Today in History: The Great New England Hurricane of 1938

Today is the 82nd anniversary of the day the “Long Island Express” came ashore on Long Island, New York.  This is the storm that my grandparents’ generation always talked about when they talked about how bad hurricanes in New England could get.

Pretty damn bad.

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A Civil War hero had his statue destroyed last night

It is hard for me to write in general these days, because there is so much going on that depresses me and things just continually seem to get worse.  It constantly feels like things are on the precipice of getting completely out of hand, and our national leadership seems intent on saying and doing things that generally don’t help and sometimes actually make things worse.

I suppose that compared to a deadly global pandemic, economic disaster, and widespread civil unrest across the country, the loss of a single statue in Madison, Wisconsin, is not that big a deal.  But I still can’t help but feel a little affected by the destruction of the statue of Colonel Hans Christian Heg last night.

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Welcome our new family member

After filling out many applications for many different dogs, Kelly and I were finally approved for adoption of a lovely little girl.

Everyone, meet The Baroness Nymeria Frieda von Hopkins-Michael. Her friends call her Nymeria. She is a short-haired dapple red boar mini-dachshund weighing about 8 pounds with startling blue eyes. She came from a rescue called Out of the Woods Rescue.

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Dash and Nymeria enjoy a sunbeam together in our kitchen near the door to the deck.

Like her dearly missed older sister, Thumbelina, she is a puppy mill rescue. Nymeria comes from Pennsylvania, in Amish country. She did not even have a name, just a tag that said “11”.

Nymeria enjoys some time in the big bed.

She was born in September 2016 so she is about 3 1/2 years old. So she is by far the baby of the household now, which is kind of ironic since she has had a litter of puppies every heat since she was able. This poor little girl lived in a rabbit hutch with a wire floor for pretty much her entire life, until she was rescued.

Nymeria working on her tan on the back porch.

Still, she seems to be in pretty good shape considering all she has been through. She has her appointment with our vet scheduled this next weekend, but her foster mom, Chrissy, and the good folks at Out of the Woods did an amazing job with her initial shots, her spay, and her dental in which she lost17 teeth!

They love spending time together. It really was love at first sight.

She is full of energy and has a great sense of curiosity. So far she gets along well with all the other animals. Just this weekend she touched noses with Violet, which was a huge and pleasant surprise. There were cats in her foster hom who she apparently ignored, but Violet was very concerned upon her arrival. But she doesn’t seem interested in chasing them, and so far she has only had a passing interest in them at all.

She and Dash LOVE to play together, and it’s great because now he will be worn out enough to go to bed without much fuss, the way he would after a long day of walking around at Brimfield.

She is named after Nymeria, one of the direwolves from ASOIAF/Game of Thrones, and after Frieda, a character from Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.

The good folks at Out of the Woods Rescue sent us home with food, medicine, toys, and so much more. I can’t tell you how thankful we were for their treatment of our still scared but wonderful little girl. If you are so inclined, please celebrate with us by making a donation so they can continue their excellent work.

~Geoff & Kelly

Thumbelina Anne Hopkins Michael, Ph.D. – October 30, 2001 – March 8, 2020

I’ll be honest, I have been dreading writing this since the day I realized I’d have to do it. I know that when we take an animal into our home we get the better end of the deal. We provide them with food, shelter, medical care, and love and in exchange they give us everything – absolute love, cuddles, comic relief – in short their whole entire selves. The hardest part of the bargain is that we have to help them leave this world when they’re ready to go.

Watching from above.

Rarely are we gifted with an animal that falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. We live in a world where we have veterinary medicine that keeps them healthy through ailments that once would have killed them. We owe them this considering their domestication, the jobs they do for us, and their overpopulation – a problem we’ve created.

But it doesn’t make it any less heart rending to hold them and release them from their pain when the end is finally here. And, after 18 years, that’s what we had to do for Thumbelina yesterday. It was time.

Keeping watch on the front steps of our old apartment.

Thumbelina came into my life through the now defunct PuppymillRescue.com (PMR). They got dogs out of puppy mills, mostly in Missouri and other high mill states, and got them into foster care and then good homes. I had always wanted a dachshund and after some terrible trauma in my early 20’s I was ready for a dog of my own. I did a lot of research. I checked a lot of dachshund specific rescues. But then I came across PMR and found Thumbelina’s page. I wasn’t particularly looking for a puppy, but there she was.  Tiny, recently rescued from a broker after being nearly starved to death because it was “cheaper than shooting her,” and in her photo, proudly sitting on a Beanie Baby dachshund looking as though she’d subdued it. Yes.

That was my dog.

I filled out the application, submitted the references, notified my vet that someone would be calling, and had a home visit. There was also a phone interview and then the waiting. And the waiting. I was sure Thumbelina and I were meant to be together.

And I was right, I got a call that I’d been selected as her forever home. It was a matter of making arrangements to go get her in Missouri where she was in her foster home. That was one of the happiest days of my life.

I flew out to get her, brought her back on her first flight of many over the years, and Thumbelina became a Boston dog, all in one day.

Over the years she would become a foster sister to two other PMR dachshunds who went on to forever homes of their own, appear on stage in Gypsy at Suffolk University, on Chronicle, in newsprint, on Boston.com, appear in a marketing film at a former employer, win awards for obedience and tricks, and be responsible for me meeting not only some of my closest friends, but Geoff as well.

Doing tricks at the dog park
Sitting pretty at the dog park

I’m in my 40’s and Thumbelina was with me since my 20’s. In all that time she cuddled up under the covers with me every night except for maybe two-three weeks in total. She was my constant companion and a very real extension of me. She was my best friend, my little clown, my stubborn little life saver, and so much more that I can’t even articulate right now. Not having her here as I write this feels as if a limb has gone to sleep and I can’t wake it up.

She was more intelligent and intuitive than many/most humans I know and it is absolutely without hyperbole that I tell you that I would not be here to write this if it were not for her tiny little 9lb cuddles, her sniff of consternation, her comic relief, her head butting, and her anticipating my needs. She was a once in a lifetime dog, and I am better for having had her in my life. Thank you, baby girl.

Thumbelina found her sea legs and climbed up on the rope pile.
From a long ago trip to Mystic Seaport.

She is preceded to the bridge by her elder brothers Rerun, Bucky, and Smoky and by so many canine, feline, and human friends and family. Donations in her memory may be made to the MSPCA, where both she and Rerun crossed the bridge.

Rest well my darling, someday I will see you again.

Kelly

I’d be remiss not to add a special thank you to Dr. Barbara Bower at the South Bay Veterinary Group who has been Thumbelina’s primary doctor for I don’t know how many years now. She’s been kind, steady, compassionate, and generous with her care, presence, and heart all through Thumbelina’s golden years. I’ve been bringing animals to South Bay for more than 20 years and it is because of vets like her that I will continue to do so. My life and the lives of the animals in it are enriched immeasurably by her and the care of the staff there.

The famous photo that made it to the Pets section at Boston.com

Choose Your Own Christmas Card

Or Holiday/Yule/Festivus/Kwanzaa/New Year/Whatever card. You do you. You have choices between three photos this year, pick the one that best suits you. Or go for all/none of them, we’re ecumenical here at Casa Dachshund.

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The Battle of Fredericksburg as my ancestor saw it

The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought from December 11th to December 15th, 1862.  Among the 120,000 or so Union soldiers in the Army of the Potomac was a 36 year old French-Canadian immigrant named Moises Beaulieu.  Moises had enlisted in June 1861 in Company A of the 11th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment (sometimes known as the Boston Volunteers) and thus had already been in the Union army for some 18 months when he found himself on the bank of the Rappahannock River across from the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Major General Ambrose Burnside, a Rhode Islander who had risen from Colonel of the 1st Rhode Island to commander of the army, was waiting for pontoons to arrive so bridges could be built across the river. At that time the 11th Massachusetts was in Brigadier General Joseph Carr’s brigade, of Brigadier General Dan Sickles’ Second Division of George Stoneman’s Third Corps, part of the Center Grand Division commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker.

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Today in history: the Medal of Honor is authorized by Congress

It was on July 12th, 1862 that “A Resolution to provide for the Presentation of “Medals of Honor” to the Enlisted Men of the Army and Volunteer Forces who have distinguished, or may distinguish, themselves in Battle during the present Rebellion” was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.

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Gettysburg: the Second Day, as my ancestor saw it

When the men of the 11th Massachusetts awoke on July 2nd, they saw that the Confederates had occupied parts of the Emmitsburg Road, which the regiment and the rest of their division had used to march to the battlefield.  That morning was cloudy and threatened rain, but by noon the clouds had all disappeared.  At 3 PM that afternoon the entire Third Corps moved forward from its position on Cemetery Ridge to occupy the slightly higher ground in front of them.  The Second Division, under General Andrew A. Humphreys, was on the right, lined up along the Emmitsburg Road.  This included the 11th Massachusetts, which found itself on the farm belonging to an older couple named Peter and Susan Rogers.  The single-story log house and the barn provided some concealment, at least from the sun,  for some of the men of the 11th Massachusetts.  The Rogers’ granddaughter, a young woman named Josephine Miller, insisted on staying so she could bake bread for the Union troops, as well as serve them cold water and occasionally sell them a chicken.

Josephine MIller with stove
An older Josephine Miller, now married, was asked to come to Gettysburg to meet with some of the veterans when they put up their monuments. Here she poses with the original stove in which she baked bread, like the loaf she is holding. This photo was taken in the 1880s when the monument to the 1st Massachusetts (another regiment in the same brigade as the 11th) was dedicated.

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Today in History – the Battle of Little Bighorn

June 25th is one of those days that is permanently in my memory because of a historical event.  Today, it is the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn, the battle during the Great Sioux War of 1876 in which Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry Regiment under his command were wiped out by a much larger force of Native Americans.  Since my teenage years, my view of the battle has been largely shaped by a (somewhat) obscure book called Son of the Morning Star, by Evan S. Connell.

That book would eventually inspire a made-for-television movie of the same name, a movie that I really liked, despite its flaws and its general commercial failure.  Connell’s book was adapted into a screenplay by Melissa Mathison, who took Connell’s book and adapted it into a tale told by two women with very different perspectives: Libbie Custer (played by Rosanna Arquette) and Kate Bighead (voiced by Buffy Sainte-Marie and played by Demina Becker as a girl and Kimberly Guerrero as an adult).

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Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon Custer, probably circa 1865

It is largely because of Libbie Custer that her husband’s reputation and his memory in general did not suffer as much, at least for the first century or so after his death.  And frankly, it probably should have suffered.  Custer was brash, egotistical, vain, stubborn, and reckless with the lives of those who he led.  There is a reason he graduated dead last in his West Point class of 1861.  He was a controversial figure while he was alive, much less afterward.  It is largely because of Libby Custer that the view of Custer as a tragic hero perpetuated for so long (see the movie They Died With Their Boots On, with Custer portrayed by Errol Flynn).

But what actually happened at Little Bighorn is much more complex than what was portrayed in popular culture for so long.  And Son of the Morning Star (the book AND the movie) does a much better job than anything before or since in portraying the battle and what happened.  That’s my opinion, for whatever it’s worth.  Here’s a clip of the opening titles and scene, where the column under General Alfred Terry (played by Terry O’Quinn!) arrives on the battlefield to see they have missed the fight.  Note also Captain Frederick Benteen played by David Strathairn.  Also note that the story is largely narrated by the two women.

I don’t know if this film will ever find its way to DVD, much less Blu-Ray, but it should.

~Geoff

Happy Juneteenth, everyone!

Today is the 154th anniversary of the day that slavery ended in the state of Texas, the last part of the Confederacy where slavery had survived.  On June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger, the commander of the District of Texas for the Union Army, stood on the balcony of Ashton Villa on Galveston Island and read aloud “General Order No. 3” to the crowd that had gathered.  The order began:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

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Ashton Villa, now a restored building on the National Register of Historic Places.

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