the personal views, thoughts, and musings of donna d'errico

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Trivia

Did you know that...

During Lent, consuming such things as fat, sugar, and eggs was traditionally forbidden throughout the 40 days of Lenten fasting and prayer. Since Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, that meant that everyone needed to consume all the eggs, fats, etc. that they had in their kitchens. So, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday traditionally became the day that everyone had one last feast using those foods. That Tuesday became known as "Pancake Tuesday" because they used the fats, eggs, and sugars to make pancakes and other foods in order to use up those supplies. Did you know that is how Mardi Gras - "Fat Tuesday" - began?

How about Easter eggs and Easter baskets full of goodies and chocolates on Easter Sunday? Well, since Easter Sunday marks the end of 40 days of fasting and abstinence, people would celebrate by feasting on the eggs they couldn't eat during Lent, as well as other fatty and sugary things. Hence the Easter eggs, chocolates, and sugary goodies on Easter Sunday. Many people don't know how these traditions began, or that they all came about from the Catholic observation of Lent.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


(Here is a poem I wrote a few of years ago when Bone passed away. That's her in the picture with me. I hope you enjoy it.)


With Spring in the air and my boy at my side,
in search of a dog we went for a ride
to the animal shelter..the "pound", if you will.
It wasn't that far--just over the hill.

He took his time looking, for he said he'd know
the right dog when he saw it, and then we could go.
But he didn't find one that he thought was quite right.
And so we decided to call it a night.

Just then Rhyan's eyes lit up like a light,
"How about that dog over there--she's just right!"
There was an old dog being taken away.
He said he'd like to see her, if it was okay.

He went over to her and she wagged her bobbed tail.
He could see she was old, and a little bit frail.
"She needs me," he said, "and her eyes are so kind.
I'd like to have her, if you don't mind"

It was then that I realized where she'd been being led.
I looked at the worker and she nodded her head.
"Well it looks like today is her lucky day."
She handed Rhyan the leash and sent us on our way.

Bone loved her new home--lots of kids, land, and love.
And we loved her, too, like a gift from above.
Whenever we would walk out on our property
Bone walked out in front, her mind on safety.

She always watched over the kids like a mom
with a sense for the things to protect them from.
Her eyes were not sharp, and her hearing was bad
but a keener sense of smell was not to be had.

You always knew when Bone was around
'cause her nails on the floor made a clicking sound.
You knew she was coming down the hall for a drink
(or sometimes for a snack, which were kept by the sink.)

We always felt safe with old Bone around,
and no gentler dog could ever be found.
She was there to watch all my kids grow
but as they got bigger, our Bone got more slow.

We'd go out for our walks, but she would not go.
She preferred now to sleep on her soft pillow.
But no matter how tired or how weak she felt
that bobbed tail would wag, and our hearts she would melt.

At first it was tremors, then seizures came.
Bone no longer could bark, but she still knew her name.
Toes still clicked down the hall when she wanted a snack
which we knew she loved, so we never held back.

She slept more and more. She could see less and less.
She had accidents now, but we'd clean up her mess
with a tear, for we knew the day neared
that we'd be without her. The day that we feared.

The shelter had told us that they didn't know
but that she must have been about twelve years or so
when we got her. So if that was true,
then Bone was now eighteen and her days left were few.

We got her some pills that could make her last days
more comfortable, and in less of a haze.
Every day after school Rhyan would go to her
and lay with her awhile, gently stroking her fur.

I think she must have, quite deliberately,
waited until Rhyan was not home to see
her draw her last breath, then peacefully go
as she lay sleeping on her favorite pillow.

We buried her here where she loved to run
and play with the children out in the warm sun.
I can still see her there, keeping her watchful eye
on the children she loved from up there in the sky.

I've found it so hard to let go of her
the sound of her toes, the smell of her fur.
Oh, what I would give to see her again .
Goodbye, Bone. We miss you. Sleep well in heaven.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why Bother Getting A Dog?

One of my rescues, Hank, is a great big bear of a dog. He has dark brown fur, a large, muscular body, huge head and muzzle, large ears that stand up, and is 93 pounds of solid muscle. Speeding toward you, barking and with teeth bared and ears forward, he is a frightening sight for anyone who might dare to trespass or try to break in. What they wouldn't know, however, is that Hank is the gentlest, sweetest dog this side of the Mississippi. (That's Hank with me in the photo on the left from a couple years ago helping me to promote spaying and neutering for all dogs and cats.)

Hank is somewhere around 5 years old now, and we've had him for 4 years this month. His previous owner had gotten Hank when he was a puppy, put a chain around his neck, and chained him to a tree in his backyard. He stayed that way for the first year of his life, during which time he grew from a puppy into the very large dog he is today. His owner never bothered to loosen the chain around Hank's neck as he grew. When he was finally rescued, he could barely stand up. From the neck down, he was skin and bones. From the neck up, the water retention and swelling made his head resemble a watermelon. His entire face was also mostly void of fur due to a terrible case of Demodectic mange. He was unable to swallow, and was slowly starving to death. As he had grown, his connective tissue grew completely over the puppy-sized chain, embedding it deep in his neck.

He was whisked to an animal hospital, where the vet went to work surgically removing the deeply embedded chain from Hank's neck. The vet had to cut deep into Hank's neck all the way around in order to get to the chain. Afterward, what remained of Hank's neck was beyond words. The vet had to cut down so deep to remove the chain that that portion of Hank's neck was left only as big around as a puppy's neck. But thankfully, Hank could now at least breathe better and could swallow. The swelling around his head and face began to drain, and he began to gain some weight.

On one of our routine visits to the local animal shelter (we go there to visit the animals pretty often), my son, Rhyan, noticed Hank. He still had stitches encircling his neck, his fur was not quite grown back in after having been shaved for his surgery, he still didn't have fur on most of his face due to the mange, and the swelling in his face and head was not gone. But there he was, wagging his tail and jumping around playfully trying to get Rhyan's attention.

After spending some time playing with Hank, Rhyan came and got me. We already had Molly, who Linda Blair had rescued from a kill shelter in downtown LA and had brought to us in hopes that we would take her after our other rescue, Bone, passed away. I told Rhyan we weren't getting another dog. But he insisted that I just take a look at this dog, Hank.

Hank came home with us that day.

That was four years ago. He has long since healed, and is the most amazing dog ever. The scar encircling his neck became, in time, less noticeable. He gained weight and muscle, the swelling went down in his face, and after two years of aggressive treatment he was able to get completely rid of his mange. But he isn't quite out of the woods yet.

As Hank's neck healed, it formed a thick, deep scar all the way around his neck. Over time, that scar has constricted, as scars will do. What that means is that the thick band of scar tissue encircling his neck is shrinking, giving him less and less room to breathe or swallow. It eventually got to the point where Hank was pretty much panting all the time. I had the vet take an x-ray of Hank's neck, and it was clear that the thick band of scar tissue was beginning to strangle him. He needed more room to breathe and swallow. So Rhyan and I agreed to allow Hank's vet to go back in and remove a section of the scar from one side of Hank's neck.

That was a month ago. He stitched a portion of it closed, and left a small area unstitched so as to hopefully have it heal a bit wider than before. He had to go back in for more stitches and a drainage tube, and gets the new stitches out next week (the picture at the top right is a photo of Hank's neck today). Even though this new surgery site will form a scar that will constrict as well, his vet is hoping that even after it heals and constricts, he will still be left with at least a bit more room than he had before. So far it is looking good, and that area feels much softer and looser than it did before. Hank will always have a neck that is smaller than he needs, so anything that can be done to make him even a bit more comfortable is worth it.

His previous owner was never prosecuted, by the way. So he is still out there, no lesson learned, free to do this to another dog. You know, if you are just going to take the dog you get and chain him up to a tree in your backyard, ignoring him as he lays there suffering and suffocating....why bother getting a dog?