Showing posts with label dogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dogs. Show all posts

07 January 2024

Caesar and the Hotbox

Kaiser Henry J (1951)
Kaiser Henry J (1951)

Last week, RT wrote about his family’s Christmas, which shared touchpoints with my family. Among other things, both families owned Kaisers, supposedly a bit ahead of the pack in styling. Of interest to mystery fans, Kaiser sponsored early Dumont Network Adventures of Ellery Queen television shows.

We experienced a somewhat different Christmas Kaiser story. I was too young to know details, but Dad scrapped one of the Kaisers. I think he swapped engines or something, but the vehicle disappeared leaving only its rugged windows which he used to make hotboxes.

Hotboxes or hotbeds (sometimes confusingly called cold frames) are miniature greenhouses, bottomless wood frames with glass lids. They trap heat, moisture, and sunlight, allowing seedlings to get an early start and extend the growing season through autumn.

Dad built a row of hotboxes between the grape arbor and the orchard. The salvaged windows were sturdy and couldn’t be broken under ordinary use. The last garden vegetables were harvested late in the year and the hotbox was tucked into its, er, hotbed until next spring. Snow came and covered the landscape, but heat retention melted it over the hotboxes, exposing the glass.

Rat Terrier
Rat Terrier ©

Did I mention our farm dogs? We had two, our venerable samoyed who looked like snow itself, and a ranch terrier named Caesar. It’s unfair to say Caesar was dumb just because he never studied Newtonian physics.

Ever watch a dog catch a frisbee? To calculate the launch point, speed, angle, curvature, and interception point requires an astonishing degree of calculus, and yet our dogs execute that program routinely. Just because Caesar skipped the class on heat conductivity and expansion would not normally have impacted his life. But miss that lesson he did and therein lies the flub.

So I’m outside in the snow and the terrier is out in the snow and the samoyed is out in the snow, and the fields and forests are beautiful on that gloriously cold day where temperatures hovered near zero Fahrenheit. Although I really wanted to tramp through the woods with my Red Ryder BB gun, I milked and fed and watered the livestock trailed by the dogs.

Last step was to feed the rabbits, stationed near the hotbeds. One of the hutches housed a peg-legged Bantam pullet that other poultry tormented. Thus Peggy lived amid the much nicer Easter bunnies.

So I was tending the rabbits and Caesar nosed along the hotboxes. He sniffed, and sniffed again. He raised his leg. Did I mention Caesar hadn’t passed the science section on heat expansion? In this case, ignorance was not bliss.

So he snuffled a box and raised a hind leg. He hovered. Some of you know what hovering is all about. His nose twitched. His bladder tickled. That signal in his canine brain switched on and, well you know, the tanks pressurized and began to expel warm body temperature liquid in a hot stream against cold glass and– here comes the physics lesson– it exploded.

Not like a cannonball, not like a bomb, but it exploded like tossing gasoline onto a fire with a deep, vibrant Whumph! Like a bull rider tossed from the back of a steer, the dog levitated sixteen feet in the air.

Caesar yelped an ancestral scream that harked back to Brutus and Cassius, a baying to end all bays, a yowl that echoed across the frozen landscape. Like a Tex Avery canine, his wheels were churning before he hit earth again. He shot through the orchard, ricochetting off trees and bouncing into sheds crying pitifully, not merely because his morning ceremony had been interrupted. The terrier was terrified.

Hotbox BC (before canine) Hotbox AD (after dog)
Hotbox BC (before canine)
Hotbox AD (after dog)

For the next week, he crossed and recrossed his legs, his eyes turning yellow from water retention. He slunk under one of the barns, peering out in fright.

Raccoons eventually evicted him and the day came when his urinary tract could bear no more. The samoyed and I politely turned our backs for the next twelve and a half minutes whilst Caesar drained the reservoirs and then collapsed in the snow.

The skittish dog could not be persuaded to attend our rabbits in the orchard. These were pre-cellular days, so he didn’t have to worry about anyone posting embarrassing videos on the Web. Still, word got around and squirrels would sneak up behind him, clap their paws and shout, “Bang!” and then laugh and laugh.

While he never fathered a pup, there’s no truth to the rumor Caesar went all friends-with-benefits with the cute spaniel in the next county or that her doggy-style birth control was a sharp bark.

Philologists might note that Kaiser is rooted in the word Caesar, but no one dared tell the dog. And that is the tale of Caesar and the Kaiser hotbox.

12 February 2023

Lost puppies and the consequences of silence

I often write about the lost puppies – the issues that impact our lives but are lost in silence.

I’ve written a few articles on grief following the death of Carol, my dearest friend. The immense loss and prolonged grief of losing a friend is not on most people's radar, so many don’t ask, don’t talk about this and leave it in the realm of silence.

Silence is the worst prescription for healing. I say this as a doctor with expertise and decades of clinical experience in mental health. Yes, I’m that kind of doctor and that is exactly why I write about the lost puppy issues – to bring them out of the dark, silent places into the chatty, healing light.

Here I am again, on a lost puppy issue and this one is literally, and not just figuratively, about puppies.

Let me introduce you to Kai, my 100 pound Bouvier.

We met her as a tiny 15 pound puppy and, when flying her home from Toronto, Carol met us at the airport because she was always the first to meet all my dogs and children. Carol held Kai and, when she saw my look of longing to hold the pup, Carol responded by saying, “You have a lifetime to hold her, let me have this.” Yes, Carol was that kind of friend who could read my mind.

When Kai came home, she refused to be crated or even lie on the floor quietly. Unlike any other dog I’ve had, she wanted to be carried. At some point that night, out of sheer exhaustion, I carried her onto the bed and fell asleep with her. She slept the whole night, didn’t wet the bed and our nightly routine of sleeping together began. Kai was the first dog in 30 years of living with dogs that had done this. 

From the start, Kai was a calm but ardent student of language - a true kindred spirit. She listened carefully and developed an understanding of many words and phrases. As a family, we have had to modify our conversations so that Kai didn’t get excited about things we talked about in the past. We tried spelling words, but she soon picked up spelling too so woe to anyone who mentioned or spelled ‘car’ because that’s where you’d end up taking her.

Kai proved to a dog who not only remembers language but also music, so watching TV became difficult. She would rush into the room if she heard a familiar tune for an ad with a dog and then bark at the intruder. Kai also understands the meaning of music, so any music that sounded violent or frightening during a film would elicit barking. Luckily, I'm happier reading than watching TV.

When Kai went to obedience classes, she progressed so quickly that she was kicked out of advanced obedience because of boredom and put into a more challenging therapy dog course at the age of seven months. She sailed through that. She was a natural student, curious and calm.

When Carol got a cancer diagnosis, I flew back and forth to Toronto and Kai knew when I was leaving and that displeased her. She’s a bouvier, so her displeasure was signalled not by whining or acting out but by a calm, sad look. When I got back, I was often gutted, more so as it became evident that Carol was dying, and Kai was there by my side. Refusing to leave me even for a minute. Bouviers are work dogs and I suspect she was trying to fix me. I appreciated the effort. 

In my mind, Carol and Kai are forever linked. I spoke to both of them constantly and both understood the important things I felt. 

 The last few weeks have been difficult. Kai was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy - the normal prognosis is six months to a year - much shorter than our expectations of having her for 5 years more.

We’re working off the hypothesis that this may be food related and reversible but it may not be. Regardless, I will lose this dog one day - sooner or later.

All the research on loss of a beloved pet shows that it can impact us as much as any loss with one important difference: the ability of those around us to understand the extent of this loss. When we experience grief, our brains undergo physical changes that can affect our thought processes and emotions. If the individual who is sick and dying is a husband, wife or child, people understand more easily and allow us to speak. This social support is a crucial ingredient in recovering from grief of all kinds but, as we know, many people think that pets are less important than people so many pet owners grieve in silence. 

If we stay silent, then all sorts of things grow: loneliness, bitterness, cynicism and anger. The consequences of silence are not merely unpleasant - they can be dangerous if they blossom into mental health issues like depression and suicidal ideation or even anger management issues.

There are consequences to silence on all issues of import and that is why we should all be brave – speak up.

22 October 2022

A Look Behind the Names

Well, only a little bit is by me today.  Instead, it's my pleasure to welcome friend, colleague, and fellow Canuck Judy Penz Sheluk to these pages.  Judy hits on a topic particularly dear to my heart. I'll tell you why after her post.
— Melodie

A Look Behind the Names

by Judy Penz Sheluk

If you follow me on social media, you'll know I'm the owner of  Golden Retriever named Gibbs (after Leroy Jethro Gibbs of the long-running TV show NCIS). Gibbs, who will turn seven on October 15, is a good dog who lives up to the stubborn streak of his namesake and the Semper Fi (always faithful) motto of the marine corp.

Now, you might be asking what any of this has to do with Before There Were Skeletons, the latest book in my Marketville Mystery series, and I'm getting to that. You see, I've long been a supporter of Golden Rescue, a wonderful Canadian non-profit that connects Golden Retrievers of all ages in need of a home with folks hoping to adopt one. And like so many charitable organizations during the height of Covid, Golden Rescue's primary annual picnic and auction fundraiser was cancelled.

Enter Wanetta Doucette-Goodman, a tireless behind-the-scenes worker who organized more than one Facebook silent auction to raise those much-needed funds.  When I saw the one in the Fall of 2020, I thought, I could donate a book copy or two, maybe even a "name the character" in my next book."

I floated the idea of a "name the character" by Wanetta and she loved it.  In fact, she loved the idea so much that she became the winning bidder.  But Wanetta is the giving sort.  She didn't ask for a character to be named after her, but rather, her daughter-in-law, Kathleen "Kate" Goodman, nee Lindsay.  She also sent me photos of Kate, and told me she had two older sisters, Kelly and Kristine.

I could have stuck to the original bargain - a character named kate Goodman--but what fun would that be? Besides, it's not as easy to come up with character names as you might think.  And so, Before There Were Skeletons has several nods to Wanetta's winning bid:

Kathleen “Kate” Goodman: a twenty-eight-year-old woman who hires Callie to find her mother, who disappeared on Valentine’s Day 1995, following her shift at a local bar in Miakoda Falls. Veronica Celeste Goodman was 18 at the time, and by all reports, a devoted single mom who’d just signed a one-year lease.

 Lindsay Doucette: Veronica’s older sister and Kate’s aunt. Lindsay raised Kate after Veronica disappeared, and, having been duped in the past, is not entirely on board with Callie’s investigation.

  Wanetta Georgina Bulmer: Last seen in Miakoda Falls on January 17, 1995, Wanetta was twenty years old and new to town.

 Kelly Anne Acquolina: Last seen in Miakoda Falls on January 31, 1995, Kelly Anne was twenty at the time.

Kristine Paris: An important character with a secret past.

Of course, Callie’s first instinct upon reading the missing persons profiles of Veronica, Wanetta and Kelly Anne is that they are linked, though the police have never formerly reported that connection. Is she right? Ahh… you’ll have to read the book to find out. But at least now you know what’s behind the names.

Melodie here again: After I read this post, I talked to Judy and we both got a kick out of the fact that I had done something similar — that is, five years ago, donated a character name to a charity auction.

The charity was the Burlington Humane Society, and the winner was a pug called Wolfgang!  (Yes, his good buddy/owner may have put him forward.)  If you look on the cover of Crime Club, you will see Wolfgang in all his glory.  He plays an important part in the investigation as well.



Check out Judy's latest mystery!

About Before There Were Skeletons

The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night. 

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons. 

·       Universal Book Link:

·      About the Author:

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. She lives in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at