Why I Love Dogs so Much

Dogs are by nature kindhearted and loving creatures. When I was a dog groomer. I rarely encountered a dog I didn’t get along with, and when I did it was usually one from special circumstances. My Sheltie St. Bob has quite a kingly attitude, having started life as breeding stock at a puppy mill. He’s a lover though, and not so much a fighter. I couldn’t love him more, and it makes me melancholy to see him growing old.

One of my favorite hobbies is trail riding my horses. Although both of my Shelties have bonded as friends, they don’t feel the same way about the horses. They are dedicated to me though, and will sit on the lawn together while I ride, and still be there waiting for me when I get back.

Then there is Toby, a dog my daughter wanted when she was in junior high and I still have. Toby is half Labrador retriever, and half German Shorthaired pointer. He has always been very nervous and high strung, and prefers to stay in my service porch where he has warmth, shelter, and free access to the great outdoors. Toby is also an old man, and I don’t see him changing any time soon. He is still loving, and always glad when I fuss over him, like here in the dog salon.

I really think dogs are God’s way of saying “You made a mess of My creation, but here is a beautiful animal who will keep you company and help you realize I love you.” Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but it’s hard to look at a dog and not see it’s beauty. Whenever I get the opportunity to hug my Jessie, I think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and how she felt about the Scarecrow. Jessie, I think I love you most of all.

John Wesley’s Horse

Here is the heart warming story of John Wesley and the horse he relied on to carry him where the Lord called him to be. God cares for His creation, and always will

John M. Cunningham Jr., Author and Historian

John Wesley in Bristol John Wesley on Horseback, statue in the courtyard of The New Room chapel, Bristol. Credit: Jongleur100

Is it all right to pray for our pets and other animals? Sure! God cares for all His creation. Read Matthew 6:36, where Jesus spoke about God’s provision for birds. Birds and other animals are all part of His creation.
One of my favorite stories about God’s care for animals comes from John Wesley’s Journal. It reads as follows:
1746. Monday. March 17.I took my leave of Newcastle and set out with Mr. Downes and Mr. Shepherd. But when we came to Smeton, Mr. Downes was so ill that he could go no further. When Mr. Shepherd and I left Smeton, my horse was so exceedingly lame that I was afraid I must have lain by too. We could not discern what it was that was amiss; and yet he would scarcely set…

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A Little Christmas

It’s a harried and hurried world we live in. As we rush from store to store, we find ourselves frustrated by the traffic, the crowds, inability to find what we came after, and the whole idea of needing Christmas to be what we see on the Hallmark channel. Maybe we expect too much. Was life always this complicated?

I remember one Christmas years ago that happened in spite of my inability to make it magic. I was the new tenant in the old house on the hill. We came to Charleston, Maine with the clothes on our backs, a small son starting the first grade, and a baby girl just turned one. The housing market in San Francisco was a buyer’s market, but White House budget cuts thought nothing of that. My Naval Senior Chief husband was reduced to filling out job applications and waiting by the phone. We were left with an empty house on the peninsula, and we were renting to buy a lovely New Englander in the Maine woods from a sweet old couple who took a liking to us. Christmas was meager that year, homemade and thrown together with popcorn and things I made on my sewing machine. I trust our dinner was more than deer meat, but I do recall many suppers on an unfortunate doe my husband hit with our old Dodge pickup. I doubt my children even remember that. They were just happy it was Christmas. 

As the Grinch learned, elaborate gifts and expensive decorations mean little in the grand scheme. Maybe slow down a bit, look around, and smile at your children or grandchildren. They’re only young once, and you have only to blink and that’s gone. Have a Merry Christmas, enjoy it. I’ll be at my keyboard. Be blessed.

Going Back to Work

It’s been a year since my job in a dog grooming salon came to an end. For years I tried unsuccessfully to work in common jobs, like cashiering, waiting tables, being a store clerk. The small town I live in is just very closed off, and employers mostly hire young people and those whose names they recognize. I trained to groom dogs to break out of that cycle, but here I am again.

Recently my injury was authenticated by Voc Rehab. For the past week I have been doing on-the-job training at our public library, and enjoying the bookish atmosphere. My dear Sheltie/Collie mix Jessie has been very confused by it though. She’s usually a typical female, and not overly affectionate,  but this week she’s been making sure I notice her. I love it when she’s affectionate. She’s my best fur-friend in the world.

I don’t know if this job will end up being what I do on an ongoing basis, but if all I get from it is some quality time from my beautiful girl, it’s worth it. She’s my friend, my alert dog when my health is off, and my constant companion. Just to see the love in those eyes is worth being away for a few hours of the day. She makes me smile.

A Sober American Household

If we believe everything we read on the internet or watch on TV, our ancestors would never have been sober enough to father this country. While it’s true that people tended not to trust plain water, alcoholic beverages were not the only way they dealt with possible water-born bacteria. If it were the case that they only drank alcohol, children and devout Christians would have been very thirsty people in the 18th century. They were smart enough to know that water was safer if it was boiled, and drinks such as tea and lemonade were started with boiling water. It was also believed that citric acid was something that made water healthier, and in some respects that was true. Lemons were a favorite way of adding that ingredient to drinks.


When lemonade was made, one would begin by boiling a quart of spring water. I have to surmise that water from a spring was considered safer because it is a moving source. The water was then allowed to stand until it was termed milk warm, that would be the temperature milk is when it’s first drawn from the cow, just around ninety-eight degrees. To this was added five clear (unblemished) lemons, sliced thin. This mixture was left to steep overnight. Cooks in those days went through some elaborate straining steps which are listed in the old recipe. I would just put the sliced lemons through a food mill, or a sieve and press the juice from them using the bottom of a canning jar or a pestle. The juice was mixed into the water, and to that was added eleven ounces of sugar and a spoonful of orange flower water. This isn’t an easy item to find these days, and it’s often sold as a cosmetic item. If you want an authentic product, it’s possible to buy it food grade at some natural food sources, and at Indian grocery stores, something not found in my neck of the woods. It good without the orange flower water, too.


Another non-alcoholic drink was one made for supplying the working folk with electrolytes in the fields. It was called Switchel, or Haying Water. One recipe for this mixture uses one cup of brown sugar, one cup of vinegar, one half cup of molasses, a tablespoon of ground ginger and a quart of cold water. As you can imagine, this drink would charge a person up for working harder. That is, if the taste didn’t knock him off his feet. Down in the southern states, people enjoyed more refined recipes, including tea mixed with lemon, orange, clove and sugar. As for me, I think this drink sounds a lot more appealing. There have always been people who, directed by their consciences, who would make punch minus the alcohol. This was something my own mother used to do, particularly for family Christmas parties.

People in the 18th century also enjoyed something we still drink a lot of today, and that’s hot chocolate. Instead of mixing a ready made powder into a mug of hot water or milk like we do now though, it was made in a pot on the wood burning stove. In those days a chunk of chocolate would be grated into the hot water, along with sugar and a pinch of salt, and then the paste would be beaten into scalded milk. Lacking the fancy mixing equipment we have these days, beating was done with a straw whisk, similar to this one that I have in my kitchen.


The more research I do on the 18th century, the more I’m struck with the idea that we have it made in this day and age. Not only do we have things ready-made for us available in grocery stores, but even when we do our own cooking our lives are considerably easier. These straw whisks were used for everything from mixing chocolate into milk for a treat, to beating eggs into foam to make cakes lighter and easier on the palate. That takes a lot of whisking, and our fore-mothers no doubt had the arm muscles to prove it. My hat is tipped to the women who helped found America. They were strong, brave, and patient people indeed.

A Horse of Many Colors

Some horses, like some people, just seem to be more accident prone than others. When I was in my teen years, I had a mustang mare I thought had that problem. I used to tell people that if there was a hole anywhere in the grass or in a water puddle, Todo would find it and fall in it. That of course, was many years ago,  and before I met my mostly Arabian mare Cali. The first time I saw Cali, she was a coffee brown bay, and a delightful little yearling. She was light on her feet, could run like the wind, and showed great promise as a gymkhana pony. I remember every marking she possessed back in 1997. She had a white blaze down her face, two white socks, and a dove-shaped paint splotch on her belly. I knew the moment I saw her, I was destined to make her mine.

By the time Cali was old enough to ride, her coat became a dark rose gray, and her markings were becoming less obvious. I was saddened to think she was losing them, but for a year or so she was a beautiful grulla with her black mane and tail. Cali is the little mare I’m brushing on the left side of the photo.

As luck would have it, in this picture my kids (on the bay mare in the foreground) and I were preparing for a parade, lead by the Army Air Corp. Cali was four years old and a nervous Arabian, but all experience is learning. We were just starting out, not an eighth of a mile into the route, and an Army helicopter pilot buzzed over the parade. Many horses scattered, and in the confusion, Cali skittered off the road and her hindquarters landed in the ditch. I of course slid off the back of the saddle, as she was standing upright with her front hooves on the road.

As the years progressed, Cali began to lighten up in color, moving from grulla to more of a dappled gray. When we moved from central Maine to Southeastern Idaho, her coat lightened considerably, and the rose tones consolidated into red freckles. She became a true rose gray, a coloration found only in Arabians, and horses with Arabian lineage. Her black mane and tail have lightened to gray, and every year she becomes closer to white. Her color has changed, but her tendency to fall when not paying attention has not.

In this picture, you can see how light gray she is. You might also notice that her jaw seems to be swollen. I was very concerned about this, thinking she may have had an absessed tooth. A couple of years ago, Cali tripped while I was riding her, and severely damaged my left foot. At the same time, she got her reins wrapped around her head, twisting the snaffle bit that was in her mouth. I always suspected she may have broken a tooth that day, and today my suspicions were confirmed. 

The vet, after placing the speculum in her mouth, discovered she was doing something horses do instinctively when they have a bad tooth. She was packing chewed hay in her jaw because that tooth was painful. Today my old friend got her teeth filed, and one broken molar extracted with no novocaine. That explains the wall-eyed expression on her face.

Cali is home now, and the veterinary calmatives have worn off. Unlike her human counterparts, this girl with the large hole where a tooth was pulled seems happy and is getting back to normal. Her bossy attitude is back already, and in spite of what can’t feel very good, she’s eating, well, like a horse. This twenty-one year-old mare promises to be around for quite a few more years, getting into more trouble and probably tripping over her own feet again. But that, as they say, is life on the farm.

The Art of Walking

It came to my attention in recent months that there are some folks who still believe that in the early days of sailing, a broken limb would at once be amputated. As this may have been the case during times of war for the sake of immediate treatment, it was certainly not the case for the average person. There is evidence in print to suggest that the fine art of bone setting was practised prior to the 15th century, but it was only then that manuals were printed on the subject. 

In my story Freedom’s Toll,  James Hearst has his leg and foot broken during a storm at sea. Struck in the head by the ship’s yardarm, he is unaware that two of his shipmates set his leg for him while he was unconscious. In the 18th century, a broken leg would have been obvious to the naked eye, but not so, necessarily, would be the tiny bones and flexor joints of the foot. They may as amatuers have noticed bruising, but without the benefit of x-ray, a broken foot would likely go unnoticed. 

As I have always been concerned with my own health, walking has long been my personal favorite way of staying fit. It was how I lost the weight of pregnancy when my children were babies, and later on, hiking was a favorite past time. When I was younger,  the thought of ever being crippled never entered my mind. Walking is such a basic function, one that most of us take for granted. Another favorite past time for me has always been horseback riding, and I have raised and trained several of my own horses. In the past twenty years, my main focus has been on my mostly Arabian mare, Cali.

One day while riding the trail she is on in the picture, Cali caught me off guard and got the reins out of my hands. So much for the pleasure of sharing the afternoon with a neighbor I was riding with. Cali put her head down to scratch and caught her leg in the reins. As she fell, my boot caught the incline of the sand at the side of the road, my leg twisted backward, and she landed on me. The rest is medical history. As surgery, physical therapy, and personal workouts left me with residual pain and limited mobility,  I thought walking was a thing of my past. I was devastated.

Yesterday, two years after the accident, I was gifted with the opportunity to walk my beautiful Shetland Sheepdog/Collie mix Jessie in our local parade. I lay awake worried about my left foot the night before, and in the morning implemented the same method I devised for my protagonist James when he was given the opportunity to attend a dance. Over my sock I wrapped my foot in a loose elastic bandage. The extra padding and support that gave me allowed me to walk the entire parade route, which was a good two miles. I am pleased to report that my foot suffered almost not at all on that walk. Jessie is a very happy dog, and I have a new confidence that I am not without the ability to walk. Exercise is a blessing, indeed.

Keeping Clean in the 18th Century

It’s a common misconception that people back in the time of the signing of the Declaration didn’t tend to bathe or try and keep their hair clean. People then were just like we are now, although perhaps a lot less concerned with washing their hair on a daily basis. In many ways, they actually in a lot of cases had healthier hair than we do, as the sulphates in a lot of our modern day shampoos strips our hair and scalp of it’s natural oils, and if we have colored hair, it will strip that as well.

So what sort of things would a person back then use to groom hair or clean their skin? Daily brushing of hair with a natural bristle brush was a very common practice. We need also to bear in mind that years ago many people made their own soap from natural ingredients, and not chemicals as we do now. Even soap purchased at a store in the city would have milder ingredients, lanolin, herbs, etc. Many people washed their hair with the same soap they washed their bodies with, and water drawn from a well or stream would be softer than the tap water many of us have. Personally I live in the high desert on a small ranch, and have my own ground water. My water is filtered through rock and sand, and is hard on account of it’s mineral content, so I would be challenged to find a bar soap that would work for me.

There are a few methods of washing hair from the past that we wouldn’t necessarily think of. It is said that New England rum is a very good conditioning wash for hair. There is something about the molasses and spice content of it that is less drying than another alternative, that being brandy. In my WIP,  my main character  is confronted with the problem of needing to wash the stench of fish out of his shoulder-length hair. He is skeptical when a shipmate suggests the ration of rum that he will be given at mess will do the job for him, but afterward he is more than satisfied with the result.

Knowing that plumbing in houses was all but unheard of in the 18th century, the chore of drawing a bath was quite an ordeal. First one would need a tub, and not every home was equipped with one. if you were lucky enough to have a tub, you would still need to fill it with water carried from an outdoor source, and have kettles boiling to warm it. Many folk, particularly those who lived in the country, would bathe in a pond or stream to avoid this chore during clement weather. Most people though, practiced a bathing technique my own mother often used. They would take what she always called a sponge bath, using a basin of warm water and a modicum of soap. We would soap up a wash cloth and clean ourselves, using the clean water from a second basin and a clean washcloth as a rinse afterward. In many ways this method is actually nicer than a bath tub, as the soap is removed from the skin.

As far as cleaning one’s teeth went, in the 18th century tooth brushing was not a practise widely in use. Some people owned brushes for this purpose, mainly people of means, and for a long time they were made of natural materials such as boar bristles. Common people who wanted to spruce up their teeth used a wettened cloth and rubbed them clean. Well, cleaner. This doesn’t sound pleasant at all. None of these methods were as effective as what we practice today, as exemplified by notable people such as George Washington and John Adams.

So, if you are still laboring under the assumption that people were non-bathers in the 18th century, rest assured that they were not, and people did often try to clean their teeth. It may be true that there were certain people who didn’t bathe, but in our society today, unfortunately this is still true. Another misconception many people hold, is that all men wore wigs then. This was not always the case either. Mainly wigs were worn by rich men, and those in the public eye. Average men, in a time when shoulder-length hair was in style, tied their own hair back with a length of ribbon or a strip of cloth. It was not always dirty hair, either. Knowing that, we can rest easy without thinking our ancestors were people we wouldn’t want to share the same space with. Huzzah for soap!


Mending and Making Memories 

As I sit at my dining room table mending the curtains left to me by my late mother-in-law, I am reminded of how little our modern lives resemble those of our long ago ancestors. Aside from having to replace the hem stitches, I’m having to discard handfuls of “invisible” thread. If sewing isn’t something you take part in, that is synthetic clear thread often used to cut the cost when manufacturing household items. Invisible thread breaks down when subjected to washing, as well as exposure to sunlight. 

I have to wonder as I re-hem these curtains, what would my great grandmother have used? She would likely have used cotton or flax thread, spun in a similar manner to the winding of rope. I’m using Coats  Extra Strong upholstery thread, which will likely hold up longer than the curtains will themselves. 

I’m reminded also of the women in my story from the Baptist church in Providence who gather together to sew a sail for the ship Aaron and his father James will use to chase down the Lady Lorena and rescue the cabin boy. They will need to make a very large mainsail which is the only sail a Viking longboat uses. It will need to have handsewn French seams that will hold the sections together in wind and salt water spray. 

What would the ladies normally be sewing in their circle at church? Usually it would be items for the homes of people in need, pillows, bedding, kitchen items, etc. Likely they would do patchwork quilts, blocked designs, and samplers to make them feel at home. 

The quilted projects I have sewn myself would most assuredly look foreign to ladies in the 18th century. In my lifetime I have tried to fill my home with things that I’ve made, and keep it to traditional types of designs,  but often gifts I make are more modern. I once made a pillow for my daughter-in-law to help her feel more at home on the ship she was assigned to in the Navy.

When my first grandson was born though, I wanted to make him something very special. I chose a pattern printed in the late 70’s or early 80’s that reflected the sea, and his mother’s position as a sailor.  Although it is a fairly old pattern, it is not as old as what the women would have made at the church. Their quilts would have looked much different,  but the sentiment and the keepsake quality would have been the same. There is just nothing better than a quilt made with love, and handsewn.