Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who Rescued Whom?

Gracie at age 2 (click on photos to enlarge)

Our big dog Gracie just turned ten years old on Monday. According to (click link to learn all about the breed), the average life expectancy for a Bernese Mountain Dog is 6 to 7 years. Cancer is a big problem for the breed, and this one has had a close call. As of today she is well. She is now in the age range I once read about when researching the breed back in the early 90's: Life expectancy was then 10 to 12 years! The Swiss say, "Three years a young dog, three years a good dog, and three years an old dog." I have to say Gracie seems to be right in the middle of being a GOOD dog. She likes to give a literal good morning hug, but no longer does whirling leaps in the air and barks as her morning greeting. That was in her wilder days. She loves to have her ears rubbed, and to have her coat either vacuumed with the Kirby or fluffed with the leaf blower.....that is really funny to see! She prefers to drink from running water--from a pitcher being poured into her bowl or from an outdoor faucet or garden hose.

We found Gracie in December of 2002. Our male Berner, Fritz, had died earlier that year in June at age 9. The house was just not the same without him, and Christmas was coming. I saw an ad in the Atlanta Journal for an 18 month old female in Tiger, Georgia. She needed a home because her owner had sustained a serious back injury. When I first mentioned it, no one at home was interested, but you know what they say about the magic of Christmas. On Saturday morning, December 14th, the Colonel said to me over breakfast, "If you really want to go see this dog, I will go with you." Honestly, that statement was all I wanted for Christmas. We made our way to the Northeast Georgia mountains, found the farm, and there she was in the miniature stables with miniature horses! It was too charming for anyone to resist! Giving her up was as sad for the owner as it was joyous for us! We were all weeping when is was time to load her up and head back home. Her father was a major show dog, but Gracie has lived a quiet, happy life , along with her spaniel sisters and the one and only Deusey the Cat. I know she would say her life is good in

"Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain.

Where health and plenty cheer'd the labouring swain"

~~~~~Oliver Goldsmith "The Deserted Village"

Gracie at age 4

It was about this time that I began reading and hearing about more and more Berners serving as therapy dogs. This is a favorite photo taken by my niece Nancy. This is classic Gracie the Therapy Dog behavior: Her paw resting comfortingly on your knee and a look that says, "You just go ahead and pet me as much as you need to and tell me all your troubles.
I am listening."


Monday, April 11, 2011

A horse, a horse...a War Horse...

Once upon a time --for about nineteen years-- I taught seventh grade. One of my fondest memories was being witness to the eagerness my students exuded when given a chance to buy their very own Scholastic paperbacks. Scholastic always had great offerings. I would get a stack of small newsprint brochures, and the kids would place their orders. They ordered new stories and classics. In recent years, I have been teaching mostly seniors. These students do not order paperbacks. They read and write texts -- seemingly re-inventing Sanskrit! We just read the standards. And oh, the torture they endure! Yes, there are those who read outside of class, but I am sometimes afraid to ask just what they are reading. Oh for the days when my students wanted books and not cell phones!

I have been hearing from some of my colleagues who are still working with seventh graders about Michael Morpurgo's WAR HORSE, yes, published by Scholastic. Here is a story of a horse which may alter everything you ever thought you knew about horses. It was written for an adolescent audience, but it is galloping on its way to the classics shelf! You may have seen the feature broadcast yesterday on CBS's Sunday Morning all about the stage play based on Morpurgo's book. Click here to see how War Horse has been transformed for the stage. This play is my number one destination if I can get to London this summer.

While reading up on the production in London, I discovered more news. Not to be out done by the stage or the genius of the life size and truly realistic puppetry of the play, Steven Spielberg has the movie in the making, and we may see it as early as September 2011!

The Colonel and I have a small collection of original World War I posters. I first saw this one in a catalog we have. Though Fortunino Matania's (1881-1963) Good-bye Old Man is my all time favorite, I have only been able to find a reproduction of it. I know it was published first in the magazine Sphere, and also in several books of the artist's work. I have been looking for an original poster since 1979. I had better find a poster for the play and movie WAR HORSE.

About Me

My photo
Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat