Saturday, July 19, 2008


I have fond memories of the TV series Get Smart back in the sixties, so it’s no surprise that I also enjoyed the current movie by the same name. I remember trying to cleverly pepper my stories with phrases like “Sorry about that!” and “Would you believe?” and I remember my dad doing the same thing. It makes me laugh just to hear someone talk that way again.

Get Smart came to us for the first time at about the same time as a new discount store in Crystal called Target. It was owned by the top retailer in our area, Dayton’s, and no one else in the world knew anything about it. Would you believe that the name Dayton’s was once on storefronts all over the Twin Cities and that the name Target was on only one? Would you believe that some forty years later a former stripper named Diablo Cody would choose that same Crystal Target as a place to pen her Academy Award winning screenplay, Juno?

Back in the day, Target was simply our neighborhood bargain basement store. My friends and I jokingly called it “Tar-ZHAY,” as if it were an exclusive French boutique. We all shopped there, but none of us admitted that anything we wore actually came from there because we considered ourselves far too sophisticated for Target couture.

For me, “Sorry about that!” “Would you believe?” and “Tar-ZHAY” are words and phrases that I once used as often as kids today use “Whatever.” or “Ya think?”. Another favorite of mine at the time was “co-inky-dink.” Like most young teenagers, I was fascinated with the supernatural. My friends and I brought out ouija boards at slumber parties. We “oohed” and “aahed” over songs about kids with mysterious and tragic deaths such as” Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri Las and “Strange Things Happen” by Dickey Lee. We scared the daylights out of our freshmen “little sisters” when we drove them to a graveyard and abandoned them there as part of a prank. Sorry about that!

Co-inky-dink was our word for anything that we considered coincidental. It was not limited to situations where two or more events happened to occur at the same time, but was used more broadly to infer that supernatural powers must have been involved for something to take place because we believed that whatever happened must have been more than just a chance occurrence. It was also assumed that there was some mystical reason for this co-inky-dink to occur and that made for a lot of “oohing” and “aahing” and fun speculation on our part. I still think it’s a fun word and I had a chance to use it myself this week.

I don’t know how many Golden Retrievers are in the Helping Paws breeding program, but I just learned the names of two of them: Maisie and Summer. Maisie is the name of our last Golden Retriever and Somer is the name of my daughter who is eagerly awaiting a puppy. That is a bit of a co-inky-dink.

Maisie and Summer are not popular pet names. Would you believe there are only two Maisies and five Summers at our veterinary clinic? (There are also 2 Maiseys, 1 Maise, 8 Maisys, 2 Maizys, 3 Mazys and 1 Somer.) Meanwhile, there are 431 dogs and cats that answer to the name Sam, including those named Sammy, Sampson, Samantha, Sammie, Sammi, Samuel, Samson, Samwise, Samsyn, Samual and Sammy Porkchop. There are 312 dogs and cats called Buddy. There are 334 dogs and cats called Max, including those named Maxi, Maximus, Maxine, Maxwell, Maximillion, Maxx and (Would you believe?) Maxwell Smart.

It is possible that the mother of the Helping Paws litter this fall and the mother of our puppy will be a Golden Retriever named, not Sam or Buddy or Max, but Summer or Maisie. That would be quite a co-inky-dink!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Looks like I’ve put the cart before the horse, counted my chickens before they hatched and forgotten that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. There are six new Helping Paws families waiting for five Labrador Retriever puppies. We are the sixth on the list because our application was the last to be processed. We will not be getting a puppy this time around.

I was wrong about the c-section, too. There were nine puppies in the litter, as expected. However, the first two were born out of their sacs and did not survive. After the eighth puppy also had problems, Sheba’s owner took her to the vet to deliver the ninth, but neither the eighth or ninth puppies made it.

Many people are disappointed about this sad turn of events, but Somer is crestfallen. She does not want to hear another word about a puppy until one is placed in her arms.

We are hoping that will happen in November. There is a Golden Retriever in the Helping Paws breeding pool being bred this week. If she gets pregnant, we will be first on the list for one of her puppies this fall. I am not excited about the wait, but I am excited about the possibility of a Golden.

Spanish speakers have a word that means both waiting and hoping, esperanza. Americans don’t really have such a word, probably because our culture puts such a high premium on instant gratification. We do have some sayings that fit, though: “Good things come to those who wait.” “Anything worth having is worth waiting for.”

The pictures above are of the Golden Retriever puppies born last spring. Are they cute or are they cute? As much as we wanted one of them, it was not meant to be and they have all been placed with other Helping Paws foster families. We now know that the same thing will happen with the labs that arrived last week. Our puppy just hasn’t been born yet. We’re waiting and hoping. Esperanza.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Lots of people are asking if we’ve gotten our puppy. No, we haven’t, and we haven’t been able to contact the Helping Paws directors either, because they are on vacation. This is the only information we have from the Helping Paws website.

“On July 1, Sheba, one of our breeding dogs, gave birth to five Labrador Retriever puppies—two females and three males. These puppies will be placed with their foster families around September 1 to start their service dog training.”

We don’t know why only five puppies were born. The ultrasound or X-ray taken while Sheba was pregnant indicated nine pups. While either test could easily have been off by a puppy, it is highly unlikely that either test would have been off by four. The last we heard, Sheba, who was pregnant with her first litter, seemed agitated and appeared to be engaging in nesting behavior a few days after her June 26 due date.

It is my guess that the first puppy got stuck, a Caesarian section was performed, and only five pups survived the procedure. Of course, I am only speculating. We have been looking several times daily to our email and the website for more information on what happened, all to no avail.

We hope that all five puppies are healthy and that one of them will be placed with us. We have been told that the directors of the program will evaluate the temperament of each puppy at about seven weeks and place each one with the family that seems to be the best fit. I have joked that we will get the sickly runt because we have the experience of already raising four dogs; our primary trainer, my husband, is a veterinarian; and we have offered to cover all the vet bills for our puppy. Somer replies to my attempt at humor with a dagger stare and a sharp reminder that “no ‘sickly runts’ are going to be used for this program.” She is serious about this; there is no room for joking.

We have also noticed that six families have been contacted about fostering a puppy from this litter. If only five families are needed, we could be the one eliminated. Also on the list is a family from our Mother-Daughter book club, who applied to the program before we did. Their family and ours had no idea that the other was interested until after our applications were being processed. Now we are really hoping to do this together.

Waiting for this puppy has actually been a lot like waiting for a baby in that pregnant and adoptive parents rarely get exactly what they want, precisely when they want it either. Somer’s friend, Katherine, claims to be the exception, arguing that she is the child of her parent’s dreams and she is. However, her parents were hoping for a baby in early summer and had to wait until August. And let’s face it, sometime in her life even “perfect” Katherine will probably do a thing or two that disappoints her parents. That’s just the way it is.

How have I had to compromise? I wanted a Golden Retriever. As it turns out, the Golden in the breeding program didn’t get pregnant this spring so I won’t be getting one of her puppies, but I might be getting a Labrador Retriever. I wanted the puppy at the beginning of the summer, when Somer was on vacation. That didn’t happen because the spring puppies were all placed before we our application papers were processed, but I might get a puppy at the end of the summer when Somer goes back to school. I wanted to foster the dog for two years, while Somer was still at home. If we do get a dog, it will probably stay with us for 2 ½ years, being placed with a disabled person after Somer leaves for college. When I found out that my friend was also interested in fostering a puppy, I was excited to share the experience with her. I now know that it is possible that only one of us will be getting a dog. It is possible that we won’t be getting a dog at all.

So, I might have put the cart before the horse here, but I don’t really think so. I’m an optimist at heart and I believe that one of those five puppies will be coming to live with us in a few more weeks. And like most expectant mothers, I’ll have made a few compromises along the way and be absolutely thrilled with what I get.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


On a good day, and there have been many lately, I eat my lunch out on my deck before I go to work. A cardinal always joins me in the overhanging ash tree, singing

“what CHEER. what CHEER. Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet.
what CHEER. what CHEER. Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet.”

I call him “Lounge Lizard” because he’s all decked out in his finest orange feathers and he reminds me of the guys in their rust-colored polyester leisure suits who used to hang around the piano bars in my single days. They sang “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” or “For the Good Times” or whatever it took to get a date. This cardinal is just as persistent, but he only knows one song and he doesn’t appear to have any takers.

I sit overlooking my swimming pool, which is cool, calm, and refreshing, even when I’m not swimming in it. I am surrounded by beautiful flowers: fuchsias (attracting the occasional hummingbird), begonias, marigolds, roses, lilies, spirea, daisies, geraniums, impatiens, dianthus, petunias, clematis, coreopsis and hydrangeas. Even my peony bush is hanging on to her last showy blossom for the Fourth of July.

I rock forward and backward in my swivel chair under the umbrella with the matching blue-gray stripes, protected from the sun. I open my Star Tribune to the Variety Section and look to Family Circus, For Better of For Worse, Sally Forth, Baby Blues and Zits for a laugh. (Zits usually hits closest to home these days.) I then turn the page for a little relationship advice from Carolyn Hax, which is often caustic and doesn’t usually apply to me, but I enjoy it anyway. Before settling in with the daily Sudoku, I stir the cherries into my yogurt and take the Isaac Asimov Super Quiz.

I don’t know why I subject myself to the quiz, because I’m not particularly good at it. I usually can answer at least one of the questions and am spared the embarrassment of the scoring category “Who read the questions to you?” Still, learning that I “should hit the books harder” or that I’m “plenty smart, but no grind” is not exactly an ego builder. I guess I do the quiz because every once in a while I get all the questions right and earn the reward of “Congratulations, Doctor.” I suppose it’s the same reason some people play slot machines.

Yesterday was a Congratulations, Doctor/three cherries in a row kind of day. The category was “Starts and Ends in A.” I knew I had a shot at it because it was a word thing and I love words. Here it is:

Each answer is a word that starts and ends with the letter “A.” For example: An aerial. Answer: antenna. (Actually I think that’s one of the hardest ones.)

Freshman Level
1. A pleasant smell.
2. A level area where sports events take place.
3. Measurement of a surface.

Graduate Level
4. A list of matters to be discussed.
5. A loss of memory.
6. A large fleet of ships.

Ph.D. Level
7. A supposed invisible force surrounding a living creature.
8. Something added to a text.
9. A word used by conjurors when performing a magic trick.

Answers: Aroma, Arena, Area, Agenda, Amnesia, Armada, Aura, Addenda, Abracadabra.

I went through the questions lightning fast and my memory, which isn’t as good as it used to be, didn’t fail me. One of my favorite writers, Anna Quindlen, who is about my age, says that her “memory is now so bad that (she) can reread mystery novels and not recall whodunit.” I can relate. However, yesterday, my memory for “A” words was with me. I tried to share my excitement with the Lounge Lizard, but he was unfazed and never missed a tweet in his same sorry song.

“what CHEER. what CHEER. Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet.
what CHEER. what CHEER. Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet, Wheet.”