Archives for category: Pets

Fifteen years ago, I started a job as Fundraising Events Manager for Philbrook Museum in Tulsa. My first event was for the holidays, named Festival of Trees, which was decades old at the time. As I learned my way around the museum and began to work with the staff, who were all called upon to help in various ways, I heard grumbling about working on this event. There was a definite problem.

My main focus became to make the work fun for everyone rather than something they dreaded. In a staff meeting, I commented that we weren’t doing brain surgery, we were planning parties. I’m also well aware that planning events is working with elements that you definitely can’t plan for as all kinds of things can go wrong. I told everyone that we should “Be festive, be flexible.” In other words, have fun with it and don’t get so set in our extreme planning that we couldn’t face the unknown things that would definitely pop up.

These words kind of became my mantra with one staff member even making a t-shirt so we would all remember.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe words served all my teams well through the following years, both at the museum and at Oklahoma State University, where I did the same kind of work with college students.

So, here I am today, facing Covid-19, and drawing on all my resources to get through the weeks ahead. I’m having to remind myself of the mantra daily.

First, there was the awful realization that I’m one of the elderly they keep talking about. I’m 74, but that wasn’t a term I applied to myself or my friends. It took a bit for that to sink in and become real.

Then, there was the fact that I’m basically pretty active and going all the time. I’ve felt like I was always running, trying to live my life as fully as I could, see as many places as I could, visit as many friends as I could, before that dreaded old age really did limit my movement in whatever way possible. I’m realistic enough to see that I don’t know when either my body or my mind or my money will prohibit me from doing so many things I love to do. I had just returned from visiting friends in France, traveling by myself, as the virus started to spread into our daily lives.

Who knew it would be a pandemic that would put me in restraints? I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, but not this, so it’s probably time for the virus of the century. My grandparents and my father were alive during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, so it’s time for my generation to experience this as history repeats itself yet again.

It started with a feeling of sheer terror, where I woke up in the night, frightened of all that was happening, waking from nightmares. Gradually, I began to realize that my terrors are the same they have always been. I want my children, their spouses, and my eight grandchildren to be safe. This has always been the source of my nightmares – trying to keep them safe when it was totally out of my control. I pray a lot these days. They are smart and seem to be following the rules, even the teenagers and young adults, who are the group most likely to think they are invincible. I have two grandchildren graduating from high school and one from college, who are missing those last months with friends and a nonstop calendar of activities. I hurt for them as they lose these times they were looking forward to, even as I know it will work out in the long run. I don’t know how yet, but it will be ok in the grand scheme of their lives.

Next is the scary feeling when you are around people in a store and have to stay far away from them. I haven’t been out much, and it’s getting to be less all the time, but there are people getting too close, disregarding everything we have been told. The last time I actually shopped, I had thrown a bandana and some cotton gloves into the car at the last minute. When I arrived at the store and saw the line, I put them on and was so glad, despite the looks I got.IMG_3551

I’ve made masks out of bandanas, discovered a box of gloves in the medicine cabinet, and have a go pack in my car of wipes, gloves, hat, masks. We do what we do.

And then there is the quieting of life, the thing I have most dreaded the past years while I was racing around and am finding it is just fine. I’m still having a hard time focusing, so I’m not reading or bingeing as much as I could. I don’t cook insanely for my self locked in. In fact, I’ve got more food around here than I have in years and still go for takeout to support my friends in the restaurant industry. I always knew I couldn’t live without peanut butter on a desert island and I’ve found it to be way too true. I’m stocked up.

The quiet is beginning to feel okay. I have my two dogs, ages 15 and 12, who are so glad to have me home. I’m taking walks which are delightful, even though I walked before. There seem to be more birds singing and the flowers are just beautiful in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s one of the prettiest Springs I can remember. I wish I could get into the Botanical Garden, the museums, The Gathering Place and see all the work their fabulous gardeners have done, but they are sending photos and videos online for us to enjoy.

People are out walking like never before. I’ve never seen some of the dogs being walked, so the animals must be delighted. People speak to each other on the street and smile. People sit in their front yards and on their porches like never before and wave and speak to you. Everyone is smiling, happy to be enjoying the fresh air.

Families are living together as they haven’t done in decades. No sports or after school lessons or activities or late night work to interrupt their time. As this strange time goes on, everyone seems to be taking a breath and realizing what they have been rushing around for is still right here at home.

People are getting creative. Stores and businesses are finding ways to keep going, although I know they are hurting. They are doing curbside pickup and online sales and bring to do it with a smile. Individuals are creating masks, delivery services, art projects, and so many ways to help each other get through these strange times.

We are so very lucky to be living now. This isn’t some medieval time where a plague is running through our village, wiping us all out before we even know what is happening. This isn’t a time when we can’t find out what is going on in the rest of the world until days later. All our news is instant, although we have learned to temper the 24/7 onslaught of information. We can check in and find out the latest.

Mostly, we can communicate with people like never before. We can still write letters, which is wonderful, but we can call, text, use social media like FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter, FaceTime or Skype, have Zoom meetings, and keep up with everyone we have ever known. It’s lifesaving to be able to reach out to other human beings around the neighborhood, the town or city, the state, country or world. We are all connected in this time in ways we never dreamed of even twenty years ago.

Teachers are amazing. My daughter-in-law is a nurse, so I have had my ten year old granddaughter here some of the time and had to help her with school work. The world of technology is bringing the classroom into our homes in ways we never knew. I’m so impressed with the children and the teachers and how it is all working, even as parents and grandparents have to learn how to navigate all the sites and monitor the lessons.

The earth seems to be healing without so many people out there wearing it down. I volunteer with the Sierra Club and have been concerned for years about what is happening to the planet.. Now I see pictures of places where the air and water are returning to their pre-human polluting state. This ought to be a lesson to all of us.

There is a part of me that thinks that Mother Earth sent us a virus to send us inside to heal while the planet healed itself from us. There are lessons to be learned from all that we are going through and I hope we remember them when this passes. Because, we should all have faith that it will.

In the meantime, we are all finding our own pace and our own way of coping. I hope you can all use my mantra and keep a smile on your face even while we are facing the unknown. Look for the positives, the helpers, the people who are making this work through the hard times. Be grateful if you are safe at home with loved ones. Be grateful for those who are out there keeping the world going. Be grateful for those who are taking care of the sick. These times are life and death, but life is somewhat of a festival at times with all the good and the bad that an event can bring.

Be Festive, Be Flexible. We will get through this with our personal strengths and with each other.

Here’s a Halloween treat for you.  I was driving on a rural Oklahoma road today and turned around on a dead end where there were three or four trailers that looked a little shady.  I don’t want to be judgmental here, but they could be people who are just down on their luck, meth dealers, independent souls, or whatever you can imagine.  While turning around, the last trailer had a large dog chained in the yard, jumping towards us, although not barking.  Just watching us.  As we went by the trailer, something caught my eye and I jerked my camera up to catch it, not even knowing if it was real or not.

Here’s what I saw.  DSC_0019I hope you can see the pink bow and the red nail polish on the fanciest living thing in the neighborhood.

Let me know what you think the story is…

Happy Halloween!

 

Nine years ago, I looked at my aging dog and thought I might want to get another one. On a whim, I called an ad in the newspaper and drove to look at a Labradoodle puppy, four months old. When I got there, she was sitting in the lap of the owner. I sat down on the lawn and she came over to me, I talked to her for a few minutes, and then she walked over to my car and stood there. Let’s go. I don’t think I’ve ever been picked by a dog before. I didn’t have much choice, did I?

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Good Golly Miss Molly is 9 years old today, my faithful, adoring friend. She is bigger than they told me she would be, sheds more than I thought, and is too smart for words. I have no idea the depth of her understanding of what is going on with me at any time, but it’s way more than people give her credit for.

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She’s the head of my menagerie, all who came after her. She has a little Westie for a sidekick, Annabel, an older friend, Wanda, who really belongs to my daughter-in-law, and two cats, Mickey and Guy. They all love her and follow her everywhere. Except Guy, who is a little more aloof.

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Today, I wish Molly a Happy 9th Birthday. I’m not sure I deserve such unconditional adoration. Does anybody? That’s why we love our furry families.

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Today’s the first real snow we’ve had in Tulsa in a year or so, a treat to cozy up inside and enjoy the calm it brings. Snowfall quiets everything down, mutes the sounds, takes the traffic off the street, forces us to stop rushing and sit back and reflect. I know there are the days when it freezes and we lose power and can’t move around the city, even when working people have to, but there is that time when it’s just softly falling and there’s no reason to do anything but enjoy it.

The fireplace is lit, hot chocolate in the mug, soup on the stove, and nothing but quiet outside.

Except my dog, Molly, short for Good Golly Miss Molly, who wonders why I’m not out running with her in the 20 degree weather.

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Now the cats and dogs are curled up, and my mind is racing back to all the snowy days of my life. My childhood when we sledded and made snow angels and snowmen and had snowball fights and drank hot chocolate and ate snow ice cream. How idyllic it was in the 1950s. It’s fun to fast forward to my own children, doing the same things, bundled up in mittens and snow suits…

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and still playing as teens…

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and then on to my grandchildren enjoying their first snowfalls…

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Sledding at Mimi's

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I can’t believe I have to look back to see them as babies. They grow up so fast. Sigh.

Later, I’m going to bundle up and go play outside, even for a short time. Because it’s still magic and I still can…

Fall used to mean hunting season in my family. My grandfather started hunting as a boy in Kentucky and must have hunted for 60 or 70 years. After being in Kentucky, I picture him with his brother, bringing home a mess of birds for the family dinner. He taught my father to hunt and my father taught my brother and then my husband who taught my son.

Not everyone in the family loved it, but those who did loved it with a passion. It was the whole experience that they loved, I think. They were bird hunters, quail mostly. My grandfather hunted pheasant, too, and my husband and father went on a couple of prairie chicken hunts. My husband hunted duck about once before he gave that up as not the same experience. And dove hunts came later.

First, there were the dogs, pointers and setters, smart and loyal to the end. I remember a long line of hunting dogs through my life with short names to call them easily in the fields. Buddy, Guy, Tim, and our favorite name of all, Grandpa. My daddy got Grandpa from a man who had named him that because he thought he acted like an old grandpa. We always delighted in calling “Grandpa” to bring him home. When my husband died, he left me with Tim, the ever loyal and loving English Setter who was his last hunting pal. When I finally felt he needed to be where he could hunt and run, I gave him to one of the men who had hunted with them often. Tim looked at me once before he left that day and then jumped up with his paws on my shoulders to look me in the eye as if to tell me Thank You. It was a moving moment with a sweet dog.

You couldn’t hunt quail very well without the dogs, so they worked with them all the time. Before hunting season even began, there were the days when they just went to run the dogs and get them ready. I think the men just liked to watch them work, running the fields with such abandon, spanning out for a mile and returning quickly at the sound of the whistle. It was all part of the experience.

Here’s one that must have belonged to my grandfather, maybe to my father, way back when.

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Finding a field to hunt was another ritual. My husband spent a lot of time looking for fields that were likely places and checking with the owners to see if it was allowed. For a long time, he and my father had private use of a property about an hour away where they hunted and our family fished the pond. Later, when my father had quit, he hunted with buddies in rural areas in northern Oklahoma. They knew all the hunters in the county and found lots of good places.

The night before the hunt was spent on the phone making the arrangements, oiling the gun and boots, packing the vehicle, a pickup in later years, laying out the clothes, the jackets with pockets for shells and game. It was a ritual, part of the deal.

I could hear him leave in the morning with his thermos of coffee, the only time he liked to get up early being for a hunt. I could hear him say “Kennel” and the dog would jump into the back of the truck or car, ready to go, tail wagging. Time to drive through the dark to reach the fields at dawn.

Dove hunts started September 1 in Oklahoma and you need as many hunters as you could to work a field. No dogs on this one. Quail hunts were smaller with as many dogs as you trusted to do the job. Walking those fields on cold fall mornings breathed life into the hunters I knew. They loved bringing home the game, but they loved being outdoors walking, working the dogs, watching the birds fly just as much. On the days when they came home almost empty handed, there was the same excitement because of the day they’d had.

Another ritual was the hunters’ breakfast in small rural towns, filled with hunters coming in after the first run of the morning, telling the stories, eating the huge breakfasts provided at bargain rates in those great little cafes. It was another part of the deal.

Then there was the homecoming, cleaning the birds, cleaning the gun for the next time, cleaning the mud off the boots, packing away the jackets and gear. My husband even liked to cook the game, using his Hasty-Bake in its finest way. He got a great dove recipe from someone he met in a field and we couldn’t wait. I can’t tell you how I miss having game to eat these days.

Some people don’t like hunting in any form, but it was such a part of my family that I understood. They were actually some of the greatest conservationists I knew since the last thing they wanted was for a species to be over hunted.

This fall, as I drive through the countryside, I study those fields and imagine the men I loved walking through them with the dogs running ahead. I understand their love of the land, of the rituals, of the season, of the hunt. I miss all of it. I miss them.

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My office opens onto a deck through glass doors and windows. In the deck, about two feet from the door sits a large Sycamore tree, one that I hope to keep there for a long time although it’s leaning towards me more and more. I had the deck built around it because I love the shade of its big leaves.

There’s usually not much going on in the office, so the dogs are asleep and the cats are asleep either inside or out. But, sometimes, in all this tranquility, the dogs will leap to their feet in a frenzy, jumping in the air with excitement. If I’m there, I turn and see the cause…

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…a frisky squirrel, who flicks his tail and chatters to torment them in every which way. He even peeks at me with an impish look, knowing the glass protects him…

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He turns to watch the cat…

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who is watching him, although not inclined to make a move. That will wait until he can stalk..

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With the dogs at frenzy state, I open the doors for them to rush out, barking madly, jumping at the tree in excitement. The squirrel jumps on the roof and runs away, my big dog gives a sigh, and they all go back to what they were doing.

Such is excitement on a hot day…

I don’t remember being afraid of too much until I became a parent.  Maybe I was and those fears were minor compared to the ones that come with parenthood.  Or, maybe, they come with seeing the real world for all its dangers.  I’m talking about those moments when your brain goes berserk with all the possibilities that are out of your control, those times when your imagination takes over reason and you are actually experiencing real symptoms of fear.  Pacing.  Sweating.  Heart racing. Nerves on edge.  Sleeplessness.  That feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Out of control.

There are times when you should be afraid, should know that there may be danger out there.  I’m talking about the fear that comes when you really have no specific reason to think the worst, to imagine the worst case scenario.  This was all brought home to me when one of my cats disappeared, not even for a very long time.  He had an infection and had a shot of antibiotics.  He went outside, which he does every night, and didn’t come back first thing in the morning.  Did a fox get him?  Did he get hit by a car?  Did he get catnapped?  Totally irrational, because he has done this before, but very real on my part.

It’s like the times your child comes home later than expected or you can’t reach a child at college (this was before cell phones and internet).  All the possible horrible things you can imagine come to mind.  The human mind is a tricky thing.  So is the human heart.  The worst things that have happened to me weren’t preceded by this sudden feeling of being out of control.  They were shocks, but they weren’t sudden.  They had been coming for awhile.  Sometimes you feel something isn’t right, but you don’t get these crazy thoughts.  These are different.

The good thing about these times when you have let your imagination fly into the worst places is that the object of the fear returns or call, usually with no knowledge of your fear, and the sense of relief is as physical as the fear was.  Sometimes followed by embarrassment that you let your mind go so crazy.  In my latest case, the cat came sauntering down the street, came when I called and looked at me like “What?!”  Probably rolled his eyes, at least to himself.  Just like kids.

Our brains are interesting organs, crammed with knowledge, capable of incredible imagination, storage place for all sorts of emotions.  These crazy fears are like bad dreams…maybe not as bad.  At least an incident triggered this bout.  I don’t know if this kind of thing is from love, guilt that you weren’t doing your job, or somewhat of a mixture.  I’m not going to go any crazier about it than I already have!  Everybody is in the right place for now.

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