Friday, January 30, 2009


So far we have told you about five of the dogs that are currently in our six-dog pack. Back before we lived in the holler, we have had two dogs at any given time before, and even had three dogs for a little while once when we were dog sitting one of them for a friend, who later never reclaimed him. As we added Corrie to the pack, and then Violet, each time my wife and I had a similar conversation. It would go something like this: We have to stop. We have a large area on our property fenced in for the dogs to get exercise and play time, and dogs are not too excesively expensive to provide for (except for the once a year push to get every one of them to the vet for shots and check ups). Nonetheless, we are now AT MAXIMUM CAPACITY. We have seen those people on the news that get carried away and next thing you know, they're getting arrested and Animal Services is having to take their dogs and cats because they are in such bad shape and things have gotten out of hand, and WE ARE NOT going to be like that. We HAVE to stop, we can NOT keep every unwanted dog on the planet. NO MORE.

Sometimes, sticking to what you decided is not the best thing to do...

Sidebar: A couple of years ago, my wife aquired a pocketbook calendar that had a picture of a long-haired German Shepherd on the front of it. She really liked the dog, she though that dog was the cat's meow, so to speak, and she had asked that if we ever bought another pure bred dog, she wanted a long-haired German Sheperd.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled dog intro: So, no more dogs, right? Well, one day at work, I receive an email from my boss. Her daughter's boyfriend has to move to a different apartment, and the new landlord doesn't allow him to have a dog. He has a pup that he can't keep, so my boss has been keeping it for several weeks, but she already has two dogs of her own and has her hands full starting a business. She's already fallen in love with this dog, and it's going to break her heart to give him up, but she can't keep him. She wants what is best for the dog and she knows how well trained and treated our dogs are. She wants to know if there is any way that I can fit one more dog into our pack.

Then I see the picture of the dog that she has attached to the email. He's a long-haired German Shepherd!!!

At this time, my wife was in a city about 70 miles southwest of us, staying in the hospital with my mother, who had come to visit and wound up having to have emergency surgery. My wife had her hands full, and had been sleeping in one of those chairs in my mother's hospital room for several nights, so I had to make this decision by myself. Then I remembered her pocketbook calendar, and I knew that she would agree with what I was about to do. I quickly replied to the email and agreed to take Charlie off of her hands. I felt so bad the day she handed him over to me; she was soooo sad to have to give him up, and I know it broke her heart. I hope it helps her to know that he is so happy with our pack.

So let me tell you about Charlie. He is a very smart and very large dog. His feet are huge. He is chock full of energy. Fortunately, so is Violet, and they love to play together and pick on each other. We have to keep a bit of an eye on Charlie, because he doensn't realize his own strength sometimes and gets a little carried away with the horseplay, but he doesn't mean any harm. He also likes to play the stick game with Scrappy. Anytime one of them picks up a stick, the other one quickly grabs the other end of it, and the tug begins. And Daisy bounces around them barking at them like a referee. By the way, most sticks in the dog yard are supplied by Speedbump, who has been known to pull them off of a tree if a limb starts hanging low enough to reach. Once she's dragged it into the yard, she's done with it and Scrappy and Charlie take over. Sometimes when we are playing with Charlie and he gets real happy, he starts "talking" and he sounds just like Chewbacca the Wookiee from Star Wars.

In addition to the usual obedience commands which Charlie is learning very well, my wife has taught him "bring me the bowl". You see, at feeding time, there is a certain routine and order that has developed, and each dog knows the order in which they will receive their food bowl, and the location. Because Charlie finishes eating so quickly and in order to avoid any food conflicts, we separate him a little, usually to the back patio. But he started picking up his bowl and carrying it up the hill after he was done eating, and my wife, who is no fan of cold weather, would have to trudge up the hill to fetch it. So she began to teach him to pick up his bowl and bring it into the utility/laundry room, where we store the dog bowls until the next feeding. When he's told to "bring me the bowl", he picks it up in his mouth and comes parading in with his head held high and proud, and then he drops the metal bowl in the laundry room with a loud CLAAAAANG. It's really quite cute.

As we proceed with the obedience training, and if we can find someone capable of playing the role of "Creepy Guy" for us once a week, we hope to involve him in some security training when he's a little more mature. That way, he can help Daisy keep an eye on things in the holler.

Charlie loves it in the holler.

Big city hard times
Never bothered me
I'm a country boy
I'm as happy as I can be.

I don't know if you're familiar with that old Lynyrd Skynyrd song, but we imagine that is Charlie's theme song. He is very much loved, and we're so happy he is with us.

So now, how does that conversation go again? We have GOT to stop. We are at MAXIMUM CAPACITY. We don't want to be like those people on the news... ;-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Do you remember the story of Corrie, the dog we rescued from the little puppy pack that ran up our driveway back in December 2006? We just assumed that Corrie was the only one of that little group of pups that was still hanging around in the holler, but we were wrong! Her sister Violet took up residence at our neighbors' house (we can only see their house in the winter so it's not like they're right next door). My neighbor and I were talking one day and we were comparing recent events when we discovered that Violet had stopped at their house the same day we found Corrie. She did her best to fit in and make friends there, but as I and my neighbor friend (fellow dog lover and rescuer) talked, it became apparent that it wasn't working out for them. We agreed to let Violet live with us so that we could house train her, and they would work on finding her a good home. It didn't go much farther than that because she couldn't get anyone to bite on adopting a mixed breed, and before long we didn't really want her to. Corrie and Violet were family and had been through so much together it seemed a shame to break up the little family again. They knew they were sisters from the get go. She and Violet even clean each other's ears!! That must be something they learned in the wild because those two have the cleanest ears of the pack and I do nothing - the ultimate wet willie!!!!! So she became a permanent part of the pack (like she wasn't already - who am I kidding, right?). It's pretty cool because even though Corrie is like a Labrador mix and Violet is a Shepherd mix, they have the same white markings on their chest and the same white front left paw. I know, aawwww :)

She loves to play hard so we sometimes call her Violent, but she is really a sweetie. She has soulful eyes that just suck you right in and the sweetest demure disposition when she wants to. However, she also is a sock thief (only mine, not JP's) and a dirty kleenex junkie, but we can live with that and she knows not to do these things but sometimes she can't help it. This past summer and fall we had the opportunity of taking care of JP's mom and Violet became her constant companion. She slept under her hospital bed in our spare bedroom, and eventually we moved a real dog bed in there for her. Oh sure at first it was for the scraps of food that fell off the bed but my mother-in-law loves dogs as much as we do so they were best friends. When she went home she said she wanted to put Violet in her suitcase and take her home. We didn't let that happen. Violet IS home!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Arroz Con Gandules

Editor's note: Sometime between 3 and 4 AM last night, I woke up to the realization that we had left off one of the primary ingredients (there's a scary look into the way my mind works!), so I edited it to add the can of gandules. If you copied the recipe prior to 4AM or so, you may want to check and make sure you have that ingredient on there.

Editor's note to editor's note: My wife called me around 9:15 AM and pointed out that she drains the can of gandules (green pigeon peas) and discards the liquid. Be sure to ammend your recipe (because I just know there are soooo many people out there writing this one down), otherwise, you may end up with soupy rice, which would still taste good, but is not ideal.

My wife makes a delicious arroz con gandules. It is a traditional puertorican dish, yellow rice with pigeon peas and pork.

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

  • 1 small onion - chopped

  • 1/2 bell pepper - chopped

  • 2 small pork chops or equivalent amount of fresh pork w/ some fat - cut into small pieces

  • 2 Tbsp. Sofrito (optional, but adds that special latin flavor)

  • 2 packets of Sazón (the yellow kind with saffron)
  • 1 15 oz. can of gandules (green pigeon peas), drain and discard the liquid

  • 2 cups medium grain rice

  • 3 ½ cups water

  • 2 ½ cubes or packets chicken bullion

  • 1 handful fresh cilantro - chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. In a caldero (or other oven safe pan with a lid), sauté chopped onion and green pepper in the olive oil, add the pork and sauté for another minute or two, then add the rest of the ingredients (except the cilantro) and bring to a boil. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. After baking stir in chopped cilantro and serve - It's so easy and it comes out perfect every time!

Notice: most Latin American rice dishes use medium grain rice, rather than long grain, and it makes a difference in the flavor and consistency of the finished dishes. We have found that when we can’t find it in the local grocery stores (for some reason most only carry long grain and instant rices), the oriental food stores will have it, often labeled as sushi rice. We buy the 50 lb. bag, but we eat a LOT of rice.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Is it HOT? Well, well, well, well...

I like flavor. I love things that make my mouth happy. That’s why I love hot sauce. Not just your plain, ordinary tabasco sauce, although that’s okay if you’re just looking to add heat. But if you want to add heat AND flavor, you need a good hot sauce. I’ve tasted many hot sauces. Then last year I decided I was done playing around and was going to make my own hot sauce. Well, it turned out sooo good that now I can’t let myself run out of it. I have it on my breakfast sausage biscuit or steak biscuit, on pizza, in soup, on just about anything that needs a kick. I have given some away, and most everybody that has tried it seems to like it. But I like mine hot, mind you. VERY hot!!! My mouth gets happy just thinking about it…

Well, today was hot sauce making and canning day in the holler. It is a simple cold sauce that I make in the blender. The heat comes from six nice sized jalapeño peppers and six habañero peppers. But remember, I like mine hot, so you can control your heat by the number of habañero peppers you put in yours. You might choose to use eight or ten! My dearly beloved wife usually deals with the jalapeños for me while I work on chopping and adding the rest of the stuff to the blender. We have a box of those disposable plastic gloves that we use when dealing with the peppers, and I would advise you do the same unless you want a case of the chili eyes, or worse! She roasts the jalapeños on the fire. We have a gas stove, so we just put a small grate over the eye of the stove and lay the peppers on it. She chars the peppers until they have black burn marks on them, not completely, but enough to say they’re roasted, then drops them in a small paper bag to steam a few minutes with the residual heat. Then she moves them over to the sink and runs them under some water, rubbing the charred skin off of them, pulling the stems off and drops them, seeds included, into the blender. Meanwhile, I cut the stem off of the habañero peppers and drop them in the blender, including the seeds because that’s where a lot of the heat is. The first few times we roasted the habañeros also, but they really have a slight citrus flavor, so they are best just added raw. I cut up two small or one large onion into chunks and add it. I peel about six to eight cloves or garlic and drop them in. I always add some sort of herb. I prefer to use Thai basil, if I have some, but I have used regular basil, cilantro, and even plain parsley. The nuances of the herb won’t be that noticeable in the finished product, so just put a good handful or two in. You’re just building flavor. Then I add a teaspoon of salt, two and a half tablespoons of brown sugar, and a heaping half teaspoon of each of coriander, turmeric and cumin. Then I fill the empty space in left in the blender with white vinegar; I would say about three cups or so. This is not one of those recipes that is an exact science with me, so I just eyeball it. Then put the lid on good and tight and run the blender (I hope you have a good, powerful one) on liquefy for a few minutes, until it is no longer hitting any chunks and everything is, well, liquefied. Let me warn you, when you open the lid you will be tempted to stick your nose over it and smell in the aroma deeply. It smells so good, it’s hard to resist. I did this the first three times I made it. Yeehaw!!!! I only do it now if my sinuses are so stopped up that I am ready to take a drastic measure to clear them.

At this point, you could just funnel it into jars or old hot sauce bottles, put it into the refrigerator, and use it as you wish. We funnel ours into mason jars and can them. We boil the jars for about 45 minutes, and that way, once they have cooled and sealed, we can keep the jars in our pantry until they are needed. However, they don’t stay around long. There seems to be a building demand for them. The word is out with my co-workers about JP’s hot sauce.

This looks like something that one of our dogs dug up in the yard and dragged in to chew on, but it’s not. It is our salt and pepper shakers. My mother bought them for us. She loves dogs also. She is just crazy about Violet. You haven’t met Violet yet, have you? I’ll let Mrs. JP introduce her next. Speaking of my lovely bride, she’s in the kitchen making her delicious ginger chili chicken. It’s beginning to smell really good in here, so I need to wrap it up. :oP

Have a great weekend! Be sure to praise God with some of your fellow grace recipients tomorrow!!! God bless…

Thursday, January 22, 2009


In January or February of 2007 I was at the vet's office with Daisy and he said "did I see Daisy at the pound the other day? There was one there that looks just like her." I almost doubled over laughing - riiiiiiiiight,,,one of my dogs at the pound and unrescued to boot. Well we finished our visit and the whole time he was telling me about this dog, "she looks just like Daisy, she's fixed, they're about the same age." I think he was setting me up because he knew how much we love German Shepherd's and that we'd just lost Buddy the previous year from a mass in his stomach. You've seen Buddy, he's the black German Shepherd in the "puppy story." Anyway, I couldn't get the dog off my mind, I kept looking at Daisy and thinking about her. For the next part of this adventure my partner in crime was my sister-in-law, she's the best. She and my brother have a very nice pack of their own. We've dog sat for them so their just like family - well they are family. Anyway,,,sis-in-law, Daisy and I go down to the local animal rescue. We wanted to check her out and walk her with Daisy to see how things would go. Of course they were fine.......there.

She loved being at our house and we loved her. She was smart and learned quickly, so we taught her the basic obedience commands. She never quite got along in the pack, though, and the pack was always a little on edge when she was in it. She was easily excitable and quite jealous. She wanted to be the alpha in the pack and that is not allowed, JP and I are the alphas. With JP on the road truck driving during this period, I was a little nervous when fights would break out because she was a strong dog. It also wasn't fair to Daisy, who gets along peacefully with other dogs and doesn't start any fights, but will defend herself. One day JP was home for the weekend, and suddenly poor Ellie began to have a seizure, her tail went into the fireplace, which was lit at the time. JP quickly moved her away from the fireplace and we moved the rest of the pack outside to allow her to finish and come out of it. We took her to the vet and he told us some dogs were just prone to seizures, that she may have another one or may never have another one and as long as she came out of it okay we should just watch her and protect her while she's defenseless. After talking about it and considering the whole situation with the pack tension and Ellie's drive to be the alpha, we came to the conclusion that it would be best for Ellie and the rest of the group if she were in a one dog home.

So I got online and found a local person that ran a website that places pets needing a good home. I posted Ellie's picture and story, making sure to say that she should be the only dog in the home. We found the most wonderful home for her - She is queen of the castle! She has all four family members wrapped around her paw, she is very loved and we get regular updates. She was an answer to their prayers because their beloved previous dog had died just the prior summer. We were so happy, and a little proud, that we had been able to rescue a dog, teach it obedience and make her ready to be a loved member in a new home. This picture is of Ellie lounging on their bed. I just learned recently that she fetches the paper each morning and is just basically still loving life. It's so good when the stories have a happy ending - Hollywood take note.

Blessings from the holler yall.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chilly Day Greetings

I debated not even going outside today. Can you believe it? But what could give my walk to the mailbox more meaning than carrying a card (complete w/ stickers) to our granddaughter and payment to the gas company?!! So I thought I'd just let the dogs out to play, get the camera out (just in case) and giddy up. It was really cool seeing how things change with just a sprinkle of snow.
Here's our creek where I fetch up our daily water (as my granddaughter would say "riiiighttt!") Okay, it is our creek everything else was from my imagination/nightmare :O)

And here's the gang loving life and whooping it up. This is the "stick game." Daisy is always the referee and it sounds vicious. Oh, do you see dogs in these pictures that you don't know? We'll be formally introducing them soon.
Blessings from the holler yall!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Anniversary to us...

Twenty four blessed years of married life. Little did I know the day I met my dearly beloved that it would be one of the best things that ever happened in my life. I dare say we are even more in love and happier than we were when we first said "I do!". Thanks be to God for bringing us together and blessing our lives so! He truly has been faithful, in the good times and the bad.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I really like this song...

I got this CD several years ago and this song encourages me when I need encouragement. Don't worry so much about the video, but give the song a good listen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

So you have a puppy. Now what?

Living out in the holler, we have discovered that often the rural country areas are "Doggy Abandonment Central". Here's what I suppose happens. John and Jane Doe are out shopping with the kids when they go by the pet store. The kids begin clamoring for a puppy, and that little Dalmatian or Siberian Husky puppy is soooo cute, so the purchase is made without much thought as to the commitment that has just been made to the dog. Things are all fine and dandy until the puppy starts messing up the carpets and chewing up stuff in the house. Every time the dog is left outside or in the garage, it howls and yelps until the neighbors start to call and cuss on the phone about the noise. At the end of their rope, John Doe decides this can't go on. He will take the dog for a little drive out in the country and leave the dog out there, where it will live "happily ever after". He will break the commitment that he unknowingly made to the dog when he purchased it. But the world today is a very hostile place to dogs, and dogs abandoned out in the country do not live happily ever after. They starve, get mange, get killed by cars as they try to survive off of road kill carcasses, or get killed by coyotes or cougars or bobcats or farmers trying to protect their livestock or chickens. If they're one of the lucky ones, they wind up at the little dog shelter in the holler, and we are about at full capacity.

Mrs. JP and I have owned and/or trained somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen dogs or more, so I supposed over the years we have learned a thing or two about dog behavior and how to housebreak and train a dog. We are no Cesar Milan (The Dog Whisperer), but our pack of dogs is living proof that we know a thing or two. Perhaps in sharing some of that information, I can help at least one person to develop good behavior in their puppy and a fruitful dog/owner relationship. At the very least, writing all of this up will serve as a refresher course for me.

First off, I would advise that you resist the urge to buy the cute little puppy in the pet store on impulse, and that instead you do a little research. Ideally, instead of encouraging puppy factories with your purchase, you could rescue a puppy from your local dog shelter. If you really would prefer a pure breed, do some research on the breed and it's characteristics and make a good choice on the kind of dog that will best fit your lifestyle. If the breed is high-energy and/or used mainly for hunting and is not ordinarily a domestic family dog, realize that there is a reason for this. High energy dogs require a "job", something to do to burn that energy. Otherwise, they will expend it on your furniture, shoes, carpets, etc.

There is certain basic equipment that I would recommend that you purchase before or as soon as you acquire a new puppy: a Vari-Kennel, a dog collar, a dog leash and a Nylabone. I would also recommend that you buy a good, durable dog food bowl and water bowl, and obviously, some quality puppy food (you get what you pay for, don't go cheap unless you have to). We avoid any dog food that has soy products (soy meal, soy flour, etc.) in them, because we have found that soy products cause the dog's skin and coat to be dry and they then develop problems.

The first and most important of these things is the Vari-Kennel. We have tried the wire kennels and other kinds of kennels, but this is the best choice. Dogs are able to escape from the wire kennels; Daisy was actually able to remove the welded wires one by one with her canine teeth until she got out. Within three days she had completely destroyed a kennel that we had paid over a hundred dollars for. The Vari-kennel is made of durable plastic, has a strong locking door, and can be taken apart and stored easily. You want to choose one that is large enough for the full grown dog to be able to lie in comfortably for extended periods of time. For the first year or two of their lives, until they mature, they will spend ALL unsupervised time locked up in this kennel. This is NOT cruel to the dog, leaving the dogs free until they become unruly and unwanted is. Our dogs still love to sleep in the kennels when they are not occupied by a younger dog; it is a positive, safe place to them. Here is the concept: when your dog does something wrong while you are watching the dog, you can give the dog an immediate correction by saying a strong and firm "NO!!!" and putting a stop to the behavior, and the dog quickly learns "I am not allowed to do that." If the dog gets away with doing the thing when you are not supervising, because it is free and unsupervised, but then gets corrected when he does it in your presence, the dog is instead learning "I need to do that when my alpha is not looking." See the difference? That is why the dog needs to be confined to the kennel while unsupervised. Yes, this puts a huge responsibility on you, you will HAVE to spend time with the dog, supervising and teaching the dog and allowing it to have free time to excersise and learn. The first few days, the dog will not be used to being in the kennel and there will be whinning and/or yelping to get out. We try to stand over the kennel and correct the dog when it complains, until the puppy settles down. There was one dog that simply would not quit making a racket, so we moved the kennel to a far away room and would shut the door to dull the noise. Once the puppy gets in the routine and realizes that it will be released on a regular basis from the kennel, it becomes much easier. Most of the time, we have the kennel set up in our bedroom, so the dog will not feel lonely at night while in it, because we are all sleeping nearby. My wife is really good at making "going into the kennel" become a positive thing by tossing a couple of milk bones into the kennel as she tells the puppy "get in there". A Kong ball stuffed with treats also works well for this. After a while, all it takes is to tell the dog "get in there" and they do it willingly. We try not to leave the dog in for real long periods of time during the daytime unless we have to, but once they are used to their routine, we can leave our dogs in there all night while we sleep and have left them as long as ten to twelve hours on occasion, without any problems. Again, we try to keep the amount of time spent in the kennel during the daytime short, as the dog does need exercise. On the rare occasion that we both have to be gone all day, they are used to being it it and can stay in it for longer periods of time during the day, but we also realize that we will have to give the dog opportunity to get some free time and exercise before going back in for the night.

The kennel will also help you with the house breaking. Most dogs will not mess in their confined space inside the kennel. This does not hold true for dogs that have come from a pet store, because they get used to messing in their cages in the pet store. You need to feed your dog the proper amount of food for his weight and age and on a regular schedule. The regular schedule is especially important during these first few weeks. We split our dogs' diet into two feedings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. As soon as the new puppy has eaten and drank, you need to take the dog outside and remain outside with the dog until it does it's business, number one and number two. Praise the dog when it goes, "That's a good girl/boy!". While the dog is free in the house, since you are supervising, if the dog tries to do it's business in the house, you will see it assuming the position and will quickly correct it with a stern "NO!!!" and pick it up (patiently!) and take it outside and tell him/ her to "be a good girl/boy". Everyone will have some accidents to clean up at first, so be sure you find a cleanser that neutralizes odors, so that the dog will not be tempted to repeat the crime by the odor that only it can detect.

The other thing I recommended was the Nylabone. Please resist the temptation to get all the little stuffed chew toys, plastic squeaky toys and ropes and such things for the puppy to play with. These toys are very cute and all, but the dog can not tell the difference between the cotton fabric in the stuffed chew toy that is okay to tear up and the cotton fabric in your socks which are not okay to tear up, and so forth. You will just add confusion with these toys, as it is much simpler for the puppy to learn that it is okay to chew on Nylabones, a material that closely resembles real bones but won't splinter, and nothing else. We toss the Nylabone into the kennel with the puppy when it is kennel time because chewing on the Nylabone can serve as stress relief for the puppy while it is confined. If it tries to chew anything else, a verbal correction is in order. The dog will quickly learn what NO means. Be sure you get the hard kind of Nylabone, as there have been recent problems and warnings associated with the softer, rubbery Gumma-bone and Plaque Attacker varieties.

The collar and leash are for the dog's safety. Beside the fact that most municipalities have a leash law that requires it, the truth is that the modern world is a very, VERY hostile place for dogs. Traumatic death can come in an instant from many things, from licking up improperly discarded radiator fluid or poisonous substances, to running out in front of a moving vehicle. If your dog is not in a fenced-in area, it should be on a collar and leash. ALWAYS. It is dog cruelty to do otherwise. The only exception would be a dog that has received advanced obedience training and is able to heel on command without a leash, but even then, keep in mind that sometimes chasing something can be irresistible even to a well behaved dog.

Remember that dogs are SOCIAL animals, they are pack animals. I hate seeing dogs chained up in the back yard all by themselves, even if they have a dog house within reach. Dogs in such situations usually begin to exhibit abnormal personality traits and excessive aggressiveness. Dogs need to socialize, and preferably learn to meet a variety of people and children. If you will follow these tips, you should develop a dog that is as well behaved in your house as any human guest is. Remember, patience is key. Remember also that most behavior problems are developed when a dog is not getting enough exercise. If the dog is tired from activity, it will rest when it's indoors. Our dogs use our treadmill more than we do sometimes, especially during rainy periods when the weather won't allow them to play in the back yard.

If there are any other helpful tips that I can share with you and your dog, please post a comment. We don't know everything, but we have certainly dealt with most dog related things by now. God bless you!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The first week in December of 2006, I was standing at my bedroom window just before getting dressed to go sing in a Christmas choir; I had one hour before I needed to leave. What do I see trotting up our driveway? Four of the most pitiful dog specimens I've ever seen. They came right around back to where we have part of the back property fenced off for our dogs and began barking - they wanted in! I could tell that they were litter mates of a VERY mixed breed. I thought to myself, "it's going to be in the teens tonight and they are all skin and bones - what am I going to do?" So I went outside and they ran under a storage building we have. The black one of the pack was barking at me like all get out. I knew that I didn't have time to argue with her, so I got a bale of straw and blocked off the north wind, got the biggest bowl I could find and mixed up some dog food and warm milk in it, and put out some water for them, hoping this would do until we could address them in the morning. JP was still truck driving and was due for home time that night, but he wasn't home yet, so I went to my choir cantata. By the time I got back home JP had arrived and was wondering about the critters barking at him from under the storage shed, so I gave him the full update.

In the morning we went outside and they were all gone - I was so worried because of the pitiful condition I had seen them in and the bitter cold weather they were having to endure. I just hoped that they were okay. Around midday JP was looking out our living room window and noticed the little black one running down the road. I grabbed a leash, two slices of American cheese, and we jumped in the car to go try to catch her. When JP got us near the stray dog he stopped the car and I got out and crouched down, thinking that she'd be wild and probably not come to me. Quite the contrary, she almost took my fingers off to get to the cheese. So we brought her home and we could see she was suffering from malnutrition and had several patches of mange on her skin. Our vet confirmed this and we started having to dip her once a week in this strong stuff that smelled kind of like gasoline, then she'd have to stay outside until she dried. This proved to be quite a challenge since it was wintertime. Even to this day, bath time is still very traumatic for her.

We chose to name her Corrie because she looked like the pictures you see of survivors of Nazi concentration camps , so she's named after Corrie Ten Boom, the author of "The Hiding Place" who was a survivor of one of those camps. She is a wonderful little girl; where her mange has healed her hair came in grey and black, so she looks old even though she's just about 2 yrs old now. She was about six months old when we found her. But I guess she's been through enough to have grey hair so it's ok and it reminds us of where she came from. She is our feeding time clock, around 10-15 minutes prior to their regular feeding times she starts to stare me down. I swear sometimes she doesn't blink - she'll come up and put her two little front feet on my chair, I'll push her back down and the game begins. It's kind of reminiscent of the movie Rainman, "of course it's fifteen minutes to feeding time!". Our other dogs have nothing to worry about because Corrie is pleading and reminding each and every meal time. On work day mornings, after all the dogs have trekked out and are back inside, while I'm getting JP's coffee ready Corrie comes up to me and wiggles until her head is between my knees and I rub her belly and scratch her butt and then she takes off like a rocket to go pounce on Daisy or whoever she can. She's just so wound up after being given attention she can't stand it. She loves to lie outside in the sunshine on a warm day and warm her bones, probably because she suffered through so much cold that first winter as a stray. I think she is truly thankful to be with us, as we are to have her.

Blessings from the holler!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A great meal for a cold, rainy winter day...

Smoked turkey noodle soup and some toasted homemade Cuban bread slices. The soup was based off of a recipe I had seen Mario Batali make. First I broke up a box of angel hair pasta into small pieces, about a fourth of their original length, and browned the pasta in a mix of butter and olive oil. I learned that this is easier done in small batches, about a third of the box at a time, because if you try to do the whole box at once, pasta starts going everywhere when you try to stir it. Mrs. JP had to help me a little at this point, because I had pasta going everywhere and dogs sneaking through the kitchen to try and pick up the pieces. Once the pasta was slightly browned, I set it aside. I chopped an onion and a couple cloves of garlic. I sauteed the onion in some olive oil, added the garlic and sauteed a little longer, added two bay leaves and about a tablespoon of oregano, stirred, and added two teaspoons of smoked paprika. Then I added one 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, about three to four teaspoons of kosher salt and a good grind of black pepper. At this point, Mario used some leftover chicken and some chicken broth, but we had something better on hand. When we have our annual smoked turkey at Thanksgiving, we use the leftover carcass to make some delicious smoked turkey broth and freeze it with some of the leftover smoked turkey in it to be used for soups, etc. So I put that smoked turkey and turkey broth in the soup, added some store bought chicken broth, some water and about a cup or so of some white wine. I brought the whole mixture to a boil, added more salt and pepper to taste, tasted it to make sure it was tasting good, and added the browned angel hair pasta. I simmered it for about ten more minutes while my dearly beloved wife sliced, buttered and toasted a few slices of Cuban bread. Let me tell you, it turned out sooooo delicious. The only problem is, like always when I cook, we could have fed a small army, so we will be enjoying leftovers for a few days. We really should entertain more, with the quantities of food that I cook.

Now I'm warm in the tummy and ready to enjoy some more football on TV.

By the way, I just have to mention, I read Spurgeon's devotional for this morning and it was so uplifting and filled me with so much hope. For a reason I am not at liberty to discuss here, this is a bit of an emotional weekend for our family, but I was reminded of God's mercy, his mighty hand of protection in my son's life and in all of our lives, and of the wonderful hope which is ours in our Lord Jesus for a great reunion after we pass through death to life everlasting. I hope you will read the devotional, dear reader, and be uplifted as well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hay, Hay, Hay...

Really it's straw. We have 24 paws going in and out in all kinds of weather so spreading straw is our way of combating the winter rain mud-o-rama. It's just so much easier to vacuum straw as clean up as much mud tracked in by our little dears.
Of course I have help. Scrappy has decided that the bales of straw are all little sticks that I'm throwing for her to grab first and fight me for - whatever she can sure spread it quick. All the others get in on the fun but Scrappy is all over it.

While outside today our cross-eyed cat, Spaceghost, came up and announced that his bowl was empty and there wouldn't be a moments peace until I did something about it. Spaceghost just came up one day and adopted us. He looks east and west at the same time but he's a mouser. He is in charge of the mice control and he does a good job. He has a doggie door so he can come into our garage for his shelter. I've fixed a great spot with an old doggie bed and rugs to keep him warm. As long as he does his job he's my hero because I "don't do" mice. Our car is apparently one of his kill zones because on Sunday as we were going to church JP noticed that there was evidence he'd been up there. I won't go into that much further since I'm enjoying my peanut butter toast and Chai tea now as I thaw out.
I didn't know what to post since what I do is "so daily" but like George Costanza said "What did you do today? That's a show." Isn't that the truth around here!

Well with my chores done I think I'll work on a little quilted wall hanging I'm in the middle of. I hope to have a picture of it with some links to great quilting sites next.
Blessings from the holler.

Monday, January 5, 2009


In order to introduce you to the next lucky dog to join our happy little dog shelter in the holler, I again have to give you some background so that you will better understand what was going on at the time.

As I described in the Speedbump thread, after moving to our happy little home in the holler, I was having difficulty finding employment within my area of expertise. The severance pay and retention money that I had received at layoff time from my prior employer were beginning to run out. I had tried unsuccessfully to drum up enough lawn care business to make ends meet. I also tried working as a short order cook at the local franchise of a popular chain country restaurant, but the pay would not have been enough and I found out that I can only serve up greasy food for about six hours a day before I become nauseous, which was about two hours before my shift ended. Who would have thought, as much as I like greasy food! I believe that God placed in the heart of man a need and a drive to provide for his family, and from my experience, there is no worse feeling than the frustration of not being able to find gainful employment. I can handle pain and sickness better than I can handle unemployment. I was pleading and "wrestling" with God in prayer during this time, reminding Him of His promises (as if he needed stupid me to remind Him) and pleading with Him. I clearly remember the depression and frustration of this time period.

Every time I would check the want ads for a job, there were two types of employment that seemed to be in abundance, nursing and truck driving. I knew that it took years of education to become a nurse, but truck driving schools promised to train you and make you a truck driver in two weeks, so truck driving it was. God was beginning to open doors.

I just want to say a few things about this truck driving period of my life. First of all, I have a lot of respect for truck drivers and it is a very good and honorable way to earn a living. It is best if you start while you are young, not when you are in your mid 40s like I was. Trucking companies pay based on years of experience, so when you start out, you pretty much spend most of your life on the road and you don't make a lot of money, which is okay for the typical 18 to 20 year old. As your experience increases and you keep your driving record clean of tickets and accidents, your pay begins to go up and you can then work your way into the jobs that get you more regular home time. The other thing about it that I want to point out is that it is a lot more than just driving, and sometimes it can be very demanding both physically and mentally. There are a myriad of federal and state laws that govern the truck driver, from having to keep an accurate daily log of where and how every minute of your time is spent, to what roads are closed to big trucks. Be patient, helpful and polite to those truck drivers when you're out there driving amongst them. Just about everything you eat, drink, wear, own and enjoy was brought to you by a truck driver.

So it was two weeks at a local truck driving school, after which I had my CDL (Class A Commercial Driver License, with Hazmat stamp) and I was hired on by one of the large truck driving companies. At that point, I spent the next four months of my life driving all over the country, with no home time and sharing the small truck space with a trainer that I did not get along with at all. For one, he was an atheist, which I didn't mind, but he hated Christians, so by extension, he hated me. To him, believing in God is stupid, so he assumed I was stupid as well, nevermind the fact that I had spent nearly twenty years working as a computer programmer/analyst for some of the top insurance and finance companies in the nation. Anyway, I survived the four months of working with the trainer and eventually was issued my own company truck to drive. As God would have it, I was issued a brand new Kenworth truck, and after three weeks on the road hauling loads solo, I finally earned three days of home time. It was soooooo good to finally see my wife and my home after four months.

As I'm typing all of this up, I'm remembering that first Christmas on the road and how God used some of His children to show me His love, but I will save that story for a separate posting so that I can get on to what this whole thread is supposed to be about.

During this whole time of truck driving, I usually spent two or three weeks over the road, and then would get about a day and a half to two days at home. Ever since I moved out on my own when I was 18 years old, I have had the companionship of a dog, so I asked my wife to spend some time helping me find a dog that could go out on the road with me. In order to have a dog ride with me, the company required a non-refundable deposit, so we saved up for that while my dearly beloved searched the local shelter's websites for a dog that would be small enough to share the cramped space with me. One day she came accross a dog at the dog shelter of a nearby town, a small female dog that looked a lot like one of my first dogs, Fea. After describing her to me, we agreed she was just right for the job, and Mrs. JP went and completed the adoption. I was waiting in the same nearby town for warehouse workers to empty my loaded trailer so that I could go on home time, so my wife met me there with the dog and we introduced her to the truck that would become her home for the next year and a half or so. She was a little shy about the truck at first, but it didn't take her long to get comfortable, and begin acting like it was her truck and her bed and I just shared the space with her.

The dog shelter had named her Molly, but we didn't really like that name for her. She is a rather wild looking wire haired Jack Russell terrier. The first thing she did when we brought her home was to tangle with the largest and toughest dog we have, Daisy. After breaking up the fight, putting her in submissive state (on her back) while the other dogs paraded over her, which is a good method of teaching the newer pack members that the humans are alpha in the pack and that they are not permitted to do battle for that position, we decided we should name her Scrappy, because she looked scrappy and had a scrappy attitude.

She was such a blessing to have with me in the truck. She was always just as excited to go back out on the road as she was to come home and see Mrs. JP. She was also great for public relations. I would be dealing with a grouchy security guard or receiving clerk, and then they would spot her looking cute in the truck window and their whole demeanor toward me would change.

I have countless funny stories about our days out on the road, but this thread is already getting quite long, so let me just tell you a few quick things about her. She is very friendly, very self-assured and very, very fast. She loves to hunt mice. She will smell them in their little holes in the ground and she will dig them up. She is a great napping companion, she can nap with the best of 'em. She is a flight risk, always trying to escape, so we have to be careful with that, because when she has gotten out, she runs as far and as long as she can and it is only because we have been able to jump in a car and go faster than her that we have gotten her back. We always have a little concern that she might get away unnoticed one day and get so far from home that we might never see her again. She is a joy and a dearly loved member of our happy little dog pack.