Stuff I’ve noticed since moving to Maine – DOGS!!

In just over a month, my family and I will be celebrating TWO WHOLE YEARS in MAINE!!  HOORAY!  To mark this momentous occasion, I’m starting a new semi-regular column here on The Daily Dish.  Dedicated to whatever seems different from where I used to live (Philly) or whatever I notice that just sticks out, STUFF I’VE NOTICED SINCE MOVING TO MAINE will be a way for all of you to visit, without me having to clean the house.  So without further ado, today let’s talk about.. DOGS!

My family & I went to my daughters school on Saturday for Winterfest!  Winterfest! is an annual celebration with games, food, raffles, contests, crafts, singing and more.  It draws a BIG crowd and when we entered the gym the first thing that caught my eye wasn’t the enormous moon bounce or the line for hamburgers.  No!  It was a woman walking towards me with a dog in her arms.  It wasn’t injured.  It wasn’t a helper dog.  As far as anyone was concerned, this lap pooch was just one more merrymaker at Winterfest!  WHY?  Because Mainers are CRAZY ABOUT DOGS!!!!

They are everywhere here and I mean EVERYWHERE.  We have one laying across our floor, outside there are two barking from the back, 4 barking from the side, there’re a couple peeing at the end of the driveway, another one’s approaching looking keen, and a huge one just drove by mostly hanging out the car window.  It’s doggone NUTS!

In Philly a lot of people had cats.  I think cats are cool, but Portland is a dog town.  Maybe it’s because Maine is so white?  Not to stereotype, but white people seem to like dogs more than minorities.  Personally I like minorities more, but I also love dogs.  Dogs just seem to gibe with Maine.  They’re laid back.  Chilllll.  Portland’s baseball team is even called the Sea Dogs!  Which I think is technically a seal?  Or something?  Seriously, I don’t even know what a Sea Dog is, but here’s Slugger the Sea DOG w/ my daughters. 

The Sea DOGS even have a Bring Your Dog to the Game DAY!  WHY??  Because Mainers take their dogs EVERYWHERE.  They don’t like leaving them at home.  Every single parking lot you pull into, every other car has a dog waiting for its owner to return.  Here in Portland there are dog parks and even the regular parks all have “off leash” laws: as long as your dog is under voice command, roping them is unnecessary.  And because beaches are also open to dogs it’s common to find them year round romping in the surf, chasing balls and taking dumps right there in the sand as nature intended.

Mainers are so generous with their dogs, they not only take them everywhere, they often let them drive.  Not alone, mind you.  I mean they let their dogs sit on THEIR laps in the driver seat.  No offense, Sir or Madam, but what the hell are you gonna do when Fido smashes your face into the steering wheel and you lose control of the vehicle?  Or when Happy becomes incontinent and lets fly in your lap?  Surely your first impulse will be to SCREAM AND CAREEN OFF THE ROAD.  I know mine would be.  YAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!  I’m not saying you have to harness Hoover, or invest in one of those gated cage areas in the trunk, but for all our sakes could you at least put the dog in the back seat?  It’s illegal in the state of Maine for children under 13 to ride up front.  Maybe elderly dogs can ride in the passenger seat, but otherwise – back seat buddy.  PS: In Philly I had to worry about people driving around with infants in their laps.  Here it’s dogs.  Is that better??

This is my dog Max.

Max passed away on Halloween.  But before he died, he told me how much he loved Maine.  Not just for all of the reasons outlined above, but b/c here in Maine, Max was ACCEPTED.  Back in Philly strangers would cross the street when I walked Max.  Here, no way.  Everyone would welcome him like an old friend.  (To be strictly honest, some of the little yippy dogs would stand there and bark & bark till they looked like they were going to drop dead, but they do that everywhere.)

Dogs are SO POPULAR here in Maine, I have noticed other things.

  • The prevalence of dog-themed bumper stickers.

  • Or simply dog FRIENDLY stores.

And I’m not talking pet stores either.  I mean “normal” ones, like Marshall’s.  Just before Christmas, I was shopping with my older daughter.  We turned a corner and there’s a woman perusing housewares w/ her dog.  Again, this wasn’t a helper or seeing eye dog, he was a fluffy lap dog, riding shotgun in her cart.  I notice this all the time and I can’t help but think how tolerant people are here.  In Philly, if some woman showed up at Marshall’s totting her dog, they’d escort her out of the store faster than you could spell N-O_EFFING_W-A-Y.  Personally I think they might do this to me too, if I showed up at Marshall’s with our new puppy, Roxy the Rottweiler


versus a 5 lb. Foofie

but.. still.  Maybe I will try it and see.  After all, Mainers LOVE their dogs.

When Life Hands You Lemons

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade. We’ve all heard the phrase.  But how many times do we put it into practice?  Do we throw our hands in the air when things go sour, or do we use those hands to take action?  Lord knows I fall short of the mark; I’ll be the first to complain when I feel like c-r-a-p. But occasionally I manage to make use of what the Big Guy has given me.  And these times, above all else, are the true triumphs of my life.

I am someone who has been dealt both a fabulous as well as difficult hand, not unlike most people. Although blessed beyond measure with an amazing family and friends, fed, clothed and most days happy, I struggle with a disease that often has no rhyme or reason. When I was diagnosed with Meniere’s 6 years ago and put on a salt free diet, I thought okay. I will deal. But that acceptance quickly dissolved into anger, frustration and resentment. I felt as though I’d been cursed.  Thankfully, instead of giving up and accepting LIFE WOULD SUCK, I sucked it up and spit it out.  I already had the skills to solve the problem, I just had to DO IT.  And thus this blog and its twin (The Daily Dish) were born.

When my dog Max died a month ago, it was like I’d aged 10 years overnight. My world seemed fractured. I knew before he passed how much his loss would eventually affect me, when it came, but until it actually happened I’d never have expected its depth. In the past weeks I’ve tried to figure out where to go from here. It can never be the same, but should we get another dog? We tried. I’ll spare you the gory details, suffice it to say, we adopted an adult dog who was with us a mere night before return, leaving me to accept we’ll have to get a puppy if we get another dog at all. My kids & their safety, no matter what, come first.

Do you ever feel like you’re trying to squeeze a cantaloupe into a coffee mug?  No matter how hard you try to make it fit, it ends up exploding in your face, sending seeds and soggy pulp everywhere.  So you clean it up.  And try again. and again.  Regardless of how impossible the task is, you don’t give up.  Friends, I’m here to tell you to PUT THE F*CKING FRUIT DOWN ALREADY.  Sometimes it isn’t meant to be.  And other times, you can’t see the answer staring you in the face b/c you’re too covered in melon guts.

The past few weeks have been like that.  Trying to shove a big ole melon into a tiny glass.  I spent hours glued to Petfinder.  Checking Craigslist.  Cruising websites looking for the PERFECT DOG.  But you know what?  He’s dead.  Gone.  I know, I know.  Cut myself some slack already, but it’s true.  I was so intent on finding the way out of my grief, I failed to see what I was doing wasn’t helping.  It just made me miss Max more.

Two nights ago, I found the answer.  I guess I shouldn’t fault myself for checking Craigslist obsessively, b/c that’s where I found it.  I saw a post about a puppy and automatically clicked it.  But it wasn’t about re-homing said puppy (and trust me, this whole ‘re-homing’ business & its accompanying fees is another blog post altogether) but rather about finding this puppy a SITTER.  Hmmm.  If you can hear the gears turning, then BOY ARE YOU RIGHT.  This person has a young puppy and needs to find someone to watch said puppy during the week while they are away at work.  Said puppy is cute, and small, and furry, and loving and Oh By the way, You get paid to watch the puppy.  CHA-CHING!

As someone who is home full time, needs money and is in desperate need of dog, I wiped the melon pulp from my face and replied.  And guess what?  They wrote me back.  And said I sound perfect.  And you know what?  I wrote them back and hopefully this (now clean and illuminated) soul sitting before you will be squeezing lemons and soon, making lemonade.  With a puppy on her lap.

Max

My dog Max died two weeks ago.  Although his legs had begun to fail, he was otherwise in good health and spirits, and his passing was wholly unexpected.  We’d taken a long walk the day before and he’d been so full of joy!  Rushing ahead, leading the charge, till finally he was so spent he’d practically collapsed.  He woke us early the next morning, about 3:30 am, crashing around downstairs.  My husband rose to let him out, thinking he had to go to the bathroom.  Max went out into the yard and laid down in the grass.  He wouldn’t get up, even after John called him several times.  His breathing was labored, his tongue hung to one side and his lips felt cold. Something was seriously wrong.

John came and got me, and together we went outside and rolled Max onto a blanket and carried his heavy (150 lb.) frame inside.  We placed him gently on the rug, then fetched blankets and pillows for ourselves.  We laid, side by side, as if on a camping trip.  Petting him, speaking to him, sensing – somehow – that this was the end.  Just shy of 4:30 his breathing became almost imperceptible, punctuated only by a few deep gasps. He didn’t seem to be in any pain. John woke the girls in time for them to say goodbye. And then Max was gone.

His swift departure has left a hole in the heart of my family.  Max lived with us his entire life, from 7 weeks to almost 10 years.  He grew up side by side with our daughters, and neither can remember life without him.

We miss him terribly.  But even in death Max remains a steadfast presence in our lives.  I see him when I walk the woods, I feel him beside me at the beach.  Each morning as I rise, I meet him in the hallway where we parted, and every meal I fail to finish I take out to his yard.  2 weeks ago, Max died, and we buried him under the apple tree.  And next year, when flowers bloom from his grave, I will think of him all the more.

A dear neighbor gave us a book of poems to help us through our loss.  Many are consoling, some difficult to even read, but the one which has touched me the most was written by Rudyard Kipling and is entitled Four-Feet.

I have done mostly what most men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through —
Wherever my road inclined —
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round, —
Which I shall never find —
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.

For the Love of Pets.



Here at the palatial West Philly estate, there has been much recent discussion on the subject of PETS. Specifically, whether or not our soon-to-be 8 year old can have a new hamster for her upcoming birthday. As you can see from the photo, her dearly departed Hammie was the cutest cuddliest lil puffball on the face of the planet. HARD TO TOP. But I am game to try. My husband, however, is slightly less inclined. Mostly he doesn’t want to deal with 2 screaming daughters fighting over who gets to hold the new hamster, who gets to play with the new hamster, but never of course the ever-important WHO GETS TO FEED/WATER/AND CLEAN THE CAGE of the new hamster. And yet, he’ll give in. And I’ll clean the cage. Who are we kidding?

As a child I had a LOT of pets, and would regularly take in new ones. Like when my perverted 6th grade teacher had us raise mice, then told us he was going to feed them to his pet snake. The 2 mice I brought home quickly reproduced into 100, and my mommy soon shipped them all off to the Great Pet Store in the Sky (really the pet store down the street, but you know they got fed to the whole department of exotics, so what’s the difference.) BUT I was not thwarted. My parents, the big-hearted mushballs, would inevitably give in to my begging on the condition that I first learn all there was about whatever animal I wanted before bringing it home. I therefore spent many hours glued to HAMSTERS or GERBILS or RABBITS or [insert name]. I must have read every “How To” pet book in our library. I just couldn’t get enough. And Now as a grown-up, I am still the same way. Reading pet books geared towards 9 yr olds and adopting every stray that steps on my path. I’ve even managed to marry a man who works at a vet school, who constantly forwards me emails about Free horses and puppies and MORE. And whether nature or nurture, or more likely both, we have passed this fascination onto our equally animal-obsessed offspring. B/c in this house, we simply live and breathe pets.

When you take an animal into your home, it typically isn’t too long before they make themselves an inextricable part of the family. Even if they are snarly and/or slovenly, as in the case of our former 3rd hand macaw. Somehow these captivating creatures work their way into your heart and they become a part of you. I know there are people out there who hate animals, those sick bastards, but being on the opposite end of extremes, I just cannot imagine my life without them. I spend the bulk of each day with a crazy ass bird perched on my shoulder, I cannot get her off. And yet, I adore her. We talk, and smooch, and preen each other like a couple of loons. We live with a dog so large people refer to him as livestock, and yet I refer to him as my 3rd child. YES, having such close physical presence of shedding, squawking, smelly animals DOES WEAR THIN AT TIMES, but more often than not it simply soothes my soul. A steady loving constant in an otherwise chaotic world.

And just because a pet dies, doesn’t mean they leave you. Not really. My husband plans on taxidermy-ing our dog when he passes. But I don’t really mean THAT, more like As any close friend, the times you’ve shared remain in your heart. If you ever need reminding of this, read Dog Heaven. AND for Heaven’s sake, bring tissues.

This is my old cat Sammy. YES he does looked thrilled, doesn’t he? What a patient soul. He lived to the ripe old age of 18, and up until the end people never could believe just how ancient he was. He was just SO PERKY. Sammy had been a stray with the unfortunate luck of being hit by a car and brought to a local vet for mending. His car accident had left his one lip hanging perpetually open, displaying a whole lotta gum and an enormous protruding fang. People always found his appearance comical at first, but his winning personality won him a legion of adoring fans. One of the funniest stories about Sammy revolves around his relationship with my other cat at the time, Nectar. Although Sammy was a neutered male and Nectar a spayed female, Sammy was always trying unsuccessfully to GET IT ON. YES I told you he was one perky cat. As you can imagine, Nectar was NOT APPRECIATIVE of these untoward advances. They were pals, sure, but enough was enough. Soon I was calling the vet to see what I could do about the weird little situation, growing uglier by the day. Before bringing Sammy in, he advised me to check and make sure Sammy was indeed neutered. This would be accomplished by AND I QUOTE: “Squeezing them.” Yep. I am no fading violet, but the idea of having to give my cat’s empty nutsack a tweeking really didn’t appeal to me. at all.

But ask any pet owner and you will hear a million such bizarro stories, all done strictly for the love of a pet. People do not treat other human beings this good. And it’s a sin. But it’s the truth. Like the recent weeks I spent syringe-feeding our rabbit Prudence. Or the THOUSANDS we spent saving our dog last New Years after we discovered he’d swallowed a golf ball. Which of course we proudly display since it’s worth far more than most of what we own.

My husband and I were talking yesterday – and for the life of me I cannot remember exactly how we got onto this topic – but we started talking about what we would do if we were starving. He said that I would do whatever it took to eat, which I believe to be true to a certain extent. But I told him that in no uncertain terms would I ever kill and eat our dog. Now I know this whole thing must sound odd, in oh so many ways, but it just brings home my point. If I were literally dying from lack of food, there are things I just could not bring myself to do. I could not cannibalize my own family – including my pets. Though I did not give birth to them, I’ve raised them very much like my own children. In the case of our dog, from age 7 weeks to now 7 years. When we he was a tiny puppy, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment. Our older daughter was then only a year old, and while housebreaking I used to have to carry both of them upstairs/downstairs simultaneously, one in each arm. It was truly a PAIN IN THE ASS, but I did it. Why? B/c of love, pure and simple.

The money pit – part two.

The other day I wrote a post on YE OLDE MONEY PIT, and my pal Curly requested photos. So I went to work. I would have preferred sharing pictures with better perspective, but as our palatial West Philly estate is really only a *twin* and only yay deep, I did what I could. SO… for all you housey types out there, BEHOLD, a post for YOU.

Some background. We live in an old house (100 years) which had been semi-converted to accommodate rental – 1st/2nd floor as a single unit and the 3rd floor as another. The previous owner had removed doorways from the 2nd and 3rd floors, apart from those at either end. My husband rectified the situation by sledge-hammering his way through the walls on the 2nd floor opening up the previously-enclosed doorways. And there you have it.

Here is the 2nd floor hallway. It used to be a solid straight wall on the left where there are now 2 DOORS. YAY!

My younger daughter’s room. We still have to finish the baseboard and above the door where the electricians had to rewire, but otherwise done. The wall on the left (the shadow behind the door) used to house the old doorway to the bath.

This is what it looked like before. You can see the doorway in the corner, looking straight through to the front of the house.

Our new washer/dryer unit sits in the newly-formed alcove next to the bathroom. Previously I had to haul everything up & down 3 flights to the basement. The new set up brings convenience. Plus, it seems to be warming the upper part of the house (at least psychologically) and makes the whole 3rd floor smell fresh.

The BIG DOWNSIDE: The washer uses a lot of water. When this water drains, it has only one means of escape. The pipe is too small to drain quickly, so the water backs up into the tub, leaving a filthy layer of lint, dirt & repulsive residue behind. Since my 2 kids need a bath at least occasionally, I am now forced to wipe up after my laundry. So, in short, my machine cleans my clothes, BUT now I must clean up after my machine. IS THIS BETTER? Time will tell.

WELL.. at least it is fun showing off my house. You really should love your house when you have dumped as much money into it as we have. And we really do love ours. Since you are here, would you like to see more?

Okay. BUT please wipe your feet because you KNOW how I feel about cleaning. Gracias!

The house looks a little different now. These photos are from 2006. That’s when I went temporarily insane and decided we were going to move. I do not know why, but I think that’s why they call it going insane. So I took a whole lot of pictures for the MLS and we put our house on the market. I think it went well because we got a full-price offer within 48 hours. But then I changed my mind and took it off the market again a day later. Why? I am still not sure. but I think that’s why they call it going insane.


This is a picture of the front of my house. It looks very pretty. We don’t have those ewe bushes anymore b/c my husband hated them and tore them out. In fact, he tore almost everything out, so now our front yard looks like a dirt pit. At least that’s what the neighbors tell me. Also, our house used to have a lot of chipped & hanging-off paint. It was voted second-ugliest house on the block. So once we saved up enough money, we paid my brother-in-law to paint it. He did a very nice job. Unfortunately he is not yet desperate enough to install our insulation. Hopefully he will be one day soon.


This is what I see when I walk through my front door. What you would likely see would be teeth, those of our enormous 150 lb dog who likes to say HELLO and make sure you are friendly. He may hump you if he likes you a lot. And BOY did he really like one of our plumbers last week. We tease him that he is our ‘big gay dog’. But he also likes women, like my sister, so I guess he is our ‘big Bi dog’. You must be o-kay with that. Did you bring me my Dutch oven?


Yes, you do look nice. But please stop admiring yourself, we have more rooms to see. OH! You’re just staring AT the mirror – sorry, I thought you were just being vain. Yes, it is lovely, isn’t it. It’s the reason we bought the house. No seriously. The House itself, well – it’s really just a place to hang the mirror. Okay, through the double doors to your right, here’s the living room.


We don’t have that couch anymore – we actually gave it to some friends and it looks better in their house. They have a couch that’s almost identical and they look really nice together. In addition, they have only one kid and NO dogs – WELL – technically they will have 2 kids soon, as my friend is almost 40 weeks pregnant. She is giving birth at home by the way, but I do not think on the couch. Anyway, we have (as you know) 2 kids and 1 dog. Our big dog used to like sleeping on that couch more than life itself. I know it sounds awful that we took that pleasure away from him, but you see it was not a cheap couch from the thrift shoppe. It was an expensive couch that we bought for a LOW LOW price at the Outlet. But he also started doing THINGS to it – sort of unspeakable things, and so we gave it away before we had to throw it away, if you know what I mean. I miss that couch. It was such a nice looking couch. I am glad it is at my friend’s house. I will be over there this weekend, and I will make sure I remember to sit on it. Ahhhh.


and Here we are in the dining room. We like food, so we of course dine a lot in here. Our big dog sleeps in the corner too, so watch out for his toys. He may try to use you as one if you get too close. OOOPS! Sorry, my mistake. Just threw that one in to make sure you weren’t sleeping -WAKE UP! That’s the dining room from the cruise ship. Here’s OUR dining room.
Not quite so spacious, but it’s home. WATCH THE DOG.

Ohhh, okay – no problem, right through that door.

I’ll wait for you in the kitchen.

Dum, de, dum… La la la……… Oh, no problem. Glad you’re feeling better now. Soy always does that to me too. Well, what say we head out back and have a nice cool drink in the yard? Shoot the breeze, and talk about our inner-most hopes & dreams. Okay, just cut through the sunporch,

and let yourself out the back door.

It IS nice out here.  WHAT? OH yes, I HAD completely forgotten that it’s a dirt pit out there right now too. AND that it’s 20 degrees, with an inch of ice on the ground. OH WELL. So sorry ’bout that. A girl can dream after all…. Hey, pass me that wine, won’t you?