NC2NC: Dog 0, Skunk 1

My dog and I stepped outside Sunday for her last potty break of the night. I had barely closed the door when she took off, chasing something and moving fast. Before I had time to react, she was on the far side of the yard, stopped in her tracks, shaking her head violently. She had met her first skunk, and the skunk won.

Until this point, I had only encountered dead skunks and their unlovely smell along the highway. What filled the air Sunday night was something acrid and burning and immediately horrible, beyond what I would have imagined possible from a skunk.

I had no idea what to do, other than to keep her outside. She had taken a direct hit to the face and right away pulled her green bandana off with her front paw. My husband scoured the internet and made a hasty trip to the nearest grocery store for peroxide. He had to go right back for more.


“I got skunked.”

I’m not sure how many baths and partial baths she has had since Sunday night. Yesterday, when we got home from running (which felt more like running with a skunk on a leash instead of a dog), I looped her leash to an outdoor hook and got ready to give her another partial bath. She looked up at me and then lay down and rolled over in surrender. “Please not again.” I’m pretty sure that’s what she would have said if she could talk.

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The dog days of winter

I love snow days, and today has offered up a good one where I live. I know many of you who live north of here are sick and tired of snow, but for those of us who don’t often get snow, it’s pretty special when it happens.

My dog and I got out early this morning, and with the exception of a few cars trying to head down the road and a few other paw prints and footprints in the snow, we had the streets to ourselves.

I have always loved snow days. My dad often had to walk to work, but both he and my mom made sure snow days were special for us. My brother and I spent most of our time outside on snow days: sledding, building snowmen, having snowball fights, sledding, sledding, more sledding. Even my mom, a northern transplant herself, took some rides on the sled. It helped that we lived on the perfect hill for sledding, and I sometimes wonder how many times I’ve walked that hill dragging the Flexible Flyer behind me for the next ride.

When we came in to thaw out, she’d have soup and grilled cheese and maybe even hot chocolate waiting for us after we peeled off sopping-wet layers to dry by the fire. I even wrote my first book (when I was five) on a snow day and called it The Snowy Day. It was a picture book – because I liked to draw, too, and I was busy reading picture books at that age – and I updated it a few short years later on another snow day.

I think my inner child taps into those memories and enjoys spending time outside, alternating with trips inside to thaw out with something hot to drink and a pen in my hand.

Having a dog makes snow days even more fun. My dog especially loves to freeze her tennis ball in layers of snow, chase after it, bury it in the snow and then dig it back up with her nose or her paws. She is equal parts joy and energy on snow days.


A blur of fun


Guarding her prized tennis ball; waiting for another throw

I think this is one of my favorite pictures of her.

The colder-than-usual weather forced both of us back inside pretty quickly (she would have lingered if I had let her). It’s one thing to play in 30 degrees and snow but another entirely in 18 in wind and snow.


Warming up from the snowy chill

I went back outside later to take some more photographs. Tonight looks like it’ll be the coldest night we have had in years, and I’m hoping the snow will protect the plants. I guess I won’t know until spring which ones will survive and which won’t.


A gardenia waiting for spring


A snow bud?

I didn’t last long on this trip outside with my camera.

When I went back inside, I curled up under a blanket with a book I’ve been reading, Isabel Allende’s memoir My Invented Country. The dog snored and dreamed of chasing her snow-encrusted tennis ball while I read for a bit and enjoyed some hot tea.

One of the most poignant parts of Allende’s book so far is her description of leaving Chile as a child, with a journal in hand to keep her company:

I wrote everything down in my notebook with the industry of a notary,
as if even then I foresaw that only writing would anchor me to reality.
… When she gave me that notebook, my mother somehow intuited
that I would have to dig up my Chilean roots, and that lacking a land
into which to sink them I would have to do that on paper. (108-109)

My parents always kept scrap paper handy, and so I can relate to Allende’s sense that writing would be an anchor for her, that paper would be where she thrived. Maybe that’s why writing is one of my anchors on snow days and why snow days remind me of my earliest days as a writer.

How about you? What do you love best about snow days?

The wearin’ of the green

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I didn’t want to wait until my usual Wednesday post to share these photos of my city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. It’s one of the few parades in the city that doesn’t require an entry fee, and so it brings out an interesting cast of characters, along with the ones you’d expect to find in a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

This parade is always special to me. I used to march in it when I was an Irish dancer, and one year, I ran into a guy I knew from church right after the parade ended and realized I really liked him. He asked me out the next day, and we’ve been together ever since!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these pictures, and wherever you are today, may you be blessed, and go n-eírí an bóthar leat. (May the road rise to meet you.)

Dancers, drums and pipes


Dancing for the crowd

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Training dogs that rescue … trees?

Spring is in the air, and for my part of the world, that means pine pollen is, too, turning the air and everything else a dusty yellow.

I can always gauge the level of spring fever by the number of tree and flower photos in Facebook status updates I see in a given day. Yesterday’s beginning of spring brought a profusion of blooms online. One friend posted a photo of a gorgeous bonsai tree blazing with fuchsia-colored blooms. Another posted a picture of Monet’s beautiful painting Spring (Fruit Trees in Bloom).

A third friend posted a link to a story about a pear tree blooming at the site of the 9/11 memorial. The tree had been found severely damaged among the rubble after the attacks, was relocated and nursed back to health, and then replanted at the memorial site. Isn’t it amazing that someone thought to bother saving that tree and now visitors to the site can see it as an offering of beauty and hope and nature’s resilience?

Let’s turn back to that pine pollen, for a moment, and some amazing dogs who are being trained to make sure pine trees stick around and keep on giving us their tangible, hopeful announcement of spring every year.

Auburn University is doing some really cool work in a project called EcoDogs that trains dogs to detect certain items of ecological interest: animal droppings, baby fawns, boa constrictors and even tree fungi. That’s right: tree fungi. Continue reading