The first eighteen months that we lived in our home, I had traipsed barefoot through the basement, using the stairway light, and the sun that streamed through the window to guide me. One night, I turned the corner and nearly stepped on something, consequently I have never walked through the basement in the dark again.
I flipped on the light, and a snake lay on the floor in front of me. We eyed each other for several minutes deciding our next move. When I looked closer, I noticed that he had a pattern on his back and a triangle-shaped head. I guessed that he was possibly poisonous.
However, there was one thing that I knew for sure: Snake handling was not in my wife/mother employment contract and removing one was a man’s job. Since my husband has always loved a challenge, the logical solution was to present my husband with the gift of letting him determine how to get rid of the snake. When my husband returned home from work, ready to relax, I would surprise him with his next job.
The thought of getting close to the snake unnerved me, but I decided that I would put a large bucket over it, and I would weigh it down with several hundred bricks. Though I didn’t want to let our squatter out of my sight, I left to get a bucket. I chuckled wondering how my husband would remove the snake. Would he slide the bucket? Would he lift the bucket and take a chance of the snake striking?
Naturally, when I returned, my husband’s friend was gone. Now he was a full-time resident. I had lain awake the next few nights –or years— wondering if it would slither up the steps to our bedroom. Suppose it slid up the side of our bed? What then?
The following spring, our housemate had donated his skin to decorate his living quarters, and I couldn’t help but wonder, did it belong to him or one of his siblings?
Though I have had our home inspected and sealed, this was the first of several snake episodes. Each family member has had the joy of encountering at least one.
During spring and summer, bluebirds hatch regularly in birdhouses in my neighbor’s yard, who uses live mealworms to attract them. Her success motivates me to try it too, so I keep a mealworm stash in my basement refrigerator during the warm months.
I initially place the worms in a small cup on top of a bluebird feeder that sets on my deck railing. When the bluebirds find them, I put the mealworms inside the feeder and they visit it.
Bluebird houses perch on five-foot-high-metal poles in an open area in my yard with baffles clamped below to prevent snakes and animals from climbing and invading their homes. Though they have attempted nests in the houses, wrens and sparrows usually evict them before their eggs hatch.
My best bluebird attraction is my heated birdbath. It supplies fresh water on freezing days when other sources are scarce. Birds flock to the birdbath and entertain us with their activity and color on cold winter days.
Not only have the birds entertained us, but the mealworms have too. One day, my sister-in-law opened my basement refrigerator looking for a drink, and she was curious about the contents of the burlap sack on the shelf. When she opened the mealworm bag, I had heard a loud scream, and I knew that she had found my special stockpile. I guess that mealworms were the last thing that she expected to find in my refrigerator!
My husband called my cell phone and said, “Your dog, B, escaped the yard. I found him sitting on the hill in your garden outside the fence, and I can’t leave for work until he is in.”
This was a first, and I wondered why he had escaped, and I asked my husband to try to get him back in the fence. My husband had gone outside to drag B in and found him sitting next to a dead possum. The dog was panting and smiling like he found the golden urn.
My husband called back and said, “I think that he may have killed a possum, because I thought that I saw blood when I reached over it to grab B. However, the possum warden refused to leave his departed playmate, so he’s still in your garden.”
Bad thoughts swirled through my head. If he, the dog, not my husband, had tasted blood, was he bloodthirsty? Would he kill other animals? Suppose he kills a dog or cat? Would our kids and their friends be safe in our yard? I decided that when I got home, I would call the vet and ask these questions. I may have to get rid of my dog.
When I had returned home my husband said, “The dog is in the backyard. I held a piece of steak in front of him, and I was about six inches away from that big possum, when I grabbed his collar to him drag away.”
I went to see my dog hoping that my husband was wrong. I lifted his lips and checked his teeth and gums looking for signs of blood. I also ran my hands over his body checking for wounds. I couldn’t find anything. Maybe the possum had already been dead or died quickly fighting a 140 pound dog.
The next morning, my husband grabbed a shovel and bag to dispose of the remains. I said, “Why don’t you just throw it in the woods so an animal will eat it?”
“No, I’m taking it off our property, because I don’t want B to exhume the body.” I understood his rationale, because the dog was enamored with his numb soul mate, and he might break the fence to visit it.
After my husband collected his mortuary supplies and donned heavy gloves, he headed out to transport the deceased. I had no intention of assisting him as a pallbearer or attending the viewing. Within five minutes, my husband returned.
“Where’s the possum?”
” Gone away.”
The possum fooled us and I was relieved that my dog wasn’t a bloodthirsty killer. I couldn’t help but think about my husband’s possible reaction if the possum had moved when he was reaching across it to grab the dog. That would have been worth filming.
My dog trainer teaches dog obedience and owner etiquette. I have learned the following three tips:
- Dogs on a leash are on the defensive, therefore it is not a good idea for leashed dogs to mingle.
- Retractable leashes can confuse a dog because jerking the dog back is a correction and without training, they don’t understand the correction, so it’s not fair.
- You should try to protect your puppy from bad experiences because it could affect its life.
I failed my puppy on this last point because he was attacked four times, though he was leashed. From these attacks, I had learned that some dog owners don’t understand or practice dog etiquette. Since I have a large dog, this concerns me.
When our puppy was five months old, our daughter was walking him through a wooded park and an unleashed husky tore around the corner and ripped puppy’s face causing him to yelp and wine. The couple with the husky watched while my daughter pulled the dog off puppy. They didn’t apologize and seemed to find it humorous.
The second time, I was walking our eighteen-month-old puppy on a semi-crowded street. I stopped to talk to a friend while my dog sat at my side. I assumed that puppy was safe sitting close to me. However, a guy with a pit bull released his retractable leash and his dog charged. The dogs were face to face growling, biting and screaming. When we separated the animals, the guy said, “Sorry,” and walked away.
A few months later, I was walking puppy, who was about 110 pounds but still impressionable, when a dog bolted off a neighbor’s deck and attacked him. I believe that the dog had probably escaped because the owner had run over to grab his dog and apologized profusely. Sometimes, things are unavoidable.
A few weeks later, a tiny dog dashed off its property and grabbed my dog’s neck. The owners watched until I yelled at them to get their dog, and I was surprised that they didn’t react immediately especially because of the difference in the dogs’ sizes.
As a result of these attacks, I have had my dog neutered, and when I walk him I try to avoid other dogs. If I see someone with a dog near us, I walk him to the far side of the street and keep him close to me. Invariably, the person across the street releases their retractable leash and their dog approaches us. Ironically, the owner usually pretends that it is the dog releasing the leash. In addition, these are probably the people who allow their dogs to stretch their leash across the street making it a hazard to pedestrians, runners, and bikers.
Sometimes, I head down a side street to avoid other dogs, and the owner and dog will stand by that side street waiting for my return. I don’t understand why they insist on their dog meeting mine.
My favorite story is when I had been avoiding a couple and their dog for days. When they saw puppy and I walk, they would approach us while releasing their dog’s retractable leash, and I would pivot and walk in the opposite direction. I suspect that they were elated when they spotted our son walking our dog. They brought their dog over to him and the leashes entangled. Can you imagine what could have happened if one of the dogs become aggressive?
These encounters have made me tense and watchful when I walk my dog, and he probably senses it. I believe that if more dog owners learned dog etiquette, dogs and people would be safer. Therefore, if a dog walker avoids you and your dog, please don’t take it personally.
Last week Mother Nature dumped about ten inches of snow on New York City. From my hotel window, I saw that few people were walking or driving. I turned on the news and the newscaster said that the blizzard conditions were deadly because a doorman had slipped while shoveling and had fallen through a window and died. They were warning people to stay off the streets. Though I was in New York to see my daughter, J, the news report made me think about falling on the ice, and I was apprehensive about leaving the hotel. I had already fallen twice in New York, and wine was not involved.
The first time, I was walking on a pretty day with J, and I tripped over a sidewalk crack and I was down on all fours. Ok, I really tripped over my own feet.
J had said, “Mother, get up before someone falls over you and hurts themselves, you’re fine.” Though I was shaken, I got up like nothing had happened.
The second time I had fallen, I was wearing boots with little tread and it was snowing. I was sliding all over the sidewalk like I was on greased ice. I resembled a three-year old that had never ice skated before, and I grasped my husband’s arm like it was the wall that child clung to as he encircled the ice rink.
When I almost pulled my husband down he said, “What’s wrong? No one else that is walking is acting like you. Let me see the bottom of your boots.”
I lifted my smooth-bottomed Ugg. He said, “We’re buying you boots.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t get those boots fast enough, because within minutes, I slipped and fell on my back. Since I had already made a scene, my friends laughed because they thought that I fell on purpose. Did they really think that I would lie on the dirty New York street in my dress coat just to entertain them?
I was thinking about these previous trips, when J called and said that it was just slush and she insisted we go out. She is determined that I am not acting old no matter what, and she digs me out of my comfort zone.
She said, “My eighty-year-old superintendent is out shoveling snow, so if he can go out, you can too.”
J had come to get me, and I stepped outside and tentatively took a few steps on the sidewalk to determine if it was slippery.
“Mom, if you walk like that, it looks like you are trying to fall, so can you just walk like everyone else?”
I walked but watched the road for ice. J was ahead and she casually glanced back ensuring that I wasn’t sprawled on the ground. As we walked to J’s apartment, I told her that I was not relishing ascending the steps to her sixth-floor apartment, actually twelve-half flights, but who’s counting unless you are gasping for breath.
J said, ” There are 80 year olds that live up there, and they take the steps everyday and carry groceries, it just takes them a little longer. If they can do it, so can you.”
After visiting her apartment, we walked her neighborhood. I was glad that we had this time together and when I left, I thought about those snow-shoveling-eighty-year-olds. I know that I will live a fuller life if I listen to J, but I hope that she doesn’t kill me in the process.
My husband had to file a mandatory dog bite report for our Leonberger puppy when he was 8-weeks-and-one-day old, and these photos clearly show his mean streak. The top one is his mug shot. Puppy had only spent one night at our house, when he scampered down the front lawn with my husband to get the newspaper.
After my husband picked up the paper, he saw puppy in the middle of the yard joyfully chewing on an unknown object. He hurried over to him and tried to pry his mouth open to remove the object, but puppy was determined not to reveal the prize in his mouth, and he kept his jaws clamped shut like he thought that he was a snapping turtle. With a little maneuvering, my husband finally opened his mouth and nicked his finger on his needle teeth in the process. Can you imagine his glee when he discovered that the coveted treasure was a possum skull? No wonder puppy didn’t want to give up this gem because he probably never had his own skull before.
A few days later, my husband’s finger became infected and he had to go to the medical center to have it treated. Because of a new law, that is more applicable to vicious dogs, he had to file a report indicating that his dog bit him before they would see him. He tried to explain that the puppy was 8 weeks old, but they wouldn’t hear it. He filed the report, and it took two rounds of antibiotics to treat him.
The result of this incident is that the dog must be on his best behavior for the rest of his life because he has a record.
My father had often said, “Those dogs aren’t running my life,” but my sisters and I still laugh, because unbeknownst to him, he and the Great Dane and Dalmatian were part of a chess match. The dogs were the chess masters, and he was their pawn.
My parents usually took the dogs with them when they went to the beach. One day, when my parents were packing their car to leave the beach for my father to go to work; our Dalmatian and Great Dane had slipped out the door and took off. My parents walked and drove the neighborhood for hours, and they finally called the police. It was a sad day when the policeman gave my father the bad news: The dogs had become criminals and they were locked up behind bars.
I would have loved to have heard the conversation between my parents when my father had to drive to the police station that was several miles away and bail them out. Luckily, he was an attorney and visiting clients in jail was nothing new to him. He said that when he saw the jailed dogs, “They looked guilty.” After loading them in the car, my parents headed home. Unfortunately, they were stuck in rush-hour traffic, and my father missed work. The dogs were affecting his job.
Though my father often complained about our pets, I believe that he liked them though they intimidated him. At Christmastime, he saved empty cardboard rolls from the Christmas paper and stacked them in the corner in the family room. Though he would never hurt anyone or anything, when he thought that the dogs were misbehaving, he would grab a cardboard roll and say, “See this!” and the dogs ignored him as usual and continued what they were doing. I guess holding something in his hand taller than the Great Dane made him feel powerful.
We needed a new car, and my father thought that he was buying the family a station wagon. We, us kids, knew that he was buying the dogs a car, though we hadn’t pointed that out to him. The dogs needed room to spread out for long car rides, therefore their requirements dictated what my father drove.
Though my father pretended that he didn’t like our dogs, when the Dalmatian was diagnosed with a terminal illness, my parents drove her to a veterinarian school hours away as a last ditch effort to save her life. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful, but I give my parents credit for making that trip.
Ironically, years later after my mother had passed, and the dogs were gone, my father called me and said, “Dorothyadele, a vagrant has entered my office and said that he is leaving town. He has a golden retriever, Ralph, with him, and he plans to have him euthanized. Should I take him?”
“Absolutely!” I said.
The cycle continued. We never knew the dog’s age, but he was a good companion for my father for about five years until Ralph became ill. I knew that my father liked dogs.
Have you ever had your chest tighten while you waited in a slow-moving-airport-security line? Have you ever rushed to the customs line only to stand behind dozens of travelers, and thought you’d never make your connection? TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Memberships have helped solve these problems by expediting the security process.
The TSA PreCheck line is used for travel departure in the United States. Including wait time, passing through security can take as little as five minutes. Also, there is no need to remove shoes, laptops, compliant liquids, belts and light jackets or sweaters.
This is the TSA PreCheck application process:
- You submit an online application and pay $85 for a five-year membership.
- Within a few weeks of submitting the application, TSA will send a confirmation email enabling you to set up an appointment at one of their offices.
- The documents listed here are needed for the appointment.
- A typical appointment lasts ten minutes, not counting wait time, and includes an interview, a background check, and fingerprinting.
- You will receive your TSA PreCheck status in writing usually within two to three weeks after the appointment, or you can check online.
- If approved you will receive your Known Traveler Number. When you book a flight, you add your KTN to the reservation and the ticket should have TSA PreCheck printed on it.
With Global Entry, when arriving from another country, there is no need to fill out customs declaration forms or wait in immigration or customs lines. Instead, you use a kiosk and go through a few steps within a few minutes. The kiosk scans your passport, takes your photo and fingerprints, and you answer a few questions that are on this site. If you answer no to all questions, you receive a receipt, and hand it to the customs officer as you exit; however, if you answer yes to any questions, your receipt will have an X, that directs you to a Customs Border Patrol Agent.
This is the Global Entry Application Process:
- You fill out an online form at this website and pay a nonrefundable $100 application fee.
- Within a few weeks, you should receive an email confirming that you can set up an appointment at one of the Homeland Security offices usually found in airports.
- The confirmation email should contain the list of relevant documents needed for the interview. If you can’t get an interview before a scheduled trip, you can usually walk in.
- At the interview, the agent will take your fingerprints, run a background check, take your photo, and ask a few questions. The agent may ask about your occupation, trave, if you have an arrest record, and more.
- After the interview, upon approval, you can start using your benefits immediately for air travel. The Global Entry card is needed for border crossing and may take four – six weeks.
Also, a Global Entry membership qualifies you for a TSA PreCheck membership, but TSA PreCheck does not give you Global Entry benefits.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry memberships have been well worth the time and money, making travel more efficient and pleasant.
We had grabbed our bags to board our flight from Anegada when a calf sauntered across the fenced airport runway. Emergency staff climbed in a yellow fire truck and drove down the runway to chase the calf away. The staff herded the calf to the other side, not needing to power-wash him with a firehose.
That was excitement on laid-back Anegada, where about 250 people reside on the second largest British Virgin Island. Wild pigs, chickens, and cattle roam freely, while flamingos dine on shrimp in the salt ponds.
Anegada, the drowned island, rises only 28 feet above sea level, and the coral reefs that surround it provide great snorkeling and diving, though hazardous to boaters. Some captains still refuse to sail to Anegada, because over 300 boats had shipwrecked in the shallow water. Today, the channel is marked, but captains are still cautious.
There are no resorts, big hotels or casinos on Anegada, only white sand beaches bordering translucent aquamarine. It is a place to enjoy a cocktail, try the local seafood, and converse with the locals and tourists.
Though we stayed only a day, we spotted two wild pigs scurry into the brush while we had driven the dirt road to Cow Wreck Bar & Grill. From Flamingo Lookout Pond, we saw the flamingos from afar and tried the Anegada grilled lobster and thick conch chowder at The Big Bamboo.
We loved Anegada, and I hope we can return and stay a few nights.
I had used my accumulated points from previous trips and purchased a Business Class seat on the Amtrak Northeast Regional #86 train for a trip on 12/12/16. Per usual, the Amtrak agent that booked my reservation was professional and pleasant.
About an hour into the trip, when I slid the restroom door open and stepped inside, urine and fecal stench made my eyes water. I felt like I was enclosed in a portable potty on a 95-degree afternoon that hadn’t been cleaned since it was used by several men’s sports teams. I returned to my seat without using the facility, and thought about waiting until I reached my destination. Unfortunately, that was not an option, and I forced myself to return to the restroom.
Since this was not the first time that I had encountered dirty restrooms on Amtrak, I wrote them about my experience, and Amtrak responded with an email, that I suspected was a form letter.
It stated that they “realize the importance of providing passengers with clean surroundings,” and that “all restrooms are to be throughly cleaned before customers board the train.” They wrote that my concerns will be reviewed with the Northeast Regional managers.
I hadn’t expected the restrooms to be perfect with travelers boarding and exiting the train, but I believe that had they cleaned the equipment like their letter stated, the restroom wouldn’t have reeked from a putrid odor that seemed to have percolated for days. I hope that in the future, the Northeast Regional managers ensure that most travelers find their restrooms acceptable.
The previous link includes the recipe and the story about how Pusser’s owner had enjoyed the drink at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke. Determined to discover the secret recipe, he took a Painkiller back to his boat and then to his home on Tortola to analyze the contents.
2 oz – 4 0z Pusser’s Rum
4 oz pineapple juice
1 oz orange juice
1 oz cream of coconut
Fresh grated nutmeg
Add liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a big glass or goblet filled with ice. Grate fresh nutmeg on top and enjoy!
Though this is Pusser’s recipe and some bars and restaurants premix the drink, we prefer that it is made from scratch and the rum poured on top.
Our top 16 reasons we visit Virgin Gorda, BVI.
1) Customs and immigration usually take less than ten minutes.
2) Crowds are limited:
Cruise ships must anchor and shuttle passengers on tenders.
Only small planes and helicopters can land on the airport runway.
3) Take off, landing, and flying in a small plane is an adventure, and occasionally you can copilot.
4) Locals greet travelers with a smile and seem to appreciate tourism.
5) The island is not commercialized: Colorful homes and businesses dot the island, and there are no chain hotels or obtuse structures.
6) White sand beaches usually have a scattering of people unless a cruise ship is anchored, or tourists are visiting from other islands.
7) Coral reefs provide great snorkeling.
8) The crime rate is low.
9) While driving, you don’t see many cars, therefore tailgating is rare.
10) There are no red lights and few stop signs.
11) Restaurants feature everything from fresh grilled lobster, sushi, barbecue, grilled steaks, pizza and more.
12) Casual attire is acceptable almost everywhere.
13) Many visit Virgin Gorda specifically to explore the beauty of The Baths where overlapping boulders bulge out of the land and water, providing a granite maze where tourists trek through caves and pools of this natural wonder.
14) Mountain roads offer a challenging workout with views of shimmering royal blue water and boulder-studded mountains.
15) Hiking to the highest part of the island, Gorda Peak, takes about 35 minutes. At the top, climbers ascend a double-tiered ladder to a platform with a magnificent vista of the BVI.
16) Visiting other British or US Virgin Islands by ferry, boat, or plane is easy, and a must do.
Goats bleating and roosters crowing, some clueless about dawn’s arrival, awakened us each morning in Virgin Gorda. Skittering anoles, singing frogs and dancing butterflies made us feel like we were in a sanctuary safe for all. Unfortunately, that changed today.
I was sitting on the porch sipping coffee when I spotted a pickup truck driving down the dirt trail adjacent to our rental. It stopped. Someone perched a rifle, or similar firearm, out the passenger’s window. Lights flashed as four shots blasted from the gun muzzle through the thick brush, just yards from our residence. Goats bleated, and one screamed louder than the rest for longer than I wanted to hear.
As the whimpering subsided, the truck crept haltingly down the mountain, made a full stop, then proceeded to the bottom of the hill and turned around. As it ascended, I saw what I believed was a goat carcass in the back of the truck.
Though the slaughter disturbed me, someone was making their living on Virgin Gorda.