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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Hooray for the Pekingese

A sassy little Pekingese named Malachy won the Westminster Dog Kennel Show recently and from the disgruntled chatter on the internet you would have thought a new species from Mars won. But who can resist that face?

Many called it an overgrown rat, a ball of fur, or a dust mop. As a proud owner of a Pekingese, or Peke as they are commonly called, I must say they are a big ball of fur and their long, sweeping coat often does act as a dust mop collecting debris as it goes. But, their thick luxurious coat is one of the most desirable traits of the breed. My Gus, pictured above, has a beautiful coat that is so thick it is often difficult to see the skin below. The Peke coat is actually a double coat and it keeps them very warm in winter but can be a hazard in the summer causing them to overheat. The thick coat combined with the compromised breathing caused by their smooched-in face makes them vulnerable to heat stroke.

During shedding season in the summer I can run my fingers through Gus’s coat and come out with a handful of fur—so much so I could almost knit a sweater. A good brushing during shedding season can produce a large plastic bag full of fur.

One of the oldest known breeds

The Pekingese is one of the oldest breeds around going back over 2,000 years. Recent DNA tests confirm that the Peke is one of the oldest breeds and most closely related to the wolf genetically. It originated in China and for centuries they were owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace only. They were a passion of the Chinese Emperors and courtiers and anyone caught smuggling one out of the compound for sale suffered ruthless punishment and torture.

They made their first appearance outside of China after the Second Opium War in 1860 when British and French troops stormed the palace in the Forbidden City. When the troops arrived the emperor and his court had fled leaving behind an elderly aunt of the emperor. She had committed suicide and her five Pekingese were surrounding her body mourning her death. The dogs were removed and given to members of the British court—the Duchess of Wellington, the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon, and Queen Victoria.

Ferocious little dogs

Very small Pekes, those six pounds and under, are known as “sleeve dogs” after the custom of carrying them in the sleeves of their billowing garments. The Chinese hid them in their sleeves for protection. If attacked these ferocious dogs would come out of hiding to protect their owners—a predecessor of mace.

Pekes are perfect companions and guard dogs. Pekes were used to guard and protect the palace and temples of China. Despite their small size they can be extremely aggressive when it comes to protecting their owner. I once saw my Gus back a repairman into a corner and was barking and nipping him at his ankles. If that repairman had evil intentions he would have had to get past Gus first and that wasn’t happening.

The first “purse puppies”

Pekes are beautiful dogs and come in many different color combinations ranging from white to cream to red and grey and were carried to match their owners’ beautiful garments, thus becoming the perfect accessory dog long before Paris Hilton and her “purse puppies”.


Pekes seem to know they have been associated with the aristocracy throughout time. Their temperament is regal, intelligent and full of self-importance, they are opinionated and affectionate to those they love—or they deem worthy. They are also known as the “lion dog” because of a large ruffle or mane of fur around the neck but that name also is appropriate because they are certainly “king of their world”.

Gus is a typical Peke in every way and my loyal, faithful and constant companion. He came to us as a foster dog and became such a part of our family we couldn’t give him up for adoption. He had been transferred from a shelter where he had been for six months or longer and I picked him at a vet’s office after he had been cleared. It was a cold rainy day and as I lifted him into the seat next to me he nestled in and put his chin next to my hand that was resting on the gear shift of my sports car. He looked me in the eyes with those deep dark eyes as if to say “thank you for rescuing me and I love you.” He hasn’t left my side since that day. A special connection was established between us on that ride home and he has to be near me at all times. If I leave the house my husband says he paces and cries until I return. He follows me from room to room as I do my household chores. He is happiest when he is sleeping by my feet or in one of his several beds in the office or next to my TV chair. And, of course, he sleeps in our bed at my feet.

Gus is the typical fiercely loyal and protective Peke. He has also exhibited the traits of being courageous and bold. When he came to our home we already had another dog twenty pounds larger than Gus. Gus has now become the alpha dog by growling, attacking, and facing her down.


Another trait of the Peke is their unusual gait or walk which is a kind of rolling bounce. Their front legs are significantly bowed which contributes to this gait and it is thought this trait was bred into the breed to keep them from roaming away from the palace grounds. One legend of the Peke says it is the result of the mating of a lion and a marmoset monkey thus getting its nobleness and coat from the lion and its awkward walk from the monkey.

Another legend of the lion and the marmoset says a lion and a marmoset fell in love. The lion was too large so he went to Buddha for help. Buddha allowed the lion to shrink down to the size of the marmoset and the Pekingese was the result.

Because the Pekingese was believed to originate from Buddha they were used as temple dogs. They are not just a toy dog but were made small so they could go after and destroy little demons that might infest the palace or temple but with a big heart so they could destroy even the largest and fiercest.

“I pity the fool”

I can guarantee you that we have no demons in our house and, as Mr. T used to say—“I pity the fool” who might come to our place with evil intent. Gus the Pekingese is in control.


Below is the Standard for Pekingese written by Dowager Empress Tsu Hsi who died in 1911. This last version of the ancient Chinese standard for the Pekingese is attributed to her. The English, American, Canadian and FCI breed standards have evolved from this statement. As a Pekingese owner I feel it is a perfect description of not only the physical traits of the breed but also of its personality and temperament. As a writer, I also appreciate its poetic language.

Let the Pekingese be:

  • Let the Lion Dog be small; let it wear the swelling cape of dignity around its neck; let it display the billowing standard of pomp above its back.
  • Let its face be black; let its fore-front be shaggy; let its forehead be straight and low, like the brow of an Imperial righteous harmony boxer.
  • Let its eyes be large and luminous; let its ears be set like the sails of a war-junk; let its nose be like the monkey god of the Hindus.
  •  Let its forelegs be bent, so that it shall not desire to wander far, or leave the Imperial precincts. Let its body be shaped like that of a hunting lion spying for its prey.
  •  Let its feet be tufted with plentiful hair that its footfall may be soundless; and for its standard of pomp let it rival the whisk of the Tibetan’s yak, which flourished to protect the Imperial litter from the attacks of flying insects.
  •  Let it be lively that it may afford entertainment by its gambols; let it be timid that it may not involve itself in danger; let it be domestic in its habits that it may live in amity with other beasts, fishes or birds that find protection in the Imperial Palace.
  • Let it venerate its ancestors and deposit offerings in the Canine Cemetery of The Forbidden City on each new moon. And for its color – let it be that of a lion, a golden sable, to be carried in the sleeve of a yellow robe – or the color of a red bear, or a black and white bear – or stripped like a dragon – so that there may be dogs appropriate to every costume in the Imperial wardrobe.
  • Let it comport itself with dignity; let it learn to bite the foreign devils instantly.
  •  Let it be dainty with its food that it shall be known for an Imperial dog by its fastidiousness.
  • Shark fins and curlews’ liver and the breasts of quail – on these it may be fed; and for drink, give it the tea that is brewed from the spring buds of the shrub that grows in the province of the Habkow — or the milk of antelopes that pasture in the Imperial parks.
  • Thus it shall preserve its integrity and self-respect; and for the day of sickness, let it be anointed with the clarified fat of the leg of the sacred leopard – and give it to drink a throstle’s eggshell full of the juice of the custard apple in which there has been dissolved three pinches of shredded rhinoceros horn … and apply to it piebald leeches. So shall it remain. But if it dies, remember you too are mortal.


PS—may the Dowager Empress Tsu His forgive me. I do not give my Gus shark fins, curlews’ liver or breast of quail. Nor do I give him tea brewed from the spring buds of a shrub from the province of Habkow or milk of antelopes. Water and kibbles seem to do just fine.

Columbus, Home Sweet Home

Montage of Columbus, Ohio images. From top to ...

Image via Wikipedia

This week Columbus is celebrating its 200th anniversary; so, I feel I must take time to honor the city that has been my home for the last 43 years. Happy Birthday, Columbus!

Like so many others living in Columbus, I originated somewhere else. But that is part of what I loved about Columbus when I first arrived in 1969. So many others had come here from somewhere else but were eager to welcome you and make you feel at home. It seemed we were all a part of a growing city and we looked to the future with optimism. We worked together to make this a great city and place to work and live. There has always been a feeling of “can do” in the city. As a result of this I have watched the city I love grow from a medium-sized mid-western city to a thriving, vibrant, metropolis. A city that is proud of its past and looks forward to its future.

Big city with a small town feel

Columbus is a big city with a small town feel. Ironically, that is also one of Columbus’s biggest drawbacks—at least according to the outside world. It is often criticized as having a small town mentality and has been derogatorily called Cow Town. That name no doubt comes from its farming origins and the fact that Ohio State University began as an agricultural school with cows roaming pastures within the city limits. I even recall pictures of cows in the pasture off Lane Avenue with the city skyline in the background. I guess if you are trying to sell Columbus as a sophisticated modern city that image is self-defeating.

 Columbus is surrounded by many small communities, each with its own unique history and flavor which helps to create that hometown atmosphere. We have German Village, the Italian Village, Victorian Village, the Short North, Clintonville, Beechwold, Worthington, Westerville, Dublin, Powell, New Albany, Gahanna, Reynoldsburg, and Bexley to name a few. Each area has its own particular architecture, shops, and restaurants that help define what home is in each neighborhood. Most neighborhoods are populated with neighbors who are friendly and look after one another—a place where we can still feel safe in an ever-increasing hostile world. Why then should we feel we need to apologize to the big sophisticated cities for wanting to maintain this atmosphere?

PR people and marketers are busy trying to make us another New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Why? We have something better than all of those cities. We have people who are genuinely down to earth and who want the best for themselves, their neighbors, their state, and their country. Unlike those larger fast-paced cities where the unspoken rule is to rush down the street never looking anyone in the eye, we actually look at the stranger on the street, we are not afraid to smile at them and occasionally say hello and wish them a good day. We have been known to strike up a conversation with strangers waiting in line or seated at a table next to us in a restaurant. These are the things that should be the heartbeat of a great city, not how many museums, art galleries, sports facilities, or concert venues we have (although Columbus has a good many of these).

A melting pot of food and cultures

Columbus is the home of many different cultural groups and as a result numerous delicious and exciting ethnic restaurants. The Germans were perhaps the first large ethnic group to call Columbus home and German Village boasts wonderful old and new restaurants brimming with brats, beer and kraut along with newer and lighter cuisine. The Brewery District is reviving the old German staple—beer in all its incantations. Many handcrafted micro breweries have sprung up in the last several years not only in the brewery district but in other parts of the city as well.

 Columbus is also the home of a large Hispanic population. Scores of Asians, Somalians, and those from the middle East have also migrated to Columbus in recent years. Columbus is the typical American melting pot. Perhaps it is no coincidence we were an important stop on the Underground Railroad. That is not to say we haven’t had our share of racial strife at times but just call it growing pains.

Because of the unique mix of people and their tastes, Columbus has been called “Test City USA”. Frequently new products will be tested on Columbuscites before going nationwide.

Famous people from Columbus

Many famous people have called Columbus home. Those include: Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I ace, famous race car driver, and entrepreneur; writer James Thurber, golfer Jack Nicklaus, WWII pilot, Paul Tibbots, who dropped the first atomic bomb; boxing champ Buster Douglas; Gen William Henry Harrison during the War of 1812; artist George Bellows; zoo director Jack Hanna; Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas; the Limited founder Les Wexner; first man to orbit the earth John Glenn; first and only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin; Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes; and someone who called Columbus home involuntarily—O. Henry when he was a guest of the Ohio State Penn.

Home of many businesses

Columbus business community is alive and well, even in this down economy. It is the home (there’s that word again) of several insurance companies the largest of which is Nationwide Insurance. It is also the seat of government and the home of several universities, the largest being Ohio State University. It has a thriving arts scene and sports scene. In addition to the Buckeyes we have the Crew (professional soccer), the Blue Jackets (professional hockey), and the Clippers (farm team of the Cleveland Indians baseball) with their award-winning ball park—Huntington Park. The world’s largest private research organization, Battelle Memorial Institute also calls Columbus home. Battelle’s research lead to innovations such as Xerox copiers, CDs (compact discs) and tamper resistant packaging.

Several large chains have their home base or beginnings here including The Limited, Wendy’s Hamburgers, White Castle hamburgers, Net Jet (formerly Executive Jet), Big Lots, and all the ladies know about DSW shoes.

Several firsts occurred in Columbus including the first junior high school and the first kindergarten in the U.S., the first public school for the blind in the U.S., and the first teaching hospital in the U.S. (Starling medical College/St. Francis Hospital on the site of Grant Medical Center). Ohio State was the first football stadium to be built with two decks. Abraham Lincoln first learned he had been elected President during a stop at the State House, and the first transcontinental flight began at Port Columbus. The first shopping center, Town and Country Shopping Center opened here in 1949. The Columbus Zoo gained notoriety when the first captive born gorilla, Colo, was born here in 1956.

Three important organizations were founded here—the American Federation of Labor, the Temperance League, and the NFL.

Better than the City of Oz

I was absolutely captivated by Columbus when I first came here for the Ohio State Fair in the mid 1960s. I vividly remember coming into the city on the newly built I 71. Helicopters were buzzing around the interstate giving fair visitors rides around the city. The Fair was big, exciting, exhausting, fun, dirty, and delicious. The smells along the midway were mouth watering. That is where I had my first Schmidt’s Bahama Mamma. I can still recall the smokey flavor coming straight off the grill and the juicy pop it had in my mouth as I bit through the sausage casing. I recall driving out of the city looking backwards through the back window and watching the fireworks closing the fair for the day and thinking this was better than the City of Oz.

All of this was new and exciting for a girl from the hills of West Virginia. My boyfriend at the time came with us that day. Several years later we married and made Columbus our first choice as a place to call home. As luck (or fate) would have it, we both found jobs very quickly and moved here as soon as possible after graduating from college. We never looked back.

Home at last

James Thurber said, “Columbus is a town in which almost anything is likely to happen and in which almost everything has.” I think that is a perfect description as it suggests a certain excitement and spontaneity. As Columbus celebrates its 200th birthday and marketers continue to search for a catchy phrase I offer my own humble contribution—

                           COLUMBUS, HOME AT LAST—HOLEY COW!


Below is a picture taken on that momentous day of my first visit to Columbus. Left to right are: my mother, Phyllis; my sister, Bari; my future husband, David; my brother, Kelly; and my father Jim (I’m the one behind the camera). Notice the OHIO gate in the background.

Kraft brings back ‘Golden Voice’ spokesman Ted Williams


 I always love a story with a good ending. I am happy to report that Kraft Mac and Cheese and Ted Williams are teaming up for a very special Valentine’s Day salute.

Kraft will donate 100 boxes of Mac and Cheese to Feeding America for every tweet (up to 100,000 boxes) using the hashtag #VoiceofLove on Valentine’s themed tweets. In addition, Williams will record a personalized video message for each person to share with a loved one from 100 selected tweets.

Williams is the perfect person for Kraft to use for their social media campaign to fight hunger. He was once homeless and hungry himself and then shot to fame a little over a year ago when he was found on the streets with a sign advertising himself as “the man with the golden voice”. I have written about him several times on this blog therefore I will not go into depth here.

I give two thumbs up for this effort—one for Williams and his hard work on the road to sobriety and one to Kraft for recognizing his efforts. If I tweeted I would take advantage of this offer but, unfortunately, I don’t. So, tweeters get those sweet tweets out there!

Kraft brings back ‘Golden Voice’ spokesman Ted Williams.

50 Million Women Can’t Be Wrong

Girl Scouts Celebrate 100 years of Building Character


Over 50 million women can’t be wrong. That is how many women have participated in Girl Scouting since its inception in 1812. Today there are 3.2 million active Girl Scouts. That number breaks down to 2.3 million young women and 890,000 adults, most of whom serve as volunteers.

On March 12 the organization will officially turn 100 but celebrations are occurring throughout the year. The Girl Scouts began the year in a big way with a float in the New Year’s Day Rose Parade. A special celebration was even held on Capitol Hill where Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Cali.) talked about her struggles growing up Mexican without a lot of friends and how, when her mother put her in Brownies, she instantly made friends. “I had a lot of fun showing them how to make things like enchiladas and tacos,” she said. “And now, my sister and I are the only two sisters to serve in Congress ever.”

I am proud to be a Girl Scout alum

I am proud to count myself among those 50 million women. I began scouting as a Brownie Scout in the second grade. Much to my mother’s dismay I insisted upon going to camp that first year.  So, at the tender age of seven my parents deposited me at the large Army surplus tent housing about 15 girls with my bedroll, situpon, and orange crate that doubled as a night stand and left wondering what was in my head to want to stay in such a god-forsaken place.  But to me it was heaven.

 Every summer for the next 9 years I returned to summer camp. I even counted the days beginning at Christmas until the next camp. I never got homesick but I quite often got “campsick” and cried for days after camp ended each summer. This is where I made great friends, learned the names of the trees, the constellations and the stories behind them, how to make a lanyard, how to swim, how to keep my cool in front of a snake (and other stressful situations), and how to live with nature. This was the beginning of my love affair with the out-of-doors, my respect for mother earth and all her creatures, and my love for folk music. I remember gathering around the camp fire and singing at the top of my lungs camp songs that had their roots in old folk tunes. By the end of my 10 years of scouting I probably knew a hundred camp songs.

Scouting shaped my character

Scouting is where I learned leadership skills, honed my sales skills selling the traditional Girl Scout cookies, first learned how to sew, learned valuable first aid, learned how to properly display and fold the American flag, and had my first experiences as a teacher. I learned to accept others for what they are, no matter their cultural or economic background. Nicole Pasulka wrote in Mother Jones that the Girl Scouts have often been ahead of the curve, if just by a hair, on hot-button cultural issues. Pasulka is not alone in that sentiment, in 1956, Martin Luther King Jr. called Girl Scouts a “force for desegregation”.

We also worshipped together. Although the Girl Scouts is not a religious organization we also didn’t shy away from it. We had meetings at different churches and sometimes attended worship services at those churches. We also experienced a certain spirituality living with nature.

Scouting taught me the thrill of accomplishing a goal. All of those badges on my sash weren’t just silly patches of cloth but represented an accomplishment of finishing a project and learning a new skill.

I once attended a women’s professional conference and over dinner at a table with women from around the country we all discovered we had something in common—we were all former Girl Scouts. If I were a mother of young girls I would enroll my daughters into the Girl Scouts to give them an extra edge in the competitive business world. In Girl Scouts every girl is an equal and important member of the troop and learns to be a contributing member of society. She learns that what she does is valuable and there is no competition with the male ego. Within the confines of Girl Scouts every girl learns she has something important to contribute to society and by the time she reaches adulthood she is ready to confidently take her place in the professional world.

My adult life is a reflection the many things I learned in the Girl Scouts. I went on to become a teacher and then have worked for myself for many years, I have been active and held offices in many professional and community organizations, I swim a couple of times a week at the local Y, I find I constantly set goals for myself, I still love folk music, and I’m not afraid to be my own person. All are skill sets I first learned in scouting.


The Girl Scout Mission Statement    

The Girl Scouts is the fertile ground for developing leaders. Its mission states that its purpose is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. The mission statement adds: Girls develop their leadership potential through activities that enable them to discover their values and skills, and the world around; connect with others in a multicultural environment; and take action to make a difference in the world. Through scouting girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Girl scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others.

Many of the women leaders today are former Girl Scouts. Eleven of the 17 women (59%) in the U.S. Senate and forty-five of the seventy-five women (60%) in the House of Representatives are former Girl Scouts. Fifty- three percent of all women business owners have a scouting background.

The scouting influence has even reached beyond these earthly bonds. Over twenty of NASA’s career astronauts were former Girl Scouts and the first American woman to walk in space, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, was a former Girl Scout. Other famous American Girl Scouts are Dakota Fanning, Lucille Ball, Katie Couric, and Elizabeth Dole. In addition, many other Girl Scouts have become successful leaders in numerous professional fields such as law, medicine, politics, journalism, and science.

Today’s Girl Scouts are tomorrow’s leaders

I am glad to see that the Girl Scouts are still strong a hundred years later and they are looking forward to the next century. They have launched a program called ToGetHerThere which is the boldest advocacy and fundraising cause dedicated to girls’ leadership in the nation’s history. The aim of ToGetHerThere is equal representation of women in leadership positions in all sectors and levels of society within one generation.

Look out world because the sisterhood of Girl Scouts is alive and strong. Think how much better the world can be when women finally take their rightful place at the helm of society. The Girl Scouts is the best training ground possible to lay the foundation of courage, confidence, and character for tomorrow’s leaders. Get on board sisters, the fun is just beginning.

 Below are pictures of me as a Senior Aide to Girl Scout Troop 71 in Huntington, WV. I have also included pictures of my uniform I wore as a Senior Scout. The uniform may be a little wrinkled, as is its owner, but not bad for 50+ years later.

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THE ARTIST—Everything Old Is New Again


Who would have thought that a little known French director and his two French stars could do a silent movie and turn it into a hit in the days of everything electronic and computerized? The Artist turns the world upside down and proves that you don’t need 3D, CGI, and other fancy electronic tricks to make a spell-binding movie.

It is refreshing to sit in a darkened movie theatre and be at one with your senses and emotions. We learn there are other ways to communicate rather than with words. Between the actors’ expressions and the mood of the music we have no problem understanding what is happening on the screen. The audience is taken through a wide range of emotions and by the end of the movie we realize we have experienced hubris, joy, happiness, sadness, fear, tragedy, pathos, loyalty, and much more without a single word ever spoken.

The Artist parallels the decline of a silent movie star with the rise of a young starlet at the beginning of talkies. The movie begins in 1927 when George Valentin, a dashing and somewhat narcissistic silent movie star, literally bumps into Peppy Miller, a young woman eager to break into the movies. They are immediately attracted to each other and he becomes responsible for her big break by insisting she be in his next movie.

The Artist then jumps ahead to 1929 when the whole world changes. George Valentin is informed by the studio head, Al Zimmer (played by John Goodman), that talkies are the future. Valentin laughs at this prospect and walks out to write, direct, and finance his own movie. As fate (and old movie melodramas) would have it, his movie, and that of his protégée’s, Peppe Miller, both premier on October 25. Her movie is a big hit while his flops drastically leaving him financially ruined. In addition, we all know what else happened the end of October 1929. The great depression hits sending Valentin into a deep alcoholic depression of his own.

I won’t go into any more plot detail because I would like the reader to go see the movie for yourself, however, it is safe to say that, as in any good old-fashioned movie, we have to have a happy ending.

The movie has already won a lot of awards and is guaranteed to win more before the awards season is over. It is nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a leading role, and Best Actress in a supporting role. Jean Dujardin, who plays George Valentin, seems to have a rubber face as he goes through a wide range of emotions. Berenice Bejo is appropriately perky and peppy in her portrayal of Peppy Miller. And, John Goodman is bigger than life as he plays the cigar- chomping, studio boss. Although each actor is excellent, I must say my favorite is Uggie the Jack Russell dog. He is Valentin’s faithful companion and provides the comic relief.

The director, Michel Hazanavicius, has successfully made a beautiful homage to movies. He said he had fantasized about making a silent film for years because many of the filmmakers he admires emerged in the silent era and because of the image-driven nature of the form. He chose the form of the melodrama because he felt that many of the films that had aged best were melodramas. He did extensive research about 1920s Hollywood and studied films to find the right techniques to make the story comprehensible without having too many intertitles to explain the actors unspoken words.

Throughout the movie I couldn’t help but make comparisons to famous actors and scenes from the past such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Valentino, Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, and many more. The Artist is a visual masterpiece with just the right amount of highlights and shadows to make a scene memorable. It is also a joy to sit back and listen to the score which dances around our emotions evoking every feeling possible and then crescendoing to an unforgettable climax.

The Artist is more than just a work of art it is a work of genius. It is a must see for any serious movie buff, lover of the arts, or anyone tired of loud crash’em up, bang’em up movies. It is a breath of fresh air in today’s hectic world.

 I give it an A.