About loriwhitwam

Lori spent her early years reading books in a tree in northern West Virginia. The 1980s and 90s found her and her husband moving around the Midwest, mainly because it was easier to move than clean the apartment. After seventeen frigid years in Minnesota, she fled to coastal North Carolina in 2013. She will never leave, and if you try to make her, she will hurt you.

I’m Cute, But Please Back Off

The chihuahua invasion of Saturday got me thinking, and then yesterday I took these two photos of Mozzie.

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They were taken about twenty seconds apart. He was snuggling happily with me on the couch, then there was a very, very loud boom of thunder.

Mozzie isn’t usually afraid of storms, which is good because he’s afraid of so many other things. I can control when I open the freezer or take out a plastic bag, but my superpowers do not yet extend to controlling the weather. This thunderclap, though, was incredibly loud, close, and seemed to go on forever. Even made me jump, and I love storms.

So, why am I showing a photo of my scaredy-pup? Because a lot of people look at the picture and think how cute it is, sweet, look at the adorable, meek golden-boy. And, yeah, he’s cute.

This photo is a very good illustration of a dog who is freaked-the-f**k-out. He’s panicking inside, almost paralyzed with anxiety over things he doesn’t understand and can’t control.

But I realized a lot of people don’t understand dog body language. If you or your child were out at a park, and you saw an adorable golden retriever who looked like Mozzie, I bet you’d like to pet it. I would too, because golden retriever, but I would know to absolutely not pet this dog.

He’s not growling, snarling, barking, showing his teeth. He’s not crouched defensively with his hackles up. He couldn’t be dangerous, right?

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Wrong. Look closely. His ears are back and down tight against his head. He has “whale eyes,” that wide, unfocused expression saying “get me out of here.” If you saw him in person, you’d see his shoulders are hunched, his tail is tight against his body, and his body and legs are trembling.

Yes, I wanted to cuddle and hug and snuggle his scared little face, but that would only reinforce to him that there’d been something to be frightened of. I forced myself to stay calm, speak to him normally, touch and react to him normally, until he was more relaxed.

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Your instinct might be to approach a dog who looks like this, to comfort or reassure him as I wanted to do, but that’s how you get bitten in the face. Do not ever, ever do this. Not in the park, not with your aunt’s dog, not with any dog who is not your own…and not even then if you’re not 100% certain how he’ll react. I know Mozzie wouldn’t have bitten me, but I didn’t want to reinforce his fear response. I don’t, however, know for sure how he’d react if a stranger tried to grab or snuggle him when he’s that close to the edge.

When you’re panicked, you react out of character. Even I, if you cornered me and freaked me out and got too close, would bite you. Though, to be fair, I’m a known fear biter. Point is, even the sweetest, meekest dog can lash out if it is approached mid-freakout.

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Every time I see this picture, my blood pressure almost makes my head explode. This dog is doing everything it can to “tell” the kid (and the parents, who sure as hell better be nearby) that it is not enjoying this interaction. But people say “awwwww, how cute,” and the next thing you know, the kid is missing a chunk of her adorable little button nose, the dog is wondering why everyone is screaming and trying to hit him…yeah, nothing good is going to happen.

If you want to learn more, I highly recommend Canine Body Language: A Photographic QPlfDwAAQBAJGuide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog by Brenda Aloff. I’ve had it for years, and it’s the best all-in-one guide I’ve seen. We used it often in our veterinary practice, and most rescue groups use it as well.

Dogs aren’t toys. They’re sentient creatures with feelings, and those feelings matter. You expect your dog to have good manners, right? Well, you’d damned sure better have them too. Failing to understand and respect their language and pushing them beyond their endurance will not end well. You’ll end up with a traumatized, injured person, and likely a quarantined and ultimately euthanized dog.

People who love dogs but forget their language isn’t as straightforward as ours when it comes to saying “back off” are all too often loving their dogs…to death.

Intruder Alert

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The very first thing we did when we bought this house 4 1/2 years ago was install a fence to keep our dogs secure and safe. The two gates have a small gap under them, but we had Darwin (85 pounds of golden) and Brody (105 pounds of Pyr) at the time, so that wasn’t really a problem.

When they were gone and we got Mozzie and Oliver, we put boards and logs and such at the gaps to keep their little puppy-butts in the yard. The front and right side are six-foot white privacy fence, and the left and back, which border the woods, are four-foot chain link. I’m sure Oliver could clear the fence in one leap if he wanted, though he’d probably immediately impact a tree, but so far he hasn’t tried it. They’re both almost two years old now, 65 pounds each, so policing the gate-gap hasn’t been an issue.

Until yesterday.

I was sitting in my “office,” AKA my spot on the couch, from which I command my World Headquarters and Petting Zoo, at about ten a.m., when I saw an animal on the deck, right up against the sliding doors. Something small and tan. Maybe bigger than a squirrel, but not by much. Possibly a small cat, because there are a lot of free-range cats in the area and they sometimes (foolishly) come in the yard. Could also be a good-sized guinea pig, but I found that unlikely. I couldn’t get a good look, because the Direwolves rushed to the door and were blocking my view, so I got up to investigate.

Uh-oh. It was the little chihuahua I frequently see at the rental house across the street. Not good.

I opened the door a crack, squeezing myself out while shoving the very excited Direwolves back. The little dog scooted to the steps, but once I was outside and the door securely closed, she wiggled over to me, and I picked her up. Yes, I checked; she’s definitely a girl. Perhaps four very solid pounds. Four wiggling, squirming, vibrating, very-much-needs-a-nail-trim pounds. The ten or twelve long red claw marks down the middle of my chest can testify to that last part.

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She looks kind of like this. But wigglier. So…much…wigglier

What to do? Mozzie and Oliver were quivering with anticipation of my returning to the house with what they believed was their new chew toy. I didn’t even dare go inside to find the key for the gate so I could go out front, where I was sure the neighbors must be looking for the little intruder.

I decided to go to the gate and peek through to see if they were out there. Two kids, a boy and a girl of maybe ten or so, were visible, so I yelled, “Are you missing a puppy?” The little girl confirmed they were. I told them I’d have to hand her to them over the fence, as I didn’t have a gate key handy. The pup-nugget, who it turns out is named Zoey, was delivered safely to the girl, and I advised them to watch her, because I didn’t know what would happen if she got in while my guys were outside. If it had been back in the Darwin days, I know exactly what would have happened, and it would have ended with a “burp.”

Okay, mission accomplished, excitement over for the day. I came in, calmed the ‘Wolves, and went to wash the chihuahua smell off me and change clothes, because she might have peed on me a little.

I went back to work. At a little after three p.m., Oliver and Mozzie were having raw bones, Oliver in his crate and Mozzie on the rug by the couch. And then…there she was again. Apparently, I am Zoey’s new BFF.

Since Oliver is the one who can jump higher than my head (He’s a standard poodle) and he was in his crate, I decided to risk bringing her through the house to the front door, which I did, Mozzie hot on our heels. I returned her to the little girl again, and asked if she’d seen how she got in the yard. The gate on the right. Yep, pretty big gap there. I reminded her I have two large boy-dogs, and even if they thought they were playing, they could easily hurt such a tiny dog. I was thanked profusely, and came back inside and through to the back yard to find some stuff to stick under the fence.

I honestly don’t know what would happen if Zoey came to visit while the boys were outside. They can run about 86,000 miles per hour in pursuit of squirrels. Luckily, squirrels can run 86,001 miles per hour, and they have yet to catch one. They have, however, caught and killed bunnies and mice and voles, and once scared a possum into playing dead, after which I picked it up with the pooper-scooper and deposited it outside the fence. Mozzie, especially, despite being an overall timid golden, has a high prey drive, and I don’t know how he’d react to seeing a small, furry critter in his yard, even if it is (technically) a dog.

Tom declines to get involved, saying he’s tired of being responsible for other people’s problems, despite my pointing out that if she got in the yard and they killed her (on purpose or accidentally) it would most definitely be our problem, if not from a “neighbors are hysterical and furious because we killed their dog even though she was trespassing” standpoint, at least from an “I am horribly, permanently scarred because I saw my dogs tear apart another dog” one.

Actually, this is par for the course in terms of my neighbor interactions. I still don’t know the names of anyone who lives there, or even who really does live there since people are coming and going all the time. But I know the name of the dog, and she has been in my house.

If Tom brings some landscape blocks from the shed, I’ll put those by the gate instead of the flimsy board-and-log barricade I put there yesterday. In the meantime, I hope they manage to keep Zoey at home. But there are always small kids there, going in and out, and it’s inevitable she’ll get out at some point.

Just hope my puppy-predators are in the house at the time.

New Book Page

Managing various online identities can be confusing and time-consuming. I had my previous blog, Fermented Fur, an author page, personal and author pages on Facebook, and a page for my editing services. I eventually discontinued my editing services page, because my work for Limitless Publishing takes most of my time, and I have plenty of long-time indie authors to keep me busy.

My author page has been sitting around not doing much of anything for a long time. While I love writing and care deeply about my books, it’s never been my top priority, and I don’t have anything new in the works.

My author website at loriwhitwam.com was hosted on a friend’s server. He never charged me for it, and helped me set everything up, because he had a lot of accounts on there that more than paid the operating expenses. But as he’s gotten out of the business, I was soon the only one left, so I needed to find a new home for my domain.

I’m not a skilled tech person. So I decided the best thing to do was to redirect my domain to point at a page here on WordPress, so now everything is in one place. Amazingly, I didn’t screw it up too badly.

So, now you can see all the information on my books, including links to them on Amazon, right HERE on Lori’s Books on this blog. Please stop by, take a look, and let me know what you think. Ellen and Quinn and Ty and Seth and Abby would love to meet you.

Announcement: Limitless Publishing, LLC Reader’s Choice Award Finalists

Looking for a great read? Our Reader’s Choice Awards finalists would be a great place to start! Read now, and vote!

The Craving Chronicles

2018-0748 Finalist badge on transparent (1)Congratulations to the Finalists!

The nominations are in for Limitless Publishing, LLC’s Reader’s Choice Awards. A few of Crave’s titles made the cut. We are so proud of our authors. The voting round is July 15, 2018 – July 31, 2018.

Best Short Story in a Horror Anthology

  • Carnival of Fear: Of Giraffes and Men by Stacey Longo
  • 13 Déjà vu: Momma’s Closet by Erin Lee
  • Carnival of Fear: Smoe by Erin Lee
  • 13 Déjà vu: The Inheritance by D.A. Roach

Young Adult/YA Romance

  • Bailey and the Bad Boy by R Linda
  • Flirt by Lavinia Leigh
  • Grey: The encounter by Allison White
  • Nowhere Girl by Fiona Keane

Best Short Story in a Romance Anthology (Includes ties)

  • Craving Loyalty: Taken to the Cleaner by Ginger Ring
  • Craving One Night: At First Sight by Rita Delude
  • Craving Secrets: Alternative Facts by A.J. Norris
  • Craving Christmas: 5 Alarm Christmas by Melinda Valentine
  • Craving…

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I Should Never Touch Technology

Remember a month or two ago when all the news broadcasts and websites were telling us some hackers were accessing private data via our wireless routers? They told us to NO-TIVO-269x300reboot our routers immediately or disaster would ensue. Failure to do so would result in thieves stealing our passwords and banking information, making the contents of our fridges go bad, and reprogramming our brains to believe trees are invisible and bees are a beverage.

Rebooting the router wasn’t hard, so I did that without technical disaster. But my son is a professional tech writer and expert, and he messaged me to ask which router I had. I told him, and I could almost see the message window recoil in horror. I was still using the router he’d installed for us several years ago, and (apparently) that model was especially vulnerable to hacking shenanigans.

Fortunately for me, as a result of his job, he literally has drawers full of phones and routers and tablets and all manner of tech gizmos. He informed me he was sending me a better, newer, more secure router immediately, which he did.

A couple of weeks later, he messaged to ask if I’d installed the new router. I had not. Why? Because I knew, deep in my slightly Luddite bones, that I’d manage to fuck it up. He’d sent me the link to the app I needed to set it up quickly and easily…but I knew better.

Now, about ten days after his “you really need to install that” message, I decided I’d better do it, because not much stings more than weary disapproval from a guy whose diapers you changed for two years.

The first obstacle was the massive Gordian knot of cords and cables behind the TV stand in the living room, where the main cable box, modem, and router live. Once I identified which plug went to the modem, I disconnected it. The plug is still under the TV stand, though, because I couldn’t untangle the wire from the rest of the mess without pulling every device, including the TV, off the stand, and I am not in the mood to deal with that shit today.

I plugged in the new router and opened the app on my phone, held it over the router, and that part actually went pretty well. I reset my signal extender in the kitchen, and internet was restored to my laptop. Victory!

I was about to pay for my hubris.

The TV in the living room was fine. But we only use that when we have company that might want to sit on a slightly less dog-fur-infested couch. I spend 99% of my waking hours in the family room, working with the TV on, and later binge-watching streaming video and knitting. And that TV couldn’t find the TiVo box. Neither could the TV in Tom’s lair, where he spends a good portion of his evenings and weekends.

Rackenfrazzle.

I did all the usual stuff. I unplugged and re-plugged. I turned off and on. I went to TiVo Central and tried everything I could in the settings. I reestablished the internet connection…but it still wouldn’t go to TV mode, which is really its only job.

I knew it. I just knew it. Now I was going to have to call Suddenlink, something that tends to make me a stabby, frustrated, vengeful bucket of rage. I went through the automated fixes first, but resetting the modem didn’t do anything, so I repeated “representative” at every prompt until I got a human. As it turns out, a highly unhelpful human.

She seriously had no idea what to do. There was a lot of “Um…yeah…” and “Well…” and “I don’t know…” going on. Without offering even one semi-helpful solution, she said, “Yeah, the TiVo is pretty sensitive. There’s really not anything I can do from here. They like the technicians to do that manually.”

I wondered why they’d “upgraded” us to TiVo from the older but much less shitty cable boxes. I wondered why they’d choose a type of service that was so touchy that simply installing a new router would require a technician visit. I wondered how long it would be before a technician could be dispatched.

I suggested she might like to transfer me to someone (with a brain…bonus points to me for not saying that part out loud) who might have some idea of how to resolve this without a technician coming out. No, that wouldn’t help. So, she scheduled a technician for tomorrow between 4-6 p.m.

Fine. I could watch in the living room today, I guessed. My internet is working, so…yay.

I hung up and started thinking. I used my brain, which is 100% not trained in Suddenlink Technical Support, but is not stupid. And my brain said, “Well, yeah, the TV in the living room, which is connected directly to the main TiVo box (not the two TiVo minis that control the TVs in the family room and Tom’s lair), does work fine. But that main unit is, what, like the brain of the whole set-up, right?” I agreed with my not-stupid brain. “So,” it continued, “even though that TV works, wouldn’t it make sense to maybe unplug and reset the main unit and see what happens?”

That seemed super smart to me, and probably something someone who is paid actual money by the people who installed this equipment to resolve such issues should have suggested.

So, I shuffled back to the living room, unplugged the main TiVo box, plugged it back in, and returned to my natural habitat on the couch in the family room and turned on that TV.

And…it worked perfectly.

I hit redial on my phone and canceled tomorrow’s technician appointment roughly three minutes after I’d made it.

I feel like I should get a job at Suddenlink Tech Support, but I’m pretty sure they’d have to delete at least half my IQ points. If their IQ-deleting system is able to connect to the network, of course.

I lost over an hour from my day, but at least the evening binge-watching shall go on unimpeded.

Knitting and (K)Netflix?

It might be a holiday here in the U.S., and the husband is off, but I don’t think today will be so different. I have some work to do, because there are no weekends or holidays in publishing, but not as much as usual.

My fun craft-related news is I finished my Rayna shawl, using the luscious 50/50 SW merino/silk yarn, in the Tide Pools colorway, from Blue Barn Fibers.

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A couple of days ago, I started a new project. It’s the Changing Staircases shawl, using a nice 75/25 SW merino/mulberry silk yarn from The Wicked Knittah.

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So, knitting and k(Netflix) later? I’ve been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I suggested adult beverages and a Jurassic Park marathon, but I’m seeing no signs of interest from the husband, so probably just me and the dogs hanging out as usual.

Mozzie tried to take on a cottonmouth a couple of days ago, and my heart is still pounding about that. Yesterday, they found a mouse in the kitchen and tag-teamed it, finally earning their fancy raw food and homemade treats.  They can take on all the mice they want, but I prefer they stay far, far away from snakes!

Mystery of the Missing Molar

Have you ever lost a tooth? I don’t mean it fell out or was pulled. I mean have you ever literally lost one? As in “issue an Enamel Alert, and put its picture on toothpaste tubes” lost. You probably wonder how that could happen, but I can tell you…it can.

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Last night, after 11:00 p.m., I was almost ready to go to bed and decided to have a piece of toast, because since my gastric bypass in 2001, eating makes me sleepy. I made my toast, buttered it, and returned to the couch to munch while I got ready to shut down the computer and call it a night.

Next thought… “Toast doesn’t have bones.”

But there was something hard in my mouth. I felt around with my tongue, separated the mushy toast-bites from the hard thing, swallowed the toast, and spit the object into my hand.

The crown from one of my bottom right molars. Nice.

Further lingual investigation identified the tooth-stump and probed. No pain. Well, that was good.

The bottom of the crown looked gross, but since I have no idea what the underside of an eight-year-old crown should look like, I can’t really say if that was unusual.

For the past month, I’ve had a series of dental appointments to address a lot of cavities, chips, and broken teeth resulting from seventeen years of malabsorption and demineralization due to my gastric bypass–a side effect we hadn’t really known about back when I had the surgery. Fortunately, I already had an appointment scheduled for 11:00 this morning.

I grabbed my phone, took a photo of the wayward crown and one of the tooth-stump in my mouth, and emailed the dental office with the subject “Emergency!”

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The crown in question, and possibly some semi-chewed toast

I’d already locked and barred the sliding door, so I shut down the computer, got my phone and glass of water, put the tooth on the breakfast bar, threw away the paper towel and remainder of the piece of toast, turned off the lights, called the dogs, went through the bedroom (followed by the dogs), into my bathroom to get ready for bed, then got into bed and thought about finding a small jewelry bag in the kitchen drawer to put the tooth in so I could take it with me in the morning to show the dentist.

This morning, I got up and made coffee, let the dogs out, got a little fabric bag out of the junk drawer, and went to put the tooth in it.

But the tooth was gone.

I know I put it on the breakfast bar. Yes, it was very late, and I was already halfway to sleepy-land, but I know I put it there, because that’s where I put the dogs’ puppy teeth when I found them, and I thought it was funny.

I fed the dogs, poured coffee, and started looking. On the floor, around the base of the breakfast bar, under the table, in Oliver’s crate, under Oliver’s crate, on the end table where I sit all day, around the computer, under the couch, in the couch, under other furniture, in and around various objects on the kitchen counters, in the garbage inside the paper towel holding the uneaten toast, in the half-bath (though I’m sure I didn’t go in there after the incident), on the deck in case I was wrong and we had gone outside again after the crown came off and I’d had it in my hand, in my bathroom, on my bed stand, in the bed, on floors all along the route I took from couch to bed…no tooth.

Email from the dentist’s office said bring it, because maybe they could put it back on. I explained my dilemma.

Appointment time came, and I had work done on the front bottom teeth, and some preliminary repairs to a very unsightly area of decay on one front tooth. And they took an impression of the tooth-stump, because it’s looking like I’m going to need a new crown.

Inquiring of the Facebook hive mind, it was suggested one of the dogs got it. Apparently, dogs are attracted to dental-mouth-type-things. They chew up whitening trays, retainers, dentures, so…maybe? But these two do not counter surf. The area where I put the tooth is where I also put their treats, and they’ve never taken anything off there. But what else could it be? A very determined mouse? There are way tastier things around here than a broken crown.

I’m left with only one suspect. The tooth fairy. A really shitty tooth fairy who needs to be fired immediately, because I did not put it under my pillow, did not authorize the theft of mens-tooth-fairy-costumethe tooth, and the bitch didn’t leave me any money, which I’m now going to need to pay for a new crown.

So, instead of being on dental visit 5 of 6 or 7, it’s now 5 of 7 or 8, because it will probably take a couple of visits to prepare and place the crown. Yay.

I’m done looking. I’ve driven myself nuts over it all day. If it shows up, fine. If a dog ate it, I don’t want it back. (Seriously.) It’s not for sure they could put this one back on anyway, and after eight or so years, it’s probably a good idea to start fresh.

Of course, now that I’m not looking, maybe it will come out of hiding. The main irritation right now is the mystery. It’s like a cliffhanger. I want to know where the hell a tooth could go, possibly of its own volition, between 11:30 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.

The dogs aren’t talking.