She ain’t nothing but a hound dog.

Dear friends,

Meet Lily Pad.


Her name is Lily but, of course, I prefer Lily Pad. (Two-name first names are a big deal in my family in case you don’t remember so she’s getting the VIP treatment.) Parker suggested I call her Lady Lily Pad but I think Her Highness the Duchess of Lily Pad is more distinguished.

I snapped this photo of her in the truck on the way home Sunday. She assumed this position about 10 minutes into our 5-hour drive and slept the entire way home. I loved her the minute I met her in a parking lot on Friday afternoon. But once I saw that wrinkly forehead that is the telltale sign of a hound dog, I swooned and knew she’d always be ours.

Her foster mom told us she is part Labrador Retriever and part Redbone Coonhound. Based on appearance and personality, she seems all hound. She sniffs as if it’s an Olympic sport and she’s a gold medalist. And she’s definitely got the energy and drive of an Olympian. She’s a bit hardheaded but she’s also so very sweet. She’s the first big dog that I’d consider living inside my home — assuming she’s trainable, of course. Right now, she’s a puppy on overdrive and we’re just trying to survive the first month of puppy parenting, which involves crate training and keeping everything you own from being chewed into smithereens.

Ed has been friendly to her (Ed’s friendly to everybody though). Sweetpea has not. In fact, Sweetpea acts as if she wishes Lily Pad would suddenly disappear. Or die. Sushi the cat is terribly worried, as evidenced by a panicked stare and a forehead almost as wrinkly as Lily’s.

Parker is trying to get used to rising early and turning in late so he can walk Lily before school and at bedtime. Mr. Mom is trying to get used to a demanding daycare schedule for what is essentially a highly mobile, diaperless infant with very sharp teeth. (Lordy, lordy I forgot how much work puppies are.) I apparently am in the catbird seat because I don’t have to walk her or train her and I get the pleasure of enjoying her company on my schedule.

And isn’t that a convenient way to have a baby?

With gratitude {for all the good and bighearted folks in the dog rescue world, especially the Oklahoma woman who is responsible for getting Lily to us},

Joan, who wishes to warn you in advance that you will likely tire of Lily photos and stories long before she does


Dear friends,


This is Ed. Part Golden Retriever, part Labrador Retriever, Ed is a rescue dog that came into our lives some eight years ago after Parker begged for a canine companion of his own.

We had lost our Black Lab, Cassie, some time earlier and Ed came bounding into our lives just when our household of four broken hearts, two active children and one neurotic Chihuahua most needed him.

He’s lived in three towns with us, two in Oklahoma and now one in Missouri. He has adapted to spacious yards, small ones, the noise of city streets and now — a wooded 15 acres filled with deer and turkeys and rabbits and all kinds of woodland friends he loves to chase.

Of late, he’s been chasing something else.

My 1000 mile goal.

Ed is my running buddy. He’s covered every mile I have since I announced my goal and he’s done it with far more enthusiasm and grace than I have.

I never ran with Ed before we moved to Missouri. I’m not sure why except I just never did. Once we moved to Missouri, things changed. For one, we live in an area far outside the city limits where most of the dogs run free. Our pasture is fenced, but it’s far enough from the house that Ed and Frito (the aforementioned neurotic Chihuahua) were miserable when we first moved in and tried keeping them there (and tried convincing them to sleep in our barn). About a month in, we caved and let Ed and Frito run free like the other dogs. We moved their doghouse from the barn to a sheltered spot not far from our kitchen door and they were gloriously happy to cavort with neighborhood dogs at will and nap by the back door.

But once they were unfenced, our two outdoor dogs couldn’t help but follow me as I headed out on my runs. Whether I wanted it or not, I suddenly had running companions. After Frito died last year, the plural changed to singular, so now Ed is my trusty exercise buddy.

It’s been interesting, this journey into my own fitness that’s also a journey into Ed’s. At about 8 dog years, he’s older than me. His age shows most in the expanding mask around his eyes and the increasing time it takes him to rise after resting. But it sure doesn’t show on the hills, at least not as much as it does on me.

On weekday mornings we run before dawn and the neighborhood is deserted so I allow him to run off-leash. For the first month, I was so slow on the uphill climbs that he would often stop a few yards ahead of me and patiently wait for me to catch up. Occasionally, he would look over his shoulder at me as if to say “Come on. Can’t you go faster?” But mostly he just slowed his pace and/or patiently waited on me.

On weekends, though, I run much later, usually when cars and walkers and other dogs are out and about, so I put him on a leash. On those days that he is tethered to me, he can only get a leash’s length ahead of me and I don’t feel so slow. He is a good dog so he never tugs.

On Saturday, we ran late — almost noon — so I had him on a leash. And even though we put in six miles, I noticed I got far enough ahead of him on the final downhill run that I had to give him a little tug. It was probably unkind to Ed but it was good for my ego. “Come on, old boy,” I said out loud. “Keep up with this old gal. I’m beating you.”

It made me think about how fortunate I am to have such a faithful running companion. He never begs off, never gives up, never gets sick, never brags, never complains. Whether 7 degrees or 85 degrees, rain or shine, dark or light, he shows up. Tethered or not, he is my loyal sidekick who doesn’t know we have a goal but is determined to meet it every time I open the door and call his name.

With gratitude {for this family’s best friend},

Joan, who thinks if anything keeps her running for 52 weeks straight, it will be Ed

Sweetpea. And Chet. And Joan-Marie. And dog-gummed angst.

Dear friends,

I’ve been telling you about my dogs Ed and Frito lately because I’m back on track with my running and they’ve become my fellow road warriors. (And can I just say how danged pitiful it makes me feel that my Chihuahua with four-inch legs scoots up the road faster than I do?)

Anyway, before I descend into old-lady despair about my declining mph’s, here’s another canine soul I want to tell you about:

Her name is Sweetpea, but I call her Sweetie Petey. She’s Kate’s dog and I introduced her to you briefly in this post. Parker took that adorable photo of her with his iPhone last week after she spent the evening moving from one lap to another, finally ending on his with that look on her face, which no one in this household has so far learned to resist.

And it’s not just us. The neighbors are smitten by her, too. Especially Chet. Chet lives three houses down and Chet has a doggie door for his two Chihuahuas. Chet loves Sweetpea and has apparently told her to make herself at home, which she does regularly, using his doggie door to let herself in and climb in Chet’s lap and give him that look. Then Chet gives her a doggie treat.

Here’s something you need to know about us: we are a very, shall we say, traditional family. How can I say this? Our dogs live outdoors, you know, where dogs are supposed to live. They have a doghouse and we make sure they are warm and well fed and exercised and bathed and combed and loved and doctored when need be, but they are dogs and, in our family, dogs live outside. And there’s one more thing: they eat dog food. And, oh yeah, we don’t have doggie treats.

So imagine our surprise when Sweetie Petey wormed her way into our home. I can’t explain it, but the little Princess now sleeps inside the house, that is when she’s not sleeping at Chet’s house. (Did I mention that Chet lets Sweetpea sleep under the covers at his house?  Folks, when Jesus said Do Unto Others, Chet was paying attention. I’ve never met anyone like him, which is to say I’ve never met anyone that lets his neighbor’s dog sleep under the covers and then thanks the neighbor for the privilege.)

It’s not like we don’t try to keep Sweetpea at home. We do, but she runs away every chance she gets to — you guessed it — Chet’s house. We used to worry endlessly when she disappeared because we live in the country now and some unnamed worrywart named Joan mentioned there might be coyotes out there!  Anyway, I think Chet was worried about our worrying, so now he just texts us “Sweetpea is visiting” and we eventually go and get her (because Chet would never turn her out to find her own way home).

And I don’t really have a point to this post except to say:

  1. Sweetpea is the cutest dog on earth.
  2. Chet is utterly amazing.
  3. I’m starting to feel kinda bad about the inequitable treatment of canines in our home.

But since there’s already a bird named MoJo in our house (a whole other story) and a cat named Sushi (yep, it’s very complicated), I’m not really prepared to let two more dogs in.

I’m so very conflicted. I might need counseling. Unless there’s a pill for this sort of thing, in which case, just email me the generic name and I’ll take it from there.

With gratitude {for the veritable petting zoo that inhabits my yard and house},

Joan, who named her first dog Mary-Ann because, duh, what would you expect Joan-Marie to choose at age 10?