The Annual Thankful Project

Yes, I realize that I am a month late on this. But, once again, here is my recap of the 30 days of thankfulness I do every November on Facebook. What are YOU thankful for (besides the fact that 2020 is OVER!!!!)?

Thankful project Day 1: (we need this more than ever this year. Dig deep. Find the every day joys!) My neighborhood! My biggest fear leaving our treasured McKinley Court community was not finding new people to smile at in our new place. Well, 6 years later, I can truly say we have chosen well. This year we have really come together and realized how important those “mailbox” connections are. We are lucky! I love Walden!

Thankful project day 2: grateful that Stevie Nicks, despite stealing a bag of chewy sticks and 6 pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting while we were out, did not puke during the night.

Thankful project day 3 (make that hopeful projection that will make me thankful if it comes true): Thankful that, no matter what happens today, tomorrow our country will start to heal. That, if our candidate wins, we have all acted with grace, humility, and quiet hope. So no gloating publicly (but yes, you can feel happy), because that is not how you get people to listen to you. And no rioting/destruction/ugly name calling (but yeah, you can be pissed or sad). This country should embrace differences, not mock them. Our variety is what makes us special, not what divides us. So today: vote for a side. Tomorrow: let’s start stitching things back together. And it starts with you, not whoever sits in the Oval Office. I am not a religious person, but I have always liked the phrase “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” So if my candidate prevails, I will not gloat. If my candidate loses, I will take it upon myself to change the world in whatever little way I can. Try to think of something positive you can do for one person, especially if that person is politically opposite from you. Be the person you want your kids (and your President) to be. Now: go vote!

Thankful project day 4: when my sailor’s ship is near land and he can text!

Thankful project day 5: more internet access for Sailor Boy means PHOTOS!

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Thankful project day 7: the weather!!! Probably won’t be this warm for another 5-6 months! TGIF!

Thankful project day 7: that we committed to donating blood regularly ( a COVID silver lining!). Today we stepped it up and donated platelets! Please donate. They are seeing a drop off during COVID times.

Thankful project day 8: that HWSNBN was paying close attention when driving and didn’t hit the chocolate lab that darted in front of our car this evening. We quickly pulled over, I grabbed a leash and a handful of treats, and called to the woofer, assuming he would run. Nope: typical lab. Ran over, wagged his tail, and hopped in the back seat with a bewildered Stevie Nicks. Got home, found his name and number neatly embroidered on his collar (hi Oscar!) and called his grateful people. While we waited, he ran joyfully around the house, ransacking the toy box with glee. So glad it ended that way.

Thankful project day 9: 3 days and 3 1/2 hours until the next original song drops! (this is about Singer Girl’s song, that was soon to come out. IN the mean time, I was sharing one of her tiktok videos. Do you follow her? She’s @frankienstein3

Thankful project day 10: that my brother and I made it through the election cycle “relationshiply” unscathed, and, TBH, I feel we are closer than we have been in years. Happy birthday, Trevor S Rice!

Thankful project day 11: that the cortisone shot in my elbow is in the rear view. Ouch.

Thankful project day 12; the public library! For someone like me, who burns through several books a month, it’s a financial lifesaver! Although, TBH, I also spend a good chunk of change at Excelsior Bay Books, so I’m not totally thrifty. But hey: BOOKS!

Thankful project day 13: Cargill! Tonight I attended a fund raising event at a dog park in Plymouth, where Cargill employees paid for the privilege to stand in the wind and snow with happy puppies, all to raise money for Secondhand Hounds. So cool! Btw don’t forget November 19th is Give to the Max Day, but you can donate now and all donations will be matched by a generous donor!

Thankful project day 14: THE NEW SINGLE IS HERE! Like/follow/share on all platforms! Download on Spotify, iTunes, amazon, YouTube, etc. Wherever you get your music. But please share! Legend (Gin&Tonic).

Thankful project day 14: nature! This was a crazy, random moment off our balcony in Vail! Foxy lady! (see more on this in my previous post, “A-Vailing Ourselves of Colorado”)

Oops: missed day 15!

Thankful project day 16: bulldogs in baby carriages!

Thankful project day 17: dinners like this. (again — see previous blog, and the pic of our staying-in meal).

Oops…another missed day, #18…

Thankful project day 19: I missed yesterday, so today will be an all-day affair! Today I am thankful for YOU, and all the support you will give your favorite Minnesota charities today. It is the annual Give to the Max day! Below is my blog post about one tiny baby saved by Secondhand Hounds. If this or any of the stories you see today inspire you, please donate! (See blog post, “Weeble May Wobble but she Don’t Fall Down”)

Thankful project day 20: the enormous generosity of Minnesotans! Yesterday people gave more than $30million to Minnesota charities. We assumed that Give to the Max Day would not be as lucrative as in last years (pandemic!), but it was a record breaker! I look forward to sharing many amazing updates in the future about the animals we will save with the money!

(And another skipped day…)

Thankful project day 22: Singer Girl (aka Francesca Torres) is home for 2 months! (this was supposed to be my TP D 21, but my info was wrong and her flight was today. Now I need to double up some day…)

Thankful project day 23: fostering! This pic popped up today. It’s HWSNBN and our very first foster, Etta. What a journey she kicked off! That decision changed my life in so many ways. It was a time when I saw the empty nest looming, and kind of wondered: what’s next? lol, be careful what you ask the universe!

Thankful Project day 24: today has been a tough one. I hate vague booking, but I can’t go into details. Suffice it to say I cried and I swore and I worried. But things can always be worse. And, for that perspective, I am grateful. (this was about my sailor son, I can now say. Deployment has been tough).

Thankful project day 25: hearing my girl sing again in the basement. Does my soul good! (and now she’s doing opera, no less. Even makes my cocktail taste better!)

Thankful Project day 26: elastic waistbands. (this was on Thanksgiving, lol)

Thankful project day 27: the simple things, like a long bath (made complete with a CBD bath bomb from Jes Naturals – CBD Wellness, btw), a very full glass of wine, a fun book, and knowing that I neither have to shave my legs or put on a bra. Thanks, COVID, for another Friday night in! Time to fire up the Netflix!

Thankful project day 28: all the people out for small business Saturday in Excelsior! We shopped until mom dropped — the weather was beautiful, the shops filled with goodies, and the shopkeepers were immensely grateful. Some eve had to have people wait outside because they were at COVID capacity!

Thankful Project day 29: zoom calls. I know, I know: yawn. But today, thanks to Zoom, I attended a baby shower in North Carolina, and hung with some of my fave women in my book club. No, it’s not the same as in person. But it is so very much better than nothing!

Thankful project day yesterday (whoops — posted on Dec 1): as the month wrapped up, I tried to think of something profound, but then I realized I was me, so I stopped. Anywho…I feel like I mention silver linings a lot, but I do think they are important. I think I have mentioned that the events of the past year, from the pandemic to the rioting to the elections, have caused me to take a deeper look at myself and how I interact with my community. I have become incredibly aware of shopping local whenever possible — and am now thus on a first name basis with some shopkeepers in Excelsior, and I can tell you I feel much brighter and lighter leaving those stores than I do a big box! (I still shop big as well, but only when I “have” to). I am going to try to patronize a new small business each week, whether a shop, a restaurant, etc. I am already thankful for the new friends I shall meet! Happy December, everyone!

A-Vailing Ourselves of Colorado

While blessed with many, many friends, there is only one Unicorn Squad.

The Squad is the three couples that Vegas together yearly, plus make merry in countless other ways. We have distanced ourselves a lot since spring, but have convened in the great out of doors when we have felt safe (and the rules have allowed it). But we needed more than a few hours around a bonfire — and Vegas was neither in the cards nor on the table.

We had a bunch of timeshare points burning a hole in our pockets, but clearly 2020 has not been a great travel year. I wanted to take us all somewhere we could be outside, and where it wouldn’t be crowded, and where we could stay in separate condos. I wanted to have fun, but wanted to minimize risks — so we went to Vail, the week before the ski slopes opened (it didn’t hurt that one of the Unicorn offspring lives and works there so we got to see her in her element!).

After piling into the not so glamourous but highly functional multi-passenger not quite windowless van (there were many van down by the river jokes that weekend), we headed west from Denver airport through the stunning mountains to Vail. On the way, we stopped for lunch at the highly recommended (and rightly so ) Beau Jo’s for pizza and beer. Before we arrived, the Vail Offspring asked us to pick her up an order of crust with honey. We were baffled. Then we tried it. Oh my…I am a convert!

Back on the road, we hit up a grocery store for provisions. Wisely, We separated by couples to make it quicker. Foolishly, we did not compare carts so there was much overlap (more on that later).

We were staying at the Marriott Streamside. Each of us had cute one bedroom condos with 2 baths, our own kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces and balconies. It was perfect for spreading out so no one felt on top of each other. I think we all felt the need for a change of scenery from our homes. Who hasn’t seen more of their home’s inside in the past several months? Within an hour of checking in, I was out on the balcony, watching a gorgeous fox wander around outside. In case you were wondering, he didn’t say much. But he was stunning, and came to visit often during our stay.

That night we made our first foray to Vail Village, where we enjoyed dinner at The George, another fave of the Vail Offspring and her man. It was super casual and comfy — noshing plum duck on the couch surrounded by friends and cold beer? Yes, please. The place was pretty empty, which we appreciated. All the folks there seemed to work at the resorts, and were enjoying their last few days of calm before the tourist storm hit. I can totally picture this pace busy filled with the après ski set, smelling of damp wool sweaters, ringing with laughter, offering glimpses of the snow outside world through steamed up windows.

The next day we tried to kick off with breakfast at another fave spot, but they were closed. So we found another cool spot known for Bloody Mary’s, the Westside Cafe. It was here I discovered hatch chile chili, which immediately became by Vail food obsession (I ordered it everywhere I could).

After breakfast we headed to Vail village, where I had set up the morning’s activity. We were doing a Scavenger Hunt, from Let’s Roam. When I announced this game, I now my friends’ eyes rolled behind my back, but when we were done even the grumpiest skeptic agreed it was a fun way to see the area. This particular hunt focused on art, so we were always searching for hidden and not so hidden pieces of pubic art. We also had to do fun activities! I love doing these! I highly recommend you find out of there is one in your home town, and in the next place you travel!

Dinner was at The Fall Line, where we were probably a little loud and silly for such a nice place. I think altitude, lack of sleep and adult beverages contributed to our silliness.

We slept in the next morning, and ate in our rooms. Then it was off to the famous hot springs. It was a gorgeous drive, about an hour long, to get to where we were supposed to be going.

But we never made it there — because we (I) put the wrong hot springs place into the GPS. While we did find a hot springs establishment, it was a little more like the swimming pool in Cocoon than the natural, glamorous place we had picked out. In fact, at one point we saw three women gliding about that totally were a glimpse into our future. One blond, one brunette, one with a crazy leopard print hat (guess which one I was?).

We needed a night in, so the couples decided to pool our resources and meet in our condo. Clearly, we had similar tastes, as we each brought meat and cheese platters to the party.

After much laughter, and an 80s trivia gane we all decimated, we crashed so we could enjoy our last full day in Vail.

For breakfast we finally made it to the restaurant we’d been aiming for the first morning, the famous Little Diner. My hunger meter guided me towards a spicy bloody and pork green chili, and I was not disappointed!

Today was our wander and shop day. You could tell the slopes were opening the next day. The energy was different. Shops were stocking up and decorating for the holidays. As the day progressed, more people were in the village. Ordinarily, I would like some hustle and bustle, and I would like to return when it’s “normal.” But we started to feel a little more vulnerable, and were glad that we would be leaving before the crowds arrived.

With cocktail breaks at El Segundo and the Red Lion, we finished up our shopping. My fave purchases were some super splurgy leather mittens for myself, an some antique dice cufflinks for HWSNBN to wear on our next Vegas trip. Then it was time to chill before dinner. When planning for the trip, I had struggled finding places that were open for more than just takeout. Again, most weren’t opening until we left. I chose a place called The Fitz. It was a bit too casual for our last night, so that was disappointing, but the food was good!

This definitely seems like a great place to eat outside and enjoy the view, so on a return trip we might try that out.

We made the Vail Offspring and beau come back to the condos with us so we could load them up with all the food and alcohol we wouldn’t be finishing. Sa you can see, they were set for awhile.

Leaving Vail was sad, but, as I said, it was started to get busy so timing was perfect. I wouldn’t have felt okay about the trip if it had been crowded. Being able to spread out inside and be outside in the sunshine was just perfect. Batteries recharged, we headed back to Minnesota. Not sure when the Squad will get to travel together again, but we are planning it — and we know it will be fun.

Oh: and helpful hint — oxygen canisters for the win in high altitudes (and maybe a good Vegas pick me up, too, lol!)

A New Release!

Singer Girl dropped a new song yesterday!

Chipped is the last of the three songs she wrote and recorded over quarantine summer. This one’s a bit sad, about a couple who are married, but maybe shouldn’t be. Please give it a listen!

https://open.spotify.com/track/4FVaL1kFKmt2LN4Y07GuDL

What do you think? How does it compare with the others she released? If you like what you hear, please like, download and share! And do you follow her on tiktok? It’s a great way to hear the wide variety of styles she likes to work with (her handle is @frankienstein3).

Right now she is writing more songs, partnering with a guitarist friend so she can get a different sound. I know she longs to get back on stage with a band! Hopefully, next summer we can all enjoy live music again.

Not on My Menu

How COVID-19 is impacting restaurant risks | Insurance Business

I miss restaurants. I miss bars. I miss being spoiled by terrific servers and amazing chefs. I miss watching other people’s food arrive and having FOMO. I miss bantering with the servers, and wondering if they roll their eyes when they walk away or if they appreciate my wit and charm.

But.

I will wait to go to a restaurant until our Governor says it’s safe for me, the other patrons, and the people who work in them.

I dread opening my browser in the morning to see which wonderful eateries have shuttered their doors forever. My heart breaks when I see a restauranteur lament their life work’s demise. I fear for those servers who are no longer able to pay their bills.

But.

I will buy gift cards. I will order takeout directly from the restraunts, and avoid delievry services that take precious moey fron those who need it most. I will overtip.

I will not patronize restaurants who open in defiance of the Governor’s orders. As reported by Stephanie March of MSP Mag this week, 130 small businesses are discussing doing just that this week. I can only imagine the desperate fear those business owners are feeling. However, I don’t think it is right that they open prematurely.

I do think the government needs to do more to help them, on the local, state and federal levels. Make banks waive mortgage payments for three months (just tack the 3 months onto the end of the loans), so landlords can waive rent. Get some subsidies in there for servers, suppliers, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that if they reopen illegally, they will forfeit any relief. They may also make it worse overall for those in their community who will respectfully suffer through the restrictions.

March’s article quotes the organizer of the coalition as saying if people don’t feel safe, they don’t need to go to the restaurants. True, and fair. Servers do not have that luxury. If a restaurant reopens, they will put themselves at risk to do their jobs. These people do not typically have financial cushions (or if they did, they are long gone). Minimum wage workers do not have the luxury of staying home.

So it is with great sorrow and conflict that I say will not patronize any business opening illegally. I won’t get takeout from there, either. And I may find it really tough to ethically support them next summer when we may be back to a semblance of normal.

I hope we Minnesotans followed the rules enough during this last shutdown to allow Governor Walz to authorize a limited reopening next week. If so, yes: we will go out again. If not, we will be sad, but do our part.

Please, my favorite restaurants, and all those places that haven’t become my favorites yet, don’t risk everyone’s health by opening prematurely in desperation.

Falling for Date Nights

Like everyone else, we’ve been pivoting on the date night thing. Changes in weather, and rising COVID rates, meant options were becoming harder to find. So, rather than a monthly recap, I’m moving to bi-monthly, because, well, there just isn’t as much story to tell.

Our first October date night was his choice. We headed over to the movely Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to wander and enjoy the scenery.

If you’re a Minnesotan, and have never been, go. If you are like us and go maybe once a year, change that and go seasonally (that’s on my to do list next year). If you live in another area, find one near you. Ours is run by the University of Minnesota, and, as they say on the website,

“Founded in 1958, we are a member-driven non-profit with more than 1,200 acres of professionally-maintained gardens, rare plant collections and accessible trails…the Arboretum is engaged in cold-hardy plant research and has developed 27 commercial apples, including Honeycrisp, Haralson and First Kiss®. In 2019, USA Today readers named the Arboretum the best botanical garden in North America.”

Learn more about it here.

Every time we go we are inspired on ways to further enhance our yard (and usually HWSNBN comes home with pocket fulls of seeds. Sometimes he even writes down what they are for.

The Arb often has seasonal displays and exhibits. You may remember our date night there last winter to see the lights. This time the featured exhibit was a scarecrow competition.

After dinner, we headed to dinner in a new-for-us location 30 Bales in Hopkins. Would totally go again. It looks like a typical diner (a little fancified), but the food is anything but ordinary.

Next it was a nightcap, aka a nice glass of wine, at the Vine Room, also in Hopkins.

The next week we got busy –socially speaking. We double dated on Friday evening with friends Christi and Jim (the Sun 50 folks) at a new Excelsior Restaurant, the Bull and Finch.

Saturday it was my turn to plan. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, so we headed east to St Paul. We pretty much only go to St Paul when I plan dates, because HWSNBN is sure we will fall off the edge of the earth of we drive that far (it’s like a 30 minute drive, max). First up was a late lunch/early dinner at the The Gnome Craft Pub. Formerly the Happy Gnome, this place was revamped by celebrity chef Justin Sutherland and partners, complete with a to die for patio (swinging chairs under the trees and fairy lights? yes, please!).

Food is drippy and delicious, and this will be my go to for pre-gaming for Xcel Energy Center events post-COVID. We started with Shaved Raclette (molten hot cheese, potatoes and shaved ham — was there any question I would be into this?). He had the Carved Barbacoa sandwich, and I had the Carved Wet Pork (great band name, BTW). Defintely a three napkin sandwich.

Traditionally we only see the changing leaves on Cathedral Hill during the last miles of the Twin Cities Marathon, and neither of us looks up — he’s eyeing the finish line and I’m searching for him.

The mansions are gorgeous, however, and I’ve always wanted to explore them. All the hosted tours were closed, but I found a cool self-guided one online, courtesy of Big Boy Travel. For a few hours we wandered, learning all about the neighborhoods and who had built and lived in the various homes.

(the tour starts at the St Paul cathedral and finished at the James J Hill House. Both were closed to the public (thanks, COVID) so we will have to go back. We had a ball. At one point, a woman who lived in the area watched us as we read off the info about some homes on her block. She interrupted ato ask what we were doing, and was fascinated by the website. She learned something new, and was excited to try the tour for herself, even though she’d lived amidst all that gorgeous history for years!

The next weekend was his turn. With dog Stevie Nicks in tow, HWSBN took us to a very cool pumpkin patch in Watertown called the LuceLine Orchard. It was funny watching Stevie’s reactions to all the people, dogs and other animals. At one point she was just following her nose, then lifted her head and was within bleating distance of a goat and a chicken. Girlfriend jumped and did a double take. A little later she met a very large, very furry, cow.

Stevie wanted nothing to do with her, and backed away quickly. She is such a suburban dog. She looked at us like, “Is this what you guys do when you leave me???”

Decided to drop her back at home to recover (what must those doggie dreams have been like, I wonder?), and went to dinner to one of our faves, Coalition in Excelsior.

We kicked off November with a double date with friends Matt and Patti. Just a nice, easy night at a delicious place I’ve mentioned before: P.S.Steak. My only complaint is that they didn’t have their French Onion soup on the menu. They need to bring that back! But let’s face it — the steaks are to die for, and ya gotta love a Baked Alaska! So retro, so delish!

We took kind of a break from date nights after that, and instead took a trip which I will talk about in another blog. Then Singer Girl came home, and Thanksgiving happened, so we have been focused in those directions. We did manage a nice date night in, with takeout from the aforementioned Bull and Finch, and me beating the pants off him playing Racko.

The date nights have definitely mellowed, but they are just as necessary. Man, are we gonna date night HARD when this pandemic is over! We are so lucky to live here, and I intend to take full advantage of everything we can!

Weeble May Wobble But She Don’t Fall Down!

It’s Give to the Max Day! Since today is so important day (more on that later), I thought I’d share an update on my fave foster of the year — and maybe one of my favorites of all time!

Back in the spring, Teri, the Secondhand Hounds neonatal program coordinator, posted a picture of a tiny thing that needed help.

Something grabbed me on the inside and I instantly reacted. This baby was tiny, and sad, and damaged. We didn’t know how bad off she was, or even if she could be saved. But SHH was willing to try, and I wanted her in my life.

She was teeny, and scared. When Teri and I showed up for her intake, she would scream and flail frantically. She almost threw herself off the table, and it was nearly impossible to console her. She had been found at just two weeks old, abandoned in a box on the side of a Kentucky road. Our rescue partners down there had been working with her to gte her stronger before her trip up north, and now she was ours.

As I was driving away with Weeble that night, Teri cautioned me that we might have to make a decision. I understood that we didn’t want her to suffer, but I was determined to try.

We agreed to take it a day at a time.

Weebs had no control over her body. I immediately figured she was blind. Then, I started to realize she was deaf (a diagnosisI confirmed by banging pans together over her head. She slept through the clamor). We worried she had a neurological disorder, as she couldn’t walk in a straight line. It was painful to watch — friends who met her passed silent looks over my head, sure that this baby wasn’t going to make it.

My first goal was to get her to eat, which was tough with all her lurching and swerving. She was starving, but frustrated. I would take the goopy mush and smear it on my fingers then put them in her mouth. After I had crammed as much food in her as she could handle, she would pass out, satisfied.

She wasn’t safe in her pen: she kept crashing into things and falling. So I literally gave her a padded cell.

The smaller her area, the calmer she was. So I filled it with soft toys.

We made it through the first day. Then the next. Days turned to weeks, and she started to calm down.

A trip to the vet confirmed she was messed up, but we just couldn’t tell what it was. We had a theory (Cerebellar hypoplasia), but when I reached out to others with animals with that diagnosis, they disagreed. She was doing too well.

So we just did what we could to get her stronger, healthier, and, after a while, happier.

She started to puppy! She learned to eat (although never neatly. I called her eating style the “Stevie Wonder.”). She still couldn’t easily walk a straight line, but her paths became neater diagonals, versus wide arcing circles. I realized that a lot of her issues were likely emotional trauma. Since I rarely know my fosters’ back stories, I invent them, based on the dogs’ behavior. My guess is that Weeble’s first two weeks were fine — nursing away with her litter. But when her eye opened, and she started to move, the asshats who had her litter realized she was damaged, and threw her out like trash.

Who wouldn’t be traumatized?

Once she was steadier, we made a decision that was right for her but so very painful for me: she needed “siblings.” Our founder, Rachel, had a litter of puppies about the same age and we moved Weeble and another neonatal puppy, Cheddar, into her pack. Dogs need other dogs to teach them the ground rules, and I knew she would benefit, But I was as worried as a mama dropping her differently-abled kiddo off at school for the first time.

Would the other puppies accept her, or pick on her? Would she miss my guiding hand, or join in the fun? I let her loose, held my breath, and watched.

The other puppies bounded up with puppy joy, totally unaware that my deaf, visually compromised baby couldn’t anticipate their crashing arrival. She hollered and whimpered. Baffled, they backed off. They all tried again. She wandered around, confused. No one became immediate friends, but no one tried to eat her, either. Rachel gently pushed me out the door, and promised to keep me apprised.

The house was empty and quiet and easy at home. I missed Weebs. I worried. But, like any mom, I knew that she needed to spread her wings. And she did.

Soon she was in charge, albeit goofily. Weeble, once she got past the ugly beginnings, was so joyful, so grateful to be alive, that she just thought life was amazing.

As we assumed, after a few weeks Rachel’s puppies were adopted and Weeble and Cheddar were left alone (we typically wait a bit longer to put neonates up for adoption, as they have more issues to resolve before being go-home ready). So I got Weeble back — and her “sister” Cheddar, too.

She was bigger, stronger, more confident. Her time with “siblings” had worked miracles! She and little Cheddar, also a neonatal pup who came to us with her unique “cleft nose,” were continuing to teach each other how to dog. They were doing so well, in fact, that it was time to start looking for adopters for both!

Weeble’s bio was a tough one. I knew I had to work very hard to find her the right family, as we just didn’t know what the future would hold for this wobbly baby. She needed a home with another dog, and one where the people were committed to keeping her safe, and socialized, and willing to put in the work now and forever.

When Krista applied, she said she’d been following Weeble’s journey on social media, and had fallen hard. She brought her boyfriend Jason, who wasn’t sure they needed a third dog. He was a bit more cautious and reserved during the meet and greet, but it was pretty clear by the end that he was smitten, too.

A few days later, after a virtual home visit, we decided to set up a meeting with their two boxers, and, if everyone jelled, she was theirs. My worry with any dogs was whether they would accept her, or exclude her as “damaged.” The dogs were confused by her, but more because of her exuberant energy, not her wacky ways. A family was born!

I always want to keep in touch with adopters, as I get so emotionally attached to the dogs while they are here. But Weeble was even more special than most, and I was desperate for updates. Krista and Jason have been wonderful about keeping me posted!

Weeble is now a burly, happy, bull in a china shop pupper named Wobbles (I love that). She loves going to daycare, playing with her siblings, and cuddling with mom and dad (although Jason reports that sometimes she doesn’t quite know the appropriate times to be awake, and has been known to want to play at 1am!).

I mentioned at the top of this post that today was a special day. It is Give to the Max Day, a day so important to all Minnesota nonprofits, but especially vital this year. We cannot do in-person fundraisers, so today is a make or break it kind of day. Without donations, we can’t help dog’s like Weeble. We can’t save all the bottle-fed babies, the seniors struggling at their end of life, the thousands that pass through our doors every year. We need your help.

If Weeble’s story touches you in any way, please donate today. All dnations will be matched! Go to https://www.givemn.org/donate/Secondhand-Hounds and pledge anything — it ALL helps.

As a thank you, I’ll keep sharing these babies and their stories! I don’t know who next year’s Weeble will be, but I am excited to meet her!

Raise Your Glass!

Singer Girl just released her next song!

It’s a bluesy, jazzy song — I wanna have a cocktail and listen to this in front of the fire. But I haven’t had breakfast yet, so that wouldn’t be proper.

Her music is on all platforms, so please download on whichever you prefer, and liste away. Love it like I do? SHARE! FOLLOW!

2020 is full of bad things. Can’t we have a good thing????

Help my girl get her voice heard!

Here’s her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/frankietorress

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@frankienstein3?lang=en

That is all. Carry on…

…gin and tonic in your hand.

(P.S.: if you missed her last one, here it is!

Save Your Winter By Saving A Life

A wonderful friend recently asked me to write a blog for her company’s website. Christie has an amazing clothing line, Sun 50, that is not only fashionable and fun, it can save lives, as it is all created to save your skin from sun damage.

As the website states, “We created this company to bring hope and wellness into people’s lives.” Clearly, it has a spiritual connection with animal rescue.

I enjoyed writing about a subject that I am passionate about — just like Christie’s passionate for lookin’ fab and being safe at the beach!

After she published the blog, I decided to reprint it here, adding a bit more detail.

Perhaps you’ve realized you will be home more than usual this winter and you may be thinking, “now is THE perfect time to add a fur friend to my family.”  After all, dogs have been known to cure loneliness, increase your opportunity to be outside, exercise and socialize, from a six-foot distance of course! (although, TBH, dogs don’t go in much for the social distance thing. I mean, how do you get in a good butt sniff from 6 feet away?)

So how do you start?

First of all, figure out the best dog addition for your lifestyle and be honest with yourself.

BREED: Are you looking for a running partner or a couch potato? A brewpub mate, boater, or road trip dog? Visit dog parks and ask the owner questions or just observe. Visit websites like Secondhand Hounds or Petfinder to see what’s available in your area. Research breeds of interest so you know what to expect in terms of training, health concerns, behavior, longevity, shedding, etc. 

AGE: Are you ready to invest 10-20 years into this relationship? Or are you thinking 3-5 years is plenty of time? This will help you decide puppy vs older dog, and help narrow down breeds (small dogs statistically live longer than large breeds).

FINANCES: The adoption fee is just the beginning, folks. When you adopt from us, that fee includes spaying/neutering, microchipping, vaccinations, vet care, and any training/socializing we can do.  Be sure to review the fees for agencies in your area.

When you get them home, add in food, medical care (routine and the inevitable emergency or illness), training, vacation expenses (whether they go with you or stay behind), etc. It adds up quickly. If you are worried about money, do not adopt breeds prone to expensive health issues, like bulldogs or Great Danes.

How new is your carpet? Do you like to leave shoes around? Does your toddler drop lots of food? How will you react when your puppy pees n your couch or the kitty uses it for a scratching post? These things happen. And it can get expensive — fast.

YOUR TIME: Puppies require a ton of work on their schedule, not yours. Not a fan of midnight walks in the snow? Don’t get a puppy. On average, it will take a dog up to a year to house train. All dogs require time in training, no matter their breed or age. It can take time for an animal to acclimate to life in your home, and if you can’t take it slowly, maybe you shouldn’t take the plunge.

OTHER PETS: do you have any other fur friends at home? How do they feel about adding to the family? We insist that all our dogs meet any other dogs they might live with. They don’t have to have an instant connection, although that can happen. But if they dislike each other immediately, that’s not a great sign. And don’t get a puppy to bring life to your old dog. That’s not fair: most older dogs would like to chill out, not defend themselves against puppy teeth and enthusiasm. Got a kitty? Is it used to dogs? If not, make sure you get a dog that is cat savvy (we can emp test our dogs), or is a puppy who you can train diligently to be respectful. Make sure that your current animals have a way to escape the new ones if they need a break. Bottom line: if you are applying to adopt one of my fosters, I will tell you to put your current animal’s needs and desires first.

WHERE YOU LIVE: are you a neat freak? A sneezer? Dogs and cats bring saliva, dander, hairballs, muddy pawprints, poop. I know folks with allergies focus on certain breeds, and they can be better. Some breeds shed less, but all animals shed in some way. Don’t write a dog off until you meet it — and don’t assume a certain breed will mean no sneezes.

Is your yard fenced? If not, are you ready to take your dog out on a leash every time it needs to go out? Electric fences are controversial — they work for some dogs, but not all. Where will the pet sleep? Is everyone on teh same page for rules? How about training — everyone should attend training classes so you are on the same page. If mom says no to jumping up on guests, but dad greets the dog every evening with an “up, up” commnad, dogs can be confused. Dogs pretty much understand “always” and “never.” “Sometimes” is anarchy.

I have found that most adoption returns happen because the adopters weren’t honest with themselves about who they are and what they were willing to take on. It is awful when returns happen: the adopters feel guilty, the dogs feel guilty, and the foster who made the connection often feels guilt as well. So please: make sure you are picking the dog whose age/size.breed works best for you and your family.

Oh — and can I make a suggestion on what NOT to do?

Don’t give a pet as a gift.

I know it looks cute on commercials, but it is a living being. When we have folks that want to do this, we first have the “gift giver” get approved, then we recommend a surprise meet and greet. Make it a “date” if it’s for your significant other — maybe you bring them to meet a dog just to see what it’s like. Or you arrange something with the adopter — like a “chance” encounter at a park. Make sure the animal clicks for them (and the dog likes them back!). If you choose a chocolate lab, and it turns out your significant other always wanted a pit bull, you can’t exchange it like a sweater that’s the wrong color.

Ready to make the move? Patience, Grasshopper. Right now, EVERYONE wants a pet. The pandemic good news for rescues all over the country is that dogs and cats are finding homes at unprecedented rates.

The bad news for adopters? Adoption is suddenly insanely competitive. For every puppy on our website, we receive dozens, or even hundreds, of applications.  But please do not give up hope!

Here are some adoption tip highlights and recommendations for you:

  1. Read the bio and listen to what it says. If the bio says “no kids,” and you have triplets, don’t apply. If it says “must be in a home with other dogs,” and you don’t have one, move on.
  2. Apply quickly. Do not wait for your significant other’s opinion. Apply, THEN tell them what you have done. You are not obligated to adopt the animal, but it’s the only way to talk with the foster and learn more about the animal (our animals all live in foster homes).
  3. BE FLEXIBLE. If you insist on only wanting a 5-pound, blue eyed female fluffy white thing under 10 weeks old, you just made your quest exponentially harder. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get the right pet.
  4. Insist on something “designer” or “trendy” (like a Frenchie)? Become a foster. SHH Fosters chose the animal(s) they foster, decide who adopts them and get “first dibs” on their foster if they “fall in love.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why adopt rather than buy from a breeder? You are saving lives! According to ASPCA, about 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. While that number is sickeningly staggering ( that’s more than 4,100 per day, or 171 per HOUR), that number is down from 2.6million each year in 2011, thanks in large part to rescues and shelters promoting spay, neuter and adopt don’t shop.

Additionally, with a foster based rescue, the foster knows the animals from heath to behavioral quirks and is motivated to facilitate the best match for you and each fur friend.  It is also VERY difficult to tell if a breeder is an ethical and responsible animal lover, or just a puppy mill solely interested in profits.

It’s also waaaay less expensive. At Secondhand Hounds, our animal adoption fees range from $100 for an older cat to $1000 for a purebred, highly desirable breed puppy. For that fee, you get way more than “just” the animal itself:

“Secondhand Hounds charges an adoption fee to adopt through our rescue. … Adoption fees include the cost of spay/neuter surgery, microchip, de-worming, flea/tick preventative, heartworm test (for dogs and puppies over nine months), feLeuk/FIV test for cats and kittens, and age-appropriate rabies/distemper vaccinations. By paying this adoption fee, you are not only adopting your new best friend, but you are also allowing us to save more lives.”

Let me be clear: SHH is NOT anti-breeder. We are anti-bad breeder.

A responsible breeder has a waitlist and never has puppies waiting for adoption. A responsible breeder screens their animals for illnesses and does not breed litters with genetic issues. A responsible breeder will allow you to meet the parents, visit their facility and ask questions. If the breeder does not meet the above criteria, walk away.

Bringing a fur friend into your home is a major decision with lifelong reward.  While the adoption process may take a bit longer these days, I encourage you to throw your application in.  Your decision to do so will save a life — and might even be yours. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have — and please share pics of your rescue dog or cat!

A Lab(rad)or of Love

Last summer I agreed to take on four neonatal fosters for Secondhand Hounds. Lovingly dubbed the Sub Pups, these tiny yellow labrador puppies were released from a breeder because they had cleft palates and would’ve died without help.

The sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s generously donated to our organization, and as a thanks we gave them naming rights. Thus they were dubbed after popular menu options: Jersey Mike (aka Mike), Big Kahuna (Kahuna), Stickball Special (Styx), and Philly Cheesesteak (Phyllis).

You can see some of last summer’s blog posts here. We definitely had a lot of ups and downs with these babies, as we do with most of our neonates. Clefties tend to aspirate their food and liquid, leading to aspiration pneumonia. These guys were no exception. At 5 weeks old, they started declining. My life became a blur of vet visits and medication dosings. The boys struggled, but they overcame eventually. Little Phyllis, sadly, did not. She is the only foster I have lost, and it was so hard. My heart hurt for her, but in the end know we did everything possible to give her a chance. She was loved, and she knew it.

As I said, the boys recovered, and after a few months were able to go home to their forevers. Today, the babies are big boys!

Mike was the first to go, and he was dubbed Winston (look for him on Instagram as Sir Winston Labrador). His parents are veterinarians, and daddy has extensive experience with clefties. Mama and Daddy are overwhelmingly in love with their boy! They worried at first that they would struggle to connect, as they had just lost another lab. But clearly Winston’s winning ways quickly eliminated that concern.

“He has become the Michael Phelps of the dog world and LOVES to swim and chase a ball in the water, so we aren’t sure if his favorite thing really is the ball or the swimming part LOL,” says his mama. Winston is a big snuggler, which doesn’t surprise me (orphan babies get pretty spoiled by human contact, due to how much intense handling and cuddling they receive from early on). When they are babies, cleft pups drink from a “hamster” waterer, as it takes a while to learn how to drink from a bowl without choking. Winston got a little spoiled, evidently, as he still prefers his waterer to a bowl, and will only drink out of the water bowl if it has a little milk in it!

Big Kahuna is now Barney.

This sweetheart has been a godsend for his humans: “Barney is a wonderful member of our family! We can’t imagine being without him, and we are so grateful for him especially when we had to go on lockdown, he got us through that very difficult time.”

Like Winston, Barney slits his time between snuggles and playing. He happily greets his humans, and wants to meet all the neighbors (I mean, isn’t everyone a friend you just haven’t met yet?) 

Barney loves going on walks around the lake and through the woods (so many sniffing opportunities!), and he is learning how to play fetch. Of course, he usually just keeps the ball and the game for him is for his people to wrestle the ball away from him! His fave time of day might be mealtime: in typical lab fashion, he inhales his food in seconds. His current task on his to do list is convincing Tinker the cat, to play, but she’s not having it (50 lb dog versus an 8 lb cat!).

When the pups were dealing with pneumonia, Styx suffered the longest. His recovery dragged, so he stayed with me for more than a month longer tan his brothers. To be honest, I didn’t mind. He was such a sweetie! His adopter was also patient, beasue she knew she had a great dog coming hoe soon!

Styx hit the family jackpot: he is one of four dogs at his house!

His three siblings are Skittles, Daisy and Sasha.  He loves playing with them during the day and cuddling at night.

Styx (the only f the puppies to keep his name) also loves being around the two-leggeds, and has settled in quickly to his job as an office mascot! It seems all these babies came from some great snuggle stock, as all their humans report the cuddle is strong with these woofers!

As you can imagine, Secondhand Hounds spent a lot of money on these babies. All had at least one cleft surgery, plus emergency care during their bout with pneumonia and countless doctors’ visits. Thanks to generous donors, it’s what we do. We want these amazing animals to have the best life possible (historically breeders euthanize puppies and kittens born with defects like cleft palates; we are giving them another option).

Next month is Give to the Max Day. The fundraising event is always important, but this year it is critical for us and other charities. 2020 has been a YEAR, if ya hadn’t heard! We are unable to do our major in-person fundraising events, so if you are moved to see more success stories like these, please consider donating on November 19th. For more information, please click here.

Recently we got in a new cleft baby, a French bulldog who is working hard to survive.

Secondhand Hounds will do all it can to make sure she has a happy where are they now story this time next year!

Grandpa’s Song

My dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, as we had seen the signs for a long time. My mom had been slowly readjusting their lives to fit his needs, and, of course, as the disease progressed, so did the pace of the adjusting.

My daughter has watched all these changes, in both my parents, and has used her music to work through it. Today, she put out her first single: Grandpa’s Song.

It’s about my mom, telling my dad about how she will always be there for him. It’s about remembering their past, with a tentative eye on the future. It’s about how this wretched disease has stolen so very much from them.

Singer Girl, whose true name is Frankie Torres, has been honing her craft for more than 12 years. From singing in clubs, on stages, in bars and in huge arenas, she has waited patiently for the day she can share her OWN music with the world. Today she started seeing that dream become a reality.

Grandpa’s Song is the first of three original songs she will release this year. They are all three incredibly personal, and reference her experiences in some way. This song hits the closest to home for me, of course, because it is about my dad and mom. But the other two touch me in a completely different way. When I hear them, I can’t see the little girl who idolized Kelly Clarkson and wanted to be her one day. Now I see the woman who she has become, one who is a star in her own right.

Two weeks ago we thought we were losing my dad. Alzheimer’s patients often lose the ability to swallow, aspirate, and get pneumonia. That’s what ultimately kills many of them, and dad was struggling. He aspirated. He got sick.

My brother and his wife flew out from Washington — just in case. We all had special moments with him. I played him the song.

Dad hasn’t spoken much in years. But when he heard the song — HIS song — he hummed along. The rest of us wept.

Please take a listen on whichever streaming platform you prefer I’ll list a few links below. If you like what you hear, say so! Like/share/download/follow her on them, and on her Facebook page and on Instagram at frankie_torres3.

Thanks for listening. Hug your parents, your grandparents, and your kids. They all deserve a song.

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7h6eW2mDInB03whHhgnM0i

iTunes: Grandpa’s Song – Single

youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Yj3maF6pc&fbclid=IwAR3VeHwzPRppFpD320tQMrXp13Nb0cBIoBKNoGAqF1oUB2WZXZLlvVD-G6k

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