May 242017
 

WW83We lost a good friend this weekend… a member of the family.  She was a pretty girl who was as loving as she was stubborn.  In the end, it was the stubborn that got her.  But I suppose we all have our faults, don’t we?

Cricket loved her family, of this I have no doubt.  She loved having her belly rubbed, as most dogs do, her ears were silky soft, and she had eyes that you couldn’t  help but smile at.  For those of you who have followed me for a while, you may recall that Bella and Cricket have had a long history of getting into dominance fights.  It got so bad last year that they had three bad fights in three months, and we were so afraid for Cricket’s safety that we actually tried to find another home for her.  The problem was that even though she was half Bella’s size, she was the one who kept pushing for dominance, which resulted in increasingly severe fights between the girls.

When MBH found a description of our problem in a book about dog behavior therapy, we found out that we had unwittingly been the cause of those fights.  We had two dogs of the same sex whom we treated equally.  We treated them like children.

Here’s a word of warning, people.  Dogs don’t think the same way we do.  Deep in our minds, we know that they are pack animals, and that they adopt us as members of the pack.  But all too often, we don’t know what this really means.  We call ourselves alphas, without understanding that this implies a ranking system.

The book explained that you can’t treat all dogs equally.  If you don’t establish which dog is dominant in the pack, they will often try to figure it out for themselves.  And the way they do that is by fighting.

We began a recommended training regimen, putting ourselves above them by not allowing them on the furniture, and not allowing ourselves to get on the floor with them.  Some of the fights had occurred when we were sitting on the floor with them, or when one of them was on the furniture with us.  According to the information we read, this encouraged them to think of themselves as our equals.  We refused to pet them when they nudged our hands (and this one was really tough) because it meant that they were initiating the affection, in essence telling us what to do.

We stopped petting them at all unless they first “earned” the affection by sitting, laying down, or in some other way doing as they were told.  This taught them that good behavior was rewarded.

And for the safety of the whole pack, we had to choose one dog to be dominant over the other.  Since it was painfully obvious that Bella could kill Cricket if it came down to it, we picked Bella as “top dog”.  We fed Bella first, let her go to bed first, walked her in front of Cricket… even showed Bella affection first.  It was hard not to think of the new regimen as “cold” or “mean”, but dogs are more comfortable with an established pecking order.  And while it was difficult not to love on the cute little girl when she looked up at you with those eyes, we had to realize that the reason we did it was to keep her from picking fights that she couldn’t win.

And it seemed to work.  Their last fight was almost a year ago… until this weekend.

We got complacent.  They had behaved so well for so long that we felt it was under control.  When Cricket got a “hot spot” on her tail and flank, we could tell she was hurting some, so we felt sorry for her.  When I saw her on the couch, instead of a stern scolding, I shooed her off with a voice that was almost apologetic.  When we doctored her hot spot, we once again treated her like we would a sick child, comforting her and showing her affection without always doing the same for Bella.

We weren’t in the room when the fight started this time, so we don’t know for sure which dog started it.  All we know is that it started on the furniture, where neither of them was supposed to be.  Even if we had seen it start, that doesn’t necessarily mean we would know what really happened.  There are unspoken cues between animals that we humans simply don’t have the capacity to understand.  At one point last year, I thought Bella was the one starting the fights.  I later realized that Bella was silently being challenged by Cricket, when the smaller dog would claim Bella’s bed as her own, or in some other subtle way try to assert dominance on her larger packmate.

So perhaps Cricket was on the couch, challenging Bella.  Or maybe Bella was trying to assert her dominance over Cricket, and so attacked Cricket.  What we do know is that Cricket has always been the more aggressive of the two.  Bella has always been our marshmallow with people, even refusing to bite either of us in the midst of their fighting when we’re trying to break them up.

Not so with Cricket.  When she started fighting, she would tear into anything or anyone within reach of her teeth, and I have the scars to prove it.  Like I said, we all have our faults.  Whatever the reason, they got into it again, and this time she was wounded too severely.  The vet told us she might live, but that she was unlikely to fully recover.  She also warned us that the fights were likely going to continue to get progressively worse.  In the end, we had to make the hard decision.

So we loved on her the way she always wanted, and we cried as she left us.  Hell, I’m crying now as I write this.  But we got several good years with her.  I’ll try to concentrate on that.

The irony now is that Bella keeps going through the house, as if looking for Cricket.  She’s still limping a little – she didn’t get out unscathed, by any means.  But she doesn’t give the impression that she’s stalking an enemy.  I’ve heard it said that dogs don’t hold grudges for most things, and I think for Bella that must be true.  I don’t know if I’m just putting my thoughts into her actions, but to me it looks like she’s wondering where her pack mate has gone.  She goes from room to room, and afterward she’ll come find me and lay down on the floor where she can keep an eye on me.

Yeah, we’re going through a rough patch here at the Brackett household.  So I mean this with all my heart… love your family, love your pack.  Not just in a way that makes you feel good, but in whatever way they actually need.

And stay safe.   weep

Here’s the way I’ll remember her.  (Our Girls Playing 20161016_091056)

Apr 272017
 

WW81Another late post.  Sorry folks, but yesterday just got away from me.   IDK  Chalk it up to the fact that MBH had to go out of town, which meant she needed me to take her to work (because her flight didn’t leave until after noon, and she could still work half a day before going to the airport). Or maybe it was due to the fact that a nasty storm blew through the night before, setting off our tornado watch alerts shortly after we got to sleep, and costing us a few precious hours of sleep.  (The pic to the left is radar from about an hour after the worst of it was past.)  Or perhaps it was because I was busy organizing beta readers and getting EPP ready to send out to them.  Whatever the reason, I blew it and forgot to write my WW post.

So here it is…

First, as mentioned above, the rough draft of End Point Pangaea is off to beta readers.  The urge to keep working on it… to keep tweaking it… was hard to ignore.  There is always something more that you feel the need to clarify or add.  But I finally had to tell myself that this is the rough draft, and beta readers don’t need it to be perfect.  As a matter of fact, beta readers add an unbiased eye to the manuscript, usually catching things that the author simply cannot see by virtue of the fact that the eye of the writer will usually see what he intended to write, rather than what he wrote.  So it’s often wasted effort trying to “fix” things in the rough draft.  You (or at least I) can spend all sorts of time working on something that you want to get just right, only to find that half of your beta readers have found another problem that makes your re-writes moot.  Eventually, you have to accept the fact that it’s never going to be perfect.  As the saying goes, art is never complete, it’s just finally abandoned.

WW81BThis morning I awoke to find that one of the beta readers has already finished it, and as of a few minutes ago, she has already sent a reply email and tracked changes on the manuscript.  Wow!  Talk about a fast turn around!   Shock

I suppose that means I should get back to work, though.  So we’ll make this another short blog post.  But before I go, how about this week’s RPotW?  Here’s a cute puppy pic for you.  This is Tilly.  She’s a French Bulldog puppy, and we met her last week while walking the dogs.  She’s about as cute as she could be, and ran right up to us while we were walking.  As I’ve mentioned before, our girls are not the most social of dogs when it comes to people outside of our pack, whether they have two legs or four, so we were concerned that they would misbehave when she approached.  There were a couple of tense moments while we made sure Bella and Cricket sat and stayed, but it honestly looked like they were all right with her.  We just didn’t want to take any chances.

So smile at the cute puppy, (how could you not?) and have a great week, everyone.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again soon.  Bye

Aug 032016
 

Wow.  My 50th post since I began posting (semi) regularly. You’ve all heard the old adage that when you do something regularly for 21 days, that it forms a habit?  Well, not so much.  There’s some basis for the saying, but the truth of the matter is that it’s basically the same as the stuff that comes out of the south end of a north-bound horse.  It usually takes at least two months of repeating an action before it begins to become a habit.

But with this being the 50th post, well… that’s getting close to two months worth, right?  Right?  I’m going to say yes.  Big Smile

These weekly postings are becoming enough of a habit that I definitely miss it when I don’t get something up here on Wednesdays. Last week, it was nothing more than an experiment on a new way to let people sign up for my publishing announcements (a successful experiment, I might add.)

This week, there’s a bit more to talk about, so let’s get to it. I have another habit I’m working on (writing) and I need to get back to it.   Wink

 

Writing –

I got a couple of late responses back from three of my Chucklers beta readers.  Comments from two were that they much preferred the new ending, so it looks like that was a good call.  And last night I got another one, where the reader found a couple of flat-out mistakes in the manuscript that got past me, and all the other betas!  I know that no manuscript is ever, EVER perfect, but these mistakes really made me shake my head. There is a missed first-person pronoun, that hearkens back to the earliest “first person” version of the story (before the cast of POV characters got big enough to make first person impractical), a character named incorrectly (again, back when the character had another name in a previous version), and a less critical, but still noteworthy misspelling.  Oy!!  Beat Up

In the meantime, End Point Pangaea is going well.  I’m about 8k words into it, and moving right along.  With any luck, the first draft will be done in a few months.

 

Gardening – 

Melon01The cantaloupes are starting to ripen like crazy, and it seems like we get a new one (or two, or three) every day. And some of the watermelons are so close to being ripe that it’s driving MBH & I crazy waiting. We’ve been SO tempted to go ahead and pick one just based on the size, color, and the “thump” sound when we tap one.  But everything I’ve been told, read, and learned last year, says that we have to wait until the “spoon” leaf dries up, and the tendrils closest to the fruit turn brown.  So we wait.  (sigh)

We’ve got all kinds of peppers coming in, and we’re getting some eggplants, too.  No more tomatoes, though.   Frown  And despite throwing tons of diatomaceous earth on the squash bugs that killed our zucchini, they migrated to the cucumber plants and killed them too.  I’ve got some neem oil and am planning to spray the crap out of the little buggers with that tomorrow morning.  If I don’t, then I run the risk of them migrating to my melons next, and that simply cannot be tolerated!   Soldier

 

Personal –

Remember a few weeks back in WW48 when I talked about the problems we were having with the girls fighting? We were to the point of being willing to give Cricket to a new family, despite the fact that it was going to break our hearts.  Well, that new home didn’t happen, and we’re still going through their training regimen every evening.  And (fingers crossed) it looks like it may be working.  Neither MBH nor I want to jinx anything, but the girls haven’t fought in more than two weeks, and they seem to be accepting their new roles in the pack.  Bella is doing better with the training exercises (trying to get Cricket to lay down is frustrating at times… she seems to think you want her to roll onto her back and submit), but we’re seeing progress.

And like I said, I don’t want to jinx anything.  We still have a few months of this regimen before we can really begin to relax.

So that’s it. Time to get back to work. Take care everyone, and as always, stay safe.  Bye

Feb 102016
 

It’s been a relatively mild winter this year.  By this time last winter, we’d had a few weeks of snow and plenty of freezing days and nights.  This year?  I think we’ve had two days of snow, and even then the temperatures didn’t stay low enough for it to stick for more than a day or so. We still have freezing temps at night and the high during the days is still usually in the forties and fifties, but it looks like we’re going to get lucky this year and hopefully end up with an early spring and a good growing season.

For now though, it’s still cold and windy, and that’s led to some interesting times with the girls.  Our vet told us that Bella is a Catahoula, Husky mix.  She has some of the speckled undercoat of the Catahoula, as well as some of the herding instincts and other personality traits.  But she also has that thick coat of the various Husky breeds.  And she loves the cold weather!  It’s so much fun watching her run and play in the cold.  The down side is that with it as dry as it’s been, she also builds up a static charge.  For that matter, everything does.  It’s almost heartbreaking to see her as she comes up to me, wanting me to pet her, but laying her ears back and wincing as I reach down to do so because she’s learned that the affection comes at the price of the popping shock of static discharge.  It makes me feel almost guilty for wanting to pet her.

Cricket Cricket has other problems with the weather.  She’s a Corgi, Dachshund mix and she hates the cold weather. She would rather be lazing in the sun than playing in the cold.  So as the sun begins coming out more, like it has been lately, she goes out and finds a bright warm spot out of the wind where she can enjoy baking for a while.  But you know I wouldn’t be writing about it if there wasn’t a down side to this, too.

The cold weather and strong Oklahoma winds also do a number on the lawn.  Our nice green grass changes to a brown, prickly, yard full of dried straw.  And Cricket just loves to roll in it.  As a matter of fact, it’s gotten so bad that MBH suggested we might want to change her name to Grassy Grunt, or Haystack.  (I really like Haystack.)  ROTFL

Now, her rolling wouldn’t be that big a deal if it was just once in a while.  But she does this several times a day, and it seems to be getting more and more frequent.  And the end result of all this rolling?  A very dirty trail of dried grass throughout the house.20160204_150521-1-1

And it doesn’t matter how many times you come behind her and vacuum it up, you’re almost guaranteed to have another one just like it within the hour.  As a matter of fact, yesterday she came into my office while I was writing and put her paws up on my leg the way she does when she wants to get my attention.  I reached down absent mindedly to pet her and felt the fresh coating of grass on her back. So I took her out back and brushed the mess off of her on the patio. Of course, Bella had to have her bit of attention, too, so I reached out to her… slowly, as she both wagged her tail and laid back her ears.

Zap!  Pop!  Shock

And the more I petted her, the more static discharge there was, so every few strokes was accompanied by another pop of electricity, and another wince.  To make matters worse, as I was petting Bella, Cricket wandered off the patio and as I watched, rolled onto her back, wriggling back and forth in apparent ecstasy, gathering yet another coat of dried grass for me to clean.

I mean, I had just cleaned her thirty seconds before!  Sheesh!   Thinking

MBH and I talked about it, and we came to the conclusion that I may be inadvertently rewarding her for bringing all the grass inside.  I mean, think about it… she brings in a bunch of grass and what do I do?  I take her outside and rub her down, giving her all kinds of attention.  As far as she’s probably concerned, I’m basically petting her every time she rolls in the grass!

20160208_151042-1-1But while I joke about our trials with the girls (and it really is comical to a certain extent), there is a much more serious side to this dry and windy weather.  Two days ago, the farm just to our south lost a hay barn and some trees at the back of their property.  Luckily, they had sold the last of the hay out of the barn just the day before, so their loss was limited to the barn itself.  I feel funny even saying that… they “only” lost their hay barn.  Eek!

Things could have been much worse than they were.  It was a very windy day, with gusts hitting 40 mph.  If not for the quick action of the local fire department, that fire could have quickly raged across the field and into the next neighborhood.  As a matter of fact, the picture I show here was taken from my back yard.  If the wind had shifted, that fire could have easily been pushed in the direction of our neighborhood, and my emergency bug out plans might have been put to the test.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen, so i suppose things went pretty well.  I’ll be seeing the owners of the farm later today (we buy our eggs from them, and they’ve become friends), so I’ll see if they need help with anything.  Knowing them, they’re fine.  Seeing something like that though, makes you realize just how quickly things can turn bad.

So as I say it this time people, take it to heart.

Stay safe, everyone.  And I’ll do the same.  Bye

 

PS – Oh!  I forgot to mention it, but I’m featured in a YouTube “commercial” from the editing company I use.  Red Adept Editing is trying some new advertising and asked for some video testimonials.  They used mine as the first in their series.  Watch it here, and you’ll understand why I have the perfect face for writing.

Nov 252015
 

Bella typingHey everyone.  Bella here.  Dad’s been busy lately, what with this typey stuff and moving around in the big metal moving box and all that.  Last week we had some of the other members of the pack visiting from the old home, and that was fun, too.  But it also kept everybody busy and they didn’t pay enough attention to me and Cricket.  Today he’s off getting new round things put on the moving box, so I’m gonna try some more of the typey stuff for him.

The weather’s getting colder, so we don’t get to go on walks as much as we used to, but I guess that’s okay, because Cricket doesn’t like the cold like I do.  She’s more hound, and likes laying in the sun.   Dog

Me? I like the cold air.  It makes me frisky.  Dad says it’s because I’m part husky.   Dog 2  Whatever the reason, I really like it when the weather gets cooler.  And when that cold, white stuff falls on the ground, I really REALLY have fun running around in the big yard.  Dad says it’s coming again soon.  Yay!!  I hope he ordered a lot of it this year.

We’ve heard Mom and Dad talking about some special day coming up… something about a Thanks-turkey-giving day, or something like that.  We also heard them say that they weren’t going to give turkey this year.  They’re going to give buffalo instead.  (I’m not really sure what a turkey or buffalo is, but they say you can eat either one, so it’s all good by me.)

But we’ve also heard about the thanks part of that, and I think the way it works is that we list what we’re thankful for, and then we get to eat, right?  Well me and Cricket really like to eat, so we figure we’re going to get in on this action with our own list of things we’re thankful for.

  1. I already mentioned the cooler weather… wait, Cricket! I like it and I’m the one typing, so I can list it if I want!  Cooler Hotter Cooler weather.  Stop that!  You can make your own list!  Okay, then we compromise.  We really like the weather.  Just not always both of us at the same time.
  2. We’re thankful for our new home, with the big yard.  It’s so much nicer than the one we had before.  Now we can poop all over in the back, and it still seems like there’s lots of room left over.  At the old place, there was just a little grass, and it got tricky find enough room sometimes.
  3. We’re thankful for when we get to chase the moles and mouses and birds and stuff in the back yard.
  4. We’re thankful for finding dead stuff (like moles and mouses and birds) to roll in.
  5. We’re thankful for when Mom and Dad find the right stuff to bathe us in after stinky-spray-rat sprays us.  (Cricket, what did Mom and Dad call that thing?  Punk?  Runt? …  Skunk!  Yeah, that was it!  Skunk!  No, we’re definitely NOT thankful for skunk things!)
  6. We’re thankful for the walks in the morning and the evening. (Especially when it’s cooler…  STOP IT!!!)
  7. We’re thankful for the treats Mom puts in our food to make it tastier.
  8. We’re thankful for the other treats Mom and Dad give us when we’re good.  And when we get bathed (then again, I still don’t understand the whole bath thing.  I mean, we just get to smelling like us, and they throw us in the shower and rub that flowery, sudsy stuff all over us.  After that, we have to search around the back yard again looking for more dead stuff to roll in so we can smell like us again.  Sometimes humans don’t make much sense.)
  9. What else are we thankful for…?  Hmmm….  Oh!  The ball!  When Mom and Dad throw the ball in the yard!  Balls are fun!…  No, I don’t care if you can’t get your mouth around it, Cricket!  I like them!
  10. And scritches behind the ears… and on that perfect spot on the back, just above the tail… and tummy rubs.  Yeah, tummy rubs!  They’re the best!

…   …   …  I guess that’s about it.  Can’t think of anything else for now.  So is that good enough?  Can we eat now?  Can we?

Oh yeah.  Happy Thanks-turkey-giving day everybody!    Dog 2  Dog