Saturday, January 31, 2009

In the Mind of Lark

(photo by Randall Wiseman)

Note: I apparently made the pictures too large when I uploaded them and when I tried to resize them within the blog, it's made them all funky. I guess I learned that it doesn't keep the aspect ratio, even if you drag from a corner. But since it took me a good hour and half to upload all this and write the blog entry, and I have a very bad cold and am not feeling up to doing any more tonight, anyone reading this is just going to have to deal with funky photos. If I get the time and the energy tomorrow, I will try to reimport all the images in an appropriate size. Gah! :End Note

Larky, Larky, you are one impossible, funny little dog. And you are most assuredly the CUTEST DOG ON THE PLANET. You were an adorable puppy and you're still adorable, even when you're playing mind games with me and making me think I've gone mad.... Lark is the first picky eater I have ever encountered. Where Laura likes to talk about Nick and his "not food," Lark takes it a step further to This. Must. Be. Poison. Just the other night I had gotten carry out from Wendy's. Lark was begging and begging a french fry off my housemate, so he obliged. Lark took it very gingerly and within a microsecond: Ptooey! Ejection onto the carpet. That's not food! That. Must. Be. Poison. Okay, at least until Twist comes along to try and mop things up, at which point the poison french fry becomes the BEST PRIZE IN THE WHOLE WORLD! Granted, it's still inedible as far as Lark is concerned, but Twist isn't going to get it no matter what. Okay, if we want to be charitable, perhaps Lark is simply trying to save Twist from a gruesome fate from the poison french fry. Except that I've gone through this with Lark over and over again. The best way to get Lark to eat? Just make sure there's a pushy gluttonous dog around who is willing to lurk and threaten to eat Lark's food. It's clear she's eating it only to prevent the other dog from getting it. How on Earth did I end up with a dog like this? Every other dog I've ever had has been a Hoover vacuum when it comes to food. So perhaps Lark entered my life just to test my patience when it comes to feeding time.

Lark has other quirks. She is the barkingest border collie I've ever known. But barking only happens when she's playing, so at least it's not all the time.

Lark loves poultry. Today while I was cleaning all the layers of old wet straw and hay out of the ram's stall, which is also where the big chickens perch at night and nest, Lark spent the entire time eyeballing a hen sitting on a nest. Once the hen had completed her egg-laying mission and vacated the nest, Lark went over to examine the fruit of the hen's labors. No worries, though. Eggs fall into the category of food that must be poison.

Lark likes to crouch on the bank to the creek and wait for me to say "Go, Larky, Go!" before she dives into the water. She also does this at the edges of ponds. Why she feels that she needs that special encouragement is beyond me, but it clearly makes her happy, so being the easily-manipulated human, I comply.

If a cat gets into my lap or under the bedcovers with me, Lark has to get right up next to me on the other side so she can put her face as close to where the cat is as is possible. She doesn't want to touch the cat, doG forbid!, but she's got to be close.

Lark is the only one of my dogs that has figured out how to jump through the stable window to get to the paddock behind. She doesn't do this unless I am out there doing chores, but if she thinks I'm ready to go feed the sheep in the paddock, she's through the window and holding the sheep off the feed bunk patiently until I get there.

Who knows what goes on in Lark's mind?

And why this special post about Larky. Well, it's hard to believe, but Lark was born three years ago today. At the time I had just two dogs I was trialing, Twist and Kat, and no youngsters coming along. My friend Kay, who had bred Twist's litter, told me about these pups when they were already a few weeks old. It was an accidental breeding, but the dam was very closely related to Twist. And when Kay said there was a smooth-coated, tri-colored female in the litter, how could I resist? Her mom's name was Scout, taken from To Kill a Mockingbird. I like bird names, obviously, but Mockingbird is a bit long by any standard and doesn't really roll off the tongue very well. So I thought a bit, and then seeing a Meadowlark on the wire above me, decided that Lark would be a fine name, with a double entendre. The obvious meaning--the bird, and the less obvious meaning--the fact that I was taking this puppy pretty much on a lark.

So here's what Miss Larky looked like at between 5 and 6 weeks old. She was impossibly tiny. And impossibly cute. She's still pretty tiny. And she's definitely impossibly cute--the cutest dog on the planet.

This series of photos was taken the week I got her home, at 6 weeks old. She came to me that young because there was transport available, and I was dog savvy enough to deal with a young puppy, not to mention that I had a houseful of dogs to help teach her doggy manners. It had hailed right before we went out in the yard for a photo shoot. What do you think she's looking at?

And walking up on?

Yep, my tiny flock of sheep: Coalie the dorper, the four border cheviots, and the two Scottish blackface.

In the following photos Lark is between 7 and 8 weeks. She was already enjoying trips to the pond.

Of course I never spoiled her. Here she is sleeping in her wicker basket.

She adored Boy, who didn't return the sentiment.

Note that when they're this little and cute, you can get away with a rhinestone cat collar.

Snoozing next to the desk while I worked at the computer.

In the spring, I went up to help Becca shear her sheep. Lark was small enough to fit through the openings in the cattle panels of the round pen, so there was no keeping her out. Then we lost track of her. Watching us shear must have been pretty hard work--we found her crashed in a big pile of wool, dead to the world.

In May, when she was about 16 weeks old, Lark's ears started to do some amazing things. I've never seen an ear curl backward.

Note that this phenomenon switches from ear to ear. No playing favorites here. By the way, Lark is chewing on a felted wool ball that's meant to be a cat toy.

Then Lark grows up. Here she's somewhere between nine months and a year old and working my rams and wethers. She was new enough at working to still be dragging a line.

But the best part of working is the "after party" in the water tub!

In June 2007 working Tony Luper's Tunis flock.

In September 2007 working the sheep at home.

We have set up a shed, but I had to pause to get this neat photo of Lark framed by the legs of the sheep. I think Laura may have taken this picture.

Calling her through on the shed. This photo was taken by Laura Carson.

Lark last fall lying on my bed and trying her best to ignore the camera.

Besides working sheep, Lark loves to dive off the bank into the creek.

So Happy Third Birthday Miss Larky Malarkey! I may never figure out your strange little mind, but I love, love, love you anyway!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

40 Things? Oh my!

Wow, it's been a very busy, rough three weeks, and of course as a result this poor blog has been quite neglected. Now that things should settle down, I think I can start keeping up again.

First, I want to thank everyone who sent kind comments about Elvis' death. My apologies for not responding directly, but so much time has passed now that it's just easier to thank you all here now. Please know that your comments meant quite a lot to me and I truly appreciated them.

So what have I been doing all this time? Working overtime. Getting ready for the Jack Knox clinic, hosting guests here at the house. Working more overtime. Getting another youngster in here to play with. Getting a beautiful new handmade crook, henceforth known as "The Ladybug Crook" (thanks Dan, you are awesome!). Running around like a maniac. Cleaning like a maniac. Not getting enough sleep. Especially not getting enough sleep. But all those things are past now, and the only thing outside the normal routine left to do is get Raven sent safely back home to Hilary. Already things are getting back to some semblance of normal, or at least normal for life here at Willow's Rest (and the nap I just took has helped tremendously)!

So as not to be a party pooper, since I've been tagged with the "40 Things" thing, I'm starting with that. Later I'll fill everyone in on all the other stuff. I don't know that I even have 40 things to divulge, but I'm going to try.

Forty Things About Me that You Might Not Know

1. I am the third of four children, and the third girl.

2. My parents really, really wanted a boy. Since I was the third girl, the name they had picked out for me was George (for my father) Arthur (for my maternal grandfather). Only I was a girl. Apparently despite already having two girls (Renee and Jean), my parents hadn't prepared for the possibility of a third, and so no girl name was chosen. In fact, no girl name was chosen until the state contacted them and told them it was illegal not to name a child (and you wonder why I might have issues?).

3. My full name rhymes. I hate that. My mom thought it was cute, but then again she might have just been in a desperate hurry not to be hauled off to jail (ha!) for not naming me and so grasped at the first combination--Julie Kay--that sounded, well, whatever. Now I rhyme.

4. When I was little, I used to eat dirt. On a regular basis.

5. There was also a long period of time when the only thing I would eat (besides dirt, presumably) was grated apples and grated cheese. I still like apples and cheese together.

6. When I was little, maybe around 5, I sat on the back porch with my little brother (yep, George Arthur, aka Arthur) and spoon fed him Rapid-Gro. Rapid-Gro was like Miracle-Gro, only it was green. I think I told Arthur it was ice cream. Is it my fault he believed me and ate the stuff? My mom was furious, of course, and rushed Arthur to our pediatrician, Dr. Liddle. Dr. Liddle looked at mom and said, "I can't see he's grown a bit!" That's an old, oft-repeated family story.

7. I would follow my older sister Renee anywhere on horseback. Years later I went back to some of our old places and was amazed at the things I had jumped on my little Welsh pony. Come to think of it, maybe she was trying to be rid of me, but Jet and I managed to hang in there....

8. My mother was an artist and art teacher. In the mid-70s my parents opened a pottery shop in Fredericksburg, VA. My BFF Heather and I, who were also artsy types (she had a little black pony, too), made horse sculptures in my mom's home pottery studio and sold them at the pottery shop. I was probably around 13 then, so Heather was a year or so younger. You can just imagine what our sculptures must have looked like. We were talented, but not prodigies by any means. I shudder with embarassment to think that somewhere someone may still own one or more of our horse sculptures.

9. At about that same time, I got drunk for the first time, on screwdrivers. (Who says kids living in the country can't get into trouble?) The how isn't important, but I came home and passed out in the upstairs bathroom since I couldn't manage to negotiate the door into the bedroom I shared with my sisters. My mom found me and was furious. BUT, like any good southern woman, the main focus of her concern was not so much my drunkeness (not that she wasn't horrified by that) as the fact that we had a potter from England who was staying with us at the time, having just come to the US, and she was apalled at the thought that he might have found me passed out on the bathroom floor.

10. I have not touched vodka in 30+ years. Surprised?

11. And while I'm talking about drunken sprees, I may as well fast forward to my college years and relate the tale of homemade peppermint schnappes. Sounds pretty innocuous, I know, but the fact is we were a bunch of chemistry majors and what better place to start with the schnappes than in the chemistry lab, where research-grade alcohol could be had for free? The down side to this idea was that the friends who had access to that alcohol (as lab assistants) were not the types I'd normally send on such an "errand." But that's who went. And so we made and drank our schnappes. I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have because I kept wondering if they had stolen the right stuff or whether we might all go blind (after all, lab alcohol can be denatured with any number of things, and we had to trust that they had gotten the non-denatured stuff). Anyway, I've never been sicker in my life (probably a combination of too much to drink and my fear that we were all going to go blind). The next day I was supposed to give a seminar in the Chemistry Department and I could hardly hold my head together with my hands (thank goodness for a sympathetic instructor who thought I had the flu or something and allowed me to reschedule). One friend had the smell of peppermint schnappes coming out of her pores. Ick.

12. As you might suspect, I have not partaken of peppermint schnappes in more than 25 years. Do you see a pattern here?

13. Back to more innocent things. When we were little, we were horse crazy (thanks to mom, who had a horse and rode him up until she had each of us, and shortly thereafter had us riding in front of her too). We used to play like we were horses, running around on our hands and knees (I'm surprised my knees are in such good shape in my middle age). We'd let my little brother ride us, and we'd do our best to buck him off.

14. As a child I raised a brown thrasher named Dawn and a wood duck named Chuck (she was a female). Dawn was so named because when the cat (a Siamese aptly named Kooky) dragged her in one night, mom said she didn't think the baby bird would live to see the Dawn, but I took her to bed with me, got up every few hours to feed her, and she survived. I got Chuck (again thanks to Kooky) when I was in the 10th grade. Her name came from a poetry class homework assignment gone silly--a poem titled "Chuck the Duck." You can imagine all the words I used to rhyme with Chuck and duck. I still keep various types of poultry.

15. I never participated in any organized sports.

16. I had a small part in our high school senior play. I suck at acting. I was probably given the part solely on the basis that the director was my best bud and felt sorry for me.

17. I have been told that I have a very nice singing voice. I generally don't sing in front of other people.

18. My sisters and brother all became accomplished at some sort of musical instrument. I never could master any instrument.

19. An "I want" childhood memory: We used to beg mom for coloring books but she would always tell us to "draw it yourself, then color it." We all learned to draw.

20. At one time, I wanted to be a medical illustrator. My biology classmates loved my lab notes because of the detail and accuracy of my drawings.

21. My favorite city is Chicago (odd for a dyed-in-the-wool country girl, huh?). My second and third favorite cities and Washington, DC, and New Orleans.

22. I hate jazz. Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word, but I just don't enjoy listening to it. I love bluegrass.

23. Walking in a cranberry bog is like walking on a giant sponge, although occasionally your foot might slip through. I did this at Dolly Sods in West Virginia while on a summer field trip with a college class called "Flora of Virginia." It was beautiful there, and I haven't been back but would really love to see it again.

24. I wore braces. Twice.

25. I love Rollerblading, though I don't do it anymore (lack of a good place to do so).

26. My first long-term relationship started in college while playing "spin the bottle" (how lame is that?). I had never played before, and never played again. But Ken and I were together for a couple of years thanks to that kiss.

27. I have a thing for men in uniform, especially military men.

28. I've been in a submarine once. I'm not claustrophibic, but I don't see how my brother and others like him could live in something like that for months at a time.

29. I can be impulsive (that's probably a real big surprise for some of you). For example, in my younger, wilder days, I met foreign sailor when the tall ships came into harbor at Norfolk, VA. I wanted to see "my sailor" again, so I took off to New York's Battery Park to meet him there when the tall ships came into harbor there. I had never been to New York, and yet somehow it all turned out okay.

30. Impulsiveness # 2: I freaked out my family by taking a trip to Denmark at Christmas about 10 years ago to meet an online friend. No, he wasn't a serial killer, and I got an experience I probably never would have had otherwise, since Denmark isn't exactly generally high on anyone's list of must-see places. But it was a neat place, and I went to Hans Christian Andersen's home in Odense, walked along the beach of the North Sea, and experienced a true Danish Christmas celebration in Arhus with Kenneth's family (including the traditional Christmas eve dance around the Christmas tree, with lit candles decorating the tree). And you thought I was a real homebody!

31. I've been gambling twice, once in St. Louis on a riverboat and once in Baden-Baden, Germany. Only with other people's money though.

32. My father was born and raised in Trois-Rivieres, northeast of Montreal in Quebec. I have never been to Canada (a brief layover at the airport in Toronto--on my way to Denmark, or was it Germany?--doesn't count).

33. I hate flying.

34. I used to be a gym rat.

35. Heather and I collected Breyer horses back when they didn't look so cheap and plasticky (I'm sure that's not a real word, but it will have to suffice). We would do odd jobs to get money so we could order more horses. I still have a pretty decent collection, but should probably sell them on E-Bay.

36. I could spend a great deal of time in art museums, especially if the museum has a good Impressionist collection (like the Art Institute of Chicago).

37. I had my first real job at age 14, working for the Youth Conservation Corps in Prince William County, VA. From that age on, I have worked continuously, except for during the school year (when still in high school).

38. I was a ride operator and, later, ride manager at Kings Dominion long before it was Paramount's or whatever it is now. Is there anything more frightening than knowing that your safety on amusement park rides is in the hands of a bunch of teenagers?

39. Kings Dominion is right next door to The Meadow, where Secretariat was born. By the time I was working at KD, the farm was no longer a working stud and in fact the KD supervisors were housed in the jockey house there. We had many a party involving sloe gin (another thing I haven't touched since those days) at the jockey house.

40. Thank goodness we're at the end. I grew up along the Potomac River at a point where it's about a mile wide. We used to regularly swim our horses in the river when we were children. I am not, however a strong swimmer. I would like to rectify that one day.

41. And a bonus thing, which my sister might remember. One of my best childhood summer memories is of sitting in the hay in the old tack/feed room, with the sun streaming in through the big windows, each of us reading our own copy of Gulliver's Travels. My copy had been given to me by my grandmother and had an extra story that my sister's copy did not. That's probably close to a 40-year-old memory and doesn't really fit the theme of things others don't know about me, but it is one of my most vivid childhood memories and thinking of it always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy. And if Jean reads this, then maybe she'll remember that day too.

And since almost all of my local blog pals have already been tagged, I will torture some farther-flung ones:


Debbie P.:


Come on gals, I know you can find some stuff to share we don't know, maybe shouldn't know, but would love to know anyway!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Good Bye Sweet Boy

You were born in a groundhog hole in my mom's back pasture nearly 16 years ago, a surprise Siamese in a feral cat population. I really wanted just one kitten at that time, but both my mom and my then-husband insisted that we couldn't separate you and your sister, so both of you came home with me. My husband dubbed you Elvis, for your blue eyes and in a nod to a conversation I had with friends about names you'd give your pets but not your children.

Since you came into my life, I have lost things, like my marriage and my parents, and have moved away from my home of more than 30 years. Just this spring, we lost your silly "brother" Si, who also got his start in the back pasture at mom's. You saw me through many changes--big and small--and were always a sweet, funny, loving companion--a bed and lap warmer even at the end. As I write you this inadequate tribute, your sister Chili is sitting in my lap, purring and trying to offer some small comfort. My only wish is that I could have offered you more comfort in the end and a more peaceful exit from this earth than the one you had to endure. I love you Elvis and I had hoped to spend more time with you. I can still hope to see you again in the hereafter.