Art!

Some of my newest dog art:

Scarlet

Scarlet was a guest recently. She’s a very bouncy young chocolate Lab. Unfortunately, she has hip dysplasia, so I had to find ways to keep her mind engaged without stressing her joints. Kong toys with her meals inside were essential!

Solo

Solo is a handsome little Shiba Inu. I had to create a “school” picture after he posed like this! I added the bow tie to cover a clunky collar tracker, but it really goes with his personality!

Jessie
Woodie

Woodie and Jessie are like part of the family. I had to give them gold medals!

Aspen

Aspen is one of the sweetest pups I’ve ever met. She’s a Staffordshire terrier/whippet mix, and she’s easily chilled, so blankets are a must.

Zoey

Zoey and Aspen are the very best of friends. They met when they both boarded with me, and immediately hit it off! Zoey is a German shepherd/Shar Pei mix with the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen. Her favorite activities include playing fetch, snuggling, playing fetch, nibbling treats, and playing fetch.

Bran

Bran loves sunning himself outside.

Bran muffin

Of course, Bran also loves curling up on my lap with a blanket.

The look!

He gets lots of kisses. I can’t imagine why!

Arya, being all regal

Arya knows who’s the boss in this household. It’s her.

Arya (left) and Sunny (right)

Arya became fast friends with Sunny, an Australian cattle dog/shepherd mix. Sunny is one of the few dogs who could tire Arya out!

Smile!
Those ears!

Being a dog sitter and an artist is a great combination. I love to create photo art that shows my clients how special their fur babies are to me!

Podcasting Love

Growing up in the eighties, I’d hear about how it was before televisions were invented or widely available. It was all radio, all the time.

Norman Rockwell rocks!

Even when I was a kid, radio entertainment was still very common. A Prairie Home Companion was regularly playing in my childhood home. I would listen, and I thought it was okay, but I never turned it on as an adult. It was a bit too cheesy for me.

Welcome to Nightvale was the first podcast I ever heard of. (Disclaimer: I have tried, y’all. I just cannot get into Nightvale. Please forgive my heresy!) Early on, I just couldn’t conceive of an entertainment media that you didn’t have to pay for, whether cable, books, or music albums. So when podcasting became a thing, I mistakenly thought that you could only listen to them through paid services.

Patreon members pay for extras from their favorite podcasts

My husband actually started me on podcasts when he introduced me to the Overcast app. I started occasionally listening to podcasts like Hidden Brain from NPR or Lore, by Aaron Mahnke.

Overcast is free! Yay!

And then I discovered narrative podcasts!

It started with Trojan War: The Podcast, by Jeff Wright.

Achilles/Patroclus 4 ever!

I’m a Greek mythology nerd, and I like to read the Iliad every few years for fun. I’ve read different translations (Alexander Pope is still my favorite. I have no idea why!), and there are novelizations that continue to floor me.

(If you haven’t read The Song of Achilles, by Madeleine Miller; A Song of War, by Kate Quinn and others; or The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker, you haven’t lived!)

Jeff Wright started as an English teacher, then became a professional storyteller, and he is damn good at his craft. If you’ve never experienced the story of the Iliad in any form, I would strongly suggest you begin with this podcast. What I really love about it is that Wright starts waaay back, well before Homer’s account begins, with a wedding gift of a certain golden apple.

He also devotes extra time at the end of each episode to scholarship—the mythology, archaeology, story evolution, and even academic arguments behind his own research for his storytelling.

Don’t ask me why, but what really charms me about Jeff Wright is his accent. He’s so Canadian that other Canadians must look at him with raised eyebrows. But it works!


Fairy tales and a creature of the week. What more could you ask for?

From there, I found Myths and Legends, by Jason and Carissa Weiser. You’ll have to get through the first season before the narration stops being so wooden, but after that, Jason Weiser finds his inner snarky comedian, and these tales really fly! I love hearing traditional folktales from around the world, not just those I grew up with. (sue me, but I will never lose my love for “Beauty and the Beast”). After each tale, there’s a short segment on a mythical creature, which always comes from a different culture and never has anything to do with the main story.


Y’ALL. THIS IS EVERYTHING!

And then, there’s Old Gods of Appalachia. I’ve never felt the need to buy merch from any other podcast, but I will admit to shelling out for a t-shirt for Old Gods. I’m a tight-fisted penny pincher, so that should tell you something.

This podcast… this is something special. I have told all my friends about it, and the last time I did that was when I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire—and that became a worldwide sensation. (Sorry, but I actually quite liked the final season of the HBO series!)

Take H.P. Lovecraft and stick him in early American coal country; add modern sensibilities about race, class, gender, and orientation; a few good witches; and then a heaping helping of pure fucking genius, and you have Old Gods of Appalachia.

Steve Shell (writer/narrator) and Cam Collins (writer/voice actor) will keep you up long into the night, listening to just one more episode, I swear I’ll go to sleep after one more episode. Because I am such a penny pincher, I won’t pay out for a monthly Patreon membership to get the extra stories—but if they sold them individually, I’d snap them up in a heartbeat! These stories will scare you to death, and then they’ll heal your heart.

The design on the t-shirt I bought. It suits me, dog lover that I am!

Some runners up in my favorite podcasts:

The Magnus Archives. Settle in for the long haul, folks. This immense series of seemingly unrelated “come in and tell us your supernatural experiences” episodes eventually starts to become all tied together. The storytelling uses a horror thematic I hadn’t experienced till I listened to this (What if universal fears were really… spoilers?). It’s scary, fun, hilarious, and sometimes heart wrenching, and you will not believe some of the monsters they’ve come up with!

Bridgewater. From the creator of Lore, this podcast has some big names behind a serious production. Misha Collins voices a small-town folklore professor whose cop father (Nathan Fillion) disappeared decades ago in the so-called “Bridgewater Triangle” (a real area with actual spooky legends surrounding its history). The professor could put his encyclopedic knowledge of local lore to work in solving the supernatural mysteries around him—if he could ever get over his own cynical skepticism!

The White Vault. This one legitimately terrified me, in a fantastic way! I love subterranean horror (read The Descent, by Jeff Long—if you dare!), and this podcast is full of all kinds of goosebumpy goodness. It starts with the disappearance of a team sent to repair some equipment at a research station on the frozen island of Svalbard. The story is pieced together through “found footage,” and includes some very talented voice actors. (It took me quite a while to warm up to Peter Lewis’s voice, but now I could probably recognize it anywhere—and I would immediately turn and run, because oh holy shit where’s the monsters there are always monsters when he shows up!)

The Liberty Podcast. This is another one you’ll have to be patient with for the first season. I found this podcast through listening to The White Vault, as both are created by Fool and Scholar Productions. It starts out rather amateurish, but gets better very quickly. The basic premise is that you have a relatively small terraformed area on a planet hostile to human life. The original colony lost contact with the wider universe, then experienced a civil war, and now languishes as different factions. “The City” is an autocracy of brainwashed citizens living in relative safety, while “the Fringes” are the savage and anarchical un-people portrayed as monsters to the supposedly civilized “Innies.” You’d think that sticking supernatural horror into a futuristic sci-fi landscape wouldn’t work, but you’d be so very wrong. My favorite stories from this universe are “The Narrow” (get ready to hide under your blankets!) and “Mines and Mysteries” (with an obvious twist, but pulled off with so much fun!).


Stick on your headphones or earbuds, pull up your favorite podcast app, and enjoy!

If the pandemic has you bored or lonely, or if you have a long commute, try out some of these great podcasts. Maybe you’ll love these, or maybe you’ll find some that suit you better. Either way, podcasts are the modern reincarnation of great radio entertainment!

A Gentle Giant

This weekend, I have the pleasure of boarding Brutus, a huge (do they come any other way?) bullmastiff. He’s about 150 pounds of old dog love.

Big, sad puppy dog eyes

Despite his old age, size, and stiff knees, Brutus likes to play slow chase around the yard or house, with me gently grabbing his mouth and cheeks and him making happy snuffles and sneezes. But mostly, he sleeps. He will deign to get up for outside time or to follow me around, and of course he’ll get up for meals!

Bran, who weighs a tiny fraction of what Brutus does, just adores him. That little dog loves big dogs and will hang close to Brutus, looking up at him like a boy looking up at a role model.

Bran admiring beautiful Beretta
“When I grow up, I’m gonna be just like you, big friend Ox!”
Bran and Aki

I’m convinced that Bran thinks he’s still a puppy—he still plays like one!—and will eventually grow up into a Big Dog.

Even though I know Bran will always be small and cute, I also know he’ll always have a big dog heart, full of big dog love.

Big smooshy face and little smooshy face

Bran is… what?!?

When we adopted Bran, his fosters said he was a pug/dachshund mix. Looking at him, we could definitely see it.

Bran (front) falling in love with Molly.

He’s got a somewhat long body, plus the funny front legs similar to a dachshund. His face is adorably squishy with a mask, like a pug.

When I took him for his first vet visit, the doc added boxer, chihuahua, and maybe even a bit of shepherd way back in his line.

Well, we were all wrong!

WHAAAAAAT?!?

Where… where’s all his fur? Shouldn’t he be all covered in wiry floof? And—corgi?

Just goes to show, dogs are like a box of chocolates. Although you never know what you’re going to get, you can never say no to any of them!

Rosco and Maverick

Making sure the leaf isn’t a threat

This is Rosco. Rosco puts the “Great” into Great Pyrenees.

Pyrs are a breed apart. For starters, they’re herd guarding dogs. Their job is to keep everyone in line, both their charges and any potential predators. They are very brave and will take on anything trying to grab an easy meal.

Great Pyrenees were bred to work in rough, mountainous areas, so they have more dewclaws than your average mutt.

Most dogs have dewclaws—those “thumb” claws—on only their front legs. Interestingly, these claws are absent from wolves (unless they have some dog ancestry). Some dogs, like many German shepherds, have rear dewclaws as well, but it’s rare for most dogs.

Great Pyrenees have double dewclaws on their hind paws. Now, they already have enormous feet furry enough to put a hobbit’s to shame, but those dewclaws turn paws into snowshoes.

They’re huge and heavy, and males basically have a mane. All that fur keeps Pyrs warm and protected from a harsh environment, but it also makes them look even bigger than they already are, and they are huge.

Maverick

This is Maverick. Maverick’s a boxer/pit/hound mix. He’s got the bounciness and deep chest of a boxer, the loving nature and huge jaw muscles of a pit bull, and the aquiline nose and dangly ears and jowls of a hound dog.

Maverick is a lap dog. You may not think an 80 pound mutt could be a lap dog, but there’s nothing he loves better than curling up on me with his head on my shoulder.

Yes, I’m melting.

Maverick is very gentle and wants to be friends with everyone.

Rosco is dominant, territorial, and does not take kindly to having another male in “his” space. (You may take a Pyr’s testicles, but you’ll never take his toxic masculinity.)

So I keep them gated off from each other.

A dog sitter’s best friend is the baby gate. We have four. One of them separates the guest rooms from the main house (no accidents or shedding allowed back there). Two of them gate off our kitchen, because whoever built our house had a hard-on for open floor plans with minimal actual doors. All three of these are tension gates that fit in a doorway.

The fourth gate is a long one. Normally it creates a foyer space and keeps dogs away from the front door, but in a pinch I can reposition it to stretch across between the living room and the den. It has attachment points that are supposed to screw into the wall; but I needed it moveable, so we left it free, just bracing it in place with water bottles or chairs or whatever.

So now I have three main areas for the dogs, instead of one (minus the kitchen, where guest dogs are mostly not allowed). This means I have an “airlock” of sorts. A doglock, if you will.

Excluding first thing in the morning, when pottying is an immediate need, Rosco and Maverick go outside separately. Rosco is easy—he’s already in the den, where the back door is. But then after he finishes, I have to get Maverick outside without him being in Rosco’s space. So Maverick waits in the kitchen while I’m outside with Rosco. Then Rosco comes in, moves through the gate to the living room, and I let Maverick into the den. Maverick goes outside, and when we’re done, Rosco goes into the kitchen, Maverick into the dining room, and Rosco back to the den.

Yes, I play musical dogs.

Outside time is both pottying time and exercise time. Bran and Arya go, too, with both dogs, since they refuse to be separated from me. I move myself (and Bran and Arya) occasionally from living room to den and back again so that I spend plenty of loving time with both guests.

It’s the glamorous life of a dog sitter, y’all.

Maverick (above) and Rosco (below) are total couch potatoes.