another two years. The first few days in the hospital we couldn't even utter the word "AIDS" even to ourselves. Some young hospital resident told us that this wasn't a death sentence and that we needed to get it together, and then he sent a shrink to talk to us. The shrink was no help and he went away after determining that we weren't suicidal.

On the one hand, I wanted to smack the young resident doctor. Those were the years when the obituaries ran for many pages in D.C.'s gay weekly newspaper. We knew a lot of people who had died of the disease, and no one who had survived it, so it did seem like a death sentence. On the other hand, he was right. We were so devastated by the impact that we couldn't even say the name of the disease, much less begin to cope with it. The first step to taking back some control over our lives was learning to speak the word without fear. Bert did die about two years later, but they were two years in which he lived a normal life, mostly healthy, and without fear in spite of the reality that he was facing.

The power that we give to words is power that we lose. There isn't a gay person around who hasn't had the word "fag" hurled at them by some ignorant asshole at one time or another. They know that the word is powerful, but they don't know that its power evaporates if the target shakes it off. Once you take away the power of "fag", the ignorant right-wing bigots have very little to fall back on except some stupid lines from an out of date work of fiction that condones slavery while condemning those who eat shellfish and pork. What the assholes don't know is that they are actually doing us a favor too. It's perverse, but learning to deal with being different is what makes us stronger and able to rise above small minds who depend on a simple-minded slogan shouting politician or a voodoo practicing priest to tell them what to think. That strength, that triumph over words of hatred, is what gets us out of those wicked little towns, or, if we choose, enables us to live among them being different with dignity.

Another word that strikes terror in the hearts of so many is "cancer." It's a word so charged with fear that many of its victims can not speak its name. Christmas eve and day, our Emmylou wouldn't eat. We could tell by the look in her eyes that she wasn't feeling well. I took her to the vet on Saturday morning. Tests were done. To make a long story short, we came home with a probable diagnosis of cancer. Emmy is probably over 12 years old, so it did not come as a surprise, particularly with a newly discovered lump on her back.

With my first dog, Sasha, I fell prey to an unscrupulous vet who continued to dangle a carrot of hope in front of me, suggesting this test and then another, none of which were realistically going to offer a cure or even forestall the inevitable. That was the summer after my first partner had died in the spring, and I was unable to face the prospect of losing one friend so soon after the other. I couldn't admit that Sasha had cancer and I'm ashamed to say that I let her spend her last days in a vet clinic instead of at home with me.

With Sasha, I came to realize that I was being strung along to the detriment of the dog. I put a stop to it and demanded euthanasia (another scary word) when the dog's quality of life was gone. I held her head and kissed her goodbye as I have done with far too many dogs since then.

Emmylou is at home with us and is feeling better for now. I have a better vet, and I'm older and wiser myself. I'm not going to put the dog through anything that doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of helping while watching her struggle with an increasingly poor quality of life. I am going to keep her happy, comfortable, and loved for as long as I can until it is time for that last act of kindness, whether it's a week, a month, or a year from now.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cards and emails

This is the time of year I hear from some adopers with emails, pics, and photo cards. Here's some of the latest.

Here is Tippy (smaller dog at the left), playing in the leaves with her brother.

Tippy has also passed the test to be part of the Fairfax Pets on Wheels program. She visits nursing homes. Residents toss a ball to her, putting her ball-drive and focus to good use.

Baron was adopted three years ago. He found a great home and is very happy with his sister, Crystal.

He had a very strong prey drive and no tail. When I took him to adoption events it was always a challenge keeping him away from the small fluffy dogs that people would walk on flexi-leads, without control. Baron thought they looked tasty and he may have been right.

His tail had been amputed because it was badly damaged when we got him and was causing him a lot of pain. He never missed it, but most potential adopters could seem to get passed the idea that he had no tail. He finally found someone who was looking for the perfect "inner dog" and wasn't so concerned about a physical feature. Baron is a very big boy, and his intact tail would have been a hazard to anything up to 3 feet high anyway. Baron is the dog that appears with me in the pic at the top left of this blog page.

Kai was adopted from us maybe 2 years ago now. Kai is a big, long-legged, goofy guy. His daddy is running fanatic and Kai does his best to humor that particular quirk, at least when the weather is halfway decent.

He thinks Paul doesn't know that he sneaks onto the bed or sofa when he's at work. Paul is onto him, shepherd hair doesn't go unnoticed, even in a household with only one dog.

Paul fostered a non-shepherd for me for quite a while after his old guy passed on. As soon as we found that dog a home, I was on the lookout for a new buddy for him, and Kai came along at just the right time. Paul is very active and they spend a lot of time at the beach. This dog has it made.

Maggie was our first foster dog, almost 10 years ago now. She is the mother to our Bremo. She reminds me very much of our current Molly.

Maggie's family moved to upstate New York. They hike, camp, and run, a lot. They are both young and are both physical therapists, very active, absolutely perfect for Maggie. Maggie's grandparents love to babysit her.

Maggie's family is expecting twins in March. Her maternal instincts and skills were not great with her own puppies, but she was a very young dog herself back then. She is slowing down some now, apparently, and will enjoy having someone home with her and new babies when they come.

If I've missed anyone's pics, I'm sorry, my inbox is still a mess. Drop me a note and I'll add them here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Snow shepherd

Brody is the king of the snow shepherds, he just loves it. I've had trouble getting him to come inside ever since it fell. He wants to run it in, play in it, pretty much live in it as much as possible. The game of snow ball, played with a basketball, is his favorite.

He's young enough and strong enough that the depth of the snow didn't bother him at all. He has a thick and fairly long double coat, so the cold isn't an issue and he can dry off with a one good shake (which he generally does only after he's come inside).

He never showed a great deal of interest in the basketball until the snow. He's just so excited by it and he grabs the ball in an effort to wrest the most possible fun from the occasion. I found that it's best for a human to try to get in a few soccer kicks when he drops the ball, don't reach down and grab for it. He doesn't intend to bite, but he definitely intends to get that ball so it's best if fingers are not in the way.

He's at the age where he's got the strength, energy, and playfullness to really get out and enjoy the snow. I think he would really like to be enjoying it with another dog, at least when I won't go out and play with him for as long as he would like. But there is too much potential for conflict with the other big males that I have here. Besides, I think that Brody is really a people dog and would prefer having a human companion when he plays.

The rainy weather yesterday did little to dampen his enthusiasum. He would have stayed outside in it for much longer than I allowed. He is good about being crated indoors, but he is generally the first one to tell me that he's ready to go outside. I think he would be fine without the crate, it's just that he needs it here, or rather, I need it here to maintain some degree of peace and decorum in the household. Last night after going outside and coming back in and upstairs, he turned around and ran back downstairs, after I had brought Gypsy back in. She's an old girl, but she nailed him with her best effort and we had the start of a dog fight at the bottom of the stairs. Fortunately, I was right there and Clay was just at the top of the stairs, so nothing serious came of it, but it served as a valuable reminder to all that Gypsy is still queen of the universe.

Santa Clay

Here is Clay spreading christmas cheer to the puppies.

Feed me, play with me, hold me, puppies' needs are simple.

These pups are getting to be long-legged. Puppies are like grab bags, you never know what you are going to get.

She's cute and she knows it, she works it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

How to make an cynic cry at christmas

Even my friends would probably call me a cynic, and I'm sure I've been called much worse by others. We all get those sweet, sappy, feel-good emails. I don't even give them a read, and most people know me well enough not to forward them to me. But this one snuck into my mailbox this afternoon, titled "Martha's Christmas Miracle":

Martha was sitting in her living room watching television this Christmas Eve, alone as she had been for the last five years. All of her children had married and moved to the four corners of the nation. All the animals had been fed and now were safely in either the kennel building or lazily laying around the house. Martha had to stop to think how many dogs she had at her house this Christmas, she sighed when she realized there were 16. She did rescue and the number of dogs was always changing with some dogs being adopted, and new abandoned dogs coming in. Feeling overwhelmed by the number of dogs she had and all the dogs still left in shelters to die because there was no room for them in rescue, Martha seriously wondered if she should stop working rescue.

Tonight she had a new dog, brought home that day. Martha didn't really plan on adding another dog but on her way home from the store she saw a dog lying on the side of the road. Certain the dog was dead, Martha stopped to pick up the body and take it home for a burial. As she got closer, she recognized the shell of an Alaskan Malamute, the breed she rescued. Covered by cuts and festering wounds, what fur was left was matted and filthy, it was so skinny that laying there you could see each rib and its hipbones were the widest part of his body. With tears in her eyes, mourning for what once had been a majestic animal now reduced to almost a skeleton she reached down to give the poor dog one last pat on the head. "Oh, you poor boy, what a way to end your life. Well, at least I can name you and give you a decent farewell." As her tears fell on the dog's head, one eye slowly opened and the tail gave a single wag. "You're alive! Everything will be OK now, I'll take you home and you will have a soft bed and food tonight." Tears were streaming down her face, this time from happiness. The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning the wounds of the dog she named "Icy" and making sure he was able to eat and drink water. Martha set up the large run in the kennel building for him. A soft blanket and a thick foam pad was to be his bed, fresh water and food beside him. Papers for his 'necessary functions' were placed at the far end of the run. He lay there watching every move she made.

Later that evening Martha went down to the kennel to check on the new boy and feed the other dogs. As she walked in the door the new boy shakily stood to greet her. As she was talking to Icy, she heard the old clock in the building strike midnight. Much to her amazement, Icy said "Thank you." Martha thought, now I am sure I have been around dogs too long, I could swear I heard Icy speak. Icy continued: "Martha, yes I am talking to you in human language, you see, at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Day, all animals can speak. Let me tell you what happened to me today."

"I have been kept in a dark barn for a long time by some very mean people who beat me and often forgot to feed me. Two days ago I found a loose board on the barn and was able to escape. I walked as fast as I could, looking for some kind person to feed me and give me a warm place to sleep before I died. I was in the middle of a big field when I couldn't walk or even crawl any more, I laid down, knowing I was about to cross to the Rainbow Bridge. As I stepped onto the Bridge, an angel came towards me." "Icy," the angel said "If you agree, we have a a job for you before cross the Bridge. There is a very kind human who needs you today to restore her sprit."

"Of course I agreed to help a human -- that is what Malamutes do. The angel picked up my body and carried it
to the side of a road and laid it down. The next thing I remember is you were scratching my ear and talking to me and your tears were falling on my face. You have cared for me this day."

Martha heard a chorus of voices all about her. To her amazement she was surrounded not only by her dogs, but dogs she had rescued and sent on to forever homes, all voicing stories how Martha had cared for them and restored them to health and loved them, thanking her for her love. The first Malamute Martha had rescued many years ago stepped to the front of the gathering and said, "Martha, you took us in to your home, cared for us, healed us both in body and spirit, and then, even though it broke your heart, sent us on to our new forever families. This gave us a life we would never have had without you. Others of us never were adopted and lived out our lives with you, loved and cared for as if we were your own dogs. In our hearts we are all your dogs. Thank you."

Icy looked at Martha and told her, "It is getting late and you will have many people here tomorrow to celebrate Christmas. And you have your rescue work to continue. Our time to be able to talk to you is growing short, but always remember what happened tonight." At that point all of the dogs joined in a joyous howl which echoed from the heavens to the ends of the earth.

We had 16 dogs in the house during this past snow storm and this story really struck home. Requests to take in more dogs come in daily. Sometimes I'm afraid to answer the phone or open my email. Yesterday I cleaned up pictures of unknown dogs from my computer desktop. Pictures that people had sent to me hoping that I would help that dog. It pains me delete those pictures knowing that I may have been that dog's last chance. Sometimes I think about getting out of rescue altogether. My house suffers for it, my career, such as it is, has suffered for it, and I'm concerned that sometimes my relationship with Clay suffers for it too.

I'm 51 years old, and even with the most optimistic estimate, my life is surely at least half over. It is unlikely that I will make a profound influence on the world, but I can make a difference to at least a few dogs who cross my path. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things?, who knows, but I do believe that a life spent caring about and for something other than oneself is a life well lived, and a life with meaning.

The dogs pictured here are dogs I couldn't help. Some of them died here, some had to euthanized because they had medical, psychological, or social problems I couldn't solve. All deserved better.

The perfect gift

Hannibal's new dad came for him on Wednesday. He's going to be off work until New Year's so it was a good time to bring home a new dog. Hannibal is a great dog, but he has taken to jumping my fence and had to be confined to the outdoor kennel or a crate in my office, so I was happy to see him move on. His new home has an electric fence, so jumping won't be an issue there.
It's a great home, he has one of my former fosters as a new brother, and I think he will fit right in.

Hannibal's adopter came bearing gifts as well, 7 bales of fresh staw. It may not be on everyone's christmas list, but it is right at the top of mine. With 2' of melting snow and about an inch of rain predicted for tomorrow, there is nothing we will need around here more than straw. It is the best insultor in the dog houses, igloos, and sheds, and it is the only thing that helps the winter mud problem.

Snow dogs

We had a good two feet of snow, deeper in some places because it drifted, not quite as deep in others. It's the biggest snow around here since the blizzard of 1996, and the first snow to amount to anything that we've had in a couple years. The timing was pretty good, starting on Friday afternoon. We didn't need to go anywhere over the weekend and we didn't. When the sun came up the melting started, and by Sunday we were free to move about. I think that someone who works on the road crew must live down our road because it was plowed sooner and better than many others in the county.

The dogs' reactions to the snow varies quite a bit. Cabell loves it and wants to run and play. Gypsy just doesn't have enough strength in her rear end to go bounding through the snow any more, so she has not been out in the deep snow and not outdoors much at all. Bremo wasn't crazy about getting his legs and belly wet in the cold snow. Molly loves it, but Molly loves everything. Emmylou likes it because it makes for good hunting. Zachary has no real independent thoughts and just goes along with it. After a couple of days of being mostly confined inside, they were all pretty happy to be able to get out for a romp in the sunshine.

They've got trails pretty well laid down, thanks to the bigger dogs, so it's not so tough to get around. After a good hour or so of pasture time, everyone is ready to come back in and pretty content to lay around and sleep most of the day. The snow messed up two adoption events this past weekend, but it could not be helped.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The snow saga

Clay told me Thursday evening that we were due for a big snow starting on Friday. I don't watch or read local news so I would have been completely clueless and unprepared without him. After delivering DJ up to Culpeper on Friday morning, I went into disaster preparedness mode for the rest of the day. I stopped at the Orange-Madison Co-op on the way back from Culpeper to buy medication for Rocky's neck and to look at tarps, with the idea of putting a huge tarp over the entire 10x20 puppy kennel and canopy. A woman I knew from a previous rescue effort was there; we chatted, I handed out cards, and may have a lead on a future adoption. The tarp idea didn't look feasible, so we moved on to Plan B. That involved a trip to the dump to empty the trash I had been storing in the back of the pickup, and that involved jump starting the pickup, and putting on new registration stickers because it hadn't been started or driven in months. After disposing of 3 months of household garbage, I stopped at Home Source in Fork Union for 4 sheets of T1-11 plywood and 10 bales of straw.

The snow started soon after I got home, but Clay came home early, thankfully, and we built a straw shelter of sorts in the puppy kennel to give them a protected play space outside the doghouse. The extra sheets of the T1-11 were used to block the north side of the kennel. A heated water bucket was installed, along with a wool blanket into the igloo doghouse, and a 10x10 tarp on the end of kennel to block wind and snow. The puppies thought all this activity was the most fun they had ever had.

We put two bales of fresh straw and more blankets in the big shed for the rotties and Hannibal. That shed is tight and quite cozy, especially the nest boxes, so I knew they would be fine. Clay hauled water out to them. The other shed, with Birdy, Copper, and Teddy, just needed some more blankets, and I pulled the rug down over the front of the crates to make a very protected den for them all. Rocky and Brody have been staying inside. The pups were snuggled into the igloo, which faces into an A-frame dog house, all of which was covered with heavy moving blankets so they had no exposure to the elements. Still, you worry about puppies and we had noticed the other day that one of them was a little thin, apparently not getting her fair share of the food.

It snowed, and snowed, and snowed. Clay woke up about 4:00 a.m. and went out the brush the snow off the canopy and to feed and check on the pups. They were fine, but the wind was howling and I knew we wouldn't get back to sleep worrying about them. So, we moved on to Plan C.

We suited up, went back outside in the dark, waded through the snow (well over a foot of it already, and drifting), and carried in 4 crates and the 7 puppies. They were all warm and were doing fine, but it was easier than worrying about them. The crates were stacked on top of the big crates in my office, which are occupied by Rocky, Brody, and Molly or Emmylou. The pups were happy and eventually settled down to sleep about the time it started getting light.

Still, this was a temporary solution at best, because the crates weren't big enough for the pups to have room to pee and poop. Plan D. I had a roll of flooring saved from the last time I had puppies living in the office. I cut it to fit, roughly, over the floor of the upstairs guest bathroom. We made a bed of blankets in the shower stall and the puppies immediately took advantage of the newspaper covered flooring to poop and pee. This seems like a workable situation for a few days. The pups pile in on top of each other in the shower stall but come out to do their business, mostly on the newspaper.

Hannibal came in to the other big crate in my office, giving us 9 indoor adult dogs, and 7 puppies. I'm glad we don't get snow like this often.

DJ's new home

There are two kinds of applicants/adopters. The first, all too common, are people who want and expect a perfect dog. They expect everything they buy to live up to or exceed their expectations. If it doesn't, they will return it as if it was a defective toaster oven, the wrong size sweater, or an unwanted christmas gift. The dog must have the perfect look, no flaws, must be perfectly housetrained, and must instantly be good with every kid, cat, ferret, and other dog they meet. They also expect us to bring a selection of dogs to their door for them to choose from and expect us to be grateful to them for even considering one of our dogs. And it goes without saying that they consider themselves to be the best of all possible homes, and therefore entitled to any dog they want. These people can kiss my ass. If I ever do get a "perfect" dog, it will not go to any of them.

The other type of adopter is realistic in their expectations and smart enough to know that a perfect dog is made, not born. You get out of them what you put into them, and even then, not every dog is right for every home.

Fortunately, DJ was adopted by the latter type of adopter. They just wanted a good family dog. They are going into it with the assumption that he has no housetraining and with the knowlege that they will need to work on that. They were also prepared to drive down to our place to pick up the dog yesterday morning. I happily met the man up in Culpeper instead, to save him a couple hours on the road.

DJ was given up by some local white trash because neighbors were complaining about him tearing up their inflatable halloween decorations. The dog wasn't neutered and had never been to a vet. Fortunately, due to the fact that he lived in a community of single-wides where everyone's dogs and children ran at large, he was pretty well socialized. He's a cute little guy and was Mr. Personality at adoption events. He worked the crowd and seemed particularly fond of children.

I'm sure they will have a few rough spots with DJ, but they've had huskies in the past, so I think they can handle DJ rather easily. I think, I hope, that they will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily he fits into their home.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hannah moves out, moves on

Hannah is a smallish female shepherd I took from the Lynchburg Humane Society a few months back. This first picture is Hannah in the shelter. Her coat was dull, dirty, full or dead hair. She was terribly thin and she had heartworms. We did the heartworm treatment and she had no problems.

Although she ate like a horse, she was tough to put weight onto because she was rather neurotic in the kennel and would run the fence line constantly. I finally gave up trying to kennel her and just gave her the dog yard and pasture instead. She never jumped or tried to get out and she was good with all the other dogs. She was really a pretty easy keeper, but she was contantly covered in mud. A couple rounds of wormer began to help the weight problem, but she was still showing ribs.

What Hannah needed was to get into a home where she could learn to be a companion animal. I had Hannah indoors for a few weeks after her heartworm treatment and she was fine being crated, but the stairs and the whole indoor experience was new to her. I'm sure she had always been kept outside, which of course increased her chances of picking up heartworms. With six of our own dogs, and two indoor fosters now, I really couldn't offer Hannah what she needed most at this point. The heartworm treatment and spay were done here where it's much less expensive than northern Virginia, but on Monday she moved to a new NoVA foster home where she can get what she most needs now. Also, with it being winter, she's much better off being indoors and it's one less outdoor dog I have to deal with in the cold and the mud.

Hannah's new foster home has a male shepherd named Buddy who was adopted from me a while back. She also has retired but active foster parents, who are very experienced and dedicated. In short, it's the perfect home for her to develop what she needs to be adopted. She will learn to be a house dog, to walk on a leash, and to live in a community of people as well as dogs. She will get a great home and it will happen much sooner than it would if she had stayed with me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our dogs, part 3 of 3, Molly and Emmylou

The final two dogs in our household are Molly and Emmyou. They are my hiking companions so they've been on the blog quite a bit. These two girls both started out a foster dogs, but became permanent residents and members of the family.

Molly is a rottie mix, she came from the Fluvanna SPCA. Molly was very happy to be here and quickly developed into the best kennel manager I've had in a long time. She would take the new fosters under her wing and show them the routine. She would police the fosters' activities and defuse tensions before they could escalate into a fight. When two boys were squaring off for some male stupidity, she would run between them and push them apart before they even got started. Some one once brought out a dog who was behaving aggressively towards me. Molly didn't go after the other dog, but she came and sat quietly next to me, putting herself between me and the other dog, clearly saying "if you want to go after him, you'll have to go through me first." Like most rotties, she wouldn't start any trouble, but she can handle herself in a fight.

Molly ruled the foster world outdoors, supremely confident in her domain. So it came as a real surprise to learn that Molly was terrified, actually paralyzed with fear, when she came indoors. I grew so attached to Molly that I would only consider the best of all possible homes for her. I found such a home, however, and Molly went with them, but once she got there she just cowered in a corner shivering, scared of everything in the house. Molly had never lived indoors and was scared of anything manmade. She is scared to walk down the downtown mall in Charlottesville and even spooks out on the trails if we encounter a manmade object of any kind. But Molly is smart and figured out the adoption routine and made her own decision about where she wanted to live. When she came back from the unsuccessful adoption, she took to jumping the fence and even climbing out of the kennels. She didn't want to run away, she wanted to come indoors. Molly had figured out that the outside dogs get adopted and sent away, while the inside dogs are permanent residents. She decided she would have to overcome her fears in order to stay with us.

So Molly moved indoors. For a couple days I had to drag her outside to pee because she was afraid she wouldn't be allowed back inside. Finally she got into the routine and she's been wonderful indoors. Of course, now I could never let her go, regardless of who wanted her. Once Molly became an inside dog, she was no longer interested in the foster dogs at all and doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She loves to run with Cabell, Bremo, and Zachary, and she can outrun and outjump them all. She's an athletic, high flying dog, fast and light on her feet, and she loves the water. She's also an easy keeper--one good pasture run and she's satisfied to sleep upstairs in my office for the rest of the day. No fence can contain her and she will stray a bit if not watched fairly closely, but she's not interested in going very far from home. Molly found herself a home.

There isn't much I can say abuot Emmylou that hasn't already been written. Emmylou is a greyhound/shepherd mix. She's tall, long, and lean. She's a hunter and she's built for speed. She is smart enough to get Molly or some younger dog to do her digging for her when she's hunting moles. Her ears and eyes need no assistance from anyone. Emmy is probably older than Gypsy, but we don't know for sure. She was given up by someone here in Fluvanna County, probably due to an unpleasant domestic situation. She was adopted out twice and came back twice. She loves people, other dogs, and even children. She is perfectly behaved indoors. She will go off on a hunt if given the chance, but she will always come back home. Emmy is terrified of storms and I can't leave her home alone during storm season. She had an ACL tear that has been slow to recover, but she's doing pretty well now and I really need to get back out on the trails with her. She has reached sainted status in my eyes and I think she feels the same about me. She sleeps by me at night and is never far away during the day. We are co-dependent and it's probably not healthy for either of us.

Emmylou is the alpha bitch of the upstairs realm in our household. She and Gypsy have never met nose to nose and they never will. Neither of them are really capable of fighting at this point in their lives, but they both would if they met each other. They co-exist by maintaining different spheres in the household, which we vigilantly enforce. They are both happy in their respective worlds and seem to ignore each other while secretly keeping a close eye on their potential adversary.

As a fan of English history, it occurs to me that Gypsy and Emmylou are not unlike England's Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart of Scotland. Elizabeth and Gypsy rule from a more secure power base and view their rivals with suspicion. Mary Stuart and Emmylou may covet the supreme position, but they know that their chances of defeating the more entrenched queen are remote. And in the end, both Mary and Emmy may have gotten what they really wanted most. Mary Stuart's son succeeded to the English throne after the death of the childless Elizabeth. Emmylou may not reign over the entire household, but she has the most one-on-one time with her dad, giving her some basis for claiming the title of alpha female.