The Tale of the Goat-Dog

Our family had a goat when I was younger. A fairly large white Saanen milk goat. She definitely had her quirks and eccenticitries. Her home was somewhat improvised, and we often had difficulty keeping her deer-like little teeth away from our fruit trees, but we had her for years and she was a good friend.

She was a five year old blue ribbon winning 4-H goat when we got her. She had papers and her registered name was Kandoe. As with many high-falutin animals, she had a “barn name,” and we called her Candy. At one poitn I painted “Lieutenant Kan-doe, Officer in charge of Beverage Supply” on the door of the shed where she lived for a while. Her ways were odd, and learning to milk was a strange experience. We made cheese sometimes too.

The fun part was when I would take her for walks around the neighborhood. Our lot was maybe a third of an acre and we lived in a poor neighborhood in the middle of a bunch of other houses. Since forage in our yard grew scarce, and I wanted to supplement her varied needs for browse, I would take her out with a collar and leash. We’d walk by vacant areas with lots of blackberry vines, and down by the beach where the grass was tall, and plenty of other interesting places.

So this is where the “goat-dog” comes in. Once when I was walking her, some kids from the neighborhood asked me waht kind of dog that was! My parents and I were astounded. We were somewhat in the country, after all. How could anyone see a goat, with yellow bar-pupiled eyes, side-pointing stiff goat-ears, pendulous udders, and little flappy tail, and a BEARD, and think this was a dog? Candy was a great goat but she made a really funny looking canine!

Words my Cat Knows

My calico is quite intelligent, or at least I think so. She has a somewhat large head, with an unusually domed skull. And she uses it, too. Last night I said something involving catnip, and she looked at me with bright, interested eyes, and meowed sharply. Like “hey! I want that.” She had been ignoring me before. Here are some other words I’ve known her to understand and respond to cognitively.

Food, bed, dinner, bedroom, Mom, no, okay, out, hi, excuse me, her name of course, toy, mouse, water, litter box, bathroom, couch, chair, and quite a few others.

Interestingly enough, she has learned a few words of Japanese and responds better to them than to English. Fewer hissing sounds.

She’s invented her own ways of communicating too. For example, she will pet you with her tail if she likes you, because she has learned that people pet each other when they like each other. Living with her is like living with a little furry alien who cannot speak, at times. It’s fun!

 

Illustrating my Novel

A Haunting

It’s late October and time for ghost tales. Here’s one for you, that really made me think.

I was driving home late one night after a long day at the call center. I was looking at the city lights, and the traffic around me, and enjoying the drive. I’m not sure if I was listening to the news or to music, but for some reason my thoughts strayed to my grandfather. For that moment I saw past the withered shell he became at the end. I started thinking about what really important about him. His life, his interests, his skills. I started thinking about what we undoubtedly had in common.

I considered his love for animals, his horsemanship, the fact that when he passed away he received a cowboy’s honors. I thought about his creativity, as crushed as it was at the end. I thought about his truck driving skills. I realized we shared more than I thought, and much of him was passed down to me. In that moment I felt my grandfather’s presence in the car with me, riding along as a silent passenger.

“I forgive you,” I whispered into the dark. “Thank you for what you have given me. I love you, grandpa.”

Haunted Houses

I enjoy a good haunted house. I’ve actually starred in several. In college, I scared the crap out of people by dressing up in my Kendo uniform and full armor, standing as still as a statue, and then letting loose with a loud kiai right AFTER they walked by! I startled quite a few people that way.

Another Halloween, I was a version of the girl from the Exorcist. A friend of mine dressed in a black robe with a cross and Bible, and I put on this ridiculous dress and blonde curly wig. Some judicious makeup and a crazed grin made me look the very picture of a possessed person. The disguise was so good, my own mother didn’t recognize a picture of me! That’s me, in the picture above. Fifteen years ago.

Later, at the flight museum, I’d dress in full aviator’s kit, complete with flight jacket, goggles, silk scarf,leather helmet, and zombie-whiteface. I’d lie still as a stone until people would come by, then I’d “reanimate” at just the right moment to startle them. I got very good at being absolutely still. I was merciful in that position. If I heard it was little scared kids coming, I’d keep my movements slow and give them a little warning. If it was teenagers or jaded adults, I’d wait till they had just passed by and then I’d let ‘er rip with the full freak factor!

My reward for doing that haunted house was a very special treat… getting to climb up into the cockpit of the TBM Avenger. It was a big reach to get to the footholds, and climb to the top of that grand old World War II bomber, but such a feeling of accomplishment!

Oh, I love Halloween.

Posessed- oogly photo

Essential Tips for Aspiring Writers

I’ve watched the publishing industry change radically over the years, helped publish a few books, and in all of it I’ve seen that certain things remain true. So I have come up with some tips and rules to help protect you from career-breaking mistakes.

Do not ever pay an agent fee or pay a company a publishing charge. Those are used by vanity publishers and scam artists to separate you from your money and give you nothing. I don’t care how good they make the deal look stay away!

If you are an aspiring writer and want to be published traditionally, do not let your desire blind you to scam artists. Get a copy of Writer’s Market, find an agent that will look at your work. Do not pay anyone. Be particularly wary of any unsolicited emails from publishing companies with glowing testimonials, compliments about your work, and promises of big profits. I’m looking at you, SBPRA!

Carefully check any contracts to make sure you retain control over your work. Look for hidden fees. Get someone else to look at it with you if you have to.

When you self publish, and even if you don’t, use a beta reader. Have one or more people carefully read your work, looking for typos, misspelled words, awkward grammar, or anything else that will make your work look less than its best. The more eyes, the better!

Write what you love, write what you know, and never ever write something you don’t know without expert help. That is, talk it over with someone who knows the subject and then listen to what they have to say!

Let me help you, dagnabbit!

I actually like most of my customers. Occasionally I am frustrated because I might actually be able to think of a solution, or at least a temporary fix, but the member is so negative that they won’t accept my offer of “yes.”

Just a friendly bit of advice. I completely understand how frustrating calling customer service can be. But if the rep seems to be halfway intelligent, give them a chance to try to help. It’s what you are calling for anyway, right? Try to refrain from interrupting everything they start to say. I’ll give an example:

A very frustrated fellow came on the line and said “I don’t think you can,” when I asked what I could do to help. This set the tone for the entire call. Every time I tried to think of a way to fix his problem he told me why it wouldn’t work. He often did this before I was even done presenting my solution. I actually had a couple of things I could have tried, but he got so argumentative that I gave up. His own negativity caused his statement to be a self fulfilling prophecy. I try to demonstrate my immediate caring and understanding, because I really do care, but his resistance overcame my best efforts.

What I wish I could have told him at the time: “If you say “you can’t help me” and then interrupt me every time I try to come up with a solution, all my skill and ingenuity will avail you not. I have gotten to the point where I don’t want to argue you into accepting help, when you were asking for it in the first place. So save us both the time and struggle. If you don’t think I can help you, and you intend to stop me from helping you if I do try, then save yourself the hold time and don’t call!”