Learning to Love Again

To the both of you who follow my blog: by now you are probably used to the reality that when I am writing a book, I don’t post many blogs. It’s a husbanding your resources thing.

Nevertheless, I interrupt this novel for a brief announcement:

We are in the queue again for a puppy. He has been born. He will be two weeks old tomorrow. We hope to pick him up and fly him home (on our laps) on May 6th. He is a cousin, of some sort, of Moses.

My husband insists that his name will be St. Augustine the Younger. He gets to pick, since I picked Moses, but I am still lobbying for St. George, the Dragon Slayer.

He will win.

So, watch this space for puppy pictures. Because my life needs a complication, albeit a delightful one.

Here is one of the puppies from the litter. Who knows? We may become friends.

 

Big News!!!

IMG_3879

Pete and Moses are getting a baby brother. He is due to be born on January 11th, and we hope to pick him up in early March.

Oh, and there’s this book thing. Also a third of its kind: Book Three in the North of the Tension Line series. It’s still gestating. But it, too, is due in 2017.

Puppy might be cuter, but the book won’t require a bigger car.

Sunshine and Rain

img_2596

We went for a very long walk today, and I took these photos. These are the days I dream about all year.

img_2575img_2574

 

Now I am sitting outside to write because it is so perfectly splendid that it would be a waste to be indoors. The dogs, having had their multiple walks, are content to sit quietly on the grass (Moses) and at my feet (Pete). The sun is streaming from the west and casting a golden light through the leaves that still hang onto the birch and maple trees nearby. All is tranquil and warm, and lovely.

But it is raining. There must be one cloud drifting overhead in the crystalline deep blue sky, and the drops are hitting Moses on the head, making him flick his long ears with irritation. I am happy to sit on the porch with the roof protecting the computer–and me–and to be aware of the sunset while I write.

Meanwhile, in book three, Elisabeth is working on something new, and Fiona is chafing at all the public meetings she has to attend.  Peter Landry is being his usual enigmatic self, and that is causing some problems. Many new developments in the works. Stay tuned.

img_2602-1

Look carefully to discover dogs.

 

 

News From North of the Tension Line

Greetings from Washington Island:

Life has been moving at a screaming pace, and I have not been keeping up. We (Pete, Moses, and I) are on the Island this week, cloistered for the purposes of writing Book Three in the North of the Tension Line series. I do the writing. They take me for walks and keep me from sitting for twelve hours straight. Meanwhile, the books have been gaining quite a bit of media attention, and if you haven’t heard about it here first, I apologize.

Now that we are here on the Island, there have been a few setbacks, including some extremely nasty chigger bites (I am not used to coming here when the temperatures are above freezing), but I am otherwise making progress. This is the fast part of writing, when everything is fresh, and the ideas are pushing themselves out onto paper (computer). The slow part comes later, when the plot needs to be knit together, and the loose ends keep popping out.

But I interrupt this time of retreat to mention that I do have a new website, www.jfriordan.com. This blog will continue to exist here, but you will also be able to access it from the website.

You will be able to find details about my next public appearances, to read, watch, and listen to media events, to hear interviews and readings from the books, and to buy the books, as well. In a day or two, my half hour television interview will become public, and you will be able to see it there. (As an aside, if you want incentive to stick to your weight loss plans, watch yourself on television. It’s a kind of horrifying reality check.)

The stats here at North of the Tension Line: Reflections on a Life in Exile have been rising steadily, and I am deeply grateful to my readers. Thank you, and I hope you will stay with me as the story continues.

Please take a moment to check out the website, and, if you would be so kind, to pass it on.

Delayed Gratification

 

Pete and Baby Moses

We are expecting a new puppy: a companion for Moses, and a respite–and new pupil–for Pete. My husband has misgivings about a third dog, and–although I generally keep it to myself–so do I. But, sadly, we won’t have three forever, and I want Pete, the elder statesman, to help train the puppy.

The puppy will be a special one, like Moses, carefully bred to be healthy, smart, even-tempered, gentle, and sweet. Also long-lived. These German Shepherds often live to be 13 or 14 years old, which is long for a big dog. Every day I check the breeder’s website, to see the current puppies, and look for news of the coming event. But today I found out it won’t be late fall, but early spring.

I am a little disappointed, but it gives me time to continue my ruminations on names. Leading contenders for now are Marcus Aurelius (guess why); St. Augustine (remember Augie Doggie?); Herodotus (I know); and George.

Official dog names are usually kind of pompous, with the kennel name in the possessive first, followed by the particular dog’s name.  Still, it’s always possible to have fun with the form. With Peter and Moses we have New Testament and Old Testament represented. But the truth is that Moses’ name, although he is officially Moses, Prince of Egypt, was actually the result of my watching The Ten Commandments too frequently in my youth. I wanted to be able to shake my head sorrowfully and say, “Moses, Moses, Moses.”

I’m kind of leaning toward George. But I am open to suggestions. Drop me a line if you have a perfect name for a big, beautiful, new German Shepherd puppy. Did I mention that he’s expected to be 150 pounds? He’ll need something he can grow into.

If I pick your suggestion, I’ll send you a copy of my latest book.

IMG_5144

Moses, left, and Pete on Washington Island.

 

Another Sign of Spring

For some reason, my husband decided yesterday to take Moses to the barber shop with him.

Don’t ask.

Perhaps one factor may have been that the night before Moses had had a rather thorough bath, complete with shampoo and conditioner, as opposed to the daily rinse in the dog shower he usually gets to clean his feet. He smells good now, and he’s all soft and shiny, and this seemed like an opportunity to give him a good brushing. Thought for the day: Never brush a wet dog. Especially not in the house. No, not even if it’s really cold and miserable outside.

German Shepherds are a breed that have a spring molt, which is referred to as “blowing their coats”. An odd expression, I thought, in my innocence. But that was before. Now that he is four, and officially fully mature, Moses is having his first real blowing-of-the-coat, and I have come to think that whoever coined the phrase had a gift for understatement. Moses’s long black hair with its creamy roots is coming out in massive tufts which do, indeed, blow. Everywhere.  Piling up in insane quantities in the corner behind the kitchen door.  Stuck to the stamp on the Easter card I sent to my aunt.  Appearing, unexpectedly—and disturbingly— in my coffee cup at work.  But this was nothing compared to the wet dog hair that he and I, together, artfully distributed about the mud room, on the white kitchen cabinets, and on my person. There is no broom, no vacuum, no lint roller sufficient to the task. It’s like glue, and your only hope is to wait for it to dry and then wipe it off with a dry rag.

NASA ought to look into potential applications.

In any case, and for whatever reason, Moses had a trip to the barber shop. He was permitted to wander around and sniff at things, he obligingly lay on his back to have his tummy rubbed by several admirers, and when asked, he lay quietly on the floor nearby while my husband had his hair cut, all amidst the chaos of dryers, and razors,  and customers coming and going. He was, in short, a very good dog.

It would have been nice if a trip to the barber shop had resulted in a bit less dog hair, but I suppose I should just be grateful that he was shedding somewhere else for a while.

 

IMG_4810

 

For the Love of Pete

IMG_0605

No, not that Pete. But yes, the love interest in my novels is named Pete. I was half-way through writing the first book before it struck me that my character and my dog shared a name, so it was completely unconscious.  Pete, the dog, however, is not quite as suave or subtle as the novel’s Pete, and he rarely quotes poetry.  But he’s every bit as good at getting his own way.  We’re not quite sure what breeds went into his creation, but we call him an Indiana Spotted Dog because he’s from a kill shelter in Indiana, and because he’s, well, spotted.

So, sometimes the quieter members of the family get a bit lost in the shuffle. Moses is big, and young, and boisterous, and he can easily put himself between Pete and a hug from one of us. We have to make an extra effort to make sure he gets his share of attention. Pete, himself, makes sure he gets his share of food. Nothing gets between Pete and food.

Pete is eleven-ish, and he has been with us since he was about ten months old. We’re not sure what happened to him before we met, but it was something that has scarred him forever. When we first brought him home, he would flinch if you moved your hand suddenly, and roll over fearfully and subserviently if you tried to reach for him. Occasionally, under stress or commotion, he still will. Oddly enough, he is not shy with other dogs. On the contrary, his injured leg came when he attacked Moses, and in the scuffle, Moses landed on him. In our house, even though he is only 70 pounds, Pete is the Alpha Dog. Moses is the follower.

I started out obedience training with him, as I do with all our dogs, but once he had learned to sit, and lie down, and stay, and come, I left him alone. The whistles, the shouted commands to drop, the wheelchairs, and the sudden noises that are part of the training left him shaking and slinking away. It wasn’t worth it.

So Pete isn’t a Canine Good Citizen. He is afraid of children, and of people with hats. He will not go outside in the rain, and does not delight in our new dog shower, no matter how necessary. He used to be afraid of cameras, and for that reason, until the advent of the I-Phone, we had very few pictures of him. The camera would come out, and Pete would disappear. My husband says that someone must have once taken an unflattering picture of him, but I think it might have been the high-pitched whine of the electronic flash. A friend has commented that the expression on Pete’s face often looks as if he’s in a hostage situation. Unless he’s around food. He smiles around food.

We didn’t teach him to sit up and beg, or to respect the plastic flags of an invisible fence. He came pre-programmed. But we never hit him, either, and he came pre-programmed to expect that, too. For the first few months after we got him, I would wake up in the night worrying about what had happened to his reported ten brothers and sisters. But Pete, no matter what had happened to him before, had won the dog lottery.

On the other hand, Pete is a survivor, and he has learned the survivor’s skill of how to quickly ingratiate himself once he knows you are not dangerous. He has a sort of Eddie Haskel quality that he uses to great advantage, even–or perhaps, especially–on us. He also has the survivor’s knack of knowing exactly what he wants: yes, it’s usually food–he must have a lot of hound in him–but often just his own space.

We got a new big bed last year for our new bedroom, and it’s pretty high. Even 120 pound Moses contemplates the leap before attempting it, but for Pete, who is about half that size, it’s a bit of a reach. Now, Pete is a snuggler. Lying in bed is what he does. Many times in the past, I have awoken to Pete’s face lying against my face, cheek to cheek. But with the new bed, he simply wouldn’t come up. Maybe it hurt the leg he once injured. Maybe it was better to be away from that nuisance, Moses. But he wouldn’t come.

We felt bad about it, and called him, and tried to lure him with treats. Pete is always lured by treats. But it wouldn’t work.

One day, our friends and general contractors were over. They were at our house every day during our almost two years of remodeling, and our dogs love them like family.  Pete was pressing earnestly against their legs, begging for love and attention.

I watched him, and shook my head sadly. “Poor Pete,” I said. “He thinks no one loves him. He can’t get up on the bed anymore, and he’s sleeping all by himself.”

My friends exchanged glances while rubbing Pete’s ears. They were silent for a moment, and then Patti said: “You know, as soon as you leave every morning, he’s on that bed. He stays there all day.”

She sent me the photo later to prove it. There he was, comfortably ensconced on the pillows of my cream colored bedding.

He is mostly trained, and pretty well-mannered, but not perfect, and I don’t demand of him the same things I demand of Moses. There’s no margin of error for Big Scary Dogs, but for Pete, well, we let some of the details slide.  Pete does things pretty much the way he wants. And in the end, that’s ok, because we love him, and after everything he’s been through, he deserves it.

But I do wish he wouldn’t leave quite so much black hair on my pillows.

IMG_0040IMG_4009

Pete, above, snuggling.                                 Pete, in a hostage situation.

 

 

 

 

Dog Joy

Whenever I can, I like to take our dogs for a walk in a particular woods. We have to drive there, and the dogs know the place by sight. They also know the difference between when we are actually going there, and when we are only driving past. Even if I haven’t said anything, when the turn signal goes on at a particular intersection, they know we are going to the woods. But usually, just to give them the pleasure of anticipation, I say to them: “Do you want to go to the woods?” and they immediately begin to sing with joy.

Moses, who until recently had been the least vocal of the two, is the most expressive where the woods are concerned. It’s his favorite place. He starts with warbles in a rich baritone, but as we get closer he switches to yipes in an increasingly higher tessitura, until he reaches soprano range, in keeping with his rising excitement. Pete joins in with his characteristic alto.  By the time I can get around to open the door, they are tumbling over one another to get out and run, barking as if they were on the hunt. Sometimes there are deer, or squirrels, and the dogs tear after them, disappearing into the hills out of sight. If I am patient–meaning: not too cold–I let them come back when they want to. But if I whistle they always come. I can hear them coming usually before I see them, and they arrive at my feet bustling with joy and pride.

Their happiness delights me, and is often the best part of the day.

IMG_6841