The Price of the Doggie in the Window

My Italian Greyhound Moose is the four-legged love of my life. He has a fabulous temperament, is well trained, and at nearly 13 years old is in good health save for a seizure on rare occasions. Having said that, never again would I purchase a puppy from a pet store.

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While we have been lucky in terms of Moose’s disposition and health, many puppies bought from pet shops aren’t as fortunate. Sure, the cute puppies in the cages are adorable, but shops don’t want you to know how they acquire them.

You may remember news reports about sick puppies sold to unsuspecting consumers. They bring their new family member home, take them to the vet for their well visit, and are heartbroken to learn their puppy has been diagnosed with an illness or has a hereditary condition. Their new addition will cost them a lot of money over the course of their life, but the heartbreak they will endure when their puppy’s life is cut short due to irresponsible breeding practices is immeasurable.

If you read the tags on the puppy cages in pet stores, they will list the origins of the puppies. You may notice that a majority of them will come from the Midwest. Have you ever wondered why? The Midwest is the puppy mill capital of the United States, with Lancaster, Pennsylvania known for puppy mills on the East Coast.

The parents of your cute new pup live in a puppy mill. Live isn’t the right word, it’s more like they exist. These dogs are held in unsanitary cramped quarters, have little to no veterinary care, and are also deprived human interaction. Filthy wire cages are stacked atop each other, allowing the elimination of the animals to fall onto the dogs below.

The parents are forced to produce repeated litters until they are no longer able. When that happens, they are no use to the miller, and are destroyed. A scant few make it to rescue, but the majority are killed when no longer profitable.

As for the litters of puppies, they are usually taken from the mother too soon, leading to issues for the new owner. There is no health testing or vet care for them as well. They are loaded onto trucks and driven to pet shops. Some animals die during transport.

That is the reality behind the cute puppies you see in the pet stores. What can you do to make a difference in the lives of these animals? First, adopt don’t shop. Shelters and rescues are filled with puppies and dogs waiting for their forever homes. Purebreds can also be found in shelters, and there are many breed rescues. When you adopt your new friend, be sure to patronize pet supply stores that do not sell puppies or kittens. The mills will shutter if the demand for pet store puppies is eliminated.

Chain pet stores as well as independent shops often feature adoption events at their locations in lieu of animals from puppy mills. Some supply chains such as the shop where I purchased Moose, have gone out of business. That is a big win for the dogs and the humans who love them.

Please search this important topic for more information beyond the scope of this blog.

Black Cat Appreciation Day

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Black Cat Appreciation Day was August 17. While we should be thankful for all our feline companions, cats born with a black coat can have a more difficult life.

For some reason, black cats are the hardest to place with people looking to add a new family member to their home. No one is sure why that is, but it seems to be true in shelters across the country. Perhaps their coats aren’t perceived as pretty as other colors. They don’t stand out as well in their shelter enclosures or online photos in comparison to their more colorful peers. Maybe their ebony fur combined with cats’ natural sneaky nature make them unappealing. Is it because of superstition, such as not allowing one to cross your path? Black cats became synonymous with witches during the Salem Witch Trials in America, with some people believing that the malevolent ladies can take this animal form to move from place to place unnoticed.

Not all countries have an aversion to black cats. They are considered good luck in places such as Italy, Great Britain, Russia and Japan. The Egyptians idolized all cats, and harming one was a serious infraction.

Max - Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Max – Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Did you know that black cats are often the friendliest cats? Maybe they are grateful to be received into a loving home. Orange colored male cats are also said to be friendly, although my Tiger is an exception. I love him, but he is a bit of a jerk, in particular when it’s near feeding time. I adopted him from the shelter and I know he is grateful in his own way.

Many kitties born the darkest color can be found in shelters and rescues across the country waiting for pet parents to give them a good home. Some adoption centers will run specials on black cats, either reducing their adoption fee or eliminating it. If you’re interested in adding a black cat to your home, be sure it’s not right before Halloween. Many shelters and rescues will not adopt a black cat out at that time due to fear. There are some disturbed people that don’t have these cats’ best interests in mind, and to protect them, shelter workers will not allow them to be adopted at this time. It’s the best solution for everyone involved.

I have always wanted a black cat, an onyx colored friend I could give a fun name related to my favorite holiday, Halloween. Most of the cats who have come into my life have been tabbies, with a tortoiseshell and dilute calico in the mix. I have never been owned by a solid colored cat, but that’s just how it worked out. I wouldn’t resist a homeless kitty based on coat color. If you’re not considering adopting a black cat, you may be missing out on a best friend. Just as humans promote the black cat with an appreciation day, black cats appreciate the chance to be placed in a loving home. Please don’t overlook them when considering a new companion for your family.

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Pendulum Board

On the last trip to my happiest place on earth, Salem, Massachusetts, I made my annual stop at my favorite purveyor of witchy goods. Hex Old World Witchery is located on Essex Street, and if you only have time to visit one store, be sure this is it. It’s one-stop shopping for all your witch needs. Even for non-witches like myself, a trip to Salem is not complete without a browse through this interesting place. I adore it.

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Inside the store is a witch’s altar. Visitors can write messages to their departed loved ones and leave them on the sacred place. You can also purchase a reading from an authentic Salem witch during your stay.

Hex is filled with interesting products including candles, books, and herbs for spell casting. I have a cross made from coffin nails hanging above the back door to my home. I also have loose coffin nails in a red mojo bag for protection. There is something creepy yet awesome about the nails I have given them as gifts to others I think would enjoy them. I bought a pink poppet that is for love and friendship, but could also be used to cast spells. The doll safely resides in my curio cabinet.

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Last year I finally bought a pendulum board, a divination tool used by witches, after a long time admiring them. They range in price from ornate carved boards costing hundreds of dollars, to my little hand painted board which set me back around $30, plus another $10 for the pendulum. Many stores in the city sell them, but I wanted one from my favorite place. My board appears to be hand made from wood, there was not another like it for sale. What attracted me to it was the style. It has a witch riding a broom and “Hex” and “Salem Mass” are found below the painting, making it functional as a souvenir as well as a spirit board.

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A pendulum is needed to use the board. It swings toward its answer, and I chose a silver cone shape on a long chain from the many varieties from which to choose. Some were goldtone, others were crystals. All pieces were varying sizes and shapes, all attached to matching chains from which to hold the pendulum over the board. The pendulum is the equivalent of a Ouija board planchette, but much prettier. I chose silver because it matched my board the best.

My board lacks the standard markings of a Ouija board, but instead has N R Y P N around the top of the board. I believe they stand for no, repeat, yes, probably, and no again. Not all spirit boards have the same letters written on them. Some may have the alphabet, numbers, true, and false. You have to tailor your questions in such a way that the board can answer, depending on the responses it was designed give.

I like my pendulum board, and it makes a great conversation piece, as its permanent home is on my coffee table. It’s also much cooler than a Ouija board or Magic 8 Ball. What treasure will I bring home from my trip this Halloween? I’m thinking I’d like a spell book to lay next to the board. Blessed be!

Mercy for the Vampire Hunters

We took a little side trip on our way home from the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts. If that adventure weren’t scary enough, we decided to visit the grave of New England vampire legend Mercy Brown, who is interred in the Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Exeter, Rhode Island.

George Brown was losing family members at a rapid pace to what we now know is consumption/tuberculosis. First his wife died, followed by a daughter six months later. Seven years passed before son Edwin became ill with presumably the same disease that took his mother and sister. While father and son were away to seek treatment, George’s other daughter Mercy became sick and died at age 19. After returning home, Edwin’s condition continued to deteriorate. He claimed his sister Mercy visited him at night, attempting to drain his blood. Fearing vampirism, the Brown women were exhumed. Both the mother and first sister to die were suitably decomposed, but Mercy’s body had shifted in its coffin and was in decent condition. (It’s worth mentioning that the older ladies had been deceased nearly 10 years, while Mercy had been gone only 2 months, her body most likely still in the crypt until the ground thawed for burial). Her corpse was cut open, revealing a still-fresh heart. The organ was removed and burned on a nearby stone. Its ashes were mixed with a potion and given to her brother Edwin to drink, believing it would cure him. It didn’t and he died anyway. For more on Mercy Brown, click here.  It’s interesting to note that Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, five years after Mercy Brown died. News accounts of Mercy’s exhumation were found with Stoker’s belongings after his death.

The cemetery sits behind a small Baptist church. It looked harmless enough, but I wondered if we were trespassing since no one was around, at least not living anyway. Our directions were simple yet concise. We drove past the rock wall and found the grave on our left.

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I admit I jumped a mile when a butterfly descended from a nearby tree as I examined the tombstone. Little did I know that would be the first scare of the day.

The stone seemed ordinary, save for the added metal support to thwart another theft. On the reverse side of the monument were more gifts for Mercy, including a creepy voodoo doll. It was so unusual that I needed to take photos of it.

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After the photo session, we found across the cemetery the crypt where it was rumored Mercy’s body was once held. The deceased were stored in these little buildings until the ground thawed enough to be dug for burials.

At the top of the crypt, to the left, we discovered a hole made from missing rock. Undaunted, we stuck a camera in the hole hoping to capture a picture of something creepy. No such luck, just like Charlie Brown, all we got was a rock in the photo.

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Maybe we should have left Chestnut Hill when I felt odd about being there. It was 3:00 in the afternoon, so I figured a quick trip would be okay. Maybe we should have left when we spotted the voodoo doll on Mercy’s grave. Maybe trying to get a photo inside the crypt was taking things too far.

We took photos of the outside of the crypt, and with me in front of it. My companions were teasing that something was behind me, coming out of the crypt. Whatever it was could wait, our work at the cemetery was done. We were on our way back to New Jersey, or so we thought.

We piled into the blue SUV, turned onto another dirt road leading out of the cemetery and heard a pop. The driver said it was nothing, just ran over a rock. We limped our way out of the cemetery and into the parking lot of the adjacent church. We discovered another blown tire, the second on this particular trip. I noticed the church’s sign, “Faith is a refusal to panic.” I had faith we would get out of there, but given our location, panic was setting in.

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It was actually a good thing that this was the second flat tire, as we learned with the first that the donut had to be inflated with help from roadside assistance. The three of us removed all of our luggage from the vehicle to get to the spare, our belongings now in a pile in the parking lot. While the guys got down to business of removing the bad tire, I used my smartphone to find a place to get another tire. I located a shop about 4 miles away and gave them a call. The lady who answered confirmed that they did sell tires, the last vehicle goes on the lift at 4:15. It was now 3:30 p.m. I told her we would be over as soon as we could get the donut on the car. Now experienced with tire changing, the guys had the donut mounted for the second time in 48 hours. As we piled all of our stuff back into the car, I glanced at the clouds above. I was hoping we could make it to the tire place before the rain.

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I programmed the GPS for the service center, which was located on Nooseneck Road. I can’t make this stuff up. It turns out Indians used to hang nooses in trees to catch deer, thus the name of the road. I just had to look it up, although slightly disappointed in the origin.

We found the service center, which was also a salvage lot, before they closed. Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses came to mind. I expected Rufus Jr. to come out of the ramshackle building to fix our wheel. I noticed they were burning something beyond the yard gate. Was it the bodies of other stranded travelers?

On top of all this, the three of us were in desperate need of a restroom. From the looks of the place, for the first time in my life I considered relief in the woods across the street. We were told the restroom wasn’t for the public, but the bathroom police relaxed her stance on that when they found one tire, the last in stock, that would fit our vehicle.

The facilities were clean and usable, but the curtain that slid across the doorway was a bit disconcerting because there was a man standing directly outside the thin partition. As awkward as it was, I was happy to have a decent place to do my business. It was better than the woods, anyway.

Our bladders at last empty, we took some fresh water from the cooler in the office, and thanked the woman for her hospitality. Rufus Jr. had our car fixed and we were ready to roll out of there. New Jersey never sounded so good.

Some traffic aside, the remaining hours of our journey were smooth. It was an enjoyable trip, but all of us were glad to be home. Maybe Mercy Brown didn’t appreciate us traipsing around her final resting place, but with our tire mishap, someone, somewhere, had mercy for the vampire hunters.

My K-Cup Runneth Over

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I am a confessed coffee addict. I’m the only coffee drinker in my house, and my caffeine intake is limited for health reasons, so I never brew a whole pot. Before the single serve brewer came into my life, I drank exclusively Café Francais instant powder mix from Maxwell House. Don’t knock it, if I hadn’t discovered the single serve machine, I would still be buying those metal cans six at a time, making a special trip to the one grocery store in the area that carries it.

I’m not sure what took me so long to purchase this type of machine. I was so in love with that delightful powder mix and we had such a long run. Since I’ve converted, the single serve brewer has become my favorite kitchen appliance.

There are hundreds of varieties of K-Cups to enjoy with the brewer. K-Cups are the coffee pods used with this type of coffee maker. They have not only regular and decaf coffee and tea, but also lemonade and water-based hot chocolate. Boxes of the single serve pods can be purchased from a variety of retailers, but if you can find a shop that sells them mix and match, you’ve struck gold. I have a local place I frequent that sells K-Cups by the box or individually at a great price.

I have my favorites and buy them by the box, but I’m always willing to try new brands and blends. In the morning I alternate between different flavors including Wolfgang Puck’s Rodeo Drive and Green Mountain’s Autumn Harvest Blend. In the evening I need a cup of Timothy’s Cinnamon Pastry if I want to accomplish anything after work. I am under the influence of Green Mountain’s Autumn Harvest Blend as I write this blog.

I have a machine at home, put to work twice a day, sometimes more on weekends. It only brews one size, with water added as needed. Since no one drinks coffee but me, it’s preferable to the models that have a tank that holds water until needed. It would stagnate before I could drink all of it.

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Home Brewer

I have the same model at work as well. Sure we have a coffee machine, but I know decaf isn’t popular and is seldom brewed. Back in my cubicle I am able to make a cup of caffeine free goodness whenever I want. My office is freezing no matter the time of year, so having something hot to drink just by turning my chair around is useful.

Work Brewer

Work Brewer

I’m spoiled by my single serve brewers. They really are great for those who drink a cup or two a day. With so many choices of beverages, it’s never boring. Does anyone else love their brewer?