Magic Mirror

Magic Mirror

(A wise mother and a playful dog save a Prince from a fate worse than death.)

Once upon a time in faraway land, there were two great kingdoms. They were known as the Great North Kingdom and the Great South Kingdom, or to the people of that land, simply North and South. Each kingdom had its own royal family and the subjects managed to get along fairly well except for the occasional squabble over minor trade issues or border disputes.

King Basil was the ruler of North and his lovely wife Queen Constance was known as much for her wisdom and love of justice as her beauty. In fact, she was known as the wisest Queen who'd ever ruled. Their one and only child was a son, Prince Valentin. Like good and loving parents they doted on the boy and made sure he had the best education and learned many life lessons that would prepare him to one day rule his own country. He grew into a handsome and charming young man filled with virtue.

Prince Valentin was known throughout his country for he traveled far and wide coursing his beloved hounds and riding the horses he loved. A typical young man in his prime, he loved the sport of the field and it was said that other than his parents and his loyal subjects, Prince Valentin cherished his hounds and horses above all else. In fact, he spent so much time with them and at sport, that his education suffered somewhat.

Why tell a greyhound story?

The story of greyhounds, or dogs, is pretty much the story of the human race. Everything about us, the good and bad, is reflected in our relationships with our animals. They are like a mirror held up for the world to see all that's good and bad about the human race. In Lacey's story there are many kinds of people. There is fear, loneliness, anger, cruelty, generosity, selflessness, joy, love.

But people already know that dogs are subject to our human frailties and moods, our good moments and bad moments, why tell it again? The books, "Black Beauty," and "Beautiful Joe," told stories about animals.

Those stories changed the world, especially the world that animals live in. Do you live in the same world that your greyhound lives in? The answer is yes and no. Humans have more control over their world and also the world of their pets.

Dogs have no voice to speak for themselves. They are not unionized or organized. There is still plenty of violence and cruelty in the world and they, our best friends, are subject to a lot of it. The news is filled with reports of the uncertain world that animals live in.

"Lacey Blue and Friends," is meant to tell an entertaining, sometimes even humorous story, but the message is clear. There is still too much abuse and violence. We need more adoptions and more compassion for our four legged partners in this world. While most humans are kind by nature, there are still a few that are cruel.

Sometimes, the best way to change the world is by telling a parable or story with a moral. The abovementioned books, and "Uncle Tom's Cabin," changed the world forever. So while it is good to have factual accounts and reports to let us know what is happening, fiction can be a powerful tool to make the world a better place and that is the goal of Lacey's story. Once you've read the story, you'll understand. Please help me to share the story by passing this along.


Thursday Blog Hop

If you read Lacey's scathing review (above) of my bumbling attempts to get the manuscript fit for publishing, you probably know that I'm not known for getting things right the first or even the second time around.

With the motto, "Get it right the third time," in mind, I did manage to remember the Thursday Blog Hop and here I am.

I really don't know why I'm so slow, but I am. Maybe it has something to do with all the books I read or the fact that I am a chronic daydreamer. I like to think of myself as a consciousness explorer, but some people have opined that I might just be a goof-off.

Whatever the case may be, I did manage to remember this blog hop today and I think I even got it right this time.


Close the Gate!! Close the Door!!

There are two kinds of people in this world, those who close gates and those who don't. I am a gate closer. I grew up around large animals that were in fields and paddocks that were locked for a reason. It was hammered into me at an early age to close a gate when I passed through it. Where I came from, gates weren't just for decoration and if you didn't close them, a herd of cows, a bull, the horses, or sheep could wind up in a road or the neighbors garden. In other words, there'd be hell to pay if you didn't close the gate.

Fast forward about 50 years to 2008 and I am in an MTV video with Andy Samberg and Will Arnett. I play a cool biker dude who walks into the bar in the middle of a fight they are having and I am so cool, they stop fighting and try to be friendly to me, but I just walk by and give them a look that says, "You guys are so un-cool."

I had to walk into the bar and pass through a door. First, Andy was supposed to go through the door with a dead deer on his shoulder. Then, when I got my cue, I was supposed to go through the same door. So the door had to be closed after he walked through it and it was. I walked through the door and closed it. Then I did my bit. After the shoot, the director thanked me and I thought I had done a good job.

On the night of the MTV Music Awards show, I eagerly watched the show because the video was a promo on the show. But when I watched it I got a big shock because I had been cut out of it except for about a second when Andy says to me, "Hey," or something like that. Looking back on it, I realize why I got cut out. I stopped to shut the door. During the editing the editor probably thought, "Wow, he shut the door. Nobody shuts doors on film."

So shutting the door probably cost me my film career. I left Hollywood shortly thereafter and haven't been on film since then. No one in Hollywood, other than my friends, noticed.

One of the things that bugs me in life is people who don't shut doors and people who don't shut gates. Have you ever noticed that people in movies often don't shut a door? I watched "North by Northwest," last night and noticed that after the maid let Cary Grant and his entourage through the door of the house he was supposedly brought to against his will, she didn't shut the door.

What maid in real life wouldn't shut a door after letting guests into a house? There she is trooping through the house while behind her, the door is left wide open. It is so phony and yet, in movie after movie, TV show after TV show, nine times out of ten, they don't shut the stinking door. Why?

I was moving into a house with my daughter in Studio City and we had a gated yard for the dogs. Laurel Canyon Boulevard is a very busy road so we always made sure to keep the gates shut. Furniture was being moved in and cable guys came to install cable. During the confusion, one of the cable guys walked through a gate and left it open. Our miniature Australian Shepherd, Pyro, who had been right beside us a minute ago, went out the gate without our knowledge.

A few minutes later, one of the cable guys happened to be passing and nonchalantly said, "Hey your dog got hit by a car and I think it's dead." He continued on his merry way to install the cable.

I rushed out and found the little guy lying in the center lane with cars zipping by. I threaded my way back into the house with his limp and lifeless body in my hands and put him on the counter. I couldn't get a heart beat and as far as I could tell with a mirror, no breath. My daughter was in hysterics. I told her to call the emergency number for the Vet and I started working on Pyro. I did some energy work, believe it or not, based on IET and my experience as an energy worker. After a while I got a heartbeat and then, finally he was back with us and lifted his head.

Pyro had a badly broken leg and dislocated hip. He was missing one tooth and another was broken and his eye was swollen shut. He had to have a pin installed in the leg along with some wire to keep it all together. There was no time to blast the negligent cable guy over the gate, but his employers certainly heard about it later.

If I am ever in a movie or TV show again and pass through a door or gate, unless I have explicit instructions from the director, I'll still stop to close the door or gate. It may cost me my shot at immortality, but it's just something I have to do. So if you happen to see movie and there isn't a scene with a guy who walks through a door and closes it, that was probably a movie I was in and got cut out of, because I broke the rule and closed the door.

Another Saturday and Time to Hope To It!

I don't know about you but sometimes, for me, it seems that time is just zipping by while I am stuck in one spot. I think I finally actually remembered to get into the pet hop and also got the code. We'll find out. I have been working so hard on a book about animals and in particular, a greyhound and her friends, that I haven't had much time to connect with other people who love animals. My closest brush with interacting with animals this week came when I pulled into the yard two nights ago and almost ran over my friend Elvis (he is a young porcupine that seems to think he's human).

Elvis and his friend were in front of the door where I usually park my car. We had a chat and he promised not to do that again. They are so dark and just a round ball, so they don't show up very well at night.

As for the Lacey's book, I am on the third proof, 30th re-write (or so it seems) and it doesn't look like her story will be out on the 1st of November as I'd hoped. On the other hand, when it is ready, hopefully in about a week, it should be worth the wait. The next problem, of course, is how to present it to the world? Greyhound lovers will probably be interested, but there are a lot of other people who would like a good story about animals and people who have adventures and romance, but how to tell them about it.

Who knows, perhaps a new book hop? Hmm, we'll have to look into that. Then again, I'd have to remember it, wouldn't I. For now, I am happy to finally be part of the pet hop and look forward to spending some time hopping around and visiting the different blogs and reading the interesting things you all write.

Biorhythms for Dogs Or Why Do We Have Good Dog Days and Bad Dog Days?

I'm a big fan of biorhythms and consult my biorhythm generator almost every day to see what I can expect from myself. For those who don't know what biorhythms are, briefly, they were first studied in the 19th century in Berlin by Dr. Wilhelm Fliess. At the time, Dr. Fliess, a medical doctor, noticed that his patients had times when they seemed more susceptible to illness and after studying his patients for a while, he concluded that each human being has certain biological rhythms. Dr. Fliess charted just two such, "master internal clocks," as he called them.

The first was a 23 day cycle for the physical cycle and the second was a 28 day cycle for the emotional rhythms. These cycles supposedly start at birth. Later, scientists would add two more major cycles for intuition and intelligence. In modern times, insurance companies have used biorhythms to try to predict when workers would be more accident prone.

The thing about biorhythms is that you are not always at your best. There are even critical days when your cycle is going from positive to negative. Some studies seem to show that you really are more accident prone or susceptible to colds and flu when your rhythms are critical or not positive. My own anecdotal experience seems to support this as well. Today, for instance, is one of the least favorable days of the year for me, according to my chart. As you can see, however, I don't hide under the bed just because it is supposed to be a rough day. I think we should still try to do our best and use each day we're given to make whatever progress we can.

The most important lesson that I have learned from following my biorhythms and the biorhythms of family members is that, like everything else on earth and in nature, animals and people have cycles. That means good days and bad days. There are days when a dog is naturally mentally sharper and emotionally calmer and there are days when they are more prone to goofy behavior or mistakes. When training a dog, that's very important to know. My own experience has been that after I teach a dog something, it will sometimes seem to regress or forget. Knowing that he or she may just be having a bad day helps to explain this and I can allow it without feeling discouraged.

Some people try to find the ideal mate by finding someone with compatible biorhythms. According to my biorhythm calculator Amy Locane, the actress, and I are 100% emotionally compatible and overall we are 95% compatible. I am not sure, however, that Amy would agree. Imagine if you could find a pet that was 95% compatible with you? On the day that you came home and found the shredded slippers you would be having a good day, emotionally speaking. You would forgive your dog and give it some extra loving because you realize it was just having a bad day.

The biggest obstacle to charting dog's biorhythms is that they can't tell us what they are feeling. When the original study was done in the 19th century, long before computers, the family trees of 10,000 individuals were used and the researchers went back three generations. If we could do that with dogs and had a record of when they had accidents, bit the post man, won a race, saved a child from a burning building, etc., we might be able to figure out what the canine cycles might be.

Some people have tried to use biorhythms to figure out which horses were likely to win a race, but I haven't heard how this actually worked out. I suspect, like a lot of things in life, it is much more complicated and the human mind can't grasp all that it entails. For instance, while I check my biorhythms almost every day, I also check my numerology report. There are days when they do not agree. For instance, on this day that my biorhythms call one of the least favorable days, my numerology number for the day is 9 and my report says that it is a good day for problem solving.

Have you ever checked your dog's name to see what number he or she is? If you know your dog's birthdates and full name as well as the name he or she uses most often, that would be the name you call him or her, I guess, then you could do a numerology chart. Each number has its own influence or resonance and according to the study of numerology, our days and lives are governed by numbers. Carl Jung, the famous Psychiatrist and a student of the I Ching, believed that we enter this earth on a wave (similar to a cycle) and that we are tied to certain events that will occur and therefore, it isn't so much the number itself that determines the events, but simply that the numbers, like the address of your house, denote the location of the event in time.

Whatever the case may be, as I said before, the most important lesson to be learned from this is tolerance. We all have good days and bad days and they are caused by a myriad of factors, some of which we don't have any control over. Having spent a lot of time in the company of dogs, I can tell you this. They always do their best, but like humans and other creatures, they are limited by their own rhythms and have days when they are smarter, calmer, happier. I would love to see the results of a study to try to understand the biorhythms of dogs.

Perhaps if we all started writing down the days when our dog's are smarter, goofier, happier, sadder, physically stronger or weaker, a pattern would begin to emerge. In the long run, I think everyone, especially the dogs, would benefit. If nothing else, it might help prepare you for those good dog and bad dog days.

Are Dogs Descendants of Wolves, Ask Sheep About Wolfie the German Shepherd

Years ago I had a little farm and a small flock of sheep. I didn't have a dog at the time and, of course, had to remedy that situation. The dog I chose was a long haired German Shepherd. He was just a puppy when I got him. I named him Wolfgang. His real name was very long and very German and sounded like Schutzhund. Wolfie, was a good little dog who grew into a very big dog and a very good dog. He also looked like a wolf.

His training was minimal because he knew what was expected of him and did it. Could you imagine what the world would be like if people were the same way? However, I am digressing here and will try to stick to the point. The point was that Wolfie was a very good farm dog. One of Wolfie's specialties was homeland security.

He guarded the premises and no one came in without permission, and that included other animals. We had an overflow of rabbits one year and had to place some in cages outside. We usually kept them in the barn, but there were just too many so we put some outside. We were in the house after dark and heard a commotion outside. Coyotes!

I don't know how many coyotes there were. They were among the cages, howling and yipping and trying to rip the cages open. I opened the door and Wolfie scooted out, a low growl escaping as he passed me. I raced out with a flashlight. My biggest concern was that there was a pack of coyotes, from the sound of it, and only one Wolfie.

The coyotes, however, would have disagreed with me. I am sure, to them, it seemed like there were a dozen Wolfies. He seemed to be everywhere and wherever he was you could hear his low growls and the coyote's yips of pain. I tried to catch him, but he was too fast and drove the coyotes into the woods and up the hill behind the house. It sounded like a war. He finally came home, no worse for wear. I never found any dead coyotes, but I am sure there were many wounded.

We lost one rabbit that night. She had died of fright. We never had another problem with coyotes. Wolfgang had left an impression on them, in the form of teeth marks, I'm sure. Wolfgang was an impressive animal and no animals were more impressed than our sheep.

When it came to herding, Wolfie was a natural. I think it was his favorite job. I thought I would have to train him, but he was so smart, I simply told him what to do, and he did it. The sheep had been taking advantage of me for quite some time. They knew I was a slow human and they could outrun me and if they felt like spendingt the night in the field, what could I do about it?

I had a ram and a few ewes who just didn't want to be locked up at night. Considering the coyote population in our area, being safely locked away in the barn was a must. Until Wolfie came along I often spent considerable time herding sheep alone. Even as a puppy he knew what I wanted and quickly had the sheep in line. I can still remember the looks on their faces the first time Wolfie joined me in the evening when I was putting the sheep away for the night.

"Crikeys!" they seemed to say. "It's a wolf!"

Wolfgang crouched low and just stared at them. Then he began to inch forward and they nervously crowded together. The old ram made a show of staring him down. He turned and got between Wolfie and the ewes, but as soon as Wolfie moved, the stampede started.

"Put the sheep in the barn, Wolfie" I said. He did.

They ran for shelter and naturally headed straight for the barn. Every evening, after that, putting the sheep in the barn was no longer a time consuming job. I simply showed up with Wolfie and yelled, "Put the sheep in the barn, Wolfie." They headed for the barn right away and never challenged his authority. If I wanted the sheep I only had to say, "Bring me the sheep, Wolfie," and he would herd them to me.

Unfortunately, however, dogs do not live long enough and Wolfie aged and finally left us. His legacy lived on, though, because all I had to do was walk out to the field and yell, "Put the sheep in the barn, Wolfie!" and the flock would head for the barn. As new sheep were added, sheep who had never seen Wolfie, they were trained to head for the barn with the rest of the flock. No doubt they had been warned by the old timers about Wolfgang. It always gave me pleasure to think that Wolfie was still herding sheep, even after he had passed on.

I am sure the sheep thought the boss man had a wolf working with him and while you could get away with a lot with the boss, that Wolfie wouldn't put up with any nonsense. The reason sheep can be herded by dogs is because, whether humans believe it or not, all dogs are descended from wolves and if you don't believe it, just ask a sheep.


I Want a Computer That is as Simple as My Toaster

Hi, Lacey here. As you know, I have paws and find it very difficult to type so I have partnered with Bill to tell my stories. Unfortunately, I didn't check his qualifications before agreeing to work with him. I don't want to sound critical, but this guy is a little backwards when it comes to technology. In fact, it's a wonder that he has figured out which end of the pencil writes and which one unwrites. He says he wants a computer as simple as his toaster, but what he really needs is a computer as simple as he is, I think it's called an abacus. I'll let him explain. Here's Bill...

Very funny, Lacey. As you know, I usually write about animals and nature and I promise that the next thing I write will be about the great outdoors or a family pet. This time, however, I am writing about a problem that I share with many others. I'm talking about all this technology that is supposedly making our lives better. I'm a writer, a storyteller to be more precise, and I am trying to build a website and promote it to sell my latest 'gem,' a book about greyhounds and other animals. It's taking longer to build the site and get it right than it took to write and edit the book.

It's just too much. I saw a post in a blog that I decided I'd like to share it with my friends. So I clicked on the button that said I could retweet it, but then I was asked if I had an account with that particular service. It turns out that it wasn't Twitter. It was another app. that works with Twitter. I thought I had pretty much reached the pinnacle of technology when I opened a Twitter account, but apparently, I am still a piker. There are now more ways to share an article or item with your online friends, most of whom you've never met and wouldn't recognize if they were sitting in your living room, than you can shake a memory stick at.

It's too much. I just want to write my little stories, one letter and one word at a time. I sit in front of my computer and I am confronted with buttons of every shape and description asking me if I want to do all kinds of things. Remember when PCs first came out? They were going to simplify our lives. The first computers would fill a big room and were nothing more than number crunchers. They were giant calculators that wouldn't fit in the biggest nerd's pocket, even without the protector, but technologists fixed all that, didn't they? We now have powerful computers right on our desks or even held in our hands.

There are computer chips in just about anything you can think of. At the turn of the latest century I was horrified when people told me there was a computer chip in my toaster and it wouldn't work after Y2K. Do you remember that? Supposedly, the world was going to come to a screeching halt because there was a computer chip in my toaster.

We used to say that the President had his finger on the button, meaning he could push a single button and launch enough nuclear missiles to obliterate the entire world. Imagine that, one button to destroy the world, but six to read my email? After Y2K the only thing that would be possible was the complete annihilation of the world because that button would still work, or would it? Maybe they had also installed a computer chip in the nuclear weapons button so the President couldn't even destroy the world. We would all wake up one morning and have to settle for no toast and no nuclear war.

My toaster is one piece of equipment I have managed to master despite the fact that it has more than one button. I have it perfectly adjusted to produce toast that is at the peak of golden brownness, as long as I always buy exactly the same brand and kind of whole wheat bread, that is. I just slip two slices into the slots, that never change, and push the button down and within a few minutes I have toast. No apps and no upgrades. I don't worry about toast 2.0. Why can't more things be like a toaster?

Why is everything getting more complicated? I thought these things were labor saving devices? I recently spent three hours installing an app, and trying to figure out why it wouldn't work right only to discover that I had left the www off one of the urls I had to put in, so the stupid thing didn't recognize it and wouldn't work. Does that sound like a smart app. to you? Is this the kind of thing we can rely on to make life better?

Personally, I think it is part of a giant conspiracy to keep us all busy so we won't realize what a mess the whole world is in. How did it get this way? Why haven't all these technological advances saved us from the anxiety of an economy that is in the tank and a crumbling infrastructure? I think the same geniuses who make toasters should run the world. They got it right and quit. They aren't trying to tweak toasters. Can you name anything else that isn't being upgraded? I went through a divorce seven years ago. On the divorce forms my wife filled out she wrote that her reason for filing was that she was upgrading to husband 2.0! It's just too much.


A Lesson I Learned from My First Roommate, a German Shepherd Named Flash

The year was 1969, the year of flower power, peace, and love. It was also the year that I left home at 16 years old. I didn't leave alone. I took my faithful companion, Flash, along. Flash was a very large German Shepherd who had been rescued after suffering terrible abuse as a puppy. He was kind, stalwart, and loyal. He was also very good at being a German Shepherd. He knew what was expected of him and followed the rules.

I, on the other hand, was a country bumpkin, still wet behind the ears, so to speak. We had some fine adventures, but they almost never happened because we were almost killed in our sleep one night. We all know that sleeping in a room with an open flame or a gas appliance can be dangerous, but I would also like to add another dangerous situation to that list.

Flash and I lived in my 1952 GMC pickup truck. Are you starting to understand the country bumpkin reference? We occasionally crashed at a crash pad, but most of the time we preferred our own company and lived like a couple of vagabonds, sleeping wherever we parked. The original seat of the pickup truck had been removed and two large and comfy bucket seats from a Buick had been installed. Flash usually slept in the passenger seat and I slept behind the wheel.

For entertainment, other than my harmonica, we had the AM radio in the dash. We lived off what I could manage to scuffle up, which usually wasn't much, but we managed. I dropped in to High School once in a while, mostly out of curiosity and to check in on my more conventional peers. Most of our days were spent riding the roads, hunting birds, or working part time at the junk yard to make enough money to feed ourselves.

The cooking facilities in a 1952 GMC are non-existent, so I ate out of cans and Flash ate out of dog food bags. It was the fall of the year and nights were chilly. When we first started rooming together in the truck, Flash tried to sleep on top of me, but I would have none of it and forced him to stay on his own side of the cab. As the nights got colder I began to re-think that policy. We slept with the windows up and I burrowed deeper into the old, woolen, army blanket I used for warmth.

One night, I parked in the woods off an old road that no one used. We were near an old mill site and the sound of the water over the dam made a nice backdrop to lull us to sleep. Before we slept we had our dinner. I had run out of dog food and planned on getting more in the morning. I didn't think it would be a big problem, I'd just share my baked beans with Flash.

Perhaps this would be a good time to discuss the physical attributes of a German Shepherd. While they are wonderfully sturdy dogs on the outside, German Shepherds are as delicate as a Swiss watch on the inside. As anyone who has lived with a German Shepherd knows, they have delicate stomachs and must be on a carefully monitored diet, especially if you will be sleeping in a confined space with one. But this was the time I lived dangerously and I did almost anything that came to mind without a lot of forethought.

We had our meal and snuggled down to sleep, the sound of the falling water like a lullaby in the background. During the night, I had a dream that I was at the local landfill (we called them dumps back them). The stench was horrendous and it was such a realistic dream that I could hear the rumbling of trucks and actually smelled the landfill, in fact, it made me physically sick and awakened me from the dream.

I woke coughing and gasping for air. The cab of the truck was filled with noxious gas. Oh! The humanity! Flash, poor soul, was moaning in his sleep and his stomach was making terrible rumbling sounds. I quickly wound the windows down and I hung my head out the driver's side window while Flash hung his head out the passenger's side window. I don't know how long we remained like that, but I eventually recovered and we spent the rest of the night sleeping with the windows open.

What I learned from my experience was that German Shepherds, like aerosol cans, should come with a warning label that says, "Warning, contents under pressure. Use in a well ventilated area."


Are You, Or Is Someone You Know, a Porcupine?

By []Bill S. Hart

I live in rural Maine and find I am interacting more and more with the animals and less with the humans in my life. I haven't heard any complaints from either group. When I say animals, I mean mostly wild animals, though there are a few dogs and cats who I know on a first name basis and who are on my Christmas list. One friend I made this year is Elvis. That's what I call him, I don't think his parents do.

Elvis is a young porcupine. I first met him this spring. My former sweetie and I would go out and watch the hayfield across the laneway in the evening. Elvis started coming into the field about an hour before sunset and would feed on the grass and roots. After a while, he got accustomed to us and we enjoyed watching him. It wasn't like he actually did anything particularly interesting. He basically just ate grass. Since I don't own a satellite dish and I read and write all day (so I don't feel like doing it at night) it was watch Elvis or twiddle my thumbs, so The Elvis Show it was.

I was sitting under the apple tree out behind the house a few days ago and Elvis came waddling through the wild grass and bushes. He walked within arm's length of my chair, and climbed the apple tree behind me. He was doing quite a bit of grunting and making what I believe were disparaging remarks. I don't think he liked the idea that I was sitting so close to the tree. I added insult to injury, so to speak, by taking a picture of him with my phone. He was sitting in the tree eating apples.

We hadn't seen each other for weeks and I thought he would like to catch up on current events, but he didn't. When I tried to strike up a conversation, it was pretty one sided.

Me: Hi, Elvis, long time no see. You've certainly grown since I last saw you.

Elvis: Grunt

Me: I've heard you calling at night, have you managed to locate a lover?

Elvis: Grunt.

Me: I haven't, either.

Another much larger porcupine came waddling along heading for Elvis's tree. It got within about 6 feet of me and spotted me. It made some very nasty noises and ran as fast as a fat, flat-footed porcupine can to another tree. I am obviously not on a first name basis with that one and it looks like I never will be because it is old and hide-bound and probably wouldn't consider having a human for a friend.

I started thinking about what life might be like for a porcupine and how they are misunderstood by humans and maybe other animals as well. We sometimes think that porcupines and skunks have a pretty silky ride because they have natural defenses that keep the world at bay. Porcupines have two enemies, humans and fisher cats. Fisher cats are the only animals that have figured out how to kill and eat porcupines and I won't go into the details because they're quite gruesome.

I have met people here in Maine who shoot porcupines whenever they get the chance. This is a practice left over from the days when logging was the chief occupation in Maine. There is still a healthy logging industry, but it no longer dominates the economy as it once did. Porcupine damage was the reasoning behind the slaughter of porcupines. I don't know just how serious the problem was, but I suspect it was over rated and used by some as an excuse to kill porcupines.

I'm not even sure that Elvis is a boy. He might be a girl for all I know. The trouble with porcupines is that it is very difficult to find out what sex they are unless you have some very thick gloves or a high threshold of pain. Porcupines like Elvis will tolerate your company, but their motto seems to be, "Friendly but not familiar." Can you blame them for keeping the world at quill's length? Once you get past those nasty quills, what do you have? A fat, slow, near-sighted animal with no defenses. Sounds like about 90% of the human race, doesn't it?

I think a lot of people are like porcupines. We grow some nasty quills on the outside to protect ourselves because we feel so vulnerable. The problem is that no one can get through the quills, not even people who would be our friends or lovers. Therefore, we spend our days and nights in solitude, always looking out for the fisher cats and dimwits who would hurt us just for the sake of hurting us.

So what else have I learned from Elvis? Elvis likes my company and tries to be friendly, but he just can't seem to get past whatever made him decide to become a porcupine. We sit out in the field in the evening, he in the apple tree and I below it. I talk, he grunts. It's the best we each can do and I am now content to let him be just who he is, a young porcupine with social issues, while he lets me be myself, a middle aged writer who spends most of his time with a porcupine.

You can read more of Bill's short articles and animal stories at Bill's blog, Lacey Blue and Bill Hart. []

Lacey Blue Days is a greyhound and the subject of Bill's next book, []Lacey Blue and Friends, a Greyhound Story

Article Source: [,-Or-Is-Someone-You-Know,-a-Porcupine?&id=5111254] Are You, Or Is Someone You Know, a Porcupine?

My Dog Can Talk, the Story of Charlie, the Talking Dog

Author: Bill Hart

(Have you ever known anyone who thought his or her dog could talk?)

My phone rang and awakened me from a really good dream. Unfortunately, it dissolved with the mists and was gone (the dream, not the phone). It was forever lost in the ether, like the really good ideas you get when you are going to sleep. You promise yourself you'll remember them in the morning, but you never do. Like that.

It was my brother John, my one and only brother, my boon companion, my fishing buddy, my lifelong friend.

"What the heck are you doing calling me at this hour?" I angrily demanded. "And on a Saturday to boot!"

"I have something amazing to show you," he said.

"It can't wait until the sun is up? It's not like it's fishing season, John. Unless it's fishing season there's no reason on earth to get up this early on a Saturday morning."

"Just get over here as quick as you can. This is an emergency," he said and hung up before I could get more information.

Twenty minutes later, I walked into his kitchen and was greeted by Georgia, his longsuffering wife. She stood in the kitchen in her bathrobe, with a look of long suffering on her face. She handed me a steaming cup of coffee and retreated toward the living room. "Just remember," she said over her shoulder, "I had nothing to do with this."

John was seated at the table, his dog Charlie sitting in a chair beside him. I guess at this point I should give a little more information about John. He loved dogs and they loved him. He seemed to be able to communicate with canines just using telepathy. He could get dogs to do incredible things and seemed to be on their wavelength. His dogs always seemed to be smarter than other dogs. Charlie was a good example. Charlie was a Husky, German Shepherd mix whom John had rescued from the shelter.

Charlie sat at the table and looked over my brother's shoulder while he read the paper. In fact, whenever we sat at the kitchen table, Charlie sat in a chair just like a human, with an intelligent look on his face, and seemed to follow the conversation. He always looked at the speaker and seemed engrossed in the conversation, hanging on every word. I suspected that he wasn't as smart as he appeared, but John said he was smarter than he looked and questioned my intelligence.

The first sip of coffee hit my brain and the steam seemed to revive me a little, too.

"Okay, what's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing is wrong," John said.

"You said it was an emergency," I said.

"It is, in a way. I need a witness," he said.

"Who is suing you?"

"No one is suing me, Bill. Why do you assume that someone is suing me?" he asked, testily.

"You just said you need a witness," I said. "You said it was an emergency. Why else would you need a witness?"

He looked at Charlie and Charlie looked back at him in that knowing way. Charlie raised his eyebrows, well what passes for eyebrows on a dog. Charlie smiled. Did I mention Charlie could smile? He did.

"You know," I said. "It's bad enough that you dragged me out of bed at this hour by telling me there was an emergency, when there obviously isn't, but if you and that dog are going to sit there having your private little joke at my expense, I'm leaving."

"He's always been like this in the morning," John said to Charlie. They exchanged more knowing looks.

"You should feel honored that you're the first person we chose to share this with," John said to me.

"What is it you want to share?" I asked.

John's face lit up like the kid who just found the pony under the Christmas tree. "Are you ready for this!" he said and paused for dramatic effect.

I waited.

"Charlie can talk!" He waited, watching my face for a reaction.

"I told you," Georgia called from the living room.

"Charlie can talk?" I asked incredulously.

"Yup." John grinned at Charlie and then me. Charlie grinned back.

I immediately thought of the classic cartoon about the guy who finds the frog that can sing and dance, only it won't sing and dance when anyone is around. It's one of my favorite cartoons.

"But he only does it when no one is around?" I asked suspiciously.

"No. He'll talk in front of almost anyone," John said.

I drained my coffee cup and studied Charlie. He was a nice looking dog and a friendly dog. I liked Charlie most of the time, except when he got that smug look on his face once in a while. In our family, dogs are considered family members, but this was stretching it. Charlie didn't have a coffee cup to drain. He just sat and studied me.

"Well, why didn't you have Charlie call me with the good news this morning?" I asked and didn't try to hide my sarcasm.

"He hasn't learned how to use the phone yet," John said.

"Okay, John, and Charlie," I said, "Let's hear it, speak boy."

First Charlie looked at me and then he looked at John.

John said, "He's a little shy and needs a little help to get going sometimes. It's better if I ask him questions."

"Okay, sure, why not?" I said. I got up and refilled my coffee cup. That gave me an idea. Uncle Stan sometimes came by in the morning and he and John had Irish coffee together. Sometimes they had lots of Irish coffee together. I didn't see a whiskey bottle in sight, but you never know.

"Has Uncle Stan been here?" I asked. "Have you guys been hitting the Irish coffee again?"

"Don't be ridiculous. Have a seat and watch this," John said.

When I was resettled in my seat, John said, "Okay Charlie, how old are you?"

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo." Then he smiled and panted.

"See," John said and beamed at Charlie like a parent who just watched his seven year old play the Nutcracker Suite on the piano.

"What did he say?" I asked.

"He said five and a half, Bill," John said, disappointment creeping into his voice.

"Sorry, I missed it. It sounded like he said er-roo-roo, to me," I said.

John sighed. "Okay, Charlie, tell Bill who is president of the United States."

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo." Then he looked at me and I swear he winked.

"See?" John said.

"Still sounds like er-roo-roo to me," I said.

"Gee, Bill, will you listen for heaven's sake!" John said. "I'm sorry," he said to Charlie and rolled his eyes. "Okay boy, what's five plus five?"


"He never was too good at math," John explained to me. "No," he said to Charlie, "It's ten, but that was close."

"John," I said. "Everything he says sounds like er-roo-roo."

"Well, Bill, he's part German Shepherd. What do you expect?"

"Eh?" I asked, failing to comprehend.

"He has a little accent," John explained.


"German," John said. "He has a little German accent."

"John, why would a dog born and raised in the United States have a German accent?" I asked.

"Maybe he picked it up from his parents," John said and shrugged.

"Well greyhounds usually say roo roo," I said. "He sounds more like a greyhound to me."

Once again, John grinned proudly. He said, "Well, I never thought of that. You know what? I think you're right, he's bi-lingual, too!"

"You really believe your dog can talk, don't you, John?" I asked.

"What do you mean, I believe it? Of course I believe it, you heard it yourself," he said.

"I heard your dog making dog sounds," I said.

"You should hear him do imitations," John said. "Show him, Charlie."

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo-roo-er."

"Well that was certainly different," I said sarcastically. "Who was that, John Wayne?"

"Very funny," John said and chuckled. "It was the poodle next door. You can't understand him because you don't want to believe a dog can talk and might be as smart as you," he said in exasperation.

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo."

"You're right, I'm sorry, Charlie," John said.

"What did he say?" I asked suspiciously.

"Never mind, Bill," John said.

"Did he just say he was smarter than me?" I demanded. "I didn't like the tone of his voice."

"It doesn't matter. I'm sure he didn't mean it, Bill, he's just getting frustrated, that's all. But this proves one thing doesn't it?" John said.

"What's that?" I asked.

"You understood him that time, didn't you?"

"Call me when fishing season starts," I said and headed for the door.

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo."

"Same to you, Charlie," I said and left.

About the Author

You can read about the adventures of Lacey Blue Days, the greyhound and all Bill Hart's stories at

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Some of My Favorite People are Dogs

Bill Hart

In my family we consider pets family members. This practice can be a little confusing for strangers when I tell them that my niece Jetta is twelve years old and usually carries a tennis ball in her mouth. Jetta is a twelve year old Labrador Retriever, but if I don't mention that fact, the bit about the tennis ball can raise eyebrows.

At the other end of the age spectrum is Karma, my four month old granddaughter, who loves to chew on just about anything and romps around the backyard at full speed until she runs out of energy and falls asleep. Karma is also a Lab. There are other family members who are not of the Lab persuasion, for instance, there is Bennie. Unfortunately, Bennie has a thing for catching birds so I have to be vigilant and shoo him off the deck when the birds come to eat. According to his vet charts, Bennie is a short haired cat of undetermined, though probably mixed, breed.

In my opinion, Bennie also leads a charmed life. If the average cat has nine lives, Bennie has thirty nine. He is white with black patches and loves to hang out in the wild grass fields around the house. These are the same fields that our local osprey and eagles hunt regularly. Bennie's distinctive white coat stands out like a beacon in the green and brown grass and yet, the eagles pass him by day after day, month after month, as do the coyotes and other predators.

His owners have tried to keep him indoors for his own protection, but he is miserable when not allowed to roam freely. There are two kinds of cats in this world, outside cats and inside cats. Bennie is the former, a guy who just can't stay indoors. It's not like we are afraid of Bennie getting lost, we can always easily find him because he stands out like a white cat in a green world.

My grandson Pyro weighs seven pounds and likes to float around in the pool on an inflatable float. He also thinks he weighs two hundred pounds and is the toughest dog in the world. If ever there was a classic case of the Napoleon Complex, it is Pyro. He insists on wearing a tee shirt whenever he goes outside, unless he is going in the pool, that is. He also likes to wear boots that originally belonged to his friend Peaches, a Chihuahua who doesn't care for footwear. Pyro is a miniature Australian Shepherd with strange white eyes. He could double as Chupacabra in a horror movie if not for his diminutive size.

My grandson Kash is a huge Cane Corso who lives in the same house with Pyro. Unfortunately, for Kash, he arrived after Pyro was already established, so he is constantly harassed by Pyro. Pyro likes to hide Kash's toys under the couch where Kash can't reach them. Pyro also likes to lie on Kash's bed and when Kash whines and tries to get him off the bed, he does his wild eyed Chupacabra thing and says in dogspeak, "You talking to me? Are you talking to me!" I am sure that somewhere in his little doggie brain, Pyro has a plan to conquer the world and this time, he won't make the mistake of invading Russia.

There are many more animals in the family and each one has his or her own distinctive personality that brings much happiness and pleasure into our lives. Life just wouldn't be the same without them and like they say, "You can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your pets."

Lenny, the Problem Woodpecker – A Guide For Parents

Bill Hart

I sit at my desk and write every day, while just a few feet away, on the deck outside the window, hundreds of birds come to feed. There are hummingbird feeders, suet feeders, sunflower towers, and various seed feeders as well as the seeds I spread on the railing and deck. I used to put corn and other treats out for a young raccoon named, Bruce, but that is another story and we'll stick to this one as long as we can.

Needless to say, the birds and I have gotten to know each other over the months and years. I usually don't gossip about them, but I just had to tell someone about Lenny, especially those folks who might be considering parenthood.

One of the nice things about watching my feathered friends is that I get to meet the whole family, when they eventually bring their young to the deck to teach them how to fend for themselves. That is how I came to know Lenny. Lenny may or may not be his given name, obviously, since I don't speak fluent woodpecker, I've never been able to ask them. For reasons that I'd rather not go into, however, I call him Lenny.

Lenny is a Hairy Woodpecker. That's not a criticism, it is a statement of fact. Though I can't see any hairs on him, that is what his species is called, unless you happen to be a Latin scholar, ornithologist, or nitpicker, in which case you might call him Picoides villosus. I'll leave that up to you. If anyone would like to dispute these facts, please address your correspondence to the publishers of the, "National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region)."

You might think it pleasant to sit and write while just outside the birds are feeding and going about their business, but it can be distracting and sometimes downright bothersome to have all that chirping and fighting going on outside, yes fighting. Even the peaceful doves like to mix it up once in a while, but I am getting off on a tangent again.

Lenny showed up a few months ago and his mother stood beside the suet feeder, conveniently located on the railing of the deck (a little too convenient for Bennie the cat who occasionally has to be shooed away). While Mother stood beside the suet she took great beakfuls of suet and placed them into Lenny's beak as quickly as she could. I think I should mention that Lenny is larger than both his parents. As I said before, I don't like to gossip, but Lenny is on the plump side. Considering the way his poor mother was shoveling the suet into him, I can see why he is so large.

Father showed up and gave Mother a rest. Father stood beside the suet and shoveled as fast as he could, but not fast enough for the demanding ingrate Lenny who would loudly complain with a "Neep!" whenever they showed the least sign of flagging in the stretch, so to speak. According to the NASFGTNAB the hairy woodpecker makes a loud, "Peek," sound. That may well be, but Lenny says, "Neep." Perhaps he has a speech impediment or that is some new woodpecker slang, you know how kids are. Whatever the case may be, he has an annoying voice and loudly cries, "Neep!" whenever he doesn't get exactly what he wants.

I am sure his parent's intention was to teach him how to feed himself, however, he was insistent that they keep feeding him. When they didn't move fast enough for him he would help himself to a beak full of suet and with his beak still half full, loudly cry, "Neep!" This went on for hours and days. Finally, Father no longer came to the feeder with Lenny, but Mother, bless her, soldiered on, perhaps hoping he would eventually get it. When Mother took a break to grab a quick mouthful for herself, Lenny became irate and loudly cried, "NEEP!'"

Sometimes Mother would refuse to feed him and Lenny would play on her sympathy when his cries were ignored. He would go around to the side of the feeder where there is a plastic window that allows one to see the seeds inside and peck at the plastic. The seeds automatically slide out onto a tray at the bottom of the feeder and Lenny would literally be standing in the seeds while he desperately pecked at the plastic trying to get at the seeds. “Look at this, Ma, your baby is starving and it's all your fault.”

When poor old Mother could stand it no longer, her heart breaking, she would make a resigned, "Peek," and take a beak full of suet and offer it to Lenny. He would then hop to her side and take up his position and the shoveling would begin anew.

According to the guide book, the Hairy Woodpecker lays four white eggs in a hole in a tree. This is troubling because Mother and Father only seem to have one child. Do you mean to tell me Lenny was the keeper? What happened to eggs, two, three, and four? That may well have been what Mother and Father asked one day when they came home and found an even fatter Lenny sitting in the hole all alone.

It would have been interesting to watch the drama as Mother and Father first pushed Lenny out of the nest. I am sure that is exactly what they had to do. He doesn't seem like what they used to call a go-getter. What a Herculean struggle it must have been with Mother pulling from in front and Father pushing from behind as the great lummox Lenny dug his toes in and refused to budge.

As I watched the dysfunctional family of woodpeckers, I thought of the people I have known over the years. I've known some Lennys in my time. You may have known some as well, or perhaps you even had a Lenny for a child. You may have even been a Lenny, yourself. I know there are whole books about children who refuse to leave the nest. Unfortunately, woodpeckers can't read, but Mr. and Mrs. Woodpecker did finally find something that worked. They left. They probably flew away in the night and didn't leave a forwarding address.

One day Lenny showed up alone and made his pitiful and annoying, "NEEP!" sound for what seemed like hours. Though he carried on something chronic, as they say, Mother and Father were gone. That was weeks ago and Lenny spends a lot of time here on the deck. He has slimmed down somewhat and manages to feed himself, but he still seems to be challenged in certain areas. For instance, he sometimes tries to land on the sunflower seed tower with disastrous results.

He bangs and pecks away at the deck railing. Trust me Lenny, there are no insects hidden in the deck railing. I consulted the guide and it says that a Hairy Woodpecker will hammer on a dead limb as part of its courtship ritual and to let everyone know that it is staking a claim to that territory. Fortunately, so far, no female woodpeckers have answered Lenny's staccato personal ad. One can only wonder what the upshot of a union of Lenny, with any woodpecker dim enough to find him attractive, would be like?

I realize that woodpeckers have incredibly hard heads and are quite durable, but there must be a limit. Yesterday I heard a strange metallic sound and looked outside to investigate. There on the telephone pole was Lenny, banging away at a metal fitting. I think his parents made the right decision, don't you?