Sam

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Malcolm and I don’t have children – we have dogs.  Use to be three, now two huge, wonderful, sweet, spoiled brats.  Like most parents with real kids, Tiamo, the first one, was easy to raise and didn’t give us any trouble.  We spent hours training her, socializing her, correcting her, loving her.   Santa Fe is a dog friendly town, permitting canines on leash most everywhere and we took her everywhere that allowed dogs.  Tiamo would sit at our feet while we sat outside eating lunch at cafe’s and bistros. She loved to watch the other patrons, always hoping there might be other dogs around.  She was so well-behaved, little nippers would climb all over her and she loved the attention.  She loved people and other animals, especially cats. Most of all, she LOVED Sam.

Sam was our nephew and was loved like a son.  In many ways, he was the kid we never had.  One freezing cold January day Sam arrived in Santa Fe, shirtless and in flip-flops, for a short weekend visit.  He ended up staying.  He was 23 years, not even a quarter of a century old, and traveling through life, while we were both fast approaching the half-dollar mark and getting ready to slide down the other side.  One week later, Sam moved into our household.  I had someone new to spoil, while  Malcolm had someone new to impart wisdom and advise to.   Not having kids, we loved the fact he came diaper free and with manners.  He was trained.  The three of us became a family.

When Malcolm was turning 50, I surprised him with a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.  Born on Thanksgiving Day, Tiamo joined our new family when she was 10 weeks old.  We all instantly fell in love with her, especially Sam, although I think he originally saw her as a chick magnet with four legs.  I mean, seriously, what female under 80 and not blind would not fall in love with a Bernese puppy!  Sam took part in Tiamo’s training.  He assisted in walking her, grooming her and teaching her to sit, along with other commands.  When Sam later moved into town, I think he missed Tiamo more than he missed us.  I know Tiamo missed him something fierce.  She would go absolutely nuts when Sam came to visit and wouldn’t leave his side.  Tiamo would have this goofy grin on her face when Sam showed up.  Her eyes would light up and she would prance around, showing off for Sam.  Sam always brought her a treat.  Something special just for her.  It got so, every time Sam came, she would go for the pocket, nosing her muzzle, sniffing for her treat.   Tiamo was the happiest when the four of us were together.  She would grab her toy of the week, gnawing on it while laying at our feet, listening to our voices as we caught up on our lives.  Her family together.

Sam loved the outdoors.  Even on the coldest of days, he and Malcolm would sit outside, watching the sun set, sharing a bottle of wine, discussing life.  They would pull up two wooden rocking chairs to the edge of the portal, facing west, and observe the day’s colors fade from blue to orange to black.  Tiamo at their feet.  They would still be talking as the stars turned on their lights.  Tiamo was content to be with her “boys”.  Some nights, they would light a small fire in the chiminea for warmth.  Other times, they would gently rock their chairs to the cadence of their conversation, low murmurs that eased Tiamo into a soft sleep.   During the summer months, Sam and Malcolm would take Tiamo for midnight walks when it had cooled down from the day’s heat.  Tiamo LOVED Sam.

Five years ago, Sam passed away at the young age of 27.  The first year, after Sam’s death, was the hardest.  Malcolm and I had to re-adjust our family back down to two with a dog.   Along with Tiamo, we had to re-adjust to never seeing Sam again.  We all mourned.  We all missed Sam.  Like barbed wire wrapped around our hearts, we felt every razor-sharp prong squeezing into our sorrow.  Our hearts were sad, bruised and beat up.  The following spring after Sam’s death, I started a memorial garden.  West of our portal, in full view of the day’s end, I planted shrubs and flowers in every color of the sun’s wink good night.  It is a continual work in progress.  I have since laid flagstone, moved the chiminea to the middle of the stonework and added birdhouses and yard art to commemorate the joy of life.  Bright colors surround the garden, flowers edge the stone’s perimeter, pine trees and junipers provide shade and add a wind break.  It has become a happy place.

Five months ago, we had to put Tiamo down.  Cancer.  Heart-wrenching.  Sad.  We had two weeks to prepare for the finality of losing her.  Malcolm chose an area in the memorial garden where Tiamo loved to lay while Sam and Malcolm solved the world’s problems.   He started to dig her burial plot.  As Malcolm dug, Tiamo laid by the deepening hole and watched, silently giving us her acceptance of what was to come.   She was ready.  We buried Tiamo in her favorite spot, shaded by junipers and surrounded by color.  She is deeply missed.

I would like to believe Sam and Tiamo are in their happy place together.  Tiamo has her “Sam” to play with, sniffing out an endless supply of treats from his pockets, prancing around in a field of soft green clover.  Sam has Tiamo, keeping him company while he enjoys the outdoors.

Sam at sunset

Sam at sunset

 

Welcome home attack!

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My job requires some travel, mostly around the state, but on occasion, I attend conferences that cross state lines.  This past week, I attended our state association’s annual Fall Conference and while the location of the conference was only an hour away from Santa Fe, I still needed to stay at a hotel for a few nights.  My wonderful hubby usually stays home with the dogs on most of my travel trips, saving us a lot of $$$$ in boarding costs and subsequent vet bills from coughs and other ailments the girls pick up at the doggy motel. This trip was a get-away from dog hair and dogs in the bed.  It is pure joy being able to stretch across the King-sized bed with crisp, fresh sheets and sink-your-head onto soft downy pillows.  As much as I love having the bed to myself, I still miss my girls! (and my husband!).  I usually call home frequently thorough out the day checking to see how they are.

It so happened on this trip, we received some rain while I was gone.  Those wet drops from heaven are a rare event in our drought stricken state.  We live among dirt roads that turn into mud roads with the slightest moisture and as a rule, we don’t usually walk the dogs when it’s raining or if the roads are muddy.  Not only because of the mess of the mud, but because of our arid landscape and our many arroyos, flash flooding from the rain’s surface water is common and very dangerous.  The torrential flood waters come from the higher ground, usually starting as a trickle and turning into a roaring river in seconds, crashing through junipers, chamiso and cacti.  We just don’t take the risk of getting caught in a flash flood.  Consequently, Dolce and Amore didn’t get their walk for three days while I was out-of-town.

The first day gone, I called Malcolm, checking to see how the girls were doing.  Malcolm reported that from 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. they waited by the window, looking for my car to pull into the drive way from work.  Up until 10:00 p.m. they went tearing through the house every time they heard a car drive by, thinking it might be me returning home from my conference.  Day two was much the same but with more edge.  It had been 36 hours since their last walk, mom’s not home and the peanut butter Kongs are outside in the rain.  Dolce is bored and Amore has way too much energy bundled inside her 100 lb. frame.  Malcolm is starting to go nuts from dealing with the dogs, wet dog smell is permeating the house from the dogs racing back and forth from the dog pen, tracking in mud and dirt  and Malcolm still has 24 hours to live through.  Amore wants company and to be entertained by day three.  She whacks her tail by the headboard at 3:30 a.m. to wake Malcolm up, barks at every car headed into town starting at 5:30 a.m. and resorted to jumping on and off the bed wanting Malcolm to get up.  There is no rest for the wicked,  Malcolm still has til’ the evening before I’ll be home.

While the rain has abated to a slight sprinkle – the roads are still muddy.  This will be the third day in a row without a walk.  Malcolm hasn’t talked to an adult in 72 hours and wants only to drink his Coca-Cola with pure cane sugar and read the newspaper in peace.  Still in my business attire, I arrive home early evening…

The girls hear my car come down the driveway and immediately start to bark, alerting Malcolm to the possibility of my return.  Malcolm becomes the stereotyped housewife who hands the baby over to dad as he walks into the house from a hard day’s work.  He clicks open the garage door, letting two one hundred pound super-charged and super-hyper canines out to greet me.  I call it the welcome attack!  Dolce has literally jumped in my arms – mud and wet dog hair attaching to my once clean trousers and suit jacket.  Amore has pawed her way between Dolce and myself, inserting her body between, over, and under any arm that could and would pet her.  Nylons are shredded, purse is dumped into a shallow puddle of left over rain water, briefcase now has a muddy paw print on the left side, my eyeglasses are a skewed from being bumped by Dolce and Malcolm has barricaded himself in the den, armed with the newspaper and a glass full of shaved ice and Coca-Cola – door locked with a “do not disturb” card stolen from a hotel on the door knob.  It takes me 10 minutes to make a path inside the house, dogs in tow and another 45 minutes to calm down the heathens. Welcome home!

Malcolm didn’t surface for an appearance for three hours.

 

 

 

Goodbye Summer – goodbye grill

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I’ve decided the girls will eat anything – even tomatoes!

Home-grown tomatoes are always a treat and always accepted graciously…

We had been given some home-grown tomatoes while visiting at a friend’s house.  On the way home, I stopped the car at the top of our driveway to get the mail, leaving Dolce and Amore in the car.  As our mailbox is directly across the dirt road from our driveway, I put the car in park, set the brake and hopped out to quickly to retrieve our mail.  We do this all the time.  It only takes a few seconds.  But a few seconds is all the girls needed to chow down on 4 of the 5 just picked off the vine, tomatoes.  Leaving us one precious juicy red tomato.  It was obviously Malcolm and I were going to have to share.  Not a good scenario when both of us are the youngest of many siblings.

Coming from a household that used the adage, “You cut, I pick” to stop fights over who got the biggest piece of pie, I knew this wasn’t good.  Malcolm is from the south and home-grown tomatoes are as sacred as Sunday after Church fried chicken.  As I prepared dinner, I looked at the surviving tomato, checking out the misshapen size with the deep valleys and divots.  I realized I would be able to fool Malcolm into picking the “short-end of the stick” half of the tomato.  Score:  Megan 1 – Malcolm 0   And, no, I probably won’t be going to heaven!

Grilled Tomatoes

This grilled vegetable goes great with bbq steak!

  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. anchovy past
  • fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tbsp. fresh tarragon
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 beefsteak tomatoes, cored and cut in half

Preheat the grill to high.

Blend the first seven ingredients together in a bowl.  Snip the chives with a scissor (or cut with a knife) over a cutting board.  Add the tarragon and parsley with the chives and finely chop.  Stir into the sour cream mixture and let stand at room temperature for 15 – 20 minutes.

Cut tomatoes in half and drizzle open sides with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

Place tomatoes on the hot grill, cut side down, until softened and slightly charred, 8-9 minutes.  Carefully remove from the grill and serve warm, topped with a tablespoon of the sour cream mixture.

Happy Birthday! shasta, cherry, butterfly, tough guy, big apple, little apple, pinkie & polka dot

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Today our little liter puppies turn 28 years old, or for those that aren’t good at division – four years old!  I remember when we bred Tiamo….

A very pregnant mama!

We had located a male Berner that was intact and waited until Tiamo was two years old, we had done all the tests and sent them off to OFA for evaluation. The wait was on for Tiamo to enter into her heat cycle.  Right before 4th of July she was ready!  Talk about fireworks, we brought her to her new boyfriend and it was love at first sight.  Five weeks later, I brought Tiamo to the vet for an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy.  I was told she would have four pups and she should have her little ones around Labor Day. After the vet visit, I stopped at the pet store and bought 4 little collars wrapping them in tissue.  When we got home, Tiamo carried the tissue wrapped collars right up to Malcolm and dropped the package onto his lap.  She then nudged Malcolm in the leg until he unwrapped his gift.  It only took a nano-second for Malcolm to figure out it was official.  Tiamo was pregnant!  Both Malcolm and Tiamo had huge grins on their faces!

Tiamo had an easy pregnancy.  Every night while she was preggers, she would crawl up next to me, snuggle in, roll over and get her belly rubbed.  As August inched closer to September, Malcolm and I built Tiamo a whelping pen,  got towels and blankets ready for the big event,  and waited.  I counted the days off on the calendar so we could narrow down the date she should go into labor and prayed I would be home when she started.   Tiamo was getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  She was so uncomfortable that for the first time she couldn’t get up on the couch.  I resorted to laying down on the hard brick floor with her to rub her belly.  I wanted her to have a normal birthing experience.  I had read horror stories of dogs going into labor at 2 in the morning.  I read about emergency c-sections and puppies not making it.  I think Malcolm and I were more nervous than Tiamo was.

The first Friday of September, out of the clear blue, Tiamo crawled into her whelping pen.  She sniffed all the corners, rearranged the blankets and slept in the pen all night.  She knew the pen was for her!  The next morning, she started doing the nesting routine and at 9:00 a.m. her water broke.  Bless her heart, our sweet mama had waited until mid-morning on the weekend to have her little pups.  Within an hour, the first pup had been born, hale and healthy.  Tiamo instinctively did her job.  Every hour hence, Tiamo’s contractions would push a new little pup into the world.  At 1:00 p.m. she was done.  Four girls!  Licked clean and learning how to nurse.  Tiamo welcomed her little girls into their new world and settled into motherhood.  About three hours later, Tiamo started getting restless,  turning around in circles and being agitated.   Lord have mercy! she was having another puppy, and another and another and another!  Again, like clock work, every hour, another puppy would arrive.  Eight!  She had eight puppies!  Seven girls and one boy!  All this time we thought she was going to keep it at four!  Mother and puppies were all healthy and doing great.  They all were nursing, they all were warm, they were all clean.  The puppies were weighed and documented and were sound asleep.  We were exhausted.

Tiamo was the proudest mother.  She loved showing off her brood.  The neighborhood was so excited we had to set up visiting hours.  Tiamo stayed with her liter all day and night except for when she needed to go outside.   The puppies were rapidly growing and getting more active.  By week two their eyes were starting to open and by week three, Shasta (aka Amore) was trying to climb out of the whelping pen.  Life as we knew it was over!

tail count – 8

We had homes for the first four puppies, however, we were now scrambling to find placement for the others.  By the second week of November, the puppies were leaving for their next adventure.  All but two pups had families eagerly waiting for them. We had always planned on keeping one of Tiamo puppies and now we had two.  Shasta and Pinkie. Amore and Dolce.  We would find a family that wanted a puppy and for some reason or another, at the last-minute they wouldn’t be able to take her.  A week turned into a month, around Christmas time, Malcolm and I looked at each and knew we couldn’t give away our extra little girl.  We decided to keep two puppies! It was a Christmas gift to ourselves.  A type of  “to-me-from-me” present.   Three dogs:  Mama and her two adventurous puppies!  All spoiled!  Wow!  Little did we know the upheaval three dogs would bring!

Would we do it all over again?  may be not.  Would we change one second of the last four years?  Never!  Tiamo and her two little girls have brought so much joy into our lives, so much adventure, so many smiles to our hearts.  Malcolm swears if we ever win the lotto, he is going to get 10 Bernese Mountain Dogs and breed every one of them.  To Tiamo’s last day, she received a daily belly rub.  To this day – Happy Birthday Girls!

Goat Cheese Cups

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Goat Cheese Cups

“yummmmm, yummmmm, these are gooood!” – Dolce & Amore
  • Phyllo Dough sheets (found in the freezer section at the Grocery Store)
  • 8 oz. mild Goat Cheese, such as Feta Cheese
  • 4 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 4 oz. frozen chopped spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup toasted Pinon nuts
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried Tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Grease mini muffin pan, set aside.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Defrost the spinach.  Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a heavy pan, add the spinach and heat, until all of the liquid has evaporated, stirring constantly.  Stir in the goat cheese and cream cheese.  Add remaining ingredients, mix well and set aside.

Place three sheets of Phyllo dough on a cutting board and cut into 12 squares.  Place each square into a mini muffin hole, fitting the square into the bottom and letting the top edges flute.  Fill cups  3/4 full and bake for 12-15 minutes until top edges have turn golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Serve warm.

WARNING:  do not leave on counter, waiting for your guests to arrive.  four-legged thieves have been known to grab-and-run, leaving a wide crumb trail on your clean floor.