Carnivale of the Dogs 2016

carnivale-2016012Toti Nonna was officially crowned Queen of the Carnivale 2016 by Companion Animal Advocates again this year.  The weather decided to hold out, as it has for the last several years, and the festivities were in full force.  She was her most regal self once again, nose to nose with any number of friends both canine and human.  She was interviewed by several publications and had her picture taken by the paparazzi and passers by alike.  She was truly the belle of the ball…

Some of the highlights from Queen Toti’s regal perspective:

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She was in the mix, mingling and making nice.  But now she’s glad to be home and out of the public and camera view, almost. A good time was had by all.

carnivale-2016002To all of you that donated to this amazing organization we thank you.  Especially our corporate sponsors who have been with us since the very beginning in 2009, you can’t begin to know how grateful we are or the enormous amount of good you are doing. Thank you from all of us.

No Ordinary Haircut

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My dearest friend has never said a word to me. I believe she would if only she could talk and I’ve asked her at times to please talk to me. This week, however, even if she could talk I think she wouldn’t.

Perhaps you’ve followed the recounting of Toti Nonna’s haircut on Instagram this week. Seems an ordinary enough task but as an old dog it really isn’t. It becomes a logistical endeavor complete with bribery, deceit, and contrition.

First, and here’s where I may have gone wrong, I wait as long as I can to begin the grooming planning. All through the winter her hair gets longer and wider and fluffier and woolier. She could actually be shorn for a sweater if I was that weird kind of Martha Stewart industrious.

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Then we set the date, early in the month so that I can put her flea and tick repellent on afterward without it being washed off at the groomer. Then comes the deception, let’s go for a ride in the car for absolutely no reason. She knows what each ride is about like going to Fedex, I wave the Fedex envelopes, like going to Gramma’s I grab the bag of clean laundry and use a special shorter leash. So when we begin to go for a ride using the shorter leash and don’t wind up at Gramma’s I believe I’m not fooling her in the least but I carry on in my delusion.

Then the day comes and I grab the short leash and a “special” cookie, really who the hell am I kidding, and off we go to visit Aunt Sara at Petco. She will pee several times before we go in, even if there’s nothing left she will eeek out another drop. One time she even tried to poop as soon as we got inside the store, it didn’t work. We didn’t turn around. We weren’t even embarrassed because we go so early in the morning no one even saw us.

Sara comes out and coos and coddles her but she puts on the big shake. Every part of her body begins to tremble, it is unbelievably effective in ripping my heart out. And now I have to walk out the door and leave her there. She can throw a guilt producing pout over her shoulder like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Several hours later I get the call to come pick her up. Those several hours feel like an eternity, the quiet the settles over the house when she’s not around is deafening. No nails clicking on the wood floors, no barking at the FedEx guy, no snoring. I can’t work without snoring in the background. I can’t wait to go and get her.

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She is beautiful. She looks so thin and healthy and young. All her gray muzzle is under her chin, it hasn’t crept up around her face yet. Her belly is grey and brindled. She doesn’t give a good God damn that I am happy to see her and making a fuss. GET ME OUT OF HERE.

Once in the car she pants all the way home. Once in the door she drinks a gallon of water. Once she checks the entire house to see that everything is alright she puts on the stink eye and goes to sleep. She is exhausted. She ain’t happy. She just ain’t having anything to do with me.

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Somewhere in the middle of the night she will sneak up on the bed and curl up in the crook of my legs. All is forgiven in the wee hours but she is far from recovered. She will sleep the next two days away, do what she has to outside and come back quickly.

Today I grabbed the short leash to go to Gramma’s but she reserved her excitement until after I had the clean laundry bag in my hand to walk out the door. All is right with the world now that she is going to Gramma’s. Gramma thinks so too and while my dearest one still hasn’t said a word to me I’m pretty sure I’ve been forgiven. For the love of an old dog I would do anything.

Leave January Alone…

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There are some months that are just full of nostalgia, for me January is one of those months.  We lost Lina in January, my father’s birthday is in January and we lost my dear friend Cookie in January.  I’m telling you, warning you, begging you to leave January alone from now on.

Except things don’t always work that way do they?  Toti Nonna is recovering from an allergic reaction to…who the hell knows.  I can’t figure out exactly what it was but I know I’m responsible, there isn’t anyone else giving her food or treats or anything else so I’m the culprit.  That’ll give you the guilts about a zillion times over.

She is resting comfortably from her anaphylactic episode yesterday while we figure things out with Benadryl and prednisone at the ready. We believe she will be fine any minute now.

I hope you’ll forgive my throw back for this week but I too need UN NUOVO GIORNO… the lessons and the sentiment remain the same.

See you next week, with better news from Stowe Lane.


With a Full Heart

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Having a full heart doesn’t just mean gratitude. For a holiday that is based in gratitude, Thanksgiving can be problematic because God knows any number of gratitude violations can occur. Having a full heart means feeling the emotions of the day whether they are good or bad, the impact of your world and, yes, gratitude. If you’re open to it there are little miracles happening if you’re not your heart may ache.

I began my holiday on Tuesday making Stollen, a new tradition I’m starting for my sister-friend Evi. She and her family join us for the traditional “family” holidays each year and I can’t picture it any other way now. While Stollen is a traditional Christmas bread, that holiday belongs to her husband, Walter, and his fruit cake. It’s a yeast bread, anything can happen but only good came from the yeast this first time out. The house smelled wonderful and I believe it was a welcome addition to the table.

Wednesday is my pre-prep day. The brussel sprouts are roasted, three bags of them this time because somehow everyone decided to like them after all these years. I roast them on Wednesday so that I can have every single one of those crispy chips to myself. They are salty and flavorful and oh so CRISPY! Stuffing is made, cranberry sauce is made, and table is set.brussells001Just as I’m finishing all my prep I get a text from two of my favorite people, the Riley’s, who are just sitting down to lunch at our favorite place at our favorite table the day before Thanksgiving when there shouldn’t have been a seat to be had. The rules of serendipity kick in and I’m on my way, no makeup, cooking clothes, smelling like brussel sprouts and we couldn’t have had a better time.

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Thursday brings my sister and my mother to the house first. My mother has been practicing going up the stairs and walking each day so that she can make it into my home. She was a champ! She has also been having a wonderful love affair with our Toti Nonna, the dog who I’m sure was the motivation for all that “practice”. I am convinced they are saving each other on so many levels. It is an amazing thing to watch them together. It really fills my heart, and everyone else’s.thanksgiving 2015001Every once in a while when I cook in my kitchen I feel just the slightest twinge of regret for the magnificent kitchen I left behind. My kitchen is very tiny but then when I see the miracle of something going from raw to roasted, the ease with which I can move around and the number of people who feel comfortable in my home I let the twinge come and let it go just as quickly.thanksgiving 2015003thanksgiving 2015005

I’m sure my sister is feeling the same thing in reverse. She is enjoying her magnificent kitchen and turning out some fabulous dishes where she was once an onlooker to Honey’s domain. And it was Honey’s domain from which came incredible meals the likes of which we won’t see again. I wait all year for her pumpkin pie and she truly truly truly outdid herself this year. My heart swells when I picture her at her baking counter with her Cuisinart and KitchenAid mixer putting together her newest rendition with shortbread crust and creamy amazing filling. She brings two, I put one away to enjoy throughout the weekend but it “must be gone by Sunday” or I will never get back to a normal diet. The new rendition is a keeper that I will enjoy year after year, right?thanksgiving 2015004

Each year when we are all around the table I manage to get a picture. I never really manage to get in the picture because…well you know. This year however through the magic of IPhone, a rigged stand made out of binder clips and delayed exposure I got in!!! It’s a beautiful picture and I’m so thrilled to have it but it makes me laugh. We all have a perfect smile as if we are looking at someone taking the picture, but really we’re staring at the phone, counting down one second away from bursting out laughing. As if the picture weren’t enough we have that silly moment as well.thanksgiving 2015007


Surrounded by people I love, Mom and Terri going home early but far later than previous years, the Girls coming in with hugs and love, still others coming in like a whirlwind in need of a friendly atmosphere, the over lapping and fellowship among all just goes straight to the root of life on Stowe Lane. Texts from friends, a wonderful phone call from my newest old friend, too much food, way too much wine, so much laugher, complete exhaustion at the end of the day, or rather the three days, my heart is full. I am in awe of the love that resides in this home, of the people in my life and the good fortune that I’ve found. It all came home to me the next day on our walk, we were cutting through the fog, figuratively and literally from the “richness” of Thanksgiving, and the sun made its way out.

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I saw a heart in that emerging sun, I see a sun in my emerging heart…

Queen Toti Nonna

_DSC5525005If ever a year of firsts were to go down in history this would be the year. When you lose someone and every first thereafter is life affirming, instead of devastating, you know that the greater good is in play. You begin to understand those left behind rather than those who’ve gone ahead. Don’t get me wrong #lifewithoutlina has its heart wrenching moments but watching her sister come into her own is uplifting.

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Toti on vacation was eye opening. Combine new places, new experiences, play dates and selfies and you’ve got time well spent on the Cape with a dear little dog that left behind the life she spent hovering and protecting her sister. Her entire life was all about Lina but now, now she is having a ball. And she has become the belle of the ball.

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Toti Nonna and her Gramma have developed quite the love affair since I first snuck her into senior housing. During Gramma’s recent rehab stay, she and Toti became even closer. In fact, Toti took herself into several rooms along the way to Gramma’s to say hello. Do I see therapy dog training in her future? They both light up when they’re together especially if there are belly rubs involved.

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Each year Lina and Toto and I have been together we’ve raised money for a wonderful charity, Companion Animal Advocates, that makes an amazing difference in our community. I found them the same year Lina and Toto found me, coincidence? Probably not, just like minded energy at the intersection of we’re the luckiest people/dogs on the face of the earth so let’s do this. In my heart of hearts I thought I wouldn’t be able to hold it together this year without Lina. I couldn’t have been more wrong, Toti wagged her tail from one end of the event to the other, she kissed every dog she met right on the nose, she acted with grace and curiosity and kindness and fun. She was funny. My Toti, the ever vigilant defender of her meek sister, had people laughing at her adorableness and antics. Yes she popped herself right up on the CAA picnic table to say hello as soon as we arrived. The Queen surely knows how to make an entrance.

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There are moments when I feel incredibly guilty for the relief of caring for our special needs girl.   Lina, my love, lived her entire life with anxiety. She was attached to me in a way I found comforting but in retrospect she just couldn’t be… If I got up, she got up, she started at every noise, she would turn us around and take us home if anything spooked her on the walk, she couldn’t relax in the car, she just couldn’t be…and her sister would accommodate and protect and comfort.

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With a relatively short mourning period Toti has moved back into the moment. She loves the car, in fact she thinks each time we walk out the door it’s time to get in the car. And so I’m taking my cue from her, I’m staying in today, loving our walks and our rides and our vacations and our belly rubs and our trips to Gramma’s and our interactions in the neighborhood and on and on. She has taught me that when your job is done you can relax and live a wonderful life, especially if you’ve done your job well. #makingnewmemories