Tag Archives: muts

All Decked Out


springyardThe dog kennel is de-pooped, for now. Those maple tree helicopter things are still hovering down. Chris has been valiantly blowing them off the deck where they are not wanted, then sweeping and carrying them off into the new spring compost bin. The mushy leaves which we use to cover the hosta jungle on the shady side of the yard have been raked up and also added into the compost oven. Hey, we’re not scholars from the Rodale Institute or anything, but compost really rocks. And so do rocks – the back yard has been totally Fred Flintstoned. A pond-with-3-tiered-waterfall project became Chris’ answer to losing a huge tree in the back of the yard; instead of removing the huge tree trunk he just added huge boulders and began the waterfall. It’s his baby which needs tending to occasionally; the pond portion has little leaks from time-to-time but generally we’ve been pretty happy with it. The birds, especially cardinals, seem to love to take little showers in the waterfall; they hang out there for hours sometimes. In early spring a couple of mallards stop and visit as though they’re looking at real estate – “honey, I know it’s just a one-bedroom but we wouldn’t have those damned Drakes next door causing all that racket.” (That’s me, anthropromorpholizing our duck visitors.) Then they see that we have two big dogs, and the sale goes south in a quick hurry.

We hardly travel for a variety of reasons; it’s expensive, we never have enough time, we’re not good planners, we’ve got two big dogs. So for us, our little plot of South Minneapolis is our retreat. Sure, there are the sounds of cars,  trucks and motorcycles whooshing by down on the street, but we pretend it’s the sound of waves crashing on the Northern Pacific shoreline somewhere (ok, I do that, Chris isn’t quite there yet). There are the occasional shouts, firecrackers, those crotch rocket things that I don’t even like to call motorcycles, and sometimes dogs who have been left in their yards who won’t stop barking, but it all comes with the territory. We have plants that attract butterflies and even hummingbirds; squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and even possums like to hang out in our sanctuary.

We’re city folk at heart, I guess. Summertime, and the living is easy. So here’s a slooomooo moment. It’s one of those reminders to live in the present.


Big Sister


I am about to start my Communications and Public Relations Internship at Big Brothers Big Sisters this week, and it got me to start thinking about my own match with my Little, Denver, who is now age 18.

I’d like to say that we did AMAZING and ADVENTUROUS things together, my Little and me, but we never really did anything on a Grand Scale. Our favorite thing to do was talking. And more talking. And a little more talking. It didn’t really matter where we were.

I met Denver when she was 8 years old. Our first “date” was a trip to the Walker Art Center with Denver’s older sister, Australia, and her new Big Sister (a double date.) I’d say it was awkward, to say the least. I can’t recall what the exhibit was called, but I think the art was sort of pretentious and, well you know, art being subjective and all of that, we didn’t really agree that it was art. One exhibit was a mop and a bucket. Denver cracked up at that one. We had lunch at the Walker and took Australia’s Big (I cannot remember her name) and the kids home. I don’t think Australia and her Big clicked, but Denver and I definitely did, and it began our long journey of Big and Little.

Our favorite Saturday or Sunday would go something like this: I’d pile my two big mutts, Egor and Iggy, into my Isuzu Trooper and swing by Denver’s house to pick her up. I always hung out at her house for a little bit and talked with Denver’s mom, who I really liked a lot. My dogs adored Denver (or Auntie Denver, as she became known to them.) We’d head over to the dog park out by the airport and let the dogs run loose and we’d just follow along, walking the whole length of the park, twice. When we’d go there in spring, the park would be really muddy, and I believe Denver wrecked a couple pairs of nice basketball shoes. Mom wasn’t very happy about that. me & denver

With the dogs then finally exhausted, tired and sometimes muddy, we’d load them up into the Trooper and head up 28th Avenue South to the Nokomis Beach Coffee Shop to get a bite to eat, and then stop by the used book store next door; sometimes finding a treasure to purchase, sometimes not. It was the looking that was fun.

That would be a typical “short” Saturday visit. If I didn’t have anything else going on, the longer version of the Denver-Patti Experience would be all of the above activities, and extend to going back to my house and cooking Italian food and sometimes making carrot bread.

And talking. And more talking.

Here is a memorable, solving-problems-of-the-world conversation we once had:

“Patti, why do white people act so strange and treat our family so bad sometimes?”

“Denver, I can’t answer on behalf of all ‘white people’ any more than you can answer for all African American people. I don’t have the answers, there’s still a lot of racism out there, and unfortunately you and your family sometimes experience it first-hand. But I don’t represent all white people. I don’t know why stupid racist people do what they do. They’re just ignorant.”

“Anyway, Patti, you’re not white, you’re Irish.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right!”

We had had a previous conversation about how the Irish were treated when they first immigrated to America, and that my Dad had experienced being called a “dirty mick” and other slurs on the Irish.

We had lots of other experiences like going to ValleyFair a couple of times, going to basketball games, festivals and other events, and of course BBBS events like picnics, cooking and yoga classes. Denver even came and did radio with me up at KFAI. We also did quite a few bike rides around Lake Harriet.

Denver’s all grown up now – she graduated from high school and is having her own adventures. When she started getting busy with her friends at age 16 and our “dates” started becoming fewer and farther between, she asked me if we were still going to be “sisters,” and I told her “yes, we’ll always be sisters.”

We haven’t talked in a while, but I’ll be catching up with her soon, hopefully.

Just like I do with my blood sisters.

Synchronized Sleeping

sleepingdogzThese guys, I tell ya. I look over at them and my old hardened heart just melts. They are attached at the hip.
Speaking of hips, Egor (the pointy eared chow chow fella) had hip dysplasia – as bad as it gets – when he was all of 9 months old. That was a quick $3,000 that we didn’t really have – oh man, ouch! We were at a backyard party and several dogs, all puppies, were running and running and all of a sudden there was a painful yelp…oh I can still hear it. We rushed Egor to the emergency vet – of course, it was on a Saturday night. So we had them do a bone scraping sort of operation to make the hip joint fit better – he’s been fine ever since – he runs a little wobbly is all. They told us to always be aware that he might have trouble on the opposite side, and to keep a lookout. Seems ok, so far, and he’s six years old.
Iggy’s the healthiest pet I’ve ever owned. I believe it’s because he is so expressive and lets his emotions out so frequently (not unlike his namesake.) This dog moans and groans like no other dog I’ve ever seen. Didn’t pet him enough? Harumph, I’m walking away now. I didn’t get two cookies? Hmmmm. I’m just gonna sit over here and pout. Did you just pet Egor and not me? Mmmmmm, me no likey.
Of course, I get accused of anthropomorphizing these two all the time. “They’re dogs, Patti.” “Yeah, I know. But they’re my boys, they’re my special boys.” “Sheesh.”
I know. I’m a dog ma lunatic.

Bad Art Alert


For your enjoyment and edification today I have selected from my personal collection not one but two tiny paintings of Iggy and Egor, my mutant mongrels. I’m not going to talk too much about the dogs, because I’m sure I’ll be talking about them frequently and boring the life out of everyone on this blog. I am featuring these little canvases because they are some of the first paintings I’ve done in over twenty years.

When I was nine and ten I took oil painting classes and I remember really enjoying it. I can’t recall exactly why I stopped the classes – I guess I’ve always chalked it up to becoming a squirrelly teenager….   I do remember my mother criticizing me at some point and that may have done it. I’m not sure. But at any rate, except for ceramics and drawing in high school, I didn’t paint as a teenager. I started painting again in my twenties, but again I was dealt some unfair criticism and took it very hard. I put the brushes away and the acrylics dried up in their tubes.

Fast forward to October of 2011 when we were clearing out my mom’s house when she first had Alzheimers, and I found one of the still-lifes I had done as a ten-year-old. It was really really good. It was already an emotional week but I cried so hard because at the time I painted it, I just didn’t think I was any good at all. But no way did this painting look like a ten-year-old did it. I just felt like “Wow, I did have talent…” and “Why don’t I paint again???” I bought paint, brushes and canvases when I returned home and started fooling around – turning my dining room into an art studio and making a huge mess. An artist friend who had been to MCAD gave me a few pointers and I was on my way. I purchased some larger canvases and was struggling with subject matter and all the old criticisms were still floating around in the back of my head. Ok, they were in the front of my head as well. I had a lot of anxiety. I was supposed to be enjoying this. What’s the matter with me? I guess you don’t really get over those messages from when you were young that easily – they do last a lifetime.dogz

So one day I was at Dick Blick’s – an art supply store – and I noticed these teeny tiny canvases – they’re 3″ x 3″. At last – inspiration!! I just thought “Yes! I can do little portraits of my favorite subjects, big mutt and the other big mutt!!!” I did these in no time flat and didn’t even really need to look at the dogs or pictures of them, which is huge for me. I did realize when I was finished that these little portraits are very similar in style to a women in town here who does pet portraits, but I’m not making this my trade or anything – it’s just for fun – it’s supposed to be fun, remember?

So I’ve still got some large canvases waiting to be gessoed and painted, and masterpieces waiting to be made, but for now it’s all about the baby steps, just little canvassed baby steps.

Dear Winter, It’s Not Funny Anymore.


Dearest Winter:

winterI know, I know, I probably have NO RIGHT to complain. I live here in Minnesota by choice. I love living here. But Pfizer doesn’t make enough antidepressants to get us through winters like the one being dished out this year. Maybe I need to get one of those S.A.D. lights – I’ve heard those work. Naw, I’d still know it was winter, and it wouldn’t change the fact that we’ve had something like 40+ days with highs in the sub-zeros. I don’t get out and walk the doggies on those days, and so I’m not getting enough exercise and fresh air – the stuff that sort of keeps you sane. Most winters I’m at work and usually belong to a health club – I go swimming and scoff at the arctic temps – but not this year. Job hunting and budget restraints – probably making me feel much more cooped up and cabin-feverish.

The dogs are obnoxious. “Come on lady, let us out!” 32 seconds go by. “Oh it’s too cold, lady, let us in, NOW!!!” Then the same routine, 20 minutes later. And someone is forgetting that they are potty trained. Someone is peeing on the floor in the basement, and it isn’t me.

It isn’t funny anymore, boys.snowdogs