Whatfore Art Thou Lucy?

Over the past month, I’ve begun to obsess on whether Lucy might be considered a genetically modified organism. GMO’s are illegal in Mendocino County. We could be breaking the law by harboring her.
Fun Fact: On March 2, 2004, Mendocino County became the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban the “cultivation, production or distribution of genetically modified organisms.”
DSC03313People here take this GMO stuff very seriously. I once saw a man outside Safeway dressed as a tree with vegetables hanging from his limbs and a sign across his trunk that declared GMO’s ARE BAD. In order to avoid confrontation with people dressed as vegetable trees, Lucy would have to be disguised as an old Finnish woman on our daily walks.

After I expressed my concern to our son Harrison, he sent us a Wisdom Panel 2.0—a breed identification DNA test. Who knew such a thing existed? The packaging offers “DNA-based insights towards optimizing your dog’s overall care and training needs.”
I’ve always believed the care of dogs was fairly basic: feed, bathe, brush, exercise, and take to obedience classes so you can earn a certificate to legitimately boss them around. Will the results of Lucy’s DNA test cause me to rethink this routine? She might prove to be such a sensitive combination of breeds that we’ll have to learn how to punish—I mean “correct”—her without screaming when she chews the ends off and rips the stuffing out of sofa pillows.
The Wisdom Panel 2.0 also claims that it “covers 200+ breeds and varieties.” What if it turns out that Lucy is a genetically modified combination of all 200 of them? Will she get a prize? Like a million dollars?
The kit contains two white swabs that look like pipe cleaners on the end of six-inch plastic wands. The instructions say to “firmly roll the swab’s bristles between the inner surface of the cheek and gums for about 15 seconds. Repeat with second swab.”
I imagined Gary and I would be about as successful at getting Lucy to refrain from eating the swabs as we are at getting her to stop eating pillows or digging tunnels in the yard. (She’s up to something spectacular out there—we’re hoping it’s part of a complex re-landscaping effort.)
DSC03344I made an appointment with our vet. Lucy let Phil, the Zen-like vet assistant, swab the inside of her cheek without incident. He helped repackage the swabs and I dropped them in the mail.
Three weeks later, we got the results.
Lucy appears to be a conglomeration of Australian Shepard, Miniature Poodle, Cairn Terrier, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and Labrador Retriever. Oh, and a thing called a Catahoula Leopard Dog.
My daughter Laine remarked, “You said you wanted a poodle, now you’ve got one.”
None of these breeds make any sense whatsoever. What kind of mutant creature do we own? (It’s suddenly clear why GMO’s are outlawed in Mendocino County.)
And what the hell is a Catahoula Leopard Dog?

Not only does Lucy look like a Catahoula Leopard Dog, she shares many of the same characteristics: oddly piercing “glass eyes” in vivid shades of light blue or goldish-brown, a fierce independence that sometimes borders on being standoffish, bouts of stubbornness, and domineering of other pets.
Fun Facts: In 1979, the Catahoula Leopard Dog became the official state dog of Louisiana; hence, its name was changed to Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long (1895-1960)—an eccentric politician whose wife had him removed from office and placed in a mental institution until his legal advisor sprang him and put him back in office—was partial to the Catahoula breed and collected them.
Long’s devotion to the breed is memorialized in an annual competition known as Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials. These trials are held during the third week of March (dang, we just missed them!) in Winnfield, Louisiana and involve boars, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and another exotic breed called the Blackmouth Cur. This event regularly draws a crowd of 5,000 with people traveling from Canada, England and across the United States.
According to Wikipedia, “…dogs are judged on their containment and control of the boar and their style of baying. If a boar runs from the dogs, they may nip the boar to make him stop, however ‘catching’ the stock is prohibited.”
Now that I’m aware of Lucy’s heritage, I’m obligated to train her for next year’s Hog Dog Trials. I’ll need a boar. Please let me know if you have one I can borrow. In the meantime, I can substitute our cat Little Mister.
DSC03343I’ve learned that GMOs are considered to be any organism with DNA that has been modified by human intervention. Given the number of dog breeds found in Lucy, her DNA was modified by generations of human non-intervention. She’s relieved to no longer pretend to be an old Finnish woman.

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Throughout my life, I’ve been a lot of things—wife, mother, financial consultant, ninja—but never a jogger. I knew people who jogged and claimed it exhilarated them.

What liars.

I’d read numerous articles that revealed the nastiness jogging does to the body—wearing away every cushion between every joint from the toes to the hips and jostling delicate female organs. I was unclear as to what damage this jostling actually does to the female reproductive system, but didn’t want to experience it. Thus, without ever trying, I hated jogging.

IMG_1157This notion was tested three years ago when my friend Kathleen suggested we train for a sprint triathlon. I agreed before I knew exactly what that was—a half-mile swim, 21.7-mile bike ride, and 5K run. I tried to renege, but Kathleen wouldn’t let me.

Six months before the race, I embarked on a rigorous training schedule that began, obviously, with my hair. I got it cut man-comb short and highlighted. If I couldn’t get out of the race, I could at least give myself a chance to look good—without benefit of hair products—in the after photos.

The hair was the easiest part of training. A far more difficult challenge was keeping up my whining to Kathleen—“We’re too old for this.” “We don’t have enough time to properly train.” “My uterus hurts.” “We’re going to die.” She’d smile and say “We are going to do this,” before she swam, biked or ran away.

For my first running session, I set the thingy on the treadmill to 3.0 and walked at a comfortable pace for a few minutes. I gradually increased to 4.0 which forced me into a baby jog. I struggled for air and battled against vomiting as I pushed this pace for a full minute. I went back to 3.0 for a couple of minutes and up to 4.0 for another minute. Coughing and sweating, I shut off the treadmill and limped to my car.

In between two biking and two swimming sessions a week, I was forced to jog. Each time, I cursed the treadmill and the damned triathlon. Then something strange happened—I was able to add 30 seconds to the baby-jog time before the barfing sensation kicked in.

It got weirder. Within a few weeks, I found myself yearning to jog.

At the end of week three, I pushed myself to run half a mile. It took nine minutes. At that rate, I could finish a 5K in just under an hour!

Whenever my heart felt it would burst, I’d start to cough. (I once read that you should cough whenever you feel you’re having a heart attack.) I released sporadic grunts and groans and whispered, “You can do it. You can do it.” I ignored the eye-rolling glances of those around me.

A month later, I was able to increase my speed to 5.0 for an entire mile. I jogged outside once a week. I learned the virtues of stretching, ice packs and ibuprofen.

While I hoped for an injury that would take me out of the competition, the only mishap I encountered was waking one morning with a rather large, alarming blood splat in the outside corner of my right eye. The doctor explained that it was a harmless hooty and it’d go away. I asked her to write me a prescription against the triathlon. She declined.

triathlonThe six months of training paid off. I finally learned how to spell triathlon and finished the race in about three hours.

It was exhilarating.

Over the following two years, I continued to run, but often skipped a planned session in favor of inertia. Then my friend Jackie challenged me to do the March 2014 Whale Run (merely by telling me she was going to do it).

I wish I could say the second round of training was easier than the first. But every aspect of running is a chore—from thinking about it, to getting dressed, to leaving the house and actually doing it. It’s only after, when I’m so flaming exhausted, euphoria kicks in and convinces me that it’s a good thing.

The Whale Run began at 8:00 am on Saturday, March 15th. I rarely venture outside at that hour, let alone on a Saturday. All day Friday I twitched with anxiety over making a respectable showing so early in the morning.

At 7:30 the foggy race site teemed with people. A Soroptimist reported that a record number—nearly 800—registered for the 30th annual event. The excitement of the crowd fueled my enthusiasm. My friends MW and Kathleen arrived to act as cheerleaders. (Kathleen sustained a knee injury and is no longer able to run.)

I was able to jog most of the race, slowing to a walk only a couple of times. When I crossed the railroad tracks near the finish line, I noticed the clock showed 34:something minutes. My best training time had been 36 minutes. If I kicked it, I could possibly make it in 35.

I crossed the finish line, my friends cheering me on, at 34:26!

5KThe moments of celebration that followed—hugging my fellow competitors and taking my cheerleaders to breakfast—made all the miles of agonizing training worthwhile.

I guess I can now say that whatever else I am—owner of Lucy-puppy, blogger, whiner—I’m also a jogger.

Poo Patrol

DSC03293During a recent cold snap, I notice what appears to be snow in the alley that runs behind our house. Upon closer inspection, I discover the snow is kitty litter loaded with poo. Judging by the sheer size of these deposits, a mighty big cat lives in that neighbor’s house.

The Control Freak part of me wants to confront the woman who tosses this poopy kitty litter behind her rented house and across the alley onto her neighbor’s property. I want to ask who the hell does she thinks she is? I’m going to call the cops. I will. I mean it.

I take a deep breath and remind Control Freak that since this is not happening on my property, it is not my concern. But a bit of Internet research might make it my concern.

A March 2012 article in The Atlantic catches my eye—How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy. Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr describes how parasites from cat poo can permeate your brain and cause you to behave erratically.

He claims that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii found in this poo “contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia.” By the fifth paragraph, I am so freaked out that I have to stop reading.

DSC03291But kitty litter is safe, right? Wrong!

Most kitty litter brands contain sodium bentonite clay and silica gel. How dangerous can that concoction be?

Apparently it can cause bowel blockages, cancer and a whole list of other terrifying side effects that—trust me—you are better off not knowing.

It’s scary to think that whenever my dog Lucy and I walk past that woman’s toxic dump we risk constipation, cancer and a car crash. I don’t even want to think about what happens when the rains wash this cocktail of Toxoplasma gondii, sodium bentonite clay and silica gel down the street, into the storm drains for deposit into the Great Pacific Ocean.

DSC03301In the midst of the kitty poo scandal, a strange phenomenon emerges around town—tags that identify random dog poos as “Bad Dog Owner.”

Someone with a great deal of discretionary time made dozens of these tags and went in search of abandoned dog poo. I wonder if this might be a piece of performance art or if the inventor thinks that by marking these droppings, he will change dog owners’ behavior.

This got me wondering if the toxins in dog poo are as scary as those found in cat poo.

Just about. (Go to Dog Talk 101 if you insist upon torturing yourself with this knowledge.)

Perhaps the dog poo tagger thinks he’s doing a community service. But I’m not certain this is the best way to manage the problem.

DSC03305What will happen to the fabric tags and toothpicks after the rain disintegrates the dog poo? Like the kitty litter, they’ll end up in the storm drains and float into the Great Pacific Ocean a few blocks to the west.

I have a better idea.

Our city could institute a system similar to the creative management of CGI Residential, an apartment complex in Charlotte, North Carolina. All resident dog owners are required to take their dogs to the main office for a DNA swab. Whenever a public poo is discovered, it is collected, sent to a lab for testing, the dog identified and its owner fined $250.

This solution might be difficult to enforce in a large city, but in a town as small as Fort Bragg, it should be a cinch. Each swabbed dog will have a large neon-orange “D” (for DNA) sprayed on its side. Permanent barricades will be erected at the intersection of Highway One and Highway 20 to the south and Virgin Creek to the north to check incoming vehicles for canines. In this way, people who live outside the city limits and use our city’s amenities cannot sneak their unmarked dogs into town poo on the sidewalks.

All this research has been exhausting. It’s so much easier to make things up.

Bucket List

1374220_10152031548311844_1507168159_nNow that the light is slowly returning to the northern hemisphere, I’m able to keep my eyes open for longer periods each day. One of the first things I’ve noticed is the appalling condition of our yard. This is due to long-term neglect, but I prefer to blame it on lack of rain and the demolition efforts of Lucy-puppy. Since I don’t enjoy gardening, I hunker down in my office and entertain myself with things I do enjoy—like updating my Bucket List.

It’s important when writing a Bucket List to include only those items that are within the realm of possibility. For example, don’t write that you want to die with dignity. Only three people will ever accomplish that, and you and I aren’t one of them. This goes along with wanting to avoid dementia or becoming a burden to your kids. Let’s face it, our kids already think we have dementia, and we are a burden to them.

Over time, your Bucket List will change. As you check off what you’ve accomplished, you’ll discover new things. For example, a few years ago my Bucket List looked like this:

Visit Washington DC.

Visit Boston.

Enter a quilt in the Fort Bragg Quilt Show.

Participate in a flash mob.

Participate in a triathlon (actually, this was not on my list, but on that of my friend Kathleen who forced me into the torture of helping her realize it).

Start a blog.

I have since visited Washington DC and Boston.

quiltI didn’t even know I had the desire to enter a quilt in the Fort Bragg Quilt Show until I made two quilts that weren’t horrible and received compliments from long-time quilters. They assured me I wouldn’t be humiliated—so I entered. I didn’t win a prize, but let go of my grudge against the judges after only a few months.

I organized and participated in a flash mob.

triathlonI lived through the triathlon (although while training I sometimes wished for death—with or without dignity—so I could get out of it).

I started a blog.

The items currently on my list:

Get a license to carry a concealed weapon. (Upon hearing this, my husband hid the guns and ammo.)

Find the guns and ammo.

Be a juror on a murder trial.

            Get appointed to the Mendocino County Grand Jury (because I am terribly nosey want to be of public service).

Train Lucy to become Fort Bragg’s first bomb-sniffing dog.

Some consider my current Bucket List to be dark and bordering on violent. They may be right. Perhaps the list is reflective of how I subconsciously feel about the approach of another birthday—one that will propel me into a new decade.

DSC_0014BI tend to get this way—dark and violent—whenever the second digit of my birthday is a 9. Once the number officially becomes a 0, I settle down and stop threatening to hurt people. By the end of this month, my Bucket List might look a whole lot different than it does today.


So tell me, what’s on your Bucket List?

5 Tips to Make Your 10-year old Cat Happy that You Got a Puppy

482562_10152360259261844_6460807_nWhen our adult children bestowed a puppy on us over the 2013 Labor Day weekend, we couldn’t have been more traumatized delighted. In the years immediately preceding this arrival, we had said goodbye to two dogs and three cats. Our remaining cat—Little Mister—is 10 years old and understandably set in his—let’s be honest—spoiled, entitled, lazy, demanding and uncompromising ways.

LM3My distress elation on the first day of Lucy’s arrival caused me to forget about Little Mister until late evening when I opened the back door to coax the puppy outside for a potty. The cat stood on the stoop, ready to dart inside. He stopped and shouted, “What the hell is this?!?” Lucy froze and exclaimed, “Woo-wee, what’s this?” A high-speed chase ensued.

Little Mister didn’t reappear for three days.

The #1 Tip on how to make your elderly cat happy with the new puppy: Refrain from arranging their first meeting on opposite sides of an opened door.

Our previous cats had been introduced to our mature dogs as kittens and we rarely had a problem. I didn’t know how to get a puppy to leave a cat alone without a great deal of screaming and subsequent psychological damage to everyone. I was able to garner a couple of tips from the Internet.

Tip #2: Never leave the cat and the puppy unsupervised. Initially, you’ll find this easy if you fail to heed Tip #1 and your cat disappears for three days.

Tip #3: Whenever the cat enters the room, put the puppy on a leash and remain calm. This is super easy if (A) you always have a leash in your hand, (B) you know the exact moment the cat decides to wake for the night and enter the living room, and (C) you have not been lulled to sleep watching Nova.

Tip #4: Encourage the cat to live upstairs. This works well if you block the stairway with dining room chairs and the puppy does not discover she can take a flying leap over those chairs and race like a greyhound away from you.

Tip #5: Give up and let them work it out.

999784_10152228988656844_1512946115_nAfter five and a half months of Puppy Kindergarten, AKC Good Citizenship training and Little Mister puffing himself to twice his size, flattening his ears, and issuing long growls that would scare the dead, our puppy and 10-year old cat went through a brief period of detente.

However, a few nights ago, Lucy sensed the presence of the cat in the hallway and raced to confirm. Seconds later, Little Mister’s growls filled the air. Lucy barked. Sighing heavily, I extricated myself from the sofa, put on my Solution Architect hat and prepared to mediate.

Little Mister had taken up position near the front door. Lucy approached, wanting to play. Little Mister growled. Lucy barked. Little Mister lashed out with claws bared. Lucy made a hasty backwards retreat while leaving a river of pee.

At least this gave me the needed motivation to mop the hallway.

The following evening, Little Mister came into the living room and jumped on my chair to demand petting. Lucy maintained her cool and stayed on her bed. The cat left for a few minutes and came back. Lucy was highly aware of his movements, but didn’t chase after him. The cat again left the room.

Little Mister came into the living room once again. Apparently, the cat is allowed access to the living room one, even two times a night, but not a third. Definitely not a third time.

1601274_10152360261811844_1457279366_nLucy jumped up and ran at him. Little Mister stood his ground, puffed to the size of a cougar, growled and took a swipe in the air. Lucy backed off. Little Mister advanced, hissing and growling. Lucy backed away until she was under an end table. Little Mister continued to pursue.

Yes, I know that Tip #5 advises to let them work it out, but Little Mister looked poised to jump on Lucy’s face like the Salt Creature in Star Trek and suck the life out of her. I jumped from my chair and placed myself between them. Instead of telling Lucy to “leave it,” the command was leveled at Little Mister. He turned and sauntered across the room to claim my chair and meow for a pet. Lucy trembled beneath the end table.

I wish I could report that we are now living happily ever after. The good news is that I’m pretty well done trying to convince Lucy to listen to me. I realize her ears are better tuned to what the cat is saying. Whenever he says, “I’m going to kill you,” she either backs off peeing or hides under an end table. At this point, we’ll define it as success.

Good Riddens to January

I know I’m a little late in posting this—it is, after all, the middle of February. But I’ve been preoccupied with failing to stay awake after sundown and wake up by sunrise—which in January can mean up to 14 hours of sleep a night.This leaves precious few daylight hours to accomplish all that needs to be done.

For me, January is the flip side of the whirlwind of activity that begins right after Thanksgiving. I enter into a panic over how I’m going to manage all that needs to be done for Christmas. I race to the garage and haul in box after box of decorations and completely redo the house. I make lists of presents to be bought, cookies to be baked, and food to be purchased. I spend evening after evening in front of the television, carefully wrapping gift after gift, making each as close to a work of art as I am capable.

Christmas10In essence, I become a manic crazed woman. Strangely, this makes me happy.

As Christmas Eve approaches my cookie baking accelerates. I swear I’m not going to eat them, yet eat them anyway, which makes me even more hyper.

Our children arrive, the house twinkles with lights to stave off the oppressive darkness. We share a wonderful week of festivities, staying up late and sleeping in.

Then it’s over. The kids leave so they can celebrate New Year’s Eve with people who know how to have real fun.

I throw white lights around the bay window where the tree used to be and pretend that it’s the same, but it’s not. Christmas is over. There are no more presents to wrap. The kids are gone. I can no longer button my pants—a clear indication to stop eating cookies. The decorations must be put away, the everyday stuff put back into place. It’s all so oppressive and I don’t want to do any of it. I only want to cry.



As I pack each box and gag down kale, my heart aches. I go into a depression that lasts two solid days. If you see me on the streets of Fort Bragg during this time, do yourself a favor and avoid me. (Ask Nicole—she once made the mistake of greeting me and had to endure rants about death and despair.)

During the first week in January, The Fort Bragg Advocate News Facebook page asked the question: “How will you contribute in 2014?”

There was only one response—something about contributions staying local, blah blah blah.

Yay. I’m impressed that this person had the fortitude to write anything at all.

This got me thinking that perhaps other people share my feelings about this deplorable month. I suggest that next year’s “Face Talk” question be: “How on earth will you ever survive January?”

The question about contributing in the New Year can be postponed until the Spring Solstice—after we’ve had a chance to absorb the increasing daylight returning to our lives. Maybe by then we’ll be able to conjure up one or even two lofty goals.

Now that sunset is being delayed by a few minutes each day and sunrise is coming earlier, I celebrate having once again survived January by sleeping a whole lot less. Towards the end of next month, I may gain enough energy to respond to a “Face Talk” question.


At least once a week, Lucy puppy and I walk by the AT&T building on the edge of downtown Fort Bragg. This forces me to avert my eyes and causes Lucy to whine. Perhaps AT&T spends so much money on their other facilities that they don’t have any extra to throw a can of paint on this building. Or dig out the weeds and litter growing in the planter beds.

A sampling of AT&T facilities around the country supports my theory.

AT&T Minneapolis

AT&T Minneapolis

AT&T Seattle

AT&T Seattle

AT&T Park San Francisco

AT&T Park San Francisco

AT&T Los Angeles

AT&T Los Angeles

AT&T Fort Bragg, California

AT&T Fort Bragg, California

I hope AT&T will take pity on the populous of Fort Bragg and spend a few bucks to beautify this building. Or turn it over to local graffiti artists who could at least lend it some visual interest.