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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jack's Day


Having a Basset Hound—being owned by one—has brought me new friends, both human and canine alike, that might not have otherwise been in my life. For example, because of FrankieBernard, I now subscribe to the Daily Drool: "An internet mail list designed to entertain and inform basset hounds and their people". Each morning, there are at least ten or fifteen postings written by Basset owners from literally all over the world, relating dog antics, seeking and imparting advice, "speaking" on behalf of the beloved canines who own them. It’s a great way to start the day and to share the common bonds of Basset-dom.

Through the Daily Drool, I met Chris Bly, who runs the Western Missouri Basset Hound Rescue (www.WMBRI.org), just outside of Kansas City. Chris and I communicate via email almost daily—she is a fan of this Blog—and we have become rather close. In her emails, Chris imparts to me some of the joys, trials, and tribulations—as well as the expenses—in caring for the many Bassets she and her husband take in and foster until they are placed in good homes. I now have a new-found appreciation for what it takes to be a rescue shelter...and a deep concern for the less fortunate, abandoned canine citizens of our world-wide community.

As ou are aware, I donate $1.00  f the royalties for each copy of my book The Basset Chronicles, to this worthy cause to help defray the mounting veterinary costs that Chris incurs. And as if trying to keep the rescue up and running isn't enough, just last week Chris lost her Basset-Lab mix, who started out as a rescue and become her most cherished pet. She wrote me this most touching tale:

He was big and black with polka dots on his belly. A Basset Body, with a Lab head—that was the sight I saw in the Animal Control when I peered through the bars and got my first glimpse of Jack.

Oh no not a Basset-mix! I have a hard enough time trying to adopt purebred Bassets--the mixes almost never find a home. I thought to myself. I wondered who could dump such a nice dog in the Wal-Mart parking lot and leave him there during the heat of the day?

I could not abandon him like his previous owners did. I was told he would be euthanized if someone did not take him in the next twenty-four hours. So, I stood there looking into those soft brown eyes, drawing me into take him home.

I named him Black Jack because it just seemed to fit.

Jack was bigger than any Basset I had during his stay with us; but he was a gentle giant—always guarding the other dogs—protecting, keeping alert to dangers, keeping everyone safe.

He was my big black watch dog. My neighborhood has become more run down the past few years, and several homes on my block have been broken into, but most people in my neighborhood were more afraid of Jack than the Bassets. When he barked, you could see every gleaming white tooth sparkle in his mouth. He opened his mouth up wide when he barked just to let people know he meant business. No one would ever come onto our property with Jack on guard.

Jack never asked for much more than a cool, clean place to sleep and a nice meal or two each day.. and treats. Jack loved his treats. He would gently nudge my arm each morning after eating his treats to initiate petting, making me spill my coffee all over my blouse. It became a game with him. Yet, I always appreciated having him there right beside me each morning so I could run my fingers through his soft fur as he looked lovingly into my eyes. I could just tell he was thanking me for saving him and loving him.

Each year we would go to the PET EXPO. This was an event where people could come see the dogs we had in rescue, ask questions about the breeds, and fill out applications to adopt rescue dogs, cats, and ferrets. At the PET EXPO, Jack was the hit of our booth. Always he would have some baby--yes a very young child—laying on him, crawling over him, pulling his ears, tugging on his tail and cheeks, and he would just wag his tail. He loved the kids and the attention. He was always the hit of the show, but no one ever wanted to adopt him so he stayed with me. He was my special Basset-mix boy—and my protection.

For a while, my husband drove a truck over the road. When I had back surgery , he got a call to be in Montana the next day. My husband asked if I would be okay by myself. I told him, “As long as I have Jack here with me, I am not afraid. He will take care of me.”

Few people, however, knew he was a pushover. His presence was always startling to everyone who came to our home. He was a very large boy, weighing 94 lbs. He was not overweight, but he made his presence known and always made me feel safe .

A few months ago, Jack became obsessed with drinking water. Almost all day he was walking back and forth to the water bowl, panting, drinking, and panting. We thought he had Cushing’s and took him into be tested. The test was inconclusive because he had a few problems that altered the test, including a urinary tract infection. So, we worked and got that cleared up. Then he was scheduled to get his second blood test for Cushing’s at the end of the week.

Three days before we were scheduled to take him in for his second test, Jack had just eaten his dinner and was trying to get out the old dog door I had boarded up. He was very confused. I called him into the kitchen and showed him the new dog door that he had gone in and out of a million times in the past four years. He just looked at it like he did not know how to go outside. He acted like he needed out but could not figure out how to get there So, I opened the door that the dog door was in so he could feel the breeze and look outside.

All of a sudden he began to tremor like an epileptic. Then, suddenly, his head went sideways to the right and he fell over on his left side, feet and legs stretched out straight and rigid… then limp. I called my husband and we tried to do chest compressions and mouth-to-snout respirations. But to no avail. He was gone.

A stroke most likely took my Jack from me.

I sit and think of him all the time. I envision him laying where he used to sleep, or nudging my arm as I watched TV for his evening petting session. The water bowl rarely needs to be filled now, and my morning coffee stays in the cup. 

I miss him so much. But, I know he loved me and I loved him.

I will always have him with me in my memory.

Jack

It always deeply saddens me when a good friend looses a dear companion. So, in his memory, I am declaring today "Jack's Day". A day to hug your pet, if you have one, and do something special for those forlorn animals who have been discarded and are now in shelter and rescue facilities, waiting for someone to give them a kind, loving home. 

In Jack’s honor, I am continuing to offer $1.00 from each sale of The Basset Chronicles to WMBRI. And I have decided to do the same for each sale of my latest venture into animal stories, Cats of Nine Tales .

So, folks, if you haven't already done so, please click the links above or the images on the left pane of this site, and order your copies. Each and every dollar will help Chris and her charges, and will be more than greatly appreciated. In addition, you'll have two—of I may humbly say so myself—delightfully entertaining books to read and share. It's a win-win for everyone, especially for Chris’ Bassets!

And if you have already purchased my book(s) (Thank you!), then please feel free to contribute directly to the cause. You may do so via PayPal or by check. Donations are always welcomed! The link and address are on the rescue's Web site at www.WMBRI.org.

Thank you in advance for your help and may you have a memorable "Jack's Day".

12:58 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Purloined

If fifty is the new forty and sixty is the new fifty, then May is the new April. There have been more sunny than rainy days in April and for the first nine days in May, there has been nothing but rain. Now, I am not complaining, because I really like rainy reading days. There is nothing much else to do after sorting through the junk drawer, organizing the stack of papers on my desk, and cleaning out forgotten "chemistry experiments" in the refrigerator except sneak a short FrankieB walk between the showers, watch a bit of TV, catch up on Facebook, and read, read, read.

A few postings ago, I mentioned that while I am really not a fan of the mystery genre, there are a few exceptions. A sorbet-of-the-mind stand-by for me is Mary Higgins Clark. She is the perfect writer of lighter suspense fare, with just the right touch of intrigue and mystery without taxing the mind. After all, rainy days are for relaxing and "chilling out" and I think Clark is about as deep into literature as I'd care to venture right now. So, yesterday, I picked up a copy of her latest book and settled in for a soggy whodunit afternoon.

The premise of The Lost Years1 is the discovery by noted Biblical scholar and archaeologist, Jonathon Lyons, of a two-thousand year old piece of parchment, reputed to be a letter of thanks written by Jesus Christ to Joseph of Arimethea. Remember him? He gave Christ his tomb and, according to Clark, was also earlier responsible for Jesus' education in Egypt. The first "fact" is in the annuals of Church history. I am not so sure about the second. Anyway, Lyons tells a few of his archeology-minded cronies about his incalculably priceless discovery. But before he can authenticate it and return it to the Vatican Library, from which it was stolen in the 1500s, he is murdered and the letter is nowhere to be found.

His wife, suffering from Alzheimer's, is discovered on the night of his murder in the hall closet with gun in hand, murmuring "so much noise...so much blood". Enter Mariah, Lyons' daughter, a New York investment broker, who is determined to prove her mother’s innocence, and my most favorite of all of Clarks' characters from her earlier books, Alvirah and Willy Meehan, multi-millionaire lottery winners turned self-proclaimed amateur sleuths. Alvirah takes up the case, filling in the cracks overlooked by two New Jersey detectives.

And here, as the saying goes, the plot thickens.

According to her Web site, http://www.maryhigginsclark.com/, Clark—the “Queen of Suspense”—has penned thirty-three (33) mysteries, a memoir, and a Christmas tale or two, totaling thirty-five books of her own, plus five authored with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, also a popular suspense/mystery maven in her own right. For one long summer, a next-door neighbor and I collected just about all of Clark's books in paperback and daily read passages to each other across our common deck railing. We were delighted with the antics of Clark’s characters, mesmerized by her twisted and convoluted plot lines, and enthralled by her simple, well-organized style of writing. As Clark got older and continued to crank out one mystery novel after another, however, her constructs became formulaic and, oftentimes, trite and repetitious. But we continued to read them anyway. They were like cans of Pringles potato chips. Once you opened one and ate the top chip, you couldn't help yourself. You just had to finish the whole can. 

My brief summer phase of daily reading Clark mysteries ended when my neighbor and her growing family moved in the early fall to a single-family home. I subsequently gave most of my well-read and worn paperbacks to a co-worker's mother, then recuperating from a major illness. Apparently, she was a consummate mystery buff and had only read a few of Clarks' books. So, in the spirit of sharing and caring, I gave her my entire twenty-plus volume collection, leaving my library bereft of Clark books, but my heart and soul full of magnanimity. I have not read a Mary Higgins Clark since.

Fast-forward back to yesterday. Since my interest in mysteries was sparked alive again by The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl, I was still in suspense mode. And while I wasn't in the mood for anyone as scholarly as Pearl, I was not quite ready for another Scottoline thriller. Mary Higgins Clark's The Lost Years fit the bill perfectly.

The Lost Years is a relatively easy, fun read. The premise is a bit far-fetched, but, if you think about it, why wouldn't Jesus Christ have written letters? Most of his contemporaries did…Enough said. I leave that to the more erudite Biblical pundits. Suspense and intrigue, mystery and thrills are Clark's hallmarks. However, she couches them in very human and humane forms. For example, we have an empathetic insight into the feelings of Mariah as Clark relays her thoughts about her mother's arrest and progressive disease—we are given a devastating insight into its profound effects on its victims and families—as well as touching remembrances of her slain father. We are captivated by Alvirah—I just wanted to crawl into the pages and hug her. I wanted to punch out a smarmy house-burglar, tell one of Mariah's suitors off, and Lillian—one of the main protagonists—well Lillian was, to me, the epitome of betrayal. In some respects, some plot points are a bit contrived—one of the neighbors is all too conveniently a defense attorney; a burglar just "happens" to hear a shot and sees the killer; and, of course, there is the perennial love interest(s) with the inevitable hero's rescue.

All in all, however, this was, for me, a delightful, if not an on-the-edge-of-my-seat way to spend a rainy day.

And, to be honest, I am looking forward to Clark's next book. In the meantime, I just might scour around for a few of her older paperbacks to re-read. From what I gather, May is supposed to be one soggy month.
~~~~~~
1  ©2012 Mary Higgins Clark. First edition, April 3, 2012. 291 pages. Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York York. Her suspense novel, I'll Walk Alone: A Novel was released in paperback this past March 28th. If nothing else, Clark is prolific.

12:27 pm edt          Comments


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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:

the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,