We need rain. Lots of steady rain for days and days. Yards are like deserts here in New England, with dust scuffing up to form low-lying clouds as animals and people walk or run across them. Faint whispers of the Dust Bowl years. No point in mowing as there is nothing to mow. Dry leaves, shriveled burnt grass that barely had time to turn green this spring before it withered and dried out from thirst.

The sun and blue skies have been glorious after winter, raising spirits beaten down by the long gloom. The rush of exhilaration every morning when the brightness meets our eyes – there is nothing quite like it except in the fleeting yellow-gold daffodils that have already gone by and dried as miserably as the grass. We fear the threat of brush and forest fires, fret over farm crop prospects, pray for the rain, but nonetheless still cheerfully greet the morning sun and blue sky that has such power to lighten our hearts.

I recall as a child that the gray-blue skies bringing rain were a pleasure to me. I loved the sound of the falling rain, the power of thunder and lightning. Sometime along the years stretching over six decades, the joy of the rain passed away, replaced by sadness and gloom relentlessly settling in whenever the steel-gray clouds slid closed across the sky. Yes, we need rain but it is hard to endure the oppressive, dulling darkness that inevitably accompanies the watering of the earth.

It reminds one of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the Canadian author of Anne of Green Gables, and the annual fear that settled on her soul as brilliant autumn progressed into winter gray. She wrote in her Journals of her dread as winter bore down, the days growing dark and short. Her spirits only lifted again with the advent of spring and bright sunlight.

The light drizzles we had over the past forty-eight hours, and then the more intense but not too prolonged downpour today, may have moistened and softened the earth enough that it will be able to soak up what rain comes next. We don’t need floods from too much rain and dirt hardened like stone. Bring on the thunderstorms tonight with intermittent showers.

Then over the weekend we can welcome a few days of long steady rain to give the fields and forests a good soak. It will bring the grass and flowers back to life, as well as replenish the rivers, lakes, reservoirs and wells. We will be thankful for the rain and remain patiently waiting for the sun to reappear.


Maggie – At It Again

So this past week my husband walked out of our bedroom into the hallway, only to be confronted by Maggie in his path staring up at him with horrified eyes. In her mouth was the corner of the very new Queen-King sized quilt from the bed in the guest room at the far end of the hall. Need I add that the whole diagonal length of the quilt was trailing the length of the hall behind Maggie?

Her mouth opened and the quilt corner slipped down to floor level with the rest of the quilt. Maggie’s eyes told Mark “You didn’t just see what you saw, Dad. I didn’t do it.”

She apparently had decided the quilt would look better on her doggie bed in our room, where she could also chew her way through it at her leisure. How I wish we had a video of her pulling it off the bed and dragging it down the hall only to run into Pop at our bedroom doorway.

Right now she is driving me crazy with batches of staples in her mouth. I rescued an empty staple box from her mouth earlier today and could not find any staples strewn about anywhere. Suddenly ten minutes ago she was munching staples. I had to get a cookie to get her to drop the staples, which I scooped up and put on the counter, looking around the floors for more in vain.

No sooner did I sit down to my computer than she walked around the back of the sofa with another mouth full of staples. The other half of the cookie came out of my pocket and we made the trade. After looking behind the sofa and finding nothing, I sat down again at computer. This occurred two more times. I have run out of cookies and cannot locate the hiding place.

She is currently lying on the floor four feet away with another strip of staples under her chin. She sat there staring at me first and when I ignored her and no cookie was forthcoming she put the strip of staples down and rested her head on it.

Aha! She just sat up to chew an itch and I sprang over to scoop up the staples before she knew what was happening. Now she has disappeared goodness knows where and I fear she will return shortly with more staples. Time to refill the cookie jar. I swear I do not know why this dog has not accidentally committed suicide yet.

Yay! She’s back and has nothing in her mouth. The staple stash must be empty at last.

I keep emailing the breeder to ask if we can return her and get a refund, but they keep saying no.


The Little House of Horrors in Chardon, Ohio.

Like most people this past Monday I was terribly saddened by the shooting at Chardon High School, outside Cleaveland, Ohio.  The knee jerk reaction of the public,  and media was that it must have been caused by bullying.   The alleged perpetrator, Thomas “T.J.” Lane, appeared to be a small and frail, actually emaciated teenager with a vulnerable bearing who might easily be targeted by more robust and self-confident students.  I never saw or heard anything of his parents or siblings.

The more I saw of him in police custody videos and photos posted on news programs the more I was struck by how extremely emaciated, pale and gaunt he appeared and how little affect his facial expression showed.  As the weekdays passed, the talk of bullying faded away, leaving a void of silence.  One by one others of the victims died.  We waited to hear some hint, some detail that would answer the question “Why?” but nothing leaked out of the police investigation and nothing was forthcoming from students and faculty.  And there was still no sign of T.J. Lane’s family on the horizon, not even behind a closed front door or a window curtain.

Something was seriously not right with that child, and it did not have to do with school bullying.  Then yesterday on the TV news I saw and heard about the arraignment hearing, the standard initial ruling in such cases that the case would be handled in juvenile court, although the prosecutor would be making a motion to move it to adult court.  The video showed T.J. Lane  looking scrawny, pale and like a whipped puppy.  Then the reporter made a comment that caught my attention, something about a hint from law enforcement that perhaps the case would be kept in juvenile court because of what T.J. had said or how he had behaved during questioning.  Nothing more than that.  A fleeting whisper of something untoward, something seriously not right with the frail, hollow eyed boy.

This morning on Fox News the clues to what created T.J. Lane and the tragedy at Chardon High School began to fall into place.  A reporter had gone to find a house that T.J.’s family had lived in for years which is now empty and abandoned.  A neighbor was interviewed who commented that the Lane children were never seen outdoors playing in the yard or neighborhood as long as they lived there.  The house was a small, rundown white box of a ranch style home that reminded me of shack, it was so worn looking and the yard overgrown with grass and weeds.

The reporter went into the open house and found the interior a mess as well but that is not unusual in an abandoned, substandard home.  The horror was that on the children’s bedroom doors were heavy duty unlocked padlocks hanging on their latches, grim testimony of how T.J. and his siblings grew up when they were not actually in attendance at school.  The children were never seen playing outside because they were padlocked into their rooms all the time.

Think on it.  Think about what else those parents probably perpetrated on those children besides locking them away from sunlight and normal human interaction.  Wonder what, if anything, they were fed, what the level of boredom and inactivity did to their minds as well as their bodies.  What physical abuse were they subjected to?  That boy grew up starved for food, love, fresh air and sun, and normal human interaction, locked inside a prison.

The reporter went on to say that information has come out indicating T.J. had a girlfriend who broke off their relationship recently, and that one of the boys shot on Monday was her new interest.  If that is proven to be the case,  one can imagine that for T.J. a normal, empathetic human relationship with a girl was a miraculous lifeline he grabbed to save himself from complete madness and the little house of horrors he had existed in probably from birth.  The severance of that lifeline was beyond bearing for a child raised the way he had been, and I suspect whatever was left of his psyche broke beneath the weight of it.  Perhaps speculative, but looking more and more likely as time passes and evidence accumulates.

The questioning void appears to be filling up now with information. Although there may have been some teasing involved, perhaps a joke or two in passing about someone losing a girl friend, there certainly appears to have been much more to this tragedy than the original conclusion so many of us wanted to jump to back on Monday.   The new questions  waiting to be answered are “Why did no one figure this out before now and save the Lane children?” and “What was wrong with the Lane parents in the first place that they treated their children this way?”

I will never forget the emaciated arms and legs, the hollow eyed gaunt and gawky face of T.J. Lane, the shack with padlocks on the bedroom doors, or the children who are wounded and dead from Chardon High School.  And I fear for T.J. Lane if and when he realizes what he has done to his innocent school mates, most likely because of what his parents may have done to him.  Twenty three years as a State Trooper tells me that there are thousands of T.J. Lanes out there looking for that lifeline in order to maintain or regain their sanity, and there is no end in sight of more such children being raised in our midst.




Nibbles Do Count

Maggie is fretting over my toes this morning while I drink my coffee and check email.  If I move my feet away from her, she reaches out with a paw and claws my left foot back into range.  Kind of like financial crime prosecutors trying to “claw back” what was swindled away.  Her claws are less than gentle, much more successful at their job than prosecutors, and I have to admonish her to knock it off.  The brown eyes look up at me woefully puzzled and she returns to worrying over my toes.  Suddenly I feel the teeth nibbling away and sternly tell her “No bites!”  The ears perk as her head snaps upward towards me and the eyes give me a slightly steely gaze as if to defiantly say “Nibbles don’t count, Mom!”

Yes, Maggie, nibbles do count.  Bites are bites no matter what size they are.  We have been at this since the first week of November 2011, when we first brought Maggie home at eight weeks of age.  She is a black Lab puppy with all the quintessential Labrador Retriever personality traits to go along with her webbed toes for swimming. Chewing, of course, is paramount.

In anticipation of the toothy onslaught my home was going to suffer, I had purchased some modern, new “gnawing defense” systems, one of which is a batch of red pepper scented stickies for furniture legs.  What could be simpler?  Almost anything.  The minimalist instruction sheet was about two inches by three inches containing few coherent words.   The demo pictures all looked identical. I spent an hour trying to figure out which side to peel and stick and which was to remain covered facing out to make the dog sneeze and back off.  After successfully applying two stickies to one side table, I decided to revert to my tried and true method of combatting the compulsive chewing of Lab puppies and ran around dragging out all the stored laundry baskets of bones and dog toys accumulated over a lifetime of bringing home rescued dogs from the Little Guild and ARF.

The bones and toys did the trick protecting our furniture, shoes and baseboards.  Having innumerable “legal” chew toys available to shove in the puppy mouth every time it embraces a table leg makes life much easier.  When they gnaw on the human beings in house a gentle holding of their mouths closed with the admonition “No bites” has always been highly effective for me to convey the idea that it is not okay to bite or chew on the living.  But it has been thirty years since we last raised a puppy.

Maggie figured out the correction fairly quickly, although she gets carried away and backslides in moments of frolicking juvenile enthusiasm.  A quick “No bites!” returns her to semi-sanity, but the underlying mischievous Lab puppy continues to undermine our best efforts.  She gives us the hairy eyeball, reaches out her nose and keeping her tiny front teeth close together presses them up against the human hand, arm, leg or foot and begins rapidly nibbling away with tiny pinches, rather like a chattering reciprocating saw, while staring up at us with those eyes.  Daring us to object to such a tiny little variation on the biting theme.  She just cannot believe that nibbles count as much as “real” bites do.  So here we are at six months of age, still debating the significance of nibbles over my morning coffee, although the small demonstration of rebellion has noticeably subsided in frequency.  Shades of my three children years ago pushing the envelope, trying to find a “legal” way around parental edicts.  Some things never change and the battle over whether or not nibbles count for puppies is one of the more amusing.