Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lessons from Starlings....

This spring, from the middle of May, to the middle of June, I was away from home.  I've already written a lot about my voyage north and the wonderful happenings and eye-opening growth that happened to me, but now, I want to tell you a little bit about what I left at home. In Oklahoma. With Bikeman.

I am sure that you remember the devastating news about the horrible destructive storms that blew thru Joplin, Missouri mid-May. The worst tornado in the history of the US.  That same night, around the tri-state area, storms also damaged trees and property, certainly not the extent of the Joplin area, but nonetheless tree limbs down and roof shingles blown away.

The next morning, I was relieved to hear that our town of Tahlequah was unscathed, and that Dear Husband Bikeman had slept thru most of the sturm und drang.

I did get an early morning call from him, however. It seems that, when he opened the back door, there on the deck was a very bedraggled tiny black baby bird. Bikeman immediately started in with, "WHAT do I DO with this BIRD??  Just because I've seen YOU do this for the past 40 years doesn't mean I've been paying attention."

"Call Denise," I told him. She has a cage and everything."

"WHAT do I FEED him? I don't want this baby bird!" He was getting kind of frantic.

"Call Denise.  She will be more than Glad to take him off your hands. This will not be a problem for her."

"Do I dig for worms? Where is that box that you keep these babies in?"

"If you can't get ahold of Denise, call Susan. She and her daughter will LOVE caring for him. Here's the number right here."

"I can DO this. If you'll just TELL me how to do this. Now where is that box and what do I feed him?"

And so, I instructed him on how to moisten some dry cat food, and where to find some tweezers. Box is in the storage barn.  Newspapers in recycle bin to line the box.  

He called me daily with updates. He named him Pub.  And he dug for worms out on the east side of the house. I later learned that he washed the worms before he fed them to Pub.

Once the worms ran out on the east side of the house, Bikeman went to WalMart and bought worms for Pub.  He called with daily, sometimes hourly reports.  He learned that, soon as Pub ate, well, something came out the "other" end. Have I mentioned that I married a man who is very much like the tv character Monk?  Um, yeh.  Bikeman does not get dirty. Nor does he like anything dirty in his presence. Bird poo certainly qualifies as dirty, and I am sure that he went thru several cases of paper towels as Pub ate and, uh,   grew.....                                                                                                                     

As the baby bird lost some of his downy feathers and grew in some of his big boy feathers, I reminded Bikeman that he needed to give him some "flying lessons." So he carefully held onto the bird's feet, and swooped him up into the air a bit, forcing those little wings to spring out and flap in pseudo flight. When he did this, Bikeman noted that "one wing isn't working like the other."                                                                                                 

Hmmmm....That didn't sound very good.  But I encouraged him to keep up with the physical therapy, and daily they would sit outside, Bikeman checking his email on his phone, Pub walking about the yard, pecking and exercising and doing "bird activities."

The expenses rose considerably as more worms were consumed, necessitating more paper towels.  Then, of course, there was the "time" element. Couldn't get too far away for too long a time.  Birds need to eat about every 2 hours.  So bicycle treks were limited to "doing the Loop" or other short routes that did not require endless hours away from home.

Pub spent his days in the big cage that Denise brought over. And, of course, roaming the backyard during their PT sessions.  But Bikeman still insisted that the bird come inside at night, sleeping in the smaller box in the bedroom. "Just in case he stirs at night, I can hear him."   He was Bikeman's constant companion for over 2 weeks, and  Bikeman protested quite a bit that he did not want a bird, and asked me countless times when this bird would be "old enough to fly away."

My friends and I giggled that he was going to teach Pub to hold onto his bicycle handlebars, and, well....we would have ourselves a permanent resident added to our menagerie.

After about 2 1/2 weeks, I received an early morning call from Bikeman. You know how, after 40 years of marriage, your soulmate can walk into the house and you immediately know if he's had a happy day or a lousy day....Nothing needs to be said, the very air around him can be accurately interpreted when you've been best friends that long.
I knew when the phone rang, that Something was Wrong.

His voice came in short gasps. He was overcome with grief and sorrow. He was struggling to breathe and grasping desperately for my consolation and my very presence. I was twelve hundred miles away, and helpless to wrap my arms around him and tell him peace, alliswell, be still, our God is in control.

Bikeman had opened Pub's cage that morning, and the baby bird was still and cold in his man-made nest. He'd eaten just fine the night before, everything was as it had been all along. But his work here on this planet was finished, and it was time for him to move on.

For two and a half weeks, Pub brought to Bikeman gifts that he had never even thought to open. And he opened these gifts daily, several times a day.  Gifts of being able to serve one so small, to see the wonder in tiny feathers, to sit outside and enjoy the sun and just "be," to plunge his fingers into the Earth for worms and grubs, to recognize the songs of adult starlings, to marvel at the flight of birds, to hold the diminutive feet clinched around his fingers.

And then, just as quickly as he appeared, Pub was gone. He is buried on the east side of the house. Near HanktheCowdog and the Sunnybank rosebush. His spirit remains in the heart of Bikeman, I believe. And his heart has grown bigger and kinder and more understanding since the entry of this little, baby Starling gift.

I received this email later in the day:

Subject: hello

Well, it's 9:15 pm your time. Hope you are in safe someplace and resting. I know you have a bunch of dogs to bed down for the night. Busy.

I'm doing well. Thanks for your support this morning; it meant alot to me. We possess anger, fear, sadness, greed, hatred, all the bad things, we spend alot of our time keeping them suppressed. It only takes a little Starling to bring out our deep-felt, storehouse of carefully guarded feelings.

Somewhat embarrassing for a man. Men are not supposed to like cats, little birds, Mozart, etc., however, Pub was a great teacher. He reminded me about patience, love, hope, caring; a privilege to see the world through the eyes of a starling. A small life with great power to make you laugh or cry. I will like Starlings.

All that said, thanks for listening.

I love you, me

Saturday, July 23, 2011

4th of July in Oklahoma City

Sooooo....What did we do over the 4th of July weekend?  Why, a dawgshow, of course!  One of the biggest in the state!  Ah, but...There were only 2 Collies entered (I guess it's just toooo hot for those rough coats AND perhaps the pro handlers wanna spend some time with their families or at least take the day off for this midsummer holiday.
Well, Cubbie was the only "class" dog (which means he was the only dog in the "unfinished Champion class), so, of course, we took Winners Dog. THEN we went in with the "special" who is the litter sister to this beautiful bitch

Here we are getting ready to go into the big room with the show ring.

Waiting is a major part of any dog show....Prosper needs to be able to DO something......

He did quite well in the Breed Ring...however, there's not many judges who will put up a Class Dog over a Special (a Finished Champion), especially when there's only TWO in the competition....But it was good Ring Experience.

The MAIN reason we were in OKCity was because our local Freestyle club the Canine Twisters was asked to come dance some Freestyle demos between the Group judging.  The theme was "Sailing Away," so we all chose those themes for our music.  I got out my South Pacific tunes last month, and decided on "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy" for James and "Honey Bun" for Prosper.  No videos of those one-minute performances, but suffice it to say, they were ON!  Really ON! These guys Love to dance, and are so comfortable with an audience. 

Now, if you remember the South Pacific production, you will recall that "Honey Bun" is danced w/the girl dressed as a sailor, the sailor dressed as a "girl" w/hula skirt and coconut...uh...okay...coconut boobs...Prosper had NO Problem wearing that costume, tho one could barely see the want to volunteer to come with me and shoot away?!!!

On Saturday, our times to dance were longer,because ESPN was there to film it. The request came about for James and me to dance to our "Why Did I Choose You?" routine.   He was just wonderful!  And, as you can see from the video, he entered the ring like he OWNed it. 

The video was taken by a person that I had Just Met!  I just gave her my camera and asked to to "shoot away!" 

 The following still shots were taken by my friend Linda Earley 
( here's her facebook site:!/profile.php?id=725994843  ).
She lives in Edmond, OK, and follows us Freestylers whenever we are in her "neighborhood."  

Dunno if I put them in "order," but you kinda get the feeling of the joy and the bond here....The song, by Barbara Streisand, starts out, "Why did I choose you?  What could you offer me? I saw the heart you hide so well. I saw a Quiet man (James woofs!), who had a Gentle way (he pops up on back of me), a way that caught me in its glowing spell...."  Well, you kinda get the picture.  And while we are dancing, all the wonderful memories of our life together come cascading down upon me, and it only made it better....

ALL the "ifs" in our lives....What IF I had not chosen this puppy out of This litter....How very Very sad I was a year later that I HAD chosen him, because his eye checks were horrible....What a rollercoaster ride of dominance and strong wills and stubborn hearts....And what a magnificent creature to be able to house within my walls....Ah, well, I could write until dark about this Collie, but I will spare you the sap and goo....Here's the pictures....

Oh, yes.....If I had to choose again....Yes, I would still, Always, FOREVER....choose James...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Tour, The Workshop, The Piece of Heaven!

Wow....2 posts in 2 days.  It MUST be hot out, and there's not much else to do except read and maybe write....So, here I go, with more "catchup" posts from the past few months.

FIRST of all, do you know what Time of Year this is? is the Tour de France season....and I should be thankful that it is only 3 weeks out of the year instead of those poor football widows who endure months and Months of crowds screaming on the tv...

Actually, I kinda Like watching the Tour...even tho it is not as exciting w/out Lance.  It is a Dream of ours to someday go over to Europe during the Tour, park our van, and camp out, waiting for the bicycles to speed past. Then drive on to the next stage....SOMEday....

ANYway.....After the Exciting THREE POINT MAJOR!!! Brenda and I headed north towards Vermont and Dog Camp.  We went up a couple of days early to attend an Animal Communication Workshop with Barbara Janelle. 

This is the 3rd year for this group of people to meet and learn as Much as they can from Barbara (you can link to her webpage by looking beside this post). Each year, I see such incredible Growth and insight in me during these workshops, so I have made it a priority to attend.

THIS year, Barbara told me that it was time to "hang out my shingle".....meaning that I am "getting it"....Wow, thatsa very huge step forward for me, and I must admit, I have been turning it over and Over in my heart for the past month.....So...if you have any animal that you want me to connect with, lemme know....I could use the practice.... 

On Saturday night we always meet for supper at a pub nearby in Putney, VT. Laughter is the main course. The founder of Camp, Honey Loring (now retired), lives right across the road from the pub, and she always joins us.  Here's Honey and Barbara together!  I just love these two women!

 I think Barbara was choking here....She got so tickled at some of our stories....

Back at the workshop, here's a picture of Lisa and her puppy. Did I mention that this was a pretty relaxing weekend?!

Here's a few pictures from Dog Camp.  This was my 7th year, and, well, I didn't take very many pictures.  Mostly I just "did" instead of trying to document.  Sad, I know.  But there Were some folks there w/some very nice cameras, and I bought a few pictures from them.
We only took ONE van this year!  Yeh, that's right....SIX Collies and all our gear, plus stuff to give to the Silent Auction.  This is probably the Last year we can do this, as we add to our packs in the future....especially Brenda....Needless to say, the ride up was really fun, because we got to talk the whole time! The dogs all ride quite well, stuffed in like furry sausages, and friend Maureen took up some of the slack on hauling our gear and Brenda's little girl Collie, Khylie.

                                                                DANCE CLASS

Here's some pictures of our room. We will Never receive the "clean camper" award....(no such anyway!), but we lived like Queens in our dorm, and slept like very tired puppies.

Can you guess which one is MY bed?  Leash-making bag? Rocket Dog shoes? Pink duvet?!

I was very deliberate in making sure the boyz were well hydrated....And no, they did Not touch the metal spout.  Don't want them to get germs....

My friend Nan did not bring her Collie Robbie to Camp this year...He was getting quite fragile, and she thought that keeping him at home might be the best decision. As it was, Robbie passed on not too long after Camp was over....

Here's pictures of Nan and her yellow Labrador, Sally.  Sally is only 9 years old, but was battling cancer. By Tuesday of Camp, Nan knew that Sally's time had come. She took her in to a trusted vet nearby, and helped her pass over, coming back to her dorm to an empty crate and dogfood that would not be needed....

Nan remained at Camp for the rest of the week. I mean, after all, what Better Place to be than surrounded by loving friends who understand Completely what she was going thru....

After a couple of days, she took Brenda up on her offer to take Duncan (Brenda's tricolor Collie who is a workaholic), and they set off for Dance Class.  It was beautiful to see them together....Beautiful and heart-wrenching....Duncan working his magic as only a Collie can do, dancing and heeling and giving her his rapt attention. On Friday night, Nan and Duncan even demo'd a bit of Freestyle with the rest of us.

Of Course we always take walks in the Vermont woods.  This year, I felt comfortable enough with their good recalls to allow both boys off lead. Rocks are very good stopping points for Mom to snap a picture or two.

This big golden boy is Fiero
This big golden boy is Fiero.  Brenda's new Collie puppy. He's about 6 mos old, and Camp has offered him Lots of chances to experience new things.  In this picture, she is treating Fee as he is looking and listening to some Very Scary construction going on around the campus. What a great opportunity for him to get positive strokes when things don't seem so normal and everyday.

Do you see the futility in this picture?!  Do I have this dog's attention?  Is he even in the same Time Zone as I am in?  What you are viewing is a brief moment in time where this blue boy was actually Quiet whilst watching the other dogs have their turn herding the sheep. Prosper couldn't wait. He Couln't.  He Could NOT Wait!  And he pitched a whining, barking, tap-dancing FIT.....The Super-embarrassed dog trainer was attempting to turn him around to Good Behavior, but, as you can see, he wasn't listening. At. All.

So, the First thing a dog must do before he gets to chase the sheep is "Down!"  Got that one just fine.

And then, he's off!  Dude looks like he Knows what to do....My sister gets a bit maudlin and speaks about his "ancestors harkening to his spirit" and telling him what hundreds of generations before him were bred to do......

 I DO believe that he thinks he can go Faster than this....
 And he can turn on a dime, give you 9 cents change....
And, well, if they Don't get in line, he Can get Serious.....Can you Believe this is my liddle wolf cubbie baring those teeth?!

The last day of camp, as we were packing up, it rained.  We'd packed up our rain gear, so we found alternative "coats" to wear.....

Drying off in the dining hall.....Nothing seems to dampen our spirits at Camp.....except maybe leaving....Until next year, my friends...When, once again, for a Magical Week, a small liberal arts college campus turns into Heaven on Earth....My deposit is paid....My savings account has begun once again.....But, now, it is time to head South towards this beautiful face:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Benches and Robins and Slides and Best of Winners!

Trying to play Catch Up after several months of virtual "silence".......I was Hoping to do it All in one fell post, but, well....eyes bigger than stomach..... I tell my Dog Obedience students....."How does one eat an elephant?"

One bite at a time.  Not that I would ever want to actually Eat an elephant, but you get the picture.

And speaking of pictures, I've downloaded Tons of pictures, even fixed supper whilst they downloaded---it took so very long....

So, I guess, I will begin with what is very close to my heart.  Baden.  The Reason that I am in This Place in my Life at this moment.  Baden. My First Collie. The one who gently moved me from whoIwas to whoIamnow....I think whoIamnow is a Great Improvement.

Baden came into our lives 13 years ago. A dear friend found him at the local pound.  Turned in as a "stray."  Weighing 40 pounds, fur (what little there was) matted and stringy.  He did not know that the World was a Good Place to be.

My sister likes to say, in the words of James Herriott, how my shampoos and potions and healthy diet "certainly made a difference in this dog, don't you think, Mr. 'erriott?"  Certainly Love and Good Food helped us to unveil the beautiful spirit that was within this sable and snow treasure.  And Baden thrived under our minstrations. He was one of the very best ambassadors of the Collie breed.  For dogs in general, actually.

Baden graduated from this Life in March this year.  With the help of  Dr. Amber Horn he was able to ease on out in peace and great comfort. I shall always be grateful to Dr. Horn for her kind and understanding heart.

We chose to have him cremated, and I ordered a garden bench with his name engraved on it from Mr. Dobson. (those of you who live in or near Tahlequah, I strongly suggest you visit his place for some of the coolest statuary and best prices I've ever seen). 

Last week, we got the bench, and Rob and I installed it beside the tree that Bay loved to lie under.  I AWAYS fussed at him for digging there (to find the coolest spot)....Went out the next morning, SOMEone had dug under the bench..(neither James nor Prosper dig AT ALL)..

If you are wondering at the inscription, it comes from one of my most beloved Collie books by Albert Payson Terhune, Lad, a Dog.......

"We buried Lad in a small, sunlit nook that had been his favorite lounging place, close to the house he had guarded so long and so gallantly. With him, we buried his honorary Red Cross and Blue Cross---awards for money raised in his n...ame. Above his head we set a low granite block, with a carven line or two theron. The Mistress wanted the block inscribed: "The Dearest Dog!" I suggested: "The Dog God Made." But we decided against both epitaphs. We did not care to risk making our dear old friend's memory ridiculous by words at which saner folk might one day sneer. So on the granite is engraved: LAD THOROUGHBRED IN BODY AND SOUL..... Some people are wise enough to know that a dog has no soul. These will find ample theme for mirth in our foolish inscription. But no one, who knew Lad, will laugh at it......"

Earlier this spring, Robins made a nest in that tree.  It was almost at eye level.  I was even able to feed Mama Robin worms several times.

Enroute to Camp in May, I stopped by to see the grandchildren in Little Rock.  Bailey Rose got new glasses.

I pulled one of Isaac's teeth.....I told him Not to smile....

In June, our baby daughter and her family came down for the weekend so that she could attend her high school choir reunion. She spent Thurs, Fri, and Sat in rehearsal.  Concert was Saturday night.  Bikeman and soninlove rode bicycles, then son played golf while Bikeman played in the symphony. was ALL UP TO GrandTone to watch the children.  TWIST my arm!  FORCE my hand!! Pleeeeease don't throw me in that Briarpatch!  The only downside was that those darn kids wanted to waste my time SLEEPing.....Yeh....9 pm bedtime, and an afternoon nap for 3-yr-old Sam.....

Of course, we are in the midst of a Major Heatwave, so there's not much you can do with children outside that doesn't involve water.  I have a wonderful friend who loaned me her blowup waterslide. Needless to say, I am officially the Coolest GrandTone EVER!

(As Bikeman and I were un-packing the slide and setting it up, Grace breathed a huge sigh, looked at the picture on the box, and said, "I've been waiting ALL MY LIFE for this!").

 The slide has a cannon on the bottom.  Perfect for liddle boys who need to blast their sister when she plummets downward.....

 James was TERRIBLY worried about the whole scene.  He just Knew those babies were in Dire Danger, and WHY wasn't I taking any of this seriously.  He tried to drink all the water at the pool at the base of the slide. Later on, he "herded" the children away from it as much as they would comply.  Being a Collie Nanny is such a difficult job.....

The concert Saturday evening was indescribable.  Amazing. Beautiful. Incredible. The sound was so full and pure and Electric. There were choir students from 25 years ago (and less) who came from all over the US to sing once again with Mrs. Malone conducting. Of course, it was also a chance, like all reunions, to visit with old friends.  

That's our baby Kathryn on the right.  She has a busted lip from an "unfortunate" accident she suffered whilst playing on the water slide......Nothing permanently injured.....just a nice, puffy lip....

Kinda looks like a bird lip.....When the kids were getting rowdy (the GROWN kids), James tried and Tried to tell them that SOMEbody was gonna git hurt.....Sure enough, it all came down, but not enough bad for an ER visit, thankthLord....

Two very pretty wimmen.....Kathryn and Mrs. Malone.

Afterwards, I wanted a picture of the 3 of them.....Sam said no...

And Grace....Grace ALWAYS says Yes to any picture-taking.  She Loved being ON Stage....What will the Future bring???

Onstage after the concert.  The children did really good. Even our 3yr-old Sammo...

I got to PLAY with this boy ALL weekend long!!!!  SOMEtimes, he would just come up to me, and tell me, "I Love you, GrandTone."  What was I to do?   I'm Helpless around him....

Well, here's some Trubble for ya....It looks like they have been UP to something....

Mmmmmm....Everyone should have summa this!!!
(ck out the background....Grace and Jamie are having an important conversation...)

 Of COURSE we groom Collies while we play....

Sunday afternoon, we took off to Bathtub Creek, only a few miles from our house.  When you come visit me, we will take you there......It is Paradise. 

Do we see a pattern here????  Every moment is Glorious!!!

I couldn't decide WHICH of these 3 to post, so I just chose them ALL.....

BOTH of us are Certain that we will find an arrowhead in amongst all these rocks.....At that moment, it was the most important thing in the world.....Nothing else mattered....Nothing else entered our minds.....No worries...No cares.... UP a few weeks to the end of May.  I drove up to my friend Brenda's in Virginia a few weeks before Camp started.  During that time, Brenda worked my BUNS off in her yard (It was a Lovely time, really.  We Both love getting our hands in the earth and being OUTside), went to some really good thrift stores, shopped at some really cool grocery stores, swam at the YMCA every night, AND....we entered an all-breed dogshow.  With Brenda's careful attention to Every Detail, and Prosper's wonderful showmanship, the boy took Best of Winners for a THREE POINT MAJOR!!!!

That is a Whole Nuther Blog, tho, Ladies and Gents.....Suffice it to pique your interest in future posts with a few (wonderful) pictures.....Uh...did I Mention that he was Owner-Handled!  You BETCHA!!!

Handler had a Dorky smile, granted....but she was actually exhibiting a LOT of self-control at the moment....

And summer is only half over....I STILL have lots more to write.  Now that it is cool outside (yeh, right!), I'm off to walk the dawgs.....We've had over a month of 100+ degree temps....ya gotta walk them when the locusts sing in the evening....