Don’t Interrupt; I’m Talking to Myself

I talk to myself. All the time. Sometimes I direct my words to Annie the dog, but if I’m being honest, I have to admit she’s not paying attention. She tunes in for certain key words—eat, cookie, walk, snuggle, beach. The rest is just bla bla bla, a continuous hum like the refrigerator. If she needs to pay attention, she’ll hear one of those special words or detect the jingle of her leash. Besides, she’s busy listening for cats, squirrels, bears and other invaders.

So, I talk to myself. People always say it’s okay as long as you don’t answer yourself. Well, I do answer myself. Right? Right.

I live alone. Maybe that’s part of it. In public, I usually keep my mouth shut. But sometimes, I forget, which causes people to stare at me.

What do I talk about? Everything. Why did my French toast turn out so badly Saturday night? Should have used better bread. What am I going to wear to church this morning? I don’t know. Black pants? Probably.

It’s a constant running commentary. Am I really addressing it to myself though? I wonder about this, just like when I write in my journal and wonder who I’m writing it for? Am I writing to myself? To God? To an invisible confidante?

I do talk to God sometimes. I pray, I chat. But it’s different. I stop and call His name and say what I’ve got to say, then return to regular programming.

I also talk a lot to people who aren’t actually here. Uh-oh, you’re thinking, she’s completely lost it. No, no. I think I’m okay, but I tell people things I wish I could tell them in person if they were here, if they would listen, or if I had the courage.

I’m a writer. I write down my thoughts all the time. I usually speak them as I write, which is a good reason not to write at Starbucks or the library. I’m just constantly verbalizing. Is this nuts? Or is this a good way to work things out in my head?

I found some discussion of the matter online.

  • In this NBC news report, the experts insist talking to oneself is not only normal but good for us—if we do it correctly. Who knew there was a right and a wrong way to talk to oneself?
  • “Talking to Yourself: A Sign of Sanity” by Linda Sapadin, Ph.D., says much the same. Talk to yourself, but watch what you say.
  • And this Lifehack piece insists that those of us who blab to ourselves are smarter and better off for doing it. Ha.
  • But this article on WikiHow gives instructions on how to stop talking to yourself. Now, that’s crazy.

Let’s get back to Annie for a minute. Do you think she talks to herself? Sometimes in the backyard, she barks and barks. I assume she’s either warning off marauding squirrels or trying to connect with the other dogs in the neighborhood, but what if she’s just talking to herself? Or barking because she likes the sound of her own voice? Annie, who are you talking to?

Right now, I’m talking to you, dear reader. Do you talk to yourself? Is it really yourself you’re addressing or someone else? Who? Or should it be whom? Either way, do you think this is a problem? Please comment.

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Dad update: Thank you all for your continuing concern about my father. He has made it through a whole week at the skilled nursing facility without a trip to the hospital. Fingers crossed. I’m back in Oregon and he’s still in the Bay Area, so our only contact is by phone—which kills me—but he sounds better than he has in ages. He still can’t get out of bed on his own, but he’s feeling better, which is something. He could use more visitors. Email or send me a private message on Facebook for details on where he is.

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Look Out, the Dog is Watching You

Annie 1717A

Dogs don’t watch TV. They watch us.

No matter how often we shout, “Look, Spot, there’s that great commercial with the dancing dogs!” the dog just sees us pointing at a box. If I point at a rainbow or a starry sky, the dog glances at me then goes back to chewing weeds. But if I’m chopping meat at the kitchen counter, she’s right there. If I try to sneak a cookie, even if I don’t make any sound, she knows I’m eating something and insists I share. Even when she seems to be sleeping, she knows what I’m doing.

If the phone rings, she looks at me to answer it. If I go out the front door, she jumps up to join me. If I warm up my singing voice, she knows I’m getting ready to leave. If I change my shoes, we’re going for a walk. If I say, “No, later,” she growls and pushes my hand off the computer mouse until I give in.

If I change my routine at all, she’s like, hey, what’s going on?

Think about it. What does the family dog have to do besides watch us and bark at the UPS truck? Eat, sleep, pee, poop. That’s it. We’re like Hulu for dogs, all-day entertainment.

It’s quite a responsibility, especially with pups like mine who spend 95 percent of their time with us and have nearly forgotten how to be dogs. Annie still seems puzzled as to why I would ever close the bathroom door or why I wear clothes, but she spends her whole day waiting for me to pay attention to her.

Annie loves to snuggle. When I sit in the love seat, she throws her 77 pounds of dog-love at me. I pet, kiss, and tell her how great she is (wish somebody would do that for me). After a while, I get busy writing or watching a video on my tablet, and she rolls over on her back. If I don’t pet her stomach, she paws and pokes until I do. I can either surrender or walk away. Of course I surrender. I’ve got two hands.

In dog school, trainer Sue Giles Green told us we had to be the boss, had to maintain an attitude of authority. Oh well. Annie does “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and “leave it” like a champ. She’ll “come” on command only if she feels like it. And “hey, you’re a dog, go outside,” not so much. How can she when I might do something fascinating? Or give her one of those Beggin’ Strips that make her eyes roll back in her head with ecstasy.

Sometimes I wish I had other people around for her to watch. It would take the pressure off me. But it’s good to know someone cares what I do and even mourns when I’m gone, someone who never thinks I’m fat or getting old. Like my Mom, she thinks I’m perfect just the way I am.

Annie turned 11 on Saturday. Hard to believe my six-pound puppy is now 77 pounds and the equivalent of 77 human years. What a great friend she has been. Happy birthday to the smartest dog in the whole world, even if she does roll on dead mice and deer poop. How many other dogs won’t eat until you say grace?

No, it’s not medicine, it’s a yummy treat!

It’s all about pills around the Lick house these days. Annie thinks they’re treats. Don’t tell her any different.

Post knee surgery, the dog came home from the veterinary hospital with six different medications to be administered at varIMG_20180831_083701117[1]ying intervals and frequencies. She had antibiotics, pills for pain, pills for inflammation, and pills for sedation. So many pills I needed a spreadsheet to keep them straight.

Some of Annie’s meds are chewable. Rimadyl, $90-plus a bottle, she gobbles down. Phycox chewies, which look like the old Rolo chocolate-caramel candies but smell like dirty socks, she snatches out of my hand. But most of her prescriptions are tablets or capsules.

Getting pills into a dog is not easy. It’s not like you can ask them to pop them in their mouth, swallow and chase them with a glass of water. No way. People say: Hide them in their food, coat them with peanut butter, bury them in cheese, chicken, or hot dogs. Maybe that works with their dogs, but not Annie. My dog can find the pill in any sort of disguise and spit it out, especially the capsules, which she can’t chew. It’s especially fun when she breaks the capsule open and scatters white drug powder everywhere.

You can buy a “pill shooter” to launch the medicine into the pup’s mouth, but aiming it into the mouth of a moving dog is a challenge. There’s also the method where two people hold the dog down and you force the pill deep into their throats, holding their mouth closed until they swallow. It works, but it’s not a good way to stay friends with your best friend. Also, there are no other people here.

Enter pill pockets. God bless the genius who invented them. What’s a pill pocket, you say. It’s like a circle of cookie dough with a hole in it for the pill. You insert the pill, smoosh the dough around it and offer it to the dog. She swallows it whole and looks for another one. Cephalexin, check. Tramadol, check. Trazadone, check. See you when you wake up.

Now how come dogs get to eat cookie dough and we don’t?

Never mind. I have purchased pill pockets in chicken, hickory, and peanut butter flavors at the Mini Pet Mart. None of the other local stores carry them. Walmart has an off-brand variety that Annie immediately rejected. I couldn’t blame her. Those pockets were hard and nasty. But at $12 for a bag of 30 and using an average of eight a day, we have gone through an awful lot of pockets, money, and trips to the pet store. For what looks like cookie dough.

Enough. I found a recipe online to make my own. All it takes is milk, flour and creamy peanut butter (the kind without xylitol). I wouldn’t get those perfectly formed circles like the store-bought ones, which list several more ingredients (rehydrated chicken, xanthan gum, “natural” flavors?), but maybe it would work. If Annie rejected them, I could eat them.

On Saturday, I made the homemade pockets. Easy enough, although I don’t see how they expect one to get 12 pockets out of one tablespoon each of milk and peanut butter, mixed with two tablespoons of flour. I got three. I put holes in them, added a pain pill and offered one to the dog.

She rolled it around the floor a while, then took it in her mouth with an expression of distaste on her doggy face like I had never seen before. Sheer horror. After she choked it down, I tried a bite. Oh. I apologized to the dog and offered her a meatball dog treat. Maybe we need a different recipe, something with butter and sugar. Meanwhile back to the pet store.

Until recently, I have always taken my own pills straight. Put in mouth, swallow, wash down with water, done. Most of the time. I have never been good with pills. I gag. I cough them up. I look at the big ones and wonder how I’m going to swallow them. Deep breath. Down the hatch. But not long ago, I bought a bottle of calcium gummies, orange and raspberry-flavored 500 mg. wonders that I actually enjoy. They’re loaded with sugar, and I question whether they’re as effective as the regular calcium pills, but they’re delicious. Like the dog, I always want another one.

They didn’t have gummies when I was a kid. I enjoyed the orange-flavored children’s aspirin Mom gave us. But the pills, ugh. We always got one of Mom’s homemade cookies after taking our medicine. How great it would it have been if she had put the pills in the cookies and all we tasted was cookie. But it took dog people to think of that.

Annie in donut 2018With luck, Annie will soon be back to one arthritis chewy a day, and I can recycle the spreadsheets and empty pill bottles. At what used to be pill time, she’ll hound me for those delicious doughy treats.

What is your go-to pilling-the-pet process? Want to come over and make pill pockets?

Here are some sites that offer advice on medicating the pooch.

https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-give-your-pet-pill

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-care/how-to-give-your-dog-pills

https://iheartdogs.com/8-creative-ideas-for-getting-your-dog-to-take-their-medicine/

 

The Trials of a Dog Wearing a Donut

Annie in donut 2018

Monday, 6 a.m.

I awaken for the umpteenth time and listen for the dog. I hear her shaking her head. Along with the big blue donut around her neck that’s driving her crazy, she has an ear infection, so neither one of us can sleep. Does she need to go potty? Is she licking her incision? Is she choking on the bandage she ate last night? If she’s quiet, is she asleep or is she dead?

Seven more days. I’m not sure either one of us will survive. Annie had her second knee surgery on Thursday in Springfield, Oregon, a two-hour drive away. They don’t do this complicated bionic procedure on big dogs here in Newport. Oregon Veterinary Referral Associates is very nice, full of kind, talented people. If only they weren’t so far away. If only the air weren’t full of smoke from the various wildfires. If only it wasn’t 90 degrees out and the air conditioner on my Honda “Toaster” Element wasn’t broken. If only Annie hadn’t torn her left ACL a year and a month after she tore the ACL on her other leg.

The surgery went well, they say. After three days, Annie is beginning to put some weight on the leg. Just now when I finally got up to stay up, I found her on the easy chair in the den. “How did you do that?” I asked. She didn’t say. The leg must have worked well enough to get her up there. By the expression on her face, she doesn’t know how she’s going to get down.

I’m afraid to look at her incision. The first night, she got to it in spite of the donut, and removed several of her stitches. I mopped up a little blood and applied a bandage. I rejiggered the donut, and she doesn’t seem to be able to reach the remaining stitches. Except for church, when the neighbor doggie-sat, I have been with her constantly. Once in a while, we go for a short walk. She scoots along on three legs faster than I can walk, stopping to sniff here and there and to water the grass. Mostly we’ve been sitting on the floor. I pet her belly while reading, writing, watching videos on my tablet, or just contemplating the shocking fact that under her fur, my dog has fat thighs like me.

Last night, since I was right there, I took off the troublesome donut. She stretched out, rubbed her head on the rug in ecstasy and went to sleep. For hours. I couldn’t bear to wake her. I slipped into the other room to watch TV, checking on her at the commercials. Sleeping, sleeping . . . No! I caught her sitting up, licking her incision, bandage gone, shit-eating grin on her face.

I put the collar back on and gave her more of her six different medications while praying to God that she will be able to digest and excrete the big bandage, just as she has passed and excreted all manner of other things, including parts of a nylon collar, rubber toys, and wood. Please don’t let her need emergency surgery to remove the stupid bandage which her stupid mom left unattended and which her stupid mom absolutely cannot afford.

I contemplated a future without her. No. Please God, save us from our own stupidity.

I have told Annie that she has to live until I pay off this surgery. At least. Aside from the bandage making its way through her digestive tract, she’s healing well. Her incision looks fine. Her appetite is good, and she seems relatively happy. Except that the donut is driving her nuts because she can’t scratch her itchy ear, lick her stitches, or lick her bottom. I’m hoping the drugs help.

During my off-and-on sleep, I had wild dreams. A dog got hit by a car. My hair turned into this big bushy thing that got bigger the more I tried to control it. I won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. That was a nice one. But I’m as sleepy now as I was when I went to bed at 9:45 last night. Welcome to another doggy day.

If you have read my 2011 book Shoes Full of Sand, all of this may sound familiar. We went through two knee surgeries with Sadie, Annie’s predecessor. But Fred was here to help. They did the surgeries at our local vet’s office. Plus I was so much younger then.

On the good side, Annie’s a wonderful snuggler, and we communicate without words. I walk toward the door, suggesting she goes out. She stays put and licks her lips. No. I want to eat. I give her a pill in a chicken-flavored pill pocket, which she thinks is a treat. (God bless the people who invented pill pockets.) She interrupts my work to nose my sweatshirt and my shoes to tell me it’s time for a walk. I get up. She has me well-trained. Except that now she’s telling me she wants the donut gone. Not happening.

The car goes to the shop tomorrow for a whole day of repairs. $1,400. Turns out the air conditioner wasn’t all that was broken on the trusty toaster, which has covered a lot of miles this year.

God willing, we will survive this, but it’s going to be a long, long week.

 

 

I Can’t Believe It’s All Happening Again

Remember last year when my father broke his leg, a tree crushed my fence and part of my house and my dog had knee surgery for a torn ACL all within three months? And then the west was on fire all summer?

Well, ditto for 2018. It’s déjà vu bigtime.

This June, I traveled south to California to help my dad. I had visions of making major progress with the house, yard, his caregivers and his doctor appointments. He was not doing well. His leg never really healed, so he was still using a walker. He had fallen recently, only skinned his knees, but needed the paramedics to scoop him off the pavement in the back yard. He complained about blurry vision, his clothes getting too loose, and being tired all the time. He obsessed over the gardening and other tasks not getting done.

I thought I would swoop in and fix everything. Instead I woke up on the second day with the stomach flu and couldn’t move beyond the bathroom for the next 48 hours. I didn’t feel much better until a week after I got home. I helped as much as I could, cleaning house, pulling weeds, and running errands while trying not to puke, but didn’t do nearly as much as I wanted to. Dad said, “I didn’t expect you to work.” Yeah. I can just hear him telling people, “She was here for over a week and didn’t do a damn thing.”

The day I got back to South Beach, I picked Annie up at the kennel. I didn’t leave her home with the neighbor feeding her this time because she had been barking for two weeks straight at the bear prowling through our neighborhood. Ten days of that would surely cause the neighbors to lose their minds.

We were overjoyed to see each other. But as I settled in the back yard with the cell phone to make some calls, I noticed my dog suddenly holding up her back left leg. She couldn’t put any weight on it. No. I just paid off the last surgery. Dear God, let it be a thorn or a hangnail, but I already knew what it was. In big dogs like her, when one knee goes, the other is almost sure to follow. The vet confirmed my diagnosis, torn anterior cruciate ligament. Yesterday I found myself back on the road to Springfield to meet with the surgeon, a cheery fellow who said, “Same song, second verse.” We scheduled surgery for Aug. 16. Here we go again.

Once again driving I-5, the air was hazy with smoke from Oregon’s wildfires. Like last year, fires are blazing all the over the West, including a horrific blaze in Redding, and others near Yosemite and Clear Lake, where my brother and my cousins live. The fires seem bigger and harder to control this year. Here’s a link to information about some of the worst California blazes. Please God, watch over the firefighters and help them stop the fires.

And then there’s Dad. On July 25, a year after I sprung him from the nursing home to start his new broken-leg regime at the house with paid caregivers, he fell again. Blood all over the kitchen again. He called my aunt on his cell phone again. The paramedics came again. They had to break the screen door, which he keeps locked. This time, his legs and hips are intact, but he needed 11 stitches on his left arm and has damaged his right shoulder, which means that none of his limbs work as they should. But he refuses to go to “rehab” or have nurses from Kaiser come to the house. He’s a stubborn old cat. He sees his doctor on Aug. 10.

What if dog and dad both need my attention at the same time, 700 miles apart? Annie does not travel well, and I can only lift her 75 pound hulk into the car so many times before my osteoporotic spine crumbles into a pile of shattered bone. Plus Dad would probably trip over the dog. I spent last year running back and forth trying to deal with everything at once. I’m trying not to think about it.

So no tree trouble this year, right? Not exactly. When that other monster tree tried to eat my house, another tree fell at the far end of the yard. The weather was so bad I didn’t see it, didn’t get it included in the insurance claim. It’s still lying on the fence. Yesterday I noticed another tree is leaning on the fence and yet another is resting atop the woodshed. I can’t afford to pay someone to deal with them, so they sit. At least the limpy dog can’t jump over the sagging fences. Also, the bear has moved on, or Annie is too stoned on painkillers to bark about it.

So, déjà vu. I’m using the definition loosely. Actually the phrase does not mean having the same thing happen twice. It’s having the feeling that you have experienced something before. The urban dictionary translates it from the French as “already seen.” Yep, seen it, done it, did not get the T-shirt.

I have to go find Annie’s inflatable collar. Hey God, stop laughing at me.

Click below for a few refreshers on the events of 2017.

“On the Road to California Again” 

“It’s Knees to Me. Annie Preps for Surgery” 

“It’s All About the Dog These Days” 

“Choking in Smoke as the West Burns” 

“If a Tree Falls, It Breaks the Fence”

If you want to read even more past posts in a handy all-in-one-place format, consider buying a copy of my book Unleashed in Oregon: Best from the Blog. (Sorry for the plug, but gee, if you buy a book, it will make me feel better.)

Your roadside garbage is Annie’s treasure

IMG_20180608_112332585_HDR[1]When Annie and I walk, we have different purposes. I want to exercise, explore and clear my mind of everything happening at my desk. Annie wants to relieve herself and eat, mostly eat. To her, our woodsy roads and trails are a buffet. No doubt she remembers fondly the day she scored half a burrito. Let’s go walking. There might be another one!

Trash abounds, especially on garbage day when stuff gets spilled on its way from the carts to the Thompson’s Sanitary trucks. Some people seem to overestimate the capacity of their carts. On Friday, I watched a crow eating from the garbage overflowing at least a foot above a neighbor’s open cart. Wrappers and scraps lay all over the ground. It’s hard to keep an 80-pound dog from making a party of it.

Bears compound the problem. Not only do they cause Annie to bark into the wee hours, but they dump the trash all over the streets, making it easier for Annie to grab a bite while I drag her away, yelling, “Leave it!” and wondering what she’s chewing on.

Annie 72915I say, “Leave it!” a lot. Up and down the road, we find candy wrappers, McDonald’s leftovers, Starbucks and Dutch Brothers coffee cups, Skoal containers, cigar butts, and cigarette packs, whiskey bottles and beer cans galore. In the endless months when crews had our roads torn up to replace the water pipes, workers ate their lunches beside their trucks and tossed the leftovers into the bushes. Party time for Annie. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hot damn.

People food is not good for dogs (and other animals). Onions, chocolate, and coffee are all toxic. Meat that doesn’t start out toxic becomes so after sitting around for a few days. Not to mention that we’re both always on a diet, with minimal success. I try to keep her from eating her roadside finds, but sometimes she’s faster than I am. She gets her treat before I even see what it was.

Annie can smell food a block away, no exaggeration. As the one who has gotten dragged halfway down the street so she can plunge her head deep into the salal and salmonberries, I can testify that there’s always something there. It could be a sandwich, a candy bar, or the leavings from fishermen cleaning their fish or hunters gutting their deer. How I wish people would not toss their garbage wherever they are, as if it doesn’t matter.

Mother Nature provides its share of edible attractions, too. Annie loves berries, especially blackberries. She knows which ones are ripe and can suck them off the vine without getting stuck in the thorns. And they’re good for her.

The roads are full of smashed mice, squirrels, snakes and frogs that didn’t make it across the road. Also feces. These, my dogs like to roll in. Inevitably, she does her drop and roll just as someone drives by. I stand embarrassed, chanting, “Get up, get up, get up,” as she rolls on her back, feet in the air, rubbing herself in ecstasy. Then she rises, smiling, weeds sticking out of her collar, and we go on.

This week we may have company on our walks. A neighbor called this morning to warm me that her next door neighbor captured a bear on his outdoor camera while the guy next door to him said the bear walked right through his front yard at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Annie spent several nights last week barking at what we suspect are bears. Do bears like burritos?

Maybe we’ll trade the trails for the beach today.

Please put your trash in the garbage can. Don’t toss it wherever you are. It could kill my dog.

***

Watch this clever segue: Bears, elk, cougars and other critters are common sights up Beaver Creek Road, the setting for my new novel, Up Beaver Creek, on sale now at Amazon.com. Read it and find how how P.D. and her friends cope with Mother Nature, especially when the tsunami comes.

 

 

It’s all about the dog these days

IMG_20170601_163600329_HDR[1]Life these days is a dance with a pooch, le pas de chien, the “pas de dog.” My partner, Annie, 74 pounds of Lab and pit bull love, is rocking a blue inflatable collar, a back right leg shaved from her privates to her ankle, and a three-inch incision closed with 13 staples. A surgeon in Springfield, Oregon, 100 miles from here, rejiggered her leg to fix torn anterior cruciate and meniscus ligaments. Annie spent two nights in the doggy hospital while I prepared for a long spate of caregiving, stocking up on groceries, washing her blankets, and clearing my schedule for two weeks of full-time Annie.

Annie gets 12 pills a day, organized in days-of-the-week pillboxes. Getting the pills down has been a challenge. I tried pumpkin (nope), peanut butter (yes), meat loaf (God, yes) and shoving it down her throat (projectile spitting). Yesterday a friend brought two packages of pill pockets from the pet store. Remember Rollo candies? They look like that except they’re made of flavored dough into which you insert the pills. Annie loves them. Pill time is now fun time.

Ask me what’s new. It’s all about the dog. It’s all about keeping her from licking her stitches for two weeks and keeping her from running, jumping or playing for eight weeks. Because she can’t fit through the doggie door with her big collar and I don’t dare let her loose in the massive yard with its multi-level decks, it’s about taking her up and down 97th Court on a leash every few hours and letting her into the dog pen whenever I think about it. She does surprisingly well on three legs, occasionally letting the injured leg down. She never complains of pain, but she does complain about being confined. The pen is bigger than many backyards, but she keeps going to the gate and whining.

It’s about me sitting in the dog pen with her because if she can’t go out, neither can I. It’s about watching her constantly, waking up in the night and listening for her moving around, jumping up from my desk to make sure she is all right. It’s about sitting on the floor with her head in my lap, telling her what a great dog she is.

It’s all about the dog. We are on retreat together. I’m enjoying the quiet time to read, write, practice yoga, and do my chores. Annie likes that we’re together 24/7. I like that the weather has been perfect so we can sit outside. There’s nothing like spring on the Oregon coast. The sky is cobalt blue, the robins and doves are singing, the neighbor’s rooster is crowing, and the rhodies are blooming. The air feels like a warm caress.

Annie’s X-rays look very much like my Father’s broken-leg X-rays, the hardware bright white against the gray of the bones and flesh. But Annie will be walking long before Dad, who is not loving his time at the nursing home. Meanwhile, like Dad, we go from room to room, go outside to sit in the sun, take pills, eat meals, sit quietly counting the days.

This morning, when Annie woke up at 4:40 a.m., I was not ready to be awake. I gave her food and water and took her out for a piddle. Then, God forgive me, I fed her a sedative in a peanut butter pill pocket and went back to bed. When I woke up three hours later, she was sound asleep, praise God. It’s going to be a long couple of weeks.

I thank all the friends who have offered their prayers, encouragement and pill-giving advice. This is not my first time through dog knee surgery. Our old dog Sadie had surgery on both of her knees. You can read about it in Shoes Full of Sand. It was harder in some ways. We didn’t have the inflatable collar, just the plastic cone, and I didn’t get much sleep. But it was easier because I had my husband Fred to help me. Now it’s just me and the pup doing our pas de dog.

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Amazon is currently offering my Shoes Full of Sand book at half price. Click the link and give it a read.