Archive for April, 2011

An Orchard in the Offing?

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

By Geoffrey Howard
There’s so much stuff out there on the Net – wacky stuff, boring stuff, ridiculous stuff, terrifying stuff – but every once in a while you stumble onto something really good in a kind of retro, Norman Rockwell sort of way.

It turns out there’s a group called the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation whose mission is to promote – you’ll never guess – the planting of fruit trees around the country. Well, the good people at the FTPF have teamed up with some other good people at the Dreyer’s Foundation – they’re the ones behind Dreyer’s Fruit Bars and Edy’s Ice Cream – to sponsor a competition that will result in 20 fruit tree orchards being awarded to 20 communities around the country.

And as prizes go, this one has a lot of bells and whistles. On the big day, they’ll pull up in the winning towns with their trucks, and on those trucks will be locally-sourced, four to six-foot trees, planting equipment, the planting crew, the film crew, and a whole lot of fruit bars and ice cream.

The only catch is it’s not automatic. A community project has to apply, have its application accepted, and then compete for votes with the 130 other projects whose applications were also accepted. And that’s where Warwick’s at right now, competing with the likes of the Make Miracles Grow Foundation in Chicago, the Friends of Edgewood Park in New Haven, Hale Hoola Hamakua in Hawaii, Vel’s Purple Oasis Garden in Cleveland and many more.

Currently, the Warwick Community Center site is running eighth in the national voting, putting it in a strong position for one of the 20 awards. So if all goes well, sometime this fall – five winners are announced at the ends of May, June, July and August and the plantings are in September or October – a bunch of trucks will arrive at the Community Center with 48 trees (pears, Asian pears, pawpaws, peaches, and plums) and the community will gather for a genuine fruit fest – music, families, neighbors, food, and a film crew that can turn the day into a Norman Rockwell video.

Even if the final chapter isn’t yet written, this is the story of a lot of good people getting involved and voting for something positive provided in the name of a good cause. It’s the kind of story we could use more of these days.

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Voting is easy. And you can do it every day. Here’s how:
–Go to
–Register (first time only – very simple; after that you log in).
–Click on “Plant.”
–Click on “List by State.”
–Scroll down to Warwick, N.Y.
–Click on “Vote.”
–Vote once a day, every day.

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Geoffrey Howard is a retired management consultant. In earlier work, as a Peace Corps volunteer, he helped start a village garden in West Africa. He can be reached at

Talent Show

Friday, April 29th, 2011

By Jean R. Webster
The scene was so familiar. Sitting in a middle school auditorium in a small Missouri town with a couple of hundred parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren. Waiting for the blue curtain to open, and the 2011 Talent Show to begin. Waiting for Grace, my 13-year old granddaughter, to sing. It could have been 30 years ago at Tri-Valley School in Grahamsville, N.Y. waiting for Grace’s mother to perform.

In Kirkwood, kids from 11 to 14 were in charge, operating stage lights, the mixing board and the plush curtain. The results were interesting.

The program listed everyone in the show, including Grace, whose name was listed as “Grade.” An omen, I thought.

Seven o’clock. Show time. But instead of spotlights on the stage, we were plunged into darkness. No lights. No emcee. The audience grew quiet. Expectant.

Finally, the curtain opened to reveal a boy seated at a bright blue drum set. He seemed bewildered. Without a word of introduction, with no help from offstage, he played his drums. After a few minutes, the curtain unexpectedly closed. Still, the audience applauded and whistled and called out his name.

Minutes later a girl appeared in front of the curtain, stage left. When the spotlight found her, she sang her song to canned music. Then she too looked offstage. Had she forgotten the words? She left without finishing.

Again the audience applauded. Supportive. Cheerful. The sounds of small town America. We’re with you, no matter what.

A man in a gray suit came on stage, a microphone in his hand. “I’m Mr. Grady, and I’m the emcee,” he said. A math teacher who doubled as baseball coach. He welcomed the audience and brought on two eighth-grade boys, carrying mics. They wore long gym shorts and clean t-shirts. “They’re in their Sunday best,” Mr. Grady said. “They’ll introduce the rest of the acts, and maybe tell a few jokes.”

The show continued. The “best dressed” boys dragged their mics and told some groaners, like the one about the zucchini who goes into a bar, and is told, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.” We all laughed. The boys then introduced three performers at a time. The audience loved these boys.

A garage band with three guitars and the boy on the blue drum set thumped out a Nirvana song. Their singer sang, the bass player maintained a bored look and his counterpart downstage tried to pretend the audience wasn’t there. Keeping the beat, the drummer seemed to be the only one having fun. That was another throwback, this one to our son’s band rehearsing in our garage. We usually escaped to a friend’s house.

One of my favorite acts was the juggler with another guitar-playing kid. To me, anyone who can juggle is a winner. But performing to an audience of his peers, teachers and parents raised his success close to miraculous.

In spite of all the quirky things that happened – curtains, lights, introductions – I found myself laughing, smiling, keeping time to the music.

A dozen girls sang a Taylor Swift medley. Some sang better than others, but they all finished together – sometimes the most you can ask as a group of singers. Two solo dancers performed. The couple in front of us recorded one of the girls on their IPhone.

And Grace? First her friend and accompanist Bianca played the Beatles’ song “Blackbird.” Then, Grace sang Katy Perry’s “Firework,” from the “Teenage Dream” album. It was going well until Bianca’s amp rebelled. It was the dreaded feedback. But, they went bravely on, and finished the song.

At the end, the techies dashed on stage for a bow, along with Mr. Grady and the best dressed boys. The audience gave everyone a final cheer.

The evening ended as quickly and un-dramatically as the ones I recall. The mood was upbeat, positive. People were satisfied with what their kids had done.

I’m happy to report that small town America is still out there.

* * *

Guest writer Jean Webster is a poet, and has reported for the Times Herald-Record. She lives in Maine where she and her husband operate Orne’s Candy Store in Boothbay Harbor. She can be reached at

Not-So-Sweet Smell of Floral Imports

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
           All the flowers in corporate chains and box stores are imported. The cheap abundance of imported flowers not only has an impact on Mom-and-Pop-owned florists and supermarkets, but also makes it very hard for local growers to compete. One grower complained; “We can’t allow other countries to come in and impact our bottom line in the name of free trade. How can you compare foreign labor costs of $3 an hour compared with our labor costs of $12 an hour?”

           “We can’t compete with imports,” a nursery owner said. “Those flowers are loaded with pesticides that local growers can’t even think about using.” A survey on Columbian flower plantations found that workers were exposed to 127 different pesticides. One-fifth of the chemicals used in flower production in South America are restricted or banned in the United States and Europe (such as DDT). Since there are very few environmental laws in South America, these chemicals wind up in drinking water, causing species decline as well as damaging human health.

          Workers are often denied proper protection and become sick after applying herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. Two-thirds of Colombian flower laborers (mostly women) suffer from impaired vision, respiratory and neurological problems, disproportionately high still-birth rates, and babies born with congenital malformations. When workers try to organize unions to defend their interests, they are often fired, ridiculed, or harassed.

        Vote with your dollars. When you buy Mom a locally-grown potted plant from one of the many nurseries in our area like Hoeffner Farms, Twin Ponds, or any other small farmer, you are voting for a cleaner environment and a healthier local economy. Want to celebrate both Mom and Mother Earth this year?

—–Ask your local Mom and Pop florist for organic flowers, or by a live plant.

—–Buy flowers from a local farm like Hoeffners orTwin Ponds in Montgomery.

—–Give Mom a live plant from a farm like Manza’s or Hodgson’s in Montgomery.

—–Give Mom an edible bouquet of salad greens and flowers from a local farm like Late Bloomer Farmstand (you can find them at Pennings in Warwick on Saturdays).

—–Buy Mom a flat of flowers from Hoeffner’s farm and plant them in flower beds for her

          Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Smarter Than the Average Birther

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

The president's "long form" birth certificate

By Bob Gaydos

Given that Barack Obama, the son of a Midwestern mother and a Kenyan father, managed to graduate from Columbia University and Harvard Law School (magna cum laude), write two books, get elected senator from Illinois, and defeat a bona fide American war hero (John McCain) and frontierswoman (Sarah Palin) in becoming the first black man elected president of the United States of America — all before the age of 50 — I have always considered Obama to be quite a bit smarter than the average American.

I am now amending that view. He is a lot smarter.

Of course, as history has demonstrated, intelligence is not required to be elected president of this country. It can even be a hindrance (look up Adlai Stevenson and Al Gore). On the other hand, being a white male with good family connections has always been a good starting point. In his campaign for the presidency, Obama shattered those prejudices, as well as that of race, by demonstrating an innate ability to talk intelligently, in terms anyone could understand, about any topic thrown at him. Plus he was charismatic. It certainly helped Obama that the outgoing president once said of his political opponents, “They misunderestimated me.”

Well, Obama’s political opponents and supporters may be guilty of the same crime with regard to him. Yes, we’re talking tea party diehards, evangelicals, social conservatives, broadcast media nut jobs, probably most Libertarians, ultra-liberals, and, of course, birthers. Especially birthers.

Once upon a time, in the mid-19th century, there was a Know-Nothing Party in this country. Its members, mostly white, middle-class, Protestant males, were worried about the arrival in America of large numbers of people from Ireland and Germany. Catholics. The Know-Nothings (they were so secretive, members asked about the party proclaimed to know nothing about it) tried to pass laws limiting immigration and naturalization and spread stories of conspiracies involving the pope. The Know-Nothings preached nativism and spread fear of anything and anyone not born in this country. They had a brief period of success as Americans, divided over slavery, became disenchanted with other political parties (the Whigs mainly). Successful Know-Nothing candidates — mostly on local levels — appointed only native-born Americans to government jobs. They eventually came to be known as the American Party and finally broke up over slavery, with many following another Illinois senator, Abraham Lincoln, into the new Republican Party. Coincidentally, of course, Lincoln is Obama’s political compass.

For the past few weeks, Donald Trump has been making political hay in the Republican Party by bringing up the matter of where Obama was born to anyone with a microphone who was willing to listen. These days, that means pretty much every electronic media outlet. “Where’s the birth certificate? Why won’t he produce the birth certificate?” Trump demanded over and over to “reporters” who should have known better since the president had produced his official Hawaiian record of birth when he ran for president and several times after that. The issue had long been settled.

But Trump and the birthers would not take the word of the governor of Hawaii and would not accept the official “short” birth certificate that is issued to anyone from that state who asks for such proof as, well, proof. Why was that? A conspiracy? You’d have to ask the birthers, but that Kenyan blood in Obama probably has a lot more to do with it than any concern over constitutional irregularities. So insistent was Trump and so strongly did his message resonate within Republican Party ranks that regular Republicans (Trump is a gadfly as far as political affiliation) didn’t know what to say about it. Call him an idiot and risk losing the conspiracy theory vote so crucial in GOP primaries. Agree with Trump and risk losing the vote of everyone else in the country.

As they sat, knowing not what to do, Trump climbed to the top of the polls of possible GOP presidential contenders for 2012. Such polls are meaningless this early in a campaign, but most politicians have never learned this fact.

So Wednesday, Obama did something smart. He held a press conference in which he called Trump an idiot without mentioning his name and at which he produced the original long form birth certificate from Hawaii. No one gets this form any more, only the president of the United States asking as a favor to put to rest a “distraction.”

Trump immediately took credit for “forcing” the disclosure by Obama. But other Republicans had a different reaction. “I have criticized members of my own party for making this some kind of issue so I’m really surprised that the White House is actually doing the same,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Other congressional Republicans, preparing to take on Obama over gas prices and the debt ceiling, called release of the birth certificate — which many of their faithful indicated they wanted to see — a “sideshow” and a “distraction.”

You think Obama doesn’t know that? You think he is quaking at the prospect of running against Trump for president? You think he doesn’t like conservative Republican leaders taking his side in the birth certificate “debate”? As embarrassing as he may be to most GOP leaders, Trump has claimed the ear of many of their voters and set an agenda of conspiracy and nativism. In a New York Times/CBS poll released a week before the president produced his long form birth certificate, 57 percent of the registered voters contacted believed Obama was born in the United States. But only one-third of self-identified Republicans believed that. A full 45 percent of them believed he was born elsewhere.

After his press conference, Obama surely picked up more support as a native-born son. But … Trump was still waiting for “verification” of the form and many birthers were still doubting its authenticity. As that former president said, never “misunderestimate” the tenacity of conspiracy theorists to cling to their beliefs.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Law Blog of the Wall Street Journal polled readers on the question: “Does the release of President Obama’s birth certificate settle questions about his citizenship?” Of the 8,826 votes tallied, 72.4 percent said yes. Good for Obama. But 2,439 said no — a full 27.6 percent. Again, good for Obama.

Those people, a predictable, unshakeable minority operating on fear rather than fact, will follow Trump into the desert of Republican politics, or until he says, “I was only kidding. I’m not really running.” Meanwhile, more serious Republican candidates get no TV time or support and Obama and Democrats are going about raising money for the next election, basing at least part of their pitch on the birther issue. The Democratic Governors Association is the first major Democratic campaign arm to try and raise money on the subject, the Los Angeles Times reported a week ago. “You and I know that birtherism is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the extreme, hard-right agenda supported by Republican governors across the country. Thank you so much for helping the DGA hold them accountable,” executive director Colm O’Comartun wrote.

Yeah, they’re incredibly annoying, but when it comes to dealing with nativist conspiracy theorists of any name, Obama, like Lincoln, knows something.

Bob can be reached at

More Dumbing Down

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page
We’ve been talking for years about the dumbing down of America, and if you had any doubt that it was happening, all you had to do was tune in to the news on All Things Considered this week on National Public Radio.

ATC wasn’t reporting a story about the dismissal of Americans as a bunch of ignorant boobs. Rather, it was participating in it. I don’t go into this with a bias against NPR. I like NPR. But somebody in charge needs to remember what journalism is and also to understand that the American people are not a bunch of jerks.

The All Things Considered story in question was about the rise and fall in the price of housing from 2001 until now, as reported by the Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

There wasn’t much to the story, which was produced for ATC by Planet Money, other than that in the decade ending this year, prices in Dallas had just remained pretty much flat and wound up barely increased from 10 years ago. Prices in Miami did a little better but were down about 50 percent since their spike in mid-2006. And while All Things Considered announced this story as a report on the nation’s “faltering housing market,” Planet Money reported that home prices were increasing.

Actually, All things Considered introduced it as more than that. The anchor called it “a musical twist on the faltering housing market.” A musical twist? Those words about a story on the economy are cause for alarm.

To present this news, Planet Money, which National Public Radio described as “a multimedia team covering the global economy,” converted the yearly numbers to musical notes and then got a baritone studying at Julliard to sing the notes.

I imagine the assumption was (a) this’ll be cute or (b) the listeners are incapable of understanding simple math and somehow would be baffled when informed that home prices in this decade reached their peak by 2007. So Planet Money decided to turn an otherwise important story into a bit of musical-comedy. The baritone sang, and if you happened to have tuned in late and missed the introduction to the story, you might have thought you were hearing a crocodile in heat.

Aside from making the Case-Shiller findings a joke, Planet Money was so busy chortling over its baritone-as-reporting-medium that it never mentioned actual dollar figures. Prices are up in Miami? How much on average? They didn’t say.

Nor did the Planet Money story say why prices rose through 9/11 to a 2007 peak and then began their descent.

Nor did Planet Money ask Case-Shiller for its view on the future of the housing market.

Nor did Planet Money explain why it decided to focus on Miami and Dallas. What about New York? What about Phoenix? Seattle? Jackson, Miss.? Oklahoma City? The Planet Money reporters noted that the national figure was for 20 cities, but never revealed which ones.

In other words, there wasn’t much news in this news report. But the Planet Money report raises some important questions. Is this the kind of “journalism” we can anticipate as we proceed through the 21st Century? It was not so long ago when news was taken seriously, as an essential for an educated and concerned public.

What do you think? Am I overreacting?

Jeff can be reached at

At $4/Gal., Gas is a Bargain

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Last week, the price of crude oil jumped to $113/barrel, and suspiciously soon afterwards, the national average for regular unleaded gasoline leaped over the $4 a gallon mark. Lost production in Libya was blamed for the gas price hike, yet even at $4/gallon it’s really a bargain. Before you start penning me hate email, let me explain.

Even at $4, we are not paying the real cost of gasoline. Our federal government subsidizes the oil industry with numerous tax breaks, price protection, and research and development funding that totals billions of dollars every year. These subsidies help keep domestic oil companies competitive with international producers, and keep gas relatively cheap at the pump.

In other countries, like Bosnia, you would pay $10.86 for a gallon of gas because there are less government subsidies. Paris is at $6.52, Berlin at $6.42, and $7 in Amsterdam.

That $4 we pay at the pump can be divided into four main categories; taxes, refining, marketing/distribution, and the price of crude (according to a special report by CNN Money).

Crude oil is the most expensive part of a gallon of gas, costing over $2. This money goes straight to big producers of crude, or national oil companies controlled by countries like Saudi Arabia, Mexico or Venezuela.

The federal government takes about 20 cents from each gallon, on top of the state’s tax which varies greatly, but averages about 22 cents a gallon. Most of this money is used to build and maintain roads, (which is why removing the gas tax is a bad idea). Refineries eat about a quarter dollar for each gallon. Some refineries you may recognize are Valero, Sunoco, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips.

Marketing and distribution can eat up the rest of the $4 price tag with your local gas station getting only about 10 cents per gallon, transporting the gas to your gas station eating up another quarter, and so on.

But the price we pay at the pump is only the tip of the iceberg of the real cost of gas. Many expenses related to using gas are externalized, meaning we either pay for them through our taxes, or leave them as a balance due for future generations.  These “hidden costs” include military patrols of oil shipping lanes and presence in oil producing countries, air pollution from auto exhaust, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, environmental devastation caused by drilling, pipelines, and oil spills, and economic damage caused by importing foreign oil.

If all these hidden costs were actually tallied into the price of gas, we would pay well over $5 per gallon according to the National Defense Council Foundation. The economic penalties of America’s oil dependence total $297.2 to $304.9 billion annually, making the true cost of a fill-up over $100.

“Lives Per Gallon” author Terry Tamminen estimates that the true cost is actually much higher. Tamminen states that “Americans subsidize the oil and auto industry to the tune of about $6 or more for every gallon of gasoline sold, making the real price at the pump $10 per gallon.”

Tamminen also points out that it is difficult for “alternative fuels to compete against such massive subsidies, until mass-production of alternative fuels (and vehicles that use them) can bring the price down. Such incentives can also be considered an economic stimulus package, because those investments create jobs in America instead of sending more than $650,000 every minute to foreign countries for our addiction to oil (based on $75/barrel for oil).”

A side benefit of climbing gas prices is an increased awareness in the need to use gas more efficiently. A recent survey showed that American consumers list fuel economy as the most important factor when they purchase a new car (the number of cup holders was most important previously). If we had to pay the true cost of fuel at the pump, we would all ride bicycles and drive electric cars.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill RIver School in Montgomery, and an award-winning syndicated newspaper columnist.

Job Cuts Won’t Fix Prison System

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

It seems almost like role reversal as 321 correction officers and other employees of the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility in Warwick wait on pins and needles for a decision by the governor. Will their workplace receive clemency and their jobs be spared? Or will Governor Cuomo impose a harsh sentence when he announces which of the state’s 67 prisons will be shut down to satisfy the cuts mandated by the budget passed nearly two months ago by the state Legislature?

Mid-Orange is one of eight state prisons that together employ nearly 5,000 people in Orange, Ulster, Sullivan, and Dutchess counties.

Since moving to Warwick some 10 years ago our family has become friendly with more than a few people who work there or at one of the other facilities within commuting distance. This has helped dispel some of my preconceived notions: As a child I was horrified by the sight of chain gangs we passed as we drove south over winter vacation to visit my Aunt Isabelle and Uncle Stanley in Florida.  Black prisoners in striped suits, linked by chains attached to their legs, a weighted black ball attached at the ankle, were forced to labor in the hot sun under the watchful eyes of unsmiling, rifle-toting, uniformed white men.  My father would usually mutter “Gestapo” when we drove past the guards.

Our friends and neighbors who work at the local prisons bear little resemblance to those chain-gang guards. They are among the hard-working public employees whose pensions, healthcare benefits–even their very jobs—are under attack as if they are to blame for the poor economic conditions in our state and across the country. Often their “generous” salaries and pensions are not nearly enough to support their families so they take on additional work. Some mow lawns or do excavating; others supplement their incomes doing carpentry, painting or odd jobs.

The one thing they have in common with those southern chain-gang guards is that they are white and many of the prisoners they guard are black (and/or Latino).  Of course there are some non-white guards and white prisoners as well, but not enough to offset the disturbing fact that “more African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” according to Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black—and increasingly brown—men caught in America’s prison system, according to Alexander, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law School. “In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows,” she pointed out in a recent lecture.

She attributes the increase in imprisonment of black men to the fact that the so-called war on drugs “is waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color” even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks. In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes.

As a consequence, many black men are disenfranchised says Alexander, prevented by their felony convictions from voting, from living in public housing, discriminated against in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied educational opportunities. Thus it should come as no surprise that 70 percent return to prison within two years.

But here is the rub: If prison population levels were returned to 1970, before the war on drugs began, “more than a million people working  in the system would see their jobs disappear,” says Alexander. (Ironically, the decline in inmate numbers used to justify the impending cuts in New York State is attributable in part to recent reform of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws: As a result, low-level drug offenders now receive lighter sentences.)

Meanwhile, mass incarceration continues to be seen as a boon to the communities in which the prisons are located. Aside from providing jobs, Mid-Orange supports a sewer district in Warwick, which lowers the maintenance cost for other customers, according to Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, who calls the prison “a real asset.”

Contradictions abound.  But as Lani Guinier, author and professor at Harvard Law School has observed, Alexander “paints a haunting picture in which dreary felon garb, post-prison joblessness, and loss of voting rights now do the stigmatizing work once done by colored-only water fountains and legally segregated schools…[and] we all pay the cost of the new Jim Crow.“

Adds Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project and author of Race to Incarcerate, “We need to pay attention to Michelle Alexander’s contention that mass imprisonment in the U.S. constitutes a racial caste system.”

Yes, we need to pay attention and the system needs to be changed. Meanwhile, the 321 employees at Mid-Orange are still waiting for a call from the governor.

Michael can be reached at

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
-Chinese Proverb

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Men and fish are alike.  They both get into trouble when they open their mouths.  ~Author Unknown

A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work.  ~Author Unknown

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.  ~Author Unknown

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught.  ~Author Unknown

May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it.  ~ Irish Blessing

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Prince Edward Island

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 4/24/11

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Lavender Farm

By Carrie Jacobson

Last weekend, I thought our oldest dog was at the end. We took her to the vet on Monday to see if anything could be done for her, and I was expecting to come home without her.

She is nearly 15, a chow-German shepherd (as far as we know), and as I’ve written here before, has been creaky for a while.

Last week, her night-time pacing and doggie dementia combined to make exhausting and terrifying situations for her and us. For instance, one morning, her panting woke me, and I found her stuck halfway through a small end table that, trying to escape, she had dragged to the middle of the kitchen.

It would be funny, and I am sure that in future years it will, if it were not so unhappy and dangerous for her. By the time I got her out, she was so whipped she could barely walk.

But our miracle-worker of a vet, who himself has a 15-year-old dog, didn’t say, “she’s clearly too decrepit to keep living.” Instead, he said he had ideas, and encouraged us to try them.

We made a recipe of beef and rice and veggies for her. Started giving her benadryl to get her to sleep at night. Put her on doxycycline and prednisone. Got a bottle of something called Sunilite, which helps not only with doggie dementia, but also with the odd flipping of night and day that many old dogs experience. We’re giving her vitamins, keeping up on the milk thistle, bitter cherry and fish oil. We’re going to try her on melatonin. And we got her a collar that has a naturopathic something in it that is supposed to help calm her – and it seems to be working.

Against all odds, she’s better. She’s still ancient, but she is stronger and happier and clearly more herself.

I know it’s a matter of days or weeks at the most, probably. But if she can be happy and not panicked, and not exhausting herself by pacing around, then those days or weeks are going to be good for all of us.

This painting is 16×20 on gallery-wrapped canvas. If you are interested, please contact me at for price and delivery information.