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Category Archives: Halloween

Happy Halloween from Miss Holly

donna black-sword

Happy Halloween, y’all.

Loving Autumn

Do you love autumn as much as I do? Refusing to start the furnace just yet in these cooler temps, we did start up the fireplace in the evening. Even without the wood smoke, the air even smells different this time of year.

If you’re on Pinterest, I’ve started two boards to capture the essence of this season of fire and color. Give us a click and repin anything that may speak to you.

Loving Autumn on Pinterest.

The spirit of Halloween on Pinterest.

And of course there are dogs there, too.  Canine photos pinned among the falling leaves and smiling pumpkins.

Look closely and you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Banana Dog.

Wordless Wednesday: Caption This #12


There’s a simple story behind this photo, really.  I set the camera on continuous shot and asked Micron to speak.

And I simply missed all the good shots of his open maw.

Instead I have some outtakes that are pretty darn fun in spite of my ill-fated action shot efforts.

Like this one above.

Whatsa matter, Micron? I might ask.  You look like you’ve seen a ghost.  Ah, I see. The cat’s at it in your food bowl again.

Let’s caption this one, shall we?  Any ideas, y’all?

The Grench

How the Grench stole Halloween

It had started with the snowfall.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but that short-lived Ohio weather anomaly we experienced in mid-October was a harbinger of doom.  Of fearsome events yet to come.

The signs were there and I just didn’t see them. Didn’t want to. After all, we’ve had snow in October before and the world continued on as we expected.

There’s a new sheriff in town, ya’ll.
Apparently new sneakers, too. Heh, looks
like this mom spared no expense on
her homemade Halloween costume.

Ok sure, the last October snow was somewhere around twenty years ago as evidenced here in this shot of the Favorite Kid sporting his Trick-or-Treat gear back in the old neighborhood.

But still. The white stuff melted before lunchtime and became just a vague memory by the bustle of the evening commute home. It’s still October, we all said. No worries.  Halloween will still go on just like it does every year at this time.

Turns out, I had sorely underestimated the power of the Holiday Grench.

What are you talking about now, you ask. The Holiday Grench? 

Ah, a good question that. No, it’s not a typo. Well, not this time.

A rather upbeat kinda chick, with her starry eyes and silver tinsel hair, we’ve noticed that the Holiday Grench grows stronger every year. Unlike her more famous third cousin twice removed, instead of a heart two sizes too small, within our Grench’s chest beats a sugar plum heart. She just loves the Christmas season, but not necessarily in a healthy way. As is the manner of any maniacal, but misguided, visionary, the Grench wants you to embrace her shopping holiday, too. To drink her cup of wassail, so to speak.

And so to make this vision happen, she must feed on the nostalgic memories of those who yearn to enjoy any type of fall celebration.

Your neighbors put their Christmas lights on their house last weekend, she taunts me.  And did you see?  Amazon started their Black Friday sales. She playfully bounces an ornament off my head. So, do you have your tree up yet?

But …, I stammer. but, it’s not even Halloween yet.

That’s right, she laughs. Time to start your Christmas shopping!  All your friends have already bought their first gift.

And just like the weather, everybody complains but nobody does anything about it.  We stand by as holiday decorations are displayed right after Thanksgiving, then the next year we see artificial trees in early November to whet our shopping desires.  And these days, the frost isn’t even on the pumpkin before we’re assailed with Jingle Bells on the outdoor speakers at the strip mall.

We don’t do anything about it, of course, because we can’t. The Grench has grown too powerful.  Mere mortals such as us are no match for her subtleties.  This holiday spirit is hungry for your fall festivities, because once conquered she can move onto Labor Day and beyond.  The world will be her one big Shopping Day.

Every day will be Black Friday! says the Grench, tossing glittery bows in the air above. But only three of you will get the really good sale price!  Bwahahahaha.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I really got the feeling she took a personal interest in my Halloween this year.  I felt jinxed, like the joy was being sucked right out of my favorite time of year.

Ah, but this chick isn’t easily broken. Me, that is. I didn’t make it to this [bleeped] decade of life without learning some coping mechanisms, you know.

Fergo is a dog outstanding in his . . . oh, good grief,
how old is that joke?

After the first foreboding snow, we found we needed to send Euka to the CCI Spa for a few weeks.  No photos ops at the pumpkin farm for our only October with this pup, an event I’ve enjoyed with the other CCI puppies in our care.

Bent, but spirit not broken, we were blessed with an opportunity to dog-sit a favorite fellow, the sweet Fergo.  At twelve years old, our hearty friend remains a lover of life. And road trips.

Another fall festivity favorite, Jager slips into his Warg alter ego to participate in the Howl-O-Ween Woof Walk to support Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association.  The dictionary definition of cold and miserable, we got chilled to the bone that morning.

Just so you know, says Jager.  This counts as a bath.

By we, I mean me and the Favorite Kid. I woefully underdressed and the hopes that the lukewarm coffee would help warm my inner core were washed away into the storm drains.

Oh, but not our little Jagerhund. The Master of the Hunt wore his orc upon his back with a sense of Warg warrior pride. Our little spotted dog soaked up the excitement of the morning like he hadn’t been out of the house for a week. Which is kinda true, the poor pooch. It was good to give the fellow a special day of his own, rainy mist notwithstanding.

Back at her Swarovski crystal lair, the Holiday Grench is shaking a glittery fist into the air. Nooooo, she cries out. You will start your Christmas shopping. You will, I say. Don’t you dare even try enjoying your autumn festivals. I will not be ignored!  By the way, did you see your favorite shopping site has personalized photo gifts fifty percent off this week?

Then the triple-whammy.  Out of desperation, this vengeful Spirit of the Holiday Yet to Come strikes back with the trifecta of an overwhelming work load, longer commutes to the office, and then the worst slam of all … inclement weather.

So no spare time and little energy to carve a pumpkin even if I did have an empty moment. And then what the heck, Grench? A monsoon in land-locked Ohio? On Beggar’s Night?  What is wrong with you?

Heh, but take this, you spiteful spirit. I stand here and say to all that it is indeed possible to carve a pumpkin in twenty minutes during a lunch period at work. It helps if you’re working from home, of course.  I mean, all my carving tools are here. And the pumpkin. And while I haven’t tested the theory, I’m throwing out the educated guess that neither would be welcome in the office atmosphere.

Here’s how things went down then.

I gutted the big orange gourd on Tuesday night, roasted the pepita de calabazas (pumpkin seeds to you non-pretentious people) on Wednesday after work and finally carved a face into the non-sentient being on Friday at lunchtime. Then Friday evening I was able to get some photos of the thing before sundown.  No matter that it was November 1 when I completed this task.  I got ‘er done, I did.

And anyway, because of the weather situation on October 31st, a few communities moved their Beggar’s Night to the weekend. (Open letter to our humble burg:  You guys should have done that too, you know). So I figure it’s like a belated birthday card. It makes it extra special and festive to extend the holiday for another day or two, right?

With a mug of reheated potato soup steaming next to my pumpkin, I create an evil Jack O’Lantern to ward off that creeping winter holiday for another day.

And all is well in my little world. Or at least looking up a little.
Because I got autumnal photos of my handsome Micron.  Before Thanksgiving even.  
And also because Euka’s spa vacation is nearly over. We are looking forward to picking up the sassy girl later this week so she may continue in her quest to rock our world.
And just in time, too. Now we can start planning our Christmas photo ops. Yeah sure, I’ll give the Grench that one, I guess. 
But I’m still not leaving the sanctuary of my house on Black Friday. That’s crazy talk, y’all.
I’ll be shopping online instead.
Oh c’mon, says Micron.  It’s not like I have an Off switch for the good looks.
I do, however, short circuit from time to time, he admits.
Zoiks! cries Micron. Don’t look behind you! It’s … it’s The Holiday Shopping Season!


I was going to whine on about the unfortunality of no decent Halloween movies on the tube as well.  But then Zombieland was on.  Oh, and Paranormal Activity 2. The latter of which had me sleeping on the sofa with the lights on because I freaked myself out too much to go upstairs. Now that’s a good Halloween, people.

Do dogs dream in orange?

Have you ever had one of the those days? I ask my Favorite Kid. Where so many weird things are going on that you start making mental notes so you can blog about it later? And then you wake up?

No, Ma, says my Favorite Kid. I haven’t.

Hang on, don’t leave just yet. I say, following him out of the living room. Heh, this one was a doozy, kiddo. Lemme tell you what happened in it. 

Please don’t, Ma. he says.

Every dog should have a chance to be this happy. 

What is it about stairs and escalators anyway? Elevators, too. Some sort of transport that is so complicated I can’t figure out how to get to where I need to be. That has to be symbolic in a recurring dream, right? I ask him.

Because the kid graduated with a double major in psychology and sociology, so he must know this stuff. Surely they covered dream symbolism in some college course. Because why else even have this field of study? And whether he wants the job or not, the kid is stuck as my sounding board as I recount my subconscious goings-on.

And food buffets, too. I say. Always food. And something always keeps me from having any. What does that mean, do you think?

It means, he says. Whatever you want it to mean. It’s different for everyone.

Huh, I say. Well, that’s helpful not at all. And now I’m hungry.

I head back to the kitchen for my secret chocolate stash*.

Hey, but there’s usually a dog or two with me, I say. I guess you don’t need to be a psych major for that one, do you?

No, I guess not, says my Favorite Kid. Well done, Ma. See you’ve figured it out all on your own. Good talk. So can I go now?

And you, dear reader, may relax now as well.  We won’t be delving any deeper into the dark soul of the overly active id of my subconscious. Well, at least not right now. This split personality will likely come up in conversation again.  After all, our alternate world of dreams takes up about a quarter of our lifespan, right?

But sure, it’s true that dogs accompany me in my dream world. And how cool is that?  I can pretty much count on the presence of a faithful canine all the time.  Like 24/7. Yep, envy me y’all.

I wonder, too, what my dogs dream about. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on their nose during their diurnal REM transactions? I sure would, because if the twitching snooter and freely running legs** are an indicator, I really don’t think they’re slogging through worlds of inaccessible destinations and deprivation of pleasure as some of us human beans are wont to do.

Instead, could our dogs be reliving their awesome day, only better? More intense odors upon the air, longer walks, three tennis balls to chase at once and other wondrous things? Maybe rides in the car where the Food Lady really, really lowers the window so they can stick more than a nostril out?

Oh hey, speaking of nostrils, d’ya ever stick a dog cookie under that twitching nose pad of a sleeping dog and they wake up in momentary disbelief and blink their eyes and then think oh my dog dreams really do come true? That’s good times all around, people.

It’s entertaining to me to think that Micron has rich dreams. Built on the memories of people he’s met and the places he’s been.

Like, fer instance, our annual road trip to the pumpkin farm.

Could a visit to the pumpkin farm bring upon an enhanced dreamscape of a field of huge orange tennis balls?

Dream big, says Micron.

Or on the other brain node, maybe one of those big orange tennis balls has gone very, very wrong.

Giddyap, my li’l doggie friends, drawls the cowpokin’ scarecrow.

Taking a pass, says Micron.

I close my eyes and still see it, cries Micron. Thank dog
the thing is lasered in on Fergo.

And with that last vision making its rat nest inside the subconscious canine neurons, we add the capriney aroma of horned goat creatures to create perhaps a whole nuther kind of animal in the mind’s eye.

One punkin’ head too many here, say
the goats.
Or the heck with rolling down the car windows. Micron commandeers his very own monster truck with no bothersome barriers whatsoever. 
Finally, sighs Micron. I can feel the wind in my ears. 
I call this My Mister Mighty Micron Mad Max
 Muscle Machine with a Huzzah 
, says Micron.
Or mmmmmmmmwah for short.

It’s funny to me now that, as I share these thoughts with you, Micron is sound asleep on the loveseat and his snores have turned into soft, bwoofy barks. The dog only barks for two things … dog cookies and, well, ok. Only one thing. Must be a really good dream, this one.

So what to do, but gently place a dog cookie in front of his adorable boop button.

And make his dreams come true.
*Cleverly hidden in a complex system within the pots & pans drawer. Good luck stumbling across that stash, Men o’The House.

**And that one time as we were watching Yaxley lie flat on his back with legs galloping onward, we wondered if perhaps he was dreaming he was flying. Like a pegasus or something.

Halloween Memories of Yore

Other stories celebrating this mystical time of year. Grab yourself one of the season’s ubiquitous pumpkin spice beverages of choice and enjoy these past posts. 

A true-ish ghost story at Ghosts in the Walls

A troubling Halloween night babysitting gig when I confirmed the theory that an opposum in a cornfield sounds exactly like three men with an ax at Spirits of the Season.

A Mom Fail story that I somehow segued into Yaxley’s first Halloween at When Spots are Scary. It’s a gift, this ability to segue two totally random things together. Or a fluke. Either one.

And a couple of short photo posts involving bananas and sharks, but not at the same time. Because that would be messed up, people. At A Vengeful Spirit and Land Shark

Would you rather: Princess or Demon?

Which will it be?  Demon?

So, my friend asks, turning to me during a companion animal nutrition presentation at the office. Which you rather be called? 

Which what? I whisper back. The presenter has been going on about answering the nutritional needs of the lactating feline and canine. Queens, to be using the appropriate terminology for the maternal cat. And of course . . . oh don’t make me say it out loud. You know, a girl dog.  A beech, or something.  Great, now I’m blushing.

Would you rather be a Queen? he clarifies. Or a Beech? 

Oh that. Good question, I say. The apex of personality tests, this query. Taking a moment to ponder the implications of each position of status . . . a queen can govern over man and country, but a beech, well … done properly a beech could quite possibly rule the world.

It’s all about choices, isn’t it?  And motivation. That too.

I think, I say. I would like to be a baroness.  A lady both titled and a landowner. The wealth is implied, right?

Not only is this dialog a for real reenactment, but it continues as a long running conversation among co-workers. Such is the life in the pet food business.  A true story, y’all.

I’m reminded of this conversation, not because there’s a direct link to anything here, but rather it rose above the detritus of my muddled mind as I’m reviewing the photos for this week’s post.

Or princess?

And, as I allow myself the luxury of a deeper thought, perhaps it’s because I offered a similar persona-style choice to Euka in the way of the imaginary world of Halloween.

Ah, the magical and mystical holiday of Halloween, where you can let your creativity flag fly high. That one day where you can go about in confidence that it’s socially acceptable to don the attire of your alter ego. Impress friends and family as a caped super hero or a favorite celebrity? Or go all creepy with a stumbling zombie or toothy vampire? Maybe you can breath new life into that age old debate of which is more awesome – Pirate or Ninja?

Oh hey, what about a princess or a demon?

Which would you rather be?

If nature takes it course as we would expect things to be, Miss Euka will miss the usual autumn festivities here at Sword House this year. I honestly don’t have the energy to go into the drama of it all just now, but clicking on last week’s Story Sunday post, Then this (ugh) happened, can fill you in on our mandatory change of plans for my favorite time of the year.

So after dragging the Halloween costumes from the basement storage, I was rather jazzed to see our little girl had several choices available to fit her small frame. Yet as fast I’m pulling the costumes from the box, I’m dismissing the options just as quickly. I want something to stand up to Euka’s unique personality.

Jager’s old costumes are summarily considered, then set aside. The skunk would likely fit body-wise, but no, it’s not the right look for Euka.  Same with the banana outfit. That one’s a spit take to see Jager sporting, but again, not for our spunky girl.

Hmm, how ’bout the pretty, pretty princess dress? This was Inga’s first Halloween costume and the lovely pup just rocked it. Ok sure, let’s give this a try. I secured the gown’s velco and cinched up the tie to the girly-girl pink and pointed hennin*.  And …

Gads, she looks miserable. Right?  This image was brought to you by the courtesy of Iams biscuits. Nothing less would get that outfit on her.

Fine. I peeled the thing off of her before she could do it herself.

Ok, let’s see what else.  There’s the orc riding Warg from Lord of the Rings. But Jager wants to wear that one all the time.  There’s festive belled collar for the court jester.  That felted wonder was hand-made in a short-lived burst of fine motor skills one Saturday afternoon. And it too was set aside atop the pile of rejections.

And oh yeah. The demon costume.

Alrighty then. On with the cape and devil horns. I’m not surprised to find these all slip on the pup like a second skin.

No squirming. No complaining. And no dog cookies as a bribe.

She so owns this look.

Oh, but what do you think, dear reader?  Do you prefer the princess for our delicate flower?

Or is this spirited personality totally rocking the demon look?

I have a contract for you to sign. Trust me. Here, use my pen.

*The pointy princess hat is a hennin. I know, I’m such a nerd.  I really need to work out getting on a trivia game show, like Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  Then I could stop this nonsense about dreaming about being a rich baroness and just live the life.

Then this (ugh) happened

Then this happened.

Uh huh, you say. Of course it did, sweetie. Now might you clue us in on what you’re on about now? Because this is making absolutely no sense.  You know that, right?

No no, it’s ok.  I can explain.  Really.

You see, it all started when I was finalizing travel plans with the puppy raiser of Euka’s littermate, Ella, for the following day. This effort of carpooling coordination is worthy of due diligence. Should traffic karma be on our side, the drive to Dublin for the Canine Companions for Independence’s Walk’N Roll fundraiser is darn near an hour and a half.  Or it could take longer if I-70 snarl-ups arise. And those are the times when it’s important to really like your carpool partner.

As a final thought as we close our IM conversation, Maggie says to me so Euka still hasn’t started her heat cycle yet?  Are you sure she’s not already pregnant? When are the puppies due?

I know, right? I’m hoping for Rottweiler Labrador cross, actually
, I say.  A Labrottie.  Cuz it sounds like an Italian race car.  Then I make rrr-rrr-rooombaa race car sounds.  Which Maggie can’t hear because we’re IMing.

I’m feeling a “Caption This” post coming on.

This a running joke between us, the puppy due date thing. Our delicate flower, Miss Euka, is the last girl in her litter to, well, become a woman, as they say.  All the girls have either started their first estrus cycle or have finished the process to return to the business of growing up to be service dogs.

Wait just a sec, you say. Not only does that have no connection to the enigmatic photos you keep throwing on here, but what’s this about service dogs in heat? We dedicated readers are all over here thinking you might want to cut back on the cold meds a little.

Ah, yes. I love that word, enigmatic, too. It’s no mystery it makes me rather happy to see you use it, hahaha [snort]. And I appreciate your concern over this nasty cold bug I’m trying so hard not to spread to friends and family. Even though one of you gave it to me first. And I know who you are, buster.

And hang loose here, people.  I’ll tie all this together for you. Just give me a minute willya, sheesh.

About that going into heat thing … Euka and her sisters were selected at birth as possible future breeders of possible future service dogs. I’d love to go on and on about CCI’s stellar breeding program, but after just a few sentences I’d be making things up. I’m simply not that close to it. Let’s just stick with the facts here then.

From CCI’s website:

Best of the Best.  Breeder dogs and their puppies are the foundation of our organization. We carefully select and breed Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two after an intensive evaluation process.

Our breeding program staff checks each dog’s temperament, trainability, health, physical attributes, littermate trends and the production history of the dam and sire. Only then are the “best of the best” chosen as CCI breeder dogs.

Did you catch that?  Best of the best, y’all.  Now as a possible future breeder, Euka was determined to have the right stuff, genetically speaking, to be considered a candidate for the breeding program.  She will be evaluated as she matures and this assessment will continue after she begins Advanced Training at CCI.

That is, we carry on as normal with this puppy raising business. Because even though she is a candidate, the odds are very much against her. The dogs in the final selection for the breeding program are held to some very high standards. Only a small percentage of potential candidates are selected to make more service dogs for CCI.

And when I say, we puppy raisers are tasked to carry on as normal, what I really mean is exactly that. Until our little girl goes into heat, that is. And then things take a sharp left in the fork of Puppy Raiser Lane.

Ok, heads up. Here’s where we connect all the dots in this story for you. Ready?

Recall that Maggie and I were joking about Labrotties in our IM?  I’m still making stupid race car sounds, when I reach down next to my chair where Euka is napping.  A casual peek just to double-check the status of the girly goods and . . . Maggie? I gotta go. I’ll call you later. 

Growing up on the farm, it was a Rated-R experience when any of our dogs started a heat cycle. We had dogs we’d never seen before visiting our place like it was Discount Day at the brothel or something. And with that psyche damaging childhood experience, I am fully aware of the dangers of Italian race cars.

Nothing to be done about it but deliver Miss Euka to the safety of the CCI regional center. The Spa Experience, we call it.

And because Euka will likely be at the Spa for the next three weeks, we’ll miss her lovely presence at the various and sundry Autumn season festivities. Only my favorite time of year, no big deal. So I’m grieving over the loss of photo ops at the pumpkin farm with Euka. I have to accept there will be no shots of her admidst the painted autumn leaves. No girly girl Halloween costumes.

Wait, what? No costume photos? Oh nuh uh, that ain’t right. I look at the clock. Between the revelation of our situation and getting Euka to the Spa, we only have about two hours of daylight left. But in those two hours?  One of  ’em is the photographer’s favorite.  The Golden Hour of Light.

I’m so getting a Halloween photo of the princess. This will happen. Oh yes, y’all, this will happen.

I have a lot of frames that look pretty
much just like this one.

But yeah, before that happened?  The stuff in the above photos happened. I just wanted a shot of Euka all back lit by the setting sun.  With devil horns on.

And this happened.

I blame the hormones.

She tossed those babies off her head and, with the devil horns clamped in her maw,  proceeded to run about like ….ok, like the devil was hot on her tail.

There’s nothing like a good romp about the yard to drive out the gremlins, wouldn’t you say?  Once the imps were out of her system, things settled down a little.

So, then this could happen.

Ah, a nice back lit golden hour photo of Euka rocking a set of devil horns. That’s all I was after here.  Well, once I lowered my standards some.

I was successful in a couple of other costume shots too. But those photos will have to happen in a later post.

Because right now, people?  I’m missing the little devil girl and I have to go wake Micron up ‘cuz he looks like he needs a hug real bad [sniffle]. And that’s gonna happen next.

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