Today is Lauren’s Birthday


Today is my wife, Lauren’s birthday. On this, her special day, I am at a client’s site in North Carolina while she stays home. She was home alone for most of the day until the kids got home from school. She tells me that she did have lunch with her friend Sandra, so at least she had some fun.

Due to a perfect storm of events, I was unable to buy her a special gift for her birthday. Yes – I suck. Since I’m not there, I can’t even take her out to dinner.  I decided to do something a little different for my lovely wife’s birthday. I decided to write this for the world to see. (more…)

Annie and the Gentle Leader

Annie in the Mud
Annie in the Mud

After reading so many glowing reviews of the Gentle Leader, we bought one and took Annie out in the yard to give it a try. More accurately, Lauren took Annie while I took the camera. Somehow I knew this would be an event worth recording.

The Gentle Leader is much like a halter for a horse in that it wraps around the dog’s snout and head. Though some people mistake it for a muzzle because of the way it looks, the dog’s mouth is free to open with a Gentle Leader. The leader works because the leash is attached under the dogs nose. Where the nose goes, so goes the dog. At least that’s how it works on paper.

As with most things involving Annie, this was not to go as planned. Lauren got the Gentle Leader on her, and Annie promptly set to scraping it off with her paw. We figured it was too tight, so we re-read the instructions while Annie furiously pawed at her face in a vain attempt to remove the foul restraint. Though we felt that it was properly applied, we loosened the harness a bit just in case. She still didn’t like it, but at least she stopped pawing.

Lauren clipped the leash on and started to walk. Walking with Annie was not a pleasant experience – hence our experiment with the Gentle Leader. Annie’s lack of manners was our fault of course. We had not yet spent enough time with her, so she hadn’t learned the rules. Lauren had walked with her every day, but Lauren isn’t quite as strict as me. That’s not to say that she didn’t do well, but rather that Annie didn’t yet respect her as the one true alpha female.

As Lauren and Annie started to walk, the excitement began. Annie took a couple of steps, then jumped into the air spiraling like a dolphin at Sea World. When she landed she shook her head trying get the infernal straps off of her head. She reared up on her hind legs, bucking like a stallion.

“I don’t think she likes it”, I said, chuckling.

“Ya’ think?” was Lauren’s only reply.

The Gentle Leader is marketed as the five minute attitude adjuster. After five minutes Lauren got her to stop bucking and writhing, but I wasn’t entirely convinced of Annie’s newfound manners. We decided to give her a break and took the harness off. Annie’s plan had come to fruition. Sensing the long awaited freedom from her binds, Annie erupted into a full-blown heebie-jeebie running fit. Apparently she wasn’t tired after all.

She ran in the yard, bounced off of the fence and the trees, then headed straight for the mud. We had been having a drainage problem on one side of the yard, so we had worked with Annie on the dry side to avoid it. The muddy section was only about 10 feet by four feet, and was in the rarely used corner of the yard behind the patio. Our fenced yard was almost an acre in size, so the muddy area wasn’t even visible from where we had been working. Annie knew well where it was though.

“Annie No!” I yelled. She could not have cared less. She ran to the mud, then stood there as her feet slowly sank in. I imagine that she enjoyed the way the cool mud squished between her toes. She just stood there and stared at me. She knew she was being bad – she just didn’t care. After soaking for a few seconds, she started to pull her feet out of the mud one by one and then put them down. A rude slurping sound accompanied each foot and she lifted it out. I think she liked that too. Slurp… Squish….

“Annie! Get out of the mud!” Slurp… My commands fell on uncaring ears. As if knowing what I was thinking, she slowly – deliberately – laid herself down in the mud. All the while she stared at me with obvious defiance. Squish…

“Annie! No!” Still she stared. She knew I wouldn’t come into the mud to get her. Her belly now in the wet sloppy mud, she went for the checkered flag and put her head down with a final defiant squish.

One word echoed in my head. It started as a whisper, but had steadily increased in intensity. It wasn’t a nice word when misused, but it applied, and its double meaning appealed to my literary sensibilities. My eyes narrowed as Annie watched. Her head slid forward as she anticipated my next word. Overcome with frustration and resolved to let her know it, I let loose the word. In a low voice that only Annie could hear I growled, “Bitch!”

That’s what Annie had wanted all along. She had succesfully pushed by buttons and she knew it. Once the line had been crossed, she got up from the mud with a slurp, then ran at me at flank speed. Anger turned to fear as I considered the possibility of 100 pounds of muddy Landseer Newfoundland taking me down. On the video that I was shooting, there was a noticeable lack of my previous resolve as I exclaimed “Oh crap!”

She veered off at the last second and ran to the opposite end of the yard. Lauren, her part in the training debacle since complete, stood on the deck and laughed.

The score as it now stands is Annie: 1, Gentle Leader: 0. A rematch has not yet been scheduled.

Annie and the Butter

Tasty Butter
Tasty Butter

Annie likes butter. No that’s not accurate; Annie loves butter. We’re not sure why. All we know is that she once she had a taste of it she’s done everything in her power to get more.

We have had whole sticks of butter disappear from the kitchen counter while Lauren prepared dinner. It doesn’t matter where on the counter the butter was placed. She can get it from the farthest reaches of any flat surface.

We have had entire sticks of butter deftly snatched from the refrigerator door while someone was busy reaching for something else. I would usually enter the scene with the kids chasing Annie while she trotted around the house with her tail in the air and a stick of butter hanging from her mouth. As I’d watch in the typical bewilderment of a confused father, snippets of the song Yakety Sax would echo in my head.

Annie will often sit next to someone at the dinner table, leaning against them while begging for affection. Being a clever girl, she picks the person who’s either near the butter, or who is eating something with butter on it. She will often sit next to one of the kids while they enjoy their summer corn on the cob. They’ll give her some pets, eat some corn, then when they’re not looking, Annie will lean in, reach out with her long tongue and take a leasurly lick of the salty melted stuff.

Annie, being part ferret, can lean her head over backwards and to the side to get the precious butter. She will sit next to someone who is not eating a buttered treat, then contort herself over to the person next to them when no one is looking. It’s like having a black and white octopus at the dinner table. Those of you with resident octopuses will know what I mean.

Sometimes our Annie has no patience for subterfuge. On these days she will use the shock of a frontal attack to her advantage. Lauren will be sitting opposite me at the end of the table. The butter will be near the edge, being the last item to be placed since it’s (barely) safer on the counter. After we all sit down and start eating, Annie will just walk up and lick the butter right there in front of God and everyone. Since we’re usually waiting for some sort of sly maneuver, she sometimes gets a couple of licks in before Lauren yells “Hey!” and snatches the butter away. Annie then slinks off to plan her next move while the rest of us laugh.

Part of the problem is that while the person who’s butter gets licked is usually quite offended, the rest of us laugh like idiots. I guess we’re all just enablers in this house. I find it interesting that these shenanigans rarely happen on my side of the table though. Annie knows who the Alpha is in this house – at least when I’m looking. Of course we’re all eating freshly licked sticks of butter so I guess the joke is on me.


Death of a Remote Control

Annie's Latest Hit - Side One
Annie's Latest Hit - Side One

This is a crime with only circumstantial evidence, a pretty clear motive, and two suspects.

Two dogs were left alone for most of the day. At the end of said day, one universal remote control lay in critical condition. The culprit? That’s open for discussion. Of the two suspects, Annie has the longer rap sheet. Guinness, the resident good dog, has not been known to chew anything except marrow bones. We try not to jump to conclusions though, since we’ve been wrong before.

We had gone into the city to see a museum with the kids, so we were gone almost nine hours. Remarkably, this was the only thing destroyed in the house while we were gone.  We’d not left them alone for so long before and expected destruction on a biblical scale upon our return. Idle paws are the devil’s playground as it were.

Of course the remote control’s death is my fault. I should have known better than to leave anything so deliciously tempting out in the open. I’d become complacent from leaving it out without incident for so long. This time though, the limits of Newfy boredom were tested – and surpassed. Alas, the remote control was within the newfound limits. The sad part (to me) is that I had just programmed it so that it operated all of our many devices just the way I liked. Such is life.

I supposed I should consider us lucky. This remote was only $40 or so. The $150 remote was safe in the drawer while the drama unfolded. I liked this one better though. We’re just happy that she whoever did this didn’t eat the batteries.

Ceramic Chew Toy
Hand Painted Ceramic Chew Toy

We later discovered further evidence of wrongdoing upstairs. As Lauren was making dinner, Colleen walked in asking, “Where do you want this?” She was holding Lauren’s hand made ceramic olive oil dispenser.

Colleen had found the dispenser on the living room couch. This was significant because we were all pretty certain that we had last seen it on the lazy Susan in the middle of the dining room table. Also significant was the fact that the jug was empty, where earlier in the day it had been at least partially full.

Forensics analysis seemed to indicate that Annie someone had carefully taken the jug from the center of the table, carefully carried it across first a tile and then a hardwood floor, then gently placed it on the couch. Annie Whoever it was  then gently chewed off the rubber stopper from the jug (apparently consuming the tasty rubber bits) and carefully consumed all the precious nectar contained therein. All without so much as a chip in the ceramic glaze.

There was no mess; no puddle of oil. There was no indication that there had been a crime aside from the misplaced decanter of oil. If Annie the perpetrator had been smart enough to put the jug back, we would have never known until we went to pour some sweet tasty oil. It might have been weeks before we would have discovered the empty container. Luckily, our dogs don’t have opposable thumbs or the common decency to clean up after themselves.


What it Takes to be a Published Author

Being a published author, I am constantly told what an amazing achievement it is. I agree, but I’ve accomplished other things in my life that were much more difficult. I have a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do for example. Still, there is something mystical to most people about being published that transcends other accomplishments. Perhaps we all lust for fame. Though I’m far from famous, if you google my name, my webpage or book will come up first. I guess I’m the most famous Gary A. Donahue on the Internet today. All because I’m a published author.

So what does it take to be a published author? It takes more than being a writer. A writer is someone who writes. Anyone can be a writer. To be a published author, you need to, well, be published. In my experience, here are some of the reasons that I’m published: (more…)

What You Should Capture, and Why

GAD's Dad & GAD
GAD's Dad & GAD in 1970

I have a family page that is private and only shared with family and friends. It contains images dating back to 1964. This site has taken me many hours of design, coding and other miscellaneous work over the years. I first made the site in 1999 so that my mother could see photos of my kids as they grew without having to wait for me to mail them. This was a great idea because I never mailed photos. The site has grown to a 40,000 image archive of my life, and the lives of my family. It is now a cherished heirloom.

The images contained in the site from the 60’s and 70’s are, for the most part, scanned from 30-40 year old slides. Many have deteriorated over time. I have endeavored to “fix” them as much as possible, but for many the damage of years of storage is too great to overcome. It gives me great solace to think that they will now be archived as digital replicas, thus progressing my father’s early photographic visions into the age of computers. He would have been absolutely thrilled at the idea. (more…)

GAD’s Digital Photo Management Scheme

Canon 1Ds Mark 2

I take the archiving of my digital photos seriously. My photos are the archived memories of my family. I have developed over the years, a means whereby I sort, store, and archive them. I’ve been asked repeatedly how I do this, so I thought I would write it up once and for all.

I use a Canon 1Ds Mark II camera which is 16.7 Megapixels. I also shoot exclusively in Raw with the DSLR, which yields files that range in size between 13 and 22 megabytes each. Each of thes .CR2 raw files must be “developed” using special software. The resulting .jpg images create an additional file of about  two to four megabytes. Then I may crop or alter the file, making a new copy of the full-sized .jpg. Then there are the web-sized versions and the thumbnails which are only 100k or so. After all my editing, each single image capture from my camera might consume a total of 25 megabytes of disk space with all copies considered – more if there are many versions. (more…)

Annie and the Screen Door – Part II

The Heebie Jeebies
The Heebie Jeebies

Eighteen hours.

That’s how long the new screen door survived. We enjoyed the bug-free environment while it lasted, but alas, it was not meant to be. I know what you’re thinking. Let me help you to remove all doubt; Annie did it. This time there was no malice of forethought – no desire to do wrong. At least none that we could prove.

Annie had ruined the original screen weeks ago. I only bought a new one yesterday because the mosquitoes moved in with us. Without a screen door to keep them at bay, hoards of the winged bloodsuckers had flown into our house to feast on our warm bodies while we slept. While I’m fairly obsessive about keeping the doors locked at night, during the day they’re left open while we’re home. We don’t have air conditioning, so leaving the door open is the only way to get a breeze in that part of the house. With no screen to protect us, the insects had come a-callin’. Since Lauren had talked me out of hunting all the tiny vampires with my shotgun, I did the next best thing and bought a new screen door. Even with today’s prices, ammo would have been cheaper.

Annie is still a ferret puppy, and is therefore prone to attacks of crazed energy that my mother would call “the heebie-jeebies”. Regardless of where she finds herself during such an episode, she proceeds to run at flank speed until meeting an obstruction or simply deciding to change course. She then digs in and rebounds to run in a different direction, repeating the madness until boredom or exhaustion overtakes her. This maniacal behavior can happen at any time, but we’ve learned to expect it just after dinner. Yesterday was no exception, and Annie ran outside like a squirrel on a Red-Bull bender.

Deep in the midst of the heebie jeebies, Annie apparently decided that it was time to come back inside. As usual she ran up the 14 steps in two leaps, then rounding the corner of the deck, headed for the door. Without missing a beat, she continued her charge and leapt once more, soaring through the air towards the open door. This was the same door that had been open for weeks allowing her unfettered access to the house – the same door that had recently been covered with a new $128.95 screen.

The screen fought valiantly. Even with Annie’s considerable kinetic energy, the screen seemed to hold. Annie was the image of taught-muscled youth as she flew through the air. Her 100 ferret-pounds of mass met the screen dead center, her body crumpling into the tortured screen as the sickening sound of tearing fabric filled the air. As the door flexed under the attack, the force of impact caused the screen to tear perfectly across the bottom and halfway up one side. With the energy remaining from the impact, the screen ejected Annie unceremoniously to the deck. The battle was over; the screen had won. Though the screen had given its life to protect us from the large flying pest, it had successfully kept her out. Annie sat on the deck, no doubt confused by the sudden resistance where previously there had been none.

The screen had been here for all of 18 hours before it met its demise. Actually the screen still works pretty well, so I suppose it’s not a total loss. Because the screen tore on the edges, the door almost looks normal. Besides, now the dogs can come and go as they please through the new flap.  Marketing folks might even call it a design enhancement. My sanity on the other hand has taken another step down the very dark stairway to madness. Though I can’t see the bottom, I don’t think that there are many steps left.


Annie and the Screen Door

Annies Naughty Nose
Annie's Naughty Nose

We have a new screen door.

No I have not succumbed to pointless (and seemingly ubiquitous) “I’m making coffee!” blog entries. This screen door, like everything else it seems, is directly tied to Annie.

When we moved into our house back in 1997, the house had just been refitted with then-new Anderson windows and sliding glass doors. There are two beautiful sliding patio doors in our house; one upstairs in the dining room, and one downstairs in the family room. These sliding doors are our primary means of egress to the deck and back yard, so they are used frequently throughout the day.

The doors used to have beautiful wooden panels on the large sheets of glass. A matrix of intersecting decorative wooden strips made the doors look like they were made from 12 small panes of glass. They looked nice until Cozy learned to paw at the door to go out. Cozy eventually destroyed these strips, so for the past five years or so, the doors have been unadorned. Annie would have no doubt destroyed them anyway.

At some point in the past, Cozy had torn the screen on the upstairs door. The tear wasn’t large – maybe a few inches, and though ugly, the tear did not greatly affect the screen’s ability to keep bugs out. Then we got Annie.

Annie discovered that she could fit her pointy little ferret nose into this opening. She also discovered, that if she pushed, she could make the hole bigger! Bad dog!

I like to believe that there is a degree of decorum in my house. There is not of course, but I like to believe there are rules that was as civilized people try to follow. We all follow the unspoken rule that when having nice things, we must not destroy them lest they become ugly – or worse – useless things. Annie is a free spirit, who has no use for rules – especially unspoken ones.

One fine day, Annie was trying to get inside. I’m not sure why – zombies in the yard maybe? We do have a bit of a zombie problem here in New Jersey. Whatever the reason, Annie stood at the door, woofed her little ferret woof, and becoming impatient with our inaction, pushed her nose onto the screen as dogs often do. Annie is no ordinary dog though.

Annie the ferret-dog pushed her nose into the hole just as I walked up. “Annie NO!” I yelled as I ran up to stop her. Feeling panicked, she did what any crazed 100 pound puppy-ferret would do; she pushed.

I couldn’t get there in time. I tried – I swear that I tried. I can vividly remember the sound. The awful sound of tearing screen fabric as Annie’s black and white nose with that cute patch of white came pushing through the tear. As if watching a demonic birth, the head came next. It was horrifying!

The closer I got to the wicked beast, the more agitated she got. Being fully committed she had made her choice. In one final push, 100 pounds of black and white mayhem came through the screen. What had been a three inch hole was now a tear that my eight-year-old could walk through. Annie, now inside, wisely ran to hide behind Lauren. In the stunned silence, all that could be heard was mumbled obscenities while I stood and stared at the wrecked door.

Guinness, having been out on the deck watching, waited for the excitement to end. As if nothing had  happened, he got up, and walked through the new opening that Annie had so thoughtfully provided.

Yesterday, I bought a new sliding screen door for the kitchen. Are there any bets as to how long it will last?


Annie Gets the Apples

Annie, unable to get into the cabinet since I welded it shut (with a plastic child-lock), decided to hunt elsewhere for snacks today. While I was out writing at an air-conditioned Starbucks, Lauren and the kids went to the lake to be with her sister and nephews. Annie, who apparently had not been sufficiently fed – or perhaps entertained – still needed her snacks. A girl’s got to eat after all.

Being at war with a hyperactive 100 pound juvenile ferret makes us do things that other people might find odd. For example whenever Lauren leaves the house, she puts the kitchen trash can in the bathroom, and the fruit bowl in the microwave. That may seem strange in your house, but I assure you that it is quite normal in our little corner of the Newfy asylum.

Upon Lauren’s return from the lake, she discovered Guinness happily munching on a peach pit. What the Hell? But the fruit bowl is… empty on the counter. It didn’t even look like it had been moved.

We’re still unsure about Guinness’ role in all of this. He was found with a peach pit, so he is at least an accessory to fruit theft, but it’s possible that he simply found it when everyone came upstairs. I think we might need to set up the old Newf-Cam again.

Today’s score from the monochromatic bandit was five apples and a peach. There were no remains to be identified from the apple family. The peach pit was given a proper burial… in the bathroom where the kitchen trash remains.