Grateful for Summer

Twice this past week, I’ve heard someone complain about the summer we’re having. I guess it’s not measuring up to expectations. In fact, just yesterday, my friend and coworker said, “We’ve been cheated out of summer.”

I thought, “We have? No we haven’t!”

It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. My friend has a cabin on a lake up north where she and her husband spend their time every other weekend. It seems that while we may have had some beautiful, sunny, warm days, they haven’t typically happened on the weekends. Since I haven’t spent much time on a lake these past couple of months, I guess I haven’t noticed.

What I’ve noticed is that I don’t have a chill in my bones. I don’t have to put on extra layers before going outside the house. I don’t have to warm up my car before I’m willing to get in and drive it. In fact, I really love the wave of heat that hits me when I get in the car after work, a welcome change of temperature from the chill of the office air conditioning.

I can let Lucy run around the back yard for as long as she likes without worrying that her paws will get frostbite. I can take her for runs out on the path behind our house. Instead of worrying about the cold, I need to be careful not to take her out when the heat may be too much for her. Between her morning run and chasing squirrels in the back yard, she often wears herself out by the end of the day.

Sleepy Lucy

During lunch breaks at work, every day unless it’s raining, I go outside with a few coworkers. There’s a pretty, peaceful pond right outside our doors and it’s surrounded by an asphalt path. We walk the mile around it, sometimes twice, and get to breathe the fresh air, share space with Monarch butterflies, watch little mice and toads scurry in and out of the tall grass that borders the path. We see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the water and watch flocks of geese float lazily around the middle of the pond. We are graced with the beauty of pretty wildflowers, dragonflies and bumble bees. We blow off steam, laugh, and have serious conversations beginning with questions like, “I wonder if there’s an online poop translator.” (A large poo was seen on our path for two days in a row. We debated whether it was left by an irresponsible dog owner, or something wild.)

I don’t think we’ve been cheated out of summer. No, we haven’t had long stretches of ninety degree days. If we did, someone would be complaining about that too. We’ve had a steady pattern of rain, enough to make it so we don’t have to run sprinklers to keep the grass alive. The trees are lush and flowers gardens are full and colorful.

See these?

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Those are my sunflowers, planted from seed as an afterthought in a back corner of our gardens, next to the shed and our back fence. They’re growing so tall, they’ve risen above the roof of the shed. So I would guess they are somewhere around ten feet tall? Look at how they’re all reaching for the sun! (They’re so tall, and in such a position that I can’t quite get a picture of one of the flowers head-on. Maybe when the flowers get a little bigger and heavier, they’ll drop their faces low enough for me to see them.)

Here’s a look at one from last night, facing west, as the sun was getting ready to go down. Do these seem like sunflowers that have been cheated out of summer? I don’t think so.

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While we may not have had great “water weather” so far, the past winter is still way too vivid in my mind. I’ll take this kind of summer over that any day of the week! I am not complaining!

Rain and Shine

Yesterday morning arrived with rain, rain and more rain. And thunder. Lucy really doesn’t like the thunder. I woke up to find her on the bed, plastered against me. She was willing to venture out of bed when she heard me ask if she wanted to eat. Of course she wanted to eat! But going outside for what has become our regular morning run? Out of the question.

(That was alright with me, too. I wasn’t too fond of the idea of going out and trying to run in the pouring rain anyway.)

I spent a good part of the morning sitting in my pajamas on the living room floor, with Lucy planted solidly in my lap. I wrapped her up in a beach towel that was lying around, used previously to dry Lucy’s fur after a romp outside in a much lighter rainfall. She seemed to like being wrapped up and being in my lap. So we sat and listened to the rain patter against the windows and the thunder rumble in the skies. We sat until my legs went numb. Eventually, Kacey brought out her fleece blanket, which Lucy also loves. She laid it out so that Lucy could stretch out on it, but Lucy seemed to still want the safety of my lap.

On alert for another clap of thunder

On alert for another clap of thunder

Relaxing only slightly

Relaxing only slightly

Eventually I was allowed to extract myself and go about my business. Lucy stayed curled within the safety of her towel and the blanket for the duration of the thunderstorm.

The heavy rain eased up eventually, but the skies continued to drizzle off and on throughout the day. I had a graduation party to attend, for my friend and coworker, Shannon’s daughter, Emily. Thankfully, Shannon and her husband have a double-deep, double-wide garage and so the guests were all able to take shelter from the rain at the party tables set up inside. Many of my former coworkers, some retired, some laid off a few years ago, were there. We had a big hug-fest and caught up on each others’ lives. It was a great time in spite of the rain.

This morning, wouldn’t you know it, the sun shone brightly from a clear, blue sky. I always feel a little bit bad for those whose graduation parties get rained on. But it’s the risk you take when planning an outdoor party this time of year. And in the case of Emily’s party, the gray skies and rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits one bit.

Personally, I can’t complain about the rain. We went a little gangbusters with our vegetable gardens and potted plants this year. A good rain means I don’t have to wander around the yard with a watering can or garden hose, trying to make sure all my plants stay hydrated. A quick look around today proved that my veggies and flowers are grateful for yesterday’s rains.

Not only are the plants happy, but the rain brought the temperatures down just enough to be perfectly comfortable. Not too warm. Not too cool. I’m in my seasonal happy place!

In which I learn that what I want is not always what I need

We are now smack dab in the middle of our three-day weekend and I am loving it. And I have to say this because I didn’t expect to love it.

My husband is working this holiday weekend. And this is not all that unusual. If you know us at all, you know it’s not uncommon for Mark to work weekends. His job requires it of him, every other weekend, holiday or not. This is our norm and for the most part, I am just grateful that he is gainfully employed and able to help keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and help the last of the three kids get through college.

Obviously, I would prefer if Mark could enjoy every holiday at home with his family. I don’t feel quite whole when he’s not with us on these special occasions. I tend to feel a bit sorry for myself when it seems like most everyone I know is with their families, celebrating, or relaxing, or escaping everyday life … and we’re not.

I expected to feel let down this weekend. I expected to feel alone and a little bit bitter. Because my husband didn’t have to work this weekend. He chose to work.

Yes, there was a slight lack of communication in which he forgot to discuss this choice with me until it was too late to undo it. And I didn’t have the chance to tell him how much I would hate him making that choice.

I hate to admit this, but I … tend to … maybe be a little bit of a …

grudge-holder.

There. I said it. I’m a grudge-holder. (Hey. Everyone has a fault or two that needs continuous work. This is mine.) And if this weekend ended up being miserable for me, it would have been my own doing. But I made a pivotal choice yesterday morning when Mark’s alarm clock went off at 5:45 am.

As I lay there in bed, trying to go back to sleep, feeling disgruntled about being awakened on my day off, on my holiday weekend, I realized that returning to dreamland was not going to happen. It’s not in my early rising make-up to go back to sleep once I’m awake. Still, I thought I should have at least had the chance to continue sleeping past my norm.

Go out for a run, I said to myself.

I don’t run anymore, I reminded myself.

Well, since you agreed to run the Color Run with your daughter in seven short weeks, it might not be a bad idea to start again, my damn self said to me.

Fine! I’ll get up and go outside, I replied to myself. But I’m not running. I’ll just take Lucy for a walk.

But actually? I did run. Lucy wanted to run. Actually, Lucy always wants to run. And if there’s anyone who can melt my stubborn tendencies, (besides my daughter,) it’s my dog. So we ran. And it was good.

The sun was ablaze and the sky was a gorgeous blue. Flowering Crab Apple trees were in various stages of bloom all along the way and I breathed in deep, enjoying their floral fragrance. My legs weren’t in as bad of shape as I thought they would be and neither were my lungs. And Lucy was my motivation to keep going when I thought I couldn’t. By the time we came back home, I had a new attitude.

After our run and a good drink of water for both Lucy and me, I enjoyed a big cup of coffee with creamer and sat down to write. More therapy for my now significantly less bitter self.

Both Jake and Kacey were up early, and when Jake said, I’m going to make us some Belgian waffles, that sealed it. There’s nothing I love more than a hot, unhealthy breakfast with my kids on a lazy morning. Jake mixed up the waffle mix and I started some bacon in a frying pan. I ate too much bacon and the waffles didn’t come out of the iron in one piece, but it was all delicious.

Later, Kacey helped me do the minimum of cleaning we felt obligated to get done around the house. We watered our new vegetable plants out in the gardens, (we’re hoping to grow our own salads this summer,) and pulled Lucy’s pool out of the shed and filled ‘er up. Then we played with our crazy, adorable dog and laughed as she splashed in and out of her pool and ran circles in the yard under the warm, spring sun. Dogs really know how to revel. I could learn a thing or two from Lucy.

20140524Lucy

When Lucy pooped out after so much activity, we marveled at how cute she was, all curled up and sound asleep on the family room loveseat. Kacey and I headed back out to the patio table on the deck and  “did” our finger and toe nails with some bright pink polish. My coworker, Nick was getting married in the afternoon and Mark and I were going to the reception after he got off work. Thought I might give my fingernails a rare coat of polish to go along with the dressing up I’d be doing for the occasion.

As we sat outside soaking up as much enjoyment of  the day as we could, me polishing Kacey’s nails, she said, I just love this weather. It makes me so happy.

I said, Me too, and I thought, I really am happy. And here I had been all ready to be a pouty mess.

What a gift the day, and my kids had turned out to be. I was all prepared to be in a funk for the weekend, but instead had followed my instincts to make the best of what I had. And it did turn out to be the best. I think every day about how fast the timeline of my life is moving and I realize that I can’t afford to let the precious moments slip away while I dwell on things that aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Even the wedding reception turned out to be more fun than either Mark or I expected. There was one of those photo booth type of set-ups, and my coworkers and I got in on the fun.

NickWeddingThe rest of this weekend promises to bring more picture-perfect weather. Our good friends, Paul and Megan have invited us out for a night of walking and dining in downtown Stillwater tonight, (historic and fun place). And Mark and I have had a long-overdue conversation about his choice to work. We both agree we should have had a more solid discussion about his plans. And I can now see that he was only trying to do what he thought was best for his employer, his work life and for the family. (After all, there is some serious holiday and overtime pay involved.) I can’t fault him for being a dedicated employee and trying to take care of us. He thought he was doing a good thing. And as a compromise, he will not be working on Monday, Memorial Day after all.

I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. This weekend didn’t turn out like I thought it should, but still, somehow, it has been everything I needed. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. But sometimes, I win the battle against myself. Perspective. It’s all about perspective. And choosing the right one. It’s a lesson I have to keep on learning.

 

Sunshine and Bovines

Lucy came to wake me up at 5:30 this morning. I patted the mattress to let her know that a few more ZZZs were in order and she was welcome to join me. She respectfully declined but allowed me another hour of sleep before coming back at 6:30 to see if I was then ready to greet the day. I could see daylight seeping in the windows as I looked down the hallway. It was time to get up.

We were expecting clouds and rain this weekend, but this morning showed no signs of either. I slipped into some yoga pants and a t-shirt and pulled on a hooded sweatshirt before saying the words to Lucy. I still needed to brush my teeth, but I couldn’t resist the thought of her prancing around my feet in excitement and the way she begs me to hurry up.

Wanna go for a walk?

As the electric toothbrush hummed in my mouth, Lucy danced and pranced around me. She nudged against my legs and whined with joy. I found a pair of sunglasses for myself and coaxed Lucy into her harness. As soon as the leash was clipped on, Lucy tugged me out the door and through the garage before the garage door was fully open.

And we were off. I’m not sure why I call it a walk. It’s more of an adventure in hanging on while Lucy runs, tugs, pulls, chases squirrels, sniffs all the smells and stops abruptly to mark her territory. I read an article yesterday that said if you’re serious about getting a workout, you shouldn’t take your dog along. Whoever wrote that article never met my dog. We definitely burn some calories when we go out exploring.

Anyway, it was a great morning to be out in the neighborhood. We crossed paths with five runners, three of whom appeared to be high school kids (probably in training for the Track team.) Each of them waved at us and offered a friendly Good morning as we passed by. Such a simple gesture, but it sure makes me smile when others reach out in that way. Camaraderie among the morning people!

I just love this time of year and having the chance to be awake and outside during the early part of the day. Non-morning people won’t get it, but there’s just something about being outside before the day gets into full swing. The suburban noise hasn’t yet begun but there is so much sound to enjoy, like the singing of birds. The grass is covered in dew and it glitters under the rays of the morning sun. It reminds me of  a Robert Frost poem, which I’m sorry to admit I would never know if it weren’t for S.E. Hinton.

Grass in the morning sun

“Stay gold, Ponyboy… Stay gold!”

Lucy and I even got to say hello to the cows today. I don’t know if the neighbors bordering the farm feel the same way, (certain country smells and all,) but I think we’re really lucky to have a bit of rural life right in the midst of our neighborhood. Actually, we owe our thanks to these farmers for the fact that we have a neighborhood to call our own. We now live on what used to be a piece of their farmland.

Anyway, the cows don’t often hang out so close to the path, so it was a rare treat to see them this morning.

Cows 2It is definitely a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Melting

It’s been happening in small doses lately and it brings me hope! Over the past few days, we’ve been hearing that the weekend could bring the warmest temperatures this year. Keep your fingers crossed! The snow cover is slowly diminishing, but there is still a long ways to go.

20140328Lucy and I haven’t had any regular morning walks in months. There has been too much snow and too much cold. I feared for the well-being of her paws. But with all the talk of a warm weekend, I was determined to get out there again. I didn’t dare say the word to Lucy before it was time. Last night as she was sitting with me in the recliner, I told her, “Tomorrow, we’ll go for a double you!

Her curiosity was piqued and she tipped her head to the side, looking at me with questions in her eyes. “I can’t tell you anymore right now,” I told her. “But I promise. You’ll be happy.”

When morning arrived, even though I knew better, I said the word before my teeth were brushed or my shoes were on. As my electric toothbrush hummed in my mouth, Lucy whined and pranced in the bathroom doorway, wanting me to hurry up and take her on her walk already! When we finally hit the pavement, she was bound and determined to race toward all of those fun smells and sights.

The weather app on my phone said nineteen degrees this morning. I knew the warmer weather wouldn’t show up until later today, but nineteen degrees was better than the single digit and below zero temps that hung around for too many weeks. Lucy and I had the path pretty much to ourselves, save for one ambitious runner who wore a black mask over his mouth and nose and passed us by pretty quickly. We had to weave our way off the path and back again here and there to avoid large patches of ice, but the fresh air and sunshine felt amazing.

See the ice up ahead?

See the ice up ahead?

Also, that annoying kink in my back that I haven’t been able to shake all month feels like it might be gone; Just one of the many perks of outside versus the treadmill. Lucy and I burned off a bunch of cabin fever! Looking forward to many more mornings like this in the coming months (minus the snow and ice!)

Teeny Tiny Little Speck of Light at the End of the Tunnel

Not much new here. It’s still cold.

But when I opened the garage door to leave for work today, I heard the craziest thing. I heard a bird singing. It was like twenty below this morning. (That’s my estimate, which may be slightly exaggerated in comparison to reality. But in reality, it was definitely less than zero degrees this morning.) And this bird was not just chirping and peeping. It was singing. You never stop to think how pretty a bird’s song can be until you’ve gone months without hearing it. Maybe there’s hope for an end to this winter.

But in the meantime, it is still cold. And just like everyone else, I am sick to death of being cold. Being cold has a negative affect on me.

I have to admit that I’ve snoozed the alarm a few times, skipping exercise in favor of sleeping and snuggling under the pile of blankets for an extra hour. Just can’t help myself sometimes.

I haven’t used my camera like I said I was going to. There is little of interest to photograph inside this house, and I have no interest in spending time outside if I don’t have to.

I wear big, heavy sweatshirts whenever possible. And slippers over socks when hanging around the house. And Under Armour underneath my work clothes. I’m sick of it.

I haven’t done anything special, really. I did read a really good book, though. And of course, we’re closely following the Olympic events! And I passed the time one evening registering Lucy for a doggy photo contest. She could win what amounts to a doggy spa package and portrait session. But really I’ve probably just registered myself for a bunch of junk email. Still, I’m pretty sure she’s a shoe-in to win. She’s totally the cutest dog in the contest. Lucy would appreciate your vote, if you’re so inclined.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She'll make all your dreams come true.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She’ll make all your dreams come true.

So as you can see, I’m killing time as best I can while waiting out the deep freeze. The singing bird from this morning makes me feel hopeful… and alternately makes me wonder if the extended cold is just messing with my head. What bird is out singing in the arctic cold? It’s probably a good thing we booked a vacation. I hope southern Florida hasn’t completely succumbed to this miserable winter because I am seriously in need of some rays!

The Best of Canine Friends

It’s not easy to capture moments like these. If Lucy notices that I’ve stepped outside, she tends to come running, thinking I’m only there to play or offer a treat. But this time, I was very, very quiet and I caught them in action.

These two pups have proven that friendship can blossom and grow in spite of certain barriers. A little fence can’t keep Lucy and Gracie from enjoying each other’s company. I just wonder how long before Gracie figures out how to climb or jump right over to our side!

The next-door neighbors are early risers too. When I let Lucy out for the first time each morning, Gracie is usually already out in her own yard. As soon as the sound of a patio door can be heard sliding open and shut, the dogs race toward the fence that divides their yards. They greet each other with pure joy, tails whipping side to side, and they race each other up and down the yards along the fence as if it’s been weeks since they’ve been together.

There is often a stick involved in the dogs’ playtime. Lucy finds them under the massive pine tree in our yard, where Mark left a pile of sticks and brush last fall. Gracie? She has to work a little harder to find sticks in her yard. Actually, they’re not so hard to find. There’s just a little work involved in getting one. She goes to the row of shrubs that borders her back yard and grabs a branch in her teeth, biting, twisting and wrenching until one breaks off! I’m not sure how much will be left of the corner shrub come this spring!

Once a stick has been found, the dogs chase again, up and down the yards along the fence. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear Gracie dragging her stick across the chain-link, making a clickety-clanging sound. Sometimes one of them will figure out how to maneuver their stick through the fence so they can play tug of war. Gracie seems to share a bit more easily, passing sticks to Lucy generously. Gracie never seems to remember that once Lucy has the stick, it probably won’t be coming back to her. Still, there never comes a time when she’s not willing to share what she has with her friend.

The layers of snow in our yards seem to grow deeper by the day. I was walking in the yard yesterday. In places where the snow was not disturbed before I came along, it was over my knees! Lucy and Gracie have worn paths along their play area on each side. After a particularly heavy snowfall, Kacey went outside with the shovel to clear Lucy’s way again. The dogs often dig the snow away from their fence, as if thinking they might dig deep enough to tunnel underneath and finally be able to run in the same yard. They dig furiously with their paws and bury their faces in the snow. Lucy often forgets how cold it can be until one of her paws suddenly aches with cold. Then she’ll favor the aching foot and come limping to the door to come inside. Gracie seems a little more immune to the cold and at times like these, she’ll sit on her side of the fence watching sadly as Lucy goes back inside the warmth of her own house.

We’ve often joked with the neighbors that we should just cut a doggy-door in that fence so our “girls” can play together whenever they like.

Snowfall

The deep freeze went away. Last weekend, Lucy reveled in the freedom to run and play in the back yard without freezing her cute little paws off. I think we made it past the thirties! And believe it or not, I saw a few people in shorts on Saturday!

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Looking for a stick in the brush pile

Sniffing scents in the snow

Sniffing scents in the snow

Last night and early this morning, a snowfall came to our area. It was pretty typical as far as snowfalls in Minnesota go and it left a few inches of clean, white fluff on the ground and a bit of a dip in the temperature. During the week, I get up for the day while it’s still dark outside. There’s a street light on the corner across from our house. So the first thing I did was to go to the window and watch big, heavy, wet snowflakes rain down in a slant beneath the glow of the street light. It was pretty. And I knew the drive to work would be slow.

It was a small challenge just getting out of the driveway. The lines separating the lanes on streets and freeways were invisible. I listened to the radio, laughed at the morning show antics and sang along to favorite songs as my car crawled along in traffic along with hundreds of others. It’s a good thing I left early. My usual twenty-minute to half-hour drive took an hour.

It was a busy day at work and I was immersed. Lunch break passed me by. I ate while I continued working at my desk and it was time to go home before I realized it. When I went out to my car, it was a simple pleasure to see daylight. The sun has been scarce lately or I’ve stayed at the office long enough to miss it. Thankfully, the roads were cleaner and drier for the drive home. Unfortunately, the driveway wasn’t.

The unspoken division of duties at our house means Mark usually handles the outside stuff and I cover the inside stuff. I expected him to tackle the snow in the driveway before he went to work this afternoon, but he ended up starting earlier than planned. The driveway was not visible when I pulled up after work. I had to gun it to get my car up the slight incline and into the garage. I knew that when  Jake got home, he would have trouble getting his car through the crusty lip of snow that, thanks to the snowplow, edged the end of our driveway. And then he’d have to navigate the blanket of snow the covered the rest of it and into the turn-around where he parks at the end of each day. I thought I might clear it out for him before he got home.

My parents have a snow blower. This is what Mark uses to clear our driveway and theirs, when he does the snow removal. I don’t know how to run it, and besides, it’s finicky. I bundled up and grabbed one of the many snow shovels from the selection hanging on the garage wall.

Our driveway doesn’t seem so big. Until I’m shoveling it by hand. Then it feels enormous! As I scraped and pushed and scooped up snow, I heard the whir of snow blowers all around the neighborhood. I wondered if nobody just shovels snow anymore. Neighbors drove by periodically, honked and waved. True or not, I felt like somewhat of an oddity. About halfway through the job, I was sweating, sniffling, and the cold air felt sharp in my lungs. I was getting tired! Thankfully, Jake pulled into the neighborhood just then. He left his car on the street for the time being and grabbed another shovel. Together we cleared the rest of the snow away. It’s true what they say. Many hands make light work.

Just before we finished, I realized that dusk had fallen and the moon was hanging in the sky, just behind the neighbor’s tree. It was picturesque.  I stopped a moment to appreciate the moon, recognizing the hush of winter around us. I might not have noticed the moon or the hush had I been pushing a snow blower, and for sure wouldn’t have if I had been warm and cozy in the house instead of outside in the cold.

Winter Moon

Winter Moon

That moon can come back any time it likes. I won’t mind if the snow doesn’t.

Warming up to … COLDER

I was listening to the radio while making my lunch this morning before leaving for work. I caught the weather update.

It’s currently twenty-six degrees with a high of twenty-one today.

Seems to me that if it was twenty-six degrees at seven o’clock and the temperatures were heading toward twenty-one, the high temperature for the day would be twenty-six. Apparently logic is just as unnecessary in meteorology as is accuracy.

Regardless, it is getting cold around here. I could not seem to warm up on Sunday, no matter what I did. When Mark came home from work, I joined him in the family room for an evening of lounging. Still feeling cold, I went in search of a blanket and discovered one my in-laws had given me for Christmas years ago. Mark had told them I was always cold, so they got me this awesome fleece blanket. It looks like the predecessor to the Snuggie. But it’s way better than a Snuggie. The lower half zips up and the upper half snaps together to make something like a robe.

I was having a silly time figuring out how to enclose myself in the blanket and once I was bundled up, realized there were a couple of snaps on the bottom to create legs. Lucy was fascinated and was “flea biting” the blanket while I laughed and half-heartedly kept insisting she stop. Then, caught up in the silliness, I jumped up from my chair and danced around the room while Lucy leapt and barked at me.

Mark, shaking his head but unable to hide the grin on his face, remarked, “That is so not sexy.”

“Great. I’ll be sure to wear it to bed,” I assured him.

I settled into my chair with all my necessities close at hand and in spite of Mark’s efforts to get her to come to him, Lucy proved that she does in fact love me the most. (Or maybe she just loved the blanket the most at that moment.)

coldAnd I was finally warm!

 

Chasing the Light

The sun reflecting through a pair of glasses or bouncing off the face of a watch.

Light from the living room lamp casting shadows on the carpet.

The light beam of a flashlight racing around the floor.

Doesn’t matter which one. Lucy loves to chase light.

She’s smart. She knows how to ask someone to start the game. If you have glasses on your face, she sits and stares. She whines until you take them off, find a light source and create a spot of light on the floor for her to chase. If you have a flashlight? Same thing. When she finds shadows, she can entertain herself.

Considering the fact that she chews most doggie toys to a pulp, it’s the best form of entertainment we can offer her.