January 2021

Well it’s been a helluva month. In COVID-19 news, the world continues to rage with the disease. It seems like some places will be a bit better for a while and then will get bad again. My town was for some time at the top of the list of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which isn’t a list I feel especially good about being at the top of. Our family has thankfully stayed safe and COVID-free. We’re continuing to live as hermits for the most part, though we are letting my son play more out in the neighborhood than we had been, which I hope is a calculated risk we don’t come to regret. The world out there seems largely normal, but with most people wearing masks. That said, I do see people crowding restaurants and bars and such, which blows my mind.

We got a dog named Baxter, a Great Pyrenees whom I’ll write about at greater length before too long. I’ve resisted getting a second dog for a long time but decided five years to the date (coincidentally) after we got our other dog that I was willing (and even eager) to get a companion for her. After visiting a couple of shelters with so-so luck, I found a lesser-known animal rescue group nearby that happened to have this lovely big pooch. We gave him a trial run for a couple of weeks starting at the end of 2020 and made the adoption official in the last week. He’s a sweetheart, if a loud one.

And then there’s U.S. politics. Trump was thankfully voted out of office, but I wasn’t going to believe he would actually leave office until I witnessed it on January 20. I figured he and his minions would find some way to cheat or intimidate their way into keeping him in office. And they sure tried. On January 6 while I was working, I started hearing news reports that a “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C. had erupted into an assault on the Capitol. January 6 is the day that the legislature vote to certify the election results. Trump conveniently held a rally on this day during which he incited the crowd to march down the mall to the Capitol and basically see their will done. A mob of people in MAGA hats and various flags (including the Confederate flag) stormed the Capitol and overwhelmed the curiously small police force there, breaching various offices and one of the chambers of legislature. It was brazen, as if they knew they’d get away with it minus any consequences. Some have begun to suffer some consequences, but it was terrifying that things came to this point. They erected a gallows and called for the assassination of Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence (whom Trump was upset at for not colluding with him to steal the election). Eventually, reinforcements arrived (it appears that Trump’s goons at the Pentagon were complicit in withholding troops) and the situation was gotten under control, but even then, the rioters were politely escorted away and allowed (most of them) to leave. By contrast, BLM protesters all summer were shot with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, beaten, and locked up. This is what white supremacy looks like.

The legislature resumed their work and in spite of the resistance of 100+ Republican legislators certified the election. Biden would be president, it seemed. (But who knew what else Trump and his mob might try?) A week later, the House of Representatives voted (with 10 Republicans crossing the aisle) to impeach Trump, the first time a president has ever been twice impeached. And the week after that, Biden and Harris were sworn in. This was a profound relief.

Trump had had his social media accounts suspended as he continued to lie and foment his supporters. That alone was a relief, but then seeing Biden sworn in and the Trump apparatus disassembled, with Trump and his crooked children making tracks at last, enabled me to exhale. Normalcy and dignity and something resembling the truth are returning to at least the executive branch of the U.S. government. Now we just need to shame and indict and punish Trump and his many enablers.

Here’s to a less eventful February, and here’s to a vast reduction in how much we have to hear from Trump and his sort. What a stain.


I haven’t posted about our mangy cur in a while, so here goes. When we last had her weighed, Maisy was around 70 pounds, and I’d guess she’s a bit more now. She curls up into deceptively small spaces on the couch, especially if she can find a pillow to cuddle with. If she gets a whiff of a shot at getting her belly rubbed, she’ll roll over for it, and she’s got a smile (if you’ll forgive the anthropomorphism) both winning and goofy. She’s about 2.5 years old, has been with us for a little short of two years, and has turned into a pretty good dog (though she still doesn’t reliably know her name or do much of anything we tell her to other than sitting, which to be fair is our fault more than hers).

Maisy Update

We’ve had Maisy for a little over a month now, and it’s been a pretty mixed experience for us. Shortly after we got Maisy, M got a job outside the home after years without one, and in retrospect, we should probably have waited and made one major life change at a time.

On the whole, Maisy is a good dog. She’s sweet and playful, and it’s mostly worth the bruises and scratches and bite marks I persistently sport now. Her paws may have scratched up our nice wood floors, but at least she’s only destroyed small parts of a few pieces of furniture, a bunch of toys, and most recently her nice soft bed.

She’s actually coming along a bit in her training. I started an obedience class with her this week. We had already been working on her learning her name and “sit,” and now we’re working on a couple of other commands. She’s starting to grok “down,” but I’m less optimistic about her understanding a few of the other commands any time soon.

In spite of the havoc she has wrought in our routines and on our home, I’m enjoying her. I feel like I spend more time giving her attention now than I do my kids, and I’m eager for that to taper off as she continues to become integrated into our lives (and us into hers), but she’s enriched my life a bit, if perhaps not yet as much as she has complicated it.


For months now my daughter has been asking me for a dog. Our pup of many years died a couple of years ago, and though I was sad to lose him, I’ve also been pleased not to have to wake up in the middle of the night to let him out, not to have to find a place for him to stay when we’re out of town, not to have to listen to his shrill barking at times when it’s annoying. We’ve also since made a bunch of improvements to the house, including new carpet, and I haven’t wanted a dog to come along and destroy those improvements. And finally, it hurts to lose a dog, and you do eventually wind up losing the dog. I’ve maintained that I was perfectly happy just visiting with the dogs of friends and family. It’s been a pretty good few years for me dog-wise.

But my daughter is persistent. A couple of months ago, she started occasionally emailing me pictures and videos of cute dogs. She has of course continued to talk about wanting a dog. Any time we’ve visited with a dog, her happiness has been hard to look past. All of these things seem to have led to my deciding that maybe a dog isn’t such a bad thing after all. They’re soft and snuggly and friendly, and they make kids happy. They make my wife feel less vulnerable when I’m traveling. There’s a lot to be said for owning a dog.

I spent a few weeks mulling it over sort of passively, by which I suppose I mean that I learned that my daughter should go into marketing because her tricks influenced me to convince myself that I might like to have a dog not merely as a concession to the rest of the family (who all wanted one) but also because I might find it pleasant myself.

So the other morning, I told my wife I thought we should consider getting a dog for Christmas (there’s more to the story, but that’s the end result), and we found a sweet looking dog on a local shelter’s web site and drove to visit with her. A few hours later, after some time waiting, some time getting her bathed, and some expensive time at the pet store, we brought home the very nice dog pictured below. She’s a yellow lab (maybe some kind of a mix?) about 9 months old and about 43 pounds.

We had some initial contention about what to name her. My wife and I both sort of wanted Jolene, mostly for the comic effect of calling her to come in from the back yard. My daughter wanted to name her Dumbledore. One of the kids wanted to name her Chewbacca (though we’re not really super big Star Wars fans and haven’t seen the new movie yet, so I’m not really sure where that came from). One of the kids mentioned that a friend’s dog was named Daisy, and it made me think of Maisy, which I think is cute and which shortens to something that sounds like maize, which is a yellowish color for our yellowish pup. Our family has a weird, complicated name, so I proposed that something weird and complicated might be appropriate, and we agreed in the end on Maisy Jolene Hyzenthlay Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Learn-Houston.


My sister-in-law has slowly been building up a bit of a menagerie. A couple of years ago, she had a bunch of dogs, a couple of cats, and a few chickens, but more recently, she’s added goats, a lot more chickens, and a couple of brand new wild pigs. We took the kids over today to take a look. Although it’s not really a working farm, the place has begun to resemble something of a farmyard, and the kids really enjoyed feeding the goats and holding the smaller animals.


Trixie 1981.JPG

I was looking through some old photos and found this one of Trixie, a dog we owned when I was little. Really it’s  more of a photo of the dog house my dad built than of Trixie, and I remember the pen (which he also built) and the dog house more than I remember the dog. In the photo, she seems more stout than I remembered her being. About all I can recall about her is that sometimes we’d keep her on a chain in the yard (with lots of room to move about) and that she at least once broke the chain and ran off. I think she either ran away or was hit by a car. This photo is from 1981, when I would have been 4 or 5, and I have photos of our next dog, Bo Peep, from 1982, so this must have been pretty close to the end of Trixie’s time with us.

Bo Peep

When I was pretty young, my family got what was called a toy apricot poodle (“toy” referring to her size and “apricot” to her expected color, though she wound up not being apricot after all). My dad threatened to name her “Cat” but we ultimately settled on the pretty obvious “Bo Peep.” She was a cute little dog with a lot of personality.

More than once she was run over (accidentally) by bicycles, and once my mother accidentally slit her throat while grooming her (thankfully she just buttonholed the skin). She loved popcorn and would pretty much maul you to get a piece of bread. She could do some of the basic tricks on command and would also dance (twirling around in a sort of hopping circle) if you twirled a treat above her head.

She lived to be 17 or 18 years old, and by the end, she was pretty well blind and she had a sickly sweet odor about her. I believe my dad finally put her down while I was away at college.

The pictures below show her mostly at a cute phase of her early life in 1982, though in the one shot from 1989, she looks sort of evil, guarding that horrible 70s couch alongside some handsome devil, mostly out of frame, sporting a fashionable pair of what were then called jams.