Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Operazione: Find Beau a Home II

On November 15, I reported that I found Beau his "forever" home but it did not work out.  Four days after taking him home he was left alone for the first time for a couple of hours. Apparently, Beau stood on his hind legs at the front door and chewed around the framing of the glass panels on the front door.  Because he was never alone here with my other dogs I did not think to counsel on a degree of separation anxiety. He has never once damaged anything in my home in the months I have had him.  The agreement was that if he did not work out, he comes back to me and he did so, quite happily I might add.  He's a great dog but not a perfect one.  Beau is a very bright 2-3 year old neutered male, house & manner trained, energetic but not hyper, loyal & protective, is good with other dogs and great with people. 

Still waiting for his new home...

Love the ears!

Beau, with Kenyon and my beloved Paws, who died last month. Scout is taking the photo...

After:  A visit to the vet the next day defined a treatment plan for the hook/heart worm and fleas.  Within 30 days, assisted by an organic diet loaded with Omega 3 (Flax), Beau's fur quality and quantity improved dramatically.  His appetite increased and as he settled in his big personality became more apparent.  I have since learned he is part Border Collie. What a fascinating and loyal breed they are.  I had a plumber in the other day and Beau herded him to the bathroom and then sat and waited.  Every time the plumber left, Beau would follow him right at his side and then resume the watchful eye.  When the plumber was walking through the house to leave, Beau again walked immediately beside him escorting him out. 

Before:  Within days of taking him in - underweight, lifeless and missing patches of fur, fleas, hook worm, & the curse of The South - heart worm.   I had gone back to the beach that night to look for him after taking my 3 pups home and found him in the parking lot trying to get into cars with people who were leaving.  I leashed him up and walked him home and gave him a good bath in the yard before he walked himself through the dog door and curled up on the couch.  He made himself at home so quickly the other dogs did not entirely know how to react.  

For the next 30 days we worked on manners (he was trained) and tried to either find him his original home (which I am not sure I would have returned him to) or to find him a new home. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Amazing Grace by Il Divo

Grazia Straordinario
(Amazing Grace in Italian)

In honor of this holiday season please enjoy the stunning men of Il Divo (The Divine in Italian) and their performance of Amazing Grace from Live at the Coliseum
Il Divo is a multi-national operatic pop vocal group whose members hail from Spain, Switzerland, the U.S., and France.  They perform in English, Italian, Spanish, French, and Latin.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Better Homes and Gardens article

BH&G Kitchen and Bath Makeovers - Winter Edition 2010

My Coronado, CA, kitchen article.
Dining room area off the kitchen.

The copper faucet was one of my great investments and the black cabinetry one of my smartest choices with (at the time) three black Labs. The countertop is marble.  I was cautioned against it because it is not as hard as granite but I figured people in Europe have been walking on it for hundreds of years so it was an easy choice.  I had it honed to remove the shine and paid extra for the finish - a double ogee.

Somehow the editor has me living in Atlanta but that's not correct. I am in Georgia, however, but on the coast on Saint Simons Island (South of Savannah).  I've never even been to Atlanta...

I opted for deep drawers instead of cabinets.  I like the look and, frankly, think it's easier to find things in drawers than cabinets. Tamerie Shriver, my dear friend, made the roman shade.  I think that's even how we met.  Take a look at the standing room only class she just taught on Saturday on how to make a slipcover for a chair at 

"Cucina" translates to Kitchen in Italian.
My favorite photo (along with the dining room and broken twig chandelier photo).  The concrete floors were original to the house. I acid washed them and painted them a deep red.  I pulled up the flooring in the dining and kitchen so it would match when I opened the rooms in to one another by creating the expanded arch barely visible at the top of this photo. I enclosed an alley door and a back window to allow for maximum use of the corner and back wall area since I was opening one up - see below. The house is small - 900 square feet - so the kitchen is proportionate.  I was not sure then about putting the large butcher block in the middle of the kitchen but it completely worked. 

This makeover spared little expense quite unlike the current remodel I am doing here on Saint Simons Island.  Beginning this week, I will post photos of that process with a sneak preview below.  Stay tuned...

"Bella Cottage" remodel
Saint Simons Island, GA.

More to come... when pulling the plaster inside we discovered this gorgeous brink.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Last photograph of Paws

Photograph taken November 3, 2010 in her last hour.
Saint Simons Island Beach, Georgia

"Good dogs are with us for a while to teach us how to love like it's our job...
because it is."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In honor of Paws: July 1996 - today

My Labbies
Paws and Bear 
Coronado Beach, California 2008

Paws joined her sister, Bear, today.  She was 14 1/2 years old and my dearest friend.  Both the gifts and the loss are immeasurable.  

I love this photo of my two old sisters taken on one of those perfect days.   They sat and stood there for quite some time that morning, comfortable together. 

Sempre Fidelis - Always Faithful

Monday, November 1, 2010

Winner of Buona Notte pillow and sneak preview of kitchen photos

Michelle Silva

 I will soon post the photos for my Coronado, California kitchen as seen in Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Makeover Winter addition 2010. Here's a peek...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Announcing Changes with Two Fall Giveaways

Bella Rustica
Buona Notte (Good Night) Line
Giveaway - Burlap lumbar Buona Notte pillow

Choose from either style - black ink with closed sides or brown ink with one open buttoned side. The lucky winner will be announced on November 1 from those who both post here.  Double your chances of winning by adding your name to Lettere di Amici (Those who Follow). If you already follow, say so in your post and I will add a second opportunity for you to win. 

(There's more).

Everything on Bella Rustica Market (except the Broken Twig Chandelier) will be available at 50% off beginning November 1 through December 1 but only to those who both post here (so you might win a pillow) and invite two  friends to Follow me on the blog.  Let me know your name (blog or otherwise so I can identify you....) along with the same information for your friends and your name will be added to the list and I will take your order at that time.  Some items, like the flag of Florence, are in limited supply so get your order in as soon as you can.

Perque (why) you ask?

 I am beginning the re-model of my new home here on Saint Simons Island, Georgia and want to both down-size a bit and kick off the holiday season with give-a-ways.  Join me here often from December on as I detail every creative project in this three month full-house re-model.  The kitchen of my Coronado Island, California home is featured in the Winter edition of Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Makeovers.  It is entitled Italian Seasoning and will be featured here next week.  I spared little expense on that project. My new home, Bella Rustica Cottage, will be completed on a budget which requires all my creative ingenuity & ability.  

Take a look at my additional Buona Notte line.  All but one item are one-of-a-kind.

Also available for sale on November 1 is one unique set of decorative pillow cases for a regular sized pillow...
- $65.00 for the set -

and one unique pale green colored regular sized ticking striped sham (shown) and one navy blue colored regular sized ticking striped sham (photo available) highlighting Buona Notte (Good Night) in black script. These are darling in children's rooms and will also be available on November 1.
- $40.00 each -
Decorus Vita Giveaway
Burlap with Latin Phrases Line
Giveaway - burlap doubled sided pillow

My dearest friend, Patsy DesChenes, of Decorus Vita Mercatus (Latin for My Decorated Life), has created a handsome line of burlap pillows with Latin Phrases.  She uses each image only once so each pillow is literally one of a kind.

Her giveaway features a unique, one of a kind, 16" burlap pillow printed on both sides with Latin phrases. Side one is the image of a beautiful angel reaching towards the heavens. Imprinted with "Divinitus" which translates to "devine influence". Side two, the timless and familiar Latin phrase, "Carpe Diem" (Seize the Day) is imposed over an antique time piece. The pillow is made from two hues of natural burlap with a feather and down insert.

Enter to win by leaving her a comment. Double your chances of winning by adding your name to her followers. She will announce the lucky winner on November 1. 

Take a look at her tre-chic French Line as well and watch her blog for offers similar to mine as she takes a soujourn to travel.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Southern Porch Swings - barn and burlap

My apologies for the delay in between posts.  The basic training course required for virtually all new federal agents at The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center here in our new home in South Coastal Georgia is called the Criminal Investigator Training Program and it is three months long.  Once a student graduates from that course they proceed to their own agency's specific training and that is what I am in the middle of instructing right now.  My agency's course is another three months for the students which makes for a long time away from home.  The students graduate in two weeks to the well earned title of Special Agent and then my schedule will be a little more predictable.  I will miss the classroom and instructor environment though.  

In between after-hours surveillance courses and before dawn "Duty Call" practice, I picked up the latest copy of Garden and Gun magazine as both the title interested me as did the cover of Nashville, TN, designer Rachel Halvorson and the gorgeous porch swing she created. Both the swing (made of reclaimed barn wood) and the photography are bella and rustica.  As you would imagine the gun portion focuses on hunting so the photos of the sporting dogs caught my eye. I researched more about Rachel and found her blog, The Nest Egg, which I have now added to my list of Places to Stay Awhile.  Best of all, Rachel shows you how to build your very own swing which I fully intend to do for my new home which I will tell ya'll (part of learning Southern) about next week.....

Notice the burlap accent pillows - works everywhere...

Several days later I went to my favorite Saint Simons Island shop, Viola's Market, and saw this stunning, burlap upholstered swinging porch swing replete with burnished nail heads and similar heavy rope.  Now I am thinking of creating both for that extra wide screened in porch I am planning.  That will be part of my new home which I will tell ya'll about more about next week. Please check back,,,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our First Georgia Summer

You know that saying about not knowing you were unhappy until you were happy?  Well, I never realized how spoiled I was regarding weather until I moved to Southern Georgia from Southern California. Southern California has the most moderate and predictable weather in all of the United States.  I kept my doors and windows open to the fresh air for much of the day, evenings, and many nights eight months out of the year.  I never thought I would adjust my life for half a year based on black flag weather warnings associated with heat indexes over 100 degrees, thunderstorms and lightening, tides, insects, and alligators but yet here I am.

As I get ready to post new products I have to have flattering photographs.  If you saw a video of me trying to get those photos you'd laugh out loud but not in front of me.  If it's not the humidity which fogs my camera lens (see above) it's the bugs in the grass that seem to bother no one but me.  The dogs lounge around in it quite lazily while I am slapping my legs, arms and back without mercy & am using language I am ashamed to admit to as I try and talk to myself about maintaining discipline and composure so I can get what I need and get back inside to my air conditioned fortress.  Despite all this complaining, I like it here.  The people are lovely and the pace of life is slower.

What I've found interesting about extreme weather is the respect you begin to have in order to co-exist.  In California, I never gave a thought to the tides, for example, but here I do.  If I paddleboard in the marsh I must do so at high tide or I cannot get out or in as the case may be.  Worse, I might get stuck out there with no way to get out (or in).  Same in the ocean here but for different reasons.  A paddleboarder can simply carry her board over a sandbar but the incoming tide has such a strong current that one would do well to respect it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Labbie for adoption (New pillow in honor of our faithful friends)

Her name is Spice and you first met her on the May 7th post here.  Within a week she was placed in what became a temporary home.  That family was unable to keep her so she'll stay with us until the right situation comes along. Today I bought her the requisite leopard print collar and her own leash.  She is resting comfortably in front of Kenyon (see September 11, 2009 post).  Lovely girl, don't you think?  She is also very sweet natured, affectionate, and absolutely blossoms when around other dogs.

Today I was told she has tested positive for heart-worm. Heart-worm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart.  This disease is transmitted by mosquitos but doesn't show up for almost 6 months which is the amount of time it takes the larvae to becomes adults.  Spice is about a year old.

The heart-worm infects the heart and if allowed to multiply will kill the dog.  There is no treatment for cats.  There are three stages for treatment once diagnosed.  She will begin an antibiotic series used in humans to prevent malaria and this will kill the young heart-worms.  We are picking that up tonight. Next, she will receive a series of shots in order to kill the adult heart-worms.  The following 1-3 months after that treatment is the most important as she must be kept quiet while the medication is killing the adult heart-worms.  The goal is to cease all activity that will increase blood-flow to the heart. Finally, she will remain on a preventative medication for the rest of her life.  Her prognosis is good.

Now, timing is surely everything, no? We've been in our new home for six months and it was only last week I got all new product made and photographed.  It will be up on the website this weekend.  All new proceeds from BellaRusticaMarket will cover the associated costs for her care and recovery.  

In addition, I finally decided on a pillow design to honor our faithful friends.  You cannot imagine how much thought goes into something like this! Over the last year I have had many inquires about such a pillow but I did not want it to be breed or animal specific.  I finally chose the Italian phrase Sempre Fedele which translates "Always Faithful".  I deliberately chose not to have an image with the phrase but instead to extend the phrase boldly across the the entire width of the pillow and to attach a small Saint Francis of Assisi  (Italian Patron Saint for Animals) medal on the lower, right side. Another option is to attach the animal's tag or another personal symbol or simply nothing at all.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bella Luna at Being Ruby & give-a-way from J. Beaudetart

Do yourself a favor and stroll on over to la blog della mia bella amica Julie and see why I continually maintain her as my Featured Artist here.  You will be treated to a series of bella fotografia (beautiful photograhy) of la luna Italia (the Italian moon)You have a few more hours to win her give-away of more lovely photography as well...

Il Colosseo di Roma (Coliseum of Rome)

Further stroll over and support Jennifer Beaudetart's first give-a-way of one of her original pieees of art - your choice. Two very talented women. 
Give-a-way closes June 4, 2010

This is my choice.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Belle Give-A-Ways

May 20th post. Give-a-way chosen on May 31st.

Sharon from My French Country Home is giving away this lovely handmade linen bag and lavender sachet hand-made by her neighbor, Patricia.  Did I mention she lives in Normandy, France? 

Entry to the giveaway is open to all who comment on this post.Please mention BellaRustica sent you!
(Closes May 30, 2010 heure de Paris)

May 15th post.  Give-a-way chosen on May 31st.

Julie at Being Ruby is offering three photos you will see in her post...
Three variations of her rose image - Bloom. All professionally printed on 8x12" archive paper ready for framing.
Entry to the giveaway is open to all who comment on this post.  Please mention BellaRustica sent you!
[closes midnight Monday 31st May Sydney time]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Layering with texture

A broken twig chandelier, linen slipcovers, burlap, faded shutters, an aged map, a set of oars from my childhood Summer home, and a "found" (literally) object come together perfectly imperfectly to create the look and feel I define as rustica. This is my dining room in our new home on Saint Simons Island, Georgia.  I am finally unpacked and am enjoying layering and texturing the same items in a new home that I had in our Coronado, California home.  The fact the same items can look so differently in another home reminds me to always be willing to have fun and experiment.  I encourage you to do the same.

When last in Italia I purchased an antique map of Firenze (Florence).  The paper was aged in that lovely, imperfect way so I "floated" it over burlap and mounted both in a rustic frame.  

I initially set a manzanita branch into a crock I found thrown away and I placed both items in front of a set of faded shutters.  I walked away satisfied right past those darling oars when it occurred to me I had a new home for them.  I scooted the linen slip-covered No.3 chair (for my three Labrador Retrievers) under a pine pedestal table that sits in the middle of the room atop a heavily knotted seagrass rug. You might already suspect the rest of the chairs don't match perfectly (different fabric on the seats).  What fun would that be? The key to not creating a room that looks mis-matched is to keep your color palette subtle. 

Here is another view of the corner and the wall with another set of faded shutters which I simply allow to lean on the wall. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Happy Birthday to me...

A gorgeous birthday post from Julie at Being Ruby greeted me this morning.  I'd sent her a photo of my pups and asked her to do her magic for me for my birthday and she did that for me and more. Take a look...

Mille grazie bella amica. 

Here is the original photo.

Original photo plus Julie's ethereal quality. Incredibile.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter - Experiencing loss

This Easter morning I walked my two youngest Labs, Scout and Kenyon, the 4-mile round trip to pick up my Starbucks.  En-route I saw a truck hit a deer as he crossed the road.  The driver's bumper sustained enough damage to cause it to fall off but he was able to drive away.  Although I saw the deer skip into the nearby wood I was not convinced, as I wanted to be, he would fair as well so I watched him and he watched me.

I did not have my phone or my car so I walked the 30 minutes home and called the local police and agreed to meet them back where I saw the deer enter the wood.  As I waited for the officer to arrive I saw the deer laying down now so I made my way towards him and found him dead.  What a beautiful animal, I thought sadly. I suspect from his size and small antlers, he was a child. I had seen three dear, two adults and a child, in this area before.  I left him there when I saw two other deer waiting nearby.  As I waited by my car I saw other deer come to his body and remain there.

I was reminded of when Bear, sister to my 14 1/2 year old Paws, died last year and I arranged to have Paws and then Scout spend time with Bear's body.  Kenyon was not part of our family then.  It matters to let them know what happened to their mate or child - always their friend.

The police officer arrived and was genuinely relieved to know the deer was dead otherwise he would have to shoot it, per policy.  I felt compassion for this officer in that moment as we both stood in silence with that emotion hanging between us. We ask a lot from those who are the guardians of our safety and our country.

Deer standing over the body of fallen child.

This day represents loss, love, and forgiveness in the most poignant, direct, and committed way possible.  

The message today is to live deeply and with commitment if you have the courage to do so.  If not, then please just stop complaining and move back into the shadows where you stay hidden.  Or step up and make a difference where you can when you can.  I entitled the side-bar, "Those Who Do" for a reason.  Consider donating twenty-five dollars today in someone's name to honor them and then tell them you did so and why.

Today is in honor of those who do and for those we miss who did for us. I find solace in thinking of that beautiful deer greeted by my Bear in a warm, golden field not too far away.

In gratitude for this day,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Last Chance Friday Give-Away at La Petit Coterie

Hurry and get your name in for one of Michelle's fabulous creations at La Petit Coterie.  The give-away is over domani (tomorrow), Friday. She's brought a popular item back and I've thrown my name in the hat as well.  Buona Fortuna amici..

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spice (update): Lovely pink toes

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Miss Spice in her new home; see March 7 posting. She was resting quite comfortably after her doggie-spa pedicure in her newly claimed chair overlooking a picture window into the backyard.  I am happy to report both her new collar and tags match her toenail polish.
Pedicure courtesy of the Clack girls:  Adair, Lauren, and Gracie.

Monday, March 8, 2010

In celebration of old dogs

Ever have those perfect days. 

It started yesterday with a nice walk on the beach with someone I wanted to know better and ended up with the news that Spice (see below) was adopted. Then today was the most gorgeous day since our move to South Georgia in December.  

We were on the beach on Saint Simon's Island, our new home, at sunrise.  I already had my Starbuck's in hand, Kenyon was chasing birds on the sandbar which gave the illusion he was running on water and he passed perfectly in front of the sun as she lifted above the waterline. Wish I'd had my camera but then I might just have missed the moment. I could not help but think of him in September when he came to us through Lab Rescue, terribly mauled, but full of heart. Scout was off somewhere else creating her own entertainment and Paws stood with me and took it all in as old dogs so perfectly do.  My favorite past time is to read a good book while she sleeps nearby so I can listen to her breathe.  I also love the smell of her breath. 

This is a photo of us taken last Fall when I really started to see her years and wanted to capture the beauty of her stunning grey face.  She moves more slowly these days but makes every walk, eats every meal, and begs for more food from every person she passes on the beach - a Lab through and through. Because of the cold weather here I wrap her in a striped sweater and I would swear she uses that to her advantage when she begs. She is almost deaf, cannot see very well, but there is nothing wrong with her sense of smell or appetite. And she is happy. That's my girl.  

Please take a moment to read one of the best articles about these special creatures. I would only add at the end, "We grieve for ourselves without them." I'd also love to share your photos of your old dog.  You can e-mail them directly to me at BellaRustica@aol.com.

In honor of Paws - age 14 1/2 - Labrador Retriever

They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days with a humility and grace we all could learn from. 
Not long before his death, Harry and I headed out for a walk that proved eventful. He was nearly 13, old for a big dog. Walks were no longer the slap-happy Iditarods of his youth, frenzies of purposeless pulling in which we would cast madly off in all directions, fighting for command. Nor were they the exuberant archaeological expeditions of his middle years, when every other tree or hydrant or blade of grass held tantalizing secrets about his neighbors. In his old age, Harry had transformed his walk into a simple process of elimination—a dutiful, utilitarian, head-down trudge. When finished, he would shuffle home to his ratty old bed, which graced our living room because Harry could no longer ascend the stairs. On these walks, Harry seemed oblivious to his surroundings, absorbed in the arduous responsibility of placing foot before foot before foot before foot. But this time, on the edge of a small urban park, he stopped to watch something. A man was throwing a Frisbee to his dog. The dog, about Harry’s size, was tracking the flight expertly, as Harry had once done, anticipating hooks and slices by watching the pitch and roll and yaw of the disc, as Harry had done, then catching it with a joyful, punctuating leap, as Harry had once done, too.

Harry sat. For 10 minutes, he watched the fling and catch, fling and catch, his face contented, his eyes alight, his tail a-twitch. Our walk home was almost … jaunty.

Some years ago,
 The Washington Post invited readers to come up with a midlife list of goals for an underachiever. The first-runner-up prize went to: “Win the admiration of my dog.”

It’s no big deal to love a dog; they make it so easy for you. They find you brilliant, even if you are a witling. You fascinate them, even if you are as dull as a butter knife. They are fond of you, even if you are a genocidal maniac. Hitler loved his dogs, and they loved him.

Puppies are incomparably cute and incomparably entertaining, and, best of all, they smell exactly like puppies. At middle age, a dog has settled into the knuckleheaded matrix of behavior we find so appealing—his unquestioning loyalty, his irrepressible willingness to please, his infectious happiness. But it is not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.

Kafka wrote that the meaning of life is that it ends. He meant that our lives are shaped and shaded by the existential terror of knowing that all is finite. This anxiety informs poetry, literature, the monuments we build, the wars we wage—all of it. Kafka was talking, of course, about people. Among animals, only humans are said to be self-aware enough to comprehend the passage of time and the grim truth of mortality. How, then, to explain old Harry at the edge of that park, gray and lame, just days from the end, experiencing what can only be called wistfulness and nostalgia? I have lived with eight dogs, watched six of them grow old and infirm with grace and dignity, and die with what seemed to be acceptance. I have seen old dogs grieve at the loss of their friends. I have come to believe that as they age, dogs comprehend the passage of time, and, if not the inevitability of death, certainly the relentlessness of the onset of their frailties. They understand that what’s gone is gone.

What dogs do not have is an abstract sense of fear, or a feeling of injustice or entitlement. They do not see themselves, as we do, as tragic heroes, battling ceaselessly against the merciless onslaught of time. Unlike us, old dogs lack the audacity to mythologize their lives. You’ve got to love them for that.

The product of a Kansas puppy mill, Harry was sold to us as a yellow Labrador retriever. I suppose it was technically true, but only in the sense that Tic Tacs are technically “food.” Harry’s lineage was suspect. He wasn’t the square-headed, elegant type of Labrador you can envision in the wilds of Canada hunting for ducks. He was the shape of a baked potato, with the color and luster of an interoffice envelope. You could envision him in the wilds of suburban Toledo, hunting for nuggets of dried food in a carpet.

His full name was Harry S Truman, and once he’d reached middle age, he had indeed developed the unassuming soul of a haberdasher. We sometimes called him Tru, which fit his loyalty but was in other ways a misnomer: Harry was a bit of an eccentric, a few bubbles off plumb. Though he had never experienced an electrical shock, whenever he encountered a wire on the floor—say, a power cord leading from a laptop to a wall socket—Harry would stop and refuse to proceed. To him, this barrier was as impassable as the Himalayas. He’d stand there, waiting for someone to move it. Also, he was afraid of wind.

While Harry lacked the wiliness and cunning of some dogs, I did watch one day as he figured out a basic principle of physics. He was playing with a water bottle in our backyard—it was one of those 5-gallon cylindrical plastic jugs from the top of a water cooler. At one point, it rolled down a hill, which surprised and delighted him. He retrieved it, brought it back up and tried to make it go down again. It wouldn’t. I watched him nudge it around until he discovered that for the bottle to roll, its long axis had to be perpendicular to the slope of the hill. You could see the understanding dawn on his face; it was Archimedes in his bath, Helen Keller at the water spigot.

That was probably the intellectual achievement of Harry’s life, tarnished only slightly by the fact that he spent the next two hours insipidly entranced, rolling the bottle down and hauling it back up. He did not come inside until it grew too dark for him to see.

I believe I know exactly when Harry became an old dog. He was about 9 years old. It happened at 10:15 on the evening of June 21, 2001, the day my family moved from the suburbs to the city. The move took longer than we’d anticipated. Inexcusably, Harry had been left alone in the vacated house—eerie, echoing, empty of furniture and of all belongings except Harry and his bed—for eight hours. When I arrived to pick him up, he was beyond frantic.

He met me at the door and embraced me around the waist in a way that is not immediately reconcilable with the musculature and skeleton of a dog’s front legs. I could not extricate myself from his grasp. We walked out of that house like a slow-dancing couple, and Harry did not let go until I opened the car door.

He wasn’t barking at me in reprimand, as he once might have done. He hadn’t fouled the house in spite. That night, Harry was simply scared and vulnerable, impossibly sweet and needy and grateful. He had lost something of himself, but he had gained something more touching and more valuable. He had entered old age.

In the year after our move, Harry began to age visibly, and he did it the way most dogs do. First his muzzle began to whiten, and then the white slowly crept backward to swallow his entire head. As he became more sedentary, he thickened a bit, too.

On walks, he would no longer bother to scout and circle for a place to relieve himself. He would simply do it in mid-plod, like a horse, leaving the difficult logistics of drive-by cleanup to me. Sometimes, while crossing a busy street, with cars whizzing by, he would plop down to scratch his ear. Sometimes, he would forget where he was and why he was there. To the amusement of passersby, I would have to hunker down beside him and say, “Harry, we’re on a walk, and we’re going home now. Home is this way, okay?” On these dutiful walks, Harry ignored almost everything he passed. The most notable exception was an old, barrel-chested female pit bull named Honey, whom he loved. This was surprising, both because other dogs had long ago ceased to interest Harry at all, and because even back when they did, Harry’s tastes were for the guys.

Still, when we met Honey on walks, Harry perked up. Honey was younger by five years and heartier by a mile, but she liked Harry and slowed her gait when he was around. They waddled together for blocks, eyes forward, hardly interacting but content in each other’s company. I will forever be grateful to Honey for sweetening Harry’s last days.

Some people who seem unmoved by the deaths of tens of thousands through war or natural disaster will nonetheless grieve inconsolably over the loss of the family dog. People who find this behavior distasteful are often the ones without pets. It is hard to understand, in the abstract, the degree to which a companion animal, particularly after a long life, becomes a part of you. I believe I’ve figured out what this is all about. It is not as noble as I’d like it to be, but it is not anything of which to be ashamed, either.

In our dogs, we see ourselves. Dogs exhibit almost all of our emotions; if you think a dog cannot register envy or pity or pride or melancholia, you have never lived with one for any length of time. What dogs lack is our ability to dissimulate. They wear their emotions nakedly, and so, in watching them, we see ourselves as we would be if we were stripped of posture and pretense. Their innocence is enormously appealing. When we watch a dog progress from puppy
hood to old age, we are watching our own lives in microcosm. Our dogs become old, frail, crotchety, and vulnerable, just as Grandma did, just as we surely will, come the day. When we grieve for them, we grieve for ourselves.
Gene Weingarten
Washington Post 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spice has a new home!

E-mail I received from Spice:

Thanks for helping me find a home...Spice

Spice in her new home with Amy (mother), Adair (pictured), Lauren, and Grace (daughters) Clack after many walks yesterday with all the girls.  I work with their father and he asked for assistance in looking for the perfect dog for his family.

Bella Rustica for Assisi Farms sponsors Spice

Grazie a tutti (to everyone) who purchased from BellaRustica Market in February.  The proceeds from your purchases sponsored Spice.  Spice is a small, shy year old female yellow Labrador who lives safely now at a local animal shelter here in South Coastal Georgia.  When I find a dog I think is very adoptable I get the word out through personal contacts.  I think we have found her the perfect home with three little girls...