Dogs in Engalnd

I just spent three weeks in Cornwall England and this is what I learned:

Never I have been someplace where people love and honor dogs more. It seems every local has at least one dog, and they walk them everywhere. Almost every business allows dogs in with their people, and if a dog is lost or appears to be in any kind of distress many are concerned and there to help.

Also found it interesting that the dogs keep to their people off leash closely, and even on a beach crowded with dogs romping in the sea there are no fights or skirmishes, only fun and frolic. This visit brought to light the height of the human-animal bond, and I am mightily impressed.

I would venture to guess an artist of pets could make a fine living here!

“Look! What’s that floating out there in the middle of the lake?” queried Virginia Moore Tuesday evening, as she and her brother, Terry Moore, of Sedona, Ariz., and friend, Judi Paul, of Chocorua were paddling on Conway Lake.

“Looks like a piece of driftwood,” said Judi.

“I don’t think so. I’m paddling over to check it out,” said Virginia, who is the executive director of the Conway Area Humane Society, and who is well-known as a lover and rescuer of animals, mostly cats and dogs, but now she can add another species to her list:

Squirrels.

That’s right, a grey squirrel, to be exact.

“I thought it might be a snake; Judi thought it might be junk. But I saw something move. So, I paddled over and saw it was … a squirrel,” Virginia, said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “It was swimming, in the middle of the lake. It was doing a dog paddle — no, make that a squirrel paddle,” laughed Virginia, who was taking a day off Thursday with family and friends, prior to getting ready for the Conway Area Humane Society’s upcoming Walk for the Animals and Bark in the Park Pet Expo fund-raiser, set for North Conway’s Schouler Park Sept. 21.

As far as we know, there will not be a squirrel category, but one never knows.

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Barley the dog

What Comes Around…

When I first came to The Mt. Washington Valley from Michigan, it was Memorial Day, 1983. I had driven all night to get to water sports camp so I could get my certification to become a canoe instructor and camp counselor at Camp Walden in Denmark, Maine. I drove straight through and journeyed through the Green Mountains of Vermont in the pre-dawn of early morning. I entered North Conway as the first light of day was casting what I later learned was Alpenglow on majestic Mt. Washington, which was still covered in snow and looked like something one would see in Colorado, not New Hampshire. Having grown up an Ohio flatlander I thought of New England as a place one goes to see the ocean and beaches, not giant snowy mountain peaks. I couldn’t believe it, and I looked forward to a summer that would be filled with adventure and the opportunity to learn more about this beautiful part of the country I had never visited and knew very little about.

Little did I know that day I would return to the Valley the following September and make it my home. Beginning July 2001 I began working for the Mt. Washington Observatory as the editor of Windswept, the organization’s quarterly journal. I did this job for six years. It was a dream job for me, and it was where I learned about non-profits, fundraising, working with boards and volunteers and teamwork. I loved it. The only thing that could lure me away was the opportunity to do the same work to benefit homeless animals, so I made the decision to embark on a career in animal welfare at an animal shelter that was very new to the Valley. In my time at MWO I met some wonderful people, many of them still good friends who live in or near the Mt. Washington Valley. One of those wonderful people is Charlie Lopresti, Chief Meteorologist at WGME Channel 13 in Portland, Maine. I met Charlie shortly after I started working at the Obs, as he worked atop the mighty mountain as a weather observer. After he left the Obs it was fun to watch his career blossom at WGME, where he still reports the good news/bad news and ever changing New England forecast.

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Harry The cat

Harry the Cat showed up on my Facebook memory today. He joined our animal family on this day, August 31, in 2010. He was a feral kitten who lingered at the shelter until he was 5-months old  because he was not friendly or social and he glared at anyone who dare come near his cage. He was housed near my office in the shelter, where I served as executive director until this past March. I walked by him every day, tried to make friends but he just glared, and if I tried to pet him he cringed and sometimes hissed at me.

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Sophie

Everyone remembers their firsts. First day of school, fist date, first crush, first kiss, first job, first heartbreak, well, you get the idea.

I am telling the story of my first pet portrait, the one that started all of this. This, which as it seems is saving my sanity, my sense of self worth, and on some level I suppose my quality of life.

Animals have been my life as long as I can remember. As a child I interacted with any living creature be or insect, reptile or 4-legged. From the tiniest of bugs to the largest horse I was fascinated and felt they had their place on the planet. I bought a dead bat for fifty cents from a kid when I was 8-years-old, and I forgot it was in my pocket. My poor mom found it when she did laundry. We had racehorses pastured across the street from our house, and I used to sneak out late at night, climb the fence and ride them bareback holding onto their mane. No fear, and no obviously common sense.

I had horses most of my life. My first horse, Tuffy, was a red sorrel half Appaloosa and half thoroughbred. He was green broke and I paid $150 for him from the local horse farmer. I didn’t know what I was doing but somehow I trained him to be a gentle and bombproof trail horse.

Where am I going with all of this? I am leading to the story of my first pet portrait. It was February of 1998. I was living in a broken down old house in Stow, Maine with my eccentric but lovable friend and talented cartoonist Mark Heath. Google him if you wish, very talented man. I traveled often then as I was working as a hiking guide for New England Hiking Holidays and we had our annual Hawaii trip coming up. A month-long trip, and always a wonderful adventure, I was thrilled to have Mark at my house to watch over the creatures. I had plenty of them in those days. Mark was a self employed cartoonist an artist and a dear friend. My yellow lab Sophie had been a bit off health-wise prior to my departure and Mark was happy to take her to the vet for me in my absence. We had two trips on the Big Island, and in the three-day break between trips I received a call from my veterinarian. She went under anesthesia for exploratory surgery and nothing could be done to save her as it was too advanced and was affecting other organs. She was euthanized that day. I was in shock, devastated and overcome with grief. I was a mess. I wandered around Volcano National Park and the rain forest in tears feeling like the worst human in the world for leaving my dog behind, realizing I would never see her again, and that I never got to say goodbye.

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On August 3 and 4 I was fortunate to take part in the annual Mt. Washington Valley Art in the Park. Held in the center of North Conway, NH, this yearly event displays the works of artists of every medium and draws thousands of visitors.

I am also proud to be a new member of the organizations’s board of directors. During my two days in the park I met so many wonderful people and made many contacts for paintings. With the help of my friends I was able to set up a number of paintings for display and sale and made many contacts for promotion and work. It was an amazing weekend!

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