Tuesday, August 8, 2017


I hated dogs, you see. All my life. From the time I grew up on a farm where every night at five-thirty the sheep dog herded me and my ten brothers and sisters to stay on our swing set while Mamma fixed supper until the day in my twenty-first year when this Doberman chased me for six blocks through Reading Pennsylvania after I'd accidentally entered the wrong home in one of those projects with assembly line houses.

If ever a species was worthy of extinction, canines were the perfect candidates, I decided. When I left home after college, I planned on never being near another dog.

Things worked out fine for five years while I progressed in my work for the Environmental Protection Agency in Florida. Of course I had to keep silent about my feelings toward dogs. After all, what kind of nature lover would hate part of nature?  My secret stayed hidden for--oh I guess--ten years, but then fate played me a horrible trick.

When I received the honor of being named Environmentalist of the Year, my life changed for the worst. You see, along with a bronze plaque came a puppy. I thanked everyone at the banquet and gingerly accepted the small fluff of golden fur already making me nervous.

Walking to my car, I wondered what kind of mutt I'd been stuck with so I asked the thing, "What kind of mutt are you?"

"Murff, murff," the dog said and wagged his tail in a coquettish way that made me laugh.

"Oh well," I said to the hopeful dark eyes looking at me, "maybe you won't be so bad since I'm getting you from the very beginning."

"Murff, murff," the dog said again and wagged his tail in a coquettish way again that made me laugh again.

"So be it. I hereby name you Murphy," I said and let the small bundle hop onto the front seat of my BMW.

Murphy smiled at me while I drove onto the Expressway and then Murphy tinkled all over the seat. I scolded him and swatted his nose and his cute little tongue hid behind sharp teeth and Murphy tried to bite me.

I stopped the car, ran out of the car, opened the passenger door. "Out," I said in as mean a voice as I could muster over my mounting terror.

Murphy cowered and whimpered. I was sure I saw little tears trickle out of those big sad brown eyes.

"Oh heck." I went back to my seat and drove to a shopping mall to see if I could buy doggie diapers.

Life went on like this for the next six months in which time I stopped wondering what kind of dog Murphy was because it didn't take me long to realize he was a bloomin' German shepherd. The horror stories I'd heard about those animals! Every night I had nightmares about my sweet pet becoming a demon dog.

This was why I let Murphy get away with a lot of things. If he wanted to tinkle on my oriental rug, I said that perhaps the rug needed to be washed. If he chose to sit on my recliner, I sat in the dog basket. He ate my T-bone steaks and I ate hamburger. When Murphy got bigger than me, I called him Sir.

The only advantage about Murphy was that he kept people out of my yard and that was the only reason I kept him.

Besides, everyday when I went to work, my supervisor said, "How's the Murph doing today?"

I told cute little stories and showed scads of pictures in hopes that I'd win another award and maybe this time it would be a fish that would turn into a whale and have Murphy for lunch while I was at work.

But that never happened and Murphy only grew bigger, stronger, and more demanding. Every time I dared think about disagreeing with his demands, he bared his large sharp teeth and growled and then he bit me. Oh not hard. Just enough to let me know he was the boss in this home.

When Murphy was two years old and chewed up my eight hundred dollar dress, I lost my sanity. I called my pet a stupid mutt. I grabbed a broom, swung it at Murphy but hit my glass figurines, sending them flying to shatter on the tile floor.

Murphy ran behind velvet drapes framing the picture window in my living room and he ripped them twenty ways from Tuesday when he escaped. I swung at him again and smashed a cut glass ceiling lamp with the broom. My beautiful house was becoming a disaster area but I didn't care. All I wanted to do was get rid of that stupid dog!

At last Murphy found an opening and dived through a screen in our front window. I ran after him around the house. Again and again and again. Then he stopped as if realizing something was wrong with this scenario. He pivoted, bared his teeth, growled his meanest growl and I made a U turn and Murphy chased me around the house. Again and again and again.

I raced for the door, ready to call 911 and report a mad dog but realized that it was the wrong kind of mad so I made a U turn and threw a flower pot at Murphy. The pot bounced against Murphy's head and for the first time, Murphy yelped and ran from me in real fear. He ran across the yard and toward Atlantic Boulevard with its six lanes of cars and trucks and buses.

"Murph!" I screamed but it was too late.

A car hit Murphy, sending him flying backward at least ten feet where he fell in a heap on a patch of sand spurs. Cars swung around the driver who had made a wild stop and was running to my precious pet.

"I'm sorry, lady," the young man said. "But I couldn't stop."

I was crying too hard to say anything. I just dropped to my knees and pulled Murphy's head onto my lap. "It's okay," I told the driver. "Go into my house and call my vet. His number's by the phone. He'll send someone out here."

The man obeyed and I took off my cashmere sweater and covered as much of Murphy as I could.

"Come on, mutt," I said, trying to stop the tears racing down my face. "Stay with me. You can do it. You're a fighter. Fight now to live." I choked back a sob and used my Irish linen handkerchief to wipe blood from the side of Murphy's face.

Murphy looked at me, his eyes bright and alert but filled with pain. He nuzzled closer to me, pressing his nose into the palm of my hand.

Cars raced by us, some coming as close as a foot from where I sat and for a moment I understood what it must be like to be an abandoned dog. Who cared for dogs anyway? If they don't bring you your paper and slippers, what use are they? You display your dog like some toy for your friends. "Sit up, dog. Speak dog. Play dead, dog." Dead.

"No!" I screamed when Murphy's head lolled and his eyes fell shut.

A blue van slowed and a woman stuck her head out to peer at us. "Ain't nothin', honey," she said to the slightly obese man behind the wheel. "Just a dead dog."

I began to cry.

A Ford station wagon drove past, its wheels sliding through a puddle, splashing muddy water on my dress and over Murphy. I yelled at the driver who never heard me 'cause he was too far down the road.

The shock of the water must have brought Murphy around 'cause he whimpered and shivered, then opened his eyes. He stared at me with a deep, almost philosophical calmness in those beautiful brown eyes. Only then did I feel the pointy barbs of those sand spurs under me, jabbing my legs and feet, each one a hot needle piercing my skin. I tried to move but the sand spurs sank in deeper. I struggled to stand up.

"Stay with him, lady," a deep voice said over me and I looked up at a large man with a pot belly under old fashioned coveralls. "He knows you're here. Long as you stay with him, he'll keep on fighting."

That did it. That gave me courage and I sat with Murphy in spite of the sand spurs, in spite of the cars racing past us with unconcerned closeness. I talked to Murphy, sang to him, and petted his face and realized I'd never petted his face before.

The man stayed with me, talking to me, and waving the cars away from us but of course the cars couldn't move too far since the road was so crowded and every vehicle moved too fast.

I know it took only minutes--certainly not more than fifteen--until the Saint Francis Animal Rescue Van slid to a stop beside us but to me it had been hours, days, months, years. Two veterinarian paramedics hopped out, checked Murphy, grunted, shook their heads. Consoling my pet whom I had never consoled, they lifted Murphy onto a stretcher and put him into the van.

I didn't wait for an invitation. I just hopped in. The paramedics understood. After looking at me with sad eyes, they returned their attention to Murphy.

Animal ambulances can't have sirens but we reached the hospital in good time. Murphy was raced into the emergency room and I paced the waiting room for hours, real hours.

Other people came and went with their pets. They talked to me about their new litter of kittens, the stray puppy they'd rescued, the cockatoo that could sing "Yankee Doodle."  I told them about my very special dog, how we shared everything and he always gave me lots of exercise, and I let him have the run of the house and all my friends said I spoiled him too much.

Then the vet came out with a smile on his face. "Murphy will make it," he said.

All of us in the waiting room cheered. I hugged a woman holding a cage with a pregnant hamster.

Well, that happened five years ago.  Murphy and I are still together and heaven forbid anyone should try to separate us. I got rid of the oriental rug and Murphy stopped tinkling in the house. He still sits on the recliner but I bought another one for me that he never goes near. And most of all, Murphy doesn't growl at me or bare his teeth or try to bite me.

This isn't the way experts tell people to train a dog but what the hey, no one has all the answers, especially when they have to deal with a scardy cat woman and a super dog. 

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Tell novice gardeners that there are spiders in their garden and the first thing they will do is run to get the bug spray and spray every critter that even looks like a spider. There are about 3,000 species of spiders, including scorpions, harvestmen, mites, and ticks so trying to rid the world of spiders is an exercise in futility. Spiders have a bad reputation but they are really helpful in the garden. Some of them are poisonous but their poison is seldom deadly for humans. Common sense tells us how to keep from getting bitten by them. The most obvious tactic is to never put your fingers or toes where you can't see them. Hermit spiders love to hide in tool drawers and other cluttered areas and are always ready for a quick meal.

Grammy has a special fondness for granddaddy long legs spiders. It began when she was two years old and the adults in the family were teasing her one day for crying because no one would play with her.

"Poor little cry baby," the adults chanted, "can't get a friend. Go out in the garden and eat some worms."

Being an obedient child, Grammy went to the garden and searched for some worms but couldn't find any. Grammy's mother came into the garden just in time to see Grammy plunk a large granddaddy long legs into her mouth. Screaming for help, her mother frantically tried to remove the spider from Grammy's mouth but Grammy just clamped her mouth shut and kept saying through tiny clenched teeth, "Good. Good." There is no record of what the granddaddy long legs said. By the time the adults had reached the garden the spider was gone and Grammy was smiling.

When she told me this story many years later, Grammy didn't mention what her mother had said to the teasing adults but I don't think I could put it down here even if I knew. I do know that Grammy never ate any more spiders and for many years she loved to entertain the adults with her musical version of "Eensee  weensee spider...."

I do not recommend that you try to eat a spider just to have the experience. Leave the poor creature alone and go get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Day I Talked With God

Winters in Ohio are very cold with lots of snow and sleet and driving winds, all of which combine to make life miserable for us Buckeyes. You'd think that we would be happy with our summer weather - hot but not too hot with just enough thunder storms to make life exciting, provided that the tornadoes go to Indiana - but we're not. Especially if we are five year old little girls scared of our own shadows.

Grammy and the other women in the family thought it was funny to see me hide under the bed and cry every time thunder pounded the walls of our home. They told me it was just the angels bowling or God cleaning house. But none of those silly stories calmed my fears. Grampy was also very aware of my fears and decided to help me get over them.

Grampy was a big man; six feet tall with snow white hair and remarkably strong for his almost sixty years of life. One early summer afternoon as dark clouds drifted on the horizon and Grampy and I were alone on the farm, he asked me if I would like to talk with God. I was thrilled at this idea and eagerly held Grampy's hand as we walked together across the road to our corn field where stalks of corn were standing knee high, whatever that meant.

I expected that we would go into Grampy's tractor barn or maybe a patch of sunflowers sprouting along the edge of the field. Certainly God was in a beautiful place. But Grampy led me farther in the field until we stood at the crest of a small hill where the land curved and glided in soft waves allowing us to see for miles in every direction. I took in my breath, gazing at this beauty until I saw distant dark thunder clouds gliding toward us. "We better go back to the house," I said.

"We can't leave," Grampy said. "You haven't met God yet."

"Well, He's not going to come out if it rains," I objected.

Grampy didn't argue, he just tapped his lips with his finger, signaling me to be quiet. He raised up his face and I did the same.

"What do you feel on your face?" he asked me.

"The wind," I said.

"No," Grampy replied. "It's God's breath breathing more life into this world."

Lightning flashed long golden jagged lines to the earth and Grampy said, "What is that?"

"It's lightning," I said and looked for a place to hide.

"No," Grampy said, "It's God's fingers touching the earth He created."

Thunder boiled in the sky, its bass sounds vibrating against my breast bone and pounding against my ears.

"What is that?" Grampy asked me.

I shook my head and clung to Grampy's hand. "It's thunder," I almost cried.

"No," Grampy said. "It's God's voice, calling us to love Him."

The thunder growled, more lightning flashed, and rain began falling.

"What is this?" Grampy asked.

"It's thunder," I shouted.

Grampy said, "It's God's tears falling for those people who will not love him."

For long seconds, Grampy stood in silence, gazing up at the sky, smiling at the wind and rain. Then, looking down at me, he said, "Now that you have talked with God, you need never be afraid again."

I laughed and Grampy laughed and we danced with the rain drops back to the house.

That was 73 years ago. I now live in Florida, the lightning capital of the world. When thunder storms come and even grown up people run to hide, I stay outside to talk with God while Grampy smiles with pride at the brave little girl he helped God create. Where would we be without our fathers?

Happy Father's Day.

Posted by Diana for Margaret