Here a toad, there a toad…

It was raining on my predawn dog-walk this morning, and the toads were out in force.  Squatting like netsuke or hopping across the shiny pavement of the walkway, they came in sizes from the tip of my pinky to a child’s fist.  Keeping Tosh from snapping at them preoccupied me almost as much as keeping myself from stepping on them.  I sang a soft little song to Tosh, trying unsuccessfully to distract him,

Old MacIntosh had a farm
Woofwoof woofwoof woof
And on this farm he had some toads
Woofwoof woofwoof woof
Here a croak there a croak, everywhere a croak, croak

Tosh is used to us singing silly songs to him, and his long pointy nose methodically scanned the pavement, ready to pounce on a hopping creature.  Only watchfulness and a firm hand on the leash kept him from hunting the little fellows.

We managed to complete our walk with no toad fatalities, I am happy to report.

Happy Holidays to all

This morning started with some Santa Hat silliness:

Simon, modeling the Santa hat.

Some of the zoo were less into this idea:

"Do.  Not.  Want."

Dash wants nothing to do with this nonsense

And some are game for anything:

Toshie Claus

John got power tools, because he’s been a very good boy this year:

John got TOOLS for x-mas

Brian and I took a walk with Tosh:

Bri and Tosh

And all that’s left is to make and eat a fabulous dinner and wish everyone a safe, happy, and healthy new year:

Nutcracker

All the best to you and yours.

Bringing up the rear

John just about crippled himself with laughter the day Tosh let out an audible fart which caused him to whip his head around and look at his own butt as if to say, "What was THAT?"

Today he did one better.  After farting he started, jumped up, circled around to where his butt had been and commenced a thorough investigation of the scene of the crime.  I believe the theory of the brontosaurus (ehrm, apatosaurus – I was a kid in the 70′s: my brain will always hand me "bronto" first) having a second brain for his rear has been debunked in the case of dinosaurs, but it may have to be revived for our dog.

21 seconds of evil…

…expressed in a squeaky voice.

John was at a conference on the west coast for about a week.  By the day of his return, we were all more than ready to see him home.

There goes my baby, she knows how to rock and roll

Mom and I were talking about "our" words a while back.  It’s something Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in Eat Pray Love – if I recall correctly, she has a friend who believes that every city and every person has a word that describes them or sums them up.  It’s "their" word.  Mom asked me what my word was, and it just popped out:

"Okay."

Now, that may seem like a pretty lame word to be one’s all-encompassing, but anyone who’s ever heard me talk has heard this word many, many times out of me.  And it’s not because I’m overly accommodating (stop laughing, Ma, John, everyone else).  It just happens to be a word that I find infinitely flexible.  A lot has to do with intonation.

Bridging: "Hey Jill – here’s something you absolutely disagree with!"  "Um… okay.  So let’s think about this…"

Happiness: "Jill – something fun!"  "Okay!"

Processing:  "Jill – bad news."  "…Oh-kay …"

etc.

But it’s that last example I am talking about here.  I’m unemployed.  I’ve been unemployed for about a month now (I wanted to take some time before I talked about it here).  I was unemployed when I started this blog , back in 2004.  So we’ve come full circle, and not in a way I would have wanted.

Oh-kay .

However, so far so good – at least emotionally.  I’ve kept up with my running.  I’ve kept up with Tosh’s training.  I’ve kept going with the job search and the networking and the stuff that goes along with it.  I haven’t gotten too freaked out.  In fact, coming back from my run today, I was shuffling and dancing down the forest path near our house (yes positively jitterbugging – jazz hands may have been involved, I’m just saying).  Hey – you try to stay still when "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" comes onto your iPod.  Let me know how that works out for you.

I don’t think anyone saw me (except poor Tosh, who clearly knew in his doggy way that Mommy had completely lost her marbles).  And you know what?  If someone did, I don’t care.

OKAY!

These animal-related “thank you’s” could get elaborate…

Robynn has promised some 4theanimals dosh, so here’s my first YouTube effort to say “thanks!”

YouTube Preview Image

The numbered list approach to blogging

1. Thank you, Marilee, for being the first contributor to the Poplar Springs 5k fund! Her donation coincided with a particularly fortuitous afternoon’s snaps of the Smith household animals, so here’s a photographic “thank you” from those worthies:

    awww...

    2. Thanks to: a.) the fact that my husband actually reads the Birchmere‘s occasional missives, b.) my friend Melanie’s quick response to a call to arms, and c.) my credit card, I can report that Mel, her sister and I are actually going to get to see Eddie Izzard.  (John’s not interested, but thanks for noticing he’s not included).  As my mom is fond of saying in reference to hot flashes, “Faint, but don’t fan: it’s a dead giveaway.”

    3. In other theatrical news, we’re going to see Teller’s Macbeth this weekend at the Folger Theatre.  I feel a bit ashamed to say that I have lived in the DC area for a total of over nine years and have never been to the Folger.  Cultural cretin – that’s me.

    4. Who thought of this daylight savings time palaver, anyway?  And who thinks it’s a good idea to extend it?  Clearly someone who doesn’t work for a living.  Feh.

    Point of View

    I mentioned in my last post that I had been watching a lot of Dog Whisperer.  I always hate it when I jump on a bandwagon – I tend to object on principle to buying wholesale into someone else’s world-view.  I also get a little irritated with the people who breathlessly gasp about Cesar Millan’s “miraculous” transformation of their dog’s behavior.  Even though he doesn’t seem to buy into their assessment, it’s hard to separate the man’s competence from the aura other people ascribe to him of being some sort of demigod.

    However, facts are facts: the man’s really good with dogs.  It is amazing to watch him analyze the behavior of some hard case pit bull or neurotic mutt and come out on the other end with a dog that is more comfortable in his or her own furry skin.  And every single time, it boils down to one thing: the dog is, in fact, a dog.  No matter what happens, the dog is going to look at the world through doggy eyes and assess it with a doggy brain.  I don’t care how smart your pooch is, he’s never going to evaluate the world with a human’s perspective.

    For someone who prides herself on nuance, this seems overly simplistic – and immediately, I’m down the rabbit hole again: this isn’t international diplomacy or literary criticism.  It’s a dog’s brain.  A dog’s brain is not, in fact, terribly complicated.  But it is different.  And while a dog’s brain isn’t capable of human-style analysis, a human can change their point of view to see what their dog is seeing.

    Having taken a lot of Millan’s methodology on board in dealing with Tosh, I had a dramatic example of how well this stuff works the other day.  Tosh and I were at the end of a run.  He had been leashed in to heel for almost the entire time, with a few approved sniff-breaks.  He was behaving beautifully: attentive, calm, submissive. 

    Out of another trail came two guys with three big labrador mixes: big, shaggy beasts, each at least half again as big as Tosh.  They were ranging around off leash, and they may be part of a big pack that lives just off of the trail – the kind of house you avoid if you see big furry shapes in the yard, because this is a pack that whips itself into a frenzy at a moment’s notice, and if they get over the fence, there could be trouble. 

    Two of them split off of from the group, and deaf to the yelling of their owner, came bounding at Tosh.  Without thinking, I pulled Tosh behind me and drew myself up, throwing out my free arm and spitting a loud, “TCSHHHHHHT!”  These big dogs, who had previously been focusing entirely on Tosh, looked at me, startled, then started to look back down at Tosh.  I repeated the sound and the movement.  They gave me their full attention, ignoring Tosh, and focused on the Instant Pack-Leader.  I stomped toward them, telling them, “Git,” and they bolted back to their owner (who was standing about 20 yards away and yelling like a complete fool instead of actually coming over and trying to take charge of his dogs). 

    This dog behavior stuff?  It just works.  You just have to think like a dog.

    Equal Time Request – Fulfilled!

    Marissa wants equal time for Tosh. Ah, I am in an accommodating mood this week (maybe it’s the turkey). So. Not quite so many photos, maybe, but very cute.

    Sleepy guys

    Who needs a catnap when you can have a dognap?

    Tosh and Joey

    Tosh spent Thanksgiving with his cousin, Joey. We can tell who’s all about being a star and who’s all about the turkey being prepared more or less behind his back.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    Autumnal Felinity

    We’ve had the loveliest weekend here.  It’s suddenly Fall: cool, dry, sunny and gorgeous.  I’ve made bread, and I’m wearing a homemade sweater and homemade socks, so I’m not sure I could be any happier (well, a fire in the fireplace would also do me some good). 

    The cats have been mellow, also, enjoying the open windows and the fresh air they bring.  Simon and Milo are beyond detente, and on their way to a lasting peace.

    Milo may look big, but he's still less than 1/2 of Simon

    I caught Dash in a peaceful moment in front of the sliding door, enjoying the setting sun’s rays.

    Sunshine on my gray fur makes me happy...

    And Milo – sweet Milo had a perfect Miss Lulu Kitty moment on a sunny windowsill.

    Milo's "Miss Lulu" shot

    Damn, but I love Fall.