Chicago Blizzard 2011

Driving in our neighborhood  last night, the midst of a raging blizzard, I was stunned at the immediate changes in the landscapes, vertigo with the snow enveloping the car.  Driving less than a mile, our Explorer seemed to be struggling up a white river, frozen water undulating across the street.  After my drop off and turnaround, I gasped aloud as a ghostly specter arose in front of the car, a whirling dervish directing me home.

The night was long, the night was loud, sixty mile an hour winds sneaking through any available cracks, under shutters, down the chimney, around the vents.  We awoke to almost two feet of snow on the ground, the final total the third largest snowfall in Chicago history.  Wow!

Where is the walkway?

With no snowblower, shoveling enough for the SUV to get out was a daunting task.  The continuing wind picked up the snow as we tossed it, easing our load slightly.  But make no mistake, this was hard work, a daunting project.

An obvious day off school–a state of Emergency where we were not allowed on the streets (not that there was anywhere open to go to)-the kids had fun building forts, traipsing through snow past their waist, forming paths, sledding.

A surprise around each corner, drifts where the flats should be, snow piling in unexpected locations, swirls of snow galavanting through the backyards, I toured with my camera.  Snap, snap, snap of  objects, scenes, dogs and kids to show off the heaps of snow that fell during the night.

Winter fun!

Dogs clamored at my feet.  With every ball toss they looked as if they were swimming through an ocean of white.  The silence of no traffic, no walkers was a bit strange.  And we rejoiced when the sun snuck through the clouds, piercing the grey skies.


A day of unexpected freedom, the city shut down.  And an even better surprise later when our friend Phil snowblowed out the other side of the driveway, so we can now get two cars out.  Maybe tomorrow will bring mail, a paper, some milk along with the frigid temperatures now heading our way.  So much for skiing and sledding, as the kids have another day off school, the temperatures struggling to reach zero, drifting snow still causing havoc on the roads.

But I think that every child who lives in a snowy area should have that one storm, the one snowfall they remember into adulthood.  A rite of passage for those of us who live with four true seasons.  C


Pet Playland

The dog park.  An amusement park for canines, the suburbian playground for papered, rescued, loved four-legged family members to run unencumbered with no leashes, no pressures.  And no bias to sex, size, race, color, breed.  Lucky we are, to have our local taxes pay for this place we frequent, walk, visit, admire the views, say hello and good bye, laugh, and just watch.  The four-legged ones having fun.

Cali, Zoe and friends

Dog heaven.  And a couple more shots of the park, though now white covers the ground.  Not that the dogs mind playing in the snow, of course. C

The White-Tail Tale

A shimmering Sunday afternoon several weeks ago, I was stealing five minutes of silence on the screened-in porch,  reading the paper in between chauffering sessions.  

“Cali,” I heard Tara warn our 7-month Aussie, who she had been playing with for the better part of an hour.

“Cali!” she yelled agin.

I glanced up to see  the raised white-tail of a deer galloping through our yard, followed by a coyote, then Cali.  They bolted through our yard, then the neighbors, then they kept going.  Tara ran after them, and I ran from the porch after them.  It has been years since my feet went from zero to sixty in three seconds, and I hope it is years until I have to do it again.  That white hot pain, burning though my chest, my heart pounding.  Visible through my chest? I don’t know.

As the trio of animals kept running, I realized the “coyote” was a fawn, probably only days old. The mama deer ran off track, and the fawn and Cali ran into the cornfields.  Oh no! How were we going to get them now?  I could hear the jangling of Cali’s tags, so I knew that she was close by.  Suddenly, fawn and pup appeared nose to tail, the fawn in front, bleating-bleating for its mom.

We chased and called for a couple more houses, Cali oblivious to us.  Then, as the yard lines curved, Tara continued to follow the pair as I cut across towards the front yard. As the pair slowed, Tara managed to step on the end of Cali’s leash, which she had been dragging behind her.  

Breathing hard, we slowly walked back to the house, leash held tight.  Wouldn’t any curious puppy do the same, we thought.

So now Cali no longer plays in the yard without a long lead rope, just in case…. C

More exciting?

Which is more exciting, getting a new puppy or a new computer?  Tough toss up, as I got BOTH a 6-month old Aussie rescue pup and a new Mac in the last two weeks.

Both are very shiny new toys, oh so cool and exciting, but both can also be frustrating and overwhelming sometimes.  Cali–short for California–is smart and joyous and curious and is learning tons from our other Aussie…but she wakes up way too early and we discovered today that she gets violently car sick (not fun for a dog with a family always on the go).  And my first Mac I have wanted for several years and fairly easy to maneuver around but I got stuck downloading photos–still can’t get those pictures of Cali online– and it will take me a little playtime (errr…worktime) to learn the bells and whistles.  

One breathes oxygen, the other electricity, both offer light and fun and chaos and creativity and growth.  But which is more exciting?  And why did I decide to do both in the same month?  As if we aren’t busy enough…..C

P.S.  In the long run, Cali wins I’m sure!

Doggy Diligence

After losing 16 year old Annie, we are on the search for another Aussie to keep Zoe company.  And what a process it is to get “approved” to adopt a new dog from the aussie rescue group, even though we got Zoe from them when she was but 3 months.   After completing the lengthy online application, they called my references, my vet, and did a home visit.  Pretty standard stuff for most adoptions or purchased these days, from what my friends tell me.

With the press lamenting about the dogs (and cats) being abandoned or turned in since their owners cannot afford them–going from homes to cages in overcrowded shelters– it is a little bizarre that we have to practically complete a psychological profile to get a forgotten or mislaid pup, but I do understand that the dog lovers who run the organizations want the dogs to become a permanent part of our lives, not another temporary stopping point.

And now the search is underway.  Not to find a dog just for us, but more importantly for Zoe.  The new Aussie has to get along with kids and many guests and grandparents and other dogs and be able to live without a fence and be loving and like to run/play/jump/catch/swim/do agility/hang out while we work.

Zoe is a bit shy with other dogs, so we are trying out boys-girls-puppies-year old dogs, to try and find a match for her. How to turn any of them down, when they are all so cute and smart and wanting love?  But, we need to find one for she AND us, so we will meet, greet, play, and wait.  Hopefully she will find a new friend soon. Sadly,  there are new candidates available each week.

And we will be new parents again if we choose a puppy.  So much work!  But more or less than a year-old dog who has never had training?  Hmmm…maybe less. 

And if you are looking for a new addition to your home, there are rescue groups for almost all breeds and shelters and home fostered dogs.  All looking for a pat, a treat, a run and willing to give back more than you can imagine.  The search might take some time, but remember they will be in your lives and homes a long time.  Choose wisely.  C

Maxx & Annie & Zoe & Us

OK, so maybe it wasn’t such a great idea for the family to watch Marley & Me last weekend, our first night back in the house after putting Annie to sleep.  Funny, sweet, sentimental, and so sad at the end you know is coming, but a bit more graphic than I expected.  But, a far more enjoyable film than I expected, for some reason.

And just to torture ourselves, we were given the movie as a gift yesterday from my in-laws and we all watched it again, since four of our guests had not seen it.  Is it possible to see that film without crying at the end?  Not yet, for me anyways.

At least it confirmed that Maxx was NOT the worst dog in existence, and the tender, lovely moments like when Marley let Jen cry on him, and how he could not sleep when she was in labor–though she was sleeping– reminded us of how intuitive doegs are, why we want them to be part of our homes, our families, our lives.

My big complaint about the film is that while Marley ages dramatically throughout, the owners do not at all.  And that scene where the family is in the pool after the third child Colleen  is born….no, Jen never had children.  Fit and muscular, I don’t think so.

I truly think you have to have owned and put down a pet to fully appreciate this film.  The loss is wider than you dream possible, as my mother-in-law teared up afterwards remembering putting down dogs from long before I knew their family. But the joy they bring makes us repeat the cycle.  C

Annie, Farewell


Annie, you came into our lives

On your one-year birthday

So fearful, so quiet, so timid

Learning the way of family life

And friendship

And joy

From Maxx,

Watching carefully,

Then accepting, loving, no longer hiding.


Your favorite days

Were always a run on the beach,

Chasing the birds, the dogs, the spirits

 Us almost losing you on a fog-filled beach in Washington

Our only clue your jingling collar

As we yelled for you in vain, and hope.


You have hiked from San Francisco

To Portland

To Sedona

To Chicago

To our neighborhood,

Seeming to smile all the way

The kindest soul I have ever met

Who taught many people to love dogs

Just sitting patiently

Rolling over for a rub,

Stealing a kiss

Never asking,

Always giving.


We shall miss your gentle aura

The softness of your fur

You herding us playing baseball or football

Your kind brown eyes

Your patience.


Be free

Of your aged body

But your always-young soul,

Find your friend Maxx

Who taught you to love

And be there to lead me






Written for my wonderful Annie, who we lost just shy of her 17th birthday.