Signs You May Be A Dog Owner

10 signs of a dedicated dog owner.

1. Pillows are used for more than cushions for a couch.

2. They spell the word O-U-T-S-I-D-E when they don’t want the dog to know where they’re going.

3. They own more squeaky toys, Frisbees, and braided pull toys than shoes.

Dog Owner's sign4. One piece of furniture is dedicated for pet use only.

5. Their doors are worn from dog paws.

6. There is a heavy object on top of their trash can to keep Sir Snoopy out.

7. Their windows sport snout marks.

8. The dog mattress is posturepedic. The owner’s mattress is not.

You goin’ to eat that?

9. They know how to open a wrapped snack soundlessly.

10. People/animals staring at them while they eat doesn’t faze them in the slightest.


I won’t admit to how many of these I resemble.

Bazinga Belle Ludwig: A Memoir

When my mammas started talking about writing a blog post about pets, of course she thought of me, Bazinga Belle, love of her life and favorite puppy of all time.

What mammas doesn’t know is that I, little Zinga, hijacked her blog post. Shh, don’t tell.

Mammas and daddy don’t know that while they cherish literary dreams, I, too, harbor dreams of being known in the canine literary circles. I want to be the next J.K. Howling, or Robert B. Barker, or even Liz Curtis Sniffs. So, here is my memoir.

Zinga computerIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, it was pretty swell times, at least from a Boston terrier’s perspective. I was adopted almost five years ago when I was eight weeks old by the coolest people in the whole wide world! Zinga never exaggerates, mammas and daddy are so awesome! They named me Bazinga Belle Ludwig, because some guy on the farm I came from called me Belle, but mammas and daddy didn’t like that name. They thought Bazinga was way more interesting than just plain old Belle, and you know what? They are so smart, because everyone who meets me thinks my name is super cool! (Except for my great-grandma. She always says my name funny and thinks mammas and daddy are a little odd for naming me the most awesome dog name in the world.)

I was only four pounds when mammas and daddy brought me home. They almost lost me in their apartment that night because I was so curious and wanted to sniff everything and I kept crawling under things! They like to tell people I am super smart because I was house broken in only two weeks.

Hmm, what else? This writing stuff is hard. Mammas would probably be better at this…I know! Little Zinga will put together a top ten list of her favorite things!

Bazinga’s Top Ten Favorite Things

10. Cuddling with mammas and daddy on the couch.

9. Hiding my bone around the house. Sometimes I forget where it is, and then when mammas tells me to find it, I have to look all over because I’ve forgotten where I put it. But mammas and daddy never let me forget, especially when I leave it in their bed. Zinga car ride

8. Car rides!

7. Playing with my Uncle Strider. He lives with my grandma and grandpa, and he’s much bigger than little Zinga. But I’m faster and he likes it when I beat up on him.

6. Whining to go outside right when mammas and daddy sit down for dinner.

5. Sitting on my daddy’s lap while he reads a book or watches shows on his computer.

4. Playing with my friend Sheldon at the dog park. Mammas and daddy thinks it’s funny that I didn’t want to play with any other dogs until Sheldon came along. I don’t get it.

Zinga sun3.  Laying in the sunshine at my new house. It was very nice of my mammas and daddy to buy little Zingas a house, especially one with so many windows with direct sunlight. Their apartment before didn’t get these wonderful, warm, yellow beams of light. I could lay in this stuff all day (and I frequently do, on the weekends. I just move from window to window.)

2. Watching animal shows on TV, like Wild Russia, and anything with horses. I bark at them and scare them off the screen, because Zinga is fierce!

1. Sleeping under the covers in the big bed with mammas and daddy.

Zinga family
My family.

The End!


Dirt Roads, Green Tea, and Cemeteries


To be totally honest, guilty pleasures really don’t make me feel too guilty—at least not so much that I’m going to quit doing them.  Some are everyday essentials and others are just irresistible when the opportunity presents itself.

Here’s a list of a few of my not-so-guilty pleasures:

dirt road1.       Dirt Roads. Walking down a dirt road never fails to transport me to another time, another place. I can’t help but wonder about the people who used to live in the dilapidated old house or if a building of some kind once stood at the end of the overgrown lane.

2.       Walking through autumn leaves strewn across a path. I love the musty smell as my shoes crunch the gorgeous red, gold, and orange leaves.

3.       Green tea. Sipping a cup of freshly brewed green tea with a good ole dollop of pure honey every morning.  Aah!

4.       Cemeteries. Yes, you read that right. I’m always intrigued about the lives of those folks gone before us. Stories, stories, and more stories.

5.       Flea markets/consignment furniture stores/antique shops. I have an obsession for all things yesteryear.

6.      garden path Garden trails. The bigger and curvier the better. Bridges, waterfalls, and ponds add to the experience.

7.       Lemon bars. My daughter makes the most scrumptious lemon bars you could ever imagine. (Even if you’re not a fan of lemon.)  

8.       Smoothies. Slushy and homemade with yummy fresh fruit.

9.       Petting the dog. I know I’m a pushover for those big brown eyes and sloppy kisses. I just can’t resist.

10.   BonfiresI’m a fire bug, but don’t worry—I haven’t got too carried away–yet. I love sitting around a bonfire on a chilly autumn night watching the sparks fly.

What are some of your guilty, or not-so-guilty pleasures? We’re giving away a gently used copy of Sarah Sundin’s On Distant Shores to one lucky reader this week, and a copy of Laura Frantz’s Love’s Awakening to another reader. Every time you leave a comment over the next two weeks, your name will be entered.

The two winners will be chosen after midnight on Friday, Sept. 20 and posted on Saturday!

Babies and Cats and Dogs – Oh, my!

I love to laugh. I hope I’m that grandma with laugh lines deeply imbedded in her face (which shouldn’t be hard – I’m well on the way). Obviously it’s not always appropriate to laugh, but sometimes those can be the times when it’s hardest not to. Like during communion when your grandma drops her little plastic cup and it bounces its way across the sanctuary (and bounces and bounces…), pinging off the granite floor in the silence.

Or during a sermon on a summer morning, when the sun reflects off the floor and makes a giant silhouette image of a friend of yours on the back wall (and they don’t know they’re bigger than life).

Or trying to be solemn while assembling for a graveside service right after someone comments about the Rolloff family being buried at the top of the hill (they had noticed the marker of someone buried long ago in that tiny town’s cemetery).

I have a file of “Keepers” in my inbox where I store emails people have sent that struck me particularly funny. More than once I’ve opened it and read a few – sure enough, I was soon smiling and feeling better.

Here are a few YouTube links that I hope will make you laugh today. Who can NOT laugh when a baby lets loose with that adorable belly laugh? Or when twins crack themselves up (and leave us out of the fun!)?

Even if you don’t like cats or dogs, it’s hard not to giggle at the predicaments they get themselves into or when they share a special talent.

Life can be pretty rough on occasion. I thank our God for laughter (He must have a sense of humor – He created the hippopotamus, after all!).

My Buddy Prince

Growing up on a dairy farm, we always had animals around us so it’s hard for me to imagine a life without our furry friends.  We usually had one dog and a zillion cats, and I can’t forget to mention the mice and occasional bat who occupied the house because our cats weren’t allowed inside. 😉

With all those animals, one clearly stood out as my buddy: Prince our pure-black German Shepherd. I remember Dad bringing Prince home as a puppy. Dad said he had a surprise for us (me and my umpteen siblings) in the barn so we all ran in and found a black fur ball running around. We couldn’t imagine a better surprise.

Through my teen years, Prince was my constant companion, a buddy I cherished during those awkward school years. He grew into quite a large companion at that as he could easily rest his paws on my shoulders (I’m 5’9″) and give me kisses.

I never felt fear when walking through our woods at night as long as Prince was alongside me. He was certain to take care of any prowler, be it man or animal. When I’d trek through the fields down to our lake, he gleefully joined me. Oh, he loved flouncing through the water, letting all the ducks and geese know that was his territory.

But some of those walks down to the lake weren’t as pleasant as others as they were accompanied with jars of canned tomatoes. You see, Prince had a tremendous dislike for skunks and, for some reason, skunks loved visiting the farm. Well, Prince took care of the undesirable guests. Then I got to take care of him.

Being completely black, Prince looked ferocious. We didn’t need an electronic burglar alarm or locks on our doors–we had Prince. Whenever a strange car would pull onto our property, Prince would scope it out. When there’s a large black animal looking down on you from outside your car window, his tail still, you stay in your car. Just ask my husband. 🙂 Now, if we’d told Prince to to “sic ’em”, I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of that directive.

Prince's latter years - browns & greys had salted his black fur.

Like any dog, Prince lived to please us. One of his favorite chores was watching the gate to the cow pasture. If a cow happened to wander near the gate while one of our family was close by, Prince would race toward the cow sounding his vicious bark. After the cow retreated, Prince would run back to us, smiling, his tail wagging. He relished the “attaboys” and hugs we gave him for a job well done.

While he was a great protector, he was also incredibly gentle. We’d wrestle, and he’d take my arm in his mouth, but never clamp down, never draw blood. He had the capability to inflict harm, but never did. He wouldn’t have hurt anyone–well, unless we told him to, that is.

Prince went to doggie Heaven many years ago, but his paw print is forever tattooed on my heart.

Heelers, Herding, and Hank

I’ve always liked old dogs—the ones that sleep all day and wait for someone to pat them on the head. You know the kind. They’re pretty much lifeless until they hear the rustle of the doggy bone bag; then they come back to life, if only for a moment.

It’s not that I never liked puppies, it’s just that my experience with them meant dug up flowers, clothes disappearing from the clothesline—only to be found later in the barn, and that constant yipping and jumping. “Give me an old dog over a puppy any day,” was my motto, and since we already had good old Mick there was no need for a puppy.

Or so I thought.

A couple of years ago my son told me he wanted a puppy and asked me if I would take care of it for him while he went to college. I don’t actually remember agreeing to that arrangement, but nevertheless, he came home a few days later with a month-old Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler puppy named Hank. I took one look at that fuzzy little face and knew he was a keeper. Though I think old dog Mick disagreed.

I took the job of Dog Mama very seriously. I watched Hank constantly so he wouldn’t get run over by farm equipment and cuddled him when he needed it. (Or maybe I needed it. I can’t remember that far back.) Besides, what’s a mom supposed to do when her firstborn leaves home for college? She spoils his dog, that’s what.

I knew Hank was going to be a good little puppy when he herded our three cats around the yard, corralling them into a corner next to the house. We thought this meant he’d be good at herding cows as he grew older, but the herding talent didn’t transfer over to livestock. Go figure.

Hank does like cows, though. After loading steers in the trailer one day, my husband hauled them twenty miles to market. When he opened the back of the trailer at the sale barn, out pops Hank, a little dazed and bruised from sliding around among the cattle, but he survived. By the way, he didn’t do that again. Yet.

He may not herd cows, but he does like to ride in the Ranger every morning to drive through the pasture checking them. He even sleeps on it, so he won’t miss a ride in case someone jumps on and takes off unexpectedly. If we can’t find Hank, we know to check the Ranger. (See how well he posed for the picture at left.)

I’ve often wondered if Hank is a human in a dog body. When he was a tiny puppy, we kept him in the machine shed at night since he’s an outdoor dog—most of the time. When he was ready for bed, he’d see the light on in the kitchen and tap his paw on the patio door so we’d carry him to the shed. He still taps on the door when he wants to come into the sunroom and cool off or warm up, depending on the weather.

As he grew we didn’t want him shut  in the shed all night anymore, but since he didn’t like his dog house, we tried to bribe him into sleeping in it.  We put an old bed pillow inside so he’d be more comfy, and we thought our plan had worked. But no. He walked over to the dog house, stuck his head inside and dragged the pillow out. He then carried it to the top of a snow drift, plopped down on top of it and went to sleep. All winter he dragged that pillow around so he wouldn’t have to sleep on the cold ground, until he finally realized he could sleep in the barn where it was warmer. But he liked the pillow so well, he carried it around the yard all summer long too, so he’d have a cushy place to sleep.

I’ve never seen a dog smile before, but Hank actually grins when we come home. He’s never met a person he didn’t like, except for one, but I won’t go there. He has a way of making friends faster than anybody (er dog) I know. He even put some life back into Mick.

I know I’ll keep spoiling him until he’s old and feeble. Until then…our daughter leaves for college next year and I’ll have an empty nest. Hmm. Puppy time again?

I’m thinking it’s a good thing I don’t have a dozen kids.

Cats? Dogs? Don't make me choose!

I’ve had pets since I was six. Prissy was a black poodle. She slept with me, rode in the basket on my bicycle, and shared my love for fuzzy house shoes. Every Christmas I got a new pair of pink fuzzy house shoes, but I couldn’t walk across the room because Prissy barked and snapped at them.

Morris was an orange and white cat. He looked just like Morris on TV. I can’t even remember what kind of cat food the Morris on TV advertised. My Morris and Prissy had one spat when he first arrived. He spatted her nose and made it bleed and she never bothered him again. He was a cuddler and moved from Georgia to Arkansas with me and Prissy.

Killer was a female calico. I named her that because I was in love with Erik Estrada and he had a tiny little dog named Killer. I thought that was funny, so I named her Killer. She was a cuddle cat. She loved sitting on my knees and digging her claws in. My knees were like sponges. Prissy was still around when Killer arrived, but she’d learned her lesson with Morris.

After I got married, my husband brought me a puppy one night. Oscar Mayer Weiner–you guessed it, a red dachshund. He was my baby. If I was sitting, he was in my lap. My husband even got jealous of him. Oscar loved tennis balls and would chase and retrieve as long as you’d throw.

He had terrible allergies and had sneezing fits. Five or six sneezes in a row and his legs were so short he’d bang his nose on the floor with each sneeze. We had an ugly brown chair we got for five dollars from a yard sale. No one ever sat in it–it just filled a corner. So when he started sneezing, we’d put him in the brown chair. After a few times of that, every time he started sneezing, he’d jump up in the sneeze chair. We kept that ugly chair until he went to doggy heaven.

It took two to get me over Oscar. Zach and Abby were red dachshunds. Brother and sister. She was very adventurous. He was afraid of his own shadow. Her greatest delight was to go out the doggy door so Zach would follow. Then she’d run back in and bark and snap when he tried to follow her inside. He’d take it for a long time, then he’d get tired of her antics and come barreling through, sending her rolling. After they went to doggy heaven, I decided my heart couldn’t take any more lap dogs.

My son kept asking for a dog, but we wanted to wait until he was a little older. When he was four, a kitten appeared at my Mom and Dad’s (across an Arkansas hayfield from our house). Even painfully skinny, he was the prettiest cat I’d ever seen. Charcoal gray with grass green eyes. We called him across the field and he came just like a dog. Now, he’s a big cuddle cat and follows us when we go on walks. In the hot summer, he’ll pant all the way until we think he’s going to die, but he goes every time. When I’m writing, my outdoor cat visits my office often. That’s him guarding my books in the picture above.

When I took Charcoal to the vet to make sure he didn’t do any tomcatting, we discovered Smoky. She looks just like him, but is oh so different. She hides from life and only comes out when it’s really quiet. She used to go on top of the house when she got scared, but then the satellite guy went up there with her. It took her days to get over that. Then she took refuge under the house. And the bug man went under there with her. When her world gets disturbed, she only comes out after dark.

Sometimes days go by without us seeing her. She doesn’t like to be held or cuddled, but loves to be petted. But she won’t be still. She constantly spins and turns getting just out of your reach to where you almost have to chase her to pet her. She doesn’t get to visit the office because she won’t be still and settle. She walks all over me and my computer which makes writing difficult. But when I’m not writing, I let her in and she spins and twirls until her heart is content. Occasionally she’ll sit on my lap as long as I don’t hold her there.

Our son finally got a dog when he was six. Hershey is a chocolate lab. She loves everybody, including cats, but especially her boy. She hates it when he goes to school, hates it when he goes home with a friend, and doesn’t rest properly until her boy is home. She makes every step he does and every round he makes on his four-wheeler.

When we go for a walk, she goes with us. Imagine a boy, a mom, a chocolate lab, and a charcoal gray cat trailing up the gravel road. Smoky never joins us on our walks. She’s too busy huddling under the house. She has finally come to the conclusion—after about four years—that Hershey isn’t going to eat her. On a quiet night, you’ll find Smoky on the porch with Hershey. But not Charcoal, he hunts at night and brings me all kinds of headless critters in the morning.

All the pets I’ve had have left paw prints on my heart. I’m sure the current ones will also. But they add so much love and fun to life. I doubt I’ll ever be petless for long.