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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lovely Ireland

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day today, I decided to revisit Ireland via my photographs of our 2012 trip.

My son had for a long time wanted to visit that country and was thrilled when we were finally underway. We flew across the continent, landing in Washington D.C. where we visited with relatives and toured the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Then our midnight flight took off to cross the Atlantic.

Here is the country as we flew in that July morning. We were very excited, to say the least. I won’t put in every photograph I took, since I took over a hundred a day. Here are some of my favorites, and you’ll have to forgive me if they seem somewhat clichéd, because after all, when you first visit a country, what do you go see but what every other tourist goes to see!

Our first day in Dublin we went to a pub for a lovely long dinner in the mid-afternoon, and we walked in St. Stephen’s Green. My son is going to feature in several more of these photographs, so let me introduce you to someone having a wonderful time in a place he feels perfectly happy.

Grafton Street
We decided to take one of those coach tours that goes round and round the city all day, the kind you can ride along listening to the tour guide tell you everything about what you are passing, or you can get off and explore and then get on the next coach from the same company that happens along at regularly scheduled intervals. We rode around a complete circuit and then got off and on. Meanwhile, I took a lot of pictures, especially of things that struck my fancy that are not always the clichéd scenes.
I took a lot of photographs of building features. This is my favorite.

Because trains are so important, aren’t they?

On our first Sunday there we went over to the Finglas Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the Finglas Road in Glasnevin, opposite that giant cemetery. People there were warm and welcoming to us. We enjoyed it very much.

Trinity College
Kells cat that I took home.
Later that day we had a tour of Trinity College and saw the famous Book of Kells among other manuscripts with lovely illuminated pages. Being in that wonderful library was the perfect place on such a rainy day.

First the crystal is superheated, then blown and shaped.
On another day we took a small coach tour to Waterford and visited the crystal factory. You will excuse the number of photographs I took here! I loved this place.
At the next station the raw edges are cut off.
Then it is sent through an oven I think, and here a finisher refines the edges.
The artisans are highly trained and not to be interrupted.
The cutting of a pineapple vase design is done by machine.
Ready to add the strings.
This is a Waterford ashtray from the 1800s
The detail on Cinderella’s coach and horses is amazing.
Chandeliers and mirrored ceiling in the shop display room.
This vase with its etched tarantula is my favorite oddity. The combination of a very expensive piece of crystal and the very large and scary hairy beast on it are nearly irresistible. Who wouldn’t want such a thing, stuffed full of dead weeds on Halloween, for a centerpiece at the dinner table? Notice I modified irresistible with nearly. Because yikes!

The Rock of Cashel

After the crystal factory, our driver (it was a very small coach with only seven of us tourists and our driver) took us to lunch in Cashel, after which we visited the Rock of Cashel, where for hundreds of years the kings of Munster lived. It’s also known as St. Patrick’s Rock; the king in 1101 gifted the Rock to the Church. On the Rock are built a round tower from about 1100; Cormac’s Chapel, a barrel-vaulted church with two lovely towers from about 1127; and the cathedral-castle, a cruciform cathedral with living quarters built onto the western end. What nobody ever explained and I have never seen comments on, is the odd way the cathedral was built around Cormac’s Chapel, not with the lines straight or perpendicular, not a few feet away, but with the south transept jutting at an angle against the northwest corner of the chapel and continuing on the other side at the chapel’s southwest corner. Now the chapel doesn’t sit true to the earth’s poles, but the cathedral does, so maybe the early people didn’t want to tear down the chapel even while they wanted to construct their cathedral with the high altar facing due east. But that doesn’t explain why they didn’t build it with a little bit of space between the two buildings. I thought it was very strange and would love an explanation. Meanwhile, we spent a lot of time poking about and admiring the Celtic crosses in the graveyard. Need I say it was raining?

Inside the porch
Anybody home?
North transept
The round tower and the graveyard by the north transept

Our driver next took us on what he told us would be an “authentic Irish adventure.” We were all for it. It was raining hard, which added just the right atmosphere, as we turned and twisted and darted off the main roads. We ended at the Rock of Dunamase, a lovely ruin with no tourist signs, no facilities but a car park. Nothing to “ruin the ruins” so to speak! Our driver had told us the Rock had had a fortress that was sacked in the 9th century by the Vikings. In the 12th century the Normans acquired the castle that had been started there from a chief named McMurrough, whose wife had been kidnapped and taken there, leading McMurrough to ask the Normans to help him retrieve her and take the Rock. With a great romantic story in our heads, the rain did not deter any of the seven of us. Our driver took a break and stayed in the coach. We all explored the castle, slipping and sliding on the wet grass where the path was steep. We had the place all to ourselves.
The Rock of Dunamase
Just before that umbrella broke . . .

Another day we took a coach tour to Belfast from Dublin. My recommendation to all you tourists is to go to the Dublin Tourist Information Office and book a tour through a company within the Office. Don’t book through any of the ones they won’t allow inside! We did, because it promised to be cheap and also to show us things none of the other tour companies would show. Well, I don’t recommend listening for hour after hour to a ranting tour driver who wants nothing but to trash everyone and everything he sees as antagonistic to his cause at the expense of missing every prominent tourist site in Belfast in order to visit only sites important to radical Irish politics—unless that’s exactly what you want to do. The little museum dedicated to revolutionaries was interesting, but it should have been a brief stop along a more balanced itinerary. Three things we saw that day that were lovely were the church at Drogheda, a cemetery full of Irish High Crosses, and the Proleek Dolmen, a very ancient tomb.

Rose window in the church at Drogheda.
Round tower and Celtic crosses.
The Proleek Dolmen, from 3000 BC

Corcomroe Abbey
Our favorite coach tour was to the West Coast, especially to see the Cliffs of Moher. Along the way we visited Corcomroe Abbey, in the north of the Burren, an area of geologic wonder where most of the limestone bedrock is exposed and the climate more temperate than anywhere else in Ireland, I think. The Burren is roughly 200 square miles, more or less, depending on whose definition you’re using. We were told to watch out for faerie rings, as the wee folk can be fierce and violent with trespassers. My son wanted badly to see a faerie ring. The Abbey was a victim of English King Henry VIII and his edict to dissolve all Catholic monasteries and take all their treasure. The ruins are well preserved and surrounded by a feeling of serenity hard to define.

At the Cliffs of Moher my son became very interested in all the different wildflowers. He had bought a book about Irish wildflowers at one of the shops we had visited, and thus my photographs had to incorporate them. My son being a Harry Potter fan, of course the feature of the Cliffs used in the penultimate movie as the cave where a horcrux was hidden needed to be thoroughly and variously photographed. I myself was intrigued at the height of the cliffs and at finding the place where in The Princess Bride a view was used for the Cliffs of Insanity.
Black Head Lighthouse, County Clare (entrance to Galway Bay)
Ponies on the Burren on the Atlantic coast.
The Burren.
Sailboat and Seagull, Cliffs of Moher
Clover, Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

Sorry that by the time I got this posted, the Day was pretty well spent, but I hope you had a happy St. Patrick’s Day! I had a great time compiling all the photographs and writing about them. And photographs of a lovely place are, after all, timeless.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Steady May

I thought Aunt May was the steady one, but I got to looking at her life today, and oh boy! She went through a lot. Her life was a roller coaster, but it wasn’t her own doing (unlike two of her sisters’ lives).

She was born in rural Newton County, Arkansas on May 11, 1889. Her parents were Mary Jane Whittington and William Lester Munro (he went by the name Lester). May had a half sister, Annie, and a half brother, Sam, from her mother’s first marriage, but within a couple of years of May’s birth, Sam ran away and was never heard from by the Munros again. (Annie did find out where he was eventually.) May had an older brother, John, and an older sister, Agnes. After she was born, next came a brother, Claude, and three sisters, Lillie, Jessie, and Dora.

Death was a fact of life for this family. Not only had May’s mother’s eldest, Emma, died young, but twins Flora and Florence had died before Agnes had been born. Then Claudy died when he was only five. Soon after that their grandfather who had been living with them died. When May was only 9, her mother died.

May’s father took his children within four years to Idaho where he hoped to work on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Boise project. While they were there, May’s older sister Agnes ran away and got married. May’s father moved the rest of the family, John, May, Lillie, Jessie, and Dora, to Oregon.

May was put in charge of the younger sisters quite a lot, and sometimes she resented it. Lillie and Dora recalled many years later that they sometimes gave May such a hard time that she would go to her friend Amanda’s house and not return all night. Since their father and older brother were “riding the rails” (hitching rides on trains) to different jobs in different cities for weeks at a time, the younger girls didn’t like it one bit that they were left all alone. They promised May they would behave. Probably they thought they meant it every time.

Agnes and her husband returned and lived nearby. Agnes’s husband rode the rails with Lester and John, so the young women and girls were always being left alone. Agnes had three babies by 1907 and only the last one lived.

May met the man she wanted to marry about that time. She was 18 years old that spring. She and Paul Rudolph Rieboldt were married in Vancouver, Washington on October 1, 1907 by a Justice of the Peace. Their witnesses were Mr. H.A. and Mrs. A.E. Rice. Paul Rieboldt had been born in February 1877, in the city of Danzig, then part of Prussia, on the Baltic Sea. His father’s name was Henry (Heinrich, probably). The marriage register says his mother’s name was unknown. Paul’s profession was reported to be an electrical and steam engineer, so he apparently ran the trains. He had emigrated to the United States in 1883; I don’t know whom he came with, but probably his father.

May and Paul moved to Clatskanie, Oregon, a town in the far northwest close to the Columbia River, and in 1909 their daughter Pauline May was born there on February 13th. They moved to Yacolt, Washington, a tiny town then of only 435 people, including them, when the census was taken in April that year. In July a baby was born to a Rieboldt couple and was buried across the river in Portland, in the Multnomah Park Cemetery. This could have been their child, but we have no corroborating evidence except that I can’t find any other Rieboldt family nearby at all. Their son Paul was born in March 1912 in a suburb of Portland called Woodstock, not far from the Multnomah Park Cemetery.

When baby Paul was only three months old, May’s husband Paul died in mid-June 1912. Not having a death record for him, we don’t know whether it was an accident or an illness that took him. He was only 35 years old. He was buried next to the Rieboldt infant in Multnomah Park Cemetery.

1917: May holding Ashley; in front
of her at left are her sister Agnes's
children Mary and Eddie; at right
are Pauline and Paul Rieboldt.
May, age 24, went to work, and she kept her children with her somehow. She met another man she wanted to marry, Luther Orando Hallett, whose nickname was Budd. He was born in Pennsylvania in January 1888, so he and May were nearly the same age. Budd worked as a laborer, once working in a sawmill and another record showing him working as a ship builder for a river boat company. Budd and May were married March 17, 1914, and their son, Ashley Sherman Hallett, was born in April 1917.

Budd was called up in the draft of 1917 for World War I, so he joined the U.S. Merchant Marines and was sent to Japan. He died there in Yokohama in April 1918, and May was left a widow for a second time. Even though that was the year of the great flu pandemic, the first cases in Japan were not reported until November 1918, so it is probable that Budd died of something else, but I don’t know what happened to him.

May and her three children were living in Portland, and when she got a job in Bremerton, Washington, she moved them all there. Pauline was old enough to babysit the others, so that is probably what May had her do at first. May’s job was as a “general helper” in the United States Navy Yard there in Bremerton. The children weren’t doing well though. May put Pauline and Paul into the Seattle Children’s Home for a time. When the 1920 census was taken in mid-January 1920, the census taker noted that May and her children were visiting in another state (probably Oregon), but she (the census taker) still managed to get almost all of the information about them correct, with the exception of assigning the surname “Hallett” to the two Rieboldt children. However, two days later the census taker at the Seattle Children’s Home listed Pauline and Paul there. Who was taking care of Ashley is unknown.

The next year May married for the third time, to Owen Alderson Cade, on December 6, 1921. They met the officiating minister and their witnesses, Fay Cobb and Agnes Hodges, at a small hotel in Seattle for the ceremony. Owen was originally from West Virginia and was about five years older than May. He had never been married before and was a worker at the shipyard where May had been working.

The Cades moved within two years to the California Bay Area and found a house in Vallejo; Owen worked at the shipyard at nearby Mare Island. In Vallejo their daughter, Minnie Lee, was born in early July 1924, and their son, Owen Lester (who went by Les), was born in March 1926.

May’s life may have seemed steady from this time on, but she had her share of heartaches on behalf of her children. Yet she saw them all through with a characteristic calm and quiet cheer.

Sadly her eldest daughter, Pauline, died in Napa, California near the end of 1926. Pauline was 17 years old. No death certificate or record has turned up yet, so I don’t know why she died.

In November 1928 Paul swore he was a year older than he really was so that he could join the military. He went first to San Diego and a few years later to Florida with the U.S. Navy. From this time on, his birth is often recorded as being in 1911, but we know that it was actually 1912.

The 1930 Census taker found the Cade family living in Vallejo. The two youngest children were not in school yet, but Ashley, who was 12, was attending school.

By 1935 they had transferred to San Diego, where Owen still pursued the same occupation. May invited her father, Lester Munro, to come down from Oregon and live with them. The cold and wet climate had been getting to Lester. He lived with them until his 80th birthday, and then he died.

In 1937 May became a grandmother when Paul’s daughter Pauline was born in Florida. Paul had married Hilda Fletcher just a month before he turned 20, in 1932. The marriage didn’t last, nor did Paul’s next four marriages. Paul died two years before his mother, May.

Ashley joined the Navy when he was eighteen and got married a few years later. He and Thelma lived with the Cades during 1939 and 1940, before the Navy shipped him out to fight during the War. Ashley and Thelma divorced in 1963 and married again in 1966. In the meantime, Ashley was married briefly to another woman. Ashley had children whose descendants continue to branch out. Ashley died in San Diego in November 1972, three years before his mother.

The Cade children also grew up with bumps along the way. Les had to serve in the military the final year of World War II, which was unnerving to all his family. He came home and married. Minnie Lee was married several times; she divorced the same man twice when she was in her 40s. Their families continue to branch out.

May at right with her sister Lillie and Lillie’s husband, Lloyd
May’s husband Owen A. Cade died in the spring of 1961 in San Diego, California. She stayed there in her home for the next fourteen years, but she often took trips to see her sisters, and they all came to see her. She and her sisters took several trips together; once they went to Arkansas to see their nieces and nephews, the children of their half sister, Annie. May was an innately cheerful person. I met her when I was a young child, and I remember her laughing a lot. I remember how much fun she had being with her sisters.

May died in December 1975, steady to the last.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

Had I just finished reading the last Monk book? I asked myself. There were so many distant loose threads tied up in this novel that this could easily have been the final book in the series. Beware of all the spoilers ahead in this post!

Note: I have been reading Anne Perry novels since 1982 and have been an avid fan ever since. I have read everything she’s published and love her writing. She’s one of the top writers of historical mysteries. I have met her at a number of book signings and events; I have visited with her when I was exploring Scotland for my own family history, which happens to lie in the very area where she lived. My criticism of her novel is to be understood in the light of my very great admiration for her plotting ability, for her character development, for her writing style, and for her ability to transport the reader effortlessly into the past.

Hester and William Monk are at a good place in their lives. Hester’s clinic on Portpool Lane is mentioned, but she doesn’t go there every day anymore; she has enough help that she doesn’t have to. It is managed well, and it is apparently well staffed.

William Monk has a murder case to solve that crosses the lines between his old life in the police, his interim days as a private detective, and his present position as Commander of the River Police. There are four murders in the case, all copied to the last detail. The obvious suspects have alibis for one or another of the crimes and therefore couldn’t have committed them all. Monk has to have help from the regular police, as well as from his adoptive son, his wife, and the poor doctor who is training the Monks’ son to be a doctor.

Speaking of tying up loose threads again, Scuff, whom the Monks took in when he was around 11, is now about 18 or older, starting in his chosen profession learning to be a doctor by helping “Crow,” the poor people’s doctor who has finally received his official qualification. Scuff tells key people that he is to be known formally now as Mr. Will Monk, which makes Hester and William very proud.

Tying up loose ends again, Hester meets a doctor with whom she worked in the Crimea, and he provides the key to the unraveling of the mystery by becoming the chief murder suspect, even being arrested by Monk, although that’s only because the victims’ community resorts to mob violence and is about to kill both the suspect and Monk, except that Monk thinks fast enough and convinces them to let him arrest the man instead. This man, Dr. Herbert Fitzherbert, suffers intensely from PTSD, then an unrecognized condition, but Hester has it to some degree from her experiences in the Crimea, as does Scuff from his experiences having been kidnapped and kept in the hold of the boat of the notorious child molester several books back. So they talk about this issue amongst themselves and in the final trial scene, which creates a sort of anachronism, but handled in a delicate enough way that you can’t really point to it as being out of place, as people could have had such conversations and descriptions of the condition without leading to its public identification.

The problem leads Hester to tying up one final loose end: she seeks out her brother Charles Latterly to apologise for not keeping in touch and not even knowing that his wife had died two years before. She meets his ward, Candace Finbar, whom we know about if we have been diligently reading all the Christmas novelettes, which we have, of course. You remember that in 2015’s A Christmas Escape Charles goes to Italy, and when the volcano on Stromboli erupts, he saves this niece of an old friend, and the old friend, dying, makes him promise to take her in as his ward. Here they are, living in Primrose Hill north of Regent’s Park, and Hester observes that Charles seems very happy with his life now. Candace and Charles are very happy to discuss the murder case with Hester and to provide several suggestions.

Monk does not cover himself with glory in his detective abilities in this case. The answer is actually pretty obvious from pure logical deduction: only one suspect aside from the killer could have known every last detail of the first murder, and as soon as they figure out the first murder was the work of someone who did not commit the rest, they should have been on the right suspect immediately. Yet they stall and stall, looking for motives and connections that they would have been looking for anyway if they had named the killer amongst themselves at once. I couldn’t help but imagine that Peter Wimsey would have taken one look at the evidence and said, as he might have done to Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night, “You aren’t giving it your undivided attention.”

I wasn’t wholly convinced that the trial was conducted particularly brilliantly either. Rathbone goes in declaring that he’s going to make the prosecution prove every step of its case, but then he allows his opposing counsel to commit all kinds of illogical conclusions and claims during the first two days of the trial, and he seems to be caving in to them without a fight! Where did “make them prove each step” go? It’s back only slightly when Monk takes the witness stand and the trial rushes to its conclusion. I couldn’t believe that the testimony described took three days to draw out. There just must be a lot of boring things between these exciting scenes that are not described, nor even mentioned. I liked picturing Hester and Charles and Candace sitting together, even if the author doesn’t explicitly say they do. Of course they would, though! Why would they not?

What wasn’t tied up was Monk’s ties to his former friends and family. His former police partner, John Evan, has been crying out for a mention ever since Monk left the police to go into private detection. I think he did get one mention in one later book, when he was taking care of his elderly father. But isn’t there more to his association with Monk? Did he ever marry? If he did, wouldn’t he have asked Monk, or at least told him? What about Runcorn? Monk has had a few dealings with him, and he does get a mention in this book, but surely there could be a scene. Meanwhile, there’s a very young policeman in this book named Stillman. Why is that ringing a bell for me with an association to the Pitt series? I’m going to have to go hunting to see if I can find a Stillman. Lastly, Monk’s sister, Beth, has never been satisfactorily dealt with. Why doesn’t she visit, or the Monks go visit her ever? Why don’t they even write to one another? Maybe they do, and maybe this is a thread that has to be tied up in another, “last Monk book.”

I see that the next Monk book, Dark Tide Rising, is coming in about six months. I can hope for more loose ends to be tied up and am assured that the Monks are not done yet!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Dog’s at Home

“Rehoming” is a word I dislike when it’s applied to dogs. I know, I know. It’s much better to find a new home for a dog than to turn it in to the Humane Society or turn it loose in the wilderness to be killed out of your sight, or to kill it yourself, however humanely you try to do that.

When my sister was a veterinarian in the U.S. Army stationed in Spain, she had an officer ask her to “put down” his dog because he was being transferred to a location where he couldn’t take the dog. This was not the first or last time she was asked to do this, and according to the rules she was supposed to abide by, she had to do it without protest or anything else. But this dog was a young female Labrador Retriever, yellow but almost white, and she was the spitting image of the dog my sister had had as a teenager and young adult, a dog who was practically perfect in every way. My sister’s heart broke and she broke her training by asking, pleading, with the officer to allow her to adopt the dog. The officer didn’t want his dog put down any more than my sister wanted to do it, and they agreed to keep the transaction between the two of them. But of course it didn’t stay private, exactly, because everyone in my sister’s family wanted to know where she got a clone of her earlier dog, and she had to tell us. She had that dog many, many years, and she too became practically perfect in every way.

I adopted a dog from the Humane Society years and years ago. We went there to find an older dog, a big dog that was already trained, but every one of them seemed just a bit scary. It isn’t an environment that shows off dogs to their advantage. Older dogs brought there are struggling with feelings of abandonment, disorientation, and extreme stress. They appear scary, especially to a family with a child. My sister had told us we couldn’t get a dog until our youngest child was bigger than the dog would be, because she said that her dog psychology courses had taught her that all too often dogs will see children either as rivals at best, and as prey at worst. The best scenario can become better, of course, as dogs can learn that small children are also their friends and even their masters (or at least higher in the hierarchy of a dog’s “pack” world). It gets easier to teach a dog its place in your family if all the members of your family are bigger than the dog and able to physically make the dog mind.

We ended up with a very small puppy, a Labrador Retriever - Border Collie mix. He grew to the size of his Retriever parent, pretty big! One of the trainers we enlisted in his education was a former police dog trainer, and he showed us a great trick for teaching a large dog who wasn’t being submissive to a small person to allow that person to become its master. He had his three-year-old daughter come stand beside him, he said, as he had his retired police dog lie down and then physically made the dog lie on its side with its head flat on the floor. He had his daughter crawl over and drape herself across the dog’s shoulders as he held the dog’s head gently so it could not lift it off the floor. When the dog expelled all its breath in a sigh, that was the sign that it had submitted to the two humans above him. Several repetitions of this resulted in the small child being able to lead the dog everywhere and direct his actions with no problem. He said you have to be very careful in this to be extremely calm and not to hurt the dog in any way, and it works every time if the dog doesn’t struggle and prove to be unsuited to the situation. (Some dogs just cannot be trusted around small children at all.)

Well, our puppy worked out fine. He learned everything we needed to teach him, even though he proved to be a difficult dog to train and it took a long time and a lot of hard work and patience. Teaching him to stop chewing on us was the hardest thing. He simply loved us and expressed it through chewing instead of licking. (My sister said he was taken from his mother too young, or he would have probably learned better. The Humane Society can’t always know when people are delivering puppies that shouldn’t have been weaned yet. He had a lot of stomach problems that she and our regular vet agreed were probably caused by too-early weaning.)

We have some good friends who moved to a place where they couldn’t take their dog, and they asked us if we would take him. I had loved this dog from the instant they got him. He was the runt of a litter of yellow Labrador Retriever show dogs, the breeder being a relative of my friends. The breeder had kept him until he was about seven months old and then had accepted that he wouldn’t grow big enough to show and wasn’t going to work out in the breeding program either, so he was given to my friends. Their family had some younger children who played with the dog, and he loved them. But he had to stay outside, because my friend didn’t allow any animals in the house. I hated to go over there and hear the dog crying in the backyard. I suggested to her that this dog really ought to be indoors, but she wouldn’t hear of it. I really wished I could change that dog’s life.

Some dogs do fine living outside. I have a next door neighbor whose dog is always outside. But the dog loves it there; she loves her yard and her dog house, and she absolutely hates going inside any part of my neighbors’ house, even in the garage on the coldest nights. She became frantic when she was a puppy, having to be inside when the overnight temperatures were extremely cold, and so my neighbor, a genius of an inventor, rigged up a ceiling heater in the high-ceilinged dog house that made enough of a difference in the temperature, even on the coldest nights, so that the dog could stay outside where she was comfortable. She’s got long hair, so of course that helps too. She is a happy dog.

But this other dog was sad. His boy’s attention wandered, especially when the boy made a best friend of another boy who was terrified of dogs. They ended up never playing at the house with the dog in the backyard. The dog was lonely and sad. The husband took him running every time he was in town, but he traveled a lot for his business. Then, as I indicated, they had to move, and they couldn’t take the dog. They asked me if I wanted him. My family came with me over to their house to meet the dog and play with him. He was immediately happy to have us there to pay lots of attention to him. My husband bribed him with treats, because my husband is all about treats for dogs, children, old people, and, well, everybody. We went back every week, and the dog began to watch for us.

We moved the dog the week of his fifth birthday. My friends put him in his harness and on his leash and walked him to our house. They brought him in the front door, and he absolutely hated it. Our floors are all smooth wood, and he was so stressed that he stiffened up all his legs and just slid and fell. He was frantic to get out. We directed him to the backyard, and there he seemed to calm down somewhat. But then my friends left, and he didn’t know what to think. He liked us, but he was stressed. We took him back inside for the evening, put rugs everywhere for him to walk on, and he crawled to a corner behind the chairs and wouldn’t come out again. He cried and cried. We had to drag him out to get him outside to do his business.

I put his house on our patio next to our back door and he took to it. He began to learn how to walk on our floors. He loved his new toys, and we played with him every day, several times a day, and he loved that. I started taking him for walks, teaching him to walk on a leash attached to his collar instead of the harness. He began to learn to heel, which my friend told me he had been taught as a puppy. He insisted on sleeping outside in his house, and we decided that would be fine until the winter. (Our friends had had an insulated dog house that was large and that the people who bought their house wanted to keep. Now his dog house is just a travel crate, with plenty of air moving through it.)

Sometimes we had to coax him for quite a long time to get him to come back in the house at all. Bribing him with treats didn’t work very well. He had become immune to the temptation. I decided he had to eat his meals indoors, so that helped. When cold weather came, we got him to come inside after awhile and he began to realize that it was too cold to stay outside in an unheated dog house. When the snow began, I put the outdoor dog house away and made him stay inside most of the time. All this was a lot harder because he refused to obey the command “Come” that he had always obeyed with his other family. He still refuses to pay attention to that command. He had been obedient to that command and it didn’t do any good. His family still abandoned him, and this is apparently one of the lasting effects.

I wrote a post about all the scary indoor things that an outdoor dog encounters. Actually, this dog was scared of a lot of outdoor things as well as indoor things. His fears are another effect of his early and ongoing traumas. One of the first things he showed terror about was the sound of fireworks. We got him early in the summer, and when U.S. Independence Day (July 4th) came, he shook and cried and tried to hide under my feet. I wondered how he had coped all those years when he had had to be outside alone in his dog house. I’m sure it was a lot worse because he was also dealing with the first few weeks of being in a new home, missing his old family.

We walk every day. We usually walk past his old house, but he has never wanted to go in. He looks, then he looks away and pulls me past. But he also tries to pull me past our own house. He never wants to go back home, and I think he doesn’t really know where his home is. He has run away a few times when we’ve accidentally left the gate open. He hasn’t run back to his old home; he has run in three different directions, but not that one. I have had to work very hard and very patiently with him to teach him that he doesn’t get to decide what direction we are walking nor when the walk is over. He has to come in with me when I decide we are going in. I feel sorry for him though. He is obviously upset by his memory of being walked to our house and having a bad experience going in.

I never take him in our front door. We go in the back way, and he seems to be okay with that once we get to that door. But getting there has been a struggle. He is walking more obediently every day, heeling most of the time. He used to pull me suddenly this way and that, whenever the notion to sniff something came over him, which was often. He tripped me once doing that, but he’s more careful now. He isn’t as scared of the cars going past now, nor of the kids on bikes, nor of the manhole covers, nor of the storm drains. Big trucks still bother him.

My friends came back to town four months after giving us the dog. When they came in the front door, the dog barked and barked at them, growling even, until we let him out the back door. Then he started wagging and jumping around, obviously inviting us, especially the kids, outside to play with him. My friend looked at me and said, “He’s telling us not to take him away from here!” We all went out back and played with him, and he was very happy. But when it was time for them to leave, he glued himself to my side and watched carefully as they went out the front door; watched as they got into their car; watched them drive away. Then he sighed and turned to me, wagging his tail and licking my hand.

He knows who he wants to be with. He just doesn’t know where to be when he gets outside on our walks. All I can do is continue to be patient with him and encourage him to become comfortable walking all around our front yard before we continue with our walk, and then walking around before we go inside.

All that is to say that even when the dog is happy with a new owner, there are issues with “rehoming” that tell you plainly that it was not a great thing to do to a dog. They want to establish their family when they are very young, and they don’t want it to change for any reason. My dog has had to adjust to two new families now: first when he was seven months old, and second when he was five years old. It has been very hard on this very even-tempered, loving dog.

If you are thinking of getting a dog, please think of the dog’s life span and plan for it as well as you can. If your kids want a dog desperately, don’t give in unless you really want the dog too and will commit to keeping it when the kids go off to college or wherever. Your dog very often wants to be your companion, a part of your family, and being treated as an expendable thing is more than unkind, it’s cruel.

I know that there will be situations where nothing else can be done. You might have a family member develop a dangerous allergy to pet hair and dander, the kind of allergy that causes anaphylactic shock. You might have to move for a job and be unable to take the pet. You might get a dog whose temperament is unsuited to your family—if you have a new baby or you marry and acquire small children, is your dog the kind who can be trusted around the new family members? Are the new family members committed to being trained to be dog owners?

Years before we ever got a dog, my son was in the hospital, and the tiny girl on the other side of his room had been attacked and badly bitten by her family’s dog, a Chow. One evening I heard the father of the baby girl (who had had over 70 stitches in her face alone) say to other visitors, “I’m not getting rid of my dog. He’s my dog!” I wondered how safe his little daughter was going to be. Certainly that Chow was no longer a happy dog. Be smart about your situation before you get a dog! Give it training along with all the love and treats and walks and things. Do everything you can to keep it all its life. Woof.

[I must have lost all my pictures of my sister’s “perfect” dog and her later dog. Wish I still had all my old photos!]

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Missing History

I have just finished reading David McCullough’s Brave Companions: Portraits in History, published in 1992. I wish I had had it when it first came out. I wish I had heard his speech to the 1986 graduates of Middlebury College, Vermont, my sister-in-law’s alma mater, from which he extracted an essay in this book titled “Recommended Itinerary.” I wish I had heard or read his speech in the hall of the House of Representatives, written here as “Simon Willard’s Clock.”

I have traveled a lot, and so I appreciated “Recommended Itinerary” for its insights on the education that travel is, but of course I wish I had gone to the places he listed that I’ve missed, such as Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, where he recommends investigating the patriotism inherent in the vegetable garden. In another essay in the book, “Washington on the Potomac,” I was happy to be able to follow his descriptions around the town, and of course I want to go back and visit places I missed, such as the Library of Congress.

He laments our public education system that produces high school graduates with little idea of U.S. history and even less knowledge of world geography. He is astounded at a lunch with a friend, the editor of an important newspaper, who he accidentally finds out has no idea what Antietam is, or was. How thankful I am for Ken Burns and his landmark 1990 film on the American Civil War, for restoring to at least two generations of Americans an immense body of knowledge so important to our country. McCullough said to his friend, “There are 57,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial and the Vietnam War lasted eleven years. At the Battle of Antietam in one day there were 23,000 casualties. In one day” (223).

McCullough writes, “Imagine a man who professes over and over his unending love for a woman but who knows nothing of where she was born or who her parents were or where she went to school or what her life had been until he came along—and furthermore, doesn’t care to learn” (222). In thus describing a certain type of self-proclaimed patriot of the United States, he condemns the shallow self-interest and hollow feeling of such persons, and today more than ever we have too many of such people in government. They care nothing about our history and the good of our country. (Donald Trump knows little about the history of the United States; he was not even familiar with basic concepts in our Constitution when he took office. He to my mind is the embodiment of the pseudo-patriot David McCullough described.)

In the book are many more essays that I found extremely interesting, especially those that taught me about people who deserve to be rescued from the obscurity of time and the neglect of history in our national culture. I learned about Alexander von Humboldt, about Louis Agassiz, and about Antoine Amédée-Marie-Vincent Manca de Vallombrosa, Marquis de Morès. I learned more about Harriet Stowe than I’d known before, more about Frederic Remington, Conrad Richter, and early airplane pilots than I had known before. I learned more about the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge, both of which subjects I had thought I had learned extensively just by reading McCullough’s full-length books about them. I learned about Kentucky strip mining, David Plowden’s photography, and Miriam Rothschild’s many interests (oh, to be able to listen to her speak!), subjects that sent me to Google to find out more, sometimes not returning to this book for several days because I was reading about the subjects of the essay I had just finished.

I wish I had read this book when it first came out. I was so inspired by the listing of subject after subject that the author noted has never been written about in full, that I am now wanting another thirty years (which I probably have) and unlimited funds (which I don’t) and no family obligations (which I have) so that I could travel and research and write some of the fascinating biographies that are still waiting to be done. Alas. In another world!

In “Simon Willard’s Clock” McCullough draws a symbolic relationship between the loss of that actual clock with its carved statuary setting—the Muse Clio riding in her winged car, writing history in her open notebook and inspiring those beneath her, which used to overlook the House of Representatives as they sat deliberating daily in what is now Statuary Hall—and the loss of the lessons of history in the abilities of those attempting to govern us today. He says, “I have decided that the digital watch is the perfect symbol of an imbalance in outlook in our day. It tells us only what time it is now, at this instant, as if that were all anyone would wish or need to know” (232). He notes that the old clock installed by Simon Willard “is a clock with two hands and an old-fashioned face, the kind that shows what time it is now . . . what time it used to be . . . and what time it will become” (232).

We need the understanding of history to deal with our present and to face the future.

Car of History Clock