June 2nd is Kindness for Kate Day!

June 2nd is the 10th annual “Kindness for Kate” Day! In 2007, June 2nd was first declared “Kindness for Kate” Day in honor of 8 State Hurricane Kate. This year, on June 2nd, in honor of Kate, please do something to make the world a better place. Plant a flower. Say a prayer. Help somebody. Give hope to a homeless animal, or a homeless person. Perform an act of kindness. Collect your spare change and donate it to an animal rescue group or a food shelf. Appreciate someone’s efforts. Volunteer. Or come up with your own idea and post it here. Stick your neck out and do something new that you haven’t done before. Tell us about it. Let’s make June 2nd an awesome day!

This year, since I’m a little bit late in posting, let’s make the next week Kindness for Kate Week! Think of ways to show kindness throughout the week. What are you planning to do? Thanks for helping to make the world a kinder place.

8 State Hurricane Kate
8 State Hurricane Kate


How Did He Know That?

I haven’t mentioned our cat much here, but I want to remember her now. Gingersnap was rescued with her second litter of gorgeous little tiger-striped kittens at the end of 2010, when she was about two years old. Homeward Bound Rescue of Minnesota took Ginger and her family in, and they all tested positive for feline leukemia. When they were weaned, the kittens were adopted into their new homes and Ginger joined our family in January of 2011.

Gingersnap was a beautiful rare orange tiger cat with four white feet, a white chest, and a Minnesota ‘M’ on her forehead. She did well in our household with three herding dogs, at least in part because she had her front claws! For most of her life, Ginger was healthy and showed no signs of her disease. I tried to keep her life as stress-free as possible and provided her with good nutrition, high-quality wet food (no dry food per vet’s orders), and half of a Wei Chi Booster capsule every day.


During our recent move from Minnesota to Wisconsin, Ginger was staying with friends while we stay with family until moving into our new home in May. But at the beginning of February, the feline leukemia reared its ugly head and caught up to Ginger. She developed a cough and the leukemia’s effects on her lungs put her in danger of severe respiratory distress, which would be frightening and very painful, if not fatal. The vet indicated that this was inevitable and said that, at about 7 ½ years old, Ginger had enjoyed life for much longer than most cats with leukemia. At the vet’s recommendation, I made the tough decision to let Ginger go in a painless and peaceful way instead of letting her experience a traumatizing bout of respiratory distress.


I miss Ginger a lot and am so sad that she won’t be joining us in our new home. I’m sure the move put stress on her as it stressed all of us. I tried to explain to Chase and Cay what had happened to Gingersnap and that she won’t be reunited with us in May. But still, what Chase did in March surprised me.

We had a vet appointment with a vet Chase and Cay hadn’t met yet. The vet did a rectal and anal gland exam on Chase, which we have done regularly since he was treated for colon cancer in 2013. So far, so good. When the vet bent over Chase to trim his toenails, I told her that he has back pain and doesn’t like having his legs pulled on or pulled to the side. The nail trim was going ok, but I could tell something was up with Chase. At one point, after the vet was done trimming the nails on a front foot, Chase lunged up and roared at her face. Scary! He didn’t bite and the vet wasn’t hurt, but he clearly gave a warning and seemed to be frightened. This was not like him at all! It was my fault since I was supposed to be holding him and didn’t expect him to do that. Previously, he hadn’t responded like that to anyone trimming his nails.

A few days later I asked an animal communicator friend to check in with Chase. I told her I had a theory about why he had lunged at the vet, but didn’t tell her what it was. She came back with something completely different. She said that Chase did not want the vet to touch him. He didn’t trust her; she had a bad smell and he didn’t want to have any part of it. He seemed to be quite expressive about it. Wow! This was not what I’d expected. So I asked her more about the smell. Chase indicated that it was the smell of death, but didn’t say more. Whoa! I then told my friend that this was the vet who had put Ginger down six weeks before (which she hadn’t known). I asked if that’s what bothered Chase and she said that, amazingly, Chase did seem to know that this was the vet who had put Ginger down. Could it be that, when she leaned over him that day, he was afraid he was going to die? My poor little dog who’d survived cancer!


Ginger’s health had gone downhill rather suddenly, at least by outward signs. I think Chase understood that Ginger was very ill. But he had never met this vet before. How did he know she had put Ginger down? I do think that animals know and communicate things that we miss all the time, and we often have no idea. I recently read Bernie Siegel1 describing a quantum physics term called ‘nonlocality’, in which a quantum particle can influence another quantum particle instantaneously over any distance, despite there being no exchange of force or energy. Quantum particles that have had any form of contact retain a connection even when separated, so that the actions of one will always influence the other, no matter how far they get separated. Could this have somehow been true for Chase and Ginger as well? Is it possible that when Chase met this vet he was scared for his life, thinking that she was going to put him down too, and I had no idea at the time?

Our next appointment involves a blood draw. I’m not going to take Chase back to the same vet, not because she did anything wrong, but because he’s afraid of her. I’m going to explain to him carefully what we’re doing and take him to another vet who he knows and likes. Even if I’m wrong, I’d rather be wrong and not scare him. When we move into our new home in May, about 30 miles from where we’ve been staying, we’ll be looking for a new vet anyway.

Since Chase’s response to the vet was so out of character, I realized it wasn’t just a behavioral problem, but that something more was bothering him. I’m happy to have insight into his strange behavior so I don’t scare him (or the vet) that way again. And I do wonder what he knew about Ginger’s passing and how he got the information.


1 in The Art of Healing, by Bernie S. Siegel, MD

Remembering Charlotte Bass Lilly, founder of Animal Rescue New Orleans, who passed away on November 15th



On the Move

Over the summer I was offered a new job in Wisconsin, the state where I grew up. I wanted to move back closer to my family, and I love the Madison area. So in September, after I had lived in Minnesota for 31 years, and in the same house for almost 26 years, we made the move to Wisconsin.

Our home in Minnesota was all that Chase and Cay probably have much memory of. With plenty of room to run and play on 5 acres and a state park in the backyard, we’ve all been spoiled. While our Minnesota place is on the market we’re staying with family in Wisconsin, on a 17-acre place with plenty of room to run. I’m pondering what our next place will be like. I want to downsize with less to take care of, and live near a park with wild spaces where we can hike very day. I want a quiet place where we have neighbors, but don’t feel crowded, where a dog is allowed to bark once in a while without disturbing the neighborhood.

While exploring the area and looking for our new home, I realized how much my life and decisions involve the dogs. Every evening when I come home from work, the dogs and I go for a walk. Proximity to trails is a plus. A large fenced or fence-able yard is a plus. A dog-friendly neighborhood is a must.

Chase and Cay at Blue Mound SP-2

Although Minnesota and Wisconsin are neighboring states, when you’re moving over 250 miles, you might as well be moving across the country. I tried to stay aware of and minimize the stresses the dogs had with moving. We were lucky to be going to a familiar place they had visited many times, where they’re comfortable. But when we started packing up the household, the dogs showed signs of stress. I told them where we were going to stay and hoped they understood. When family helped us move over the course of a few weekends, they gradually watched the stuff leave our house. When the house was almost empty and I was sleeping on the floor, they were clearly concerned. Almost all that they had known and guarded had been taken right out from under their noses, and I had told them it was ok!

I tried to keep the schedule the same, feeding and walking the dogs at the same times before and after we moved. Exercise and our daily walks are clearly a good way for all of us to unwind. I kept their food and supplements consistent, including Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to help them stay healthy. I gave them Rescue Remedy during the most stressful times, when boxes and furniture were being moved out of our house. The ride to our ‘new’ residence was an easy trip that the dogs and I had made many times.

Once in Wisconsin, I had to adjust to a new work schedule. We arrived late on a Saturday night and I had to start my new job on Monday morning. During that first week I felt exhausted, and Chase didn’t finish his breakfast. He must have been concerned by the change in the schedule and perhaps my nerves with starting a new job. I tried to stay calm and not make him any more nervous. But I could tell that he was sensitive to anything that concerned me. Fortunately, by supper time, Chase was hungry enough to finish his breakfast and eat his supper, so he was still eating enough food and supplements. But his finicky behavior at breakfast told me that it was going to take a while for us to settle in.

We’re living with other people in their house, a place we’ve visited for long weekends, but not for this long. We miss our home in Minnesota, and the St. Croix River. But we’re staying at a beautiful place here in Wisconsin, and getting more time to visit with family. We’re discovering new places to hike, including Lake Kegonsa State Park and Blue Mound State Park, both wonderful parks with lovely trails, and even a dog beach.

Chase and Cay at Blue Mound SP-3

As we continue to explore the area, we’ll search for our new home and consider what will be important about it. The 4-legged members of the family will surely have top consideration.


Click here to learn about Bernie Siegel’s new book ‘Love, Animals, and Miracles’ with our story about Chase the Library Dog and my story of dolphin healing.

Click here if you’d like to live on a little piece of heaven in Minnesota, next to Afton State Park.


Just Being

Earlier this year I wrote about taking a therapy dog class with Cay, and how far she’s come since she first arrived here as a practically-feral adolescent 8 years ago. I had decided to enter Cay in the class because of the response she’d shown to my niece’s children, fetching the ball over and over for a 3 year old boy, when she had never fetched the ball for me. She came alive while playing with those kids, and I thought she might like to become a library dog, like Chase, and have kids read to her.

In the therapy dog class, Cay made many friends and learned to do all of the exercises required to pass the Pet Partners therapy dog test. She sat on command, came when called, walked nicely by my side, and walked through a crowd. She let a stranger brush her and touch her. She even learned to be calm around wheelchairs and funny noises and people who move differently. She did very well, considering she was afraid of practically everything when I first met her.

After graduating from the class, we were scheduled to take the Pet Partners test the following week. Cay seemed to be ready for the real test since she had passed all of the exercises in class. But she had hurt her leg and was limping, so she was unable to take the test. We rescheduled at a later date and Cay and I continued to practice.

When the big day came, we started out well enough. But when I told Cay to sit, she just looked at me. She knows the word and knows how to sit, but for some reason she didn’t want to. We tried again and she just didn’t do it. Isn’t it odd that she didn’t do the exercise that most dogs know, the one that was supposed to be the easiest?

I wasn’t particularly nervous since I’d easily passed the test with both Chase and Bandit in the past. I just wanted Cay and me to give it our best shot. Still, I could tell she was stressed by the test environment, with everyone in the room focusing on her. When we were in the class, with other teams in the room the attention was divided.

I thought about the test and what was different and how I might have helped Cay better. I tried to stay relaxed, perform my part consistently and do my best to support her. I even gave her calming signals. The message I got from her is that she really wasn’t that interested in doing the exercises. After working with Bandit, a dog who competed in multiple types of performance events for many years and always did what I asked, and then with Chase, who is a natural therapy dog who has always done what I asked, I had to pause and think about what was happening with Cay. Although she had done very well in the class, she wasn’t comfortable in the test environment. I had to listen to what she was telling me.

Cay doesn’t want added stress in her life. She doesn’t want to work to become anything, she just wants to be herself. She wants to hang out together, go for walks on the hill and by the river, and not strive for anything in particular. She wants to enjoy one another’s company, enjoy the day, and celebrate life. We can all learn from her.

Cay and Chase on Hill-2 

Cay and Chase on Trail-2   

Each dog has lessons to teach us. I thought Cay wasn’t hearing me when I told her to sit, but maybe I wasn’t listening to her. And she’s right. We could all use more time to just enjoy the day.

Cay and Chase in River-2



You could say we failed the therapy dog test. But I learned to listen better. Take it from Cay: Don’t let the whole summer get away from you without taking time to relax and enjoy the day with your pups. Cay has come a very long way over the years and I think she would be a great therapy dog. I may consider taking the test with her again in the future, but that will be up to her. I’ll keep listening and we’ll see. For now, we’re taking time to celebrate life.


With all that’s happening here this summer, Cay has taught me a valuable lesson. In August the kids will visit and Cay will get to play ball with them. Who knows, maybe they’ll even read to her. 🙂



8 Things I Learned from 8 State Hurricane Kate, and Kindness for Kate Day

With hurricane and summer storm season beginning, I was recently invited to be on a radio show called ‘Heroes of Katrina: Ten Years After – Hurricane Preparedness for Pets’. To get ready for the show, I reviewed my classic post, ‘8 Things I learned from 8 State Kate’, the cattle dog who was rescued after Hurricane Katrina and who later came to live with me as she recovered and I looked for her original family. I found the information to be useful still, and added updates from what I’ve learned in the past few years.


While you may not live in hurricane country, your area is vulnerable to some type of severe storm and natural disaster. We live in Minnesota, where storms can cause flash flooding and knock out power, the river can rise rapidly and overtop its banks, and tornadoes blow through every summer. In the winter we get blizzards, which can also knock out power. The point is that everyone needs to be prepared for the type of disaster that can occur in their area. Being prepared means having a plan for your family, including your animals.

Here are eight things I learned from 8 State Hurricane Kate.

1. Microchip your pet. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we learned how easily pets can lose their collars and IDs. A microchip implanted under the pet’s skin is the best permanent identification. I recommend a microchip even if your pet never leaves the house. A flood, tornado, hurricane, or even a surprise bolt out the door can separate you. A microchip is a small electronic chip with a unique ID number, in a capsule the size of a grain of rice. When a pet is found, the ID number is read by a hand-held scanner and the microchip company is notified. The company looks up the ID number in their database to find the owner. A microchip will only reunite you with your pet if you’ve registered your current contact information. Microchip technology has improved over the past ten years. A universal scanner is now available that can read the microchip number from any manufacturer.

2. Keep good pet records, including a current photo of you with your pet (to verify ownership) and photos of your pet’s unique identifying characteristics. Store your pet’s vet, food, and medication records in one place (like The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book – Click here for more information). Include information on the pet’s daily routine, words the pet knows, and other useful tips for anyone taking care of your pet in an emergency situation. Make sure a designated person knows where your pet’s information is stored, in case something happens to you. Print the photos of you and your pet; don’t rely on photos stored on your phone. If power is lost, you may lose power to your phone too.


3. Make a disaster plan for your family and pets. Know the most likely natural disasters in your area. If you must stay home in a disaster situation, be prepared to survive without assistance. Assemble a kit to meet your family’s basic needs for at least three days. Store it in easily accessible waterproof containers. If you must evacuate, do not leave your pets behind. Have carriers, leashes, and harnesses for your pets. Know the local evacuation routes, how you’ll transport your pets, and where you’ll take them. Plan alternate destinations because emergency shelters for people often don’t allow pets, and pet-friendly hotels fill quickly.

4. Make a family communication plan in case a disaster occurs while you’re separated. Know where your family will meet if you can’t reach each other by phone. Identify a neighbor or pet sitter who will get to your pets quickly when they need help and your family is away from home.

5. Make sure your pets get good nutrition (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine) and are properly vaccinated, treated for fleas and ticks, on heartworm preventative, and spayed or neutered. Healthy pets are better prepared to survive anything, including displacement and housing with other animals. Accepted vaccination protocols are changing, and some flea and tick treatments are not approved by veterinarians. Do your research and decide what’s best for your pet.

6. Socialize and train your pets. Help your pets learn to be confident in different situations. Positively trained pets are less likely to get lost. Make sure they know how to walk on a leash/harness and are comfortable riding in their carriers in the car. Teach them to wait before exiting the car by pausing, then giving them a reward. I feed my cat in her carrier twice each day. Since she’s used to going in the carrier and doesn’t think twice about it, I could easily load her into the carrier on short notice if needed. We also have a harness for her and put it on her regularly, so she’s used to it and I can remember how to put it on.

7. Tune in to your pets. They’re tuned in to you. Give them opportunities to do what they were bred to do. Help them relax and be confident. Appreciate them for who they are. The more connected you are to your pets, the better you will weather anything together.

8. Be flexible and resilient. An old girl who has lost everything can recover with dignity and grace, and be happy. Kate taught me this too.

This article includes information from Noah’s Wish, www.NoahsWish.org.

The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book is available at www.8StateKate.net.

Every year on June 2nd, in memory and honor of Katrina cattle dog Kate, we celebrate Kindness for Kate Day. On June 2nd, please perform a new act of kindness for a person or animal. We hope these new acts of kindness will become habits and make the world a better place. Thank you.


Heroes of Katrina: Ten Years After – Hurricane Preparedness for Pets, Blog Talk Radio – Tuesday, May 5th at 7:00 pm CST

7:00 pm CST on Tuesday, May 5th

Call into (347) 637-3939 or listen in via the Internet at https://www.facebook.com/events/1042253162470212/

Please join us this very special evening as we welcome our returning guest, Award Winning Author Jenny Pavlovic, Ph.D., and discuss an extremely important topic….preparing our beloved pets for a hurricane. Jenny will share very valuable advice and insight regarding the necessary precautionary measures needed to safeguard our furry friends and all animal creatures BEFORE a hurricane strikes. Hurricane season is fast approaching – June 1 through November 30, 2015. It’s not too early to listen and learn what to do in advance. Please don’t wait until it’s too late. Feel free to call in and share, comment, question, discuss with Jenny.

NWMD_3D_MU_noBkgd_seal--compressed 8StateKate_COV_3D_4thED_noBkgd-2


New Beginnings

The arrival of spring brought a wonderful message about a new beginning that brightened my day. Remember my 2012 story about the spirit dogs of Bimini (https://www.omegafields.com/blog/spirit-dogs-of-bimini/)? In March I received a message from Johanna, who rescued the yellow dog in the story that reminded me of my dog Cay. Johanna founded a rescue organization to help the dogs of Bimini. She wrote:

Dear Jenny, I am the founder of Island Paws Rescue, a nonprofit dog rescue with a mission to save the dogs in Bimini. I recently came across your story of the Spirit of the Bimini dogs and realized that my dog Luca, is in the photo, known as yellow dog. We rescued him 2 years ago and then started the nonprofit. He’s our love! What a small world… Please check out our fb page: https://www.facebook.com/IslandPawsRescue

Johanna’s note reminded me that one person really can make a difference. I was elated to learn that Luca has such a wonderful home. The photo below shows Luca with another rescued dog he’s helping to foster.
Luca at Home-c

I felt the depth of Luca’s spirit back in 2012, and hoped he would find a wonderful home. Now he’s helping rescue other dogs. How cool is that?

Speaking of new beginnings… Have you ever experienced a moment when told someone your dog’s background and they responded that they never would have known that your dog was abused, or that your dog was a feral pup when you got her? And you paused for a moment, and realized just how far your dog has come, and how proud you are?

Cay and I recently completed a therapy dog class. She learned all of the exercises, including walking through a crowd, accepting a physical exam by a stranger, and navigating around wheelchairs and other assistive devices. I remembered when Cay first came to live with us and it took two people to pull her out of the travel crate. Cay and her puppy littermates had been rescued in the wilderness in Tennessee. She was so afraid of everything, including being touched (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2375). After she’d had some time to settle in at home, I enrolled her in an obedience class. The first time we went to school she was so concerned about the activity in the room and anything happening behind her that she spent much of the night spinning around in a circle. Most of the first few weeks of class were spent helping her adjust to being there.


Over the months and years, Cay rode along with Bandit and Chase and me to herding activities and other dog events. She met new people, saw different animals, and got used to hanging out. Over time, Cay did the growing mostly on her own. We simply provided love, healthful food, a safe environment and good experiences. I hadn’t really noticed just how far Cay had come until her wiggly butt greeted strangers in the therapy dog class, and she decided that the wheelchair was her best friend once she discovered a treat on it. When I told people in the class she had come to us as a practically feral pup, they were surprised. And I experienced that moment…

Cay and Chase-c

In February, Chase and I visited the local elementary school for “I Love to Read” day. I read them the true story of Chase the Library Dog (share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=2Ics3LlsxYsl2). About halfway through the book, I realized that while the kids were interested in Chase’s story, they were pretty well preoccupied with snuggling and petting him. I thought for a moment that if I stopped reading the book and just faded into the background, Chase and the kids would continue to enjoy being together and might not even miss me. And that was ok with me.

In March, Chase and I had a fun day at the library. We visited with the librarian and adult library patrons, including an older woman who petted Chase as she reminisced about her dog. Three super kids read fun books to us, and we got to visit with their younger siblings too. And I had one of those moments when someone asked me about Chase’s background. I told them that we think he’s a smooth coated collie-Australian cattle dog mix, and that my friend Sarah, who I met in Louisiana helping care for rescued animals after Hurricane Katrina, rescued Chase in Virginia. I remembered how Sarah saved Chase from a violent man who had stuffed him in a tiny chicken crate and was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. That Chase shook in fear on her lap for a couple of hours until he realized he was safe. And I thought about how amazed people are when I tell them that Chase loves everybody now and that he led me into volunteering at the library. I was reminded of the many miracles that brought Sarah and me and then Chase and me together. God must have been winking all along the way.

School Visit-2c  School Visit-3c

March 15th marked one year since Bandit’s passing. We miss him, as we’ve been finding our way without him. We’ve had several visits from bald eagles that indicate his spirit is still with us. Several times per week a bald eagle flies over the highway in front of my truck, timing it just right. The week of March 15th, a bald eagle flew over our front yard when the dogsitter was outside with Chase and Cay. She texted me that “Chase was so funny today. We were playing catch for a long time and then an eagle flew over and Chase spent the rest of the time cry-barking trying to herd him in hahaha.” This new dogsitter hadn’t known Bandit (our other dogsitter was on vacation). I replied that Chase talks to the eagles and that bald eagles were around a lot just before and after Bandit passed, and now I see them everywhere. She said, “It’s a sign that Bandit is saying hi to his siblings!” It was a long week, but this made my day.

Dogs in Spring-c

As Bandit would say: “Be, Play, Love. Enjoy this day!”


Happy Spring!



Life and Death and Cancer

Thoughts swirled in my head as I watched the PBS special on cancer for the second night. I thought of the people in my family who have survived and have been taken by cancer. And the dogs in my family who have survived and have been taken by cancer. And even though we don’t know enough about the cancer that’s killing people, I wish we knew as much about the cancers that are killing our dogs as we know about those that are killing our people. And I wish we knew as much about the canine genome as we do about the human genome.

As I watched, Chase sat by my side and I heard about how cancers that are caught in early stages are often curable, and if caught early enough, surgery alone may be enough. And I’m thankful that we caught Chase’s colon cancer in stage 1 and that (apparently) surgery and radiation therapy have cured him (so far). And I heard about how cancer can destroy people economically as well as physically. And I nodded my head and felt fortunate that we had the resources to treat Chase’s cancer (thank you to those who helped), although I’m still paying the bills. While I was trying to hear the program, Chase barked at the thunderstorm that was moving in on us, the first thunderstorm of the season. And although I wanted to hear the show, I realized that I wanted to hear Chase bark even more and that I’m lucky he’s still here with me, disrupting the show.

Chase and Bandit

Chase and Bandit

As the show continued, I thought about how multiple myeloma took Bandit from us, even though he was on chemotherapy pills. And how there are treatments for people (like bone marrow transplants) that aren’t widely available for dogs, and probably most people couldn’t afford them for their dogs anyway. And I pondered how Bandit lived life so joyfully every single day. Even on his last day here, he played ball and charged up the hill, leading me on our last walk together. I don’t know how he did it, maybe with the will of a cattle dog. He was in so much pain that he couldn’t sleep that last night, and he had so few white blood cells that there weren’t enough to measure. I think dogs are better than most people at getting the most out of life and enjoying it to the fullest, and don’t deny or fear death the way many people do. Maybe that’s why people sometimes decide to quit treatments at the end and try to feel as well as they can and focus on what’s most important to them. Dogs do that more naturally, don’t they? Still, I wish we knew more about the cancers that are killing our dogs, and our people, so we could help them better. I also think of my amazing friend Lynn Cameron and how she has so remarkably lived with cancer for so long. I know it hasn’t been easy. <3



This Place We Call Home

We’ve all heard the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” I’ve lived in the same home for over 25 years. It’s a small house on 5 acres, with a beautiful state park in the back yard. If you’ve been reading along, you’ve read about my adventures with the dogs here, and about the deer, eagles, and other creatures that share this space. We have well over an acre fenced in for the dogs to run, and can walk from our back yard right into a park with trails and access to the St. Croix River. There’s plenty of space to run, and to set up an agility course or a track for the dogs.


Recently life threw me a curve that has me thinking about moving. My job has been going well. I was promoted recently, received a significant raise, and have a new manager who is helping me define my new role. Everything was going in the right direction, when the company announced that it’s moving 15 miles farther west. This may not sound like a lot, but would mean a commute of over 45 miles each way, partly in city traffic, and would likely mean that I’d spend 3 hours or more commuting every day. Over the years I’ve resisted moving for a job and have been able to stay employed. But now there are fewer and fewer jobs on this side of town. My other employment options are mostly also farther west.

So I‘ve been faced with the idea of possibly moving. I probably wouldn’t consider it except it’s getting more difficult for me to take care of this place and have time for the dogs and friends and any kind of leisure activities. We’re all getting older. When I began thinking about the tradeoffs of moving, my biggest considerations related to the dogs. We’re used to open space, and quiet and seeing the stars at night. We would be overstimulated by the noises and lights of the city.


Much of my daily life is spent playing with the dogs in the yard, walking/running them in a huge fenced area on our property, and exploring nearby parks and trails. I want my dogs to be able to bark once in a while without bothering a hundred neighbors. I don’t want my herding dogs to be overstimulated by too much activity in the neighborhood (which may require some re-training). Chase and Cay have both lived here for most of their lives and would have to adjust to a change.

I wonder how dogs adapt to living in the city. I suppose it’s all that some dogs have ever known. If they get enough exercise and time outside and love and good food, they’re probably fine. But how do dogs who’ve only ever lived in the country adapt to living in the city, or even the suburbs? Mine would need retraining to know that they had a much smaller area to protect.


As I’ve driven around suburbs where I might like to live, I’ve noticed that my chest tightens up when I see houses that are close together. House photos online never accurately show how close together the houses are. In one neighborhood, I found a very nice house, not too big, with a 0.62 acre yard. I think it would have been ok, except that the houses around it all had bright Christmas lights and the house behind had a rather gaudy display of brightly blinking lights. It felt a bit too much like Las Vegas. Maybe in the day time, with the lights off, it would have been ok. I guess I’ve been spoiled, especially by not having another house directly behind.

Most of the newer neighborhoods in this area have bigger houses and smaller yards. We don’t need a big house, so I’ve mostly been looking in older established neighborhoods, with smaller houses that are farther apart. Some even have half acre, or larger, lots. What about the dogs that live in those big houses with tiny yards? I hope they get out for a good walk every day. Although a good walk can stimulate their senses and make them breathe hard, even at 7 ½ and 9 ½ years old, my dogs do not wear out easily while on leash.


One of my biggest considerations is having open space to exercise the dogs every evening after work. This means a safe place to walk year-round, whether it’s light or dark, hot or cold, rainy or icy. We have enough space on our own property now that I can run the dogs inside the fence in the dark on a cold winter night. I can walk laps around the field, which requires walking up and down hill, and we all get enough exercise and time outside. What if we only had a half acre or less of our own property? A friend suggested that I look for a place with less land to take care of, with a park behind where we can walk.

In going through this process of deciding what’s most important, I realized that it’s not just about keeping the dogs happy. For the past 25 years, through all the things that have happened in my life, I’ve had this peaceful place to come home to. What has kept me grounded is that walk on the hill with the dogs. Every night, they get out and run and unwind, using their noses to learn what happened in the neighborhood that day. Every night, I follow them up the hill, discarding the frustrations of the day and grounding myself in nature. In the summer we watch the sun set. In the winter, we look at the stars. I wouldn’t do it faithfully every day by myself. It’s the dogs that get me out.


We may stay here or we may move. I don’t have the answer yet. For now, the dogs and I will take our walk up the hill every evening to leave the cares of the day behind and ground ourselves.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


The Things We Miss

Several friends have lost 2-legged and 4-legged loved ones during this past year. The holidays are a busy time when these losses can be especially painful. So I invite you to focus on your loved ones this season, to give them your undivided attention and really see and enjoy them.

One friend lost her Australian Cattle Dog to cancer. She told me that he used to sit by her chair in the evening. She would drop her arm over the side and pet him, unconsciously much of the time. Now when she drops her arm over the side of the chair, it is painfully obvious that he’s no longer there. So I invite you to be aware of and consciously enjoy those small interactions with your animals.

When I say “the things we miss” I mean the things we miss once our loved ones are gone. I also mean the things we miss while our loved ones are here and things are happening, but we don’t sense them or understand them, or aren’t paying attention.

When I watch my dog Chase interact with the kids at the library, I’m amazed at his intuition. Like the time he met a little 5-year old girl for the first time and went into a play bow. She said, “Look Mommy, he’s bowing!” I later learned that the girl was afraid of dogs. After reading to Chase, she told me that he was the first dog she hadn’t been afraid of. I think he went into a bow upon meeting her because having his eyes at her eye level would have been too scary for her. So he bowed to make himself shorter, and of course to invite play.

I’ve learned a lot from Gingersnap, our cat. Last winter she often sat by the north wall of the living room, near a heat duct. I wondered if there was a critter in the duct. But during the summer, I found out that mice were getting in under the siding on the outside of the wall by where she’d been sitting. Ginger was like a pointer for mice. While the mice were out, I filled the hole with foil to keep them out and she stopped sitting there.

Gingersnap the Cat

Gingersnap the Cat

In September, Ginger hopped up on the stove in the kitchen. She knows she’s not supposed to be up there. But she was obsessing about something in the range hood. She took a swipe at the filter/guard above the stove, her toenail got caught and she pulled the whole thing off. The next thing I knew she was presenting me with a little mouse.

A month or two ago, Ginger sat in the middle of the kitchen floor at night. There was no evidence of mice in the kitchen, and I couldn’t figure out what was drawing her there. Then I discovered little bits of insulation on the floor in the basement below and learned that mice were running along the pipes on the basement ceiling, just below where Ginger sat in the kitchen at night. I’m sure animals sense a lot that we don’t get, and I’m learning more and more from Ginger. Winter came early here this year, and it seems like a lot of mice found their way in.

On November 9th, while walking the dogs by the St. Croix River, I spotted a pileated woodpecker drumming on a pole. I was able to take several pictures before it flew off. In the 25 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve often heard pileated woodpeckers, but can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen one. A couple of weeks later, I learned that a friend’s fiancé had passed away in a car accident on November 8th.  Pileated woodpeckers had appeared to his family and his fiancé that weekend, and she had remarked that it would be just like Carl, a logger, to visit as a pileated woodpecker. So was it merely a coincidence that I saw the woodpecker that weekend?

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Those of you who have been reading along know that we lost our Australian Cattle Dog Bandit to multiple myeloma in March. On the day that he crossed over and countless times since, bald eagles have flown over our yard and the field where we walk every day. Chase usually spots the eagle first and runs along with it, barking up to it. Often I’ve seen a bald eagle crossing over the highway just in front of my truck as I’m driving 50 mph or more. I don’t know how they do it.

November 13th would have been Bandit’s 11th birthday. There wasn’t much opportunity for me to see an eagle here that day since I had to walk the dogs in the dark that evening. Knowing Bandit’s playful spirit, I figured he’d do something different anyway. When I arrived home from work that day, his stuffed basketball, which had been in the same place on his bed since March, was on the other side of the room, right in my path as I walked through the house. Chase and Cay had been kenneled while I was gone and hadn’t moved that ball since Bandit left us. The ball is too big for Ginger the cat to move. So it felt like a ‘hello’ from Bandit.

On Bandit’s birthday, Chase brought me the jolly ball like Bandit used to, and Cay brought me Bandit’s rubber chicken. They must have sensed his presence too.

Cay and Chase

Cay and Chase

A few days later I was walking the dogs up on the hill, thinking that I should tell a friend the story about the stuffed basketball. Suddenly, Chase took off full speed across the field, looking up at the sky, and let out a bark. I looked up and there was the bald eagle, making a pass across the field. He just made that one pass and then was gone. If Chase hadn’t pointed him out, I would have missed him. Chase continued to look for the eagle in the sky, and barked every once in a while. I think Chase and the eagle were communicating. I wonder if Chase felt Bandit’s spirit in the eagle as I did. I don’t completely understand these interactions, but I’m intrigued by them. Most of us miss so much and understand so little about our natural world.


Which brings me back to my original thought. This holiday season, take time to slow down and tune in to the natural world around you. Live in the present moment with your 4-legged friends. Take in and enjoy their essence and the little ways they keep you company. Ponder what you learn from them, or would if you were paying more attention.

The holiday season can get way too busy. So I invite you to sit still with your loved ones and really notice what you’ve been missing, and what you’ll miss some day when they’re gone. I promise you won’t regret it. Happy Holidays!


My new book, There’s a Chicken in My Kitchen: Bandit’s Big Birthday Blizzard, is about a blizzard that ‘unplugs’ us and gives us the chance to really see and appreciate our loved ones. Watch for it next year.