Saturday, December 30, 2006

Getting Better Dreams

Here's a map of Maine, with a big red X over the town of Farmington.

Starting Tuesday, January 16, the Franklin Journal, which has been published in Farmington for a little over 200 years, will have a new editor, and I will have a new job. You'll note that I didn't furnish a link for the Franklin Journal, because it isn't on line. It also isn't owned by a rapacious Wall Street firm that wants only to drag as much money out of the community as possible and is willing to publish a newspaper if necessary. Rather, it's owned by this guy Bill who lives in North Carolina and is happy to have a couple of papers in Maine that make him some money.

The paper comes out on Tuesday and Friday. It's very small -- the Tuesday paper is eight pages and the Friday is 16. It doesn't have room for stories about the war, but even papers that have room for stories about the war would rather run stories about Brittany Spears, so it really doesn't matter much. I'd rather not have the space, and run neither, than have the space and be forced to make the wrong choice.

As it is, the paper runs the news of the local community, news they can't get anywhere else and that they care about. This is back to the days of the entrepenurial small town paper that matters to the people it writes about. This is going to be a blast.

If you check the link above, you'll find that Farmington is a combination of true rural living with some nice collegiate influence -- there are some book stores and funky clothing stores and plenty of other fun places without it being a "college town" to the extent that the locals are overwhelmed. There's a good hospital, lots of places to walk dogs and enough stores that you really don't have to drive the 40 miles down to Auburn unless you want to.

Of course, my email won't change, so in this on-line world of ours, it won't really matter too much that I've changed my physical base of operations. Except that I may change my tone as my daily three-dimensional life goes through changes. And I expect those changes to be for the better.

As for the headline above, I was cleaning out boxes when I came across some quotes I had collected, including one from Bill Walton, who said, "If your dreams aren't coming true, maybe it's time to get yourself some new dreams."

I've just got my same old dreams, but I'm remembering the importance of keeping them from shriveling or worse.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

For the record ....

Destry would like to point out that, when it comes to very young granddaughters, Nellie was not the only ridgeback in the family with a documented history of gentle patience. (No, this photo was not posed, either.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nellie Bly 2000-2006

Right around Halloween, I noticed a lump on Nellie's snout, about a third of the way from her right eye to her nose. I expected it to be soft, like a bug bite or some kind of bruising, but it was hard, just skin over bone, so I got her to the vet as soon as possible. Vets have an ethical need to let you know all your options, but it came down to this:

I said to her, "If you can tell me that, five years from now, she'll be running across a meadow and someone will say 'Cool dog! How'd she get that scar on her face?' then I don't care what it costs."

But she couldn't tell me that. It was an aggressive tumor that was in her nasal cavity, her gums and the roof of her mouth. There were things I could do, but they would be very invasive, very expensive and not at all effective.

Nellie's breeder had the right prescription: Lots of steak, ice cream, pepperoni and love, for as long as she was okay.

So for the past eight weeks, I have spoiled the girl with extra treats and extra affection. And there's nobody I'd rather spoil like that, because she was absolutely appreciative -- she always enjoyed snuggling in under the quilt and watching a football game, or going along for a car ride, even if it was just to the corner store for milk.

This is a picture of Nellie with my granddaughter, Abigail, who is in kindergarten now but was a year and a half old when I was out in the back yard at my mother's, taking pictures, and this happened. It certainly wasn't posed -- I would never have suggested that she sit on the dog. But I knew, as I watched it unfold, that Nell would be cool with it, and she was, as you see. She was patient, gentle and sweet.

I'd say, "patient, gentle and sweet as always" but she was a dog, and very much a dog. When we were out in the fields, she was perfectly prepared to take down a woodchuck or rabbit, though she could never quite catch the latter. With Nell, you never forgot that her forebears hunted lions, and yet there was never a moment when you didn't feel you could utterly trust her with a small child. She was a beautiful, sweet girl.

This past weekend, we went up to Plattsburgh for an early Christmas with the kids. There were four little girls in the house, ranging from 10 years to 9 weeks old, and four dogs. Nellie was cheerful and pleased to be there, accepting love and affection from the kids and being very patient with the youngest of the pups. On our way out of town, we stopped to see my friend Donna, who has a nine-month-old ridgeback, and the three dogs had a good long walk in the brush that included a lot of running and chasing and playing. Nell had a great time and was in good humor throughout.

I always figured that the tumor would eventually interfere with her breathing, and on some mornings, she did snork and strain a bit. But once she was up and about, it eased and she was fine. I expected, however, that the time would come when I'd have to decide that it was becoming too difficult for her to breathe, and that would involve a hard decision. I had the vet on standby and had pre-paid so that, when the moment came, I could get in and out without a lot of dialogue and delay.

But there was no decision. This morning, Nell was in evident pain. Apparently, the thing had grown to a point where it began to press on a nerve, or to force some bones apart to the extent of causing her real agony. She came along obediently enough for our walk, but lagged behind, head down, tail between her legs. I cut things short, brought her home and made the phone call, then took her to the vet's and held her until it was over.

Nellie was only six -- she'd have been seven in February. She was the sweetest, most affectionate dog I've ever known, without ever being silly or servile or obnoxious. She was very much a dog. A great, great dog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Howard gets some pets

I bought Howard some little fish the other day. The idea was that he would eat them, but he doesn't seem particularly interested in food that moves. Meanwhile, the fish immediately ducked under the pieces of slate in the tank, so I took the pieces out and that annoyed Howard, since the glass is slippery to try to walk on. So I finally put some of the slate back, the fish disappeared and Howard went back into his cave. To give you some perspective here, he is about the size of a 50 cent piece these days.

I don't know how long the fish are going to live on whatever crumbs of uneaten turtle food they can scarf up. Their main function, I suspect, will be to make it harder to clean the tank. But perhaps Howard will suddenly develop some prey drive, or maybe if they die he'll decide they are then appropriate food. Maybe little tiny snappers are only supposed to be carrion eaters.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why are the ice caps melting?

Did you ever wonder, when you were in college, about that kid who set his speakers up in the window and blasted his music over the quad? I mean, what happens to an obnoxious kid like that when he grows up?

This. This is what happens to him.

And what is the result? Click on Nellie at

(The cartoon, of course, is by Hilary Price. Great stuff.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is it a civil war? This week in Drawing Conclusions, John Trever and Rex Babin ponder the weighty issue of what to call that disturbance over there in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly goes to Mexico for the inauguration of a president. Keep your head down, Nell!

Comments welcome