Category Archives: Animals – especially dogs

The Merry Month of Mud

Every spring, mud comes to Maine as regularly as the tourists do in the summer. Usually mud season begins Mid-March.  But this year we had so much snow that the mud has not only come later but also with a vengeance that is astonishing even to this Mainer, who has seen her fair share of mud seasons.

Yesterday, I almost lost my shoe in the mud by our house, and Liam hates to walk through it to get to the backyard. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any choice, and he comes back quite literally as a mud puppy. We wipe him as best we can, but oh, my kitchen floor.

Behold the muddy walk in the backyard, which is ever so much worse in reality than it is in this photo.

Clif and I were starting to despair, but last night, salvation came from an unlikely place—Facebook. One of my Winthrop  friends, who breeds dogs, wrote about how her dog yard was so muddy that she needed to get bales of straw to cover the mud.

Bales of straw? Immediately, the idea appealed to me.

Where, I asked, did she get the straw?

Paris Farmers Union, came her reply. Right in town.

This morning, lickity-split, Clif went to Paris Farmers Union for a bale of straw. The clerk who helped Clif told him that one man had come to buy five bales for a  driveway that was so muddy it was nearly impossible to walk on it.

This just goes to show that things could be worse. Our driveway is all right. It’s the walkways to and around the backyard that need help.

The bale was loaded in our trusty Honda Fit, one of the best little cars we have ever owned.

Clif removed the bale and was ready to go.

And how did Liam like the straw walks in his backyard? He liked them very much indeed, and Liam has resumed his rambles around the backyard. (Liam had such an aversion to walking in mud that he reluctantly did his business and then immediately wanted to come back in. Don’t blame him a bit for not liking to trot through the mud.)

The straw doesn’t entirely eliminate muddy paws, but it sure does help. We still have to wipe Liam when he comes in, but at least he doesn’t track all over the floor.

Take that, mud!





Five for Friday: Slumbering Under Blue

Sometimes, when we’re leaving the house, we get an au revoir from the cats—Sherlock, the orange one, and his litter mate, Ms. Watson. The dog used to add to our farewell by barking, but now that he is blind, he no longer does this, and I miss it.

On Wednesday, the cats had to say au revoir to Clif and me as we left to meet our friend Mary Jane for an early supper at TJ’s Place in Monmouth, a town right next to us. None of us had been there before, and we decided it was time to check it out.

TJ’s Place is small—basic and clean—with a bar that dominates the entrance. Not surprisingly, along with beer, a variety of cocktails are served. In Yelp, in the comments section, TJ’s was described as having “a very hometown feel,” and that about sums it up.

Mary Jane ordered fish and chips. She said they were delicious, with such a generous serving that she couldn’t finish her meal.

Clif ordered a pizza, a little different from the average pie, that featured ranch dressing, chicken, and bacon. Clif liked the pizza so much that he ate the whole thing and later paid the price by having to take baking soda and water before going to bed. Clif did allow me to have a bite, and I will admit that the pizza was tasty and perfectly cooked. In a word, scrummy.

Clif, a discerning beer drinker, said that there were no beers of distinction at TJ’s, but the IPA he chose was “good enough.”

My order—a chicken sandwich—seemed to be the weakest link. The chicken was so thin that it looked as though someone in the kitchen had stomped on it. Also, the sandwich was served with iceberg lettuce, which I am not fond of. Somehow, this type of lettuce always gives me slight indigestion. (I know. Iceberg lettuce? How could it set heavy? And yet it does.)

The server was friendly and efficient, but she never asked us if we wanted dessert or another drink. Fortunately, we didn’t want either.

As we were leaving, a musician was setting up in a corner, and a notice indicated that TJ’s often has entertainment. The restaurant was filling up, and the place had a happy chatter.

Both Clif and I would go back to TJ’s, either for lunch or an early supper, for the pizza but definitely not for the chicken sandwich.

As we left, the sun was setting in a cloudy sky. Across the street from TJ’s is a business that stores boats for the winter. How bright they look in their blue shrink-wrap.

Both Winthrop and Monmouth are towns surrounded by lakes, so much so that this area of Maine is known as the lakes region. (How I love this!) Like the rest of us, the boats are waiting for spring, for when the ice goes out, for when the weather is warmer.

In the meantime, they slumber under blue.




A Tray Full of Treats, A Basket Full of Cat

Yesterday, on a gray, drizzly February Sunday—Oh, how Mainers hate drizzle in the winter—we had friends over for an afternoon of food and good conversation. The food was simple—snacks and pizza—which meant we could chat with our guests without too much fussing in the kitchen.

Before the Super Bowl, on Facebook , I  had discovered an idea for serving snacks. I was so taken with the way the food looked that I decided to try it for this gathering. Really, the idea couldn’t be more simple—array an assortment of snacks on a tray—and here is what I did.

To a combination of crackers, cheese, and crunchy snacks, I added homemade clam dip (upper right-hand corner) and chocolate-covered peanuts that Clif and I had dipped ourselves. It was a fun way of serving appetizers, and I plan on doing this for future gatherings.

Our friends also brought treats to share, and Dawna used a nifty basket to carry hers. Sherlock always loves anything he can climb into, and it didn’t take him long to investigate the empty basket.

After appetizers, we had Clif’s pizza.

And ice cream and pie for dessert. (Alas, I didn’t get a picture.)

It was one of those happy gatherings where six like-minded people ate and talked past dusk right into the night. When our friends were ready to go, I looked at my watch and could hardly believe what I saw—it was 9:45 p.m.

Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Liam Update

Yesterday, readers expressed concern about Liam’s swollen nose, which probably happened when he ran into a fallen branch in the backyard. Today, he is looking much, much better. Here’s a shot of his handsome face, and the nose is hardly swollen at all.

However, on his nose, there are a few specks of snow, and they are there because Liam likes to do this:

Liam has always been a dog who has loved the snow, and blindness has not diminished his enthusiasm for crunching on snow when it is crusty or sticking his head in the snow when it is fluffy.

After all, he is Liam, Dog of the North.

(This picture was taken several years ago, and long-time readers will recognize it. An oldie but goodie, just like our dog buddy. )

Liam is Thirteen

Today is Liam’s birthday, and as the title of this post indicates, he is thirteen years old. I still remember what a little Tasmanian devil Liam was when he was a puppy, and Liam remained energetic in his senior years until he went blind.

Poor dog buddy! His blindness has really slowed him down, and the other day, he banged his beautiful long nose on something—we don’t know what—and now his nose is horribly swollen on one side. Fortunately, his appetite is still good, and his bruised nose hasn’t interfered with his eating.

During a recent storm, some large branches had fallen in our backyard next to the bird feeders. They made excellent perches for the birds, and so we left them there. Liam had his paths for doing his business, and none of the branches were in his paths. However, the rains that came on Saturday did two things—it reduced the amount of snow we had, and it made the remaining snow so hard that Liam can now leave the paths and wander at will in the backyard.

Clif and I wondered, did Liam run into one of those branches and hurt his nose? We have no way of knowing, but we decided not to take any chances. Yesterday, we cleared out all those branches—some of them were quite large—and threw them over the fence into the woods. The birds no longer have perches directly by the feeders, but as we have so many trees in our backyard, it really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of other branches for the birds, and they are still coming in great numbers to the bird feeders and suet.

Swollen nose aside, Liam is holding his own. We have adjusted the way we do things. His blindness has affected his whole system, and Liam is now on a special diet that includes vitamins. No more walks off the leash, and his walks are much shorter.  We don’t like to leave him for more than five hours even though he has never messed in the house while we were gone. No overnight guests who are not family as Liam sometimes barks in the middle of the night to go outside.

However, as we recently told our friends Beth and John, we love our dog buddy so much that we never resent the extra care involved as Liam has aged and gone blind. For the  most part, unless he bumps into something, Liam is comfortable, and his appetite is good.

In honor of Liam’s birthday, here is a picture, complete with a Tolkien quotation,  of Liam when he could still see. The photo, used as a card, was taken on the trails behind the town’s high school, one of Liam’s favorite places before he went blind.

So happy birthday to one of the best and sweetest dogs in Winthrop.


Resting with a Cat on My Chest, Hoping for an Angel Sitting on My Shoulder

On Sunday evening, this was the scene at our house.

In fact, I wasn’t resting at all but rather reading and commenting on the many blogs I follow. This is always a delight as I can go around the world yet stay on my couch with my cat—the notorious Sherlock,  who certainly knows how to make himself comfortable—and my mug of tea.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it was a merry blur of food, family, friends, and movies. We are a family keen on movies, and we saw two over the holidays—Coco, which we liked very much, and Murder on the Orient Express, a remake that got a resounding “Meh!” from all three of us.

Now it’s onward to Christmas, my favorite holiday. There will be Christmas movies to watch, cards to send, goodies to cook, presents to wrap, gatherings to attend, and twinkling lights to set out.

In Maine as well as elsewhere, December is the darkest month of the year, a good time to ponder the Christmas sentiment “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All.” Unfortunately, we are far from this notion, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reflect on it, now and for the rest of the year, too.

And if we can slide in a little “ho-ho-ho,” so much the better.  This Christmas song—“We Need a Little Christmas”—perfectly captures the way many of us in the United States feel right now.

Here is a version by the folks from Glee.

I’m hoping to find that little “angel sitting on my shoulder” sometime soon.