LIFE IS A JOURNEY


Road Leading Nowhere Road Leading Nowhere

Far From Somewhere Far From Somewhere

Road Leading Somewhere Road Leading Somewhere

Grow old along with me,The best is yet to be. The last of life for which the first has saved. Robert Browning

watercolor paintings by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Sam and Panda2 Dr. Advice and Panda

Paintings like the words in our stories have a strong basis in fact. A picture, a word, a gesture prompts our creative spirit to get busy. For eleven years our Old English Sheepdog Panda accompanied Dr. Advice on his morning walk, meandering ahead and then coming back to see why he was so slow. Panda knew every bush and squirrel hole on the trail as well as the regular everyday walkers and their dogs. She was the queen of the trail and kept herself aloof from the other dogs after a quick nod of her head.

Panda came to us as a rescue dog having been caught in a flood which nearly took the life of her master, a horse trainer of some repute in Northern California. Disaster had struck in the middle of the night, and about 100 horses had to be quickly removed from the premises and onto higher ground. Our grandson, a horseman living in the area, was among those who came to help in the rescue of the horses. The rancher unfortunately had a heart attack after the disaster and was unable to keep his animals.

Panda, along with several other farm dogs were given to willing people after the action. Our grandson thought Panda would be a grand roommate for Penny our dachshund, and when we came to meet her, she jumped into our pickup truck and made herself comfortable and at home. Once in the truck, there was no coaxing her out again. In her eyes she had found her forever home. I always thought she looked like the Nana dog in Peter Pan whose job it was to look after the children, like Nana, Panda had decided to take care of us.

Old English Sheepdogs are pretty laid back and not prone to sudden activity. On one morning walk late in her life, while walking the same old trail she knew by heart, she became separated from Dr. Advice, and he began driving home before he missed her. Luckily when he realized his mistake and went back, he found her waiting patiently where he had mislaid her.

Unlike the Border Collie, whom we see herding sheep by crouching and staring them down, the Old English is a drover who will push from behind for miles and miles if necessary. Our morning walks always went from about two miles to sometimes 14 miles, and Panda was always trotting along beside us looking for a stray rabbit or two, unaware of who they were dealing with.

Our dear pet friends always know when it’s time to say goodbye, even if it seems too soon for us, and eleven years after Panda came to live with us, that day arrived. Now her quiet, gentle ghost smiles on Charlie, the exuberant Jack Russell Terrier who now demands two walks a day, and Dr. Advice has learned that it is to his advantage to oblige.

Life is a journey, and the companions we take along with us, and the people we meet along our way keep it all new, exciting and worthwhile.

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EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY


boxer 2 You know how we all love our pets, coddling them and mostly trying to make them into four-legged humans. A neighbor lady, Mrs Godfrey, was no exception with her charming chubby Chihuahua Cappucino, who was as devoted to Belgian chocolates as his owner. The local vet was a frequent visitor and regularly put Cappucino on a strict diet, but Mrs. Godfrey just couldn’t help herself, a delicious bit of cake or something wonderful off her dinner plate somehow found its way into Cappucino’s mouth as well as her own. The wise veterinarian also prescribed a regular walking schedule, which Mrs. Godfrey followed by having her gardener carry Cappucino around the garden several times a day. It was great exercise for the gardener, but little Cappy gained little from it, except more weight.

When Mrs. Godfrey finally allowed Cappucino to walk on his own, he developed a new ailment she called “flopbot”, which simply meant he sat down wherever he was and refused to walk another step. The dear lady became frantic, positive that the dog was not long for this world, and what on earth would she do without her sweet companion? So the patient vet came again and soothed Mrs. Godfrey while reiterating his advice on caring for the pup. Finally on one visit he suggested she get a companion dog for Cappucino, which would give him more exercise as they ran around her extensive grounds.

A month went by before the vet paid another call on Mrs. Godfrey, and it turned out not to be about Cappucino, but about Cedric, the new dog she had bought to be a companion dog for Cappucino. She had apparently spent most of the month finding just the right friend for Cappy. A perfect pedigree, photos were exchanged, a luncheon date set up, and Cedric filled the bill, so she brought him home. But Cedric had one fault, and it was a big one. It took some time for her to explain the problem, not being one to discuss such embarrassing episodes. Cedric suffered from an excessive amount of flatulence. Poor Mrs. Godfrey was in a state of sobbing distress even mentioning to the vet.

“When does he do this Mrs. Godfrey”, asked the vet. “Only when he gets excited,” she said. “And that’s all the time”.

The vet changed his diet and gave him some digestive pills, and assumed all would be well. however no one estimated the amount of bacterial fermentation going on in Cedric’s body, and each approach by Cedric was accompanied by an aura of unpleasant odor. The vet finally told Mrs. Godfrey that she must get rid of the dog. Thinking he meant sending Cedric back to his Maker, Mrs. Godfrey went into another siege of sobbing. “You could give him to someone else”, the vet suggested. In the meantime Cedric was banished to a garden shed, away from any excitement, until the vet found another home for him.

The following week Mrs. Godfrey was having her annual morning coffee party for the local hospital board, with many prominent people in attendance. It was a lovely morning, and the door to the house was opened to allow people to come and go. Meanwhile, Cedric became bored in the garden shed all alone with nothing to do but tip over pots and tear open bags of compost, so he pushed open the door to see what was going on over at the main house.

Silently Cedric entered the house amid the festivities, and as he moved through the room, happily passing gas as he went, the faces of the guests registered disgust and suspicion as they stepped away from conversations throughout the room. He was soon spotted by Mrs. Godfrey, who shrieked in embarrassment, and threw Cedric out of the house while shouting apologies to her guests.

“Who would want a dog that flatulates all over the place?” she cried to the vet. “Cappucino will be heartbroken, but I cannot keep him”.

When the vet came to collect Cedric, he saw a new part time gardener pruning Mrs. Godfrey’s roses. In answer to his praise of the delightful fragrance, the new gardener said “That may be but I haven’t smelled anything for thirty years!” “You mean you can’t smell ANYTHING?’ asked the vet. “Not a thing”, answered the gardener. ” Say, that’s a real nice dog you got there, always wanted one of them boxers.”

With apologies to James Harriot fo this great story. We are lovers of his wonderful stories “All Creatures Great and Small”.”

CATERWAULING


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‘Caterwauling” Painting by Louis Wain
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Does anyone know what goes on behind the enigmatic, mysterious eyes of the family cat? Are they waiting there simply to be admired, or is there a deeper purpose to their somnolence? Is their frequent habit of clawing your lap while otherwise giving the appearance of restful contemplation a signal of ulterior motives?

There are definitely “cat people” and “dog people”, though there are many who find both an added element to their households. I have one friend who finds room in her heart and in her home for 5 cats and a bulldog. The old fallacy that the species are incompatible is untrue. My father used to laugh at that idea when I sobbed that the dog would cause harm to a new cat. He was proved right when the cat took a hearty swipe at the curious dog’s nose, and let him know that that degree of intimacy was not allowed. Later in life we had several pair who comfortably shared the same bed throughout their lives, much like old married couples. A recent incident on local TV showed a cat attacking and driving away a dog who had assaulted a child. So much for the fallacy that the two species are enemies.

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Born in 1860, artist Louis Wain, obsessed with cats, ‘invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world.’ So said H. G. Wells in 1925 when describing the phenomenon of a cat artist who had become a household name over the previous 40 years. Louis Wain’s cats, dressed as humans in the fashion of the day while having fun; were depicted at restaurants and tea parties, at the Races or at the seaside, celebrating Christmas and birthdays, and disporting themselves at games of tennis, cricket and football. Succeeding generations recognize in them the energetic desire of a society at leisure. Wain’s world was funny, edgy and animated–a whole cat world.

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His working life spans the great age of the postcard and the prolific dissemination of his art in this way made him one of the most prevalent and recognisable artists of the early twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1940, 75 different publishers produced over 1100 of his images in postcard form. This was an era when the inexpensive postcard frequently took the place of a letter, and the humorous cat depictions were in great demand.

His post World War I financial difficulties may have contributed to a rapid decline into schizophrenia as Wain became isolated, impecunious and unmanageable. In 1924, he was certified insane and admitted to Springfield Hospital. Briefly forgotten, he was discovered in this paupers asylum a year later and, following a public appeal involving many artists and writers, and the intervention of the Prime Minister himself who recognized his genius, he was transferred to two or three successively more pleasant hospitals, where he lived on until 1939, painting ceaselessly and recreating a new and ever more colorful cat world, which became more frenzied and colorful as his condition worsened.

the land of the rising sun the motor adventure

His later work reveals his schizophrenic illness: highly colored cats at times become frenzied, sometimes showing anger, while sometimes in the background are curious recreations of his asylum buildings.

cat with house cat over fence

As time went by, Louis Wain’s cats lost their carefree, happy eyes, and became a vehicle to convey his deteriorating sanity. As another, somewhat famous artist said “There are people who love nature even though they are cracked and ill, those people are the painters.” Vincent Van Gogh. But art should be judged merely by its aesthetics and not by conjecturing about the mental condition of the artist. The pleasures of an ice cream cone aren’t enhanced by enquiring about its recipe.

Louis Wains art became pure brilliant design and don’t require an explanation or any need to place them into a familiar world.

louis wain late work 2 louis wain late work 1

THE STRANGE POWER OF DREAMS


Henry_Meynell_Rheam_-_Sleeping_Beauty We all dream, whether we remember them or not. Most are pleasant, others sometimes not so pleasant. Some dreams remain with us for years, still with the power to please or to frighten. But what triggers dreams?

A true nightmare sometimes causes us to cry aloud, and prevent resuming a quiet night’s rest. A sexual dream can be disappointing if, upon awakening, the dream prince or princess is not a reality.
But what triggers a dream? There have been numerous studies made of our nightime experiences, but it’s still a mystery.

I can still remember a dream I had when I was 11 years old, which encouraged me to jump off the roof with the expectation of flight. Flight dreams are really pretty common, and given our prehistoric beginnings when we either fought or fled, are understandable, but disturbing in a child for obvious reasons.

A long-standing dream of mine which I file under the title “Dog Dreams” in my memory file, was one where I had been kidnapped, and actually turned into a dog who bit my kidnapper, complete with snarling et al. I had this same dream repeatedly for several years. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the way it is.

In a too-vivid dream I had when my youngest daughter was a toddler, she climbed up onto the railing of a bridge in Ireland, and tumbled off before I could catch and save her. At that time, we had never been to Ireland, with no expectation of ever going there. When we eventually did go, I found myself on the very same bridge I had dreamed. It was a terrifying deja vu moment, though my daughter at that time was grown and married.

Another vivid dream which turned out to be delusory, involved two paintings of mine which I hung on someone’s wall, I don’t know whose. I felt they were some of my best work. I actually searched for those two paintings for days before I was convinced that they had merely been a colorful dream. I sometimes think I may find them again.

Are our dreams just the result of a vivid imagination? I doubt that the mystery will ever be solved, but in the meantime, “pleasant dreams”.

THE SECRET GENIUS OF DOGS


JRT
553 With half as many neurons in their cerebral cortex as cats—and half the attitude, dogs are often taken to be the less intelligent domestic partner. while dogs drink out of the toilet, slavishly follow their masters and need a chaperone to relieve themselves, cats hunt self-sufficiently and survey their empire with a regal gaze.
But cats beware. Research in recent years has finally revealed the genius of dogs.

Dogs are language-trained animals and can learn to respond to hundreds of spoken signals, and the names of hundreds of different objects. Of the many dogs who have chosen to live with me, several stand out as more easily trained, but I haven’t a doubt that given more time and patience with the laggards, most of them would have risen to the occasion. Charlie, our Jack Russell Terrier, is a quick study, and though the movie industry has not been knocking on our door to hire him, I am satisfied with the various chores he performs around the house when asked.

Based on the ability of cats to hold a grudge, you might think that they have better memories than dogs. Not so. According to the study by Slyvain Fiset of Canada’s University of Moncton. Still dog owners should not be too smug. In 2010, Krista Macpherson and William Roberts of the University of Western Ontario published a study that tested navigational memory, in which dogs had to search for food in a maze with eight arms radiating out from a central position. Even the rats beat the dogs out in the test. But when food was placed on the opposite side of a fence, and a human was seen rounding the end of the fence, dogs could easily solve the problem.

This is the secret to the genius of dogs: it’s when dogs join forces with us that they become special. Nowhere is this clearer than when dogs are reading our gestures. Every dog owner has helped her dog find a lost ball or treat by pointing in the right direction.No other animal—not even our closets relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees—can interpret our gestures as flexibly as dogs. If habits, such as feeding or walking, are formed at certain times of day, the dog will be eagerly available to partake of them.

So are dogs smarter than cats: Not necessarily. Species are designed by nature to be good at different things.

And what might the genius of cats be? Possibly, that they just can’t be bothered playing our silly games or giving us the satisfaction of discovering the extent of their intelligence.

cat & mouse

EVERYDAY TRANSLATING


“The art of wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

Previously I said I was in awe of translators, but heck, we’re all translators. Everytime we talk to our family, our dogs, our friends—we’re translating what they are saying into something we want to hear.

What did your friend really mean with that look she gave you after your third glass of wine? What did your husband mean when he flounced out the door in the morning just because you were a little late getting home from your bridge game the afternoon before?

Your three year old doesn’t really mean he hates you when he says he does, he wants you to set him straight about who really wears the pants around here. It keeps him in his comfort zone.

We all have to live in this family, this community, this world. It behooves us all to darn well get over it and get together.

Get over being miffed at your friend and just give her that recipe she’s been begging for. Friends aren’t all that easy to find anymore. Go ahead and buy your kid that toy he’s whining for (unlkess it costs more than the mortgage payment.), And believe me, your husband will be home tonight and grateful for that special dinner you’re going to fix him. After all you could have called him yesterday.

Don’t make it too difficult for others to translate you.

THE HAT THAT WENT EVERYWHERE


A Hat That Goes Everywhere/  watercolor/  KSR

She was my paternal grandmother’s much younger half-sister, and probably in her day, she would have been known as a “fine figure of a woman”.

She was large-boned, though not fat, with a full, well-shaped bosom, strong arms, and sturdy legs.  I remember her as a rather homely woman with large teeth who smiled a lot and was fun to be around.  On top of short, wispy grey hair she wore a hat that went everywhere, which was crocheted of an ecru string, and had a brim which was wired on the edge to make it stand out.  She looked terribly home-made and out-of-date, but I’m sure she felt she looked quite smart.

She belonged to many of the social clubs that country women often delight in and would plop her hat onto her head and head five miles into town for the day.  Since she owned a great deal of the town, she probably conducted business on a lot of those days.

She was a lover of animals, at that time especially a red Australian shepherd named Bounce, whom she insisted could talk.  I know we all say that about smart or clever dogs who live with us, but she actually believed Bounce could enunciate words.  He slept beside the old wood stove and groaned out his messages when she began a conversation.  Since she was also a devotee of Yahtzee, of which we played endless games, maybe the messages came through Bounce.  At any rate, Bounce was a jolly companion after her husband, Jean passed away.

Each year Bounce led the annual gladioli  parade through downtown Grants Pass, Oregon, carrying a basket of gladioli.  He was a town fixture, and everybody knew Bounce.

My grandmother and Aunt Hazel had the same mother though different fathers.  I always thought of her as being old, and was surprised to learn that she had gone to high school with my aunt Arlene, my father’s sister.

She had a brother, Uncle Charlie, who owned a pool hall in Grants Pass, where I remember going for an ice cream cone when I was visiting the Oregon relatives.   My mother said that Charlie’s daughter, Doris had been a prostitute, but to be fair, I don’t think that is entirely true, because no one really knew for sure.  My mother was prone to see a too-short skirt or bleached hair as being a sure indication of a loose woman.

Sadly, Uncle Charlie committed suicide by running a hose from his exhaust pipe into his car.  I never heard what happened to Doris.

Finally the old cabin Hazel and Jean had lived in was torn down and she built a new place of cement brick which was a bit larger than the first and even had a studio.  I think the only art work she ever did in it was some pressed flowers, but nevertheless, it had lots of windows looking out over beautiful fields toward the Rogue River, and she could have done more had she wanted to.

After Bounce died, Hazel began collecting cats.  I never knew how many there were at any one time, but my daughter says there must have been a hundred, which probably is a childhood overestimation.

I don’t think it would be a stretch of the imagination to say that Hazel was a true eccentric.  My cousin called her  a “nice ‘ol Auntie”, which is a lovely tribute, and I hope someone says that about me someday.

ALL WIGGED OUT


The ancient Egyptians wore wigs to shield their shaved heads from the sun.  I can see that was a good idea; who wants a sunburned head?  Styles have come and gone through the years, and cultures have changed.  People wore wigs for many reasons including religious, costume, cosmetic , convenience or just for fun.  It’s nice to be able to change your appearance at will.

I was cursed with wimpy hair. You might even say I hate my hair.  I always hated the color as well, but you can always change the color, which I did often.  When it finally turned a real color (grey) a grandson took a look and asked me if it was blonde or grey.  I told him to take his choice.

During the 60’s when “big hair” was the style, I was not able to achieve it no matter how vigorously I back-combed and sprayed, so I bought a wig.

It was human hair and very expensive, and had to be professionally washed and styled, and I loved it.  Until I overheard Republican great-aunt Georgia say to my grandmother
“She wants to look like Jackie Kennedy.”  What really hurt was that I did!  Jackie was an icon  of style, and had great hair as well.  I probably couldn’t carry it off anyway, being about 8 inches shorter.  Plus it really did take a lot of money to look that good.

They make wigs and hairpieces of synthetic material which through the years is hard to tell from human hair. You can wash them yourself, and change your style and color whenever the mood or the occasion demands it.  How cool is that?

Dogs like wigs too I found out the hard way once while visiting my daughter in Seattle.  I put my wig on a table in the bedroom and went downstairs with the rest of the family.  Suddenly my grandchildren came running in yelling “Mom!  Jessie’s running down the road with Grammie’s wig!”  They don’t have that dog anymore, but then, I don’t have that wig either.