Friday, November 15, 2019

How One Sweet Six-Year-Old Changed My Mind About Dogs

Celebrating Romie's first birthday
Today is our Romelita's sixth birthday!

Eleven years ago, I wrote a blog post called "Portland's Going to the Dogs," confessing my dog
scrooginess and pondering at Portland's absolute obsession with dogs. I've never been bitten by a dog or have any reason to be nervous around them, but I was a bit squeamish around dogs before 2014. Here's an excerpt of my blog post:

"I don't have any problem with people being dog lovers, but I just can't relate--probably much in the same way that purposely childless couples cannot understand why anyone would want to have children. I like my sister's family's dog, a Golden Retriever, and I have no antipathy toward dogs. It's just this obsessive affection for them that baffles me.

According to the Portland Monthly article, 42 percent of dog owners let their dogs share their bed, and 55 percent bought their pets holiday gifts. How many dogs really understand the idea of Christmas? :)

For those of you who are dog lovers, please forgive this guilty confession of mine. I feel better getting it off my chest!"

Well, today our dog Romie celebrates her sixth birthday, and we're buying her frozen yogurt to celebrate. Yes, the person who mocked people who give their pets holiday gifts! She also received a birthday card in the mail from Nick's lovely and amazing kindergarten teacher!

We got Romie five and a half years ago, and she has completely changed my relationship with dogs. It all started with an email from a coworker who volunteered for the Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals. Yuki used to send out photos and descriptions of animals she was fostering. When I saw the description of Romie...part long-haired Dachshund, part Chihuahua, seven months old, born in a shelter in Mexico, shy and friendly--I sent the email to Mike with some question marks. 

Mike knows me well enough to put up with my crazy ideas...sometimes he is the one who says "I don't think so..." and other times he's all in with me! Upon receiving the dog email, he responded with interest. Kieran, then aged 11, had been begging us for a dog, for quite some time. Nick and Chris were both terrified of dogs, Chris for good reason because he'd been bitten. Nick, on the other hand, was fascinated with dogs and loved the fact that he was born in the Year of the Dog, but at the same time he was frightened of them to the point that he would always ask if our friends had dogs before we went to their house. Nick's terror was my #1 reason for wanting a dog. I didn't want him to grow up with that fear and I knew that getting a dog ourselves was the best way to conquer it.

Nick soon after we got Romie
The foster mom, Yuki, was extremely cautious about giving Romie to us...she was worried that Romie wouldn't be suited to a house with children, because she was very anxious at the time (having been newly released from the shelter where she spent the first 6 months of her life). Yuki was also concerned that Romie would escape out of our backyard. 

Romie was extremely cautious and nervous for the first few weeks she was with us, but I think that made it easier for Nick to warm up to her. In fact, she didn't bark for the first month...Mike was worried that she did not know how to bark! That's definitely not a problem now. :) I've read this is a common problem for dogs who have been in shelters.

Kieran cried when we told him we were thinking of getting a dog (and promised to be her primary caregiver--HAHAHA!), Nick took to her immediately, and Chris was not thrilled. She soon became a critical part of her family. She is the most good-natured dog ever--so laid-back and easy-going, except when she hears fireworks. 

Note Nick wrote when Romie joined us
Romie has completely cured me of any dog phobias I had. I adore this girl. 

First beach trip

Nick has become Romie's biggest fan

Romie with her cousin Ella and our nephew Ryan

Dog mamas

First beach trip; still surprised we got a dog!

Romie's Halloween costume this year...she was not thrilled!

As I said, so good-natured!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Back to Old Blighty--3, Journey to the Cotswolds

Because I've committed to blog every day in November, I'm going back to finish my series on our trip to England in 2018. Without a lot of income coming in at the moment, I have been dreaming of travel!!

For our first road trip of the vacation, we chose the Cotswolds. We began with a quick visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, which was fun for our English major-theatre family. 

Wandering through Stratford

A cottage

I love doors in England!

We went to Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was baptized, married, and buried. I loved the graveyard outside of the church!

Check out those kneeling pads!

In the little chapel where Shakespeare is buried

Shakespeare's and Anne Hathaway's grave

His daughter Susannah's grave
 (our top name, if we had a girl, was Susannah)

After leaving the church we walked along the river into the main part of Stratford. Along the way, we found memorials to various famous actors, like this one to Vivian Leigh:
We spent some time in the marketplace, where I was intrigued by this stall with live owls:

An amusing English shop sign

Shakespeare's family home

Shakespeare fans!
After strolling through Stratford (and also visiting the Globe's gift shop and café), we drove to our wonderful friends' bed and breakfast, Lowerfield Farm, ranked #17 of 482 B and Bs in the Cotswolds. We'd stayed there at Christmas 2008, the last time we'd been in the UK, when we'd celebrated 20 years of knowing our friends (and the proprietors), Sue and Gareth. We met Sue and Gareth in Japan in 1998 and became fast friends!

Here we all were in 2008!
Now our kids are teens, nearly teens, or done with their teens!

The lovely Meredith cooking on the Aga and Gareth slicing ham from their freshly slaughtered hog

Our kids got along well!

We brought this yummy gin from Stratford and enjoyed sipping it in the evening!

Looking back on our early years together!
The next day after a lovely English cooked breakfast (the kids enjoyed eating black pudding!), we took a scenic, leisurely drive through the Cotswolds, beginning with the Cotwold Lavender farm.

Lavender everywhere!

Then we were off to Broadway Tower, where we could see views of the countryside. According to its website, Broadway Tower was "the brainchild of the great 18th century landscape designer, Capability Brown. (What a great name!) His vision was carried out for George William 6th Earl of Coventry with the help of renowned architect James Wyatt and completed in 1798. Wyatt designed his “Saxon Tower” as an eccentric amalgamation of architectural components ranging from turrets, battlements, and gargoyles to balconies."

Britain is, in many ways, more sustainable than the U.S.--
my plastic bag in the shop was made of recycled plastic bottles
A sweet Cotswolds village:

And church with graveyard:

Sights while driving:

Stopping for tea:
Kieran enjoyed sampling the microbrewed soft drinks in England

Nick was happy to stop for tea ice cream, as he pronounced that he was tired of "old-timey places." That's an unfortunate reaction to England...where most of the country is "old-timey places."

Making use of an old phone box

Now it's a defribillator!
I think this was Lower Slaughter, but I'm not sure!

Felt so refreshing to dip my feet into the water on a hot day!

I convinced Mike to do the same!
Beautiful stone wall:

Sweet little Stow-on-the-Wold!

We returned to Lowerfield Farm and decided to go out to dinner at the ancient Fleece Inn, a bicycle ride away from the B&B. The Fleece Inn was originally built in the early 15th century (the time of Chaucer) by a farmer named Byrd and remained in the same family until 1977 when it was bequeathed to the National Trust. This text from their website shows just how old it is: "The building was already 71 years old when the Lancastrians marched by on their way to final defeat in the Wars of the Roses at the Battle of Tewksbury, and it was 200 years old when the Gunpowder Plotters rode past on their ill-fated attempt to blow up Parliament."

Chris enjoyed England's historic pubs!
The pewter on the walls has been on display for 300 years.

Witches' circles painted to prevent witches from flying down the chimney!

The guys ordering food and drinks

Kieran trying "faggots," which my dad loved in England!
Faggots are large meatballs made of off-cuts and offal.

My yummy chicken and apricot pie

Recreating our classic photo!
Since we saw each other last, both of our families have been through difficult times. Sue battled cancer and I had my many ear and brain surgeries. We were happy to be together, healthy and active and loving life!
Our combined beautiful kids!

Pancakes and eggs on the Aga

The content Englishman

Recreating classic photos from Japan
Of course, we had fun looking back at old photo albums from Japan! Have you ever had a friend who, although you've been separated by miles and years, when you see them again it's as if no time has passed? That is Sue and Gareth for us...friends for over 30 years, friends forever.

If you ever go to the Cotswolds, you must stay at Lowerfield Farm!