May 12th, 2013

Yay Mom!

Mom with Winston, Mother's Day 2007

Yesterday at the tailgate market I bought Mom the cutest pie – a mixed berry (blueberry-raspberry-blackberry) creation that had the words “Yay Mom” in crust cutouts on the top. I didn’t think to take a picture of it until later, and Mom’s caregiver said she was going to give Mom a piece for breakfast this morning, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Confession:  I bought a generous-size piece of pumpkin-chocolate chip coffee cake for myself! I’ve been buying a sweet or two from Aimee, the pie lady, for years now during my Saturday pilgrimage to the tailgate market. In addition to the pies, Aimee has scrumptious flavors of coffee cakes, cookies, scones, and other temptations, all organic ingredients. Her latest creation is apple-cinnamon mini-donuts which are the perfect snack while browsing among the “healthier” booths of kale, lettuce, beets, and farm-fresh eggs.

Like so many good things in my life, I learned to love tailgate markets from Mom. She patronized them long before they became fashionable, when this market was just a few vendors selling flowers and produce and baked goods out of the back of a pickup truck, or spread on a card table covered with a 1940s printed tablecloth. Later, when pop-up booths came into use, Mom loved the display of colorful tents that turned a deserted parking lot into a bazaar and a community. “I always wanted your father to paint it,” she said once.

Mom is now 97 and doesn’t get out much. I miss our outings to the tailgate market and garage sales, but I’m thankful to have her gentle and loving presence still in my life. Now, we share books to read, watch the birds that come to her balcony birdfeeder,  and reminisce. We talk a lot about the family dogs, Sheba, a collie, and Sherry, an English Shepherd, that marked my childhood. The dogs long gone, but never forgotten. Another lesson she has taught me – that love never dies; it is part of your heart; it lives on inside you.

Happy Mother’s Day. May it be filled with much love and many blessings.

October 27th, 2012

One Woman Making a Difference for Chained Dogs – a Tribute

The Asheville dog community was saddened by the loss of Peggy Irwin, founder of ChainFree Asheville, after a two-year battle with cancer. I first met Peggy at her booth at the Saturday tailgate market, where she sold home made dog biscuits to raise funds to buy fencing materials, and raise awareness of the chained dog issue. Actually, the biscuits were free – Peggy just smiled and requested a donation in any amount. I learned  that the biscuits were donated by a professional baker, and they rivaled any you would find in an upscale dog bakery – thick, perfectly shaped dog bones and a few dog breed shapes such as Airedales. I always bought several as treats for my dogs. Pretty soon Peggy had formed a nonprofit and gathered a group of regular fence builders. When she saw a chained dog, she bravely knocked on the home’s door and asked the owner if they would consent to having a free fence constructed. Then on weekends, the volunteers built the fences. Their reward was seeing the happy dogs race and bound around their new secure space. ChainFree also distributed spay and neuter vouchers, donated dog houses, and persuaded the City Council to pass an ordinance against chaining dogs. At the time of Peggy’s death, efforts are expanding to the surrounding county, much of which is rural with many chained dogs awaiting freedom. Below is a tribute to Peggy. May her wonderful work on behalf of dogs continue and prosper. She is truly an example of how one woman on a mission can make a difference in many lives. Read the rest of this entry »

August 12th, 2012

Dog Days of Summer in Vintage Photos

Motorboat pilot

Here are some favorite photos from my collection of vintage dog photos. What could be better than a lazy summer afternoon on the water with a loved companion? Hope your summer is as fun-filled as these moments in time from long ago. This post is part of the Saturday Blog Hop hosted by Two Little Cavaliers. What’s a blog hop? It’s a chance to connect with lots of fun pet blogs. Thanks for visiting!

A Mastiff rides a scull

On the raft

On the lake

April 19th, 2012

Vote for Chessie, the blind therapy dog!

Chessie, one of the Paws on a Mission therapy dogs, has been nominated for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog contest in the therapy dog category. You can vote for Chessie once per day until June 30th.

Chessie the blind therapy dog

Chessie is a petit basset griffon vendeen (PBGV) and cute as a button! She was born blind. Because of this disability, the local obedience club at first did not want to accept her into classes, but Pam, her owner, persisted, training Chessie with voice commands instead of hand signals. Chessie passed the therapy dog test on her very first try at the young age of two, and specializes in bringing smiles and joy to hospitalized children. The children with disabilities especially relate to her. One said, “She’s lucky because she doesn’t know when people are staring at her because she’s different.”

Chessie is a hero every day. Please join me in voting for her and spread the word about Chessie and all the wonderful dogs who’ve been nominated. Thank you!

March 10th, 2012

Grey Muzzle Organization Announces Grants for Senior Dog Programs!

The Grey Muzzle Organization, whose mission is to improve the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding to shelters, rescue groups, and sanctuaries and other animal welfare organizations nationwide for programs such as hospice, medical needs, and senior dog adoption, has opened its 2012 grant application cycle. Organizations interested in applying for funds to help senior dogs must submit a Letter of Intent by April 1.

Grey Muzzle  works tirelessly on behalf of senior dogs. They are supported entirely by individual donations, which then fund grants to approved animal welfare organizations for programs benefiting senior dogs. Grants have funded basic medical and dental care to make a senior more comfortable and adoptable. Grants also fund hospice care to ensure that a senior dog has a safe and loving end of life instead of dying alone in a shelter. Grey Muzzle grants also assist with programs to encourage senior dog adoption.

Speaking from personal experience of adopting Dixie, an 8-year old springer about to be euthanized because her ill owner couldn’t keep her, senior dogs have much love and joy to give. Please join me in spreading the word about this wonderful organization and the opportunity to improve the lives of senior dogs!

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blog Hop hosted by Two Little Cavaliers and Life With Dogs. Please visit other participating pet bloggers!

February 4th, 2012

Baker “Goes Red for Women”

Baker dressed for "Go Red" day

As part of February heart month, our hospital participates in the national “Go Red For Women” day to raise awareness of heart disease, one of the major causes of death in women. A booth in the lobby offered free blood pressure screenings and information on preventing heart disease. The therapy dogs were invited to participate and draw visitors to the booth. I think Baker was a bigger attraction than the chocolate candy (did you know dark chocolate is good for your heart?). Petting a dog is also known to reduce blood pressure and stress. But what I noticed most is that at the sight of a friendly dog, everyone smiled.

Greeting hospital staff

They may have entered the hospital lobby with a worried or somber look, but that vanished when they spotted Baker and Heidi, another adorable daschund therapy dog. Please visit Go Red For Women to view a short, entertaining video on the symptoms of a heart attack. I think we can all relate to the young, multitasking mom in the video!

Hug your dog today. It’s good for your heart!

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blog Hop, hosted by Two Little Cavaliers and Life With Dogs. Please visit these sites to connect with other pet bloggers!

February 2nd, 2012

Where is Old Man Winter?

“The horses are blowing their coats,” a friend said yesterday.

Like much of the country, we’re having an usually warm – well, maybe “temperate” would be more accurate – winter. It’s caused the dust bunnies of dog hair to multiply in my house. Daffodils are peeking above ground like periscopes on the cabin’s rocky slope, as across the valley the snow-making machines hum through the night, trying to cover the ski slopes. I can almost hear the daffodils whispering to each other, “Is it safe to emerge?” I’ve watched them in previous springs as they inch up carefully, sometimes just the green tips showing under a blanket of spring snow.

Like most Welsh Springers, Alex and Baker love the snow. They stick their snouts in it until their faces look like powdered donuts. Then they jump for joy. And lie down on their backs and make snow angels. Or pretend they are otters, sliding sideways with their head on the ground.

As long as I don’t have to drive in it, I like snow too. Occasionally. Such as for the beautiful white Christmas we had in 2010. And one of the items on my “bucket list” is a dog sled ride through the snowy woods.

It’s February and we could still get walloped with snow, but the horses and dogs blowing their coats tells me not to worry. I’m sure they’ll be right.

January 27th, 2012

Rainbow Bridge Bracelet Benefits Rescue Groups

Rainbow Bridge bracelet

Earlier this week I discovered Three Scoops of Vanilla, a site offering beautiful handcrafted jewelry in dog, cat, and even horse themes. Each week a different rescue group benefits from a portion of sales and online auctions through Facebook. A custom bracelet that was offered to benefit English Springer Rescue was simply adorable and sold for over $250 in the auction. I love the multi-colored Rainbow Bridge bracelet which includes a charm personalized with your pet’s name. What a lovely way to  honor their memory and save another pet’s life! Check out the beautiful jewelry, all made in America and inspired by three beautiful yellow labs, the “Three Scoops of Vanilla.”

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blog Hop hosted by Two Little Cavaliers and Life with Dogs. Please visit the blog hop and discover lots of fun pet blogs!

December 24th, 2011

A Christmas with Dogs

Alex and Baker

“The faster I go, the behinder I get.” I can’t recall the origin of that quote- perhaps from Alice in Wonderland? It certainly fits this time of year. I am looking forward to spending time with family, dressing Alex and Baker in their jingle bell collars, and counting my many blessings.

To all  my readers, thank you for your support and friendship. May you have a peaceful and happy holiday season with your loved ones. As part of the Saturday Pet Blog Hop hosted by Two Little Cavaliers, here is one of my favorite dog poems of all time. Enjoy!


– Taken from the Internet: Author unknown

It’s the day before Christmas, and all through the house,

the puppies are squeaking an old rubber mouse.

The wreath which had merrily hung on the door

is scattered in pieces all over the floor.

The stockings that hung in neat little rows

now boast a new hole in each of the toes.

The tree was subjected to holiday whims,

and now, although splendid, is missing some limbs.

I catch them and hold them. Be good I insist.

They lick me, then run off to see what they’ve missed.

And now as I watch them, the thought comes to me,

that theirs is the spirit that Christmas should be.

Should children and puppies yet show us the way,

and teach us that joy that should come with this day?

Could they bring the message that’s written above,

and tell us that Christmas is all about love!

December 10th, 2011

The Gingerbread Dog House Contest at Grove Park Inn

Adopt me!

Asheville, NC is known for several famous attractions including the Biltmore Estate and the amazing Grove Park Inn, which is especially fun to visit this time of year to enjoy its massive stone fireplaces in the lobby. The Grove Park Inn also hosts the National Gingerbread House Competition, which has become quite an attraction by itself and is featured on Good Morning America. Recently, the Grove Park Inn became pet-friendly and now welcomes four-legged guests as well.

This year, a dog-loving staff member at the Grove Park Inn dreamed up the idea of the “Grove Bark Inn” Gingerbread Dog House Competition to benefit local charities including the Asheville Humane Society and Paws On A Mission pet therapy program.

Entries had to be composed entirely of dog-edible materials. Judging from the wonderful aroma in the room, many entries contained peanut butter! Over 20 entries were received in this first year of the competition, with the theme of “a dog’s favorite things.” The panel of judges had many wonderful entries to view, including an amazing tall fire hydrant that took Best in Show. Here are my favorites – which are yours?

Log cabin dog house with swimming pool

Sweet dreams!

another swimming pool

A dog's home is his castle

Asheville Humane Society entry

Hiking Hounds!

Beach house

Best in Show winner!

November 24th, 2011

So much to be thankful for

Alex and Baker

Yesterday, a small gesture by a friend and co-worker was a true Thanksgiving moment. I had hoped to take the day off to finish my Thanksgiving dinner preparations, but with several deadlines looming I headed for the office. My mind was full of tasks I needed to complete – items needed from the grocery store, cleaning the house, would the new tablecloth I ordered arrive in time? what time to put the turkey in the oven – and I was already anxious and preoccupied.

On my way to drop Alex and Baker at daycare I stopped at a gas station. A co-worker, Joan, happened to be filling her car at the next pump. We smiled and greeted each other.

As Joan replaced the pump handle, a man standing nearby with a small gas can in hand asked her if she could help him out.

“I don’t have any cash,” Joan responded, opening her car door. I thought it was a polite way of turning down a panhandler. But then Joan reached into her car for her purse, and said, “But I can put it on my card. How much do you need? a couple of dollars?” The man smiled broadly and nodded. As Joan headed towards the cashier, she asked “How ’bout a cup of coffee too?” The man, who was wearing just a thin jacket against the cold, eagerly followed her inside.

I finished filling my gas tank, and fished a few dollars out of my purse. I went inside and quietly handed them to Joan as the man poured a coffee cup. “Thank you,” she whispered.

As I drove away I had tears in my eyes.

Later, Joan stopped by my office. “I got him a banana and a sweet roll and an extra cup of coffee for the road,” she reported. The man was driving to Charlotte, she had learned, where I expect he was joining family for Thanksgiving.

I felt uplifted the rest of the day.

November 12th, 2011

Paws on a Mission – the video

Our pet therapy program has done a wonderful short video of some of our teams in action.

We shot the video over several days as teams visited Mission Children’s Hospital inpatient and outpatient areas; Mission Hospital oncology patients, surgical patients, waiting rooms; and community agencies including a hospital hospitality house, a rehabilitation facility, and elementary schools. I accompanied the videographer on most of the shoots, and it was an amazing and uplifting experience to view the dogs in action.

Some of the dogs are multi-talented, such as the sheltie (pictured with the adult cancer patient) who competes nationally in dance competitions. To the delight of the patient and all of us, she showed off a few moves in the patient’s room, but we are saving that footage for a future video!

Many of the dogs are rescues. Jelly, the shepherd/husky mix, simply showed up as a stray one day at the Howey’s home off a rural road. Brandi the dalmatian is also a rescue.

Haley, the beautiful golden retriever pictured at the Rathbun Center, passed away just a week after the video shoot. We are so thankful we captured her giving golden smiles and love to the end.

These are just a few of the more than 80 dogs in the program, including my Baker. We are so proud to be a part of Paws on a Mission!

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop, hosted by Two Little Cavaliers, where you’ll find links to many other pet blogs. Enjoy!

November 8th, 2011

Everyone Speaks “Dog”

Last week Baker and I were assigned to visit the hospital’s Neuro-trauma ICU waiting room, where families with loved ones who  have suffered a stroke, or been in a car accident, or have a life-threatening condition requiring intensive care pass the hours until they are allowed a few moments at bedside. The room is furnished with small groupings of chairs and couches so families  have some privacy as they wait. Most of them sit quietly, gazing at the TV or reading magazines, alone with their thoughts.

It’s hard to know what to say to greet people. Most are surprised to see a dog come into the waiting room, so I begin by explaining that Baker is a therapy dog who is there to visit them if they would like. I’m learning that Baker knows by their smell whether or not they are “dog people” and want to be approached. He’s not shy about sniffing shoes and pant legs as they pat his head.

But it’s not about me making conversation, it’s about Baker making a connection and for a few moments, helping them to forget why they are really there. Read the rest of this entry »

October 29th, 2011

Baker’s Therapy Dog Debut

This week Baker and I made our first hospital visit as a therapy dog team, which was a dream come true for me. The journey began years ago when a dear friend was hospitalized with terminal cancer. Therapy dog visits were the highlight of her last days, and led to fond reminiscing about dogs she had loved. Smiles, tears, joy, and faith in being reunited with them on the other side sustained her to the end, and I realized the power of a wagging tail in a hospital, a healing dimension that no high tech treatment, or the most caring human, can provide. To honor my friend’s memory, I promised myself that someday I would do this work.

I had a lot to learn. The process to meet national certification standards and hospital requirements takes time and commitment. It begins with having the right dog, one with a friendly personality and unflappable calm amidst strangers, medical equipment, hospital smells, and sick people. A dog who will obey commands in spite of distractions, and will navigate carefully around wheel chairs and IV tubes. A dog who loves to be hugged by strangers. Read the rest of this entry »

October 15th, 2011

The Any and All Dog Show

The Biggest Dog class

Last weekend on a perfect fall day, I attended the 78th annual “Any and All Dog Show,” sponsored by the Tryon, NC Riding and Hunt Club as a fundraiser for the Foothills Humane Society. We took folding chairs and sat ringside among an assortment of dogs and humans, all having a good time. The show began with a blessing of the animals, always a moving moment of gratitude for the love and devotion of our pets.

The first class was “dog with the best trick.” The kids proudly led their entry into the ring, one at a time, to perform a trick for the judges. The winner was an agile English Shepherd, who cleared a triple spread jump (the kind horses jump in competition) with ease.

Next was “dog with the best costume.” My favorite, Tucker the black cocker who had a jockey perched on his back, came in second behind a beautiful chocolate lab dressed as a gladiator.

The “so ugly it’s cute” class was won by Griswold, a brindled mastiff/basset hound mix. Imagine a mastiff body and head on short legs.

This was followed by “the dog with the most interesting tail,” which was a large class. I wished I had brought Baker to enter as I think his plume tail is quite something! The winner was a foxhound mix with a curly tail which was indeed interesting.

Pink Latte, a Borzoi and therapy dog, in the "most interesting tail" class

The “best adopted dog” class seemed to include nearly every dog present, and I wondered how the judges would ever decide. In the spirit of the day, every dog in the class received a blue ribbon!  Many of the dogs stayed in the ring for the next class, “Best tail wagger,” which after stiff competition was won by a terrier mix whose tail wagged the entire time.

Then, the “Dog who would rather be home” entries included a pair of sweet old golden retrievers, who played the part by flopping down on the grass. But the winner was a collie mix who tried to drag her owner out of the ring – perhaps she decided it was time for a hot dog at the concession stand.

The classes concluded with “Biggest and smallest,” “Best senior dog” (won by a 15 year old JRT mix), and “Family class” for dogs in the same household.

Then, the winners of each class (except for the adopted dog class) paraded in for Best in Show. The English Shepherd showed off another trick, sitting up on her haunches, and took the prize.

Kids and dogs – what could be better on a sparkling day in the country?