Sunday, December 30, 2007

If I Had a Pony

Steve and Carolyn, our neighbors and co-conspirators in most things ridiculous or dangerous, brought their granddaughter down to visit MisFit Farm’s newest addition. As documented in the attached video, both Janda and the horse did well, notwithstanding Janda’s sincere disappointment that we would not allow her to ride him.

I was all for plopping her on his back, instructing her to hold on tight and seeing what would happen, but apparently that type of empiricism is discouraged in parenting these days.

So we all had to be contented with petting him, and petting him, and petting him some more. He did try to offer a small concession by rolling around a little, but it wasn’t anything compared to the fun he had when allowed to roam free at his home of origin.

The goats were initially horrified. They ran like crazy when we brought him into the pasture and barn. Well, all except the two fainter boys, who took to this new outsider like a myopic third-grader takes to the new kid in class, especially when the new kid outweighs the class bully by a good 100 pounds.

The dogs are fascinated but too stupid to understand that the traditional dog salutation will likely result in traumatic brain injury when he responds to a friendly, inquisitive butt-sniffing with a kick to the head. We have allowed the dogs to come into the pasture, but are closely supervising all canine/equine interactions.

We are still considering naming options. I like the name Bill, and I think K. is fond of Frodo. Neither of us is so committed to our chosen name that we would melt into a puddle of despair, should the preferred name not be selected. Which probably means his name is Frodo. Why I don’t learn to quit resisting is something I will never understand.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

All I Want for Christmas. . .

So, the Hallmark “2007 Pony for Christmas” ornament looks like this:

The pony K received for Christmas in 2007, amazingly, looks like this:

Well, actually, he isn’t a “pony.” He is a fully grown miniature horse. We don’t have an exact measurement on him, but I estimate him at about five hands tall. As we noted to a friend earlier, he is smaller than a “real” Dane, but larger than a “faux” Dane. Realistically, he is about the height of a Laborador Retriever, but with about 100 extra pounds.

To answer the question everyone seems to have: no, he doesn’t bite. At least not yet. Give us a week.

So far, here is what he DOES do: Wear a halter. Walk on a lead. Allow his hooves to be handled. Romp in the snow.
Engage in a concerted butt-scratching.Receive copious pettings. Try to tolerate being brushed. Dispense nuzzles. Eat hay, sweet feed, and his first-ever apple nugget treats.

His name? Well, we are working on that one.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Ho Ho Holidays from MisFit Farm

It snowed yesterday. It was a snow like I remember from my childhood, an unrelenting, dumping, blowing snow that piled on rooftops and drifted into banks. I shoveled the front deck and steps at about 8:00 yesterday evening, and woke to another inch and a dusting this morning. Most communities didn’t even send out snowplows until well after dark. We awoke this morning to find their handiwork evidenced in a 3-foot high pile spanning the end of our drive.

Among the many good fortunes routinely visited upon us are these most recent blessings: safe travels in adverse weather; plenty of Dane-blankets to keep us warm; and, continuous power and light through the storms.

So, for all the well-wishers out there who have sent messages of concern about the bad weather, here is videographic proof that all is well with the krewe here at MisFit Farm.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I may go down in the annals of snobbery for this one, but I couldn’t resist.

On a weekly basis, we receive, gratis, a circular from a local grocer. On a weekly basis, I perfunctorily flip through the circular admiring the pre-processed food products offered by the local grocer.

I laughed out loud at this one and immediately reached for the digital camera.

On our next vacation, we are making arrangements to visit the sea where we will find catfish and pre-breaded, processed fish sticks. But first, I must research what type of bait is used to catch these yummy breaded fish portions.

It is hard to see, but at the fold, the IGA has combined the best of all possible worlds into the seafood delicacy of breaded catfish nuggets. I just can't get enough of those fresh seafood catfish nuggets.

Oh and by the way, gigantic, stocking-hat-wearing penguins are indigenous to the sea where these wonderful products all reside.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Be-deviled by Eggs

K thinks I am obsessed with eggs. The jubilation that accompanied the first two has been repeated, time and again, as production has increased and we have come to the place where we are collecting between 3 – 6 eggs every day. At an average rate of 4 eggs a day, we accumulate a dozen roughly every three days. I cook an egg breakfast for the dogs every Saturday, which uses generally six eggs, resulting in a weekly egg credit of 22. That’s almost two dozen. Using a Monday – Sunday week, that is usually a full two dozen by the time I hop into my car and head off to work each Monday.

Jubilation is slowing being replaced by the discomfort associated with bounties undeserved and product without any available outlet.

Not one to believe in wasting anything, I have been researching egg recipes. This great guy I work with has told me stories about his mother, who keeps chickens, and her miraculous feats of egg-incorporation. As a creative, articulate, socially responsible retiree, she seemed to be an incredible woman before; as the number of full and filling egg cartons begins to populate our fridge, her stature is ever mounting in my mind. I am seriously considering offering to pay for self-publication if she will compile a cookbook for all-egg recipes.

I made a pound cake this evening. K watched in awe as I dumped sugar into a bowl of softened butter and beat it to a fluffy consistency. I am not inclined to bake. I ascribe to the notion that carbohydrates are a zero-sum game. I choose mine wisely, mostly in a liquid form. She asked at some point, “what inspired you to try to make a pound cake?” I think it was my response that has touched off concern. The pound cake I made was from a recipe procured from the American Egg Association Website, Plantation Pound Cake. It contains lemon, which K’s mom loves. So my response was, “I thought I would give it a try to see if it might be something your mom was into." I tried to add under my breath, "And it uses 4 eggs.”

At the time, she was peering over my shoulder, scrutinizing the other recipes I had copied from the Website. “Oasis Eggs? Cabbage? Green onions?” she queried. My response, “Well, it looked interesting. It also has crabmeat and uses six eggs.”

She doesn’t think I noticed, but I saw the look of chagrin and concern.

Monday, December 03, 2007

More Holiday Observations

I don’t get out much. K, she works “in the community,” so her exposure to people, contemporary developments, retail, and other things, is greater than mine. I have an office job, where I spend the great amount of my time in close proximity to my desk, which accounts for a great amount of my life, at least 40 hours a week, usually more. While I do the family grocery shopping, I attack that process with the same aggression and surgical precision I apply to most all other things in my life. I don’t browse – I map out the layout of the store, organize my list accordingly, and do not deviate. I don’t window shop – I use the Internet, precisely because I can do it whenever I want, or at my desk, if necessary. I read about “real life.” I hear about it on NPR. I listen to its music. However, I choose not to interact with it very much.

So imagine my surprise, or alternatively, my consternation, at being plopped down into the middle of a local Best Buy store Sunday afternoon. Where I discovered the real-life fun of virtual guitar playing, known commonly as Guitar Hero ©. Rock on!

Aside from the fact that I had to wait patiently in line for the under 13 crowd to relinquish their grimy hold on the guitar at one of the playstations to the rear of the store, I have to admit that I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

And it wasn’t just the time spent with guitar in hand.

As I walked into the store past the computer section, I noticed one of the game centers, where there were two young men with long, frizzy hair and flannel shirts commandeering the guitar/drum/karaoke station. These guys were at the station when I arrived, held court in it the entirety of my visit, and were still firmly ensconced when I left the store. These guys were a riot – grunge circa 1992, likely owners of every single album Pearl Jam ever put out (with strong opinions on what the “true” greatest hits should have been), lifesize posters of Cobain adorning their bedrooms, with the last car in Topeka, Kansas to use regular gasoline parked in the Best Buy lot. These guys air-riffed, drummed and wailed their hearts out, as if the rest of the population: Best Buy, 50,000 were not sharing their space. I tried to organize people to stand on the other side of the machine and jump up and down with their hands in the “I love you” formation, crowd-swim, or hold up lighters, but the real Topeka is just as boring as I remembered it.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Holiday Gift Idea

Because we are shameless promoters of all things we perceive as good in this world, we bring to you this evening a wonderful holiday gift idea: The 18-month Great Dane Rescue of the Ozark calendar.

It is hard to believe, but we have nearly used up the last 18-month calendar purchased from the GDRO, which means that it has been over a year and a half since we fell down the “Dane hole.” I cannot think of a more delightful way to mark time.

Should any of you find yourselves wondering, “How in the world will I cover that very large hole in my wall/door/ceiling (perhaps a hole caused by the intrusion of a small plane or a cannonball)?” Or, “How can I ensure that on the first day of every month, I get to flip over a page and go, aaaawwwww?” Or, “How can I complete all my holiday shopping from the comfort of my own home?” The GDRO calendar is just the ticket. The calendar is large enough that people who drive Shriner cars home have replaced entire garage doors with it. With a full 18-months’ Dane delights, it has the added feature of offering insulation when displayed on an exterior wall.

Ours arrived in the mail yesterday; it offers a variety of delightful, laugh-out-loud photos, tearful moments, and plenty of “aaaawwwww’s.” This year’s calendar features MisFit Farm’s resident mayhem-maker, Azure; the archetypical alpha-dog, Apollo; the consummate camera-pleaser, Nadia; the sire of a goodly number of the Danes bred in SW Missouri, Chief, along with a few others who left this mortal coil to wait for the rest of us at what is referred to by those more inclined toward Hallmark-described events as “the rainbow bridge.”

We highly recommend the GDRO calendar for holiday giving, because while not everyone has Danes, everyone does have days. Or, you could always give the REAL gift that keeps giving and ADOPT A GREAT DANE - GDRO has plenty of lovable babies in need of loving homes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Azure's Campaign of Annoyance

What do you do when you are sitting miserably at home, lamenting the lackluster performance of your alma matter in possibly the most over-hyped college football game to visit the Midwest in recent memory? Why, share the joy by offering up the vicarious experience of life with Azure.

As observed in a previous post, Trinity is the world's greatest big sister.

As is obvious from the beginning of this clip, Emmett is the world's loudest drinker.

Azure is . . . Azure.

Just do as she says and no one gets hurt, o.k.?

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Lest anyone think we are anything more than the garden-variety goobers with poor boundaries we are, the Grande Dame of the Great Danes, KK, sent along these photos to offer comparison/contrast to the recent video of our Mercy-girl:

Our friend, Fred, says he would like to meet every SOB who’s ever dumped a dog. I think these photos help illustrate the reasons for his anger.

To be clear: The Great Dane Rescue of the Ozarks saved Mercy. They were the ones who were brave enough to walk into a bad situation and walk out with a dog it hurts to look at. They were the ones who taught her to walk. They took her for x-rays, shots, spay and vet consults. They fed her. They loved her. They helped restore her trust in humans.

And then, they did the most amazing thing: they loved her enough and trusted us enough to release her to become a member of our family.

We never met the Mercy from these photos. Thank goodness there was someone else there to meet this Mercy, and nurture her along to the Mercy we met and fell in love with.

We didn’t do the hard part. The brave people who really rescue dogs and who provide safe haven for rescued dogs at great personal cost, do the hard part. We got the easy part, take home a sweet, loving creature, adjust to a silly walk and small idiosyncrasies, and build a family around her.

**For the part of us that is enraged by these photos, they are instructive and inspirational for this:

1. This is the work of puppy mills. Spay and neuter, and encourage everyone you meet to have their animals spayed and neutered. Don’t patronize businesses that sell animals or are associated with puppy mill operations.

2. Support local rescues, no-kill shelters, spay and neuter programs, or any other program that encourages responsible pet ownership and supports the brave people who refuse to just sit by idly while harm befalls other creatures. And if you are in the market for a worthy charity where your donation is tax deductible, the Great Dane Rescue of the Ozarks fits the bill perfectly. Just this week, they rescued two more desperate babies with parvo and idiopathic seizure disorders, so I bet they can use the help.

The Wood Song

The first time my secretary and her sons met Mercy, her four-year-old rushed to his babysitter's house the next day to regale her with the story of “the dog that walks sideways.” For a four-year-old, he does a mean imitation of Mercy’s crazy gait, with her back driver-side leg swinging out, and the little twisting she does at changes of terrain or tempo. I am sure the humor was completely lost on his day care provider.

While to some, her sit-and-spin routine may be the type of tragedy to cry over, for us it has become almost humdrum, not really anything of note except to exhort her to “pull herself back up,” and check the area for any needed applications of triple antibiotic ointment upon return to the trailer. That said, she really is a remarkable creature for her amazing spirit and because of her plucky willingness to keep pulling herself up notwithstanding her crazy back end that sometimes just does not want to mind its manners.

The key to Mercy’s longevity has not been so much anything we can take credit for – we don’t hand-prepare highly specialized diets, we don’t have any magic elixir to help her get around, we don’t place her in a pool for physical therapy. Her “therapies” such as they are, consist of primarily being given run of the trailer and right of first refusal for the couch, the bed, and the kibble dishes; we give her daily vitamins and supplements, pets and pats and massages, farm fresh eggs on the weekends, playmates, and ample opportunities to walk, run, romp and spin.

We could have chosen an easier path. There are plenty of perfectly healthy Danes available for adoption. But Mercy has provided us with a living, breathing celebration and a powerful reminder that, “we’ll make it fine if the weather holds, but if the weather holds, we’ll have missed the point.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

DR Emmett

We have previously told of the new “implement” here at the Farm, our turbo-charged weed eater, the DR. I spent a weekend working with it and its different sharp attachments, emerging with only a small nick on my thumb, a completely cleared island in the pond, and several new “paths” cut around the property.

We were quite pleased with the results. We may have paid a little too much attention to the device, however. It appears as though someone has been left with the mistaken impression that hacking down weeds and spinning around are features we look for in all objects of our affection.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If Wishes Were Houses, We Wouldn't Live in a Trailer

I bought the property now known as MisFit Farm over three years ago, wholly intending to build a house on it. In the meantime, there was a trailer on the property, which for the likes of Coffee-dog and me was quite all right. A few months ago, one of the Dane rescue people, desperate to find a placement for a foster baby, asked, “aren’t you done building your house yet?!?!”

“The house” has taken on a number of iterations. I have been encouraged to build a sod house, an A-frame, a berm home, a kit home, a straw bale home, just about everything except a toilet home. Before I realized the joys of mass animal care, I had entertained the notion of a total do-it-myself home building project. When K joined me in the planning phases, we spent hours poring over home design books and floorplans. We made lists of “must-haves,” “like-to-haves,” and “absolutely not’s.” We thought we had decided upon the perfect design. Then came the Danes. And not just Danes. Danes with disabilities.

The summer before last, I was sharing some bonding time with my mother in a brief car ride. She confided in me that she had a terrible fear that in ten years, I would still be living in this trailer, only I would have ten dogs living here with me. I encouraged her to find other more important things to worry about like ice caps melting, world hunger or genocide. Shortly after this conversation, the dog count hit five, and a mere year later, we have crossed the halfway mark on the “feared number of dogs” count to bring our total to five-plus-one-more. I certainly hope the alternative fears my mother agreed to take on have gone better. We may have to call her off the whole ice caps melting thing lest Kansas become the new Galveston.

Always ones to look upon the brighter side of life and in an effort to not appear lazy, indecisive or unmotivated, we believe that this additional time has provided us with an opportunity to reconsider how we (meaning both bi-peds and the dogs) will live in a house. Thanks to this additional time, we have come to appreciate what a complete inconvenience the presence of things like hallways would be in our home. We have had time to think through the design of a “dog room,” plumbing configurations, appropriate furniture and doorway placements, home entry strategies, safety features and storage needs.

As you can clearly see, the planning process and what will hopefully soon be our final descent into the actual event of homebuilding has taken quite a bit out of my already truncated attention span. So we hope all will bear with us as we are perhaps a bit less frequent in our posting. Once the house is completed, we promise to throw a big virtual party for all to join.

In any event, one of these days very soon, we will have the perfect home for our not-so-perfect krewe. Hopefully before MisFit Farm becomes beachfront property.

Love Seat Redux

I assume that the Shriners and/or the “clown car” are a universally recognized emblem. An emblem of what, I am not certain. Like a magician pulling miles of scarves from a hat, the Shriners or the clowns emerge, one after the other, wearing funny hats, or wigs or makeup, some wearing shoes that alone would fill up the back seat of a Honda Civic.

But the “clown car” has some magical property a ‘la Hermoine Granger’s clutch from The Deathly Hallows – jangling around in the untold depths are bucket seats, family photos, and probably the very same circus tent that houses scores of clown car aficionados.

As it turns out, the love seat in the trailer contains the same magic elixir that allows not just one oversized dog to inhabit it; the love seat is not even mollified by the presence of two Danes, a feat so oft-repeated it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. But three: now there is a feat worthy of the awe and attentions of people who haven’t received the memo about the obsolescence of fez hats.

Or, at least it merits a photo.

There is one person in the Dane rescue group who labors under the delusion that there is something that could be done to stop the Dane infestation of a household’s furnishings. As for us, we have just given up and started saving for our next couch.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Love Seat

When selecting furniture for the trailer, I didn’t have any notion that we would someday call upon it to accommodate multiple large dogs. I haven’t ever been one to be fussy about things like pets on the furniture, which is a good thing, since the Danes aren’t too interested in reposing upon anything other than the furniture. How animals from checkered and caged existences come so quickly to a place where they feel entitled to have the right of first refusal for the couch is a bit of a mystery to me.

Yesterday, I was trying to teach my three-year-old niece to re-direct her one-year-old brother, instead of shouting at him and pushing him when he encroached upon her play area. Today, as I watch the dogs vie for the “couch” and look across a mass of un-occupied dog beds, I am awash in the irony of a naïve belief that undesirable behavior can quickly be supplanted by the availability of a reasonable alternative.

Unlike my three-year-old niece, we HAVE learned a little something about sharing.

In retrospect, I don’t know that I could have chosen a better piece of furniture than something called a love seat for our cozy little place in the country.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This Is Serious

As previously documented, the goats have been a delightful group of pets, but not so very uniformly reliable as lawn mowers. Of course, just in time for Fall and Winter, they have grazed down their pasture and the island in the pond, thereby necessitating the purchase of hay to supplement graze as the weather turns cold. And, just in time for Winter, I bought a new “toy” to help the goats with their chores.

I am externally restrained from playing with fire and sharp objects. The first Christmas I was living here at the Farm, I asked my mother to buy me a chain saw. She begged me to let her just give me the money and I could purchase it myself, so she wouldn’t have to live with the guilt of having purchased the implement that eventually severs my arm or some other part from the trunk of my body. She made up for her pessimistic attitude the next Spring when she kindly came out to watch over the smoldering embers of the two acres I accidentally set on fire while cleaning up the property and multi-tasking.

Imagine the mixture of horror and delight as I was reading through the owner’s manual for my new toy, and happened across this:

What to say beyond, “ouch”?!

The good neighbors and I were touring the property a few weekends ago and admiring the overgrowth when I told them I had ordered this industrial strength push-trimmer, but I couldn’t remember the name. We bandied about several versions of what I thought the name was when Steve remembered that it is a “D-R.” As what may turn out to be a terrible instance of foreshadowing, he proudly announced that he remembered the name because it was D-R like Doctor.

I may need to order a second Blue Cross/Blue Shield card for K to keep in her purse. I have a feeling it will be difficult to retrieve mine from my wallet if my finger looks like that. Have no fear, safety goggles were included.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just say "yolk"

These are our first two eggs.

These are our first two eggs on toast.

Any questions?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Not at the Farm

O.k. - this has absolutely nothing to do with the Farm or funny stories about the krewe. I momentarily entertained the notion of attempting to create a gossamer connection via the first question asked here, which is something akin to: An animal with three letters in its name.

But that would be intellectually dishonest, wouldn't it? And I expressly save intellectual dishonestly for the fourth Wednesday of each month, which is not today.

So suffice it to say: I have watched this several times and laugh my ear off every viewing.

Part of it is the nostalgia of the program - I remember watching Family Feud with my mother for a brief period after my sister was born and my mom did the whole stay-at-home thing. Television then was incredible. We had Family Feud, The Dating Game AND The Gong Show. We had Ryan's Hope, Emergency One and Mary Hartman. People like Raquel Welch, Lena Horne and John Denver visited Sesame Street. We were rescued by Spiderman, The Bionic Woman, The Ten Million Dollar Man, and Charlie's Angels. Last but not least, Saturday Night Live was awesome then.

I would happily bet $100.00 that no one in America laughs at Survivor, The Biggest Loser, The Great Race, Big Brother, or almost any other show like we can laugh at this:

** ahem, jumping down off soapbox now **

Sunday, October 14, 2007

She Stands Accused

Or maybe Azure has just surrendered to the authorities. Not likely.

One of the people involved in Azure’s many travels spoke to me by telephone after we had brought her to the fold of MisFit Farm. Among Azure’s many transgressions while in the caller’s company, this particular person seemed to be particularly troubled by an episode where Azure “tore all the covers off the bed.” Throughout our phone conversation, the caller returned to this event repeatedly. Sure, she broke through the glass in the French doors. O.k., maybe she tried to eat the cat. And perhaps Azure used the household furniture like catwalks. The caller impressed upon me this Most important observation: she tore all the covers off the bed.

For all the behaviors we have been able to correct in Azure, tearing all the covers off the bed is one that has escaped correction. Perhaps the caller knew more about this particular behavior as a harbinger of terrible things to come. Perhaps the caller had an unnatural attachment to her bedding. Perhaps it was just the so-called straw that broke her back.

As for us, we generally just keep the bedroom door shut. On occasion, we are less vigilant, and a crack in the door quickly becomes an opening for Azure to quell her insatiable desire to tear all the covers off the bed.

I can’t help loving it when I find Azure sprawled out like this, even when she has torn all the covers off the bed. It looks, for a small moment in time like Azure has surrendered, whether she has surrendered to the pure joy of a good back scratch, the jubilation of another successful bed defiling, or the scintillating pleasure of having breached the baby gates to settle herself into exactly the place she ought not to be.

4 feet x 4 feet x 4 Danes

Storms rolled through the area last night beginning around midnight, and are prepared to settle in and stay for what looks to be at least the rest of our Saturday.

The Laboradors, notwithstanding centuries of breeding as hunting dogs, are deathly afraid of loud noises. Loud noises in the nature of fireworks and most relevant to our present situation, thunder, send the Labs into a frenzy.

So last night went a little something like this:

9:00 p.m. To bed for an out-loud chapter from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
10:20 p.m. Phone call from frantic aunt in search of runaway uncle
12:43 p.m. Phone call from frantic aunt having found runaway uncle. Faint thunder is beginning in the distance. I am awake enough after the frantic aunt phone call to get up and medicate the neurotic dogs.
4:00 a.m. Full blown storms. Effectiveness of medication called into question. Attempt to continue repose in a supine position is abandoned. Dogs are sheparded out of the bedroom so someone can get some semblance of rest.

I spent the rest of the morning attempting to sneak back to bed, sleep in a chair, sleep in the loveseat and accomplish something – anything.

Admittedly, the storms were pretty intense. Lighting was heavy, even into the late morning. I nearly completed one of the books I have been reading, “Dog Spelled Backwards,” as consolation and by way of reminder of the abiding love I have for the krewe. I disinfected dog dishes, dusted, made a special breakfast for the dogs laced with more medication for the ones who needed it, and at some point in time, noticed the four-dog pile up at my feet.

I am not a fearful human. That said, I live in mortal fear that the Labs will pass their neuroses on to the Danes. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than the combination of insane anxiety and destructive ability that could be wrapped into a tidy package in the Danes.

When I counted off the floor tiles in the photo and calculated the known width of the ghastly carpet they were spread across, it appears as though they actually have squeezed themselves into less than 16 square feet, but 4x4x4 makes for a dramatic equation.

I maintain that the building of a total house is completely unnecessary. All we really need is the 16 square feet immediately surrounding me.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

An Anniversary and An Obstacle

Time with the krewe seems to slip right through our fingers. I looked at the calendar earlier this week and was astounded to see the 22nd of October approaching.

The 22nd of October marks our un-official one-year anniversary with Azure. After I had deposited her in Northern Missouri on October 20th and turned my car toward home with much relief, it never once occurred to me that I had not seen the last of this little dervish.

Azure’s story is not just her own. It is also the story of her counterpart on the fated dane-train ride to the north, and it has grown to be the story of love and friendship across the miles.

Folks who are familiar with the story know that, a mere 36 hours after I deposited Azure at her Friday night stop on the Dane Train, she returned to us, and her angelic counterpart, Ava, left us to take her place with this forever family. The exchange of leads was tearful on both ends. As the two vehicles departed that roadside drop-off point, one headed north, and the other pointed south, both cars were filled with regret and misgiving.

For nearly a year now, Ava in her northern home and Azure here at the farm each have learned their way through their worlds. Azure has fallen into her routines and has found the structure she needs to make her life stable and sane. Ava has won over the complete allegiance of her “brother,” and made significant inroads with the family cat. By email and through the blogs, we have shared in the growth of our respective families. We had the greatest opportunity to spend time with Ava’s mother at a conference earlier this summer, and an affinity we had developed through the dogs was able to gain traction of its own, personally and professionally.

I cannot explain how it felt to receive the message that suddenly, without explanation, Ava lost the remainder of her residual eyesight a few days ago. Notwithstanding brave pronouncements about life with disability, the notion of moving from Ava’s shadowed world into total darkness was a disconcerting thought. Ava’s mommy had made the statement one time that, when we met in that parking lot in Northern Missouri to trade out dogs, she could tell that Azure would be able to find what she needed with us. Azure does indeed demand a firmer hand, probably a skill set more suited to handling by someone like me instead of the creative, ebullient, loving, sensitive types of people who are inclined to become sign language interpreters.

And now, maybe more than ever, Ava needs the security, creativity, encouragement, patience and support of the people who are the perfect-made-to-order-just-right family for her. As I gaze upon our crazy little dervish, Azure, and picture her springing up from her chair and into action, butt tucked under her and ears laid flat back as she bursts into a full-bore run, and I think of Ava leaning bravely against her mommy, teeth chattering as they step into the darkness together, I am filled with an overwhelming sense that we are all exactly where we belong.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Doggy Door

Here at the trailer, we sport the largest doggy door in the history of the world. It was installed before we began Great Dane rescue, after we had taken in a dog under threat of euthanasia. He was a black lab named Checota, a sweet, amazing lug of a dog, who was one of the most fetching-est dogs I ever met. Checota was jet-black. K. purchased this fabulous glow-in-the-dark ball for us, and when I would take him into the front yard every evening for our workout, the ball was all you could see in the wonderful, peaceful, amazing darkness we enjoy here. I would toss it across the yard and he would come streaking out of the darkness to gather the ball up in his mouth mid-bounce, and come bounding across the yard like an ecstasied “goth” at a Rave. Next to a heavy-bag recommended by a former therapist, that ball, dog, and exercise is some of the most therapeutic time I have spent in my life.

After Checota was gone, the doggy door remained, and it has come in handy as our pack has grown. Unfortunately for us, the pack’s idea of the doggy door’s utility and our ideas about its purpose have occasionally diverged.

As the largest doggy door in production, it measures roughly 15” x 20”. Even at that size, it was nearly too small for our former foster boy, Alistair. The krewe, however, seems to eschew the notion of “too small.”

Among the luxurious accommodations offered here at MisFit Farm is the omnipresence of oversized dog beds. Our average dog bed runs about 40” x 30”. Looking at them strewn across the living room floor, K. remarked the other day that it looked like we had a harem living here.

The krewe seems to be in agreement with K’s assessment and are committed to the deconstruction of this decorating motif, so they have taken to pulling the oversized dog beds out through the oversized dog door into the yard.

As I pulled into the driveway one evening last week, Trinity was majestically perched atop one of the beds out in the yard. Another bed was laying at the opening of a bunker the dogs have trenched out on the west edge of their yard.

Their spatial reasoning must be magnificent. I once endeavored to move a queen-sized mattress with hinges up a very narrow stair well to a second-story bedroom. I had to employ the use of ratchets and pullies. They don’t even have thumbs (thank the heavens).

On occasion we will come home to find a bed wedged in the doggy door. I strongly suspect, however, that this is the case only because we came home too soon and they abandoned the endeavor in favor of gang-rushing the front door to greet us and show off their handiwork.

On the other hand, I came home this evening to find this three-bed pile-up. I summarily decided that after the demise of our current stash of beds, we will upgrade to twin or crib-sized mattresses. Surely those won't fit, with or without hinges or thumbs.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Puppy Kisses

I know conventional wisdom tells us that dog kisses are gross, but at MisFit Farm, we accept them as part of our charm. Kisses are just another delight for the inhabitants of MisFit Farm, and just as our barks are completely distinct, so is our style of kisses.

Skeeter is the queen kisser. Skeeter actually likes it best if you kiss her on her snout. She will offer it up to you to receive kisses; if you do a good enough job, she will return the favor with licks to the chin, cheek, and sometimes hand.

Azure is a committed chin-licker. She prefers to climb up onto your lap with her front legs and offer firm, not-too-wet, concise licks on the chin. I refer to the process with Azure as “tenderizing.”

Emmett isn’t a licker so much. He has this funny way of putting his face right up next to yours and holding it so close, you can feel him breathing on you. Then quickly, he “bumps” his nose and mouth into you. Our neighbor, Steve, finds the whole process hilarious. Steve recounts, "Out of nowhere, a huge blocky head appears, and you are expecting the sloppiest kiss ever in the world." Instead, as long as Emmett hasn’t recently taken a dip in the water bucket (otherwise referred to as a drink), you just get a little love bump. K made the comment the other day that actually, this is probably what it feels like to Emmett when we give him kisses.

Mercy has a similar style of kissing, only she pushes her soft, wrinkly mouth and floppy lips up against the object of her affection. She is also inclined to offer a regimen of “flea biting” behavior as a special sort of flourish for her kisses.

Coffee is the exception to the rule. Among Coffee’s many personality quirks, public displays of affection cannot be counted. Given the rigors of medication regimens, he will hardly eat food out of my hand, always wary of an unsuspected pill. On occasion, however, he will give my hand a little lick, when for some unfathomable reason he is overcome with affection.

I am almost embarrassed to report the number of times Trinity has provided me with the unexpected delight of some in-the-mouth tongue action. Trinity freely offers her affection at the slightest provocation. When she is allowed into the bed, she always expresses her appreciation by offering lots of kisses and flea-bites to the cheek, chin, or any other available part (cover up, kids!). When she is feeling a need to be close and I am feeling a need to wash dishes, she will spread herself out on the kitchen floor with her head on my foot and offer my ankle intermittent kisses.

My sister and I took my nephew to the park one time when he was just under a year old. On our way home from the park, as an homage to a childhood family ritual, Lisa and I took C to Dairy Queen. He was young enough we decided going inside the DQ would be best in the interest of avoiding ice cream carnage across the back seat of my car. It wasn’t until we were inside that we realized C hadn’t ever really had ice cream before. So we decided it would be best to cut his teeth on a hot fudge sundae.

As we had expected, he loved it. He was so enthusiastic about his new treat, he was grinning and grabbing my arm to deliver hugs and kisses to my upper arm all the way back to the car. That is what Trinity kisses are like: an excitement and an acknowledgement of a love so overwhelming, it just seeps out as little kisses – a toe as you walk by, a hand that has fallen off the side of the bed, an open mouth asking K what she would like for dinner, or an elbow on a walk under a sky brilliant with stars.

Friday, September 28, 2007


K is, for the most part, pretty unflappable. Not much really seems to get to her. Whether she is called upon to provide communication in extraordinarily intimate settings or required to wipe up cold dog vomit, she maintains a generally calm, staid, pleasant demeanor. She does not engage in an excess of emotive displays. She does not raise her voice in elation or crumple to the floor in sadness. With one reliable exception, she is not in the least inclined to dramatics.

Shortly after moving back to Kansas, while K, Skeeter and Susie were living with K’s parents, Skeeter became frantic about being let outside one crisp Fall evening. K took her to the back door, obligingly opened it, and when Skeeter shot out the door, K stepped out behind her, straight into the oncoming spray of a skunk.

K tried every product and every home remedy known to humankind to rid herself and Skeeter of the skunk odor. Hours, days and gallons of water were devoted to the dissolution of the powerful odor. When she showed up for an all-day engagement several days after the close encounter of the skunk kind, the other interpreter, eyes watering, demanded that K leave the assignment at once. K swears that to this day, there are remote corners of her mother’s basement where she can still smell the vestiges of her skunk attack.

A by-product of this experience is that the smell of a skunk can send K into absolute conniptions, a response that unfailingly reduces me to laughter, and reminds me of my own fond memory, a band my step-father played in, the Shyster Mountain Boys, and their rendition of my sister’s only favorite song they played. This isn’t them, but these guys are nearly as goofy as the Shyster Mountain Boys were in their heyday:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Deer Season

The air has begun to turn crisp here in Kansas, an early harbinger of the advent of the Fall season. In Kansas, Fall can last three days or three months, depending on the vagaries of El Nino, the hole in the Ozone layer, population trends or any of a variety of indiscernables. Although how brisk or how brutal the changing seasons will be in Kansas is totally unpredictable, deer season is not.

Aside from the crispness in the air, we know we are moving toward deer season when the sounds of shotgun reports echo through the valley, Wal-Mart becomes inundated with camoflauge and it is time once again to insult Mercy’s panache by outfitting her with a hunter-orange collar.

Despite her attempts to look completely annoyed and utterly unimpressed by our concern that she would be mistaken for a deer by some near-sighted, Southern-Comfort-soaked hunter in the early morning mists, we know that deep, deep down inside, Mercy really does appreciate our care and attention.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Compendium of Inappropriate Chew Toys

The dogs are not always perfect, but few are. On occassion, they will direct destructive tendencies toward less-than-appropriate chewables. Thankfully, we own very little material objects of value. There have been a couple of books destroyed, which are of course sacraments in the home of this recovering English major. CDs, DVD's, PS2 games and VHS tapes have fared well. Various paper products, including the most recent Lawrence phone book have met their pulper somewhat earlier than anticipated. Shoes have largely been the chosen object of destruction, mine in particular.

In response to my proposal to invest in a new pair of Doc Martens for the krewe's chewing pleasure, my friend, Fred, supplied the following:

"Along with Doc Martens, here is an addendum to the list of alternative dog chew toys.

Claw hammers
7 ¼ inch Skil Saw cases
Formaldehyde-treated deck timbers
Live ducks
Countless leather work gloves
Hundred-pound karate kicking bags
Electric fence insulators
Each other
Select Comfort mattress pillow-top
Pioneer VSX-515 audio/video multi-channel stereo remote control units
Live pet bunny rabbits
Holy scriptures left open on the floor
Condenser microphones
Assorted outdoor furniture
Happy Meal prizes
Lawn sprinklers
Garden hoses
Live 110-volt electrical cords
Beautiful blooming rose bushes (thorns and all)
Bicycle seats
Bicycle pedals
Lawn mower starter ropes
Empty beer cans
Full beer cans
Gasoline cans
Oil funnels
Grease rags
Prescription sunglasses
And probably wining lottery tickets (I wouldn’t know.)"

This list is empirically developed. I myself have been witness to some of the destruction to which Fred refers. Unbelievably, this is the work of five or six dogs through the years, at least half of whom fall firmly within the category of "drop kick" or "ankle biter" dogs.

See, don't we feel better now?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Tails to You

K mentioned tonight that I should update folks on the status of Emmett’s tail, particularly given its softer chosen target as documented in our “Economy” post.

As we left the story last, we were in the process of trying an under-the-belly sling to restrain our happy boy’s jubilant tail. K’s brother, the Vet, recommended affixing the tail to Emmett’s rear leg, a trick apparently employed by people who raise and treat Greyhounds. Both systems met with advantages and disadvantages of their own, or perhaps my execution was weak.

Suffice it to say that I was not getting the results I desired within the timeframe I desired.

So, with the family mantra of “better living through chemicals” dancing on my lips, I loaded Emmett into the Jeep one sunny Saturday morning to implore our Vet to give us a jump start with some antibiotics.

A word about our Vet: oh, forget it. I couldn’t possibly proffer up just a word.

A common remedy employed by our Vet is a cocktail shot, cocktail being a word I believe is very near and dear to his heart. The cocktail is usually some combination of antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and steroid. Whatever the cocktail is, experience has made us believers.

Having worked with hematomas, abrasions, skin infections, ear infections, allergies and any of a variety of other ailments that have led us to his doorstep, Emmett was dispatched to the good doctor’s office for a dosing of the cocktail.

Imagine my dismay when the good doctor’s first comment was, “Oh boy, I may have to take that off.”

Never one to exercise an expansive sense of bedside manner, Doc didn’t look up as I responded, “The idea behind this visit is to leave with MORE than we came with.”

“Well,” he responded to Emmett, “we’ll start with a shot and have your mommy give you some pills.” He finally looked at me and said, “If this isn’t a lot better in the next week, I will have to take it.”

Devastated but determined, I returned home, pills in hand, resolved to the salvation of Emmett’s tail. I purchased the entire available supply of Pet-Wrap from the local PetCo, a spray bottle of Bitter Apple, and re-committed myself to our tail-wrapping regimen, bolstered by our week’s supply of antibiotics.

The week came and went, and we did, in fact, make marked improvement. The happy tail remains attached to the happy torso. K feels confident that we have turned a corner. It has been another full week without blood splatter, and healing seems to be occurring, or maybe just scarring. We are certainly not completely out of the woods yet, but feel confident that additional damage will be manageable. Emmett, for one, looks hopeful.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lessons on Economy

Another very important lesson the dogs have taught us is about economy. Aside from the obvious: buy kibble in bulk and have it palletized and drop-shipped, they have taught us about the value of using all available resources.

Take our feet for example. Up until the krewe joined us, we were completely wasting the top parts of them. Sure, we got a lot of mileage from the bottom parts as they carried us from place to place. On occasion, the sides of our feet were used for kicking, pushing, or holding something in place. One time, I did use the top of my foot to “lever” a door into place as I was sliding it onto its hinges. Other than these few, isolated incidents, feet were pretty much all about the bottom.

Not any more.

Now, the tops of feet are routinely used as cushions, springboards, stepping stones, levers, belly scratchers and headrests.

Our legs serve as supports to hold not only our trunks upright, but also the trunks of dogs. They work as tunnels. They offer blockades for safe passage. And sometimes, as evidenced by this:

They make excellent whipping posts.

In a world where many things are taken for granted, the krewe reminds us again of the gross under-utilization and lack of imagination and innovation inherent to our dulled and bi-pedaled existence.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

PoiDog Pondering

By the way, by reference to an earlier post about my abysmal laundering abilities and the song by PoiDog Pondering with the line:

you should wear with pride/
the scars on your skin/
they're a map of the adventures/
and the places you've been

They have disabled the embedded link, but here is the video version from youtube delivered the old fashioned way:

I (heart) my Wife

Although it is not self-evident by the state of affairs on the pair of jeans I wore to work today, I have a desk job.

Now, if we had human children and they came home from school wearing a previously clean-off-the-hanger pair of pants that returned home looking like this, I imagine I would launch into a strenuous cross-examination a little something like this:

A: Are these the same pants you left the house in this morning?

A: When you embarked the school bus this morning, did it in fact drive you and
deposit you at the schoolhouse door?

A: Were you required to perform automotive maintenance to earn passage on said school bus?

A: Did I miss the Perry/Lecompton running of the bulls event?

A: Are we preparing for the science fair project where you test the empirical
effectiveness of stain remover products?

A: Was this the day your class took a field trip to the Mammoth tar pits in western Colorado?

A: Did you feel that your mother was requiring job security?

Thankfully, K just gives me that sweet, dimpled smile and pulls some magic
remedy off of the shelf to have me cleaned up and looking presentable in two shakes of a goat's tail.

An Open Letter to the Purveyors of Dog Toys

We imagine you enjoy a challenge. If you didn’t, you would have chosen an easier product for production and distribution. Something like: soufflés.

We, like you, enjoy a challenge. We own dogs. Not just any dogs. Big dogs. And some not-so-big dogs, but all dogs with “issues.” Some of our dogs have orthopedic issues, some have sensory issues, and one, in particular, has the ostensible issue that she herself enjoys challenges.

The challenge of a “tough toy” is one she is always willing to rise to meet. So far, she has been the undefeated winner. The challenge, it seems, is a timed one for her. The challenge, rather than “is this toy really indestructible?” is framed as “how quickly can I destroy a toy labeled as ‘indestructible’?”

We spend significant amounts of time and money seeking out toys purporting to be indestructible, tough, durable, everlasting and perfect-for-aggressive-chewers. As demonstrated below, most have met with a most untimely demise.

We have been keeping an admittedly unscientific tally on toy performance. To date, here are the results:

Jolly kritters: 5 minutes, decapitation and then total annihilation
Jolly ball: 15 minutes, handle chewed off
Fat Cat: 25 minutes, ripped and de-stuffed
Combat/Bamboo: 3 minutes, ripped and de-stuffed
Fire Hose: 10 minutes, ripped and frayed
Tuff Toy tug: 45 minutes, torn nearly in half
Tuff Toy Alligator: 20 minutes, eviscerated

Now, we are intrigued with this possibility:

But at a whopping $75.00, we decided it would be more cost-effective to purchase a new pair of Doc Martens for our chewing pleasure (for the record, pieces and parts of the last pair of Doc Martens continue to circulate through the toy box, nearly six months after their initial assault), or perhaps something that would give chase.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it (after your most recent soufflé is done, of course), is to create a toy that can live up to its adjectives when given the true test of mettle, and that we pay less for than a weekly vet allowance. Our vet drives a nice car, but not that nice.

In any event, the human inhabitants at MisFit Farm thank you for the few, intermittent moments of peace you have been able to proffer up until now. The canines, on the other hand, want to know, “Is that all you’ve got?!?!?” If you have anything you would like to truly put to the test, please send it along and we will fastidiously report back. You can use the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, DHL or FedEx for delivery. They all know us.

Sincerely yours,

MisFit Farm

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Camping with Dogs

Every year, my agency hosts a weekend campout. I “taught” Coffee to camp out early in our relationship, resulting in the ruination of only two tents before we got everything resolved. Last year when the rapid acquisition of canines began, K was out of town for the weekend campout, so I participated as a day camper and drove home to attend to dogs and chores in between.

This year, we camped. Lest anyone think we are completely out of our minds, we didn’t camp with all five plus one more of the dogs. Just three of them.

Now, a lot of the folks involved in the Dane rescue seem to camp, and they seem to take their dogs with them, even foster dogs. Were that I could claim to be this brave.

When I went for my day trip last year, I took Mercy and Trinity out for the evening. Mercy spent the entire time barking and drooling. Although usually I take this as evidence of a good time in humans; I think not so much for Mercy. So Mercy was out of contention for this year’s camping event.

I knew of some other dogs who would be attending the campout, and Skeeter doesn’t make a very good first impression. Early in our relationship, after K had met Coffee, and after I had met K’s mother and her two dogs, Susie (RIP - old gal) and Skeeter, we decided it would be good to try to introduce the kids. My parents divorced when I was about 10 years old, and I resolved the experience the way I resolve most experiences, by reading absolutely every book I could put my hands on about it. I cannot tell of the many travails and tragedies I read about in these tomes as they described the “blending” of post-divorce families. Let me just say that nothing I had read prepared me for what happened when I brought Coffee into K’s mom’s house and Skeeter went after him.

The end result was: K was clutching Skeeter by the collar and shaking, she was so mad. I was crying and holding an 80-pound male Laborador Coffee-dog. Although she has resolved her issues while at the Farm, Skeeter was not invited to the campout.

Azure. Azure has eaten industrial strength dog beds and chew toys. She could tear through a tent in about a millisecond. That lovely canvas fabric wouldn’t even represent an impediment.

So Coffee (of course), Trinity, and Emmett went camping with us. The campground is a great place – group camping that is relatively secluded with a good combination of cleared fields, high grass, trees, and tick nests. Suffice it to say, we tromped through them all.

The three we took were absolutely wonderful. After the first night, when every single person seemed to be consumed with the question, “You are going to sleep in that tent with all three of those dogs?” folks grew accustomed to having three oversized dogs prancing around the campsite.

Some, you might say, even loved having them there.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mean Girls

While we are on the movie tangent, count the movie, “Mean Girls” among the many neither K nor I have seen.

In my mind, it is a acht-version of “Heathers,” or a vicious version of “Clueless” so having those as a frame of reference gives me all the information I need to save a potentially wasted 90 minutes of my life.

The reason this particular genre of movies comes to mind is that, like a version of Survivor located in a trailer with gourmet dog food, first aid kits, ample supplies of water and medications, we find strange alliances formed among the krewe.

The first strange bedfellow was the Coffee/Azure pairing. Coffee is bar-none the most mellow, least motivated dog in the history of the world. When he took a shine to Azure, we were stunned. That she seemed ok with his advances left us speechless. Although his love survives, Azure has moved on to form an alliance that may be even more bizarre.

While Mercy is, to bi-peds, quite a sweetheart, she is not so generous with her love for her krewe-mates. Although getting her to eat sometimes takes an act of Congress, heaven help any poor canine who wants to move across the living room in any proximity to her food dish. Mercy has a special animus for poor Skeeter, and will sometimes, just for sport, declare the living room off-limits for the poor old gal.

Azure is, well, Azure. ‘Nuff said.

Notwithstanding the fact that playing with Azure is the equivalent of trying to capture fireflies in a whirlwind, and Azure cruises food dishes like Mark Foley at a little league game, Mercy and Azure seem to have come to terms. Azure is allowed to freely eat from Mercy’s food dish. They play tug together. Mercy occasionally tries to entice Azure into a game of “toss the good cuz.” We caught them sharing a dog-bed over the weekend. Mercy will sometimes lose herself and provide Azure with a free flea-biting treatment.

Of course, in the same instance a playful game of bite-your-face-off can begin, it can spiral quickly into a snark-fest. Neither of them seems to be particularly daunted by a little snarkiness, so the love survives.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Games People Play (with Danes)

I was thrilled to learn of a game played by a Dane friend of ours. Her family has a merle Dane, and they play I-spy with the dappling on his coat. Not being artistically inclined, I have tried this game, and to date, the only thing I have located on our merle boy, Emmett’s, coat has been an upside down version of the little logo guy for the website.

I was thrilled to learn of this game, because it seemed to validate any of a variety of the games we find ourselves applying to our babies.

We started one such game the other morning, when for some reason, I asked K out of the blue, “If Azure were a character in a movie, what character would she be?”

Among our quirky differences, K and I don’t share a common background with, interest in or exposure to: movies. K’s tastes run toward Disney, mine toward Tarantino. K has a large part of her life where movies are almost altogether missing, which pre-dates the several years in mine where movies were missing, so there is an additional temporal disconnect that amplifies generational and personality differences.

By way of example, we saw a preview for the movie, “While You Were Sleeping” on a friend’s television the other day. K’s response was, “Aw, that was such a romantic movie.” Having actually seen this one on video, my response was, “Yipes that movie was creepy. Who wants some person who doesn’t know who you are to be duped into marrying you?!” Now, I know they don’t get married in the end, but I like my goofy clueless fiancées to be the Moonstruck version, not the Million Dollar Baby version.

The game, as it turns out, is actually quite fun and illuminating. Through it, we are able to learn about one another’s life experiences through movies, what we liked and what we didn’t like, what attracted us about different characters, and how we perceive the dogs. Of course no one character captures all aspects of any one of the dogs, so the conversation continues, pulling different aspects of different characters and movies into the dialogue, respectfully listening, offering counterpoints, and compiling lists that we sometimes forget as soon as they are completed.

So, here is an initial iteration of our list:

Christian Slater in True Romance. (Emmett)

Forrest Whittaker in The Crying Game. (Coffee)

Cher in Mask; actually, Cher in just about any role. (Mercy)

Goldie Hawn in Overboard; Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta’ Give. (Skeeter)

Pipi Longstocking; Angelia Jolie in Girl, Interrupted; Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys (I was particularly pleased with the whole “Brangalina” angle with those last two selections). (Azure)

Lilo from Lilo and Stich. (Trinity)

Any guesses who selected which movies and characters?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


December 10, 2004, was the first time I set foot in the state of Louisiana. K and I had spent a series of months dating in fits and starts, mostly with disasterous results, but had come to a place where we were going to have to either saddle up and ride or hang up our spurs. At just about the time we were coming to the place where we each get over ourselves and say, “O.k., I like you. Let’s call this dating, and see where it goes,” K left for Louisiana for a two-week time out.

She drove by herself, house-sat, worked, and held a workshop across those weeks. After we had spent nearly the entire car ride from Kansas to Louisiana on the phone together, we each independently had the idea that she shouldn’t have to drive home alone.

I flew down after work on a Friday evening.

On Sunday afternoon, the friends she was house-sitting for arrived home from their cruise. I was inspected, interrogated and inquisitioned. And amazingly, just as I was falling in love with K, I fell in love with these friends of hers, their wonderful home and family, their friends, and their “place,” being Southern Louisiana.

Two years ago yesterday, we had our routine Sunday morning phone call with these friends. We were admonished that a big storm was coming, and we were not to call. We would be called after the “all clear.” As the next day unfolded, we watched in horror as Katrina unleashed her fury against the Southern Louisiana coast. After it had subsided, we waited for the call.

On Tuesday, the levees breached and the rain continued. The Weather Channel had their correspondent reporting from Covington, a community only a stone’s throw from our friends. The order of the day was devastation and destruction. We waited for the call.

Before we finally got the call (there is some disagreement whether the call came on Wednesday or Thursday), I had violated the commandment of our Southern Belle and began calling, but of course the phone lines were all down, as was the electricity and the roads. When they called, they were able to report that they all were fine. Their house had sustained some significant damage and their property was a wasteland of trees and debris. All of the people and the animals who had gone inland to our friends’ magical place to seek refuge had survived and returned to their homes to survey the damage and begin putting the pieces back together.

When we went down a month later, the roads were mostly clear on the North Shore. Gas and groceries were still in short supply. Our friends still did not have electricity. It was several weeks after we left from this trip that they finally had their electricity restored.

So what do you do two years after a loving God puts his arms around you and the rescuees you have taken in to hold you safe through the storm? Well, if you are two amazing women in South Louisiana, you open your loving arms and rescue again.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

When the Cure is Worse than the Disease

Well, I have done it.

Mindful of my reputation for over-treating the sundry ills and mis-fortunes of the krewe, I have tried to exercise restraint with Emmett’s tail situation. When we brought Emmett home, he was so sick from a urinary tract infection, he had blood in his urine. His midriff was hot, inflamed and tender to the touch, yet he didn’t even raise an eyebrow when poked or prodded. He underwent two simultaneous series of antibiotics and by about the fifth day here his tail, which had been tucked under his belly since I first laid eyes on him, had relocated to what we thought was a better location, up and wagging.

We were thrilled. Obviously, so was he, as he began the process of wagging his tail so enthusiastically, he was beating it into hamburger. I would leave for work in the morning having fastidiously cleaned, treated and bandaged his tail, only to come home to find the bandage laying on the floor somewhere and to be greeted by wags that, if they were not actively bleeding when I arrived home, soon became that way.

And now, a break for a corporate endorsement: Zout is a laundresses’ best friend. I myself do not do laundry, or rather I do laundry inartfully. Thankfully, K attacks laundry with the same dogged commitment and zeal that I bring to trimming toenails, medicating, weed-whipping, hoeing in the garden, painting, canning, walking . . .

Witness the blood splatter on this pair of khaki pants. Note the state of dried-ness, indicating two fundamental reasons I am not in charge of the laundry: 1) I tend not to observe things on the back of pant legs in need of immediate attention; and, 2) I tend not to care so much if there are markings such as these on my clothing – I have taken the line from a PoiDog Pondering song that goes, “you should wear with pride the scars on your skin/they’re a map of the adventures and the places you’ve been” to its full, illogical conclusion: scars, stains, whatever.

Our Dane-diva and non-resident knower of all things Dane, Aunty Kathleen, had commended to me a plan, easily referenced at my second favorite place on the planet, the Internet, for restraining an enthusiastic tail to allow it time to heal.

K thought it was a joke. Aunty Kathleen assured me that it was not. Ordinarily, I would have moved quickly and decisively. But in this case, the cure involved both breaking out the aforementioned running tights for another bandaging situation, and then securing Emmett’s tail back underneath his body, the place we were so elated to see it leave a few short months ago.

After much commiserating, I downloaded the plan for tail securement this morning, obtained the necessary accessories, and put my own notion of Emmett’s happiness aside for the sake of his well-being.

And so Emmett’s tail-joy goes on sabbatical:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We Can't Have Anything Nice

I am a Spongebob fanatic. I guess “fanatic” is a bit of an overstatement, since I don’t have antannae, satellite, cable, or any other means to capture the signal that would allow me to watch the actual television cartoon, and since I haven’t even seen the movie.

In a brilliant stroke of foreshadowing, my grandmother, Elsa, told me the story of how she came to collect miniature statues of mice the first time I ever visited her home in Hawa’ii. It seems that one of her children brought her a miniature mouse statue home once, and someone got it in their mind that she liked little statues of mice. So he or she (she either really couldn't remember or just didn't want to stigmatize the culprit) just kept giving them to her. And as these manias run in families, the misconception spread to others and the rest joined in on the gifting. Year after year, holiday after holiday, she was the beneficiary of some mistaken family myth about what she liked.

She, of course, did not tell the story thusly. She was very kind and loving and generous notwithstanding having received hundreds of statues of mice to dust through the course of her adulthood.

And of course, my Spongebob situation is not nearly as bleak or overwhelming as the decades-long accumulation of little mice. I like Spongebob. He is cerebral but goofy, willing to learn from his boneheaded mistakes and call others on theirs, generally good-natured and occasionally intense. Not that I can even begin to compare with the ceramic mouse collection, but I do have Spongebob underwear, t-shirts, slinkies, interchangeable dolls, notecubes (three of these, actually), address books, pool toys, towels, shower curtains, and the list goes on. . .

Having put all this thought into the why’s of my Spongebob affectation, you can imagine how horrified I was to come upon this in my living room this morning:

Until some time last week, I had a soft-sided Spongebob lunch pail. His body was the “pail” part, and he had these now disembodied and disemboweled plastic arms sticking off the side, and pants and legs stuck onto the bottom. I had contemplated using duct tape to perform cosmetic repairs and just have my Spongebob be the amputee Spongebob, but decided that others may not take it in the spirit it was intended.

The dogs choose the most random and unpredictable things to pick off of the high parts of the countertop and destroy. All I can say is that it’s a good thing I still have my “Charlie’s Angels” lunch pail or I would have been seriously ticked.

We just can’t have anything nice, now can we?!?!?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lessons from Grandmother Joey

Growing up, I had the benefit of a multiply “blended” family. The chief benefit of this arrangement for those of us with extraordinary ego strength which, thanks to my mother and many others, I posses, is the exposure to many magical people who you can embrace as “yours.”

One such person was my grandmother Joey (pronounced, a lá her second husband, “Joy”), the mother of the man who adopted me and therefore became both legally and truly my dad. My grandmother Joey was a magical, amazing, light, positive being. She was a student of spirituality and mysticism, and an aficionado of all people without any regard for status or condition. She once took in a wayward young man who had come to Sedona and seemed to need a quiet space for a time; as it turned out, this “nice young man” was a nice young man known popularly as Yanni. My grandmother Joey took tremendous delight in wine-and-cheese picnics, loved hiking the red rocks of Oak Creek Canyon, prepared and ate the most horrifying macrobiotic foods, and believed in the existence of fairies, placing treats outside for them alongside the offerings left for quail, squirrels, cardinals and chipmunks.

One of my grandmother Joey’s special talents was taming the wild thing that was me as a talkative, rambunctious, obnoxious child. She had a mesmerizing way of rubbing my back that could stop me dead in my tracks, and hold me still and quiet for as long as the moment would last.

Whatever it was that she did in those magical moments, some of it must have stuck. Absent-mindedly, almost the same way she seemed to do it, I found myself stroking Azure this evening. As I tuned into the moment, I realized that the savage beast had been quieted and Azure stood motionless, my fingertips rubbing back and forth across her back in the same way my grandmother Joey had done for me all those years ago.

And then, just as it happened for me as a wild child, the trance was broken, and Azure was off again like a shot, reading Mercy the riot act, seeking the relinquishment of a much-desired cow hoof, attempting to jump in K’s lap as she sat on the toilet, and bouncing in and out of the rocking recliners in the living room.

My Gift from MisFit Farm

Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher, opined that we are all but selfish creatures who, without a social contract, would live by the law of tooth and nail, motivated by self-interest. Social contracts are our agreement to concede the unencumbered freedom of a life without laws for the security afforded in communal living arrangements, where members trade rights and responsibilities.

Some days, I am inclined to believe in this absolutist, i.e. irrational, mean, survivalist description of true human nature. Some days, I struggle with the social contract and whether it really is adequate to hold the negatives at bay.

I recognize the over-simplification and tremendous injustice I serve to Mr. Hobbes, but on these days, I am searching, and it seems good enough to pick that particular philosophical precept as any other. I think any other political philosophy would serve me just as well, Hobbes’ being in some form or fashion a fundamental enough precept that others flow from it.

On these days, I go so far as to wonder if I have served the social contract in my own small world well, or whether I prove out Hobbes’ theory of absolutist human nature.

The truth of the matter is that, for all the pats on the back, all the accolades, all the attention that we receive for offering our place to others who don’t fit in elsewhere or who just need a place to belong, be safe, be happy, and be healed, I need them. This is probably not a tremendous revelation to anyone outside of me; it is, however, a truism.

I have bad days. I have days when the world just doesn’t seem to want to act right. I have days when I feel like I can’t do enough, can’t be good enough, can’t – for all the screaming and yelling and fit-throwing (metaphorical, of course) – make the world right, Just or fair.

Here at MisFit Farm, that all doesn’t matter. When I walk in the door, there are five, six or sometimes seven enthusiastic faces to greet me. There are hugs, and kisses, and tail wags so emphatic, they bleed. There are reminders that there are things I can fix, and things I cannot, but I am still loved regardless. I cannot get away with curling up in a little ball and wishing it all away, because there are wet noses that push into my dark spaces, and paws that pull my hands out from over my eyes, and trip-trapping hooves dancing back and forth on a bridge too sunshiny and too happy for any trolls to inhabit.

And even on days when I accomplish nothing or I rage in futility against the machine, the only score that is kept is whether enough pats were dispensed, enough kisses were distributed, enough time was spent in the sunshine, enough stars were counted, enough snuggles were shared, and enough love was absorbed, to get up and face the world again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Azure vs. Marley

I recently shared an e-mail exchange with a wonderful woman and fellow bibliophile about the book Marley and Me. I read the book earlier this summer and I absolutely adored it – I laughed, I cried, I held my head in commiseration.

I am compelled to point out that I did start keeping the blog long before I knew about this book. Being a general recluse, I do not have a lot of exposure to popular media and associated cultural capital. Let’s just say that the latest recommendations from Oprah’s Book Club make it to our reading list only by accident or by some other circuitous route.

We were having this virtual conversation about the blog and about the book, when the issue was proposed that “The only unanswered question for me is why they kept the puppy through all of that -- so much damage.” Ironically enough, I myself had this question as I read the book.

And then I began to make a checklist of Azure’s transgressions, and once compiled, I had to laugh out loud. By the time Azure was brought into the fold of MisFit Farm, she had:

♥ Destroyed the bedroom of one of the Dane train people - completely threw the sheets, cover and pillows off of the bed.
♥ Ran across a Dane train person's coffee table.
♥ Broke through the glass of a french door.
♥ Terrorized her potential adoptive mother into handing over an entire box of treats.
♥ Attempted to express dominance over at least two other Danes and countless cats.
♥ Attacked the windshield wipers of at least three cars.
♥ Tore an empty fast food bag living on the floorboard of my car to shreds, including the empty cup.
♥ Ate mulitple water bottles, chew toys, books (almost an unforgivable) and bones.
♥ Spent the night in a humane society shelter as a place of refuge for a Dane train person's home.
♥ Annihilated two heavy-duty, colossal crate dog beds.
♥ Been medicated with acepromazine repeatedly.

In terms of destruction wrought in a concentrated period of time, I now maintain that Azure makes Marley look like Mr. Rogers.


A glimpse into this evening’s conversation:

We are sitting at the table, finishing dinner. We are discussing the possibility of enticing our amazing friends from Minnesota to meet us at some halfway point for a “Great Dane escape” weekend and perusing potential locations on the Internet.

Clearly bored with this conversation, and sensing that she will be excluded from the festivities, Azure begins bumping my arm with a slobbery object. Checking the object for “appropriate play” status, I observe that it is the mostly intact remnants of a previous shoe sacrifice. I grab a hold of a spot which gives me adequate grip, give a little jerk, and the game commences. Azure and I are intently staring each other down, an integral part of the game.

K: She never plays that way with me.

A: Hmmm. . . I wonder why that is. . .

K: I don’t play that way with her.

A: Well, that probably explains it.

Azure is tugging as I continue to hold on. She tries a “jerk lose” move. I cling to my end of the shoe. I gently pull towards me, dragging her along the floor. She jerks and I let go as she careens backwards.

Before I can awake the computer from sleep mode, Azure is back at my arm, nudging me with the slobbery shoe. The game recommences.

K: What kind of floors do you think will withstand this?

A: Concrete.

K: No seriously.

A: I am serious. We can paint the concrete floors at the new house. We can do parquet or hardwood patterns, tile, creek bottoms, name it.

K: (pretending to pout) But I don’t want concrete floors in the new house!

A: Hmmmm. . .

Azure is trying to exert authority by subtly pulling backwards. I am holding my ground, but the effort is dislodging the tablecloth and pulling my beer and the computer precariously close to the table’s edge. Because she loves me, K. moves my beer to safer ground.

This time, I try to the “jerk lose” move. Azure holds on but thinking she may have the upper hand, vigorously tugs backwards at which point I let go and she careens backwards.

Azure gains her footing and returns to nudge my arm with the slobbery shoe again.

K: I guess she must want to play.

A: Hmmm. . . I guess so. . .

K: Why does she want to play the tug game with you and not me?

A: Must be saving herself for your snuggles later.

K: Yeah, I’m a lover, not a fighter.

A: Pretty much, yeah.

Monday, August 13, 2007

MisFit Farms True Foundation

While I can’t compete with the stories told by A, I thought I would give a shot at describing the wonderful world we live in here at MisFit Farms due in large part to A. A is the eldest of three, this is apparent in her ability to mother and care for everyone here. A is our foundation, chef extraordinaire, maintenance person, gardener, yard person, and the chief nurse/doctor; a neurotic, obsessive compulsive care giver, not a scrape is missed with antibiotic ointment or as in Emmett’s case, a happy tail not bandaged before turning in for the night. Medicine is dispensed with vengeance in order keep allergies at bay, sore joints moving, and thunderstorms from causing a number of maladies. Without A we would be lost.

A has little quirks such as:

A can only write blogs on A’s laptop (my laptop has all the keys, I guess this throws A’s creative thoughts off.)

As much as A dislikes birds or some would categorize A’s response to birds as “terrified of birds”, A is determined to raise chickens so we can be safe knowing the eggs we consume will not be affected with any weird feed disease.

A tries to convince me and others that Azure is psychotic and a pain (okay, I admit Azure is not for the faint of heart human companion). There is no way A will convince me she isn’t in love with Azure as much as I am. (I have caught Azure receiving kisses from A on many occasions even though A denies it.)

A also has special talents:

A is a photo bug, no one is safe from her incessant picture taking. Flash bulbs will burst at the most innocent of feats. (Mercy is still disgruntled from the one snapped of her napping with the record 12 inch drool hanging from her bottom lip while she slept sitting up in a chair). Mercy is after all a model, she is the resident Diva, Mercy is the calendar girl for December 2007 in the 2007/2008 Great Dane of the Ozarks Rescue Calendar.

A will try anything to repair a scrape, cut, gouge, or bleeding tail. As Skeeter discovered with the maxi pad bandage held in place with a section of 1980’s running pants. (She is still recovering from that humiliation.)

What I find most interesting is that it seems the dogs must have secret meetings. For example, While Emmett was not a member of the MisFit Farm menagerie when Skeeter was outfitted in what our neighbor Steve referred to as a “speedo” Emmett has been suspicious of any bag we bring home from the store. A was sent the directions of how to make a garter belt style tail holder for Emmett’s tail. The purpose is to hold his tail under his belly until it can heal. Emmett obviously overheard us talk about the contraption and even though he was not here for the whole maxi pad running pant outfit, seems concerned about what might be in store for him. I am still holding on to the band-aid and tail wrap treatment that does not involve a swivel hook and a clasp hook. We will see who wins out.

One of my favorite talents of A’s is the teaching techniques used for newcomers to MisFit Farms on the use of the doggy door. I have always heard a good teacher uses verbal, visual, and hands on approaches to make sure the student gets the message in the best way suited for their individual learning needs. A covers all bases as documented in this photo.

Living here at MisFit Farms is the greatest blessing I could have ever received. I am surrounded with love, laughter, and the wonderful antics that A comes up with in an attempt to keep us all safe and healthy. A’s renditions of what goes on here at the Farm only scrap the surface of what we experience every day. We recently met a new friend while at a conference in San Francisco, A was retelling some of the high points here at MisFit Farms, her comment was “you have to be making this stuff up, no one could have all this happen” The truth is each and every day is an adventure and another page in the Adventure of MisFit Farms. I have never laughed or loved so much in all my life. I am truly blessed to be a part of this incredible Krewe with A. A has turned my life upside down and I am enjoying every second of it!