If My Dogs Attended School, They’d Be In Special Ed.

I love our dogs, they are a part of our family.  And they are oh so special.  Macy is a mid-sized terrier, loyal, agile, anxious and stubborn x10.  Harper is nearly 90 pounds and although he just turned 3 he seems all puppy, also extremely loyal.  This week’s walk in the park is a prime example of the nut bag behavior I deal with for these lovable clowns.

In lue of getting a work out in at home, pilates with a toddler on the hip is impossible, I figured an escape to nature would serve the same purpose and be fun for all.  I loaded up baby and pups for a ride to our favorite dog park – Shawnee Mission Park.  The parking lot was rather empty on this Tuesday morning, which worked out fine for me I was able to open the back and let the dogs run straight to the gate without leashes.

The dog park area is large in comparison to other parks we have gone to, there is a long wide path down the middle flanked with grassy areas on either side and wooded areas beyond that.  Although there are paths down towards the wooded areas, we have always seemed to stay in the middle as it is the quickest way to the water.  My dogs love to be social with other dogs, although they lack social etiquette and don’t quite get it when other dogs are annoyed with their jovial nosiness.  My husband and I haven’t dedicated adequate time to training our dogs, although, we are pretty proud of them coming when we call (eventually).  On our last trip to the dog park another dog accidentally knocked Parker to the ground, the shock made her cry and our dogs immediately retreated from their playful fun to lay down in front of their baby to protect her.

The dogs and Parker were so happy to be out free to run, Parker calling out to her dogs and laughing when they would coming running back towards her.  She alternated between running after them and breaking to be carried.  Needless to say the toddler toddling was not moving fast enough for the dogs.  There were not many other park goers when we first arrived, the dogs greeted fellow pedestrians and pets who passed then happily continued down the path.  Long down the path reaches a wooded area and the trail forks, both sides leading circling to a beach area.  The dogs had been racing forward and back to us until we neared the fork, at this point Macy couldn’t contain her excitement and ran straight out of view towards the water.

Slightly annoyed at her irregular disappearance, I figured no need to worry we would catch up to her.  The beach time was the real purpose of going all the way to Shawnee Mission Park anyway, bringing the dogs out in the heat I knew they would need some time to cool off.  Harper stayed near us, whether to look after the baby or because he is a baby himself – he stayed close.  We took our time and descended the hill down the path I thought was the shortest towards the water.  My memory served me wrong, though the twists and turns eventually got us in sight of the beach to which my daughter exclaimed “Wa wa!”  And finally I was back in sight of my little white terrier sprinting along the shore after a boxer.  A couple more turns and we were at the beach with no sign of Macy.  I called and whistled, no Macy, no boxer and no people.

I knew my anxious mutt probably followed the other park goer and his pooch back up the opposite path when she realized she would be abandoned alone on the beach.  I pleaded with Harper, as if he could suddenly exhibit Lassie’s intelligence, “Go get Macy.”  to no response…  Lugging extra 30lbs on my hip, and a good for nothing beast at my side we began to climb the opposite path, where Macy had apparently gone to join another family.  By the time I reached the spot back where the fork rejoins at the top my cell phone was ringing and I knew someone was calling from the tag on my dog.

A girl with a rottweiler had Macy leashed and was waiting for me up the path, when she realized Macy didn’t belong to the people she was following she stopped to help.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to the stranger who interviened.  She even said Macy was looking around nervously, of course I knew this was between the mindless bounding over the other dogs…  Want to play with me, where’s my mom, I’m so excited, I’m so scared.  

With our group finally reunited we headed back to the water and Macy dove right in.

Parker was dressed in a swimsuit, I assumed it would be wet and messy on the beach even though I didn’t intend on us actually getting deep in the water.  Therefore, I came without a swim suit and felt comfortable in light summer clothes until Harper made me think I might actually have to dive in for him.

Shawnee Mission Park

Despite being half golden retriever sometimes I wonder if he really has any of that blood in him, he doesn’t retrieve and he is scared to swim.  Harper will run along the water and take advantage of the splashes to cool is black furry body, he doesn’t generally go deep enough to even let the water touch his chest.  On this morning he stood in the water facing the shore when some seaweed must have brushed up against his leg.  Panic set in for my giant and he scooted his body back further into the water.  At this point fear increased more because not only was he feeling something on his leg, now he was getting into deeper water.  I called sympathetic and encouraging calls for him to come to me.  I knew if he continued his backward motion I would have to forego my plan of not getting wet in order to save him.  Yet, back further he went until the water was over his back and he appeared petrified putting his head underwater as if to bite at the lake creature pulling him out.

Just before I could leap forward and make the 10 soaked steps it would have taken to reach him, Macy swam out in front of me and snapped Harper to attention.  It was as if in a split second she taught him how to doggy paddle and he could finally make a forward motion in the water again.  She lead him to the shore and as soon as he could reach he practically leapt over her to get to dry ground again.  Macy suddenly made up for her earlier run off and became the Lassie for the day to save Harper from drowning.  Yea, like I said – they are “special” dogs.

Harper refereed a game of Tug-A-War and stayed close to the shore after his terrifying ordeal.


Seven years ago…

Seven years ago I would have been preparing for my Euro-backpacking adventure with my roommates. We each committed to the trip years before and despite some conflicting life courses we were able to pull it off. We each loaded our packs and unloaded several times narrowing down to a handful of select outfits which we would wear on a steady rotation for the next four weeks. Our itinerary began with flying into London, then a flight to Amsterdam. Between there and our scheduled flights home was completely spontanious. Our adventures were influenced heavily by the advise of fellow travelers who made suggestions of “must-see” and “skip that – it’s overrated” locations. I’d like to think I am still spontaneous and I know the enthusiasm for travel is still present, however, the priorities on my pocketbook prevent me from living how I did seven years ago.

The following is an e-mail I sent home from some forgotten internet cafe in Amsterdam:

Hello All,

I have already lost track of time and have no idea what todays date or the day of the week is. I keep calculating the time in Kansas and I am blown away thinking about what I would be doing if I were at home right now, instead of drinking my 6th beer at the Heineken factory, I would have been getting ready for work (just an example from yesterday.)

We flew into London on Tuesday, even though it was a 7 1/2 hour flight it went by really quickly. We each had our own TV with about 12 channels to choose from, plus I slept alright for most of it. We found our way with only a few wrong turns to our hostel in Westchester called Wake Up London. Wednesday we toured London on a double decker bus. We saw all the sights there are to see just passing on the bus, and also took a ferry ride. That night we saw a musical at the Queens Theater, it was great but I was so exhausted that it was hard to enjoy it. David Schwimmer had a play going on in the theater right next door that we could have gone to and I think that I saw something about Val Kilmer in a pay there too.

For the past two and a half days we have been in Amsterdam, crazy city – I love it!! I could spend a year here just watching the people and studying the prostitutes – no joke!! We visited Anne Frank’s house yesterday morning and then took a tram down to the Heineken Brewery, I don’t think any other museum could live up to that. Along with your ticket in you get three free drinks and a free gift ticket. JoJo, Sheila and I met two Canadians, a young married couple from LA and a med student from Oklahoma. We used far beyond our three free tickets in drinks each! All of us went out to dinner and then the guy from Oklahoma met up with us to walk through the red light district last night.

There is a huge selection of prostitutes, it was kind of how I expected it to be, but I guess I had never thought about the “clients” in the business. It was bizzare watching men walk out of the small doorways and then the curtin would open back up again and the prostitute would be ready for her next sale. We found a coffee shop/bar across the canal from a busy red light spot. We started analyzing the business and timing how long people go in for. We had so many questions to ask about this business, and the longer we sat there the more questions we came up with.

I have so much else to tell you all, but my time is running out on the internet. We are leaving for Berlin tomorrow and I will try to make time to write again soon.

Love – Holly

A not so great reminder of why living in the mid-west is GREAT.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the “silver lining” when the clouds continually present themselves.  I decided to create my own meaning for a few could-have-been-disasterous events which have happened recently.  And I relate this meaning to reminding myself why I love living in the mid-west.

Earlier this month my family and I were riding back to Kansas City through the scenic Flint Hills.  We decided to get an early start on the travel home so that we would have some relaxation time when we got there, turns out we needed that relaxation time for a major hiccup in our plans.  Less than thirty minutes into our journey my husband had to pull to the side of the road as the driver’s side front tire deflated.

Together we maneuvered our 2 dogs, yes our whole family was in the vehicle, from the back to the front in order to get to the spare.  Unfortunately, we lacked the key needed to remove the flat tire from the car.  Standing dumbfounded on the side of the interstate with the Acura manual open, a truck pulled up behind us.  A gentleman from a small town, also headed east for a meeting the next day, offered to help us.  He was off duty and employed by the department of transportation.  After figuring out there was nothing we could do to change to the spare without the key the gentleman took my husband into the nearest town to find a way to rectify our situation.

My toddler loved the opportunity to play around in the front seat as we waited for their return.  She bounced around smiling, turning the stereo up and down dancing, and pretending to steer the wheel.  Luckily the weather was perfect to have the windows down and feel a cool breeze.  I made a conscious effort not to look at the time, as I knew it would make the minutes cooped up in the car on the interstate progress in slow motion.

Her entertainment distracted me from two other vehicles who separately pulled up behind us to check on our wellness.  I was surprised each time to see a friendly smile appear at the window asking if we were okay.  Living in the mid-west where it is not out of the ordinary for people to go out of their way to help each other, it still seemed extraordinary that we would have so many generous offers for help.  I believe the larger of my protective guard dogs sensed the sincerity in their offers since he did not bark at the strangers.  In fact, the only noise he made was growling at the curious herd of cows coming to the fence to inspect our situation.

During the time my husband was away, a third car pulled up making that four individuals stopping all together.  This time it was a highway patrol officer and after hearing our situation put his lights on behind us and stayed until their return.  The officer eventually assisted us in calling a tow-truck as we discovered there was no way to unlock the tire and put on the spare.  Despite being irritated from our derailed trip home, my husband and I enjoyed the conversations with the tow-truck driver and highway patrol man as they brought us into town.  The Manhattan Wreckers driver and I discussed my afternoon on the highway and the unexpected offers of help I received.  He recalled his experience with the tornado that came through town three years ago and how members of the community chipped in to ensure everyone was taken care of.  

My poor dogs were stressed enough from the days events and finally we were at the brink of getting new tires and ready to head home.  Another saving grace to the day happened to be friends in town who picked up our pets to give them a break from being in the car and some time to play in a backyard.  We are forever, and repeatedly indebted to the Schottlers, for everything they do for us!

Eventually we made it home tired and safe, adding about 7 hours to what we anticipated it would take for our ride home.  The car had a full set of new tires and drove smooth again.

Exactly nine days later, in our other vehicle, I was again on I-70 when I felt the same feeling of the tire deflating.  “CRAP – How could this happen again?” I thought as I pulled to the side of the interstate.  Determined to be an independent woman and put the spare on all by lonesome, my aspirations were squashed when I couldn’t event figure out how to get the jack to loosen from the side compartment in the trunk.  

Midwest generosity to the rescue again…  A friendly stranger happened to stop behind me to check his own equipment at first and when he realized I was in need of help set aside his own priorities to make sure I was taken care of.  While initially I asked for help loosening the jack, he insisted on completing the whole job.  While he cranked the car up he told me about the grinder he had just purchased and the inventions he had made and sold.  I got a lesson in recycling carpet for plastics and oil, more importantly I received a lesson in going out of my way for others in need.

While I may not be of much assistance pulling over to help someone with a flat tire, there has to be more ways I can pay it forward in order to repay the individuals who have helped me.  These two incidences of flat tires in such a short period of time initially had me irritated and wondering why I had such negative karma being delivered to me.  After the bitterness settled, these situations reinforced my faith in the people living in the community around me.  It is nice to know I’m not all alone when I need help.  Despite the craziness of the world there are good people who do good things with no expectations of a return on their investment.