Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teddy was Tense

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vivid Imagination

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street


We often drive by this sign. 
It gives a chuckle every time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mississippi Moment

We finally got out for a decent walk today. Susan's stomach flu is but a distant memory - although she says stir fry will not make an another appearance for awhile. The long weekend means the whole family is home which is heaven. The thermometer got back up near freezing, the sun came out and the wind died down so we headed out for some air. 

My Cosmo dog coat still stinks but it does work. Most people tossed salt out for the ice which really burns my paws. But I suppose if Susan breaks a hip on the ice then our walks would be pretty lame. This is the season of my three-legged hop which makes people stare - but I need to rotate paws to warm them up. Sometimes Susan warms them up for me and picks out the ice, which is nice of her. I don't want to make a fuss or I am afraid someone will try dog boots on me again. Not funny.

We made it down to the river. There's a nice path leading down to the shore from East River Road. The traffic drone all but disappears when you drop down behind the bluff and you see the river from a different perspective. Usually the mighty Mississippi is a grand, distant scene of barges and bridges. In the winter, down on the shore, it is glistening ice, dark water, chuckling ducks, and dripping ice falls. We sat down on a bench by an open spot of water to watch the ducks and geese.

There were dozens of mallards and Canadian geese hanging out and enjoying the afternoon. The water looks calm but ducks and geese zoom downstream and paddle hard to go the other way. Once they saw I was on a leash they went back to their business. 

All of a sudden they hollered QUACK QUACK QUACK and bald eagle swooped down on a batch of them. It wheeled around and made another dive at one young lady. She dove underwater at the last second. The eagle flapped away empty-taloned. It made me glad I'm not a toy breed!

See that black buoy behind me?
That is near the spot where the eagle almost grabbed a duck. QUACK!
We headed back up the bluffs to the city, dinner and a toasty warm house.

Friday, November 26, 2010

American Gothic Reimagined

As I was working on American Gothic with Dog, I enjoyed seeing the endless parodies of Grant Wood's painting. I suppose the Mona Lisa has been spoofed more but she is just not as funny. Here are some of my favorites - most chosen in honor of the interests of my beloved Boy#1 and Boy#2.

Check out lots more Art Masterpieces Redone in Lego
the M. C. Escher works are way cool.
Modern Americans...well, from the 1990's...
If Alderaan hadn't gotten toasted and the Both Sides of the Force lived in harmony. credit
What can I say?  Zombies are always funny!

Google Logo Gone to the Dogs

Daughter Number Three's post Google Logos: Squashed Bugs and Flag Conspiracies got me thinking about the logo Google will be using on International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day which is always February 23. I took a little time to work up a logo that works for me. I included not one but two of my favorite treat vessels: the Kong Classic.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

American Gothic with Dog

click on image to enlarge
American Gothic with Dog was painted by Grant Wood in 1930. Wood decided to paint the house and "the kind of people and dog I fancied should live in that house." The painting shows a grim-faced man beside his daughter and their equally stern dog. The pitchfork symbolizes hard labor. The flowers over the woman's right shoulder suggest domesticity. The intense gaze of the working dog tells the viewer this family has no time for playing fetch or rubbing dog tummies.

Wood's models were his dentist, his sister and his barber's dog. In real-life the dog Carmella was a happy-go-lucky hound. But Wood achieved the intensity of the dog's stare by strapping sausage links to his head while he painted.

More Art Hound (by artist)
Grant Wood's American Gothic
More American Gothic parodies

Monday, November 22, 2010

Very Good Dog Today

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Good Day to Stay In

I have grown fonder of winter, once the shock of being shipped north in late fall wore off. The house is cozy, baked goods appear more often and it is fun to dash in the fresh snow. But a coating of glare ice is no one's fun. I have four legs and I can't stand up on the sidewalks today. My morning walk was understandably short. And although Boy#1 and I chuckled watching people fall over, it wasn't so funny when it was us.

So unless the freezing rain can produce some squirrelcicles, pronto -- I give today's weather a loud, rude raspberry.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Cold Night to Be Lost

Today, Susan went grocery shopping and as she was carrying them into the house, a tall, young husky followed her in. And who wouldn't follow a bag of groceries?

I admit I was pretty alarmed to have a stranger appear on my porch and I expressed myself clearly. Then, she let him in MY backyard! To make matters worse, she walked him all around the neighborhood with MY leash and then put him into MY car.

He seems to be gone now. But I can still smell him. If I met him at the dogpark, I might think he was a pretty nice fellow. But I am not so sure that I want to share my house with another dog. It is mine, after all.

To the person missing a handsome, blue-eyed husky who couldn't be bothered to buy him tags or microchip him - he is waiting for you at the Humane Society on Beulah Ave. in St. Paul. In five days, he will be up for adoption and will certainly be chosen right away. Susan says he was very sweet and can sit and shake paws. Humph.

Lost dog #11917801
UPDATE: Dave and I went out later in the evening for a VERY CHILLY walk and heard some young guys calling, "LOKI!  LOKI!" So we asked them if they were missing a husky -- which indeed they were. And boy, were they lucky they ran into us because they were supposed to be dogsitting and had no idea that one would contact animal control aka the Animal Humane Society to be reunited with a lost pet.

For the record, the Humane Society has a great lost, found and stray posting system online to help reunite people with their loved ones. Loki was posted within the hour. So, if you ever find a wandering pet you can drop it off, no questions asked other than where you found him/her. They hold the animal for five days and then put it up for adoption (if it is adoptable). For $75, they will tell you how it all turns out and give you dibs on adoption after the five days.

But here is a funny thing: Now that I think about it, I DID meet this dog Loki at the dogpark a few weeks ago and we had a great time. I knew he looked familiar through the porch window. So, if we meet this Loki again at the dogpark with his real owner, do we mention they should consider other, more reliable options for dogsitting? Do you think those young men will have mentioned to the owner that they almost lost that beautiful dog for good on a cold winter night? Hmmm...I think not.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Monday, November 15, 2010

Loss of Hope

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

This weekend is my third birthday. My family decided my birthday would be on the first weekend of November -- that's when they adopted me two years ago. Works for me.

To celebrate, I got extra treats, a new stuffy to lick (such a fine line between licking, gumming and full-on shredding...sigh), and lots of backscratching. Susan decided to use her extra hour of daylight savings to accompany me on a trot, first thing out of bed.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Susan Barked (and wagged her tail)

As noted previously, my Susan attended an open house to check out the final draft of the St. Paul Parks & Rec's plan for the future. She came back home, told me all about it and sent in her feedback. What a good girl!

Dear Parks & Rec,

I had the pleasure of attending the open house at Hillcrest last Wednesday for the Parks & Rec Plan. I appreciate the low key atmosphere you created to share the plan and provide opportunities for discussion. I look forward to seeing it move forward as we better address the changing needs for our Parks & Rec system.

A robust,freely accessible parks and rec program is the sign of a healthy, vibrant urban community. My family includes two adults, two teenage boys and an active dog and we are heavy users of the metro parks and rec centers.

We are fortunate to live right near Aldine Park. Over the 14 years we have lived here, we have visited the tiny park several times a day on our dog walks, to play on the playground (when my boys were younger), to throw frisbees and baseballs, join pick-up softball, skate and even do school projects (moon observations). I believe having open spaces in urban neighborhoods is essential and this park played a key role in why we bought a house where we did. I was pleased to see that park location "gaps" have been identified in the Parks & Rec Plan and that new parks will be added so everyone has easy access to a neighborhood park.

My family also uses the Jimmy Lee rec center for swimming, walking on the indoor track and the fitness center. We love the improvements. We hope the fields are cleaned up and reopened to serve the neighborhood soon.

I love the move to make our city parks more natural. Urbanites need a connection to nature. Prairie plantings, rain gardens and other sustainable practices are good for the world.

I do not support public fields like Dunning getting turned over to private managers if this means fences, advertising and limited availability. Public parks should be readily available to everyone. We need more sandlots for kids and casual groups not shiny, groomed fields reserved for the few. OK, shiny and groomed for everyone would be my first choice.

I support adding more dog parks - both smaller social areas and larger areas where people and dogs off-leash can roam and be out in nature. Different-size dog areas serve different purposes and I hope that planners understand the need to balance these. Merely adding a little fenced yard to a park like Newell to fill the "add a dog park quota" would be a shame. I hope to see a large area a la Battle Creek Dog Park included in the plans along the river down by Hidden Falls and Crosby Farm. A Newell dog park would be sweet too, of course. 

As a new dog owner and new to off -leash dog parks, I was quite surprised to discover that dog parks are great social gathering places for people too. The amount of community you find for yourself while your dog rips around is amazing. Our twice-weekly outings to Battle Creek or Arkwright have become a pleasant social part of our week. I meet and talk with diverse types of folks that I would never meet in my normal nose-to-the-ground routine. In this highly divided, classist world we live in, dogs are an amazing social icebreaker and glue.

And this community makes for good stewardship of the land. Dog people police each other - subtly and directly - to clean-up, learn/practice dog park etiquette and support each other to socialize the dogs (and people). You couldn't ask for a better model of how a diverse bunch of citizens can use a public area in heavy concentrations (and there is a LOT of traffic) with very little oversight.

I would be interested in being involved in the parks planning process -- perhaps for the riverfront, if you are looking for someone who loves cross-country skiing, hiking, dog parks, playgrounds, picnicking, biking and just getting out in nature. I am intrigued by all the puzzle pieces that the multiple perspectives and interests bring to the table. I applaud all your efforts for coming up with lots of possible solutions!

Bravo, Parks & Rec!


Good girl! What a good girl! Susan gets a treat!
credit and recipe Truffle Tarts

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bark, If You Love Parks

Needing to wash away the bitter taste left by last night's election results, my Susan is heading out tonight to attend an information open house on the final draft for St. Paul's Parks and Rec’s new system plan.

She wants to speak up for us about more off-leash dog areas - although all aspects of public parks are pretty appealing. From community gardens to disc golf to hiking paths through natural areas, a robust parks and recreation system speaks well of the livability of any urban area. What I know: people and dogs are happy in parks.
Battle Creek Off-Leash Dog Park south social area
Dogs aren't invited to hearings. Dog owners aren't very vocal as a group. So dogs and dog owners aren't really seen as key players in park planning, despite our huge numbers as regular users of citywide parks and paths. But thanks to the hard work of a few persistent dog owners, the new system plan states:

"More off leash dog area are needed. Off leash dog areas are recommended for Lilydale, portions of Newell or Marydale Park, Downtown (Landmark Plaza and Mears Park- small dog “relief ” areas; Pedro Park and or Lower Landing – small to mid-size dog park), Central Corridor and along the Mississippi River."

Battle Creek Off-Leash Dog Park
Even you can't make a information open house, read the system plan and let St. Paul government hear your feedback. Good government only works when everyone speaks up -- not just the haters and the yappy dogs.

Public Viewing of Draft - Community Open Houses
A draft of the System Plan will be brought to the community in November. Residents will have an opportunity to see the results of work that was done following the community meetings and comprehensive analysis that was completed over the spring/summer months.

Anyone may attend any of the five planned community meetings. Attendees will be able to share comments about what they think of the plan, and following the completion of all the meetings, the plan may be tweaked prior to a final draft being presented at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on December 8 and to City Council in January 2011.

All open houses will be held from 7 PM – 9 PM. The dates and locations for the open houses are:
  • November 3 - Hillcrest Recreation Center, 1978 Ford Parkway
  • November 8 - Phalen Recreation Center, 1000 East Wheelock Parkway
  • November 9 - Wellstone Community Center/El Rio Vista Recreation Center, 179 Robie Street East
  • November 15 - Oxford Community Center/Jimmy Lee Recreation Center, 270 Lexington Parkway North
  • November 18 - North Dale Recreation Center, 1414 St. Albans Street North