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Hey, if it’s good for network television, it’s good enough for me, re-runs, that is.  On the occasion of my sister’s birthday, I am reprinting a post from January 2010 that pays tribute to a girl and her horse, and tells a family story that always makes my sister laugh.  We are presently in the grips of a heat wave in NJ and a holdiay week looms, so before we turn back to some more serious matters, I would like to say Happy Birthday, Manette, and thanks again for being a great little sis! This story ‘splains so much as to why we never really make plans in our family and we just keep going no matter what life throws at us.

Alot of really cool things have happened since I wrote this original post in 2010 and it makes me happy on the occasion of my sister’s birthday to share a nice memory. We are lucky to have them.

Once again I present….

I grew up in Hackensack, NJ, and have had the good fortune to claim many great places as temporary home, or hang out.  For the past 15 years, I’ve lived in a beautiful wooded waterfront community in Ocean County, with my husband, Rich, and 8-year-old Hooper, the dog.

Before living this peaceful life, I was caught up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, working as a recruiter for what was called then, Home Box Office, Inc.  I had an office, with a view of Bryant Park and even an assistant, all before turning 30! What did I do? I resigned, traveled to an art school in Italy and came home to become a full-time artist.  (sounds way more exciting than it was). Some days I think of what could have been, but then I look out my studio window, at my dog, and hubby and wonder no more. Living by the water,  isn’t too shabby.

I just want to say a thank you to my “kid” sister, Manette. She has been invaluable to me, helping with this Blog, for instance.  I am a noted techno-klutz, and she has been my Blog coach. I ‘ve grown used to her text alerts about my typos, or incomplete thoughts.

My sister likes dogs, but if there was a National Horse Week, she would be saddling up and blazing the trail. When she was twelve and I was one year older, my parents whisked us away from Hackensack, to Boulder, Colorado, for a year.  Six of us and a gassy toy poodle made the trek in a station wagon.  Along the way, just 2 hours from our destination, our car was flattened by a double-wide.  Our car was totalled, but we all miraculously survived.  Did I mention, my parents hadn’t secured housing for us in Boulder? So carless, and temporarily homeless, we entered Boulder in a police cruiser!  Oh, but here is the “funniest” part, in the middle of all of this, my sister asked my parents if she could have a horse when we got to Boulder.

Long story short, within 48 hours of arriving in Boulder, we had rented a beautiful ranch house on North Broadway, just a few miles from Colorado University where my dad would work.  The house came equipped with a few acres and, conveniently, a horse stable.  Of course, after the first day of school, my sister arrived home, horse in hand.  A beautiful half Arabian, half quarter horse named Muna del Adrienne.  The horse had been abused and in need of safekeeping.  My sister was happy to oblige. She spent a memorable 10 months with that horse, they were inseparable.  It was a sad day for all when we returned to Hackensack and had to say good-bye to Muna.

I tell this story because it highlights the power of creative visualization and faith, (okay, maybe some luck and the right attitude), and a lesson for everyone that it doesn’t hurt to think big. Manette, by the way, is a talented documentary producer, her documentaries on serious subjects like the overmedicating of our children and our autism epidemic (The Drugging of our Children, Autism: Made in the USA)  have won awards at the Hoboken and Key West Film festivals, among others.

So on this June 30th, dream on sis, and keep up the great work!

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Author and Dog Groomer, Jamie Wilsoncroft

On the “heels” of my last post, Grooming Conversation, it is only fitting that I present a guest post by  dog-loving fellow-author, Jamie Wilsoncroft, writer of romances and the groomer of dogs.

The theme of this year’s National Dog Week Campaign is “EVERY DOG A TEACHER,” which will focus on the lessons of the dog in art and literacy and beyond. My next post will discuss some key players in the 84th Observance of National Dog Week and some fun announcements surrounding  planned events. NDW is for everyone. If you are planning something, please let us know. Please LIKE our page on Facebook and deep posted for de-tails! https://www.facebook.com/index.php?lh=f7c6993ffb155975ce456c32a3fceee7&eu=HFUfYji-6ULlVEM_rnPM5w#!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974

This summer, I will also be posting about dog-centric authors and great books with canine-themes. If you are an author or avid reader of this subject matter, please contact me and maybe we can add it to the Blog Series.

Jamie Wilsoncroft is currently promoting her new summer romance Fat Chances. To read more, please visit  writemorepublications.com/ As you’ll see, life for Jamie isn’t all candle light and roses…sometimes she literally hits “bottom.”  I apologize to Jamie for some gentle editing. Some of my readers are young students and family members, so I took some liberties…I will give warning now, the “end” is definitely not for the squeamish. I hope Jamie’s story will encourage others to follow their passions.

I WILL NEVER QUIT MY DAY JOB!!

by Jamie Wilsoncroft

Hello!! My name is Jamie Wilsoncroft. I am a wife and mother of two children and 3 dogs. I am also a maid, dishwasher, cook, chauffer, referee, pooper scooper, mind reader, dog groomer and an author. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others, but you’ll have to forgive me, I tend to lose my mind sometimes.

Okay, where was I?

Sometimes when I’m out and about, people would stop and ask me, “Where do you find time to write a book?” I would stand on my tippy-toes (because I’m only five foot tall) and look them straight in the eye and say “I honestly don’t know.” But they are fascinated when I tell them that a lot of my story ideas come to me while I’m grooming dogs.

Go figure!!

So that is why it’s safe to say that I will NEVER quit my day job. Not only would I be afraid that I would lose a lot of my story ideas, I would miss my puppies too. Over the years, I have grown attached to a lot of them and have considered them as my own.

Maybe the ideas come to me because I’ve been grooming for so long that I could do it with my eyes closed (not that I would ever do that-bahahaha) Or maybe because I am relaxed and at peace with myself while grooming. Of course, I can’t say that when it comes to all my puppies. Some of them like to test me from the moment the set foot on the grooming table. Those are the days that I want to crack open a bottle of wine. Thank God I don’t have too many of those days or I would have a serious problem.

Like most writers, my mind is always searching for the next great story to write. I don’t know about other authors, but once I started writing (which was about six years ago) it became an addiction. I actually have with-drawls and become miserable when I don’t write. And sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day or I don’t have enough fingers to write all the stories that pop into my head. I could be thinking about one story and what I want to write and then BAM, another story altogether different will come forward.

Yeah, like the time I was grooming a little shih-tzu and the idea of a woman walking into a funeral home and smelling a eucalyptus plant, popped into my head. The rest of that day I kept picturing this woman mourning over the loss of her one true love. So that night I sat down and started typing and Ba-bam, the story Remembering Zane was born.

Being a dog lover all my life and a dog groomer for the last 17 years, you can almost bet that all my stories will have a dog or two in them, except for Remembering Zane. I know, I still feel ashamed over that one, but there are babies in it. I love babies too.

There are two things that you will always find in my stories….romance and dogs. Any kind of dogs, but Cocker Spaniels, Great Danes and Chihuahuas are my favorite. Of course I love many kinds of breeds. I wouldn’t be a groomer if I didn’t.

Before I close out, I will tell you one of my many experiences that I have had as a dog groomer. If there is one thing that I can say after seventeen years of grooming is that “I have NOT seen it all” Every once in a while something outrageous or gross will happen while grooming.

One day, a woman brought in a cute Jack Russell terrier. Her name was Bella. LOL You wouldn’t believe how many people have named their pets Bella from movie Twilight. LOL Anyways, back to my story. I clipped her nails, cleaned her ears then bathed her. While I was blowing drying her, I noticed something protruding out of her butt. After closely examining it, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t her anal glands or poop. I didn’t know what the heck it was. It was white, weird and sticking straight out of her butt. *yuck* So when the owner came, I asked her if she noticed it before and she said, No. So, curious George me…I grabbed a paper towel and gently pulled the thing out of the dog’s butt. And guess what it was? A piece of rolled up paper towel that the dog had eaten the night before. YEP…I had just pulled out a (rhymes with gritty) piece of paper towel out of a dog’s butt. Gotta love my job!!!!

So..should I put that little story in one of my future romance stories? Hmmm…maybe someday.

“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”     

          – George Herbert

Happy Father’s Day. For this post, I present a warm and fuzzy father/son/dog story titled, “Grooming Conversation” that is one of the short stories found in SOMETHING’S LOST AND MUST BE FOUND (see ABOUT). It was inspired by a talk I had with a friend a few years ago.  She told me that when she and her son talked while grooming the family dog, he was more open to conversation and always seemed to be more relaxed (and the dog was happier for it, too).

I changed “her role” to that of a father’s, but the message is the same. Most people who understand the power of the paw know that a “Divine Reciprocity” exists between human and animal and manifests in even the most ordinary times often with extraordinary results that go way beyond words. Happy Father’s Day to my Dad and all the fathering figures of the world, who nurture our human and fur-children each and every day.

GROOMING CONVERSATION 

Drip. Drop.  A bathtub full of tepid water accepts a few strays from a leaky faucet.   Sammy, a big Golden Retriever gently pants nearby, patiently awaiting a much-needed bath.  Along with the plumbing, the poor dog’s grooming has been neglected.  I make a mental note to fix that leak as I kneel next to Sammy, removing his worn leather collar and his red bandana thickly coated with long reddish strands.

“Good boy,” I whisper rubbing the unfettered neck of the eight-year old family pet.

Family pet?  I think to myself.  There was a time, not too long ago, when this duty of dog grooming was relegated to my son, Jake.  After all, Sammy is technically his dog, a gift for Jake’s sixth birthday.  Now at age fourteen, Jake doesn’t have too much time for Sammy, or me, for that matter.

This thought gets me worked up.  “Jake!” I call out the bathroom door.  I wait a few moments and then call again.  Lately I think I’d have a better chance of communicating with my son through a text message or an e-mail.  “Jake,” I try again.

Jake’s lanky outline finally appears at the bathroom door, ear buds and a cell phone attached to his head and hand like appendages.  “Yeah, Dad, what’s up?”

“Would you mind helping me wash your dog?” I shout, motioning for him to remove the plugs from his ears.

Jake reluctantly relinquishes his IPOD and cell phone, placing both on a laundry hamper in the corner of the room.  Stripped of his electronic armor he looks vulnerable and awkward, alone in this quiet room with his father.  Jake drops to his knees and joins me.  He picks up Sammy’s brush and without much enthusiasm runs it over the dog’s back.

Instead of reprimanding Jake for his lack of responsibility I remain quiet, fostering a glimmer of hope that I might have the opportunity for an actual conversation with my son.  For good measure I visualize an imaginary harness placed around his chest, attached to a retractable leash.

Sammy, responding to this unexpected attention from my son, dispenses two well-placed licks on Jake’s chin.  For the first time Jake smiles.

“Look.  He misses you.”

“I’m around,” Jake snaps, his smile vanishing.

Easy, I coach myself.  I let out some of the imaginary leash.

From on top of the hamper Jake’s cell phone buzzes like a cicada on a hot June sidewalk.  He stops brushing, staring at his phone as a text message is delivered.  It takes all his strength not to pounce on it like a cat on a field mouse.

I tighten up on the leash, distracting him with a question.  “How’s that algebra coming along?”

Jake is examining Sammy’s left ear.  “Okay, I guess,” the standard answer is dispatched, followed by a few seconds of dead silence as he examines the dog’s big head.

Then something happens; Jake initiates a dialogue. “Remember the time that stupid Boxer bit Sammy right here?  Look, you can still see the scar,” he says stroking the dog’s notched ear.

“Yeah, I sure do.  That dog ambushed poor Sammy,” I answer, carefully letting up on the leash a bit, allowing Jake to take the lead of our conversation.

Jake reacts with a sudden outburst.  “Yeah, that dog was a bully.  Just like those kids at school who won’t leave my friend, Tommy alone.  Why do they have to call him stupid names, and take things out of his locker all the time?”

In his agitated state, Jake yanks hard with the brush at the fur on Sammy’s rump.  Sammy lets out a small whimper.  “Easy,” I say, calming Jake and comforting Sammy without interrupting the moment.

Jake abruptly changes the subject while apologetically smoothing the dog’s roughened haunches with his hands.  “Yesterday my algebra teacher, Mrs. Lerner, said I need a tutor if I want to be an architect some day,” he continues to talk freely.  “I got a C plus on my test the other day.  But apparently that’s not good enough for her.”

“Well it is better than a D,” I say, making a small attempt at humor, pulling back on the virtual leash, drawing him a little closer to me.  An increasingly impatient Sammy stands up and arches his back with a prolonged yawn.  With my index finger I test the bath water’s temperature trying to buy some time.

“My friend John’s uncle has to go back to Iraq next month,” Jake continues to air his grievances now sputtering like a long dormant volcano.  “He’s in the army and he just got back from being there for two years.  It’s not fair, he has two little kids and they need him at home.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  I hope that terrible war ends soon,” is all I can think to say.

Sammy slumps to the floor with a sigh.  Then he rolls over, soliciting a belly rub from Jake who quickly obliges.

“You want to be an architect?” I ask, bringing the subject back to my son.  I recall that just last month it was a Crime Scene Investigator.

“Yeah, maybe we should get me a tutor,” Jake says, speaking to me over the dog’s underside.

As if on cue, Sammy sits up as though he knows the water is ready for him.  No more stalling.  I know this moment will come to an end very shortly.  I let out the leash to its full capacity as Jake’s cell phone hums again.

“My girlfriend Julie’s mother had to have some kind of cancer test.  Her operation was this morning,” he explains with his eyes glued to the phone. “I hope she’s going to be okay.”

Off comes the invisible collar, and leash.  I release my son from his duties, breaking off our connection.  “Take your message.  I’ll give Sammy his bath.”

“Thanks Dad,” Jake says.  Smiling, he places a big kiss on the top of Sammy’s head.  Then he spontaneously hugs me around the neck before snatching up his phone and IPOD, disappearing down the hall.

“Let’s not let Sammy’s grooming go for so long next time, okay?” I call after him, but he is gone, reclaimed by the surprisingly complicated matters of his teen-age life.

As the last of the bath water swooshes loudly down the drain I help the clumsy dog from the tub, savoring the words that still hang in the air.  In the unlikely space of a bathroom I had briefly captured one of those rare head-to-head moments with my son; sitting around a crackling campfire, baiting a fish hook, soothing a bruised knee suffered during his first solo bike ride, and now grooming the family dog; each presenting an opportunity to communicate, to practice the lost art of conversation.

War, bullies, cancer, career and a girlfriend.  Who knows what concerns go through a kid’s head if we don’t ever get the opportunity to talk to them?

With a large towel I dry the big dog giving him a full body hug.  Then I speak to the clueless canine, “Thanks, Sammy. You were great!”  Sammy regales me with an impromptu shower as he wildly shakes off the excess bath water.

Later that afternoon, I replace Sammy’s collar and attach his leash.  It’s a warm spring day and the newly clean and dry Sammy needs a walk.  Nearing a park, Sammy strains on his chain eager to join a group of young children and their parents on the playground.  The youngsters chatter away noisily, eager for the attention of their caretakers who are too absorbed with talking to each other, or reading the day’s news.  “Listen to your kids now,” I want to tell them, “They won’t always want to talk to you.”

Sammy yanks again, harder.  If I let him off-leash I know he will skip the playground and head straight to the red soil of a nearby baseball diamond, indulging in a luxurious dirt bath.

“No, boy,” I command, holding tight to his leash. “Not today, you just got all nice and clean.  Maybe in a few days.”

Sammy whines in protest and a pleasant prospect pops into my head.  Then I smile, anticipating just how filthy Sammy can get in that dirt and the inevitable grooming session it will bring about; another chance for a real conversation with my son over the haunches and under the belly of a wordless, but wonderful family friend.

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”