Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Dogs Of My Life ~ Post No. 3 ~ Gypsy

I once knew a dog named Gypsy, so began the obituary I wrote for her after she died of a stroke at our house in Los Angeles. 

I cannot find the many pages I wrote to try to still my sadness. I tear up even now. I think it was 1992 when she died.

It's fair to say that I have loved all my dogs, but Gypsy found a special place in my heart.  We had a loving and strong connection, she loved me so and I her. Thinking back, I still can't find words.

Gypsy was a runaway dog. She must have smelled some good food cooking at my mother-in-law's house because she ended up there and wouldn't leave. She was pregnant, Errol's parents didn't want to take her to the pound, worried what might happen, so they told Errol and he took her in.

At this time, Errol, who lived across the street from me, and I were friends. Gypsy ran away from his house too. My friend Lin told me she had seen Errol chasing this Doberman pinscher down the street and described how he caught her, but had no leash, so he carried her back to his house. She was a big dog and pregnant too and Errol was not a big man. After that, trust was built and Gypsy stayed put. 

And I fell a little in love with a guy who would do that.

Gypsy had her puppies and Errol kept the alpha male, a large, red puppy he named Red. 

I would later buy my Pasadena house where Errol and I would marry. And that's where Gypsy would spend most of her life.  

Gypsy and I walked the beautiful streets of Pasadena together. Ancient tall oaks and other gorgeous huge trees lined the streets. We walked by pretty little cottages and cool craftsman bungalows surrounded by lovely gardens where a dog would often live behind a fence. Gypsy was a friendly dog and made many friends on our walks. Her favorite was long-haired black German shepherd, a male dog, so beautiful I'm sure she had a crush on him. 

When Errol and I went on vacation to Seattle, Gypsy and Red came with us. We drove in our new Ford Ranger pickup with a shell over the truck bed. The truck had back seats, a small space, but enough for the dogs. Sometimes, they rode in the bed with their heads out the open back. 

One night, when we camped deep in a dark forest in Oregon, both dogs became very nervous. They didn't bark or alert for wild animals, they were shivering and scared. Since they never were afraid, not even when the fireworks at the Rose Bowl went off at New Year's and the Fourth of July, Errol and I managed to get scared too. We talked ourselves into wondering if Bigfoot was hiding in the bushes. This was in Oregon, after all, where he was supposed to live. Funny, looking back, but we left our tent and all four of us cramped ourselves into the cab of the truck and spent the night there.

Other than that, it was a wonderful trip. We camped out most of the time and the dogs were so good. When they drifted away while exploring nature, Errol would just say, "stay within bounds," and they came right back. Errol was great with dogs and they knew, as dogs do, and respected him for it

Gypsy got breast cancer, she had several surgeries and survived. I remember she also broke a leg, but I don't remember how it happened.

When it snowed in the San Gabriel mountains, we would put the dogs in the truck and drive up to play in the snow. 

Gypsy was around 13 years old when she suddenly had a stroke. Errol was at home when it happened and stayed with her. I was at work and could not/did not rush home after I found out. When my workday was over, I realized I didn't want to go home, didn't want her to die, didn't want to watch her die. 

On my way out of the building, I stopped on the first floor and talked to Lois, the receptionist. I talked about Gypsy, how I felt, how terrible I was to not rush home. Lois consoled me as best she could, she was such a kind soul. 

When I came home, Gypsy had just died. I could have been there earlier. I was not. At the time, I wasn't good with dying and death. 

As I grew as a human being, I learned, as we all do, that death is a part of life and not something to shy away from. Later in my life I was there when my dogs and cats passed away. 

Gypsy was my love, she was loving, intelligent, protective of her pack which included our two cats, Samantha and Sindbad, she adored Errol, and she loved me so.



I still haven't asked Greg, the computer guy, to come and show me how to upload pictures, but since I wanted to post about one dog a month, I decided to post this anyway. 

I will call him soon.

Gypsy was a black and tan Doberman pinscher with natural ears and a cropped tail. She and Red, my dog for March, appear together in my photos, so I will post them together then. 

How I loved her, she was the best of dogs, she truly was a noble dog.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Notes From The Canyon

Last fall, I took time off from blogging and many other activities to basically stay by myself and think on things. I'm turning 80 this summer and thinking about where I am in life, how I want to live for the remainder of my life, and also looking back turned out to be interesting, healthy and good for me.

As far as my blogging goes, it became clear that I am very fond of my blogger friends and want to keep in touch. I also realized that I want to write, I want to tell stories from my life, I want to learn how to become better at it, storytelling. We'll see, because my blog will be the only place where I will share my writing. 

This is what's going on right now. I'm doing great with my diabetes management, which makes me feel so much better. In a few days, I will get the G6 version, the latest generation of Dexcom's continuous glucose monitoring system. Once it gets here, I will have to learn it, which will mean some setbacks, but I will benefit in the long run. And no more finger sticks or so they promise. Could be huge! 

I love my new Dell Chrome book, but I still don't know how to upload pictures. So the ones here are old. Youtube was no help and, once again, I wish User's Manuals had not gone obsolete. Most of us can follow written directions and it's beyond my comprehension that electronic devices, all being different, can just be sent out with no information about their software whatsoever. 

I will call my computer guy soon. He said he knows how to do it and I hope he is right. 

Right after Christmas, we got an epic snowstorm here in our mountains. We got at least 18 inches of wet, heavy snow, which, when it landed on the widespread branches of our juniper trees, broke them. Five trees in my immediate yard suffered terrible damage. My wonderful helper, Mark, just finished cutting off the broken branches and carting them off to the dump. It's taken him several visits and up on my hillsides there are many more broken trees. Nature will have to take care of them, unless they become a fire hazard. I already have a few dead ones from the drought years that Mark said he will cut down. 

Samson's breed originated in Siberia and I guess that's why he's so protected from wet snow. I'm fascinated by how snow  lands on his outer coat and just sits there. As far as his health goes, Samson, who will be 11 this year, is healthier than he's ever been. I believe all his medications have been balanced now and are just right for what he needs. 

I don't know what kind of Labrador mix Faith is, but she just hates water, hates getting wet in any kind of way. Misery! Let me in already!!

Finally, I have written posts about my next two dogs, Gypsy and her son, Red, but I don't have any photos of them in Google, so I will wait to post until I can get some uploaded from old pictures.  

Monday, February 24, 2020

Black History Month ~ Norbert Rillieux, An American Inventor

This is an edited version of a story I posted several years ago in honor of Black History Month.

Errol had an ancestor on his mother's side, named Norbert Rillieux, 1806 - 1894. 

To quote Wikipedia:

'Mr. Rillieux was an American inventor and engineer who is most noted for his invention of the multiple-effect evaporator, en energy-efficient means of evaporating water. This invention was an important development in the growth of the sugar industry. Rillieux was a cousin of the painter Edgar Degas.'

Norbert Rillieux's father was a wealthy white plantation owner, engineer, and inventor; his mother an African-American woman, who is sometimes is referred to as a slave, but in most accounts as a free person of color. His aunt, Marie Celeste Rillieux, was the grandmother of the painter Edgar Degas. Norbert was also related to Bernard Soulie, one of the wealthiest free black men in Louisiana at the time.

As a Creole, Norbert Rillieux was able to get a good education in Louisiana, where he was educated at private Catholic schools. He later traveled to France and studied physics, mechanics, and engineering at the École Centrale. Fluent in French, he became an expert in steam engines and was also a skilled blacksmith and machinist. 

The process of refining sugar was slow and expensive in the 1800s. While still in France, Norbert Rillieux began looking into ways of improving this process. He continued his work upon his return to New Orleans and patented his evaporator machine in 1843. The new machine was so efficient that sugar makers soon covered the cost of the evaporators with the huge profits from the sugar produced by them. 

Norbert Rillieux also attempted to apply his engineering skills to dealing with an outbreak of Yellow Fever in New Orleans, presenting the city with a plan that would to a great extent eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. His plan was turned down by a state legislator, who had become his enemy. However, several years later the ongoing Yellow Fever problem was successfully addressed by white engineers, using a method very close to what Rillieux had proposed. 

Norbert Rillieux spent his later years in Paris where he began a study of Egyptology and hieroglyphics. He also created new inventions and spent time defending his patents. 

Norbert Rillieux died in Paris in 1894 and is buried there. He left behind a legacy that revolutionized the sugar industry and thereby the way the world eats. 

And both Errol and my mother-in-law were extremely fond of sugar and all things sweet.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Rust ~ Post No. 28

Thanks to my friend Jane, I have posted many pictures of old trucks and other old things gone to rust. 

This is my favorite. It's beautiful, it's French, it has stories to tell. 

Thank you Jane for this treasure. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

On A Soviet Ship

Recently, as I was writing emails to Annette in Denmark, the fact that I had twice sailed on a Soviet ship and how unusual that was came up in our conversation.  

This is how it happened:

When I was 19, I went to London to study and have adventures. I spent about two and a half years there, but went home to spend Christmas and my summers in Sweden.

At first, I sailed from Gothenburg, which meant an extra day traveling to the west coast of Sweden. So when I found out I could go directly from Stockholm, I booked a berth on the MS Mikhail Kalinin. She was a Soviet ship, named after a Bolshevik revolutionary who served as the formal head of state of the Soviet Union from 1919 to 1946. 

Compared to today's ocean liners she was a small ship, a part of the Soviet Baltic fleet. Coming from a communist country her accommodations were very basic. If I remember correctly, my cabin had three sets of bunk beds and probably somewhere to store luggage. A toilet and sink to wash in must have been included, but I don't remember a bathtub or shower.

It was an interesting experience for me, then in my early twenties. I bravely sampled Russian food, including kasha, the ever present buckwheat porridge; I drank Russian vodka and talked with the Soviet crew, mostly young men, who turned out to be just like guys everywhere. 

On the first voyage, I met a young Irishman, named Michael, who was the son of a diplomat and on his way back home to Ireland. The ship docked in Copenhagen for a day and Michael and I explored the city together. I have no memory of our spending time in the city, but I have many of my letters home to refer to, as my mom saved most of them. One of my letters describes the fun this young Irishman and I had in the Danish capital, a friendly city with many enjoyable things to see, eat and drink.  

After spending a school year in London, I sailed back to Stockholm, again on the Mikhail Kalinin. 

This time, I met a Swedish girl and we had fun with the Soviet sailors. We talked politics, asked what it was like to live in a communist country, we knew we were not supposed to do this, but we were young and silly. We tried, without success, to find out how they felt about their Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. They were really nice though, fond of their vodka and after a few drinks we would dance. Looking back, I'm sure they enjoyed their jobs with the Soviet Baltic fleet. 

This time, the ship was full of tourists, many of them American. They all shared cabins, packed together since the cabins were small. My Swedish friend and I compared notes and found both of us had a cabin of our own. I still have no idea why this was so, but we had no uninvited guests, and I enjoyed being alone in my cabin with its five empty bunk beds. 

It was early summer, the absolutely best time to sail up the East coast of Sweden. I remember being giddy with happiness as the ship approached the archipelago, the 20 to 30,000 islands and islets that hug the coast of Sweden, outside Stockholm. A place where I had spent every summer of my life and loved beyond words. The place where I learned to swim, to fish, to steer a boat, to read a sea chart, and so much more. I still love those islands more than any other  place on earth.  

My voyage home on the Mikhail Kalinin was the last time I went by sea to England. When I went back for what would be the last time, it was by train with my friend Ingrid, who was going to an au pair job in Cambridge. The train went to Hoek van Holland, from where we took a ferry across the Channel to Harwich on the English coast. I had finished school, but I was still with my first serious boyfriend, so not ready to leave London yet. To make it possible to stay a while longer, I signed up for an au pair job in vicar's family in Lee Green, a London suburb

Living in the vicarage was a very English experience, one that I will never forget. One that I'm very grateful for. 

Looking back now, I understand better that sailing on a Soviet ship was an usual experience and sailing up the East coast of Sweden through the archipelago a beautiful memory to share.

Click here to see the ship docked at Stockholm

Monday, February 10, 2020

Me And My Dogs

Look at Samson's adoring eyes. Christina took this picture two years ago now and I never posted it, I don't think. 

I found it while trying to learn to manage photos in my Chrome Book. I'm posting it now because I love it. It truly captures our devotion to each other. 

Monday, February 3, 2020


After wild burros were rescued from places where either their lives were in danger from traffic or places where they had become a nuisance and were no longer welcome, they were fenced in at the Donkey Rescue. Safe, happy when feeding time came around, but how did they really feel I wonder. After the rescue moved to Texas, they now have plenty of space to safely roam.

Not a fence, but a gate to keep us humans safe.

I'm pretty sure that without a fence, much mischief would be caused by these two.

A fence at the Buddhist temple serves as a resting place for a mop.

A fence on my property provides a photo op.


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