Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Blog in 2023

Well, I had the thought of closing the blog. I've not been posting recently, and every time I thought about writing a post, that sinking feeling I get when I really don't want to do something filled the pit of my stomach. I've learned to listen to that feeling. I've learned it's telling me I'm not ready yet. More time needs to pass. More healing has to happen . . . whatever is hurting needs more space, more time.

Over the last few months, the hurting has been the incredibly huge, empty space left when I said goodbye to Ado. Even now, the sadness creeps up on me nearly every day. Murphy, too, is still adjusting to being without his best buddy. I try to keep Murphy busy, which keeps me busy, so we both have some respite from missing Ado. But I know I'm not what Murphy really needs. 

I realized recently just how much most of my days are filled with silence. I haven't had the stereo on, listening to my albums or my CDs like I used to. I only listened to Christmas music on Christmas day this season, and that was when I was cooking the evening meal. When I'm in the Jeep, the radio is off. More and more, I prefer silence these days. The silence reminds me of Ado's quiet, comforting presence.

Yesterday, I ended up taking Murphy to the vet. I noticed he was limping after we played frisbee, and upon closer examination, I saw one of his nails had broken near the nail bed. The vet clipped the nail (along with all the other very long nails), and on our way out, he said, "Murphy's a really good dog, but he's no Ado." I love Murphy to pieces, but I know exactly what the vet was saying. Ado just had something about him that made people stop and admire him. I don't know how many times over the years I was stopped on our walks by someone gushing over Ado. He was an amazing dog.

A student from several semesters ago wrote about her dogs and how they filled her life with so much joy and love. She was struggling to write the conclusion to her essay, and I wrote a note on the last page suggesting she consider how dog is God spelled backwards. Many will tell me I'm nuts for thinking this, and that's fine, but it seems that dogs and God have a lot in common, with unconditional love being first and foremost. That student ended up using my suggestion as part of her conclusion and it wrapped up her paper exactly as was needed.

After all my thinking about closing the blog, I've decided to continue at least for this year. 2023 might be my last with A Clunk Upstairs, but only time will tell. 

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Work of Art


This beautiful piece of art fell from one of the pine trees early this morning when the winds blew in as forecasted. I am mesmerized by the craftsmanship.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Murphy Turns Two!

Today is Murphy's birthday. He is all of two years old. For the past two years I've had more than my fair share of laughs, all because of this little bundle of energy. I am a very lucky dog mom.

To start our day, we trekked to Mello-Creme donuts to get Murphy a birthday donut for breakfast. He enjoyed an apple fritter and a plain old-fashioned donut. Of the two, the plain old-fashioned was his favorite, and I know this because he would take a bite of the apple fritter then put it down. He would then give me that look of "you're trying to give me something with fruit in it." After a few long seconds, he would turn and walk away. As soon as I offered a bite of the plain old-fashioned, he was right there and made no hesitation whatsoever. The entire donut disappeared in seconds. Most of the apple fritter is still in his food bowl.

This afternoon we went for a hike along the creek and found the pond we spotted a couple of days ago on our hike across the bare soybean field. He had a pretty good time at the pond. He sank in sloppy mud up to his first joint when he walked to the edge of the pond. On the way back, we crossed a grassy field. Murphy had a fun bouncing through the grass that was taller than he is. I was happy the grass took most of the mud off his legs and paws.

I still have a Happy Birthday biscuit for his dessert tonight. Hopefully he'll enjoy that more than he did the apple fritter. 

P.S. Murphy's sheepherding days are no longer. We went back to Indiana last weekend, and no sooner had he walked into the pen to work that he turned around to just sit at the gate. He had absolutely no interest in herding sheep. No matter what was tried, Murphy basically said, "Nope. Not my jam." Now we are trying to figure out exactly what his jam is.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Dog Attack Tragedy

I am watching Robert Cabral talk about the tragic dog attack in Tennessee, the one that killed a 5 month old and a 2 year old. The mother ended up in the hospital in critical condition because she was trying to protect her children. 

Just tragic. No words. None.

When this happened, I sat and cried for those kids and that mom. I'm crying again because it didn't have to happen.

Cabral mentioned he thinks the baby started crying and it was the crying that set the dogs off. That was my first thought when I heard about this. And it took me back to a moment in a dog park when Angel Baby was five.

We had taken Max, our black lab mix, to the dog park to run and play. My kids brought their softball gloves and ball to toss around. Lovely Beautiful Daughter tossed the ball to Angel Baby. The ball rolled out of his glove, up his forearm and smacked into his nose. He started wailing. A high-pitched, my nose hurts wail. Blood streamed down, over his lips and onto his shirt. I was about five or six feet away. A Rottweiler was about three feet away, right in front of him, staring. I could see the muscles flexing, bunching. The dog was getting ready to jump at my son. The dog's owners were standing nearby, laughing. They made no move to corral their dog that was ready to attack.

I quickly stepped between Angel Baby and the dog. I bent towards Angel Baby so my rear was in the dog's face. I whispered to Angel Baby that he needed to stop. I whispered it over and over until he was just sniffling. I looked over my should to see the dog still standing there. I kept whispering to Angel Baby until he settled down completely. Then I escorted him out of the park and away from the Rott. 

I know without a doubt that dog wanted at my son. Its instincts had kicked in over the sound Angel Baby was making. The blood didn't help matters. 

Cabral says at one point that a dog owner should never trust their dog completely. I totally agree. I trusted Ado a lot, but I didn't trust him completely. I trust Murphy more than I trusted Ado, but I still have a part of me that knows even Murphy could find it within himself to harm someone. I have to constantly keep this at the forefront. It is on me to make sure Murphy never hurts anyone. I did the same with Ado. While Ado was a big teddy bear to me and the kids, he wasn't with anyone else. Which is why he was always on a leash or behind closed doors when an outsider came into the house. I knew Ado took his role as protector seriously. I take my role as protector of family and guests more seriously.

When I walk Murphy around our small village, I'm constantly on high alert. There are more dogs than ever out here, most of which are left chained to a tree in a yard. I've had to alter my route several times due to three pit bulls in one yard and three pit bulls in another yard. I recently talked to the mom of the owner of the one group of pit bulls, saying I was afraid to walk by that yard. She laughed, saying they all were fine, gentle, loving dogs. That's not what I've experienced when we've walked by. They all go into a frenzy. If they ever got out of the yard, Murphy and I would be in trouble.

I totally agree with Cabral -- we have to start being honest about the fact our dogs have the potential to cause harm. Every dog has this potential. It's the owner's responsibility to make sure this harm never happens.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A New Hobby for Murphy and Me

Yesterday, Murphy and I went on an adventure. I've been thinking about new activities for him as we both have kind of gotten bored with our usual walk. The walks are fine, but Murphy's been giving me the side-eye as we walk along, like he's trying to tell me, "Hoomin, weze bin dis way zillions of times. Derz no nu smells. I's need nu smells." After a lot of thinking and researching, I found Dogwood Farms in Indiana. 

So Murphy and I drove over to see if he would like to herd sheep. It turns out he kinda does. At first, he was just totally confused. Mary Lou, the shepherd of Dogwood Farms and trainer of sheep dogs, said the confusion is perfectly normal. There was a lot going on that Murphy was trying to figure out. Towards the end of the session, Mary Lou dropped the lead to see how Murphy reacted. I totally get why she didn't want to just turn him loose from the get-go. I would have been mortified if Murphy had gone all attack-mode. But he didn't. He actually seemed to realize he was supposed to keep the sheep together. There were a couple of moments when he made moves that indicated his brain was kicking in and guiding him.

Mary Lou working with Murphy.

We had so much fun we're going to return to the sheep farm next Saturday for another session. Mary Lou told me it'll take a good year for Murphy to really get it and understand what is being asked of him. So I'm thinking this will be our thing for the next year. Twice a month I'll drive over. Eventually, I'll be learning right alongside Murphy, so the hope is that in a year we both can herd sheep.


Monday, October 10, 2022


Dear JK,

For some time now, really since saying goodbye to Ado, you've seemed a bit off, as if you're mooring line  untethered and you're just drifting about. He was your wharf and you didn't understand this until the vet sat next to you and said in so many words there was no fixing what was wrong with him.

That day will stay with you for a long time. As will the day you sat on the floor beside Ado, whispering to him, petting him, watching the light dim then go out entirely. Those moments have played out over and over the last two months. One day they will fade. 

And you will find peace. There will come a day the tears won't fall. Instead, you'll smile, thinking of all the wonderful that happened because of that little furry puppy who came into your life and marked out a spot in your heart that was all for him. Just for him. 

For now, it's okay to mourn. It's okay to not want to do things. It's okay to miss your beautiful boy.