Our holiday card for 2021

Well, another tough year has gone by, thanks to Covid 19 (again).

This year has been particularly eventful, as Kelly started grad school in January of 2021, we sold our house in Winthrop, and are both currently looking to change jobs so we can buy a house in southeast Vermont, preferably in Windham County and specifically in Brattleboro. We are also considering Bellows Falls, as it is nearby and also is on Amtrak. It also happens to be where Kelly’s dad was born.

We don’t own this mug, yet.

There are a lot of reasons we decided to do this, but perhaps the biggest and most important was we decided we really wanted to get away from the insanity of Boston traffic and the nightmare of a Boston commute. We got to try it out somewhat while we were working from home in Winthrop because of Covid, and we decided we really liked it.

However, we also quickly discovered that no matter what we did, we continued to have internet connectivity problems and that was especially frustrating. No matter what we tried, we could not get a reliable Internet connection. We had people from Comcast at the house multiple times trying to figure out what was wrong. We ended up replacing all of the cable on the outside of the house, going all the way to the utility pole, as well as replacing all the cable inside the house, plus getting a new modem (twice). We tried putting the modem in a more central location (located right next to Kelly’s computer in her “office”, which was the guest bedroom). It didn’t work. We still had connectivity problems of one sort or another and when you are paying almost $300 a month for cable, phone, and Internet, that gets old rather quickly.

Discussions with other people who lived in Winthrop revealed that they too had connectivity problems. It seemed to be a widespread problem there. So we began to think about moving, and eventually we became convinced that we would be better off living somewhere far from Boston traffic and Boston cost of living. We could get a bigger, maybe even a nicer, house and a larger yard for the dogs and for gardening and still come out with a smaller mortgage payment than what we were currently paying. It was a no-brainer. We could also end up in a place with a higher vaccination rate and a higher percentage of mask wearing. Winthrop, and particularly our next door neighbor, was a Covid hotspot from the jump and our next door neighbor was a maskhole.

So where to go, then? We started looking in Western Massachusetts (we are still looking there, at least somewhat) but soon expanded our search into southern Vermont. We quickly began to fall in love with the Brattleboro area, as we had a lovely time every time we went to visit. All the people we met in Brattleboro and its environs were friendly and welcoming. It really is remarkable how consistently and continuously we had positive interactions with people there. Likewise Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the nation and people are smart about masking.

So we packed up the house, and of course that in itself was quite the adventure as it involved both PODS and U-Haul and some less-than-ideal interactions with both companies that caused delays. Although we packed up in July with the hope of getting the house ready to be put on the market by Labor Day, that didn’t happen. Various delays put it off until almost the end of September. Still, we had the house on the market on a Friday and we had an offer at our full asking price by Monday. We worked with RedFin to sell the house and it was a great experience.

Another problem we had to solve was what to do with our kitties, Scratch and Violet. We couldn’t take them to the long-term hotel with us (we were already bringing Dash and Nymeria) and for a long time we could not find anyone who could board them. Finally we got lucky and some friends said they could put the kitties up for as long as we needed and at a very friendly rate. So the kitties went off to what we are calling “kitty summer camp” although by now it has already lasted into winter. Still, they seem to be doing well and we are very grateful for that. We do miss them and look forward to being reunited with them in 2022.

The hotel has turned out to be ok so far, although we have also had some problems here that needed to be solved. Still, it could be much worse, and at this point we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We hope to be in our new house, wherever it may be, in 2022 and settle in with our kitties and puppies in what will hopefully be a better space for them as well. Remarkably, living in the hotel has been a good experience for Nymeria, who has gone far in coming out of her shell and learning to trust us. She has even begun to approach other people for pets, which we think is remarkable and fills us with joy every time we see her do it. She and Dash have gotten to spend a lot of time with us and go on regular walks which does all of us some good.

So we hope that everyone else has had, if not a good year, at least not had too traumatic a year. Hopefully Covid 19 will be conquered in the new year, as long as people aren’t too stupid about everything. I know, it’s a lot to ask, frankly, but we can still hope that common sense will win out.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

~Geoff

Past holiday cards are here: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

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.

Continue reading “Choose Your Own Christmas Card”

Ah, summer…

Yes, summer is really here, and today the temperature here in Winthrop by the Sea has reached 93 degrees, with a heat index of 100.  So naturally, this is when our air conditioner decides to partially break down.  We have AC in the basement (where it is least needed) and partially on the first floor, but it basically isn’t working at all on the second floor and so the temperature in our bedroom hit 85 degrees in the shade.  We are temporarily sleeping in the basement on the sleeper sofa until the HVAC guys can come on Monday.

The only one of us who seems totally unaffected is Violet.  She doesn’t seem to mind the heat at all.  Scratch, on the other hand, has camped out in the basement with us and the dogs.

A Visit to Winthrop by Saint Nicholas

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, especially not a mouse.
The children were snoring all snug in our bed,
And I killed time as sermon number two was said.

Geoff read his history book in the loft,
After the last high notes of the night, I coughed.
We stumbled on home as the clock struck three,
And were greeted by Dash who needed to pee.

After feeding each dog and both of the cats,
We took off our coats, shoes, and hats.
With dawn fast approaching we took to our bed,
With visions of sleeping late stuck in our heads.

When in the back yard there arose such a clatter,
Dash sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
A dachshund stampede that was gone in a flash,
I groaned, shook my head, and then muttered “DASH!”

The moon couldn’t shine off of non-existent snow
(No White Christmas for us this year as you know),
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a flying sleigh, and nine panting reindeer.

My first thought was that I must be sick,
“There’s no way that I could be seeing St. Nick!”
More rapid than eagles his nine reindeer came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
And RUDOLPH!  Keep that nose of yours shining with light!
There’ll be no mid-air sleigh collisions tonight!”

As a ball when it meets Teddy Ballgame would fly,
The reindeer and sleigh fiercely arced through the sky,
And up to the house-top the reindeer they flew,
And suddenly I wondered what Santa would do.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The pounding and scratching of each reindeer hoof.
I wondered whether Santa had already found,
That we have no chimney! And two small loud hounds!

I blinked to be sure of what I was seeing
When I realized that, yep, Rudolph was peeing.
Santa hopped out of the sleigh and dusted his clothes,
He strode across the yard like someone who knows.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all dirty with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had crammed in a sack,
He looked like Mall Santa, coffee break over, heading back.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
He laughed as he kicked off melting ice and slush,
“Good God,” I said, “Santa Claus is a lush.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
So naturally we started to hear a loud screech.
“The smoke alarm! Where’s the stepladder to reach?”

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
Not anything like that creepy one on the shelf;
Then I saw he had another bag, packed full of coal,
And I wondered where he’d found it at the North Pole.

He saw the look on my face, and he smiled as he said
“Don’t worry, there’s no reason for you to feel dread.
That coal’s for the White House, they’ve all been quite bad,
Ivanka, Jr., Eric, and ESPECIALLY their dad!”

“But Santa,” I said, “do you have anything more?
Robert Mueller works very hard on this terrible chore.”
He chuckled and said in his cheery slurred speech,
“Fear not, they’ve got all that they need to impeach!”

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
They flew low and away, to avoid any missiles.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL*, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

*Except certain people in DC.

Latest pictures of our little Violet

Violet definitely has her favorite spots in the house to sleep.  One of them is the basket that we made into a little cat bed.  It sits in the guest room (now unofficially called Violet’s room since she is the one who spends the most time in there) under the window.

This cat bed used to sit on top of the upright freezer in our kitchen in the old place and Scratch and Bucky would sometimes battle over who got to sleep in it.  Now Violet is the only one who uses it.  

She also loves to sleep in the office up on the top floor, usually in the little cat hammock but not always.  Lately she likes to sleep under the desk when I am sitting there at the computer working.

I love that she wants to be nearby whenever I am in the office. It is quite endearing.

Yesterday when Kelly was up here practicing her music Violet also came up here to sit with her and listen.

We really lucked out to get a little kitty with such a sweet disposition.

~Geoff

Take cover, little dachshunds – winter has come

Yesterday we had our first major snow event since we bought our house in Winthrop, and what do you know, it turned out to be a blizzard.

Dash Linus was not impressed.

Rerun had a protective blanket of fear. Dash prefers the whole bed.
Rerun had a protective blanket of fear. Dash prefers the whole bed.

Since Kelly and I were stuck at home yesterday, we had a marathon viewing of Season Six of Game of Thrones, just to watch it all again.  So it was so very appropriate when we re-watched the scene where the white ravens were sent out to announce the arrival of winter.  When I got up this morning, the temperature was 12 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of about -20.  When I went outside this morning, the winds had blown the snow around quite a bit, which at least made a pretty picture in the back yard.

I do love winter landscapes, even though they mean I have a lot of shoveling ahead of me.
I do love winter landscapes, even though they mean I have a lot of shoveling ahead of me.

It looked like we had gotten about a foot of snow, at least when I was out clearing the walks.

One of our neighbors kindly cleared most of the driveway and part of the walk for us with a snowblower. We love Winthrop.
One of our neighbors kindly cleared most of the driveway and part of the walk for us with a snowblower. We love Winthrop.

Officially, we got around 11 inches of snow, according to Boston.com.  As you can also see on that data table later in the article, the wind was blowing pretty hard – it got to over 50 mph here.  At one point yesterday afternoon when Kelly and I looked out the window, we could not see more than 100 yards or so.

So puppies did not go out a lot yesterday.  This morning Dash was excited that he was finally going to get to go outside, but he became much less excited when he realized that conditions were still far less than ideal for anyone really close to the ground.

Dash had gone out, turned around then went over to the generator to do his business. Note the lack of a Thumbelina in this photo.
Dash had gone out, turned around then went over to the generator to do his business. Note the lack of a Thumbelina in this photo.

Note that in the above photo, we are looking out onto our concrete patio, which is covered by our deck.  So all of that snow you see out to the support beams was blown in by the wind.  I’m just glad we didn’t have to try to crank up that generator.  That would have been truly awful.  As it was, Kelly and I were marveling over the difference in experiences between our new place and our old one.  At our old place, we would have been feeling terrible cold drafts even in our bedroom.

As it was, some members of the household decided that it was best if they stayed under blankets during the snowstorm.

Scratch doesn't get under blankets often, but when he does, you KNOW it's cold.
Scratch doesn’t get under blankets often, but when he does, you KNOW it’s cold.

Dash and Thumbelina also decided that it was best if they stayed in our bed.

Thumbelina likes to sleep like a person. I have no idea what Dash is trying to sleep like.
Thumbelina likes to sleep like a person. I have no idea what Dash is trying to sleep like.

And last but definitely not least, little Violet wanted me to come snuggle with her in “her” room (the guest bedroom) for a while.  She does this thing where she sees me, waits for me to walk up to her, then she jumps over the baby gate we have installed in the doorway of the guest room, then turns around to see if I am following her.  When I come through the gate, she will walk over to the bed and flop down on her favorite blanket, which is actually Kelly’s bathrobe.  And then it’s snuggle time.

She may just be the most adorable little baby kitteh ever.  And she probably knows it.
She may just be the most adorable little baby kitteh ever. And she probably knows it.

We may get even more snow this weekend, with predictions for “heavy” snow on Monday, although I have not yet seen any estimates of how much.

Stay warm, everyone.

-Geoff

This is Your Card – Our Annual Holiday Post

christmas-2016-card

Goodbye 2016, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.  All things being equal, this year was a social, geo-political, and popular culture disaster. From the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, Ron Glass, and Michelle McNamara, to Mohammed Ali, John Glenn, and Elie Wiesel, the list of those we mourn is really long and really hard.  Then again, Hell also got a little more crowded with the additions of Antonin Scalia, Fidel Castro, Rob Ford (the crack smoking Mayor of Toronto), Phyllis Schlafly, and Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan.
Continue reading “This is Your Card – Our Annual Holiday Post”

More kitteh and puppeh updates

We had our first real snow of the year this weekend.  The only animal that made it outside to run around in it was Dash, and he came right back in after running out to use the bathroom.

Continue reading “More kitteh and puppeh updates”

The world needs more cute kitteh pictures

So naturally, I thought I would oblige everyone with some new pics of the kittehs, especially little Violet.

This is Violet, mugging for the camera.
This is Violet, mugging for the camera.

Continue reading “The world needs more cute kitteh pictures”